It is 2014 at the moment, but since there isn't any kind of massive unemployment problem and it's totally safe for pregnant women to drink the water, water, everywhere, the media are filling the hole in their lives with only the hottest speculation about the 2016 presidential election.
For example, this week Time magazine is tackling the phenomenon that is Hillary Clinton's shadow campaign for president, noting that the mere threat of her candidacy is keeping other Democrats out of the race. This is less a "news story" than it is a fun and bouncy ball that is being passed from news organization to news organization. Time all but announced the unoriginality of the idea with its cover, which was created by going to a clip art archive and doing a global search for "women" and "clichés." As with the story's trope itself, it's best examined in the gray light of the afterglow of an afterthought.
Against the 2016 onslaught, and our own contributions to it, let us now praise the real heroes of this period of premature frenzy -- those men and women who have seen the light of presidential speculation beaming in their direction and have forthrightly declared, "You can include me out." This week's award for Valor In The Face Of People Wondering If You'll Run For President goes to California Gov. Jerry Brown (D), who is not running for president:
Speaking at a Tuesday news conference in Riverside, Calif., Brown scuttled speculation about his presidential prospects when a reporter asked if he planned to throw his hat in the ring for a fourth time.
"No, that's not in the cards. Unfortunately," Brown said, according to the Los Angeles Times. "Actually, California is a lot more governable."
Supporters of Brown -- who ran for the Democratic nomination in 1976, 1980 and 1992 -- had hoped the popular governor would enter the 2016 race. Brown stoked speculation by not explicitly ruling out the possibility, although in May the 75-year-old noted that "time is kind of running out on that."
You are forgiven if you weren't aware that "Jerry Brown 2016" was even a thing about which people were even talking. It was an idea that had a share of anonymous supporters, but only just enough news coverage to warrant an inclusion on Wikipedia's list of potential 2016 candidates.
That page, by the way, is one of the most hilarious reflections of American politics on the Internet, because it turns out it doesn't take much to be included. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) ended up there because a St. Louis Post-Dispatch story speculating on whether Nixon's future included a turn in the national spotlight led to a Politico story speculating on whether Nixon might not get his turn in the national spotlight because of Hillary Clinton, which led to another St. Louis Post-Dispatch story about the aforementioned Politico story, which led to a Washington Post story ... speculating on whether Nixon's future included a turn in the national spotlight, again.
Meanwhile, outside of Missouri, you have probably never heard of Jay Nixon. But you're probably aware that Jerry Brown, between his first and latest stint as the Golden State's governor, ran for president a bunch of times. And so, unsurprisingly, there was always someone on hand to stoke the fires of retro chic. In July 2013, the Washington Examiner's Paul Bedard reported that some of Brown's "allies" were "starting to talk up a possible 2016 presidential bid," while another group of Brown's associates were saying that Brown was going to be "78 [years old] by Election Day 2016," that he "ran for statewide office only to end [California's] budget crisis," and that he was thus "nearly done with politics."
A month later, Bernie Quigley, writing for The Hill, attempted to coax a Brown candidacy into being with the awesome force of the purplest prose he could muster:
California rises again with Brown, and it should come as no surprise. California brings the final destiny of our American journey, the final edge of expectation, the end and then the beginning again, the place and time of our American turning. Steve Jobs put it succinctly at the end: “The spaceship has landed.”
I asked an astute Californian about Brown’s prospects for national office. He said he will be too old in 2016. But Brown, Zen man of contemporary politics, is in a sense timeless.
Yeah ... so that was a lot to absorb. The salient point is that Brown, obviously, doesn't have the same opinion of his own timelessness. (Perhaps he finally decided to not run when he failed to regenerate into Peter Capaldi?)
Brown joins a happy confederacy of other men and women who have indicated that everyone can stop wondering if they are going to run for president, including New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker (D), San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro (D), New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R), Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D).
Also, Tim Pawlenty is not going to run for president. (I did some digging and found out that this Pawlenty fellow was a former Republican governor of Minnesota who ran for president once before. Who knew? I guess I totally spaced.)
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This story appears in Issue 85 of our weekly iPad magazine, Huffington, available Friday, Jan. 24 in the iTunes App store.