Photo by cuatower on Flickr.
I want former DC Mayor Anthony Williams to run for president.
I don’t actually want Williams to be the next president. Nor do I want him to seek the nomination of either party or run a national campaign. I want him to run to win the 3 electoral votes for DC, and only those votes—as a protest against, and to draw attention to, the secondary status of DC residents. Framed as such, I think Anthony Williams could win DC handily.
DC needs a high-profile protest move. It needs one even more now, after Congress reached a budget deal that avoided most national policy changes but meddled substantially in DC’s own right to spend its own money.
It’s hard to get more high-profile than running for presidential office. Would anyone know who Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich were had they not run unsuccessful campaigns? Most protest ideas are illegal, unworkable, or require a large amount of dedication from many people.
This only requires DC residents to vote a little differently and for one person to dedicate a couple of years to the effort. Because Williams would be campaigning in such a small area, the campaign would be cheap and he’d have time to talk to just about every voter in the District.
Williams is a great choice. Unlike Fenty, he left office still relatively popular. Unlike Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton or Mayor Vincent Gray, he’s not busy filling another office; without the indication that he might run for some other office, he has no need to curry favor with the Democratic Party.
There are plenty of other individuals that fit this description, such as Sharon Ambrose and Carol Schwartz, but he is really the best possible candidate in my mind: He’s smart, telegenic, and without scandal.
It’d be better if Williams hadn’t joined so eagerly in the Board of Trade’s task force on WMATA governance, which met in secret and recommended diminishing the public’s role in Metro’s decisionmaking, but that’s not a fatal flaw.
Williams would get plenty of opportunities to talk to the national media about why he’s running and about DC’s disenfranchisement. In the months-long, 24-hour-a-day news coverage, every media outlet will be looking for stories to cover. Williams’ candidacy would certainly be one of them. If he’s polling well in DC, and looks to win, as I think he would, he could even argue that he should be included in the debates.
If he went on to win DC, that would be covered throughout election night and in post-election coverage. Solutions to DC’s second-class status range from statehood, to retrocession, to a constitutional amendment, but Williams wouldn’t even need to pick a preferred tactic. He would merely need to advocate that there be a tactic to make DC voters whole. This means representation in both houses, as well as a voice in constitutional amendments and contingent elections.
But what if he were to win and Obama needed those three electors? Most voters in DC, if recent voting is any indication, will not want to put a Republican in the White House just to protest their lack of representation. Williams could campaign with the promise that, in such a situation, he’d instruct his electors to vote for the Democratic nominee, as long as that nominee and the Democratic party promise to make DC suffrage a priority with real, concrete goals.
Let’s draft Anthony Williams for the presidential campaign. Let me be the first to ask him to run. You can also ask him to run at this Facebook page.