Just found out that Biden won the South Carolina primary with 48% of the vote. I say good for Biden. Biden has spent decades winning the trust of the African American community and he deserves the win. He’s not my favorite candidate, but I like him. I don’t have the antipathy towards Biden that many progressives seem to have against him. I thought he was a good Vice President and Senator. During this primary season, though, he hasn’t really been that impressive in the debates and he doesn’t really inspire that much passion on the campaign trail (at least not for me).
Among the moderates, I much prefer Klobucher. But she doesn’t seem to be getting much traction other than in New Hampshire. I’ll see how she does next week in Minnesota.
I also finally got a chance to finish watching this week’s Democratic debate in South Carolina. I read how many people didn’t like how chaotic and out of control this weeks debate was. But I actually think its a good test for each Democratic candidate to see whether they stay cool in the face of attacks or become flustered. In 2016, I saw how Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz became flustered and didn’t effectively counter Donald Trump’s personal insults and the chaos he caused on the debate stage. This allowed Trump to dominate the 2016 Republican debates. It’s important to know if the Democratic candidates can better handle the same sort of chaos and attacks that sidelined Rubio, Cruz and Bush.
I still think Elizabeth Warren is the best of the Democratic field. As a liberal, I like both Warren and Sanders. But I support Warren for two important reasons. The first is that Warren’s political philosophy comes a lot closer to my own political philosophy than Sanders does. Like Warren, I am a liberal Democrat and not a Democratic Socialist. Liberal Democrats and Democratic Socialists have a similar critique of the capitalist system. Liberal Democrats, though, want to reform capitalism. Democratic Socialists want to replace capitalism.
The second important reason that I support Warren over Sanders is that I think Warren has a better grasp of the legislative difficulties in getting an ambitious progressive passed a Congress with Mitch McConnell and the Freedom Caucus. In order to get ambitious progressive plans that Warren and Sanders are proposing passed Congress, a President will need to have a skilled political strategic mind like Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. Warren showed her political mettle in creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau during the Obama administration and she has shown a willingness to compromise to get important legislation passed.
Bernie Sanders has been Congress since the 1990s. When you compare Sanders’ legislative record to other progressive legislators of the same time period like Ted Kennedy, Paul Wellstone, Barbara Boxer, John Lewis and the like, all of those progressive legislators have had more substantial legislation passed than Sanders. During the period that Sanders was in Congress, Ted Kennedy collaborated with Orrin Hatch to pass The Orphan Drug Act, The State Children’s Health Insurance Program, The Mammography Standards, The Health Centers Renewal Act of 2007, The FDAMA – FDA Modernization Act of 1997 and the 2009 Serve America Act. Liberal Democrat Paul Wellstone and conservative Republican Pete Domenici collaborated on the 1996 The Mental Health Parity Act. The one big legislative bill passed by Sanders was his collaboration with John McCain on a 2014 veterans bill that would expand hospitals and clinics run by the Department of Veterans Affairs and to hire more doctors and nurses to provide timely, quality care for veterans.
I support Elizabeth Warren, but I acknowledge that she has both strengths and weaknesses. It seems like Democrats are agonizing looking for a perfect candidate. A perfect candidate does not exist. All politicians are human, and they all will have their strengths and flaws. Does this candidate have the capacity to grow and to learn from their mistakes? Does this candidate have the self awareness and the self confidence to surround themselves with able advisors who can compensate for their weaknesses?
Three of my biggest political heroes, Abraham Lincoln, Robert F. Kennedy and Malcolm X, had that capacity to grow and to learn. Abraham Lincoln was always against slavery. But before the Civil War, Lincoln held racist views about the inferiority of African Americans. During the Civil War, though, Lincoln’s views on race began to change, as he met intelligent black leaders like Frederick Douglass and he saw the bravery of black Union soldiers in battle. By the end of the Civil War, Lincoln was a much more passionate supporter of the rights of African Americans than he was in the start of the war.
Robert F. Kennedy in the 1950s was a supporter of Joe McCarthy and he often crossed ethical lines in his pursuit of Hoffa and corrupt union officials. During that period, Kennedy didn’t give much thought to black civil rights or the rights of marginalized minority groups. After his brother was assassinated though, Kennedy began a transformation where he became more aware of the plight of poor blacks. migrant Mexican and Filipino farm workers, Native Americans and poor whites. By his 1968 presidential campaign, Robert Kennedy was one of the strongest fighters for the poor and for minority groups.
During the 1950s and early 1960s, Malcolm X held anti-white racist views and was very critical of Martin Luther King’s nonviolent tactics and King’s efforts to build a multi-racial coalition to fight for civil rights. After he had a falling out with the Black Muslims and he went to a pilgrimage to Mecca where he experienced for the first time encounters with white people who did not have any prejudice against black people, he apologized for his earlier anti-white statements. Malcolm X was still critical of King’s nonviolent strategies, but he agreed with the need for a multi-racial coalition and both men found common ground in seeing the fight for racial justice and the fight for economic justice as being intertwined.
As the primaries become more heated, the candidates will be pointing to the other candidates past for shortcomings and failures. My criteria is this: did the candidates learn from those mistakes? Did the candidate try to make amends for advocating policies that hurt certain communities by fighting for legislation to help those communities? Is their political change-of-heart a matter of expediency to get votes for the current electoral cycle or have they shown a true change-of-heart by years of consistent advocacy for that cause?
If a candidate has a true change-of-heart and if they made efforts to make amends for their mistakes, I’m not going to condemn them for past mistakes that they made.