Opinion Columns & Blogs

Jason Kander for president? Why the heck not?

Jason Kander, the one-time state representative who once built a formidable election machine in his Brookside neighborhood, is now planning a run for Kansas City mayor, sources confirmed.
Jason Kander, the one-time state representative who once built a formidable election machine in his Brookside neighborhood, is now planning a run for Kansas City mayor, sources confirmed. AP

The clues continue to stack up. And they all point in exactly the same direction.

Jason Kander is serious about this White House thing.

There he is speaking at a big fundraiser in Dallas County, Iowa. There he is in New Hampshire, another key state on the road to the White House, speaking last month to a sellout crowd in Nashua, attacking President Donald Trump and the state’s Republican governor.

“It is time that politicians who make it harder to vote find it a whole lot harder to get re-elected,” Kander told the 600 Democrats that night at the same McIntyre-Shaheen Dinner that’s featured former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

Oh, the dinner marked the 10th time since last June that Kander had visited the state that hosts the first presidential primary.

There’s Kander hiring my former colleague, Jason Noble, a political reporter for The Des Moines Register, in a move that sparked all manner of White House speculation. Noble will oversee national communications strategy for Kander’s “Let America Vote” group that works to overcome obstacles to casting ballots in this country.

Then there’s the news that Kander has a book deal (another prerequisite for a presidential run). His “Outside the Wire: Ten Lessons I’ve Learned in Everyday Courage” will be out Aug. 7. “Courage” is an interesting word for a book title. Once upon a time, another young leader, John Kennedy, wrote a book prior to his 1960 campaign. The title? “Profiles in Courage.”

Maybe I’m the last one to recognize that Kander may actually do this. There’s a reason for that. On Friday, Kander turns 37. He’d be 39 on Inauguration Day 2021. That’s about three years younger than Teddy Roosevelt, who was the youngest president ever at 42.

Age isn’t the only reason for hesitation. The highest office Kander’s ever held is Missouri secretary of state. His last campaign resulted in a loss, albeit a narrow one, to Republican Roy Blunt for the U.S. Senate in 2016.

This is a winning resume to be president of the United States?

Well, just maybe.

Here’s a better answer: Why the heck not run?

Call it the Trump effect. In a bit of irony, the same man Kander criticizes with regularity has flipped conventional wisdom on who’s a legitimate candidate. Trump has placed the bar so low that even a 37-year-old Kansas Citian can now be viewed as a real possibility.

If Trump, who never held public office, is qualified to be this country’s commander-in-chief, then so is a former Missouri lawmaker, secretary of state and one-time intelligence officer in the Army National Guard who once volunteered for a mission to Afghanistan.

I thought Jason Kander was making a mistake by running for secretary of state. I told him so at lunch one day. But now, I don’t think it’s a mistake for him to take a crack at the White House. Things have changed that much.

He’s a military veteran. He fought endlessly for strengthening ethics laws in Jeff City. He’s whip-smart and TV savvy. I’m not playing to the lowest common denominator here. I’m just availing myself of new possibilities.

Older, more experienced men have bungled a lot of presidencies.

Kander would be a big step forward compared to what we’ve got now. So why not?

  Comments