Commentary: Why I'm Not Excited About the 2016 Campaign Season

Keith Boykin

Commentary: Why I'm Not Excited About the 2016 Campaign Season

The race among Republicans is off to an uninspiring start.

Published April 20, 2015

The 2016 presidential campaign has officially begun and it's going to be, well, dreadful. My heart wants to be excited but my mind tells me to wait.

First, let's not forget we still have a president in office, and he'll remain in the White House for nearly two more years. But whether we like it or not, we're going to get a campaign this year, and unfortunately the race among Republicans is off to an uninspiring start.

We saw that when a stiff-looking 43-year-old Marco Rubio launched his presidential campaign offering a "generational choice about what kind of country we will be." Yes, the man who wants to maintain an old Cold War-era grudge against Cuban leaders twice his age is lecturing us about the future.

"While our people and our economy are pushing the boundaries of the 21st century, too many of our leaders and their ideas are stuck in the 20th century," said Rubio. This comes from the same young man who opposes the very 21st century concept of marriage equality and still defends the controversial "Stand Your Ground" laws invoked to defend the killings of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis in Rubio's state of Florida.

Clearly, Rubio is trying to steal a page from the young Barack Obama who ran for president in 2008. But Obama offered new ideas for the future, while Rubio and his colleagues are simply offering old wine in new wineskins.

It's ironic that Republicans complain about Democrats but they love imitating them. They claim to hate racial identity politics but after Obama won they trotted out Herman Cain in 2012 and Ben Carson for 2016 as if to prove they don't hate Black people. And they despised the gender identity politics they accused Hillary Clinton of playing in 2008 but then nominated Sarah Palin as their choice for vice president.

Remember when Republicans in 2008 complained Obama was too young, he was untested, he was only a freshman senator, and his father was born in Kenya? That chorus of complaints has disappeared now that two of the first candidates to enter the GOP race are a Canadian-born 44-year-old first-term senator named Ted Cruz and a 43-year-old child of Cuban parents named Rubio.

It's all about marketing for Republicans. They think Americans are dumb enough to elect a 40-something just because Obama was in his 40s when he won. It's the same thinking that led George Bush Sr. to pick unqualified young Sen. Dan Quayle as his running mate because Republicans thought he was attractive and would appeal to women.

So this is why I'm not eager for the 2016 race. Yes, I'll be covering it, yes I'm excited about the possibility of electing the nation's first woman president, and yes, I want to continue the legacy begun by President Obama. But that's the end of my enthusiasm.

Without a competitive Democratic nomination race to follow, the next several months in politics will be unbearable as we're subjected to a one-sided campaign of cheap Republican sound bites, breathlessly reported opinion polls, demagogic flavor-of-the-month frontrunners and endless GOP debates and skirmishes.

Hillary Clinton did her best to look the part of the humble grandmother trying to earn your vote in her Ikea-style announcement video, but who are we kidding? Barring the possibility of an unforeseen tragedy, she will be the Democratic nominee for president. She may have one or two party challengers, but we will not see the epic battle between two towering figures we watched in 2008. And we'll also be deprived of the popular charismatic challenger represented by the campaign of Rev. Al Sharpton in 2004 or Rev. Jesse Jackson in 1984 and 1988.

If the race continues on its current trajectory on the Republican side and nominates Jeb Bush, after 17 months of campaigning and millions of dollars spent, we're likely to end up with the same two surnames on the ballot that we had back in 1992.

But this time the Clinton will be a woman, and, hopefully, she'll be more progressive than her husband was when he was in office. Rubio is half right about one thing. After eight years with an African-American president, there's nothing exciting about electing a boring old candidate to replace him. Or a boring young one with old ideas.

Keith Boykin is a New York Times best-selling author and former White House aide to President Clinton. He attended Harvard Law School with President Barack Obama and currently serves as a TV political commentator. He writes commentary for each week.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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Written by By: Keith Boykin


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