California’s presidential primary is just over two weeks away. I still haven’t decided which Democrat to vote for.
It’s not that I haven’t had time. The campaign started more than a year ago. Some two dozen candidates jumped into the race. I wanted someone capable of both campaigning and governing well, and by last summer had winnowed the possibilities to six: Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Jay Inslee, Elizabeth Warren, and Andrew Yang.
Of those, only Buttigieg and Warren remain in the running. I have doubts about both.
Although he’s incredibly bright and a strong campaigner, I’m not sure Buttigieg would govern well. My city of Berkeley is slightly larger than South Bend, Indiana, where Mayor Pete held his highest elective office. Our mayor, Jesse Arreguin, is thirty-something and ambitious, just like Buttigieg. I got to know Mayor Jesse when I worked at UC Berkeley, and I’m impressed by his growth on the job. But do I think his tenure as mayor has prepared him for the presidency? Puh-leeze.
I’ve grown skeptical of Warren’s ability to either campaign or govern well. She has failed to lure liberals from Bernie Sanders despite courting what More in Common calls the Progressive Activist wing of the party. And she has 73 detailed “plans,” i.e. policy statements, on her website, which to me suggests she’d scatter too widely the time, effort, resources, and political capital needed to push through the two or three major accomplishments realistically possible for modern presidents— especially if the other party controls the Senate.
So I’ve taken a fresh view of the field.
Which hasn’t helped.
For the moment I’m leaning toward Sanders. He’s a proven campaigner, but would he govern well? The optimist in me believes none of the Democratic candidates are as likely as Bernie to overcome our crippling political inertia; the pessimist believes that what the right calls The Swamp and the left calls The Washington Consensus will thwart his every move. But at least with him as president there’s a chance for significant, progressive change. The only other Democrat I see governing well — but without the boldness of vision — is Michael Bloomberg, who for better and worse ran New York City for 12 years.
I don’t have to return my mail-in ballot until election day (March 3), so I’ll wait to see which way Nevada and South Carolina go. I’m hoping those states reveal how the candidates impress voters underrepresented in Iowa and New Hampshire. I’m especially curious to see how African-Americans vote. The three critical states in the November election — Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin — have a lot of African-American residents, and their turnout for the Democratic nominee could determine the fate of the nation.
I’m still sorry Tammy Duckworth didn’t run. She’d have been perfect! Okay, probably not. Every candidate has weaknesses — which makes me hope all the more that Rachel Bitecofer is right and negative partisanship will be enough to defeat Trump, regardless of his opponent.