Welcome to our recurring series “Who The Fuck Are All These Fucks?” in which we profile, in brief, each of the 2020 candidates for president. This series is not meant to be exhaustive, and you’re encouraged to look into each candidate on your own.
NAME: Michael Farrand Bennet
CURRENT JOB: United States Senator from Colorado
PREVIOUS JOB: Denver Public Schools Superintendent
BORN IN THE U.S.: Nope, but he’s white so no one will care
Michael Bennet is the son of a prominent State Department bureaucrat (who later served as CEO of National Public Radio) and the grandson of an economic adviser to F.D.R.. His grandparents were Holocaust survivors. He was born in New Delhi in 1964 and he grew up in Washington, D.C., and attended Wesleyan where he earned a degree in history. He later attended Yale Law and was editor of the Yale Law Journal. Is this a real person or a character from The West Wing? You decide.
When President-elect Obama tapped Senator Ken Salazar as U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Colorado Governor Bill Ritter began interviewing candidates to appoint to Salazar’s senate seat. On the advice of Denver Mayor Ol’ Johnny Hickenlooper, Ritter appointed Bennet to the seat.
Prior to his senate service, Bennet had been the Superintendent of Denver Public Schools. This made him somewhat uniquely qualified on Capitol Hill to discuss education policy, and he was expected to be a key player in efforts by the Obama administration to overhaul No Child Left Behind. Ultimately, however, the administration never pushed education legislation in Congress.
Instead, Bennet – elected to a full term in 2010 and again in 2016 – charted a more traditional populist Democrat path. He has been a strong proponent of gun control but wary of measures that might affect Colorado’s hunting tradition.
What would propel him to national headlines – briefly – was the 2018-19 government shutdown. After Texas Senator Ted Cruz gave a speech in the Senate calling Democrats reckless for endangering first responder funding in the shutdown, Bennet took to the floor to criticize Cruz for leading a shutdown in 2013 during a series of catastrophic floods in Colorado. A month later, Bennet was in New Hampshire, a signal that he was considering a run for the White House.
But he delayed until May 2, 2019, by which point the field was already pretty crowded. That’s kept Bennet under the radar (he confirmed shortly before his announcement that he had been successfully treated for prostate cancer in late April) and he barely slipped into the first round of debates.
Bennet sees climate change and election reform (including campaign finance reform) as the big challenges facing the next president. While he’s not as one-track as Jay Inslee, Bennet has so far sidelined other issues to focus on the need to reform elections, lobbying, and campaign finance. His views on climate change emulate other Democrats, calling for the U.S. to be a leader in green technology.
Going into Thursday’s debate, Bennet will need to convince voters that he can be a heavyweight. For the bulk of Americans – who have never heard of him – that might be a tough sell.
This series is part of Our Long National Nightmare, an Owl Line recurring series funded by supporters on Ko-Fi.
The cover image for this article was taken by Jeffrey Beall and is available under a Creative Commons license.