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Tone Deaf Potential Democratic Presidential Candidates


A big part of the reason why I am so high on Kirsten Gillibrand for the Democratic nomination in 2020 is that I think she is very good at politics. She realized so quickly that the way to the nomination was being a full-stop opponent of every Trump nominee, even before Warren and Sanders figured this out. Remember, early in the Trump administration, even stalwart liberals such as Sheldon Whitehouse were voting for Mike Pompeo, which ended quickly after Rhode Island activists descended on one of his functions. This political acumen is really important. And it’s an unusual skill. Most candidates have major flaws. Bernie Sanders struggles to speak fluently on racial issues. Warren is not a natural politician, although otherwise has few weaknesses. Booker struggles to understand that cozying up to Wall Street is not a good thing. Hillary was Hillary, with all her long-known weaknesses both real and created by the media. Obama was of course the flawless candidate of our time and that’s a high bar, even if he believed his own rhetoric about bringing the nation together for way too long after he faced historic opposition from extremist Republicans.

But the occasional tone deafness of potential presidential candidates was on display yesterday. First, Kamala Harris:

Harris cannot get off this framing. I understand the centrality of work to American culture and politics, much more than Universal Basic Income advocates who upon being challenged almost immediately fall back to an argument of “we need to break the American culture of work.” That’s la-la land politics. That’s why I argue for a federal jobs guarantee. This is the perfect place for Harris to do the same. “Every American who works a full-time job is worthy of a dignified life and I will provide a full-time job to every American who wants one and subsidies to those who can’t work” is a perfectly good position to take. But simply hand-waving away those who don’t have full-time work (or subtlety blaming them for it) makes no sense and won’t play in the Democratic primaries.

And then there is Eric Holder. I was a little surprised to hear that Holder is considering a presidential run. I guess I would consider him, despite him being in some unsavory law enforcement stuff in his career. It would be nice if we could have a candidate never involved in law enforcement, who never worked with a corporation, who was never unfortunate enough to have run for office and won in a conservative district, as the purity parts of the left demands, but that’s not the real world. So I would have to consider Holder on his merits, which do exist. And this is a relatively minor transgression, something that bothers me more than the average voter. However:

Look, I love FDR as much as anyone. But I’m not sure the smart move when slamming Republicans for separating children from their parents as part of their program of ethnic cleansing is citing the man who placed Japanese-Americans in concentration camps. Again, not a mortal sin. But you’d like to see a bit smarter politics here.

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