The Slatest

We May Have Already Located the Most Vapid Sound Bite of the Entire 2020 Cycle

Swalwell, wearing a white button-down shirt, listens to a question.
Rep. Eric Swalwell in Iowa City on Feb. 18.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Eric Swalwell has represented a large swath of the Bay Area in Congress since 2012. He’s a former prosecutor and seems to be pretty squarely in the middle of the road ideologically for a Democrat. He’s on the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees, which has helped him become a bit of a peripheral national figure during Donald Trump’s term. Apparently Swalwell is also interested in running for president, which is fine—anyone who wants to run for president should run for president, it’s a free country. But he’s going to probably have to start making a stronger case for himself, in a race that already features more than one liberal-but-not-leftist former prosecutor who’s more well-known than he is, than this:

Ye gods. If you work hard it adds up to dreaming bigger? Eric Swalwell, what does that mean?

Making it even worse is that this is apparently not just something that slipped out of his mouth: It’s an Eric Swalwell catchphrase. Here he is last November:

And last April at a speech in Iowa:

The economy is you. It’s how you’re doing. Whether you’re saving more, doing better, and dreaming bigger.

Making it even worse than that is that Eric Swalwell isn’t even the first person to use the phrase “doing better and dreaming bigger.” That would be Barack Obama, who crucially said it in a context that actually made sense. From a 2012 campaign speech in Charlottesville, Virginia:

Are we going to make sure that an honest day’s work is rewarded so that somebody who really works hard, they can afford to own their own home, and they’ll have health care when they get sick, and they’ll be able to retire with dignity and respect? And most of all, [that] they’ll be able to make sure that their kids are doing better and dreaming bigger than they did?

Obama’s formulation, in which you work hard so your kids can have bigger dreams than you did, is not necessarily a groundbreaking concept, but at least it’s one that tracks logically. Also, Obama didn’t make it the centerpiece of his entire political brand. Eric Swalwell is going to have to … do better.