Saddle Up! The Dem Nomination Race Begins!

I’m actually feeling pretty good about the Dems’ chances of taking back the White House in 2020. And I’m feeling reasonably confident that we’ll get a decent POTUS who will lead in a progressive direction as a result. I have no idea who that POTUS is likely to be, but that’s okay.

The Washington Post has created a list it calls “power rankings” (scroll down) of declared and likely candidates for the Dem nomination. The ranking itself means nothing now and will change dynamically once debates and voting begin. But I think anyone in the top 9 has a respectable shot at the nomination, and some below that could move up once people get a look at them. (Conspicuously absent from the list entirely: Tulsi Gabbard. She’ll drop out in a few weeks.)

I am feeling good about the list because, at long last, the “centrists” who are such a drag on the party are not feeling the love.

The rising Democratic enthusiasm for big government liberalism is forcing a trio of leading 2020 contenders to rethink jumping in, several sources tell Axios.

What’s happening: Michael Bloomberg and former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, each of whom were virtual locks to run, are having serious second thoughts after watching Democrats embrace “Medicare for All,” big tax increases and the Green New Deal. Joe Bidenwho still wants to run, is being advised to delay any plans to see how this lurch to the left plays out. If Biden runs, look for Bloomberg and McAuliffe to bow out, the sources tell us.

IMO the beloved theory that Democrats must put aside what they really want in a candidate and instead settle for someone “safe” and “centrist” to win elections had its last hurrah in 2016. It failed. Not all potential candidates got the memo, but it seems to me the electorate has been unleashed. No more “settling.”

That said, Joe Biden — a nostalgia candidate — is sitting at Number Two after Kamala Harris. I like Joe Biden as a person, and it wouldn’t absolutely kill me if he got the nomination, but I hope he doesn’t. Alex Shepherd notes that Biden is one of the most popular politicians in the country now, but that popularity is partly the result of his being on the sidelines of politics.

Biden’s public image has been bolstered by his distance from public life. Even as vice president, he largely kept his hands clean of everyday politics in Washington. If Obama was seen as the brain of the administration, Biden was its heart and soul: an emotional man of the people, simultaneously macho and unafraid to cry in public, who famously pressured Obama (albeit accidentally) into supporting gay marriage. That perception has only grown in his retirement, as Trump’s rise has fueled a nostalgia for more decent times in American politics.

But if Biden runs, his past will be raked over—and his political record looks increasingly checkered in today’s light.

Anita Hill? Bankruptcy bill? Iraq War? Clinton-era crime bill? Nostalgia only goes so far. “A Biden candidacy, like Clinton’s, would serve as a reminder of the many flaws of a party establishment that an increasing number of Democrats would like to overthrow (or at least overhaul),” Alex Shepherd writes. See also Frank Bruni, “I Like Joe Biden. I Urge Him Not to Run.”

Of the remainder on the list, there’s not one who isn’t a mixed bag in one way or another. That’s because they are all human beings with public records. Nobody gets involved in the messiness of politics and stays completely pure. I doubt even Jesus could do it.  Yet there are those looking for purity. I’m seeing the various tribes of the Left pigeonhole the candidates based on their worst attributes.

Cory Booker, for example, is now the Big Pharma candidate based on one vote, and he’s being dismissed as a corporate stooge. But he also co-sponsored Bernie Sanders’s “Medicare for All” bill, supports the Green New Deal, and he has some bold ideas on criminal justice reform and affordable housing. And I love his “baby bonds” idea. But, yeah, Booker has close ties to Wall Street and to some Israel lobbies that are worrisome.

Kamala Harris is Number One on the list. I suspect she will do very well. Her record as a prosecutor is going to hurt her with people who want criminal justice reform. But, damn, is she fun to watch in a Senate hearing. One on one against Trump, she’d make him look like such a pansy.

Dear Bernie Sanders probably will  make another run at it, but his age will be an issue, and the Clinton Bitter Enders who still irrationally blame him for her loss in 2016 will try to block him any way they can. I don’t think he will do as well against a big field as he did in 2016, against just Clinton.

I’ve liked Sherrod Brown for a long time. I can’t say I’ve heard any negatives about him, but he’s not being talked about as much on social media as are other candidates.

Beto O’Rourke needs to run for the Cornyn Senate seat in 2020, IMO. His voting record in the House is very much a mixed bag; he often voted with Republicans, I understand. I suspect he’s not the progressive savior people make him out to be, and I suspect he’s less electable than many believe. He’s more good looks and charm than substance.

I’ve liked Elizabeth Warren since I first heard her speak. IMO the “Pocahontas” smears are ridiculous, but they may be effective to keep voters away from her.

I hear good things about Amy Klobuchar, but some of those good things are coming from people like George Will, which makes me suspicious. I need to see more of her to form an opinion.

Kirstin Gillibrand is too often remembered as the woman who ran Al Franken out of the Senate. And even though she was my senator for several years, I still don’t have a strong sense of who she is.

That’s the top nine. For all the minuses I think any one of the top nine — well, not sure about O’Rourke — would do a decent job as POTUS. I would have no problem at all voting for any of them in a general election. Of course, I’d vote for road kill rather than Trump.

Michael Bloomberg is at Number Ten; he doesn’t have a prayer at the nomination. At least, I hope he doesn’t. He’s all wrong for the mood of the voters. His record as mayor doesn’t stand up well under scrutiny; he supported “stop and frisk,” for example. There’s nothing wrong with being a rich guy, but he’s a rich guy who has no apparent connection to working people at all.

There are other people further down the list who are respectable candidates who could move up into the top ten with a good debate performance. Who is likely to survive to the last few primaries is anybody’s guess, and I am not guessing.

Will the 2020 Dem nomination fight get as nasty as it did in 2008 and 2016? I think it will not, for the simple reason that Hillary Clinton won’t be in it. She is absolutely brilliant at setting people at each other’s throats. The #NobodyButBernie crowd will stir up acrimony on social media if they think Bernie isn’t getting a fair shake, but that’s about all they can do. Let’s hope Bernie gets a fair shake, though. I think his chances of being the nominee are slim, but his perspective needs to be represented in the debates and in forming the party platform.

I appreciate that, so far, the Dems are running on issues. They’re talking about health care, taxes, criminal justice. They’re putting out big policy ideas that are not just little incremental tweaks to the status quo. This, of course, provides Republicans with ammunition. But Paul Waldman writes,

First, a Democrat proposes a new policy idea — such as Medicare-for-all or tax increases on the wealthy. Then Republicans say, “My god, are you insane? If we do this we’ll become Venezuela!” Then some polls are taken and it turns out that the crazy socialist idea is, in fact, extremely popular among the American public.

For instance, when Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) proposed a wealth tax on fortunes of more than $50 million, conservatives were aghast, crying that this was horrifying socialism. But the progressive group Data For Progress just polled the idea and found out that people supported it by a rather dramatic margin of 61 percent to 21 percent.

Likewise, a 70 percent marginal tax rate on income of more than $10 million, which Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) has proposed, garnered the support of 59 percent of respondents in one poll, which isn’t too surprising given that taxing the rich more is consistently one of the most popular ideas in American politics. And for years, polls have shown majorities of the public favorably disposed to Medicare-for-all.

You could quibble with one or another of those results, or argue that they’ll change if you alter the wording. But the point is that, on their face, these supposedly wacky socialist ideas Democrats are proposing are things Americans think are perfectly worthwhile.

The Republican Party is invested in two big ideas: Cutting taxes on the wealthy and investigating Hillary Clinton. Both are getting old. If Democrats start winning elections by making bold, progressive policy proposals, maybe the George McGovern curse will finally be lifted.

What are your impressions of the Dem candidates so far?