By Ken Trainor
Trying them on for size.
I've liked Elizabeth Warren since she first appeared in public, feisty and ready to take on the financial industry that screwed (I prefer a more vivid term) middle-class Americans back in 2007-08 (though it began during the Reagan administration). Warren remains a powerful progressive, not timid like too many Democrats.
I've liked Pete Buttigieg since he entered the presidential race, acting like he belonged there, and so far proving he does. He has the Pope Francis gift of being able to say things with substance that people can hear. He frames the message Democrats need to deliver to embattled and beleaguered Americans. He is precociously composed and wise beyond his years. Good traits if you're going to take on the Human S**tstorm.
I don't particularly care who heads this ticket. We really need a co-equal co-presidency, and at this stage (much can change) we have the luxury of leaning in someone's favor. These two seem like a good team.
I like other "hopefuls" as well: Klobuchar, Harris, Booker, O'Rourke, Biden. I doubt any of the rest of the field will break through, but you never know. The first debates, June 26-27, could spring a surprise. The Democratic field is wide and deep. And every one of them would do a better job than the pathetic, failed human being currently occupying the Oval Office.
I admire Bernie Sanders, but I don't particularly like him. As we learned all too well in 2016, the importance of charisma can't be overlooked. Joe Biden is likable, but we need more than that. The system is broken and badly needs to be transformed. I don't know if Biden is the guy to do that.
Our broken system, by the way, is a notion we share with the Tea and Trump Party. It's our common ground. The system is dysfunctional, rigged, corrupt. But we differ on what to do about it. They want to destroy it. We want to fix it.
To fix it, you first have to believe it can be fixed. The other side does not, which is why they threw a bomb at it by voting for the Human S**tstorm, who is doing his best to fulfill that wish. But Trump supporters have no plan for what to build in its place. The Republicans are out of ideas. They don't believe in government, don't know how to govern, and, as a result, are really, really bad at it. They have only some vague notion of a libertarian-free market utopia growing up from the ruins Trump leaves behind.
Progressives believe our broken system can be transformed. To do so, you need a plan, which is why Warren is generating so much interest. You also need a vision. Buttigieg has that and the ability to articulate it.
These are the only two thus far who excite me the way Obama did once upon a time. They possess the four C's: Clarity, Conviction, Creativity and Charisma.
Clarity is the ability to state what you believe in a way that can be heard across the political spectrum. But it's not just words. You also need the courage of your convictions, a willingness to stand up for what you believe in and fight for it. And you need creative ideas to turn those beliefs into reality.
Biden can beat Trump, but he would be a Band-Aid on a broken system. We need transformation.
To transform this country, we need a coalition of forces that have hitherto not had enough impact. We need the energy and idealism of millennials, the untapped power of women, and the growing number of minorities and immigrants.
Which is why I'm cautiously hopeful about 2020 — because of the numbers, which are increasingly in our favor. The Republican Party is dying, its base aging. It represents mostly the wealthy elite and white supremacists. Their wealth isn't in decline, but the numbers are, increasingly, with each election.
As I often remind people, in 2016 a woman with insufficient charisma, the target of fierce misogyny and an unprecedented online campaign of misinformation by a foreign superpower still won the popular vote by a sizable margin. Trump "won" the election only by prevailing in three states, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — by less than 1 percent of the vote in each.
Trump needs more votes this time. Where is he going to find them? His base was energized and turned out in full force back when he was an unknown commodity. As a known commodity, his approval rating has never exceeded the mid-40s. He has spent three years alienating great swaths of the electorate with his childish, chaotic, destructive antics. Republicans did not fare well in the mid-term elections in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Will he find the votes in the estimated 100 million Americans, age 18 and over, who did not vote in 2016? If so, why does the Republican Party spend so much time, effort and money to suppress voting in this country?
Where is he going to find the votes in a country that is headed rapidly toward minority majority status as the older white population declines? Where will he find the votes when the progressive side of the political spectrum has been awakened and aroused to an unprecedented degree?
Trump is hoping to coast on a sugar-high economy (tax cuts for the wealthy, driving up our debt and deficit). What happens when next year the economy goes into decline? Does he think starting a war with Iran will save him?
He caught everyone by surprise in 2016. The Russians caught everyone by surprise in 2016. The extent of misogyny and racism caught us by surprise in 2016. Everything went Trump's way in 2016. Will everything go his way again?
Doubtful. The Democrats only need to nominate a charismatic candidate with clarity, conviction and creativity, who has a sense of humor and no scandals. We need millennials, women and minorities/immigrants to form the core of a new progressive coalition. The message has to be about saving and rebuilding the middle-class, elevating the poor, and making the wealthy elites more accountable.
So far, I like what I see and hear from Warren-Buttigieg or Buttigieg-Warren, but it's early. We'll see how it goes.
Whoever prevails, has work to do:
Making America better than it's ever been.
Answer Book 2019
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