An Endorsement, Of Sorts...
Updated: May 22, 2020
The South Carolina Democratic Primary is Saturday. The dean of the SC Democratic Party, Congressman Jim Clyburn, has announced his endorsement. I have an opinion too. I guess it's time to share it.
This entire presidential campaign season I’ve been irritated by the narrative that certain candidates are” more electable” than others. That argument seeks to prejudge and preempt a process whose sole purpose is to actually answer that question.
The "who's electable" argument is like in August deciding you're not going to pay attention to the upcoming college basketball season because pundits have proclaimed that Duke or Kentucky is going to win the national championship. Sure, we’re free to have an opinion, but for a national narrative to take root to that effect is nonsensical and undemocratic.
For Democrats nationally, buying into the Biden “most electable” claim might even have harmful consequences. In a campaign where the perception of momentum has real power, Biden has certainly lost much of his. If he doesn't show well in SC, it likely will cast the following Super Tuesday into considerable uncertainty. We all know, America loves a front runner. All those who believed that Biden was “most electable” will have to quickly reassess.
I have all along disagreed with the notion of Biden’s imminent coronation. I have been unclear about what he stands for and his vision for America. It seems that his greatest claim to the presidency is that he has a famous black friend! We all should remember, Biden was chosen as Obama’s VP NOT because he is like Obama - but because he is patently unlike him! To Obama’s fresh perspectives, Biden was the ultimate Washington lifer. To Obama’s youth, Biden was older. To Obama’s progressive stance, Biden was more conservative. Biden represented a strong counterbalance to help “mainstream America” feel more comfortable with Obama. He played an important role, but is that what the country needs now?
There’s no question that this presidential contest is more important than most. I was moved by Clyburn’s framing of the stakes; that he fears for the republic in ways that he never has before. That makes it even more important that Democrats select someone who can best lead the party in November. What better way to determine that than to let the process play out and see who comes out victorious?
It is absolutely critical that, in November, Democrats - more enthusiastically than they ever have - rally around the nominee of the party. I simply believe that the process - the entire campaign season - is the most effective way to produce who that should be.
To that end, I have quick thoughts on the major candidates still standing:
Biden - he’s never been a good presidential candidate. Not sure that he’s improved on his past performances this time. I pay attention more than most and still don’t know what he stands for. For the longest, it seems his team wanted him not to say much so as not to potentially say something that would weaken his lead. Now that it matters - and that lead has disappeared - there’s just not much depth or dimension to him. Moreover, despite his protestations to the contrary, his support of civil rights and African American interests has been spotty (e.g. 1994 Crime Bill). To be sure, if Biden gets the nomination it will be because of SC black democrats. He needs to find some commensurate way to pay off that support!
Sanders - I think his heart is in the right place with respect to his commitment to help the poor and to right the extraordinary economic imbalances that exist in our country. I just think Bernie is more allegiant to his ideology than to the practical demands of actually creating real progress and change. Case in point, for Bernie to zealously cling to the title of “socialist” - without regard to whatever adjective you put in front of it - seems foolhardy and politically immature. Believe what you believe Bernie, but understand how this country is built and work within it to create the change you seek.
Warren - there are a number of candidates who - to me - would make really strong nominees. Warren is one of them. She deserves a place on the national political stage.
Buttigieg - good guy. Politically precocious. It's just not his time. Thankfully, it would seem he has lots of other opportunities to serve and to therefor burnish his resume. He should be around for a long time!
Steyer - the ‘benevolent billionaire’. Along with Yang, Tom is a far better example of what a business person in politics can and should be. He has issues/causes he believes deeply in, is willing to fight for, and is willing to invest in. I think he is quickly earning a place at the proverbial political table.
Bloomberg - ‘Trump with home training’. Looking at the caustic environment for women he created in his company, at Stop & Frisk, and the things he has said about people of color over the years - I’m not sure what else to say.
Klobuchar - strong. She’s been a workhorse in the senate and has earned a right to be on the national stage. She could either be a strong VP candidate or serve credibly and powerfully somewhere in a Democratic cabinet. I’m glad she seems to have lots of time to make another run(s) at this. The enhanced awareness that she would be able to leverage in a second presidential campaign could be the inertia she needs to get the nomination.
All of that said, my endorsement is the result of long thought and consideration. I’ve ruminated over what is best for the country. What is best for the party? What is even best for African Americans. Even who can best beat Trump. Here’s where I landed.
Believe it or not, I endorse US: the Democrats of South Carolina, and throughout the country. I endorse us to vote our conscience; to choose whomever - in our hearts and heads - we think best resonates with our sensibilities, needs, and interests for the country.
Now is the time for Democrats to vote for absolutely whomever they would like to see as the Democratic nominee. Because of the long, national process, the “best” candidate will have no choice but to rise to the top.
To suggest that anyone who could do that, who would receive the preponderant support of Democrats nationally, could somehow actually be “dangerous” is probably one of the more laughable and undemocratic notions I’ve heard! Either we're a nation of, by, and for the people - or we’re not.
Don’t listen to what pundits say about who you should vote for. Don’t fall prey to fears about who is “dangerous” or who “can’t win”. (There are perspectives all around. Heck, I think it’s dangerous to simply vote for a moderate for fear that a more progressive candidate will inflame the rest of the electorate. In a country that has been dragged to the right since Reagan, we must not fear a little correction back to the left every now and then!)
Look within yourself and see who most clearly and powerfully speaks to you. And then vote for them.
Be mindful that our civic obligation has two steps though. We vote in the primary for whomever moves us now and then we all - enthusiastically - rally behind whomever the party nominee is. Trumps's base - and all who watch Fox News - will never vote for a Democrat. Who will win the presidency will depend on how many democrats go to the polls. It's whether we can actually energize and engage with our voters to vote.
So, I endorse us - to choose the best candidate - for us!