Mitt Romney is apparently serious about making a third grab at the presidential brass ring, and I'm not quite sure what to make of that development.
True, a Romney candidacy makes it less likely that we'll be condemned to yet another Bush running against yet another Clinton come the summer of 2016, and for that alone we might be grateful. But Romney is not exactly a fresh face on the political scene either. It's like peering into the refrigerator and trying to decide between leftovers from Monday night or Tuesday night and then discovering that oh yeah, you've got Thursday night leftovers too.
You also get the idea that Romney is motivated in part by a feeling that he got cheated of something that by right should have been his, and that something is the presidency. After the 2012 race, insiders depicted Romney as reluctant to accept his defeat, so certain that the American people would embrace him over Barack Obama that he didn't even bother to prepare a concession speech.** A sour sense of aggrievement, of injustice left uncorrected, has lingered beneath the surface of Romney's public persona ever since.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton of course remains the dominant figure. I'm not exactly thrilled at that prospect -- I'd prefer a candidate more willing to question the status quo and more attuned to what appears to be an entirely new set of challenges confronting the country. At the very least, a hard-fought primary process could help the Democrats define who they are for the 21st century, both to themselves and to the country at large.
That just isn't going to happen in a 2016 cycle in which Clinton is the presumptive nominee, and that's too bad. For too long now, Democrats have gotten away with being "not Republican." It's been easy, and thanks to the GOP it has usually been effective. (Clinton in particular has come to personify that approach.) But "not Republican" is also not a direction or philosophy. It does not offer the American people a compelling, positive vision of how their country can thrive in a world that is very different from that in which most of us were raised. It's an accurate reflection of what the answers aren't, rather than what they are.
It's like they said in that old song, a song so old that close to half of the American people weren't even born when it was at the top of the charts. You may remember it too. It goes like this:
But yesterday's not gone at all. Yesterday's running for president.
** “I just finished writing a victory speech. It’s about 1,118 words long,” Romney told the press that day. “I’ve only written one speech at this point. Intellectually I’ve felt that we’re going to win this, and I’ve felt that for some time.”