I don’t normally take partisan positions. And this space will continue to analyze — and criticize — political speakers of all types. But much as newspaper editorial pages endorse candidates, I will do so now, on the eve of the New Hampshire Primary. I am endorsing Elizabeth Warren.
I want our next president to be someone who (1) can be trusted with the power of the office, (2) can inspire the nation, (3) can restore the functioning of the government to a more balanced state, and (4) tells the truth whenever possible.
These are all character issues. They say nothing about the candidate’s positions on issues. There is a reason for this. I know I am not voting for Trump, having experienced what three years of his leadership was like: divisive, evasive, nasty, and autocratic. And it is my belief that no matter what democrat is elected, we’re will likely end up in the same place: with a center-left policy that depends on rebalancing taxation to focus on the wealthiest individuals and corporations, re-establishing foreign policy relationships with traditional allies, and addressing the nation’s biggest problems, which include income inequality and climate change. No matter where the candidates start, that is where they are going to end up, because that is as far as Congress, even a Democratic majority Congress, will follow them.
In my opinion, “electability” and leadership are the same. An electable candidate for the Democrats is one who can inspire the electorate around a vision for the country. That is also the definition of leadership. There are positions that are too extreme to inspire the electorate — people who hold those positions are not going to be good leaders.
In other words, I think the primaries will actually surface the most inspiring candidate, and the toughness of the primary season will generate a candidate who can stand up to the filthy politics that will prevail in the general election. So I feel free to choose the best candidate, not just the one I imagine that others are willing to elect.
I feel no compunction about criticizing the candidates. They’ll get plenty of criticism in the next nine months; this is no time to be gentle.
Warren has proven herself to be intelligent and thoughtful, with actual plans to accomplish her goals. This planful problem-solving attitude is what we need to make progress on solving the major challenges that will face the nation in 2021 and beyond. But she is not just a technocrat. In the debates, she has proven herself to be an adept counterpuncher who can think on her feet. She has boundless energy. She inspires people.
She has also proven to be an inspiring Senator for my state of Massachusetts, starting with her defeat of an incumbent Republican Senator and continuing throughout her tenure. She’s a winner.
She generally comes off as honest. Of 31 checks on her statements that Politifact did, 12% were rated as mostly false, which is pretty low for a politician. Of course, she is saddled with the reputation of lying about her Native American heritage on job applications. There’s no evidence that it actually helped her and plenty of evidence that she believed it was true, based on stories told in her family. All candidates have such challenges in their pasts. What matters more to me is that her current statements are consistently true and based on evidence; she doesn’t must make stuff up like Trump. Put simply, if we returned American politics to the level of honesty of Elizabeth Warren, I’d feel like we’d returned to a level of normality that the republic needs.
Based on posts on social media and personal conversations, the majority of the people I like and respect area also Warren backers. My social circle is intelligent and liberal, and backs Warren more than the other candidates. This is not a coincidence. Her thoughtful approach attracts them as it attracts me.
Why not the others?
Trump lies constantly and reminds everyone daily how he is willing to undermine anyone he disagrees with. He will never inspire most of America, only the portion of it that he sees as his base. We know who he is; his behavior over the last four years disqualifies him. I don’t want to consider what the government or the nation will look like after another five years of Trump.
Bernie Sanders has not shown the ability to lead, instead taking extreme positions and demonstrating no willingness to compromise. He wants to remake America, rather than restore it. If he were President, it’s likely very little would get done, as I cannot imagine Republicans or even centrist Democrats going along with his inflexible policies.
Pete Buttigieg has proven himself to be an able politician and intelligent leader. My problem with him is his lack of experience at the national or international level. I’m convinced he will be a strong contender at some point in the future, but I don’t think he would be the most effective choice right now.
Amy Klobuchar seems capable, but was unable to gain a following even in the midwestern state of Iowa. A President needs to make an impression. She hasn’t, for the most part.
Joe Biden has wrapped himself in the mantle of Obama. But his plans to actually solve problems — and his ability to inspire — are weak. He’s a nice guy. We need more than that. His disappointing performance on the ground in Iowa was a harbinger — if the same happens in New Hampshire, it will be clear that the country isn’t ready to follow him.
Andrew Yang is full of ideas, but can’t seem to break out of a narrow set of followers. He’s also too inexperienced to be leading something as vast as the US government.
Michael Bloomberg has many of the qualities I’ve described as valuable. His positions, as reflected in speeches and advertisements, are tough and effective as a challenge to Trump. I could see following him. I’d rank him second to Warren on the qualities that matter. We won’t really know what he’s made of until he appears in a debate, and until the race gets to the states where he has qualified to be on the ballot.
I like William Weld, too, but he’s unlikely to even come close to defeating Trump on the Republican side, so I’ve eliminated him from consideration.
What about the candidates’ identities?
There are still people who vote based on a candidate’s race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation.
I’m not willing to compromise my own politics by pandering to the prejudices of such people. If I did, the field would be limited to straight, white, Christian men, and I will not endorse people based on that narrow view.
There are people who will not vote for Bernie Sanders because he is Jewish. But I think the bigger problem for Sanders is the people who will not vote for him because of what he says, not where he prays.
There are people who will not vote for Pete Buttigieg because he is gay. I think his bigger problem is his ability to lead. His strong showing in Iowa reflects that America is willing to consider a gay president.
There are people who will not vote for Klobuchar or Warren or Gabbard because they are women. Such people are idiots. In think the people who count are going to vote for a candidate based on what she stands for. Hillary Clinton was a weak candidate facing an unprecedented type of opponent — I think her loss in the electoral college would have happened regardless of her gender.
Barack Obama was able to inspire America and get beyond many people’s prejudices over his race. The Democratic candidate in 2020 has an opportunity to do the same. If they fail, it will not be because they are Jewish or a woman — they’ll fail because they are not better at inspiring America than Donald Trump. (Barring dirty tricks and hacking, of course, which scare the crap out of me, but a white male democrat is just as likely to suffer the effects of those as any other candidate.)
The true legacy of Barack Obama was his ability to lead, to accomplish things despite a hostile Congress, to make bold decisions in times of stress, and to do all of that in a way that reflected character and honesty. As much as Joe Biden wants to come off as the sequel to Obama, I think Elizabeth Warren is the candidate most like to continue his legacy of inspiring, honest leadership.
If you’re voting in New Hampshire or any of the primaries beyond, consider Elizabeth Warren. She won’t bankrupt the country; she’s more likely to save it. Give her a chance. If my opinion holds any weight with you, please vote for Elizabeth Warren.