The 2020 election is nearly two years away, but the debate as to who should run against Trump and the Republicans is well under way. I’ve received a couple of so-called surveys asking about my support for former Vice-President Joe Biden, Senator Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), former Senatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke, former gubernatorial candidates Andrew Gillum and Stacy Abrams, Senators Cory Booker (NJ), Kamala Harris (Calif.), and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and, of course, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
Although one prime consideration is who is most likely to beat Donald Trump, it’s not the only factor. Who could lead the country in the direction it needs to go? Or, failing that, who could most effectively demonstrate the wrongheadedness of the obstructionist efforts of Mitch McConnell and his ilk?
There’s how the candidate looks on paper and then there’s who he or she is. On paper, Hillary Clinton was highly qualified. But if the priority was electing someone who can lead us to the changes we need to make for the safety of the planet, Clinton was a nonstarter. She was all about compromise; she wasn’t really concerned with or committed to fundamental change. And white men, especially Republicans, loved to hate on her.
Almost winning doesn’t count
The perfect candidate would be reliably progressive, genuinely in touch with “working families” and “woke” on racial issues. She or he would appeal to many different kinds of people. One way to demonstrate that would be that he or she would have actually won a statewide election. This would rule out Beto O’Rourke. Almost beating Ted Cruz or another equally problematic Republican,by itself, isn’t enough.
The main problem with O’Rourke is that he is not reliably progressive. In fact, he doesn’t call himself a progressive. He doesn’t support Medicare for All. He doesn’t even support an assault weapons ban. Support for gay marriage and legalizing pot doesn’t make up for the lack of progressive credentials. Although he didn’t take money from PACs, he got $430,000 from individuals in the oil and gas industries.
Sanders or Warren?
I must admit I love Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. But I was disappointed in Warren’s response to Trump’s ridiculous questioning of her Native American heritage. I think she doesn’t quite get what it is to be a minority. Nothing in her autobiography tends to show that Warren grew up with or observes any Native tradition. She has not walked through the world as a person of color and has no experience being a minority. I don’t think it was dishonest for her to check the Native box on the American Association of Law Schools form, but she hasn’t lived up to it either.
During the 2016 campaign, Warren played it safe. Was her heart with Bernie or Hillary? Would she have been equally happy with either of them? We’ll never know because she didn’t put herself out there for either Clinton or Sanders until that contest was over. She preserved her options. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not particularly inspiring.
Bernie Sanders has integrity. He’s a mensch (an upstanding, moral person). Who knows how well he could do if he got honest, fair coverage — which did not happen in 2016. He is older than I would prefer, but he’s healthy and vigorous. And a good choice of running mate would go a long way toward resolving the age issue. Most importantly, he’s in the right place on the issues, and he has a long track record.
Booker, Harris, Klobuchar?
I don’t have enough information about any of these three to form an opinion. Harris is fairly new to the Senate. I’d like to see her develop more as a leader and become better known on the national stage. Klobuchar has been in the Senate since 2007. I’d like to know more about her, especially about her positions on climate change and the role of class and money in the political system. Booker is interesting, but I don’t know much about his commitment to progressive policies.
The most important question
What kind of country do we want to live in? What role should the USA play in the world? We need to participate actively in a world effort to keep the earth’s climate as habitable as possible for as many people as possible. We need to build a peaceful world that works for everyone regardless of race, religion, sexual identity, or social class. It’s a tall order, for sure. We may not make it in our lifetime. But if we really want a world in which every individual is valued and every child as a chance, that has to be the goal. And that’s what I understand as democratic socialism.