The Loss of Sherrod Brown as a Presidential Candidate

On Thursday, Senator Sherrod Brown announced that he will not run for the presidency in 2020. His explanation for that decision is significant:

“I am just letting you know: I will not run for president in 2020,” Brown said on the call, which BuzzFeed News was invited to join. “You’ve heard me say many times that when you love this country, you fight for the people who make it work. I fight best when I bring joy to the battle. I find that joy fighting for Ohio in the Senate.”

Brown doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy who spouts political pablum, so I’d tend to take him at his word. It sounds like his heart wasn’t in it.

When it comes time for the debates, Brown’s absence will result in the loss of an important voice. I don’t say that because he has been cast as the champion of working class Americans. As a white man, he would have constantly been challenged by the need to expand the narrow definition that is often applied to that group (ie, white working class Americans).

Instead, I wonder who else could fill this role:

Long considered an unapologetic progressive, Brown refused to fully embrace popular liberal policy proposals like Medicare for All as he considered a presidential run. But he said he could stack up his long record in the House and Senate against all of his potential 2020 rivals.

“If I get in this race, I’d be the only Democrat on this stage I think that voted against the Iraq War or voted against the Defense of Marriage Act and voted against NAFTA and has a lifetime ‘F’ from the NRA, so I don’t worry about progressive bona fides,” Brown said in Iowa last month.

Our binary approach to the political spectrum suggests that a 2020 Democratic candidate who doesn’t support things like Medicare for All is a centrist. Sherrod Brown would have forced us all to break out of that mold.

“You don’t wipe [Obamacare] away and then come up with something new that will take time and cause people angst and anguish to move to a different plan,” Brown said…

“I want to help people now,” Brown said. “We will see the success of that, and that will end up continuing to broaden and expand coverage for so many Americans.”

Sherrod Brown is a bonafide progressive who doesn’t always toe the “purity” line. Having him as part of the conversation would have kept it from falling into predictable “lanes” that have become all too common and kept us from exploring possibilities with a fresh perspective.

While I don’t always agree with Brown, he is someone who commands respect for having thought through his positions deeply, which means that he can defend them with integrity and conviction.

I doubt Brown would have won the nomination. But he would have made the process a lot more interesting, honest, and robust.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.