Tag Archives: bernie sanders

Skylar’s First Impressions of the 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidates

Watching the Sunday shows this morning, it occurred to me that I haven’t really commented on the 2020 election. That’s mostly because I think it’s stupid to talk about something that won’t happen until January 2020 in June 2019. I hate America’s perpetual election cycle.

But as I get back into political writing, it behoves me to get up-to-date with the coming election. So, in alphabetical order, here is my first impression of each candidate for the Democratic nomination:

  • Mike Bennett, Senator from Colorado – No name recognition. Who is he going to appeal to that someone better-known won’t? I can’t imagine him getting a lot of traction. Imagine he’ll drop out early
  • Joe Biden, former Vice President from Delaware – Seems to be the frontrunner right now, running as the “beat Trump” candidate. Name recognition, veep to a beloved president, blue collar appeal and a helluva politician. Plus, he really wants this. Like, you don’t know. Joe Biden has wanted to be president since he was an embryo. The one to beat.
  • Cory Booker, Senator from New Jersey – he once saved a person from a fire. Turned Newark around. Pretty cool backstory. But he’s not the most progressive, and in a field where Biden is going to run as the moderate, how does he really distinguish himself? Could win big in South Carolina if Black voters turn on Kamala Harris for her record of incarcerations or don’t warm to Biden – but that last one is a big if
  • Steve Bullock, Governor of Montana – Running as a Washington outsider, which is a pretty smart strategy considering how many of these candidates are senators, congresspeople, or former members of the executive branch (or all three, in the case of Joe Biden). Could bring that salt-of-the-earth heartland vibe that resonates with voters in Iowa, and could do well as a fellow westerner in Nevada. But I don’t know much about his record. Still a longshot – though worth noting that governors historically do better winning the presidency than vice presidents or senators
  • Pete Buttigieg, Mayor of South Bend, Indiana – I’ve been a fan of Mayor Pete for years, and endorsed him from DNC chair in 2017. But is he ready to be president? Yes, he did wonders for unemployment in South Bend and helped save a dying city. He’s young (if elected, he’d be the first Millennial president, and the youngest full stop). He’s good looking. His husband—yes, husband—has a cracking social media game. Would be the first openly gay president (second gay president; RIP President Buchanan). Refreshingly, that could be a benefit and not a hindrance in a primary. In a general election, is America ready to vote for a gay president? I don’t know. And more pressingly, is being the mayor of a small city qualification enough for the Oval Office? And will Democrats go for a moderate like Pete when Biden’s in the race? He’s probably seen his moment in the sun already this cycle, but could be a dark horse worth watching
  • Julian Castro, former Secretary of HUD from Texas – the less exciting of the Castro brothers. I don’t have much to say here. Could surprise people in Nevada, but I don’t see him as a top-tier candidate
  • Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York City, New York – from what I understand, New York City hates him. Why wouldn’t America? He’s a progressive who I probably agree with more than anyone else as far as policy goes, but I just don’t see him as a serious contender
  • John Delaney, Congressman from Maryland – seriously, who? I know nothing about this man
  • Tulsi Gabbard, Congresswoman from Hawaii – Thank u, next
  • Kirsten Gillibrand, Senator from New York – I once said that if Kirsten Gillibrand ran for president I would quit my job and work on her campaign. I haven’t done that, and her campaign has failed to take off the way many thought it would. I’m not saying there’s a correlation here, but… in all seriousness, though, don’t underestimate Kirsten Gillibrand. She’s probably the fiercest proponent of women’s rights and really shined when #MeToo took off, especially in condemning Bill Clinton’s behaviour in the 1990s and before. That took guts. With abortion becoming the issue of the summer, expect her profile—and prospects—to rise
  • Mike Gravel, former Senator from Alaska – perineal candidate. Has about as much a chance as an Alaskan snowball’s chance in hell
  • Kamala Harris, Senator from California – Kamala, more than anyone, deserves to debate Donald Trump. It would be amazing. She’d show him for the moron he is. But she hasn’t taken off the way I thought she would. That might be because voters are turned off by her record as Attorney General of California, where she was known for locking up low-level drug offenders. In the era of Black Lives Matter and prison abolitionism, that’s not a good look. Still, don’t count her out
  • John Hickenlooper, former Governor of Colorado – If Joe Biden wasn’t in the race, I’d say John Hickenlooper would be the one to watch. A plain-talking white man from middle America is usually a shoo-in for presidential nominations, but Hickenlooper is stuck in the shadow of Biden, and so similar to Bullock that they could split the same voters
  • Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington – Running on the climate, Inslee could capture Millennial and Gen-Z voters, the oldest of whom will be able to vote for the first time in 2020. But is it enough? If he gets a high-profile endorsement (say, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez), he could see some wind in his sails. But that’s a big “if,” I think. Another western governor means he’s competing with Hickenlooper and Bullock
  • Amy Klobuchar, Senator from Minnesota – her announcement speech was the stuff of legend, given during a snowstorm in a brutal Minnesota winter, but it was overshadowed with accusations she bullies her staff. Leaving aside the sexist notion that women asserting authority are bullies (and not at all commenting on the accusations, as I’ve not researched them enough to know if that’s what’s at play here), Klobuchar just hasn’t distinguished herself in this field. It’s early days, but again, if voters want a moderate, Joe Biden seems to be their choice. Klobuchar could find herself running for veep.
  • Wayne Messam, Mayor of Miramar, Florida – lol who?
  • Seth Moulton, Congressman from Massachusetts – a decorated war hero (he’s an Iraq veteran), Seth Moulton is a young, telegenic candidate who could surprise us all. His service to his country and dashing good looks stand in stark contrast to Donald Trump, who risks looking like Nixon debating Kennedy, except without the Nixonian brain (if the Nixonian instincts for corruption). But does anyone know who Seth Moulton is? No, not outside political junkies and his constituents – and the latter is iffy given American apathy. Might not be his time, but watch his star rise
  • Beto O’Rourke, former Congressman from Texas – Oh Beto. We barely knew thee. Could surprise us, but I think he’s more likely to go back and fight a statewide Texas race sometime in the near future. I don’t think his political career is over, but I don’t think he’s going to win the nomination. Not this time.
  • Tim Ryan, Congressman from Ohio – Good Democrat, but I can’t think of anything that distinguishes him from the others in the field
  • Bernie Sanders, Senator from Vermont – Wish he’d go away. HE’S NOT EVEN A DEMOCRAT. But he could win, and to my mind is the biggest threat to Biden. I’m closer to Sanders’ politics than Bidens’, but something about him irks me. I think it’s that HE’S NOT EVEN A DEMOCRAT and won’t join the party unless we let him lead it. Still, voters like him and he has the wind in his sails from 2016 which could propel him to the nomination. (Watching a debate between him and Trump would be like nails on a chalkboard, though, both of them so gruff and brash)
  • Eric Swalwell, Congressman from California – Staple on MSNBC, but beyond that, not much of a national profile. One of the fiercest critics of Trump in the House, Swalwell could benefit if the House impeaches Trump, but considering Biden’s running on the “gotta-beat-Trump” platform, I don’t think that’ll be enough
  • Elizabeth Warren, Senator from Massachusetts – Elizabeth Warren could beat Joe Biden. She’s got the background and expertise and record to take him on when it comes to financial regulation, consumer rights, and all the things progressives don’t like about Joe Biden. She’s extremely popular in the Democratic Party and has every chance of winning this nomination. Can she beat Trump? No idea. But she would certainly be a stark contrast – an intelligent, educated Harvard professor who campaigns for the little people against a dumb, ignorant con artist who didn’t pay his workers
  • Marianne Williamson, activist from California – Umm, do I know you?
  • Andrew Yang, entrepreneur from New York – Not really familiar with him. Know some of my friends are really excited about him. Concerningly, they’re kind of conservative or libertarian leaning, which leads me to think he’s not my ideal candidate. Cute though

 

What do you think of the 2020 field? Can anybody beat Biden? Will there be a dark horse who emerges in the debates? Or in the early primaries and caucuses? Is it too early to talk about any of this? Leave your comments below!

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Fuck it

trump clinton sanders

Photo: DonkeyHotey on Flickr

It’s done and dusted. Hillary Clinton has secured enough delegates to clinch the Democratic nomination. She will go head-to-head against Donald Trump in November. And now it’s time for all of my fellow leftists to shut the fuck up and fall in line.

When, back in January, I endorsed Hillary Clinton, I cited a blog—succinctly titled “Sod it”— written by Open Labour editor Jade Azim. The tl;dr of it is that she didn’t get into politics to debate socialist orthodoxy but rather to effect real, substantive change. I never thought I’d have to write a blog like that about America.

But alas, here we are.

I’ve tried playing nice. I’ve tried appealing to your better angels. I’ve tried to talk rationally, speak eloquently, and be conciliatory.

In a brilliant speech last week, Hillary Clinton said Trump’s temperament is not suited to the presidency. I’d go a step further and say he is a racist, xenophobic, sexist, homophobic, proto-fascist whose infatuation with dictators and strongmen is not just concerning, but would make a Trump presidency cataclysmic. The very freedoms our country is founded upon, and the very fabric of our national character, is at stake.

So when British friends began telling me that a Democratic strategist and Bernie Sanders supporter appeared on Newsnight advocating Democrats vote for Trump, I was both mortified and infuriated. No true leftist can support someone who would see marginalised people further disenfranchised, subjugated, or deported from America. I had never heard of Harlan Hill before he appeared on the BBC, but I am convinced of one thing: he is more concerned with himself and his brand than he is with Black, trans, gay, or Latino people.

But Hill is no exception to the rule. In fact, among Sanders supporters, he is becoming the norm. I’ve had so many Sanders supporters tell me that Clinton is a ruthless, power-hungry neocon who lies, cheats, steals, broke laws, covered up Benghazi, and killed a man—all without a hint of irony that they’re trotting out the same goddamn lies and conspiracies neocons have spread about Hilary Clinton for a fucking quarter century.

They say she supported NAFTA (her husband’s policy). They say she supported TPP (she doesn’t). Then they point out she voted for Iraq. So did a Labour-led parliament and most House and Senate Democrats, based on faulty intelligence (or, if you wanna go there, blatant lies) of Blair and Bush. I think her tenure as Secretary of State, with her record approval ratings and global commitment to women’s and LGBT rights, offsets one vote more than a decade ago. Yes, she’s an interventionist. But the cold hard truth is that if America doesn’t intervene when human rights abuses are happening, no one else will. Another Clinton—Bill—failed to intervene in Rwanda and millions of innocents died. Today it’s his biggest regret.

Gee, I wonder why?

I get it. Clinton is far from perfect. Her hawkishness concerns me too. But she is lightyears better than Donald sodding Trump, a man who would nuke London because David Cameron called him an idiot. Think I’m being hyperbolic? Perhaps. But the truth is not far beyond that. Trump is a man who cosies up to Putin and Kim Jong-un. He dismisses any opinion, any advice, that doesn’t support his narrow-minded, isolationist, supremacist worldview. He is a threat to national security, a threat to global stability, and a threat to freedom.

But y’all wanna hand him the election on a silver platter. I’m talking to Harlan Hill, yes, but also the Sanders supporters out there who are enthusiastically tweeting #NeverHillary. You probably know these people. They’re largely middle-class white folks who somehow found themselves radicalised, often because they just so desperately wanted to be margainalised that they decided they were the true victims in this election and not, you know, the countless Black and trans voters disenfranchised throughout the American heartland. Their privilege gives them tunnel vision, and they are totally unable to recognise the real stakes of, say, the majority of Black and gay voters who have given Clinton a comfortable 2 million lead in the popular vote.

They say the election process isn’t fair. They were against superdelegates, but now they’re for them. They cared about Black Lives Matter until Black people went the other way. They talk about poor people, but when poor people vote for someone else, they say it’s cos they don’t know their own best interests. They are, frankly, condescending twats. And they need a fucking reality check.

Donald Trump is the most immediate threat to global stability and democracy. I jokingly tell my friends that if Trump is elected and I disappear to look for me in an internment camp in Utah. It’s only funny because it’s scary. This man doesn’t just vilify journalists, he throws them out of his rallies. He refuses to credential them. He threatens them. He berates them. He demeans them. Press freedom would be endangered under a Trump president. Yet y’all still say ‘meh.’

Susan Sarandon says Trump can bring the revolution. And maybe he can. But it’s easy to take a longshot gamble when you’re ensconced in class and white privilege. Some of us aren’t. Some of us are being gunned down by militarised police. Some of us are struggling to put food on the table. Some of us don’t even have heat in our homes. Some of us can’t even take a piss in North Carolina. Some of us can’t afford to gamble with our lives.

The #BernieBros and #SandersSisters are spoiled brats who confuse electoral defeat with disenfranchisement need a goddamn reality check. You are playing with fire, and you are playing with real people’s lives. Donald Trump says a man born in Indiana isn’t a real American because he’s of Mexican descent. He longs for the days we threw Black protestors in jail. He calls women pigs, objectifies his own daughter, and pays what few female staffers he has less than their male counterparts. He has promised to appoint anti-gay judges to the Supreme Court. He wants to ban Muslims from coming to the United States, further inflaming anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world. He promises to deport hardworking undocumented Americans to south of the border before he builds a fantasy wall that not even Bran the builder could fucking accomplish.

But please, tell me again how Trump is better than Clinton. Or how Clinton doesn’t deserve your vote because you want to “vote your conscience.” You don’t have a fucking conscience. You have entitlement. You have privilege. But you sure as hell don’t have a conscience. Because if you did, you would hold your nose and vote against fascism. I won’t pretend it’s the greatest alternative for you. But then, maybe this isn’t about you. Maybe it’s about the countless people who would suffer real and undue harm if Trump gets the Oval Office. Maybe, just maybe, this is bigger than you and your fucking feelz.

Sanders supporters refusing to back Hillary are like the highborn Westerosi waging war against one another while the White Walkers are animating the dead. There’s a pressing, existential threat but you’re too fucking worried about petty shit.

Look at the bloody bigger picture. Look at the sodding immediate threat.

Hillary Clinton has far more in common with Bernie Sanders than Donald Trump. Jill Stein is fabulous, but she has a snowball’s chance in hell of winning. The Libertarian Party wants to let businesses discriminate against gay people. And isolationism is not an option in an increasingly globalised world with international threats that countries must face together (looking at you, ISIS).

To again borrow from Game of Thrones, Sanderistas would see America burn if it meant Bernie could rule the ashes.

Get it together. Sort yourselves out. Are you really so goddamn selfish, so blatantly self-involved, that you can’t make a compromise for the greater good? Maybe you don’t think Hillary Clinton is the greater good. But do you honestly think Donald Trump is the greater good? Because that’s what you voting your conscience, or voting directly for Trump, or not voting at all, is going to give us. Look in your hearts. Do you only care about your pride, or a very narrow category of poor people (that is, white poor people)? Or do you honestly care about the future of this country? Maybe the political revolution doesn’t come in 2016. But it can come in 2020. Fuck, campaign for the Green Party against Hillary Clinton then. I won’t judge you. And I wouldn’t judge you in any other year.

But this is not any other year.

So get your heads out of your asses and get your shit together.

How I went from endorsing Jeremy Corbyn to voting for Hillary Clinton

Hillary_Clinton_April_2015

Image: Mike Davidson/Hillary for America

I love two countries. America, where I was born, and Britain, where I will die. I desperately want to see both succeed as fair, equitable, and socialist countries. There are people I love in both countries who are hurting. Cuts to benefits, the high cost of healthcare, and stagnant wages are all making life a living hell for the working classes.

When, in August of last year, I endorsed Jeremy Corbyn for the Labour leadership in a column for the Gay UK Magazine, I did so saying he had “all the electability and relevance of a Womble.” (Are you asking what a Womble is? Exactly.) Still, he was the best of an underwhelming lot, and the most anti-austerity of the bunch. So I tepidly threw support behind him.

I couldn’t imagine the overwhelming mandate that Jeremy would win. Nobody could. Registered supporters, sure. Unions, probably. But even Labour Party members voted overwhelmingly for him, something I—and no other pundit, so far as I know—predicted. Jeremy captured a zeitgeist that I felt well swept up in, myself: young urban socialists, disenchanted by Tory Austerity and Blairite “modernisation.” Many of us were young enough not to remember the bitter disputes of the 1980s, and those of us who weren’t largely fell into the camp that left (or was expelled, depending on whom you ask) by Neil Kinnock. We are angry, and we are right to be so.

But over the past few months, since Jeremy won the leadership race, I’ve seen Labour’s electoral chances nosedive. Labour is nine points down from the Tories in the latest YouGov poll. Jeremy, who we elected on an anti-austerity platform which, on the issues anyway, is largely supported by the British people, has utterly failed to turn the momentum of his campaign into any sort of tangible strategy. Instead of kitchen table issues, he’s focused on unilateral nuclear disarmament (something British voters don’t support), withdrawing from NATO (something else the British voters don’t support), and blundered on questions such as whether he’d shoot to kill a terrorist (I bloody well hope he would). No, not all of this is his fault—the media has been jarringly and unabashedly biased against him and miscreants from within the Parliamentary Labour Party, led by Simon Danczuk have been undermining his leadership since before he was elected. But the fact remains that as party leader, responsibility ultimately falls to Jeremy Corbyn, whose mismanagement thus far indicates he may be a leader in name only.

Two things have influenced my change of heart. One is this brilliant BBC documentary from the 1990s about the Labour Party in the 1980s. I’m a scholar of 1980s Britain, and I knew well how tumultuous the decade had been for the party. But hearing it from the people who lived it, speaking 20 years ago when power was within reach, and juxtaposing that to now when power is so far from us was eye-opening. We are repeating the past, and unless something changes, we will be damned in 2020 as we were in 1983.

Another is this blog by Jade Azim of the Young Fabians, widely circulated last November and succinctly titled “Sod It.” Jade, like a great many of us, was quite fed up with the Parliamentary Labour Party and, for that matter, the Twitter Labour Party, ripping into one another instead of the Tories. Unlike a great many of us, Jade had the guts to actually say something. It’s a poignant read about the disillusionment of a working class girl who became involved in politics to make changes that actually meant something. While champagne socialists natter on about Trident and defend Russia from any critique (looking at you, Seamus Milne), working class families like mine are worried about paying the rent, accessing our GP, and making sure our disability benefits—which we depend on to survive—aren’t cut by Iain Duncan Smith or a Republican-controlled Congress.

The gist of Jade’s blog can be summed up in one sentence: “give me a Blairite government over a Tory one any day. Call it ‘Red’ Tory, it’s still not bloody Tory.” Or, in other words, we have to work with the world as it is, not the world as we’d like it to be. The litmus test for politicians must be whether they deliver results, not whether they’re ideologically pure.

Which brings me to Iowa.

I can’t lie and say I haven’t long been a Hillary Clinton supporter. Those who know me know I campaigned for her in 2008. But my politics have shifted decidedly left since then, when I was still supporting the Conservative Party in the UK, and Bernie Sanders—like Jeremy Corbyn—has been a breath of fresh air. A solid candidate with democratic socialist (though not traditional socialist) credentials, he has struck a chord with the populist, left-wing contingent of the Democratic Party. Not since 2004 have I been this undecided this close to the Iowa caucuses, but with his proposals for a single-payer healthcare system (something I’ve long championed) and a return to Glass-Steagall in order to regulate Wall Street, I began to feel the Bern.

But then, Hillary Clinton said something in the last Democratic debate that struck a chord, and made me think of Jeremy Corbyn. She called herself a “pragmatic progressive,” something she’s driven home before. In a debate last year, she said “I’m a progressive, but I’m a progressive that likes to get things done.” She promises not what’s fantastic, but what’s feasible.

And on this, she has a point. Whether we like to admit it or not, the Republicans are likely to retain both houses of Congress this November. That means that whoever is elected president will have to work with Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and the conservative movement which has hijacked our democracy. This isn’t me being Chicken Little; it’s a fact. And as Clinton pointed out in the debate, President Obama couldn’t get a public/single-payer option through with the Affordable Care Act, and he had a majority in both houses. The fact is the American people, or at least their representatives, don’t have an appetite for it. I don’t like it any more than Bernie Sanders does, but alas, we have to work with what we’ve got.

I didn’t get into politics to debate abstract socialist orthodoxy. I got into it to help the people from whence I came, people like my friends back in Leslie County, Kentucky who are losing health insurance thanks to Governor Matt Bevan. I’d love a single-payer system in America, but it’s not going to happen. At least not now. We’re still fighting just to make sure everyone can access affordable, let alone free-at-the-point-of-access, healthcare. For my friends and family back home, Bernie Sanders talks a big game. But what about now? What can be done now? Fighting for a single-payer system sounds great until you’re dying of black lung and can’t afford your treatment. Taking principled stands on wealth redistribution are noble until a Republican president and his Republican-controlled congress cuts your Social Security Disability Insurance. Then what?

Hillary is far from perfect. She hasn’t always been great on LGBT rights, but then, neither has Bernie Sanders. And as I wrote for the Daily Dot, Hillary’s stance on the Black Lives Matter movement needs some serious work.  Clinton’s record on incarceration and her links to the for-profit-prison industry are deeply troubling, and Sanders has been likewise tone deaf at times. Neither candidate has done enough to embrace this cause.

But Clinton has proven her muster on a range of issues, from reproductive justice to gun control. Her foreign policy credentials are impeccable. Yes, she voted for the Iraq war and Bernie Sanders didn’t. But one vote thirteen years ago is just not enough to prove you’re ready to be commander-in-chief. (After all, Jeremy Corbyn voted against Iraq too yet wants to negotiate a new Falklands settlement with Argentina.) Hillary has shown a deep understanding of the threats facing our country, from Daesh (ISIS) to Russia to the situation in the Taiwan Strait. She has a deep understanding of the realities of geopolitics and a longstanding commitment to human rights throughout the world. Nobody can deny this. The Republicans are still trying to make a meal out of the bones of our lost heroes in Benghazi, but her performance at the Congressional hearings prove her ability to neutralise their bogus attacks.

My heart lies with Bernie. God, would I love a Sanders presidency. But if I have to choose between a progressive reality and a socialist dream, I’m going with the former. I followed my heart with endorsing Jeremy Corbyn, and the party is in shambles. Labour has four years to course-correct, though. The Democrats have nine months. We have a straightforward choice: ideology or electability, principle or pragmatism. In both cases, I choose the latter.

That’s why I’m voting for Hillary Clinton.