Now, before I start, let’s be clear about something — we’d be lucky to have any of the current Democratic nominees break ahead and trounce the current sack-o-crap that occupies the White House, okay? I don’t hate any of the candidates. This go-around we were blessed with a slate of frontrunners who honestly formed the dream-team of the people you wished would run. And we had a number of candidates that were unexpected, too, like Castro or Buttigieg.
(Then we also have Gabbard, Marianne, and the gaggle of billionaires, but the less said about all of them, the better.)
So, let’s just say it up-front, we are lucky that we have honestly strong contenders out there. Further, let it be said that my thesis on an election in this case is: vote your heart in the primary, your conscience in the general. Put more plainly, vote for whoever you wanna vote for in the primary, because now is not a time for “unity” — it’s a time for candidates to challenge each other and for those challenging and challenged ideas to percolate to the top, or sink to the bottom. And then when the general election comes, you line up behind whoever gets that nomination. Because the alternative is considerably worse. No third parties. No abstained votes. Cheerlead the candidate, whoever they may be, whether with bright enthusiasm, or gritted teeth.
Let’s also articulate that none of these people are celebrities, either. I don’t find it useful to form a cult around them, to think they’re somehow impervious to criticism or Perfect Golden Beings and how dare you commit heresy against them. They’re people, and further, they’re people who are seeking the highest office in the land. They are each, at this stage, relatively savvy political operators, not heroes. We are best when we treat them as they are, not as some choose to idealize them.
That said —
Why Elizabeth Warren?
Well, first, I gotta admit, a portion of this is emotional. For the last four years, maybe longer, I’ve wished she would run. I like her. I think she dances on that line, demonstrating both a kind of folksy charisma and an intellectual prowess. I listen to her and I find her inspirational. Which, much as I’m loathe to admit it, is really damn useful — possessing some of that Obama vision and narrative vigor is going to be useful because we’re better off aiming for someone who is themselves aiming big, not someone who is content to maintain a status quo. Status quo is how we got here. Being unwilling to challenge the big problems of our age with big solutions is how we got here. Which leads me to —
She has vision, but she also has plans. They’re not simply big promises handwaved away with vague gesticulations — she’s got details, she’s got receipts, and a lot of them hold up to scrutiny. It’s a bit nerdy, but have you been to her website? Under the plans section (not issues, but plans) you’ll find you can search for any keyword or issue, and you’ll see what comes up. And you click into any of those issues, you’ll find a comprehensive discussion of the problem, the broad strokes, and the plan. (I grabbed several of these and they generally ran about 5000-8000 words long.) She’s strong on women’s issues, on disability rights, and despite her missteps in this arena, actually has a plan regarding sovereignty of tribal nations. (Note that it’s not my job or my place to absolve her of those mis-steps.) She has strong endorsements: Katie Porter, Julian Castro, Ayanna Pressley.
And at the end of the day, Warren is a teacher. Both literally and metaphorically. And she’s fought for the rights of the consumer, the citizen, and has billionaires scared of her. Further, I think it’s time for a woman president.
Also… I like her? That seems foolishly simplistic, but I do. I like her. As a metric, I can’t speak to how much that matters, but for me, there’s just a vibe; I truly think she’d be a great president. I enjoy listening to her. I feel inspired by her. With big ideas and a commitment to working with others to get it done, because at the end of the day, you can’t do this alone. A president is just a part. They’re not royalty or even kingmakers, they’re part of a fabric —
A big square in the quilt, but part of the quilt just the same.
The Inevitable Versus
Sanders vs. Warren. That conversation is hard to avoid.
And it’s hard to avoid because… they’re really, really similar. I think out of all their votes, they only diverged 7% of the time. They’re friends. They both take aim at the same systems. And if we get either one of them as president, we’re going to be a lucky country.
So, why (for me) Warren over Sanders?
It comes down to mostly a handful of things. Some of them, splitting hairs.
If you compare them at GovTrack for 2018 (Warren here, Sanders here), you’ll find that Warren does better at passing legislation and finding support (or providing that support). And in 2018, Sanders has a low “leadership” score in the Senate. Of course, that’s just for 2018 — and leadership is not so easily codified. Certainly Sanders’ took the lead on something like Medicare 4 All, and honestly, the only reason we’re really even talking about it is because of Sanders. In a broader sense, his leadership is off-the-charts and not to be so easily discounted. He is, in a sense both figuratively and literally, a revolutionary. (So, I’d argue, is Trump.)
At the same time, we currently exist in a country whose systems are relatively intact, and I feel like Warren has more the ability to pull together a coalition — not least of all because she actually belongs to the political party in question. She’s a Democrat in more than name and convenience. Which is either a feature or a bug depending on your perspective here — certainly some will view Sanders’ dismissiveness toward the party to be both earned and just, and I can’t argue with that. I get it. For me, though, Warren is working in a framework, and assuming that this framework will still exist, I want someone who knows how to do that work and who can operate deftly within it. (I don’t mean purely legislative — Sanders obviously is capable. I mean specifically the framework of the Democratic party, for its good and ill.)
Warren supports reparations. She supports ending the filibuster. (I am surprised that Sanders does not; given his revolutionary vigor, it feels like an easy bet, and the only bet, to help enact his considerable vision.) I feel she’s better (meaning, either stronger and/or more detailed) with social issues — meaning racial, LGBT, indigenous, disability. I have in the past not been a fan of Sanders’ approach to guns — and the NRA’s occasional support of him is worth raising your eyebrows.
I think Sanders has made some questionable endorsements and hiring decisions. Campaigning for anti-abortion candidates is not ideal. He’s made some enngghhh statements about identity politics and Trump voters and racism. He’s evolved on those points, to be clear, though is it enough?
He’s older, and has recently suffered a heart attack. He’s 78, would be 79 upon entering the White House — and the average lifespan of the American male is 78. (It’s fair to note Sanders would have access to the best healthcare, thus extending that theoretical lifespan.) Just the same, were he re-elected to a second term, he’d be 83. Though also just the same, someone like RBG keeps defying the odds and kicking ass for justice, so who knows?
The “Bernie Bros” thing is… well, it’s a thing. It doesn’t take much to get mobbed on Twitter by people with Bernie avatars and headers who freely use alt-right memes and insults — cuck and simp and NPC and all that. At the same time, I never know how much blame to put on the candidate for that. It’d be great if he repudiated it, but every candidate has its cult, I suppose. And though some of these people appear to be very real, certainly some must be bots or sock-puppets. Still, there is a suggestion of a pattern where toxic things happen in support of Sanders but Sanders never seems to claim control over it, but also never really disavows it?
There’s the argument that Sanders is stronger on healthcare, being the primary proponent for M4A. But I’ve family who works in or who has worked in the healthcare industry, and it is not an industry ready for an immediate leap for M4A — even if the politics lined up to get that done (and it doesn’t), I feel like Warren’s measured, detail-driven walk to M4A is smarter, savvier, and more realistic. As a nation, we are not a jet-ski — we’re a luxury yacht, and big boats like us do not turn easily or swiftly.
For me, Warren is a better, more nuanced candidate. There’s a careful balance between having vision and being able to execute it. I think Warren meets that the most.
As said, the billionaires seem scared of her. And I like that, too. I like that a lot of her proposals are to regulate the hell out of companies that are actively harming us. I like her green policies — climate change is a force multiplier and will theoretically dismantle civilization, so it kinda fuckin’ matters. I think she can speak to all strata of our country.
So she has my vote. But again: we’re not talking apple and oranges. We’re talking two kinds of apples. And I really like apples, even if I prefer one over another.
Biden Your Time, Etc.
I hope you don’t vote for Joe Biden.
I like Joe Biden.
He’s less Uncle Joe now, and more Grampy Joe, but I think he’s a good man who means well.
I also think his time has come and gone and he should’ve kept to his place in history as being fondly remembered as America’s No-Malarky-Havin’ VP.
I think that he’s very good at tripping up at the finish line, as has been evidenced by his other attempts at becoming president. I think he’s got a wagon train of baggage behind him, and I think it will be used against him at every step. As much as I dinged Sanders for his age above, I think Biden is really showing it. I think he’s not counterprogramming to Trump but rather, just a diet version, and at the end of the day, Trump is a meaner predator. Trump will shiv him in the prison yard. Biden will demand an old-timey pugilist contest even as he’s being shanked. I don’t think he has much vision, or much to contribute to the current climate. I think he’s from an older world, and it’s time to adapt.
If he gets the nomination, I hope I’m wrong. And I will certainly, certainly vote for him. Enthusiastically, with bells on, with a donation ready to go. But I fear he doesn’t quite have it.
And as for Buttigieg — I liked him a lot more when he started than where he’s gone. I’m sad about that. Of course he has my vote if he wins the nomination. But he decided to position himself in the wrong place, and has shown a proclivity to compromise in all the wrong ways to get it done.
Booker, I like a lot, wish he’d be doing better. He should be doing better. Not sure why he isn’t. Klobuchar has some strong points, but little vision for me. I miss Harris and Castro already. I hope Castro ends up as Warren’s VP. I hope Tulsi Gabbard walks into the sea. I hope the two billionaires quit, but keep throwing their money behind getting rid of Trump.
As With All Things, YMMV
Your Mileage May Vary when coming to these candidates. Warren is not a perfect candidate — she is, however, the candidate for me. Who you vote for is on you, and that’s how this is supposed to work. Obviously, I want you to vote for Warren. I believe Warren is the one who gets this done, and I hope you’ll agree with me. But this isn’t math. I’m not an oracle. We all have to make the same strategic and emotional calculus. Whoever wins, I hope you’ll vote for them in the general election of 2020. And this isn’t just about beating Trump. It is about pushing back against the whole GOP party, and about shoring up our system so that it can defend against the kind of corruption that is multiplying right now like hungry termites chewing at the tree of our democracy. Trump is not the disease — he’s just the ugliest symptom of it.
Fingers crossed we figure out a vigorous immune response before it’s too late.
Check your voter registration, and vote like hell in 2020.
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