Alas, as you’ve probably already noticed, there is no perfect Democratic candidate for the highest office in the land. Unfortunately, the early departures of qualified contenders, the late entry of moneyed wannabes, and a series of heated debates peopled by overwhelmed moderators and a shifting clutch of candidates haven’t made our job as voters any easier.
It’s been almost as chaotic as the Trump administration.
How to pick your person? That is the question. For debate watchers, focusing on substance was often difficult, buried as it was beneath the parry and thrust of the players. And then, there was the proverbial complicating elephant in the room: Who is best able to 1) defeat Trump and 2) increase the numbers of Democrats in the House and Senate? One thing the debates did provide was a glimpse into some of the candidates’ telling personal traits which may bear on those questions.
Amy Klobuchar, for instance, has the distinct ability to lower the temperature in the room. With the exception of an occasional dust-up when personally attacked, she calmed the cacophony when she spoke. Her soft-spoken demeanor belies a determined interior. She’s civil, proud of her Midwestern roots, and relates policy to the impact it has on real human lives. Forced to leave the hospital and her struggling newborn who remained there, she told a story every parent can relate to as when discussing the need for health care reform.
Bernie Sanders, in contrast, heated things up. He filled the room. I found myself wondering whether he listens. Much as I like many of the things he stands for, he came across as dogmatic and opinionated. And I can never quite get over the sense that there’s something tone-deaf about a politician who labels himself a “socialist” in a country where that innocuous term scares so many voters who confuse it with Russian-style communism.
Like Sanders, Elizabeth Warren is passionate
in her beliefs and consistent in her message though she did some fine tuning in the course of the debates. Like Joe Biden, she has a compelling life story. She’s assertive in exactly the way we’ve come to know and expect since the days she helped create the Consumer Protection Bureau. Like Klobuchar, she has the ability to clarify her policy positions with the down-to-earth examples of the lives of real people.
On the debate stage, Joe Biden has been forced out of the roles he’s played so well over the years—comforter at times of horrific violence (who doesn’t remember Sandy Hook?), elder advisor to Barack Obama, extemporaneous speaker par excellence when awarded the Medal of Freedom at the end of his vice presidential term. His debate performances have been, let’s say, “various.” While there’s still a lot of the warm, supportive “Uncle Joe,” there have been been moments of hesitation, though he seemed to hit his stride as the debates rolled on.
Then there’s Pete Buttigieg, whom I first “met” in the middle of a sleepless night. Unable to return to my slumbers, I had turned on the TV, which usually sends me right back to Dreamland. Morning Joe was on, and they announced that some guy I’d never heard of would be the next guest. I turned over and prepared to doze off, but that guy was Mayor Pete and soon I was wide awake as he rolled out his proposal for changing the way we constitute the Supreme Court. He was thoughtful, articulate, and informed. I was impressed. And in the debates, he’s been sure-footed, confident, and not at all intimidated by a field of rivals, some of whom are twice his age and infinitely more experienced.
As for Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer, I have only one thing to say: Money. I haven’t seen enough of either of them to offer much in the way of comment. However: Money. If we hope to survive as a democracy, one of the many issues we must attend to is campaign finance reform. No-one should be allowed to buy their way into the presidency. We’ve already tried that.
Thoughts for Our Time
“Conservatism discards Prescription, shrinks from Principle, disavows Progress; having rejected all respect for antiquity, it offers no redress for the present, and makes no preparation for the future.”