Billionaire hedge fund investor and mega-Democratic Party donor Tom Steyer announced today that he will be making an announcement on Monday. The speculation in the press is that he’ll announce his run US Senate against Dianne Feinstein or for California Governor. There are indications, however, that he plans to run for President instead. After all, Steyer just spent $20 million of his own money airing commercials featuring himself asking people to sign a petition urging Congress to impeach Trump. This not only raised his profile nationwide – when he makes his announcement, at least some people will know who he is – but it has helped him build a massive database of voters he can approach for support.
Steyer is making his announcement at a press conference in Washington DC, in front of the national media. Were he to run for a California office, you would expect him to make this announcement somewhere in this state, with a crowd of Californians behind him cheering him on. There is more: today he also announced he was buying each member of Congress a copy of Michael Wolfe’s “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” and is planning to hand deliver each copy.
But Tom Steyer would be a fool to run for President. Surely, the temptation is great. He is rich enough to fund the election on his own and Americans just showed they will elect a billionaire with no qualifications to the Presidency. He would be justified in asking himself “why not me?”. But the answer should be obvious. We may all hate Trump, but we also love to hate him. Trump has charisma. He is entertaining – a reality TV star for a reality TV generation.
Steyer, on the other hand, is a dud. I’m sure he is a nice guy and he has the look of an old professor, but he is otherwise charmless. But for his millions, he is not the sort of guy you’d have a beer with at a bar. His speeches, which I’ve had to endure at the California Democratic Party Convention (the privilege of donating so much money is a stage) are remarkably uninspiring. His lack of government experience and his business acumen might be enthralling for the sort of people who voted for Trump – but those voters are taken. The rest of the electorate will want someone who knows what they are doing. And beyond impeaching Trump, Steyer doesn’t have much of a platform to run on. Sure, he has fashioned himself as an environmentalist and climate-change warrior, but his history of pumping “hundreds of millions of dollars into companies that operate coal mines and coal-fired power plants from Indonesia to China” throws doubts about his sincerity. Indeed, in 2016 he supported a cap-and-trade bill in California that was written by oil companies to protect their interests.
Were Steyer to run, it is difficult to know who his natural constituency would be. The progressives in the party will navigate to Bernie Sanders, if he runs, or to Elizabeth Warren or perhaps to a yet unidentified true progressive. The moderates will have a plethora of choices, including the far more exciting Kamala Harris.
It is difficult to know why Steyer thinks he can run and win, but rich men tend to be surrounded by sycophants who tell them what they want to hear – and if he wants to hear that he’ll be God’s gift to America, I’m sure that’s exactly what his consultants and the politicians who benefit from his largess, will tell him. Of course, he may not want to win at all. Perhaps he just wants to run because he’s bored – that seems to explain Trump’s run as well. Perhaps he just wants to feel adulation from more than the politicians he gives money to.
Of course, I may be wrong. His announcement may be about funding lawsuits against Trump’s massive expansion of offshore drilling . Or he may be starting another anti-Trump initiative. He may be doing something else that would help get his name out in preparation for announcing his Presidential run in the future. And it is possible that he will be announcing a run for Senate or that he’s endorsing Kevin De Leon or even Feinstein herself, perhaps in exchange for her support after she chooses to retire (though that seat seems to have been promised to Garcetti). We’ll know soon enough. But if Tom Steyer is smart, he won’t be announcing a run for President.