Thursday, August 29, 2019
The Picture Going Into September
The New York Times reports that only 10 Democrat candidates remain in the running--for the debates, anyway; not all remaining hopefuls have conceded.
The list for the debate is (in no particular order): Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, Beto O'Rourke, Julian Castro, Andrew Wang, and Cory Booker.
I can imagine any one of these being president; any of them will form a refreshing contrast to the present incumbent of the White House (though the latter is no doubt doing his level best). Having said that, I would strongly prefer that Joe Biden would not be the president, even if the aged and demented Baby Boomers think that no one else could do the job. Do the job? Nobody can do the job unless the Democrats mobilize the vote like crazy; if there is a good turnout, any one of these 10 could get elected with the party behind them. But that's a big IF. If the Boomers feel overconfident and stay home, we will have four more years of mad Tweeting from the White House; and the same result if the Millennials go into a sulk, and do not vote.
Electoral Engineering is a dangerous game. I don't like the idea of anyone gambling on the likely statistics of voter turnout (though I'm sick and tired of every damn election being an existential crisis for reasonable groups of people).
I'm extremely sorrowful to see both Marianne Williamson and Kirsten Gillibrand not appear on the lineup. Kirsten has actually withdrawn. (I'm embarrassed to say that Ms. Gillibrand really appealed to me; she reminded me of so many feisty women who have wagged their fingers at me in my youth!) Kirsten was just a little too nice for this moment; I can imagine her landing like a ton of bricks in a future election year, looking a lot grimmer, and a lot more determined. She seemed to imply that she would accept the role of a running-mate, if that was offered.
Marianne Williamson might not be completely out of the picture. The DNC has a criterion of the candidates having to poll a certain minimum level on certain specific national polls, and I believe that's what eliminated Ms. Williamson from this next debate. That's a pity, because she did bring a certain moral clarity to the discussion. Can we afford the luxury of morals, when matters are at such disastrous state? We can always afford to be moral; jettisoning morals is something that other parties do, not that the Democrats should consider themselves intrinsically superior. They've just held the moral high ground in the very recent past.
Tulsi Gabbard's departure is also sad. She came across to me as someone who had done her homework, and was being restrained. Restraint probably seems high on the list of needed characteristics in a leader for the moment. But Ms. Gabbard did not seem confident enough. She was also one of the very youngest in the set of candidates at the last debate, but I definitely feel that Ms. Gabbard is not about to go away soon. Running a state would give her the weight that voters are looking for in a future nominee for president, but it is unlikely that the State of Hawaii will take my suggestion seriously.
Many of the Senators who had been on stage at the debates in August have chosen to run for Senate instead--including Michael Bennett and Kirsten Gillibrand. John Hickenlooper is also considering running for the Senate. There are at least a couple of hopefuls running to replace Mitch McConnell for his Senate seat, including a veteran fighter pilot, Amy McGrath, who is battling for political survival against the extremely well-financed, but intensely disliked McConnell. In Maine, a very plausible challenger, Sara Gideon, has come forward to contest Susan Collins's Senate seat. If at least half of these seats go to the Democrats, the dynamics of the Senate could change dramatically.
To summarize, the situation seems very hopeful to me.
Those making electability calculations are puzzling over the problem of pushing for Joe Biden. Younger voters are unable to feel confident in the ability of Biden to understand, let alone respond to, the problems facing the nation and the world. He's more an aging politician than a mental giant; his heart has been essentially in the right place for lo these many years, but his is the wrong face to put on the nation for the next few years.
If Trump had not decided to disrupt American Politics, the transition to a younger generation of leaders would not have been so difficult. But now some Democrats are trying to puzzle out which Democrat candidate would most appeal to those demented conservatives who voted for Trump in the last election. I say: don't even bother. Those who voted for Trump for economic reasons will be thinking carefully about the consequences of these trade wars. Those who loved Trump's infantile rhetoric are likely to love it still; courting them is throwing pearls before swine.
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