Democratic Candidates for President in 2020

Tulsi Gabbard and Bernie Sanders: Change We Can Believe In

W.J. Astore

Yes, it’s much too early, but I count at least fourteen Democratic candidates for president in the 2020 election.  Here are a few impressionistic words on each of the candidates.

The True Progressives

1.  Bernie Sanders: Bernie is principled, sincere, honest, and dedicated to helping working people.  Yes, he’s a “Democratic socialist,” which is scary to the mainstream media.  The establishment of the Democratic Party is against him.  Advantage, Bernie.

2.  Elizabeth Warren: She identifies as a “capitalist,” but she’s proven she’s willing to take on Wall Street, the big banks, and other special interests.  She’s intelligent, sharp, and committed.  Her weakness: a lack of charisma and the whole “Pocahontas” angle, i.e. her identifying as Native American on past occasions.

3.  Tulsi Gabbard: A military veteran who’s strongly against regime-change wars, a vocal critic of the military-industrial complex, Tulsi has demonstrated poise, thoughtfulness, and coolness under pressure.  The DNC and media are against her because she’s independent-minded and refuses to bow down before special interests.  A dark horse candidate who may catch fire.  (I’m so excited I’m mixing metaphors.)

The Usual Suspects (Milquetoast Centrists)

1. Cory Booker: A water-bearer for Big Pharma, Booker has a pleasant demeanor but takes few chances.

2.  Kamala Harris: A former prosecutor, Harris seems to love prisons more than schools.

3.  Kirsten Gillibrand: Rumor has it she asked her friends on Wall Street whether it was OK for her to run.  They apparently said “yes,” so she announced her formal candidacy today.

4.  Amy Klobuchar: Already with a sad reputation for abusing her staff and making ill-judged jokes about it, Klobuchar is an uninspiring centrist.

5.  Beto O’Rourke: A millionaire who married a woman who will apparently inherit billions, Beto showed up in Iowa speaking in platitudes about the wonders of democracy in the USA.  His only firm principle is that he believes he deserves to be in the race, perhaps because he looks a little like a Kennedy if you squint really hard.

The Governors

1.  John Hickenlooper: A governor from Colorado, Hickenlooper made his money by opening a micro-brewery.  At a campaign appearance in Iowa, somebody broke a glass, and he helped to clean it up.  Though he was afraid to say he was a “capitalist” on TV, Hickenlooper may have some potential.

2.  Jay Inslee: Governor of Washington State, he’s made fighting climate change the central issue of his campaign.  He’s got one of the big issues right, so advantage to Inslee.

Wild Cards and Also-Rans

1.  Andrew Yang: A former venture capitalist and unconventional thinker, Yang has caught people’s attention by talking about a guaranteed income for all.  A possible anti-Trump in the sense he’s a successful financier with brains and heart.

2.  Pete Buttigieg: A gay mayor who’s also a veteran, Buttigieg got some air time recently by referring to Trump as a “porn president.”  Comes across like a young Mr. Rogers.

3.  Julian Castro: Formerly Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under Obama.  And that’s all I know.

4.  John Delaney: I just saw his name today.  The end.

The Ultimate Centrist and Establishment Man

1. Joe Biden: Hasn’t yet announced, but it looks like he will.  The presumed front-runner based on name recognition and his loyal service as Obama’s VP for eight years.  Will have the full support of the mainstream media, the DNC, and the Washington establishment.  A decent-enough man, Biden is effectively a moderate Republican.

Bracing Views, in all its power, fully supports Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard, real progressives who want to effect real change.

Which candidates do you like, readers?  And which ones don’t you like?  Look forward to your comments!

Update (3/19/19): Apparently two more candidates are waiting in the wings: Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum.  Both are candidates of color who recently ran close but unsuccessful races in Georgia and Florida.  Perhaps not presidential material (due to lack of experience on the national stage), they may emerge as strong candidates for a VP slot.


37 thoughts on “Democratic Candidates for President in 2020

  1. Bernie, then and now. His main weakness the last time round was his lack of international policies, which for a president of the US unfortunately is a must, but he seems to pay more attention to that now. And even then he had the guts (politically) to grant Palestinians humanity and urge for dialogue with them. Even if again he does not make it because of his age and the ‘perfect’ Biden getting mainstream Dem support, he will have started a true revolution in that calcified party which I sincerely hope even its Pelosis and similar dinosaurs won’t be able to stop. FEEL the BERN :- ) !


    1. With Gabbard as his running mate! Let’s be honest, the only way either will get enough attention to win the nomination is if they run together. Besides, pessimist that I am, I fear Bernie will not survive a full term as president even if he DOES get elected. In order for his principles to persist, he will need a VP who is equally anti-war. The DNC has no platform left, and so far, most of their favoured candidates have focused entirely on wedge issues such as “race relations” and gun control. If the Democrats want to win again, they need to take an anti-war position, and run with that. After all, it’s something that people will vote for!


      1. I’m a Gabbard-firster 🙂

        Obama won by turning out young voters who typically don’t show up on election day. He did that via a good campaign and transcendent message. He did *not* win swing voters (whose numbers and impact are severely over-stated) who usually vote GOP.

        I sincerely doubt that Sanders’ appeal translates well enough beyond white progressives, and his age matters in an election that will be all about identity. Gabbard, as a veteran and a woman, needs to be up front.

        If Americans see two 70+ white dudes yelling about socialism vs. capitalism all 2020, a lot of people won’t turn out to vote. It’ll be 2004 all over again.

        It is too easy to forget that because of the Electoral College, American presidential elections come down to a few states:

        Wisconsin elections are rigged. Arizona is probably *the* key swing state along with Pennsylvania and Michigan. Florida and North Carolina have high rates of voter suppression, which can only be beat by mass turnout. I think Gabbard (lots of veterans in Florida and Arizona) plus Harris (brings back the young and diverse Obama voters in PA and MI, and maybe Florida) is THE winning combination.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. My personal preference would be TULSI (and I’m not sure for Veep). Sentiment aside, Bernie might be better in HHS handling the Medicare-for-All portfolio.

    That said, I’d be perfectly happy with BERNIE-TULSI. In any event, this is certainly the more realistic Convention outcome.

    But under DNC rules, Tulsi’s not going to be in the debates if she doesn’t get at least 65,000 unique individual contributors through ActBlue. In a national conference call to her volunteers on Sunday afternoon, she told us how many contributors she has, and it’s quite substantial but not yet enough.

    However you plan to vote, if you want to see Tulsi in the first debate this June, scoot on over to and make a small online donation. It’s not the size of the donation that matters, it’s the number of contributors, so just give a nominal amount if that’s what you’d like to do. But please, give something.


    1. If the DNC had some integrity, they’d recognize Tulsi (along with Bernie) is the best candidate. The Dems need a candidate who inspires people. Tulsi does this; Bernie does this. The others? Not so much. Plus you know exactly where Tulsi and Bernie stand. They have integrity. They aren’t about themselves and the money/power. They don’t play the corporate game. Which is exactly why the DNC doesn’t support them. And why we should.


    2. Wish I could and wish I could vote – neither of which I’m allowed to do as a foreigner. Which is intrinsically unfair, as I too am and will remain at the receiving end of US policies.
      My suggestion is, that any world citizen over 18 who can pass a basic test about US and international matters should be allowed to vote in the nearest US embassy. The level of the test would be that of the average presidential candidate :
      Which neighbouring country should donate a border wall to the US? How many fatal crashes did Boeing need to ‘admit’ that their sloppily certified plane is a lethal hazard? How many children in the US face food-insecurity (aka go hungry) (error margin 500.000)? How many military bases does the US keep world-wide (error margin 50)? How many ‘forever-prisoners’ are still stuck in Guantanamo? On how many countries on which it never has declared war, does the US drop bombs (error margin three)?
      Does the US government consider itself to be above any law (suggestion: to whom did Pompeo just refuse entry visa into the US)? How many countries have nuclear bombs and which one(s) did not sign the anti-proliferation treaty and/or do not allow international supervision?
      Name at least five US Veteran organisations which actively fight for peace. Name at least 10 US civil society organisations which fight against xenophobia and racism and for universal human rights both within the US and abroad? How many US authors received the Nobel literature prize (error margin three) and name at least three of them. Name at least five unembedded US journalists who cover US wars. Bonus question : What are the capitals of Minnesota, Tanzania and Indiana?
      Not sure whether Trump would know the answers.

      Until then, all I can do is cross my fingers …


      1. There should be a law: If there’s a US military base in your country, you’re allowed to vote in the U.S. presidential election.

        I hear “Camp Trump” may be coming to Poland 😦


      2. I’d vote for any country hosting a US base to have the right to vote in US elections!

        Oh, Poland – just like with the USSR, hosting bases makes you guys nothing more than a target. NATO planned to drop nuclear weapons on every bridge crossing the Vistula during the Cold War to slow down the Red Army. For the first time in history, Poland is both independent and reasonably safe. No more German invasions to worry about, at least.


        1. Fully agree, but some of our politicians got mentally stuck in the anti-communist Reagan era and/or wish to play a more prominent fiddle in NATO. Population is slowly waking up to reality and what to expect (or not) from the US though, so there is some hope …


      1. Yes, I understand but that should not be the argument to not press forward. It’s quite political or follow the money for everything other than what protects people. Months ago I started urging a comprehensive audit of the Pentagon after reading Dave Lindorff’s The Pentagon’s Massive Accounting Fraud Exposed. That and Paul Kiel & Jesse Eisinger’s How The IRS Was Gutted, if reformed would probably put this country at the top of “Green” programs.


  3. I’ve been following the DNC scrum with interest, so here’s my rankings and take:

    Gabbard – the only veteran running who was deployed to Iraq, the only one talking about a Peace Dividend. CNN and Stephen Colbert showed how the media will treat her with complete disrespect, but that’s a bonus for a dark horse (if played right).

    Harris – more progressive than the Clinton aides who have slithered into her campaign are willing to let her look. Closest to Obama in terms of appeal and positions, and should be able to turn out the black and latino voters needed to win Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Arizona (MAYBE Florida – the DNC’s white whale, along with Texas).

    Warren – not as divisive as Sanders, has the brains for the job, and on the right side (mostly) when it comes to who she takes on. Main weaknesses are a Clinton-esque tendency to come off as totally out of touch with the concerns of regular people (she sounds super Ivy League, which turns many people off).

    Now for the 2nd tier (in order of appeal to me)

    Sanders – name recognition, formally an independent, very popular among white progressives. Main issues are age, whiteness, and the fact that most people don’t think socialism means what Sanders and his supporters think it does. I think his time has passed.

    Klobuchar/Hickenlooper – from a swing region, nobody knows anything wicked bad about (yet). And that’s as far as they go, methinks.

    O’Rourke/Buttigieg – The second coming of John Edwards. Somebody’s VP pick, maybe.

    Yang/Inslee/Delaney – Single-issue candidates don’t win.

    Castro/Booker – Competing to be the democrats’ Marco Rubio.

    Gillibrand – because Wall Street needs another mouthpiece.

    And the Third Tier, belonging to none other than Hillary Clinton/John Kerry/Al Gore 2.0, a man who needs no introduction: Joe Biden!

    I want Gabbard at the top of the ticket, and I believe she can win because this election will be about identity, and veterans are a large and powerful identity group that cut across most of America’s political cleavages – IF mobilized by someone who can escape the tropes the media uses to describe all veterans.

    Better yet, the Peace Dividend concept offers a direct and meaningful benefit to Americans that can be paired with a veteran-driven critique of the Pentagon. Cutting the Pentagon by 50% over 10 years, leveraging those cuts to get China and Russia to agree to meaningful arms control regimes, and committing to invest $1,000 per-person per-year in lower-income communities would make for a powerful message.

    I wrote a recent (way too long) thinkpiece on this for anyone with time/interest


    1. Completely agree on TULSI at the top of the ticket, though I certainly wouldn’t be disappointed with BERNIE-TULSI. She’d be an absolute winner, and she’d reduce Trump to nothing in presidential debates, just by being who she is — an Iraq vet and National Guard major running as an anti-interventionist against a chickenhawk. And she’s proven she can remain firm without shouting and polite without backing down.

      Problem is, she’ll run much better in the general than she will in primaries and caucuses and the Clintonites will be out to crucify her.

      The other problem is, TULSI’s going to have to decide — and I think decide pretty quickly — how far she’s going to go with this. If she doesn’t poll into the teens after the first or at most second debate, I think she’ll have to think whether she should call it off and go back to Hawai’i to protect her House seat. The Dems back there have some state senator who’s already announced for Tulsi’s House seat, and he’s got three former governors on his advisory committee.

      On the other hand, she’s still (as far as I’m aware) the most popular politician in the entire state, so she might get away with continuing on at least through New Hampshire.


      1. Apologies — for some reason your comment was held up for 2-3 days. You’re right that establishment Democrats are trying to defeat her in Hawai’i. They just can’t stand her for being for Bernie and against the crooked DNC that Hillary owned in 2016.


    2. I’m a huge Tulsi fan because she has integrity, she’s willing to sacrifice for her country (it’s not all about her), she’s antiwar, and she’s a stark contrast to Trump. Imagine this female veteran who oozes integrity and intelligence on the same stage as Trump during the debates. She’d win handily, I think.


      1. That’s pretty much what I’d advise. Gabbard can combine identity politics with a tangible financial benefit for the Americans who need it most if the Peace Dividend takes the form of a guaranteed $1,000 per-person per-year development benefit directed to low-income rural and urban communities.

        Imagine a candidate able to walk into any town hall in the country, able to give people an exact number based on their local population and just ask “hey, what would your community do with this $?”

        My town has about 8,000 people. So if she came here, she could promise an annual federal development benefit of $8 million, used for whatever qualifying development projects we want.

        Green energy? Affordable housing? Your choice, voters.

        Plus I advocate making community college free and a 4-year degree free with a 2-year service committent to the National Guard – with a guarantee that you serve close to home.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Promise to study Tulsi more closely, after all I barely knew about Bernie until the previous campaign. Didn’t know about the 1000 USD/person to be spent on group projects.
          So far I only knew such ideas from a rural developemnt plan which started some 15 yrs ago in … Afghanistan, called National Solidarity Programme (NSP), in which communities would get a one-off sum/person allocated and would have to jointly decide what general utility project they wanted to spend it on. I think it was 300 USD/person. With the money came extension & training in grassroot government (which of course already existed …). Donor pledges not fulfilled for many years caused serious disruption, but eventually were overcome. It was the first governmental nation-wide programme (starting in 2003), implemented by a host of national and international NGO’s, after NGO’s had pretty much worked on their own without any government oversight ever since the civil war. Maybe Tulsi’s military career included Afghanistan ? Not the first example by the way of development from supposedly backward countries – which we feel we should ‘civilise’ – teaching us a lesson.
          Few people realize, that the organic farming trend in the ’60s and ’70s was ‘sold’ to the western world by development workers who had realised that many so-called ‘primitive’ agricultural practices in Africa and other supposedly ‘primitive’ places in fact were much more intelligent than our industrial ones. Were it only because their striving for optimal rather than maximal yields did not deplete the soil and thus was sustainable and their eco-system was not destroyed by agro-chemicals.
          And development ‘cooperation’ as opposed to ‘aid’ is precisely based on that understanding that ‘their’ knowledge is at least as valuable as our own and that joining forces rather than imposing our ways, is the surest way to sustainable success thanks to constructive synergies.
          Ah, to be back in the field … 😦 !


          1. Pamela – I should be clear, the $1,000/per-person Peace Dividend isn’t something any campaign is promising yet.

            I’m pushing that number wherever I can because if the US reduces military expenditures from the present 3% of GDP (~600 Billion) annually + the Overseas “Contingency” Fund (~150 Billion annually) to 2% of GDP and no Contingencies, you get just about $1,000 in savings per-American (330 million estimated 2018 population).

            Basically, I’m arguing that if the US acts like a sane, responsible country (holding to NATO standards), it can pour money into local redevelopment at a scale not seen since the 1930s.

            Actual capital investment that will yield dividends far into the future – unlike buying another F-35.


    1. A profile that stresses the negative: Bannon likes her! She was once anti-gay! She has strange religious beliefs!

      Lots of “profiles” and interviews that I see of Tulsi are about who she was two decades ago, not who she is now. Or they’re about people like David Duke who’ve said nice things about her.

      I’d like to see a lot more about her positions today, and her recent political record.

      She’s shown fortitude by taking on the Clintons, the DNC, and the military-industrial complex. It’s easy to talk in platitudes (see Beto O’Rourke); Tulsi has shown principles backed up by spirit.


      1. Yes, she has changed and I thought the article shows who she was and who she is, specially for people who only remember her past! If it was only about her present beliefs, it may not have been credible in the eyes of those who see her only in negative light! It was very evident what she stands for NOW in the MSNBC clip.


        1. The Guardian was less vicious than most US press. I surveyed most of the recent articles on Gabbard’s campaign, and the pandering to each paper’s core audience is transparent.

          Each attacks her on grounds and using language that resonates with their readership, and very selectively parses her words to amplify whatever sounds worst. They want her to be a stock character and punching bag, while elevating empty white shells like O’Rourke.

          Also note how racist and sexist the coverage is so far. Clinton wouldn’t even have gotten this kind of treatment. Colbert terribly disappointed me by playing a disapproving old white man, and finishing the ‘interview’ by asking about surfing. Because it’s totally ok to stereotype someone from Hawai’i – it’s just a colony anyway.


          1. I was watching MSNBC today, AT (it was on at the gym). The focus was on Biden and Beto, with two quick mentions of Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar.

            Bernie? Tulsi? Nowhere to be found.

            Also, lots of mentions of Mueller and his forever forthcoming “report.”

            I’m guessing MSNBC wants a race between Biden and Beto. They’ll sell it as the “old” moderate versus the “young” idealist. Yuck!


  4. I agree with your assessment of the tier candidates. Sanders, and Warren have a long history on the side of Progressive Politics. Gabbard less so, that is a function of age rather than commitment.

    The Usual Suspects (Milquetoast Centrists) are as you have labeled them. They have shifted slightly to the Left and may mouth Progressive Policies – they do not mean it. They are like Hillary Clinton was in 2016 a mirage or a chameleon. The Ultimate Centrist and Establishment Man Joe Biden fits within this group of Milquetoast Centrists. These are the Corporate Democrats who would have been Republicans prior to Bill Clinton.

    The McMega-Media is now carrying their own war against Democratic Socialism. The war against Democratic Socialism by the McMega-Media has levels of hysteria against it. MSDNC is like Fox in the Red Zone concerning Democratic Socialism.

    Interesting but long article:
    “Please Step Away from the Socialism”: The Red Scare Dems at MSNBC.

    So I am certain the McMega-Media like they did in 2016, will do all they can to ignore, or slam the Tier One Candidates of Sander, Warren and Gabbard.


  5. JACOBIN has a whole issue on Bernie Sanders… this is the latest post..

    These are the other articles….
    Bernie Sanders returned to Brooklyn for his first 2020 campaign rally, but the New York socialist — who grew up in a working-class community and radical Jewish political tradition — never really left.
    Whatever the media depiction, Sanders’s rally was attended by large numbers of women and people of color. We talked to some of them about why they support Bernie.
    Chicago is the city where Bernie Sanders first organized as a socialist, struggled for civil rights, and “began to understand the futility of liberalism.”
    The “class-struggle social democracy” of Bernie Sanders is exceedingly difficult to pull off, writes Bhaskar Sunkara. If he wins, he’ll face structural pressure to compromise. We’ll need to create our own pressure through strikes and protests.

    ps I do not know if links will show but if interested, articles are on JACOBIN.. March 2019.


  6. You’ve left out Hillary Clinton. If Sanders or Gabbard become frontrunners she’ll step in for the sake of the country.


    1. That’s Bloomberg’s deal.

      There’s a rule in many states that you can’t run for president as a 3rd party if you lost the nomination for your original party, which is why Bloomberg stayed out, I think.

      Depending on how Schultz’s run goes, Bloomberg and Schultz may team up if Sanders wins and it’s Sanders-Trump. Maybe Schultz-Romney. It is entirely possible for a regional 3rd party bid to play spoiler, keeping both major candidates from reaching 270 Electoral Votes.

      Then the House decides, with each state delegation having one vote. Sanders would never be chosen, because the DNC – despite having a majority of Reps – is stronger in fewer states. But you *might* get a majority of states voting for a center-right 3rd party candidate.


  7. Thanks to everyone for your comments. When you share links, I often put them on The Contrary Perspective Facebook page, which doubles as the FB page for Bracing Views. So thanks for helping me to share thoughtful articles with like-minded people.


  8. First time here and loving it! My fear is that candidates seem to treat “Green” as an either or to all the other issues including foreign policy. To show how adopting this would majorly transform all the other issues seems imperative. Without it, nothing.


    1. Welcome aboard! One thing people tend to forget: How much fuel our imperial military uses as it cavorts around the planet. Army green is not green, one might say. Or olive drab isn’t green. And just think of all the fuel the Air Force uses to exercise its “global reach/global power.”


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