Friday, February 07, 2020

David's 2020 Endorsement: Elizabeth Warren! (Plus: Likes and Dislikes!)

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).

Elizabeth Warren
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.

Bernie Sanders
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.

Amy Klobuchar
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.

Joe Biden
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 well 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.

Pete Buttigieg
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.

Mike Bloomberg
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.

Tom Steyer
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.

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

If Sanders Wins...

I think Bernie Sanders has to be considered the front-runner for the Democratic nomination right now. Not prohibitively so, but a moderate favorite. So what if he does win the Democratic nomination? This is what:
If any of you don’t vote for Bernie in November, you are as bad as any Nader voter, any Bernie Bro who wouldn’t pull the lever for Hillary. You are saying you are OK with fascism if the guy you don’t like is the nominee, as if voting for the Gore-Lieberman or Clinton-Kaine ticket was some kind of great thing for a whole lot of people who did it. If you spend the next six months after he wins the nomination whining about it, you are just as bad as all those guys who complained and whined and undermined Hillary’s candidacy before maybe finally voting for her.
I really don't have anything to add. There's no hemming and hawing here. If Bernie Sanders wins the nomination, and you're a Democrat, or an independent, or anyone halfway decent, you vote for Bernie Sanders, and you do it without any hesitation or caterwauling. Same goes for any Democratic nominee. Nothing more to it than that.

Iowa Caucuses: Winners and Losers

Fun fact: I was out to dinner with some folks Monday evening, and mentioned the Iowa Caucuses were happening. "That's today?", they asked. "Yup," I responded. "Hell, they'll be done by the time we finish eating!"

Oh, such a sweet summer child I was.

Anyway, 86% of precincts are reporting and it seems that folks are comfortable declaring a winner: South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, with 26.7% of "State Delegate Equivalents". Bernie Sanders placed second with 25.4%, followed by Elizabeth Warren (18.3%), Joe Biden (15.9%), and Amy Klobuchar (12.1%). Nobody else finished in double digits.

Of course, this being Iowa, there are many other ways to count who "won". In terms of how SDEs translate to actual national convention delegates, Buttigieg and Sanders tie (11 each), with Warren taking 5 (and zero for everyone else). In terms of original vote tallies (before supporters of non-viable candidates redistributed), Sanders came out ahead with 24.3% to Buttigieg's 21.5% and Warren's 18.7%. And following redistribution, Sanders still came out ahead in the "popular vote", with 26.1% to Buttigieg's 25.5% and Warren's 20.5%. If you're wondering how Sanders could win the popular vote but lose the SDE count, Buttigieg's support was spread out across more of the state and so more efficiently translated into SDEs.

Incidentally, as much as everyone is hating on the Iowa Caucuses for the technological catastrophe, this is my biggest beef -- why is it so hard to just say "the candidate with the most votes wins"? But nobody's asking me.

What they are asking me is -- who are the ultimate winners and losers of the Caucuses?

Winner: Pete Buttigieg. Obviously -- he won. And this is a good reminder, once again, that Twitter is not real life. On Twitter (my Twitter at least), Buttigieg is basically a joke. But in real life, lots of people really like him! It's still hard for me to believe he'll win the whole thing -- Iowa was a good state for him. But I think there was a slowly coalescing narrative that Buttigieg was fading out of the top tier, and this certainly puts a stop to that.

Winner: Bernie Sanders. Not just because he had a strong second place showing. If Biden fades, Sanders is probably the next-in-line as the "default" candidate, and I'm inclined to agree that he may well be the new front-runner at this point. The only dark cloud is that it still doesn't look like he's good at consolidating support from other candidates -- there may well be a sizable "anybody but Sanders" contingent among Democratic primary voters, and the more the field narrows the harder that is to overcome. But while Sanders may still have a low ceiling, he has a high floor, so if the field never unjumbles itself he may be able to ride his core base of support all the way to the convention.

Winner: Amy Klobuchar. While not quite a Klobu-charge (dammit, I'm going to make it happen), this was a strong showing for the Minnesota Senator -- enough to at least get people to give her a real look. That's no guarantee they'll stick with her, and she still has a lot of obstacles in her way; but it's a way better posture than the one she occupied before Iowa.

Loser: Joe Biden. It wasn't the worst-case scenario of an utter shellacking, but it was definitely an underperformance. We can talk all we want about how he was never going to win Iowa, and how his best states are ahead of him, and it's all about relative performance -- but at the end of the day, if you're the nominal front-runner placing fourth is not a good look. The chaos of the results was frankly a godsend for Biden in that it completely stepped on the story of his bad showing (and his disgraceful insinuations that the results couldn't be trusted).

Loser: Elizabeth Warren. Kind of like Biden. She certainly didn't do badly, and probably arrested any incipient narrative about a campaign freefall. But I don't think a clear third place finish -- definitely above Biden, definitely below Sanders and Buttigieg -- does much for her, or gives people confidence that she can ever quite pull out of the back.

Loser: Iowa. Florida 2000 jokes were getting kind of stale, but I think Iowa might just have stepped into those big shoes. Please, for the love of God, take away their caucuses next time (or better yet, take away their "first in the nation" status entirely -- but the caucuses have to go).