Could the Democrats nominate someone like John Glenn today?
John Glenn never got to the moon or took a walk in space. Nevertheless, he was the face of the space program for so many of us who grew up watching spaceships launch in classrooms across the country. Aren't we all grateful for that nice teacher who turned on the TV and let us watch a Gemini or Apollo take off for space?
John Glenn died on Thursday. What else can be said about a man like this? He was unique, a combination of Babe Ruth, the Wright Brothers, Lewis and Clark, and Charles Lindbergh. He flew combat missions in World War II and Korea, and then he circled the Earth in 1962.
After all that, he was also a U.S. senator from Ohio:
One night in December 1962, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy invited the Glenns to dinner at his home in McLean, Va. In the course of the evening, the attorney general suggested that Mr. Glenn run for public office. With the backing of a powerful Kennedy, he might have a good chance at a Senate seat from Ohio in the 1964 election...
After Robert Kennedy’s assassination in 1968, Mr. Glenn headed a bipartisan lobbying group called the Emergency Committee for Gun Control. President Lyndon B. Johnson later signed the Gun Control Act of 1968, placing some restrictions on firearms.
In 1970, Mr. Glenn ran again for the Senate, but lost in the Democratic primary to Howard M. Metzenbaum. Mr. Glenn won the primary four years later and breezed to victory in the general election, beginning a 24-year Senate career.
Over the years, Mr. Glenn earned the respect of Senate colleagues as an upright, candid and diligent legislator. Senator Bob Graham, Democrat of Florida, described Mr. Glenn as a “workhorse” who was especially well informed and a forceful voice on defense issues. “When he speaks, you know he’s speaking on a subject of which he has a command and a reason for speaking,” Mr. Graham said shortly before Mr. Glenn’s return to space.
As a senator, Mr. Glenn developed an expertise in weapons systems, nuclear proliferation issues and most legislation related to technology and bureaucratic reform. He generally took moderate positions on most issues, though in his last two terms his voting record became more liberal. He was an enthusiastic supporter of President Bill Clinton.
He drew admiring audiences in his run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984, but his wooden speaking style and lack of a cogent campaign message were blamed for his poor showing at the polls. After losses in several states, he dropped out of the race, which former Vice President Walter F. Mondale won before President Ronald Reagan overwhelmed him in the general election.
Frankly, he had bad timing. No one was going to beat President Reagan in 1984. He might have beaten V.P. Bush in 1988, but we will never know.
As I look back at his political career, I see two things desperately missing in today's Democratic Party:
1) A moderate who avoided the excesses of partisanship.
2) A nice guy who did not play the identity politics or pander to this group or that.
Sadly, a man like John Glenn could not win his party's nomination today. He would not fit in in a party so far to the left as today's Democrats.
RIP, John Glenn.
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