I deny any claim to divine inspiration on this question. Politics is always messy. Presidential candidates are regularly a troubling mix of good and bad.
But this is my best judgment today.
There are still a lot of Democratic presidential candidates. But only four or five – Biden, Warren, Sanders, Buttigieg, Klobuchar – – have enough support in numerous national polls to be considered serious candidates.
(I do not include Michael Bloomberg because I think it is fundamentally anti-democratic for a billionaire to spend hundreds and hundreds of millions of personal dollars to buy the presidency.)
Quite frankly, my first concern is who has the best chance to defeat Donald Trump. Given Trump’s immorality, dishonesty, incompetence and profoundly wrong policies on the environment, cooperation with allies, tax cuts for the rich, health care, etc. etc., it is essential for the future of justice and democracy in the United States and the well-being of the planet for Donald Trump to be defeated in 2020. And that means the Democratic candidate must be someone who understands and can be heard by the middle of the country, not someone who is just a voice for the Democratic left.
A recent, sophisticated poll reported in the New York Times on December 23, 2019 showed that even Democratic voters favor more centrist positions over more radical ones. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren support Medicare for all--which means that approximately 160 million Americans with private health insurance would lose it and have to go on a government run single-payer system. Not only is that unpopular with Republicans and Independents. The survey just mentioned indicates that only one in four Democrats favor eliminating private health insurance in favor of one government run single-payer system. 58.4% of Democrats favor a government run health insurance program for all who want that but think that people should be free to choose to keep their private health insurance.
Warren and Sanders support free public college tuition. But only one in three Democrats favor that.
Also significant is a November 5, 2019 New York Times story about which Americans are still undecided about how they will vote. Only 15% of US voters are still undecided about whether to vote for Trump or a Democrat. Obviously, those undecided voters will probably decide the election. And by a margin of 82% to 11%, those key undecided voters want someone who can find common ground rather than someone who fights for a progressive agenda. And they prefer a moderate to a liberal by 75% to 19%.
Further, the same November 5, 2019 story reported that only 9% of the US voters are still truly persuadable. That group opposes single payer healthcare 60% to 37%. And it opposes free college 55% to 41%.
Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders both support a single-payer health care system and free college for all. Joe Biden disagrees. Biden wants health coverage for every American. He would offer a Medicare plan to all who want to choose that. But he opposes imposing a single payer system on everyone. And with regard to college tuition, Biden only supports the far less expensive proposal of free tuition for those in two-year community colleges.
How do the Democratic candidates fare against Donald Trump with the 9% of truly undecided voters? Biden beats Trump 38% to 27%. But Trump beats Warren 37% to 20%. And Trump beats Sanders 34% to 32%.
Where does all this leave me? I don’t think we should consider Buttigieg as a serious candidate. He simply does not have the necessary experience. He has no experience in national or international affairs. The most votes he has ever won were a grand total of 8515 when elected mayor of a small city. Senator Amy Klobuchar was right when she told Buttigieg in a recent presidential debate that no woman with his minuscule political experience would ever be included in a national Democratic presidential debate.
Warren and Sanders are too liberal to win election. In 2020, this country simply will not elect the self-described socialist Bernie Sanders. (There would be a flood of Republican ads denouncing him as a socialist/communist.) Pete Buttigieg is simply too inexperienced. Senator Amy Klobuchar would be a possibility if she did unexpectedly well in Iowa but that is unlikely.
That leaves Joe Biden. He has enormous international experience and would restore dignity to the office of President. He supports a large number of significant policies to promote racial and economic justice and environmental sanity. He is one of the very few Democratic candidates who supports some restrictions on late term abortions. And he can win back some of the formerly Democratic white blue-collar workers who voted for Trump in 2016.
I wish Biden were a little younger. But Sanders, Warren and Trump share the same problem.
A Democratic candidate identified as part of the left wing of the Democratic Party simply cannot beat Donald Trump in 2020. But Joe Biden can. And that is essential. If we want a future with truth rather than lies; economic and racial justice rather than plutocracy and racism; a thoughtful foreign policy rather than impulsive improvisation; and a livable environmental future rather than ecological devastation, then we dare not let Donald Trump have a second term.
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