I've been keeping quiet about who I'm backing in the 2020 Democratic primary. I mean, I guess I came out for Booker earlier on, but that was with the self-conscious knowledge that I was just delaying my actual decision until he inevitably dropped out. It actually worked pretty well, since one of my key motivators is "not getting so invested in one person that I get mad if they don't win", and being on team Booker meant avoiding a lot of drama for the first infinity months of this never-ending primary season.
However, the time has come to plant my flag. And so the coveted David Schraub endorsement goes to: Elizabeth Warren!
In a field with many great candidates, I think she aligns closest to both my ideological values and my practical considerations for what a good President needs. To wit: she's a smart, New Deal liberal technocrat with good ideas and good instincts for finding and managing talent. I think she has the smarts to inspire good policy innovations and the savvy to actually move the ball forward in implementing them.
But when it comes right down to it, there are things I like and dislike (or at least am concerned about) for all the candidates. So if you want to follow my logic in making your decision, here's my current appraisal of the major remaining players in the Democratic field (with the important caveat that my main commitment is to vote for the Democratic candidate, no matter who it is, and be happy about it).
Likes: I already mentioned it above: smart, wonkish New Deal-style liberal with technocratic instincts. That's my jam. She has experience both as a thought leader coming up with ideas and a practical leader implementing policies on the ground -- a good President has to have a good handle on both. I also think that, of all the candidates, she's best positioned to unite the "progressive" and "establishment" wing of the party after the primary is over.
Dislikes: Many of the things I liked about Warren are the same things that attracted me to Hillary Clinton. And I'm obviously feeling a bit burned about how that turned out. She's going to face a boatload of misogyny (e.g., the assumption -- ludicrous if you listen to her -- that she's "shrill"), and that's on top of the easy "Massachusetts liberal" attack line.
Likes: I actually do think a lot of his policy proposals are realistic -- at least in concept (getting them through the Senate, on the other hand....). He wrote a pretty darn good essay on Jewish issues in Jewish Currents. And I think he has more general election viability than a lot of other pundits believe -- his brand of anti-establishment fire is definitely on trend right now, and it is a myth that "independent" and "centrist" are coterminous categories.
Dislikes: All candidates have bad actors among their supporters, but Sanders definitely stands out here and not in a good way. A Sanders victory will embolden a cadre of actors who've embraced a leftist iteration of the paranoid style in American politics, a development I think would be outright dangerous for the future of American progressivism. And while Sanders can't be held fully responsible for the actions of his supporters, he's also shown shaky judgment on the people who he, personally, has decided to surround himself with. That's actually a big voting issue for me, since a large part of what a President does is picking other people to elevate to positions of power.
Likes: There's something to be said for a purpling-state Democrat who has utterly annihilated her Republican opposition every election she's faced. My lean-Republican midwestern in-laws love her, for what that's worth. I think she's smart and competent -- and if those sound like backhanded compliments, I don't mean them to be.
Dislikes: I may chuckle at some of the abusive boss stories, but it really is inappropriate and raises questions about how she'll attract good talent as President. The fact that she's been bragging on the campaign trail about a conviction of a kid who may well be innocent is not the best look. Plus, I think we can push in a more progressive direction than what she's offering.
Likes: The ultimate "return to normalcy" candidate. 95% of his campaign pitch is "don't you miss the Obama years?", and I won't lie -- that sings to me a bit. He's also another person who I think will do will on the "staff positions with good people" metric.
Dislikes: He's just a bad campaigner. I'm sorry, but it's true. Any time he's run a national race he's imploded, and I think he'll do it again. His Iowa strategy of "repeatedly tell people they should vote for someone else" was a predictable disaster. Biden just feels like someone whose time has passed.
Likes: Another entry in the "basically smart guy" camp. Twitter notwithstanding, a lot of people seem to find him quite likable, and a fresh face. Fresh faces can be good.
Dislikes: Call me crazy, but I think politics is a job and I don't think one should jump from "Mayor of South Bend" to "President of the United States." Also, as a coastal-born American, I cannot stand this whole "real American heartland guy" shtick. Utter lack of support in non-White communities also is a turn-off -- though it'll be interesting to see if that changes after Iowa.
Likes: He seems to scare Trump, and genuinely get under his skin. I don't know if infinite money = unstoppable election campaign, but Bloomberg certainly could test the hypothesis. He's shown leadership on a couple of issues that matter to me -- guns and the environment, mostly. And again, I think he's someone who would pick competent people to surround him.
Dislikes: Not really interested in backing a random billionaire. And -- as one would expect from a recent Republican -- he's got a lot of problems on the issues. Stop and frisk is the obvious one, but he hasn't been good on trans rights either. Oh, and he has a history of harassing women, which the country may not care about but I do.
Likes: Of the billionaires, he seems to be better on the issues. So as against Bloomberg, he's a more progressive way of having "infinite money" to spend on the race.
Dislikes: More so than any other candidate running -- even Bloomberg -- Steyer is clearly just buying his way into political viability, and that makes me feel he's a bit of dilettante. For example, unlike Bloomberg, he has no actual political experience. Again, politics is a job, and I want a candidate who has experience holding office.