For days Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden, and other Democratic presidential hopefuls have been bouncing around Iowa, courting voters for the caucuses that are to be held next week. For days Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, and Michael Bennet have been prisoners in the Senate, listening to the arguments in the impeachment trial of President Trump.
These Democratic candidates may have slightly different views on a palette of issues but they agree on two foundational beliefs: President Trump will not be removed from office in the Senate. President Trump must be removed from office in the November election.
For a party that has hewed to one fundamental value since Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal — the notion of fairness — there is something fundamentally unfair about the way the run-up to the Iowa caucuses, and eight days later the New Hampshire primary, is being conducted. Some candidates are on the hustings, some are being held hostage.
A nation turns its weary eyes toward the Democrats and cries: Stop.
Perhaps the Democratic candidates freed from the rules of the Senate trial should abandon Iowa and appear on the steps of the Capitol with their rival contenders in solidarity with their fellow candidates and with their shared view of the president. Perhaps there should be a moratorium — if only for a few days — on campaigning.
There is considerable precedent for such a pause.
When Democratic Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota perished in a plane crash in 2002, his opponent, Norm Coleman, suspended his campaign. So did the three candidates for governor in the state. Ten years later, after a mass shooting in a Colorado theater, both President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, the GOP presidential nominee, called off campaign events. In 2017, after a deadly explosion at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, both Prime Minister Theresa May and Labor leader Jeremy Corbin canceled campaign events. Two years later, terrorists attacked the London Bridge, prompting British candidates to suspend their campaigns.
Warren, Sanders, Klobuchar, and Bennet are making do with stolen moments in which they make cell phone calls in the cloakroom. They are conducting stand-up interviews in the Capitol during breaks. And they are dispatching surrogates to the early political states.
Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the Republican leader in the House, taunted the Democrats earlier this month to consider campaign suspensions. “With Iowa quickly upon us, in early February, those four senators who are running for president will now no longer have a voice,’’ he said. ‘’Interesting to me if I’d see the Democratic National Committee ask those who are not senators to not campaign while the others cannot.’’
House impeachment manager Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York shot back: “We will not take political advice from Kevin McCarthy.”
Probably not. The likelihood of any of these candidates suspending their campaigns during the Senate trial is low. Indeed, entrepreneur Tom Steyer has a town hall scheduled in Ankeny, Iowa, on Tuesday and Buttigieg has one scheduled for Ottumwa, Iowa. Meanwhile, Representative Tulsi Gabbard, a Hawaiian risking damaging metaphors about her campaign going downhill in New Hampshire, will snowboard Tuesday at Cranmore Mountain Resort in North Conway, and then meet voters in the ski lodge there.
In 1962 — 20 years before Buttigieg was born, when Biden was only 20 and a student at the University of Delaware, but in the chill of the Cold War — some American reservists protested being sent to Vietnam so swiftly after having been dispatched to Berlin. President John F. Kennedy was asked about the protests, which in one case took the form of a hunger strike, and his answer is an American classic, quoted often by politicians and perhaps even more often by parents:
‘’There is always inequity in life. Some men are killed in a war, and some men are wounded, and some men never leave the country, and some men are stationed in the Antarctic, and some are stationed in San Francisco. It’s very hard in military or in personal life to assure complete equality. Life is unfair.” So is presidential politics.
David Shribman, previously the Washington bureau chief for the Globe, is executive editor emeritus of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He led the paper’s coverage of the Tree of Life shooting that earned the Pulitzer Prize.