Tag Archives: Democratic primary

Friedman Is Right About Bloomberg And Sanders

I don’t usually care for Thomas Friedman’s columns. It isn’t that I necessarily disagree with his conclusions–although I often do– but he tends to adopt a “let me explain to those of you not as smart as me” tone that I find extremely annoying.

But his recent column about Mike Bloomberg’s candidacy deserves to be read, and read with an open mind. (This is not an endorsement–just a corrective to the predictable circular firing squad sharing the conviction that no bread is better than half a loaf.)

The first point Friedman makes is one with which most readers of this blog will agree: this is no ordinary election. It is imperative that we rid the country of the Trump malignancy, and that goal absolutely must take precedence over everything else. And it won’t just be Republicans versus Democrats.

Because, without doubt, Russia and China also will be “voting” Trump 2020 — for three reasons: (1) Trump keeps America in turmoil and unable to focus on building the infrastructure we need to dominate the 21st century the way we did the 20th. (2) Both Beijing and Moscow know that Trump is so disliked by America’s key allies that he can never galvanize a global coalition against China or Russia. And (3) both Russia and China know that Trump is utterly transactional and will never challenge them on human rights abuses. Trump is their chump, and they will not let him go easily.

Friedman says it is important that we run the right candidate against Trump, and that Bernie Sanders is not that candidate–a claim with which I agree for reasons I’ve previously explained.

Friedman says that Sanders has the wrong solutions to the right problems, but whether as a policy matter Sanders’ solutions are right or wrong is–in my opinion–beside the point. Bernie’s solutions are simply not salable to the wider voting public. Sanders’ popularity is limited even within the Democratic Party–he has a fervent base of at most 27%, which is the only reason he leads a fragmented field– and as I pointed out in the linked post, the popularity he does enjoy has never been tested by the sort of vicious but effective opposition research that would be thrown at him should he be the nominee. (Did he really have to honeymoon in the Soviet Union?)

The great irony is that Mike Bloomberg (also imperfect, as he displayed at the recent debate) would be more likely to actually achieve a number of left-wing goals than Bernie.

As the New York Times documented last Sunday (in what was definitely not a puff piece), for years, Bloomberg has put immense amounts of money behind organizations fighting climate change; he has worked long and hard for gun control (an issue on which Bernie has historically been on the wrong side); he has consistently supported Planned Parenthood and reproductive rights; and he’s been on the right side of issues from immigration, to voting rights, infrastructure, and affordable housing.

Do I agree with every policy he has endorsed? Of course not. Stop and frisk, for one, was both wrongheaded and unconstitutional. But unlike the mentally-ill moron in the White House, Bloomberg acknowledges past errors.  Has he made statements or engaged in past behaviors (especially with women) that should be criticized and will be used by opposition researchers? Yes.

But the real problem many Democrats have with Bloomberg is that he’s very, very rich. It isn’t that he hasn’t always been a Democrat–neither has Bernie. (And unlike Trump, Bloomberg’s positions have generally been consistent–and liberal– even if his self-labeling hasn’t been.) Too many Democrats equate money with evil. But money is ethically neutral. It can be used for good or ill, and if you look at Bloomberg’s charitable choices, he has used his millions to support causes with which most of us overwhelmingly agree.

Let’s get real.

Until the country somehow gets rid of Citizens United and other decisions based upon the Supreme Court’s naive insistence that money equals speech, the obscenely rich will continue to buy our government. That is definitely a very bad thing–but it defines our current political reality. Folks like the Kochs buy control through SuperPacs and back-room deals; billionaires like Nick Hanauer and Mike Bloomberg try to influence public policy or win votes by very publicly spending gobs of their own money. (Money alone isn’t enough to get that job done, as Tom Steyer has learned.)

All I know is that it is absolutely essential to get rid of Trump–to install people who understand how government works, who respect the rule of law, who understand the importance of the environmental and social challenges we face, and who are on the right side of those issues. Bloomberg–like all the Democratic candidates– is right on most issues, and he has three other very important assets: intelligence, executive experience and enough money and political savvy to wipe up the floor with Trump.

So if Bloomberg does become the candidate, don’t rule him out simply because you hate rich people. The saying is: “Vote blue no matter who” –not “Vote blue unless the candidate is a billionaire.”

In the primary, support the person you think has the best chance of defeating Trump, or the person whose positions you most prefer. But in the general, vote blue. No matter who.

I will. Even if it’s Bernie. Hell, I’ll vote blue even if it’s an ashtray. (Or, in my sister’s memorable words, toenail fungus.)




Doug Masson Quotes The Federalist

Doug Masson is a lawyer in Lafayette, Indiana, and one of the most thoughtful and erudite Indiana bloggers. He has a post on the Democratic primary that is well worth reading in its entirety–and with which I entirely agree–but I was particularly struck by this quotation from Federalist 68

Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption. These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one quarter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union?”

The “desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant…by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union.”

Whatever propaganda Republicans employ to dismiss the findings of the Mueller Report or denigrate America’s Intelligence operations, the evidence is overwhelming that Russia raised a creature of its own during the 2016 election. That evidence was recently confirmed by a bipartisan report from the Senate Intelligence committee, about which I will report more fully in due course.

As Doug says, Trump is “emotionally fragile, intellectually bankrupt, and utterly corrupt”.

He believes that the office of the Presidency is there to serve him rather than the other way around. His trading on public resources to induce foreign powers to meddle in our elections was exactly the kind of thing the Founders were concerned about when they wrote the Constitution.

Most readers of this blog have already joined me in my determination to “Vote Blue No Matter Who,” (I would personally cast my ballot for a potted plant if it was the alternative to Trump) but that doesn’t mean that most of us don’t have favorites in–and opinions about– the Democratic Primary. At this point in the process, I find myself agreeing with Doug’s analysis.

For my part, I don’t mind Biden, but I like Mayor Pete and Elizabeth Warren. I don’t have strong feelings about Bernie himself, but his online supporters have been fairly off-putting in a way that doesn’t seem nearly so common for supporters of other candidates. In a perfect world, I should be comparing policies, but Presidential campaigns are won or lost on the basis of personalities. The electorate says they care about policy, but when it comes time to vote, they mostly don’t understand the policies and have shaped their understanding of the policies to conform with their personality preferences. I may have better than average understanding of some of these issues, but ultimately, I don’t know enough about the ins and outs of federal laws, rules, and regulations to truly assess the candidates’ plans beyond a pretty superficial level. Nevermind the fact that whatever they propose will have to navigate the legislative process. I’m going to have to trust that the person will do the best they can and will generally make sound decisions.

I have previously called Bernie and Biden analog candidates for a digital age. Either would be immensely preferable to Trump, but I would prefer to see both of them as honored elder statesmen. I love Elizabeth Warren, but I worry that she would make a fairly easy target. Plus I’d hate to see her leave the Senate, where she has been such an effective voice for fairness.

And I really love Mayor Pete.

I’m ready to turn this country over to a new generation–to the people who will have to live with the results of the economic and environmental decisions they make, who grew up with and understand the immense impact of technology on everyday life, and who have the intellect and energy that the Presidency requires and that the current President so clearly lacks.

The men who wrote The Federalist and crafted our Constitution were young. I Googled it, and it turns out that many of the Founding Fathers were not yet 40 years old in 1776. The average age of the signers of the Declaration of Independence was 44 (Ben Franklin undoubtedly raised the average!), but more than a dozen of them were 35 or younger.

The impressive Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand was born in 1980 and elected at age 37, and Emmanuel Macron of France just turned 41.

On the other end of the spectrum, I’m Bernie’s age, and most days, I need a nap.

All that said–whoever emerges will have my activism and my vote. Whoever it is won’t have Russia’s.


Mayor Pete

I have never voted for a candidate with whom I agreed 100% on specific policies.

Instead, I think I do what most people do; we vote for candidates who share our values, candidates we feel we can trust, who possess personal characteristics we deem admirable. If the Trump presidency has taught us anything, it is the supreme importance of those characteristics–sound judgment, integrity, intellect, diligence, respect for the institutions of government and the rule of law, and a genuine desire to work for the common good. A little humility helps a lot.

Trump possesses none of those qualities– I doubt he is even able to recognize them.

Character does count, and it counts far more than this or that specific policy prescription. (Which is  why Democrats’ predictable “circular firing squads” and insistence on total purity drives me nuts.)

There are a lot of talented people running for the Democratic Presidential nomination. I like several of them, dislike others, and worry that still others would not be as competitive as necessary. That said, I will obviously vote for anyone who emerges as the party’s choice. (Hell, I’d probably vote for Beelzebub if he was running against Trump and his cabal.)

But my top choice so far is Mayor Pete, for a number of reasons.

As I have previously written, I am convinced that it is time for younger leadership. Mayor Pete’s performance thus far–and his rise from obscurity to third place in national polls in a matter of months–bodes well for a general election. His obvious intellect, extensive knowledge and thoughtful demeanor are all reassuring and would be a welcome change from the embarrassing ignorance bloviating daily from Trump’s White House.

Above all, I appreciate his authenticity; everything I’ve seen or read, and everyone from South Bend I’ve talked with, says this guy is the “real deal.”

I think a recent article by Ezra Klein at Vox best captures why Pete’s message so attracts me. 

Some excerpts:

There was a word missing from the speech Pete Buttigieg gave in South Bend, Indiana, announcing his presidential campaign. It’s a word you heard twice in Bernie Sanders’s and Beto O’Rourke’s announcement speeches, nine times in Cory Booker’s, 21 times in Kirsten Gillibrand’s, 23 times in Kamala Harris’s, and 25 times in Elizabeth Warren’s.

That word? “Fight.”

Instead, Buttigieg returned to a word those speeches shied away from, a word whose relative absence from the Democratic primary is all the stranger given its potency in past Democratic campaigns.

That word? “Hope,” which Buttigieg said eight times, Gillibrand said three times, O’Rourke uttered once, and Sanders, Harris, Warren, and Booker avoided entirely.

Klein cites to 70 years of research confirming that fear motivates conservatives and hope motivates liberals.

At the core of this worldview divide is hope, in its most basic, literal form. Are you hopeful about new things, new people, new places? Does change excite you? Does difference? If it does, you are more likely to be liberal. If you look at the new, the different, and feel a spike of fear, you’re more likely to be a conservative….

Obama and Trump, in their respective campaigns, took this subtext of American politics and made it into bumper stickers. A black man with a strange name won the presidency tying together the words “change” and “hope.” He was succeeded by a white man who won the presidency promising to turn back the clock, who built a campaign around the word “again.”…

A lot of liberals, temperamentally and psychologically, don’t want a fight. They don’t want politics to be an endless war; they believe that mutual understanding is possible, that the country will respond to someone willing to believe and call forth the best of it. That’s not just their view of politics; it’s their view of life. It’s the view that Obama spoke to in the speech that made him a star:

Even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America — there’s the United States of America. There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America.

Klein compared aspects of Buttigieg’s announcement speech to Obama’s messaging, and then quoted Pete saying :“It’s time to walk away from the politics of the past and toward something totally different.”

I don’t know about other people, but I am so ready for something totally different. I am so ready to hope again.

There’s an old political maxim to the effect that Republicans fall in line and Democrats fall in love. I think I’m in love.




This is Called Reality

The Presidential primaries are effectively over. Both parties have chosen their candidates (and it is worth reminding everyone that primaries are party affairs, not exercises intended for the general/unaffiliated public).

I am reluctant to re-enter the toxic primary debate between the “Bernie bots” and the Hillary supporters, and I will preface this post with a disclaimer that will no doubt be ignored: this is not an “endorsement” of either of them. I tend to agree with most–not all– of Sanders’ positions, and I have never been a particularly enthusiastic supporter of Hillary–not because I consider her corrupt or dishonest (I don’t), but because, despite her resume and formidable policy chops, she is a defensive and not particularly inspiring candidate.

I will support Hillary. Had Bernie emerged as the Democratic candidate, I would have supported him. But that is a far cry from believing that he would be the stronger candidate against The Donald.

A recent article from Slate spells out what most politically active people know: polls at this juncture in the campaign are absolutely meaningless. The reason Hillary’s negatives are high is that everything that the Republicans could possibly throw at her has been thrown (repeatedly) for the past 25 years. There won’t be any surprises.

Bernie, on the other hand, would go into this election facing the national GOP smear machine for the first time–and given that Trump is head of their ticket, that machine would undoubtedly go into overdrive. The Slate article spells out just some of the more obvious attacks (and no, they need not be fair or accurate–just as many of the efforts to bring Hillary down have not been fair or accurate). Just a few examples from the article:

[Sanders] has never been asked to account for his relationship with the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party, for which he served as a presidential elector in 1980. At the time, the party’s platform called for abolishing the U.S. military budget and proclaimed “solidarity” with revolutionary Iran. (This was in the middle of the Iranian hostage crisis.) There’s been little cable news chatter about Sanders’ 1985 trip to Nicaragua, where he reportedly joined a Sandinista rally with a crowd chanting, “Here, there, everywhere/ The Yankee will die.” It would be nice if this were due to a national consensus on the criminal nature of America’s support for the Contras. More likely, the media’s attention has simply been elsewhere….

Imagine an ad drawing from the old Sanders essay “The Revolution Is Life Versus Death.” First it might quote the candidate mocking taboos on child nudity: “Now, if children go around naked, they are liable to see each others [sic] sexual organs, and maybe even touch them. Terrible thing!” Then it would quote him celebrating girls who defy their mothers and have sex with their boyfriends: “The revolution comes … when a girl pushes aside all that her mother has ‘taught’ her and accepts her boyfriends [sic] love.” Finally, it would remind viewers that Sanders was one of 14 congressmen to vote against the law establishing the Amber Alert system and one of 15 to vote against an amendment criminalizing computer-generated child pornography. The fact that these votes were cast for entirely principled civil libertarian reasons is, in the context of a general-election attack, beside the point…..

As the nominee, Sanders would have to address his former opposition to public schools and praise for parents who believe that it is “better for their children not to go to school at all than for them to attend a normal type of establishment.” He’d have to explain whether he still feels that sexual repression causes cancer, whether he still opposes the concept of private charity, and whether he still supports the public takeover of the television industry.

Anyone who believes that the GOP would not use–and abuse–these currently little-known positions from Sanders’ past, or that such attacks wouldn’t be highly effective, is being willfully naive.

Bernie Sanders has done the Democratic party an enormous service during this primary campaign. He has raised issues that needed to be raised, and he has moved Hillary Clinton from her more cautious and much more incremental positions. His arguments will strongly influence the party platform. He has brought enthusiastic young people into the political process, and I for one believe he will put the issues above his ego and work hard to keep them involved.

As an old political warhorse, I can tell you that winning an election is not the same thing as winning the argument. The “Bernie bots” can console themselves that he has already won that.

Finally, for those still insisting that Bernie can still win the nomination, or in the alternative, that he was somehow cheated out of winning, please read this.