Wednesday, February 05, 2020

A Politics Post

Today is a sad day. Given the composition of the Senate, I am not surprised the Senate voted to acquit Trump. But I am still sad that more Republicans couldn't find the moral courage to do what the country needed them to do. Good on Mitt Romney for having that courage, and good on the vulnerable Democrats - Doug Jones, Kyrsten Sinema, and Joe Manchin for having that courage, too.

But the impeachment vote isn't what I want to write about tonight. I will make some donations to help Doug Jones (who is in a tough election this year) and to register my displeasure at the Republicans. (If you also want to register your displeasure and don't want to pick candidates to donate to yourself, here are three ideas: Swing Left, The Payback Project, and @Pinboard's Great Slate - pick the one with the strategy you like best and help out. If you're a Republican who can't bring yourself to support those organizations, check out The Lincoln Project or Stand Up America.)

What I want to write about is the Democratic Presidential primary. At the start, I thought I'd stay out of it (beyond casting my vote) and just throw myself into supporting the nominee once one was chosen. But I find that I am not pleased with how it is going. Some candidates I thought were strong - Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, to be specific - didn't catch on and are out of the race. When I look at who is left, I realize I don't feel good staying on the sidelines anymore.

I will vote for the Democrat in the general election, unless by some weird confluence of events the nominee is Tulsi Gabbard, in which case I am selling everything and moving to New Zealand.

But I am no longer in the "wait and see" camp in terms of the primary. I'll be voting for Elizabeth Warren.

I am ignoring the question of who will be the stronger opponent against Donald Trump because I think that is not something we can judge. Am I worried about the fact that Sanders - who a lot of pundits are now calling our front runner - has never faced really negative campaign ads against him? Sure, but I don't pretend to know what that will do in the general. And I think that the Trump campaign and their helpers on Fox News have shown that they won't be constrained by facts in this campaign, so there's no reason to think he will fare worse than any other candidate. Am I convinced by the Sanders camp's argument that they'll expand the electorate? Not really. I haven't seen evidence they can expand it in a meaningful way in the places that matter for the Electoral College.

So I decided early on not to play pundit and try to game out who would have the best chance in the general election.

Instead, I am basing my vote on who I think will be the best President for this country at this time.

As Cory Booker was fond of saying, beating Trump is the floor, not the ceiling. As I look at the state of the country, I think we need some big changes. Too many people are being left out of the general prosperity and don't have hope for the future. There is a fundamental rot in our system when policies supported by large majorities can't even get a vote. I think that if we don't fix these deep problems, we'll just keep getting people like Trump, who will play on our worst instincts and rile up hate within our country.

So, I think we need change. Who can best deliver it?

I do not think Joe Biden understands the historical moment and recognizes the depth of changes we need, so not him.

I think Bernie Sanders wants to bring changes, and I'm even OK with some of the more radical changes he wants to bring to us. But I see no evidence he has the skills needed to make change happen. I look at how he's run his campaign and who he's hired, and I see someone who prioritizes ideological agreement over the ability to get things done or build coalitions. I look at his career in the Senate, and I don't see a lot of concrete accomplishments. I worry that he'd be elected promising big changes and be unable to deliver anything - further corroding people's belief in the ability of our system to represent their wishes. So not him.

I think Pete Buttigieg is smart and ambitious... and way too inexperienced for this moment. He needed to spend some time better understanding a lot of things, including this country's history of racism and how that continues to manifest today, before he would be ready to be President. So not him.

Mike Bloomberg has done a lot of good things with his money. But he's still a billionaire, and has not shown an understanding of why that makes people leery of him. He'd probably do some things I agree with as president, but I don't think he's going to make the changes that we need to prevent the next Trump. Same thing for Tom Steyer. So not them.

That leaves me exactly where the New York Times Editorial Board ended up: Deciding between Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren. Unlike the Times, I'll make a decision. I prefer Elizabeth Warren, because she has shown me that she understands the level of change needed right now. I think she is correct in her diagnosis that moneyed interests have worked their way into too many levers of power and have corrupted our system. I love that she has so many detailed plans for fixing things.

The thing that got me off the fence was when she put out her plan for how to clean up government after Trump. It made me think that she really understands what a historic mess she would be facing as President. As far as I know, she's the only candidate who has acknowledged that Trump has broken the inner workings of our government, and put out a plan for how to quickly get things working again.

I guess it boils down to the fact that Elizabeth Warren has convinced me she really understands what is at stake right now, and is ready to use the crisis that is Donald Trump to try to fix the big problems in our system. Klobuchar ends up in second place for me because I think she also knows how to get things done in Washington - but I think she's aiming at the surface problems that are easy to see and point at, not the deeper problems that we really need to tackle to make sure that we don't end up with Trump 2.0 in another eight years.

Is Elizabeth Warren the perfect candidate? No, of course not. She's made mistakes and there are some specific policies I may not agree with. But I'm not looking for someone to be my hero or to put up on some sort of pedestal. I'm looking to hire someone for the job of President of the United States, and I think she's the best person for the job given our field of candidates.

And that's probably all I'm going to say about the primary. I know a lot of people will come to a different conclusion about who to vote for, and that is fine. Let's just all remember to come together after the primary and fight as hard as we can to elect our nominee.


  1. I agree-- Elizabeth Warren is the obvious choice now that Kamala Harris is out. Because my #1 concern (other than stopping deliberately hurting children which I trust every one of them to do) is clearing out the corruption and the Russian spies and putting the office of president back in order after Trump completely and fully trashes it during his lame duck term. She has energy, connections, skills, and understanding.

    I would actually choose Biden second, not because I believe in him (he still cannot keep his hands off people, even after being told it's a big problem!), but because I believe he can assemble an experienced team.

    I've been warming to Bloomberg. Mayor of NYC is better than Mayor of South Bend in terms of experience. And he has a better understanding of public policy than I'd given him credit for earlier.

    And I agree that Bernie talks a talk, but doesn't so much walk any walks. He seems in over his head. But maybe he'll have good people.

    In any case, I will campaign for whoever ends up with the nomination. And I hope Gabbard stays in the race for a little while yet because while there's still other women in the race, especially one so different, Warren isn't "the woman" like they painted HRC, but an actual candidate.

  2. I end up in the same place, _probably_, but you omit Yang entirely which I think is an error - he is also someone with a lot of detailed plans, an excellent brain, and a philosophical approach very near to mine. MATH hats are great :-).

    1. Sorry - I should have included why I think "not Yang." The main reason is that I don't think someone's first job in the government sector should be President of the United States. Also, given how much time he spent in Iowa, I think his failure to do better there says something about how well he gets how our system works. I hope he runs for a lower office and keeps working to make some of his ideas a reality.


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