Monthly Archives: January 2019

Top Ten Democratic Presidential Candidates

There are 648 days until the 2020 presidential election, but it appears that Donald Trump is headed for defeat by any major candidate Democrats nominate. (For example, Nonetheless, the Democratic presidential candidate will have a lot of work to do, repairing the damage that Trump, and his Republican co-conspirators, have done to the United States. Let’s consider the top ten Democratic candidates and discuss who might be the best leader for 2020.

This is my take on the most prominent candidates — although some have yet to announce their intentions.  They’re listed in alphabetic order:

Joe Biden: Biden is 76 (DOB: 11/20/42) and has spent most of his adult life in politics.  Before becoming Barack Obama’s Vice President, Biden was a six-term Senator from Delaware.

In the current political context, Biden is a centrist Democrat — he’s liberal on most issues but too cozy with big money for some Dems.  While universally regarded as a nice guy, Biden is not considered a good campaigner.  Key question: can Joe Biden convince voters he’s the leader they’re looking for?

Cory Booker: Booker is 49 (4/27/69) and the junior Senator from New Jersey (his first full term began in 2015).  Prior to that, Booker was the mayor of Newark, New Jersey.

For some Democrats, Booker is the political successor to Barack Obama; he’s an attorney and community organizer as well as an inspiring speaker.  Nonetheless, while Booker’s overall voting record is very liberal, some are suspicious of his ties to Wall Street and “Big Pharma.”  Key question: can Cory Booker resonate with voters outside the liberal coasts?

Sherrod Brown: Brown is 66 (11/9/52) and the senior Senator from Ohio (since 2007) — before that he was in the House for 14 years.

Brown is a champion of organized labor and “blue-collar” workers in general.  He has a winning record in Ohio, where many other Democrats have failed.  He’s one of the most liberal members of Congress.  Brown has an additional advantage — his wife, nationally syndicated writer Connie Schultz, is a powerful political voice.  Key question: can Sherrod Brown resonate with voters outside the rust belt?

Julian Castro: Castro is 44 (9/16/74).  He was Obama’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (2014-2018) and before that Mayor of San Antonio, Texas.  (in 2000, Castro graduated from Harvard Law School and, shortly after, joined the San Antonio city council.)

Castro’s campaign literature indicates that he’s firmly in the liberal camp — with a special emphasis on immigration issues.  Key question: can Julian Castro develop support in the early Democratic primaries?

Kirsten Gillibrand: Gillibrand is 52 (12/9/66).  She’s the junior Senator from New York, having first been appointed to Hillary Clinton’s seat (2009) and winning elections in 2010, 2012, and 2018.  (Before that she served one-term in the House of Representatives.)

Gillibrand began political life as a conservative Democrat with a relatively anti-immigrant, pro-gun stance.  As a Senator she’s moved to the left and taken pro=female, pro-family positions such as paid family leave and speaking out against sexual assault in the military and sexual harassment in general.  Key question: Can Kirsten Gillibrand resonate with voters outside New York?

Kamala Harris:  Harris is 54 (10/20/64).  She’s the junior Senator from California (2016).  Before that she was California Attorney General (2010) and San Francisco District Attorney (2004).

Harris is a consistent liberal Democrat although some have expressed concern about her criminal justice record — as DA and Attorney General.  Harris has a commanding public presence and takes a strong civil-rights perspective.  Key question: Can Kamala Harris resonate with voters outside the liberal coasts?

Amy Klobuchar: Klobuchar is 58 (5/25/60).  She’s senior Senator from Minnesota (2006).  Before that she was Hennepin County attorney for 8 years.

Klobuchar is a consistent liberal Democrat with a long record of working with Republicans as well as Democrats.  (At the end of the 114th Congress, Klobuchar had seen more of her own legislation pass than had any other Senator.)  Key question:  Can Amy Klobuchar resonate with voters outside the rust belt?

Beto O’Rourke: O’Rourke is 46 (9/26/72).  He was a three-term congressman from Texas; in November 2018 he lost his campaign to replace Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

O’Rourke is a centrist Democrat better known for his fundraising and public speaking talents than for his legislative accomplishments.  If any Democratic candidate can be labelled “charismatic,” it’s probably Beto.  Key question: Can Beto O’Rourke convince national Dems that he’s a serious candidate?

Bernie Sanders: Sanders is 77 (9/8/41).  He’s the junior Senator from Vermont (2007) and the longest serving Independent in Congressional history — he became Vermont’s representative-at-large in 1991.

In 2016, Sanders opposed Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential contest and narrowly lost (winning 46 percent of pledged delegates).  Sanders believes U.S. Democracy is broken and needs radical change: “I don’t believe that the men and women who defended American democracy fought to create a situation where billionaires own the political process”  Key question: Can Bernie Sanders rekindle the enthusiasm he generated in 2016?

Elizabeth Warren:  Elizabeth Warren is 69 (6/6/49).  She’s the senior Senator from Massachusetts (2013).  Before entering politics, Warren was a professor at Harvard Law School (specializing in bankruptcy and consumer protection).

Warren believes “the system is rigged” against the 99 percent: “[Washington politicians] work for the rich and the powerful and not the rest of us. It’s throughout the system… It is corruption and it is eating away at our democracy and every fiber of our lives.”  Key question: Can Elizabeth Warren resonate with voters outside the liberal coasts?

There are several ways to parse these ten candidates:  Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren are the best known.  Beto O’Rourke is the most charismatic but Cory Booker and Kamala Harris have “star power;” all three are gifted orators.

Ultimately, the Democratic contest may come down to which candidate has the best message.  At the moment, Sherrod Brown has focussed on the “dignity of work,” quoting Martin Luther King Junior: “We are all created equal, and all workers deserve to share in the great wealth and prosperity they create for this country.”  (Message number two would be “the system is broken” shared by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.)

Another way to view the contest is to ask: Which Democratic candidate has the best chance to heal the country?  Who could repair the damage that Trump has done?  From this perspective, Amy Klobuchar might be the best candidate because of her record working across party lines.

It will be an interesting contest.  The Democrats are blessed with several very strong candidates.

Trumpty Dumpty Sat on a Wall…

On January 8th, Donald Trump made his first “oval office” speech to the nation; a plea for his wall.  It didn’t work, but we learned ten things:

1.The oval-office format didn’t flatter Trump.  He read from a teleprompter and, to say the least, seemed uninspired (some would say soporific).  Trump repeated the “red meat” immigration claims he routinely throws out to his rabid fans, but in a monotone, as if he’d rather be somewhere else.  (Mar a Lago?)

2. Trump advertised the event with a fundraising blast to his base: “I will be addressing the nation tonight at 9 PM EST on the Humanitarian and National Security crisis on our Southern Border… I want to do something so HUGE, even Democrats and the Fake News won’t be able to ignore… We need to raise $5OO,OOO in ONE DAY.”  

It’s not clear if the response was HUGE, but Trump’s Nielsen ratings were lower than those for the Pelosi/Schumer rebuttal ( )).

3. By my count, Trump’s nine-minute oval-office speech contained 14 lies.  The mainstream media anticipated this, and immediately after Trump concluded, rigorously fact checked his claims.  For example, The Washington Post fact checker ( ) observed: “The first misleading statement in President Trump’s Oval Office address Tuesday night came in the first sentence.  Trump…warned of a “security crisis at the southern border” — even though the number of people caught trying to cross illegally is near 20-year lows.”

As another example,  “[Trump stated] ‘The wall will also be paid for indirectly by the great new trade deal we have made with Mexico…’ During the campaign, Trump more than 200 times promised Mexico would pay for the wall.”  (Show me the pesos!)

4. Trump’s speech was mostly about the wall; he ignored the consequences of his shutdown.  Towards the end of the speech, Donald said, “The federal government remains shut down for one reason… because Democrats will not fund border security… How much more American blood must we shed before Congress does its job?’

Trump unapologetically acknowledged that he is holding the government hostage in order to get his wall.  He didn’t seem to care about the 800,000 federal employees that are not being paid.  (Trump isn’t known for his empathy but even by his (already) deplorable standards this speech was a new low.)

5. This was Trump’s standard immigration rant with two twists:  Trump has softened his demand that Mexico pay for the wall and he is now threatening an indefinite government shutdown until Congress approves the funding.  (Perhaps Trump’s muted affect was due to his belated realization that he’s backed himself into a corner.)

6. The website 538 indicates that most voters blame Trump for the shutdown ( ): roughly 50 percent place the responsibility with Trump versus 32 percent that blame Democrats.  The oval-office speech was an attempt by Trump to swing public opinion in his favor.  It didn’t work.

7. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer delivered the rebuttal to Trump’s oval-office speech.  They were VERY grim; as if they were police officers dispatched to inform you that your loved one had been run over by a bus.

8. Pelosi had two themes: “Much of what we heard from President Trump throughout this senseless shutdown has been full of misinformation and even malice.”  And, “President Trump has chosen to hold hostage critical services for the health, safety, and well-being of the American people, and withhold the paychecks of 800,000 innocent workers.”

9. Similarly, Schumer had two themes: “[Trump] having failed to get Mexico to pay for his ineffective, unnecessary border wall… has shut down the government.”  “We don’t govern by temper tantrum.  No president should pound the table and demand he gets his way or else the government shuts down.”

10. Trump’s running out of options.  Democrats aren’t going to back down, and the longer Trump’s shutdown goes on the more harm it does and the higher the probability that something dreadful will happen — like an airline accident because a bunch of flight controllers didn’t show up for work.

What’s most likely is that Trump will be declare “a state of emergency” and tell his base that he’ll reallocate DOD funds to build his wall.  The government will reopen and the locus of action will shift from the oval office to the Federal courts — where Democrats will argue that there is no state of emergency and Trump is abusing his power.

So, we haven’t heard the last of Trump’s wall.  But Donald’s had a big fall.

2018: Ten Reasons to be Thankful

New Year’s Day was clear and sunny on the Left coast and it was easy to imagine that 2019 would be “all green lights and smooth sailing,” as unlikely as that seems at the moment.  Nonetheless, while 2018 ended with a government shutdown, and a flurry of ugly Trump Tweets, the year wasn’t all bad. Here are ten reasons to be thankful.

1. The Blue Wave:  Democrats won control of the House of Representative and Nancy Pelosi became Speaker of the House.  (Pelosi is the right person to lead the Democratic Party up to the presidential convention in July of 2020.)

Meanwhile, Democrats are energized.  More than 116 million Americans voted in the midterm elections; 49.3 percent of the voting-eligible population — the highest midterm percentage since 1914 ( ).   538’s Nate Silver estimates that more than 60 million voters cast ballots for Democratic congressional candidates — compared to 63 million Trump voters in 2016.  Silver did a projection of what the electoral college would look like in 2020 ( ) — Trump versus an anonymous Democrat and Dems win with 314 electoral votes.

2. The Resistance:  Even before Donald Trump was coronated, Democratic protest groups — such as Indivisible — sprang up across the United States.  One of their objectives was to flip congressional districts where, in 2016, Hillary Clinton prevailed but a Republican won the congressional contest.  This objective was accomplished: Democrats won 235 seats (of 435), with one to be determined.

In the first days of 2019, Indivisible groups were back at work.

3. Female Democrats: After November 6thPew Research noted: “Nationally, voters favored Democratic candidates for Congress over Republican candidates by a margin of about 7 percentage points… [However] Women favored the Democratic candidate in their district by 19 percentage points (59% to 40%) while men voted for the Republican 51% to 47%.”  (White women split 49 percent to 49 percent; while college educated women favored the Democratic candidate 59 percent to 39 percent.)

In the 2018 midterms, 116 women were elected to Congress, bringing the total to 126 (23.6 percent).  There are now 102 female members of the House of Representatives — the highest number in history.  89 of these women are Democrats, 37.9 percent of the Democratic majority.

The Democratic wing of Congress is beginning to look like America.

4.Brave women continue to talk about sexual abuse:  The #MeToo movement began In October of 2017, with the allegation about movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.  Reuters reports that over the next 365 days more than 425 prominent men were accused of sexual misconduct ( ).

There were many #MeToo stories during the year.  None more dramatic than the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford before the Senate committee deliberating on the fate of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.  Blasey Ford testified that, as a teenager, she had been assaulted by a drunken Kvanaugh.  (Ultimately Republicans confirmed Kavanaugh, following the logic that whatever happened, it was a long time ago and Kavanaugh has been redeemed by his work as a lawyer and judge.)

Thank you, Christine Blasey Ford, and the other brave women who came forward.

5. The Press:  Throughout the year, Trump complained about “fake news” and non-laudatory news sources — everyone except for Fox News.  The reality was that the U.S. mainstream media did an exemplary job covering the various outrages of the Trump Administration.

At the end of the year, Time Magazine’s “person the year award was given to a group of journalists it called “The Guardians,” referring to individuals “who have taken great risks in pursuit of greater truths.” ( )

Thank you, Jamal Khashoggi and the other journalists who daily risk their lives to tell the truth about Trump and the rise of Authoritarianism.

6. The Mueller Investigation:  Dating from Watergate (1972-74), the average length of a special counsel investigation, involving a President, is 904 days.  Robert Mueller’s investigation has gone on 597 days.   So far it has produced 36 indictments and five major plea deals.

At year end, the Mueller investigation was one of 17 investigations involving Donald Trump and his closest associates.  ( )

Thank you, Robert Mueller and the other investigators who slogged through the legal jungle determined to reveal the truth about Trump.

7. The Parkland survivors:  On February 14, 2018, a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing seventeen students and staff members and injuring seventeen others.  It was the most horrific U.S. school shooting.

In the aftermath, student survivors formed an anti-gun-violence group, “Never Again,”culminating in a March 24th, “March for Our Lives,” in Washington, D.C.  At year-end, national sentiment had shifted towards “common-sense” gun-control legislation.  ( )

Thank you, Parkland survivors and the many others who are changing the dialogue about gun violence.

8. The Immigrant defenders:  Beginning in April, the Trump Administration changed their stance on illegal crossings at the Mexican border. The result was the separation of parents and children — sending them to separate facilities rather than keeping them together in detention centers.

There was a strong response to this policy — which continues in a slightly different form — and many American aid organizations provided support to the immigrant families.  In August, CNN asked, “When immigrants and their children are detained at the U.S. border for coming into the country illegally, do you think the U.S. should do everything it can to keep such families together, even if it means that fewer face criminal prosecution, or should the U.S. do everything it can to prosecute immigrants entering illegally, even if it means their families are separated?”  66 believed our policy should be to keep families together.

9. Climate Change Truth Tellers: 2018 was a year of extreme weather-related events: hurricanes, forest fires, floods, and ice storms.  In December, Quinnipiac asked, “Do you think that the extreme weather events in the United States over the past few years are related to climate change, or don’t you think so?”  61 percent of respondents think they are.

Thank you, Climate Change truth tellers working to save humanity before it is too late.

10.  And many others:  Thank you to all those who worked to protect voting rights.  And, of course, thank you to the (under-paid and under-appreciated) teachers who work to educate America’s children so that they can appreciate our Democracy.