The clear answer can be found in Dick Durbin, U.S. Senator from Illinois.
On the surface, Durbin is the opposite of what modern liberals need to champion. He doesn’t fit the “outsider” trope, having served six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and currently serving in his fourth term as a senator. Durbin is as far-left as one could get, being the Democratic Whip for more than ten years and consistently aligning himself with party policies. He is also the dictionary definition of the “old white man” candidate that causes many young democrats to fight for congressional term limits.
How, then, is Durbin the perfect presidential candidate? By being a clear anti-Trump.
Part of Hillary Clinton’s failure as a candidate was not being distinctive enough from Trump in terms of character. Her email scandal, her history with her husband’s infidelity, and her willingness to take money from dubious sources tarnished her credibility in ways that were too similar to Trump’s questionable integrity.
Durbin has somehow managed to stay away from corruption throughout his 35-year Washington career. His entire resume of scandals can be reduced to two instances, both of which were unsubstantial and short-lived. In 2005 Durbin compared Guantanamo Bay interrogation techniques to those utilized by the Nazis and the Soviet Union. He was widely criticized in the immediate aftermath and apologized before Congress, but his remarks were later praised for raising legitimate issues of morality. In 2014 it was reported that Durbin’s female staffers were being paid $11,000 less than his male staff members, but it was researched and reported by a notoriously conservative PAC. Their sources have never been corroborated, and subsequent reports have only been on activist conservative websites, not legitimate news outlets.
A Washington career with only two minor blips is as close to spotless as it gets. Trump, by comparison, has created a controversy for himself nearly every week of his four months as President. Those instances would undoubtedly be re-surfaced during presidential debates, but they pale in comparison to Trump’s laundry list of failings, and Durbin is universally acknowledged as one of the best debaters in the senate.
Where Trump is polarizing and divisive, Durbin is the calm in the storm, and it’s all in his manner of speech. You can tell when he’s angry, but he doesn’t scream across the senate floor. Even if you disagree with him, he’s hard to argue with. The message that got Elizabeth Warren kicked off the senate floor was repeated by Durbin, but when he talked, the senate listened. The elephant-in-the-room investigation on Trump’s ties to Russia usually leads to chaotic argument, but Durbin shifts the conversation to bipartisan unity.
The most convincing argument against Durbin is his age – he will be 76-years-old by 2020, and should he win, the oldest President in history. But Trump will be 74 by then, so it’s apples and oranges, and with a qualified running mate at his side, Durbin’s age would be just a number. If anything, Durbin is living proof that with age comes experience, and experience in leadership is exactly what our country needs.
Today’s America is not one that walks a line of moderation. It’s not surprising that we’ve followed Obama’s liberal, inclusive, groundbreaking administration with an alt-right, deregulating, constitutional-originalist one. We’ve tried the “outsider.” It’s time for the pendulum to swing back inside.