Now that Joe Biden is officially in the race, the dream Democratic ticket has emerged: Biden and Kamala Harris.
By “dream,” I don’t mean the Progressive dream. I don’t mean the dream of working-class voters who are hurting. I don’t mean the dream of Americans who are tired of never-ending wars that enfeeble our economy (and kill lots of people, mainly foreigners). Those “dream” candidates are true Progressives like Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard. A Sanders/Gabbard ticket would truly shake things up, which is why it’s not going to happen, as much as I’d like to see it.
No — the corporate-loving DNC wants to preserve the status quo, wants to feed the military-industrial complex, wants big funding from Wall Street, and therefore favors status quo candidates like Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
A likely scenario in 2020: Bernie Sanders wins the most votes and delegates, but Joe Biden emerges as a close second. With all the other candidates (roughly 20 now) splitting the vote, no candidate has enough delegates to win in the first round at the national convention. So the super-delegates (remember them?), the corporate tools, spring into action in the second and subsequent rounds of voting and throw their support to the “sensible, electable” candidate, in this case Biden. But of course they can’t let an old white guy represent the “new” Democratic Party, and that’s where Kamala Harris comes in. She’s black! And a woman! And makes noises that sound slightly progressive. The perfect balanced ticket! Shut up and color, liberals and Progressives.
Of course, if gaffe-prone Biden implodes, a distinct possibility, there are other safe white guys waiting in the wings to headline the ticket. Mayor Pete? Beto O’Rourke?
It’s all so sadly predictable. And so too is Biden’s loss to Trump in 2020.
P.S. To state the obvious, I hope I’m wrong about this.
Give me five minutes, and I can tell you exactly what Bernie Sanders believes in. Single-payer health care for all. A $15 minimum wage. Higher taxes on the richest Americans. College education that doesn’t bankrupt families and leave students with crushing debt. Criminal justice reform. Investment in infrastructure and renewable energy. He gives specifics, and he’s walked a principled walk for decades.
But what does the Democratic Partly leadership believe in? As this article at Truthdig put it, “Nancy Pelosi Believes In Nothing.” Of course, she does believe in something: her own power and privilege, which she seeks to maintain and expand. But principles like those held by Bernie Sanders? Forget about it.
I’ve been reading Matt Taibbi’s “The Great Derangement,” a terrific book that came out in 2008, and Taibbi nails it in this passage (pages 243-4):
The Democrats’ error was in believing that people wouldn’t notice this basic truth [that the party’s ideology is driven by power and nothing more] about their priorities. They were wrong on that score. In fact, a Quinnipiac poll taken around that time  found the approval rating of Congress had fallen to 23 percent. Other polls saw the number plummet to the teens. The rating of the Democratic Congress was even lower than [George W.] Bush’s, and it was not hard to see why. Bush was wrong and insane, but he stood for something. It was a fucked-up something, but it was something. The Democrats stood for nothing; they viewed their own constituents as problems to be handled, and even casual voters were beginning to see this.
If you substitute Trump’s name for Bush’s in the above quotation, it makes even more sense. “[Trump] was wrong and insane, but he stood for something. It was a fucked-up something, but it was something.”
This is the biggest issue for corporate Democrats: What do you stand for? For so many in the establishment, what they stand for is themselves. The perpetuation of their own power and privilege. This is the biggest reason why Hillary Clinton lost in 2016. It was always all about her.
Another quotation from Matt Taibbi made me laugh out loud even as I winced at the harsh truth of it (page 190):
You don’t elect politicians to commit crimes; you elect politicians to make your crimes legal. That is the whole purpose of the racket of government.
In this case, the “you” in question are all the banks, corporations, and other vested interests that essentially buy our politicians. Until we get big money out of politics, this corruption will persist.
Bernie Sanders doesn’t take corporate money. Neither does Tulsi Gabbard. But most of the current batch of Democratic candidates for president in 2020 do take money from big corporate and financial donors. And that should tell you what they believe in: their own power and privilege, and little else.
Speaking of Bernie Sanders, I recently read a depressing article in the Nation by Eric Alterman who argued Bernie can’t win in 2020. Why? Supposedly because Americans won’t elect a socialist, and also because Trump and the Republican attack machine will convince Americans he’s simply too radical.
WTF? Americans are desperate for leaders who believe in something rather than nothing. That’s why Trump won in 2016. Again, in the spirit of Taibbi, Trump may be batshit crazy, but he does take a stand, e.g. “Build the wall.” The best way to defeat Trump in 2020 is to go bold: to nominate a candidate with strong core beliefs. A candidate who connects with young and old and who inspires enthusiastic participation. That’s Bernie.
But perhaps Jimmy Dore, the comedian/political commentator, is right: establishment Democrats like Pelosi would rather defeat Progressives like Bernie Sanders than win the presidential election against Trump in 2020. Because if Trump wins, they can continue to serve (and profit from) corporate interests while posing as being anti-Trump, i.e. they can continue life as they know it, with all the power and privilege that comes with it.
As my wife quipped today, “They don’t let their beliefs get in their way, do they?” Which is another way of saying they really have no beliefs at all.
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.
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.
How can Democrats win the presidency in 2020? The answer is simple: field a candidate who’s genuinely anti-war. A candidate focused on America and the domestic health of our country rather than on global empire. A candidate like Tulsi Gabbard, for example, who’s both a military veteran and who’s anti-war. (Gabbard does say, however, that she’s a hawk against terrorism.) Another possibility is Bernie Sanders, who’s beginning to hone his anti-war bona fides, and who’s always been focused on domestic issues that help ordinary Americans, e.g. a higher minimum wage, single-payer health care for all, and free college education at public institutions.
Many Democrats still don’t recognize that Hillary Clinton lost in 2016 in part because she was more hawkish than Trump on foreign policy and wars. (As an aside, the burdens of war are most likely to fall on those people Hillary dismissed as “deplorables.”) Most Americans are tired of endless wars in faraway places like Afghanistan and Syria as well as endless global commitments that drive a “defense” budget that stands at $716 billion this year, increasing to $750 billion next year. Throwing more money at the Pentagon, to put it mildly, isn’t the wisest approach if your goal is to end wasteful wars and restore greatness here at home.
Many of Trump’s supporters get this. I was reading Ben Bradlee Jr.’s book, The Forgotten, which examines the roots of Trump’s victory by focusing on Pennsylvania. Bradlee interviews a Vietnam veteran, Ed Harry, who had this to say about war and supporting Trump:
“We’re tired. Since I’ve been born, we’ve been in a state of war almost all the time. When does it stop? We’re pissing away all our money building bombs that kill people, and we don’t take care of veterans at home that need the help.”
Harry says he voted for Trump “because he was a nonpolitician” rather than a liberal or conservative. Trump, the “nonpolitician,” dared to talk about America’s wasteful wars and the need to end them, whereas Hillary Clinton made the usual vague yet tough-sounding noises about staying the course and supporting the military.
Again, Democrats need to listen to and embrace veterans like Ed Harry when he says: “All the money pissed away on wars could be used here to take care of the needs of the people.”
I’d like to cite one more Vietnam veteran, Richard Brummett, who was interviewed in 2018 by Nick Turse at The Nation. Brummett, I think, would identify more as a liberal and Harry more as a conservative, but these labels really mean little because these veterans arrive at the same place: arguing against America’s endless wars.
Here’s what Brummett had to say about these wars: “I feel intense sadness that we’ve gotten the country into this. All these naive 20-year-olds, 18-year-olds, are getting chewed up by these wars–and then there’s what we’re doing to the people of all these countries. The list gets longer all the time: Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Syria. Who is benefiting from all this agony? I had the naive hope, in the years after Vietnam, that when I died–as a really old guy–the obituary would read: ‘America’s last combat veteran of any war died today.'”
If Democrats want to lose again, they’ll run a “centrist” (i.e. a pseudo-Republican) like Joe Biden or Kamala Harris who’ll make the usual noises about having a strong military and keeping the world safe by bombing everywhere. But if they want to win, they’ll run a candidate who’s willing to tell the truth about endless wars and their incredibly high and debilitating costs. This candidate will promise an end to the madness, and as a result he or she will ignite a fire under a large and diverse group of voters, because there are a lot of people out there like Harry and Brummett who are fed up with forever war.
My wife perceptively notes how the USA is sliding backwards. Racism has new vigor even as science is rejected, e.g. climate change denial. A woman’s right to choose is under attack. Immigrants once again are openly subjected to prejudice and scorn. Diversity of views and efforts at inclusion are rejected as so many exercises in “political correctness.” Unions are being weakened and the working poor are attacked as lazy and irresponsible. Life expectancy for many is declining, mainly due to suicide, opioid and other addictions, and illnesses related to poor eating habits and obesity. War is perpetual and violence is never-ending. Meanwhile, the rich are getting richer, a sign of “greatness,” at least to Trump and his followers.
Sexism, racism, prejudice, ignorance, scapegoating, the privilege of rich white men to say and do whatever they want: this is “greatness” to Trump. The embodiment of fat cat privilege, Trump rides about in his golf cart and swats balls at his various “resorts.” Indeed, America’s hard-working president, who said as a candidate he’d have no time for golf or vacations, has spent one-third of his presidency on vacation. Mission accomplished!
Meanwhile, Democratic officialdom is looking backwards, not forwards. The Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) idea of progress is to bring a lawsuit against Russia, the Trump campaign, and WikiLeaks for the 2016 election. This act will “fire up the base,” or so leading Democrats appear to think. But it’s really sour grapes, a loser policy conducted by pols who remain out of touch with the pressing concerns of ordinary Americans (you know, things like health care, a living wage, and other issues associated with Bernie Sanders’s campaign). If only America had a true Labor Party instead of a DNC that mirrors the Republicans while lacking their focus and ruthlessness.
Let’s face it: America needs a new leader, a fresh start, an unapologetic progressive, someone who’s smart but who also possesses empathy. Someone on the side of workers; someone like Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister of New Zealand.
Roughly half Trump’s age, Jacinda Ardern represents the future. Intelligent, principled, committed to her people, Ardern is refreshingly honest and frank. Imagine, for a moment, a truly progressive woman as president of the United States, one who has the courage of her convictions, one committed to fairness and equity in society, one untainted by big money, even one who’s unabashedly pregnant and who supports maternity and paternity leave for parents.
She’s got spunk too. When she first met Trump and he had a snide remark for her, she replied that masses of people didn’t take to the streets to protest when she was elected. As my Kiwi friend put it, “It’s the ability of Jacinda to not only represent her own party but pull together alliances that is impressive. Not only an arrangement with the conservative ‘New Zealand First’ party but also the Greens.” She brings people together for the greater good — making concessions when she has to. What a quaint concept.
America could use a woman like Jacinda Ardern as president. If only my Kiwi friends would let her emigrate! (Yes, sadly, she wasn’t born here so she couldn’t run, but let a man dream, dammit.) Perhaps Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard will emerge as America’s Jacinda in 2020; aligned with Bernie Sanders, Gabbard has moxie as well as military experience. But I wouldn’t bank on it. The DNC, still with its collective head up its ass, isn’t seeing the future too clearly.