Jon Huntsman 2020!
Here’s my prediction that’s probably wrong, but which I really hope isn’t.
In 2016, I don’t think Jeb Bush is going to get the GOP nomination. (I really hope he does though.) The party base is too angry at Obama to nominate a centrist, and the most reasonable candidate we’ll get is probably Marco Rubio. There’s a real likelihood it’ll be someone more along the lines of Scott Walker, though- hopefully not further to the right than that. God forbid Trump or Cruz.
In a Walker vs Hillary or Rubio vs Hillary race (I’m sorry Sanders fans, but he’s NOT EVEN A DEMOCRAT) I think the GOP would get wobbly. Never thought I’d say this, but I’d probably put my bets on Hillary- I think she’s far more likely to catch centristsand run as a uniting candidate than Walker (even though her current strategy is mobilizing liberals,) and something tells me Rubio just doesn’t have the… buzz, for lack of a better word. Yes, I’m saying a young Hispanic male Republican would lose to an old white female Democrat after 8 years of a mediocre Democrat.
I’d LIKE another President Bush, but I’m currently expecting (as of July 2015) that we’ll have another President Clinton. I don’t think that’s ALL a bad thing, by the way; while I don’t think she’s a strategic thinker, and I don’t think she’s a progressive reformer, and I think she would perpetuate a lot of the old regime rather than giving us genuinely new thinking, I would prefer Hillary over more liberal Democrats, and I think she’s been making some smart statements recently, even moving towards the center. I wouldn’t mind working for her if I pass the Foreign Service Exam.
Anyway, here’s the part where it gets juicy- no party in our modern electoral system has held power for more than twelve years, since Franklin Roosevelt. Especially if Hillary became basically an Obama 2.0, (and I think there is a strong possibility of that happening) I think she would be a one-term President, unless the GOP of 2020 is so delusional that they run a far-right crazy.
But they won’t, because they’ll have another option by then.
Have any of my fellow Huntsmaniacs been watching Jon Huntsman? The former Governor of Utah and Ambassador to China is still quite active in public life, though not in elected office- he chairs No Labels (a bipartisan advocacy group that is gaining quite a lot of ground nowadays) and the Atlantic Council (a strong, but not hawkish, foreign policy think-tank.) In these two roles, Huntsman weds his foreign policy expertise and his penchant for centrist bipartisanship, remaining relevant through speaking engagements, occasional op-eds, and the like. He also served as CEO of his family’s Huntsman Corporation, a chemical producer. He’s currently somewhat estranged from the GOP after having made comments suggesting a Third Party would be beneficial back in 2012, but retains a serious fanbase nonetheless.
As if his resume weren’t formidable enough already, there have been whispers that the former Governor might choose to run for the retiring Orrin Hatch’s Utah Senate seat in the 2018 elections. Already a celebrity figure for the moderate movement in the United States, a Senate seat would bring him and his outspoken moderation back into the national spotlight, and back to power. Additionally, a legislative role would round out his resume- lawmaker, executive, and foreign policy expert, even a family businessman, not to mention a leader in one of the country’s foremost political reformist groups and one of its most respected think tanks, and a figurehead for a movement, indeed a whole political temperament. He’d be a shoo-in for the Presidency, especially if partisanship has worsened and relations with China have grown tense 5 years from now.
But wait! you might say. Wouldn’t the GOP be more inclined to nominate a crazy after 12 years of liberal Democrats, and seek red meat?
That’s certainly reasonable, but it doesn’t match the historical evidence. It seems more likely that parties lost in the wilderness for multiple presidential terms actually do a lot of soul-searching and reflection as to why they kept losing, rather than take advantage of stagnation to get as much of their agenda accomplished as possible. Note that George McGovern secured the Democratic nomination in 1972, after only four years of Nixon, and that Barry Goldwater secured the GOP nomination in 1964, after only four years of liberal Democrats (technically two terms, JFK’s and LBJ’s, but timewise it was worth one.) Then note that after the 20-year FDR-Truman dynasty, the GOP nominated Dwight Eisenhower, who was a real icon for political reform and moderation in his days (not unlike Huntsman today.) And after the 12-year Reagan-Bush reign, the Democrats nominated the moderate Bill Clinton, who had chaired the reformist Democratic Leadership Council and was about as moderate as anyone could be in the 1990s. Parties really do seem to moderate some after exclusion; if Hillary wins in 2016, we’ll see if it happens again.
Given the above, Jon Huntsman in 2020 will be the perfect candidate for the GOP next cycle- more government experience and more diverse government experience than other candidates are likely to have, some business experience, a maverick penchant for political reformism, and wide centrist appeal. Who else can fit Governor, Senator (soon, hopefully,) Ambassador, CEO, Civil Society Leader, Think-Tank Chair, AND Movement Symbol onto a single resume? Not only that, but he will likely, like John McCain in 2000, seem to be somewhat outside the mainstream of the GOP, yet still within it (abetted by his possible Senate years.) And even if he loses in 2020, he may just choose to complete his Senate term, and throw his hat back in the ring in 2024.
In my opinion, and by my analysis, this will be on balance a good thing for the country. I’ve written here earlier about the crisis cycles of American history and the charismatic Hamiltonian-Jacksonian leaders who rose up and each time reforged the Republic (below.) (By the way, you should seriously read that article below.)
By my measure, it would seem that the currently-brewing international and domestic crisis point will resemble the Crisis of the Founding, the Crisis of the Union, and the Crisis of the New Deal in its ultimate effects- not just a reformation of, but ultimately a reforging of, the American Republic, to create a Fourth Republic of the United States. Just as the First Republic before 1861 differed sharply from the Second Republic after 1865, and just as a new Third Republic emerged in 1945 that differed from the America of 1929, so it appears we are entering one of those crisis points of our history when true political creativity and magnanimity will be required to move our country into the next era. The ideas for what that next Republic might look like are out there; they just need a voice and a will.
I have a strong feeling that Jon Huntsman will be that voice and will. He has the potential- and probably the propensity- to be a uniting, innovative leader, pursuing new ideas and forging new institutions. His Hamiltonian-Jacksonian credentials are clear- after all, he strongly admires Theodore Roosevelt, probably the greatest of the Hamiltonian-Jacksonians in American history, those who use the activist power of government to create and sustain better new realities for the broad middle class.
Moreover, the periods directly preceding Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt, two of the transformational presidents, were chock full of mediocre leaders and halfwit politicians. And the years before George Washington saw a mishmash of uninspiring representatives in the Continental Congress. This is normal. And it won’t last.
As you can see, I have great faith in both my analysis of American political-historical cycles and Jon Huntsman’s purported role in them. Maybe I’m wrong or crazy. Probably both. Soothsaying is a dangerous and usually useless activity
But in any case, it should be clear that Jon Huntsman is planning on getting back into public life in some capacity, and that a period of great reform is needed to rejuvenate American greatness. Should these stars align, the country will be much better off for it. I really, really hope I get to vote for- or work for- Jon Huntsman in 2020.