I am a voter. That earns me an avalanche of email soliciting money and my opinion and more money from people I ordinarily esteem. I love you; but I have a little trouble with your sincerity — at least about the “wanting to know my opinion” part. You send me a bunch of talking points and ask which I agree with. You fools! I agree with all of them. And you know that. That’s how I landed on your list in the first place. And then you follow these heartfelt solicitations of my thoughts with a request for… money. Quel surprise!
So, since you’ve asked, let me unburden myself. Let me tell you what I don’t and do want to see in the Democratic candidate for president. Be warned: my prognostication skill is perfectly consistent which I feel is the same thing as consistently perfect. For example, I thought Mondale would win in a landslide and Weiner was a shoo-in for New York City Mayor.
- Forget “electability” as a metric. It’s unprovable, ephemeral and subject to the whims of shifting events. It says nothing about the character, skill set or record of the candidate. It says nothing about competence of the candidate’s staff or the enthusiasm and dedication of the candidate’s supporters. It’s really about what we think clumsily profiled voters will think, at some point in the future.
- Forget about figuring out which candidate can defeat President Trump. For one thing, this is a phony standard. We don’t even know if Trump will be the Republican candidate. I’m writing this while the Senate trial is going on. The so-called deliberative body might vote to remove or censure. Even if they don’t, more evidence that severely impairs Trump’s ability to run may emerge. Granted a “wishful thinking” aspect shaped the previous statements; but how would the Democratic candidate voted most likely to beat Trump fare against someone else, say, a Nikki Haley? Hmm. People like to think that they are voting for somebody who is for something — not against something.
- We need a candidate who embodies aspiration— a relatable, positive vision with as little policy shorthand jargon as possible. We are a nation of strivers. That’s how we got here. That guides where we are going. That guides our values. Don’t entangle us in the weeds of how many public options can dance on the head of a pin. Talk about the genuine goal — e.g. affordable, quality healthcare for all, pure and simple. Remember: A policy initiative becomes law only after going through the gauntlet of the House, the Senate, and the White House staff. First, it’s essential to get the public to agree upon and insist upon the basic goal.
- We need a candidate who projects stability — an atmosphere in which certain truths, values, expectations, and behavior are not only known but generally can be depended upon. This is the bedrock upon which we relate to each other — both officially and informally. Stability is not to be confused with status quo. The status quo describes conditions as they are — good, bad and/or indifferent. Defending the status quo is too often a defense of corruption. Opposing the status quo is too often an attack on decency.
- A key part of our campaign should be a “Trump Rap Sheet” — a trip through Trumpland from his earliest developer days to his current status as president. Telling voters “you chose the wrong guy in 2016” is not a winning argument. I like to say, "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me; fool me three times, hey you’re really good." When it comes to conning people, the subject of said rap sheet is really good. He consistently has betrayed those who put their trust in him. The trail of broken hearts includes cities that gave tax breaks; donors to his charities; contractors who’ve been stiffed after working on his “world-class” hotels and casinos; banks left holding the bag for bankrupt casinos; unemployed factory workers who were given the vision of a manufacturing renaissance; the swamp that should’ve been drained spreading like a wildfire. And, of course, the bitter lessons taught by Trump University. In each case, he secured the good will of people who trusted him and in turn betrayed it. His voters were not wrong for voting for him. He took their good will and betrayed it.
So, farewell to electability and polling reports of who can beat Trump. Hiya to the candidate who understands and can articulate aspiration and stability and can turn good ideas into the law of the land.
Where are we and, more importantly, where am I in all of this? I’m comfortable with just about all of the Democratic candidates; but I’m still in the exploratory stage. I’m like the ET who is trying to figure out these strange creatures.
Take me to your leader!