I support Elizabeth Warren for President. Even with my support, I do think there are legitimate criticisms one can make against Warren, just as I think there are legitimate criticisms one can make about any candidate. I’ve read that some people are waiting for the perfect candidate to come before they support someone. I don’t think a perfect candidate exists. Every political candidate will have their strengths and weaknesses. Each voter has to evaluate what qualities they want in a candidate and whether the candidates can surround themselves with advisers that can compensate for their weaknesses.
We all have ideological considerations and personal experiences that influence who we decide to support. There are good reasons other people support Biden, Sanders, Harris, Buttigieg, Klobucher and other candidates. Here are my thoughts on the strengths and weaknesses of some of the candidates.
Strengths- I think Warren has the most detailed and thought out policy proposals of all the candidates. As a liberal, I like how resolutely liberal Warren’s policies are, and I like how Warren can defend her policies and explain the logic behind her policies. Both Warren and Sanders are focused on tackling the economic inequality that I believe are the root of most of the problems this country faces. Warren has strategies on how to overcome the potential obstructionist tactics of Mitch McConnell and the Freedom Caucus. Warren is tough and articulate.
Weaknesses- So far, Warren’s base of support seems to be suburban white liberals and she has yet to garner a lot of support of working class white and minority voters. My biggest worry is whether she can defend herself from Trump’s personal attacks. I thought Warren did a terrible job of defending herself from the “Pocohantas” label that Trump put on her. I think she made the same mistakes that Marco Rubio (“Little Marco”), Ted Cruz (“Lying Ted”) and Hillary Clinton (“Crooked Hillary”) made in 2016. She’ll need to do a better job if she becomes the Democratic nominee.
Strengths- I am forever grateful to Bernie for his decades of speaking out for progressive issues. These past few decades, the political center of this country has moved way too far to the Right. Someone who would’ve been considered a moderate Republican in the 1970s would be considered a liberal Democrat in today’s political climate. As the political center has moved increasingly to the Right, conservatives have defined the terms of debate on most of the political issues in this country. During Bernie’s run for the Presidency in 2016, Sanders has been able to shift the political center Leftward again. That is a very important accomplishment.
Weaknesses- I see two weaknesses. Though Sanders is able to attract a broad amount of working class white voters, he has thus far been unable to attract a significant portion of minority voters. The second weakness has to do with his legislative skills. In order to pass his ambitious plans, Sanders is going to need the political skills of a Franklin Roosevelt or a Lyndon Johnson to get his ideas through Congress. Does Sanders have those political skills? Sanders has been in Congress since the 1990s. When you compare Sanders’ legislative record with other great progressives of that same period, like Ted Kennedy, Barbara Boxer, Paul Wellstone, Maxine Waters, and others, Sanders’ legislative accomplishments seem meager in comparison. This is one area where I think a Biden or a Klobucher is stronger than Sanders.
Strengths- Unlike some progressives, I like Biden. He’s a warm extroverted personality who can connect with people. He was a good Senator who developed relations with both Democrats and Republicans, knows how to build coalitions to get legislation passed. He is one of the few candidates so far who can attract both working class white and minority voters. In this time of great racial divisions, Biden’s ability to build multiracial support is very important. And Biden is deeply knowledgeable about policy, and especially foreign policy.
Weaknesses- For a major politician, Biden is surprisingly weak as a communicator. During the 3 debates I’ve seen, Biden has really struggled to articulate his points and to defend himself from legitimate critiques to his record. Biden has a history of putting his foot in his mouth, and I have a gut feeling that Biden is so worried about saying an inappropriate thing that he is overthinking when he speaks and winds up saying the wrong thing anyways. Dan Quayle had the same problem. Biden is an intelligent and deeply knowledgeable person, but that’s not coming across. If Biden can’t defend himself against a Kamala Harris or the other Democrats, how is he going to defend himself against Donald Trump? Progressives rightly question Biden’s record on the crime bill that he championed in the 1990s that led to the mass incarceration of a generation of African American and Latino men.
Strengths- When I’ve watched Kamala Harris question people at Senate hearings, she shows a deep intelligence and a no-nonsense approach that one wants to see in a President. I thought her performance in the first debate was great. She took control of the stage, and showed a fierce intelligence that outshined all the other candidates that night. Though her policy proposals aren’t as ambitious as Warren’s or Sanders’, they are well thought out and tackle the problems of middle class and poor Americans in innovative ways. She has many of the same strengths as Amy Klobucher and Cory Booker.
Weaknesses- After the first debate, the confident Harris seems to have disappeared. I don’t know what happened. When Tulsi Gabbard went after her in the second debate, Harris seemed taken by surprise and was hesitant in her answers. Harris should’ve known that the other candidates would go after her after she did so well in the first debate, and I was surprised at how unprepared Harris was. There are legitimate questions being raised about Harris’s record as attorney general of California.
Strengths- I think Buttigieg is the most well-spoken and articulate candidate in the Democratic field. When he gives an answer in the debates, they are always well-thought out and insightful. Buttigieg has a way of connecting with an audience and empathizing with their struggles that is rare among politicians. His policies are well thought, though not as ambitious as Warren or Sanders.
Weaknesses- I like Buttigieg, but I really wish he had more experience in national politics. Considering the hyper-partisanship and the obstructionism of Mitch McConnell and the Freedom Caucus of the past decade, I worry that Buttigieg is going to make the same mistakes that Obama made in the first few years of his presidency. In some ways, Buttigieg is the inverse of Biden: Biden is a deeply experience legislator who has a difficult time communicating to the wider public; Buttigieg is very articulate, but has almost no experience in national affairs.
Strengths- Along with Buttigieg, Booker is one of the most articulate candidates in the Democratic field. He has more experience than Butttigieg, so he has a more realistic view on how difficult it will be to pass his policy proposals. Booker has some innovative ideas on how to tackle economic inequality, especially his baby bond proposals. And Booker knows how to convey his ideas in personal terms that can connect with his audience.
Weaknesses- I’m not sure why, but Booker doesn’t seem to be attracting a lot of support or attention. There are legitimate questions about Booker’s time as mayor. When Booker speaks in the debates, he comes across as being very likable. But he disappears a lot in the debates. And he doesn’t seem to inspire as much passion as the followers of Sanders, Warren or Buttigieg.
Strengths- Amy Klobucher is a deeply experienced legislator who has been able to working with Republicans to pass over 100 bills in a deeply partisan time. When I watch her question individuals at Senate hearings, Klobucher shows the same fierce intelligence as Kamala Harris. And she really did a great job in the third debate, standing out after her passive performances in the first two debates. She has followed Warren in coming out with several detailed policy proposals that are less ambitious than Warren’s but are none-the-less serious efforts to attack economic inequality.
Weaknesses- Until she did so well in the third debate, Klobucher seemed rather bland. She needs to do a better job of articulating her policy proposals so they can offer a sharper contrast to Warren’s or Sanders’. Both she, Booker and Harris have a similar problem in that the intensity that they’ve shown in Senate hearings hasn’t really been seen in the campaign trails and in the debates. I think that is why they haven’t been able to attract the same passions that Warren, Sanders and Buttigieg have attracted.
These are just my observations so far and they’re liable to change as the political season goes on. It’s good to support a candidate. But even when you support a politician, you should be able to criticize that politician when you disagree with that person. One thing that I think Democrats should be careful of is not to fall into that cult of personality trap that many Republicans have fallen into with Trump. In 2016, I got into a few clashes with some Sanders supporters even though I told them that I liked Sanders and had nothing against him. If I thought the Democrats would’ve had a chance to win majorities in Congress, I might’ve supported Sanders over Hillary.
Support politicians when you agree with them and oppose them when you disagree. No politician deserves 100% loyalty. Don’t trust any political leader who demands 100% loyalty from you.