Opinion: Gov. Wes Moore Is Driven, Charismatic—and Maybe America’s Future President

Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty

As the 2024 presidential race appears to already have all of its candidates at play, it’s not too early to start looking at what’s next for 2028.

I’ll go first: Keep your eyes on Governor Wes Moore of Maryland.

On Monday, the rising Democratic star pardoned more than 175,000 low-level convictions for marijuana—something he described as “the most sweeping state-level pardon in any state in American history.”

“I am humbled to be with you in the historic Maryland State House—as we make history of our own, together,” he announced in a post on X. “This morning—with deep pride and soberness—I will pardon over 175,000 convictions related to the possession of cannabis and cannabis paraphernalia.”

Clemencies, Concerts and Oprah’s Cash: Is Wes Moore the Next Obama?

For Moore, the third Black governor ever elected in American history, to do such a move days before Juneteenth isn’t a coincidence.

“Legalization does not erase the fact that nearly half of all drug arrests in Maryland during the early 2000s were for cannabis. It doesn’t erase the fact that Black Marylanders were three times more likely to be arrested for cannabis than white Marylanders before legalization,” he said on Monday. “It doesn’t erase the fact that having a conviction on your record means a harder time with everything, everything from housing to employment to education. It doesn’t erase the fact that people who were arrested for cannabis three or four or 40 years ago still have those convictions on their records to this day.”

Something that damn monumental is more than a notable use of an executive order—it’s a promising sign of more to come. It’s not everyday that governors step up and do something that positively bucks against the trend of their own political party—and federal government. It’s the kind of power move that’s both progressive, yet reasonable for moderates within his base who have definitely nudged in favor of criminal justice reform surrounding cannabis.

While there’s been a lot of recent chatter about California Gov. Gavin Newsom running for president (with some even wanting him to consider running this cycle), Moore is definitely a refreshing option to consider in the next four years.

For starters, he’s 45 years old, charismatic, and well-accomplished. Before he was a politician, Moore was a combat veteran, bestselling author, Wall Street banker, small business owner, Rhodes Scholar and former CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation, a national anti-poverty organization. The father of two is also married to Dawn Flythe Moore, who was a well-regarded political campaign strategist and community organizer before becoming Maryland’s first lady.

Call me clichéd, but if he doesn’t fit the check box for an eligible Democratic presidential candidate to look out for, I don’t know who does.

“Wes lifts people up from their cynicism into their optimism and gives them a sense of the possible,” congressman Steney Hoyer told the press as he endorsed Moore for governor.

Perhaps that’s what makes Moore stand out right now. So much of the current narrative shaping the Democratic Party’s strategy has been fixated on saving the democracy of the nation from the threat of MAGA extremism. Across both political aisles, voters haven’t been enthusiastic about the current rematch between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Once this current polarization eventually subsides, there will be a need for a new leader to restore a sense of hope and faith in our government.

Moore is shaping up to be a consensus figure among liberals given his blend of practical policy (such as raising the minimum wage, increasing tax credits for immigrants and childcare, and boosting state spending on education and transportation without raising taxes) and charm. So far, he has had the gubernatorial endorsements of Hoyer and former President Barack Obama, has rallied with President Biden, and has received encouragement from media mogul Oprah Winfrey.

Even more surprisingly, he’s even gotten praise from staunch conservatives like his former boss Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, for whom he served as a White House Fellow at the State Department in 2006.

“I didn’t ever talk to him about it, but I would have been surprised if he didn’t have political ambitions, because he had the right package,” Rice told Time magazine in a 2023 profile on Moore about his political aspirations. “There was no doubt that politics was going to come after him if he didn’t come after politics.”

And if he reminds you of a certain charismatic politician who would eventually be one of our most beloved U.S. presidents—there’s a connection there too. In 2008, Moore gave a speech in support of a presidential nominee at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

In that speech, he told voters to “have faith, not fear.”

Moore was speaking about soon-to-be-President Barack Obama.

With so much political chaos in our current climate, perhaps it’s a foreshadowing message of hope voters might consider for him in 2028.

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