Saturday, February 15, 2020

Some clarity for this Democrat...but only some.

Leading Democrat candidates before New Hampshire primary
For the past six months, I have been making monthly contributions to Elizabeth Warren's campaign.  I felt she brought an issues-oriented approach to a campaign that could easily descend into emotion and charisma.  She was an outstanding debater in high school.  She earned a debate scholarship to George Washington University.  I was also a debater in high school and college.  I understood her focus on problem analysis and well-articulated plans to address them.  I decided that I would reevaluate after Iowa and New Hampshire.

The time for that assessment is now.  Full disclosure:  I am a life-long Democrat who grew up in a union family with a strong commitment to social justice and equality.   Read the following with that in mind.  I have not come to a commitment to a specific candidate.  I would support any nominee, perhaps some with more enthusiasm than others.  However, I have come to the following conclusions.

Here is a link to a handy quiz that The Washington Post is providing to see how the Democrat candidates align with your positions on 20 issues.

First, electability never has been and should not now be a major factor in my choice.  I do not have the information or expertise to assess electability.  Primaries by their nature only measure the electability within the Democrat base.  If I try to get myself inside the head of a Republican moderate or an independent, I will only drive myself crazy.  Much of what passes for political discourse today is distorted and unreliable.  I have never been concerned about electability before.  I viewed the primaries as the chance to learn which Democrat aligned with my views on the central issues of education, health care, immigration, and wealth inequality.  I am competent to make that assessment.  All I have to do is know my own mind and assess candidates accordingly.

President we elected in 2016 has begun an assault on the America I hope for.  I have never felt the urgency to defeat someone as much as I do this election.  While turning Trump out of office is necessary, it is not sufficient to move in the direction of my hopes.  I am tired of thinking that all we have to do is defeat Trump and everything will return normal.  It is that "normality" that led to the election of 2016.  So much needs to be done beyond simply unraveling most of what has happened in the last three years.  That process, however, won't begin until we have a President who is aligned with the values that have guided me and so many others.

Second, my enthusiasm and financial support will be directly proportional to that alignment of values.  I will be most enthusiastic about a candidate who aligns with my values and who seems capable of taking action to implement them.  Given our constitutional system, that means someone who can work with a divided country and Congress to support and pass legislation.  Our divided system has meant that the last two presidents have used executive orders rather than legislation to move their agendas.  That is not a sustainable path to a stable future.

Third, I am much more of a centrist Democrat than I might have thought before these primaries.  As much as I might lean in a progressive direction, I am more of an evolutionist than a revolutionary.  I am more comfortable making changes to the status quo in most areas rather than burning down what we have and replacing it with an extreme solution, even one that sounds very appealing as a solution.  It turns out that I am not in favor of "Medicare for All."  I believe that we should, through our government, provide basic health care to everyone in the United States in the same way we provide public education.  However, the experience of other advanced economies shows that there are a variety of means to that end.  A single-payer system is one but not the only way.  We need to build on our mixed system of public and private insurance so that all residents are included.  This same approach is true with most major issues with which I am concerned.

Fourth, Elizabeth Warren made a fatal mistake by falling for the litmus test required by the Sanders wing of the party.  Even though she tried to walk back her endorsement of Medicare for all once she was attacked in one of the debates, it was too late.  Litmus tests are political creatures that do not play well or at all with a policy approach.  Much as I hate to say it, her candidacy is doomed.  No one needs or wants a paler version of Bernie.  You are either all in or all out.  On this measure, I am out.

Fifth, Michael Bloomberg is a disruptive candidate whose impact is not yet clear.  If he were not in the race, I would be moving toward Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar but I need to wait until March 3 and Super Tuesday before I settle on a final choice.

Stay tuned.

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