Published May 17, 2019 in Warp & Woof
2020 Campaign Notes
Warp & Woof Has Opinions
Twenty-two candidatesand counting*. That’s where we stand with Democratic presidential contenders for 2020. The first Democratic debate will occur late next month, and the bar for inclusion on the debate floor is low: either a 1% showing in three different authorized polls or 65,000 unique donors spread over 20 or more states. As of May 9, 18 of the 22 declared candidates had met one or the other of these easy requirements. There will be two nights, with each candidate assigned randomly to one. That means the leading candidates may not even be on the stage together in Miami.
So, what are we voters to make of this field? Do we know enough to distinguish platitudes from real policy proposals? Does it even matter? Perhaps the best way to choose in the primary is that “gut feeling” about the candidate that policy wonks despise.
It seems clear that not all 22 of the contenders really think they could become the 46th President of the United States. Reasonable guesses about their motivations for running include advancement of their respective political (or financial) careers, or possibly a cabinet post in the administration of whichever one of them wins. We will see maneuvering as the campaign season progresses, with lower-ranking aspirants dropping out and throwing their support to one of the leaders, hoping for whatever rewards this may provide. It might be fun here to speculate on where the candidates fit on the political spectrum.
As it looks now, trying to accommodate both their backgrounds and publicly announced policy positions, a rough sorting of leading candidates – from left to right – might look something like this:
Sanders àWarren àBooker/Williamson à Harris àButtigieg/Castro à O’Rourke/Gabbard àInslee àGillibrand à Klobuchar àBennet/Hickenlooper à Biden/Delaney
Only 16 names appear in the schema above. Among the others:
- Andrew Yang has made a splash with a fervent defense of UBI (Universal Basic Income, a set amount of money payed out to every citizen, no work requirement, via monthly check),
- Mike Gravel (88-year-old former Senator) has a campaign run by two teenagers based on dismantling U.S. imperialism,
- Tim Ryanand Seth Moulton (two Congressmen who opposed Nancy Pelosi for Speaker),
- E ric Swalwell (another Congressman who is trying to capitalize on his cozy relationship with MSNBC hosts, and focus on gun control),
- Wayne Messam (mayor of Miramar, Florida – a bigger city than South Bend – and he’s African-American).
All of these are probably best seen as quirky opportunists, devoid of a solid place in the left-right spectrum.
Without going into nitpicking about how I came up with my idealized spectrum, it’s worth noting that none of the major candidates, except perhaps the two front runners, Sanders and Biden, see any advantage in clearly articulating where they see themselves on this spectrum. Bernie is happy to be the darling of the Left. Biden is happy to anchor his support among older “moderates.” They both believe that victory in November 2020 will belong to whomever can capture that respective territory. The rest aren’t so sure, so they appear to shift ground from speech to speech, interview to interview. That makes it difficult to place them on a spectrum.
Nobody knows the most “electable” posture for a candidate – it may not even be related to any policy positions. It may come down to who they are, not what they propose. It seems supporters of one candidate or another will be totally convinced that THEIR candidate is MOST electable. Polls show a range of results for one-on-one matchups against Trump, but they tend to defy easy analysis. Most major candidates can probably beat Trump. If there is a bias toward beauty vs. age, that certainly doesn’t explain Sanders and Biden sitting on top of those polls. Youngsters Buttigieg and O’Rourke do relatively well, but they’re not at the top. Gabbard has gone nowhere.
A presidential landslide would be good. That is what’s needed to retake the Senate. More Republican incumbents this time will be facing re-election contests (22), fewer Democrats (12). Unfortunately, most of those Republican Senators have well-established constituencies, difficult to break unless an extremely strong top-of-ticket Democrat is nominated in Milwaukee. Mitch McConnell is up for re-election in 2020, and could be defeated even if the Senate doesn’t flip.
Should impeachment be on the table before the election? Speaker Pelosi, as of now, is reluctant to embrace it. Yet, some presidential candidates are endorsing it (Warren, Castro, Harris, Moulton). Of course, the presidential candidates saying they support impeachment means it’s not an issue if they win! Perhaps that’s why it’s easy for them to support it, but hard for the current Speaker of the House.
Warp & Woofhas opinions on the election campaign. Rule number one: don’t worry about labels. Republicans will call any and all Democratic policy proposals “socialist” – Bernie’s embrace of the “Democratic Socialist” label means nothing to voters, unless they plan on voting Republican anyway. And, his supporters need only point to real leftist commentators who dispute that he even is a true-blue Democratic Socialist (more a social democrat, in the European mold). But, if your middle class, or upper middle class, sensibilities cause you to feel funny about a socialist label, there is always Elizabeth Warren, who has virtually indistinguishable policy proposals from Bernie (even more radical, in some cases), but claims, like FDR, to be “saving capitalism.”
Moving rightward along the idealized political spectrum above gets you nothing except hedging your bets on what focus you want. It’s more a matter of style than substance. Jay Inslee, for instance, is the “climate” candidate, but his detailed climate plan* differs little from Beto’s, introduced a few days earlier. Bookeris the “cities” candidate, but we all know that the American economy relies on more than urban production — if there’s more money concentrated in cities it’s because that’s where the capitalists are. Gillibrandwants to be the “women’s” candidate, but half of us are men. Peteis very slick – but who is his base? (If well-educated LGBTQ folks, fine, but how many of them are there?)
Warp & Woofthinks it’s obvious that going all the way to the right, for Uncle Joe, would be tantamount to an abject surrender to Republicans – even if he wins. He didn’t represent the best of the Obama years, but was likely a “balance” V.P. candidate.
*latest news, since drafting this post, Montana governor Steve Bullock and New York mayor Bill De Blasio have announced (#23 and #24, respectively). Neither of them has earned a place in my spectrum yet. And, Jay Inslee has revealed a second climate plan, more comprehensive than the first, falling just shy of where the Ocasio-Cortez/Markey Green New Deal landed in February.
One thought on “2020 Campaign Notes”
Correction: Mike Gravel should not appear in my list — his campaign has admitted that he will drop out after \”pulling Democratic Party to left\” — presumably after getting on debate stage?