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Do the Democrats need God or Bruce Springsteen?

Do the Democrats need God or Bruce Springsteen?
Bruce Springsteen performs at a campaign event for then-Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama on Nov. 2, 2008, in Cleveland. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, April 6, 2019. Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.

One of the wonderful things about working in journalism in this era of the forever campaign (and the preceding forever primary) is that those of us who make a living writing opinions get to ruminate on the innumerable presidential hopefuls, determining what fatal shortcomings threaten this candidate or how much of disaster that candidate’s nomination would be, before anyone actually votes. Please, don’t hurt yourself trying to thank us for providing this service.

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Recently, the L.A. Times opinion section offered up not one but two takes on the Biggest Single Problem With the Candidates So Far. The first says not enough Democrats talk openly about their Christianity — I mean, faith — and the second warns that “Bruce Springsteen voters” don’t yet have a reason to vote against President Trump. First up is professor and Episcopal priest Randall Balmer’s prayer for a “redeemer” candidate:

Americans have every reason to look for a leader who can demonstrate that he or she has a moral compass. Donald Trump exemplifies the worst of both previous examples: a documented history of philandering, and lying at a rate that would make even Nixon blush — an average somewhere in the neighborhood of six a day, according to independent sources.

In searching for a Redeemer President, we should remember that religious affiliation is an imperfect proxy for morality; many atheists are paragons of virtue. But religion is typically the shorthand for judging someone’s moral and ethical fiber, so I’m astonished that so few of the many candidates running for the Democratic nomination have made their faith a calling card, thereby offering themselves as the redeemer option this time around.

Yes, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders make a right-versus-wrong argument for economic fairness. They are on the side of goodness, but do we have any indication that there is a personal moral core informing their policies other than their own humble origins?

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Then there are the white working-class voters we’ve been hearing about since Nov. 9, 2016. Eric Alterman worries that none of the Democratic candidates speak to these people, the “Bruce Springsteen voters”:

The candidates should start by thinking about Bruce. He is literally everything Donald Trump is not. He is self-made. He is honest. He is famously hard-working. He does not rip people off. And though he is rich, he understands and empathizes with those left behind by the global economy. This has been the primary theme of his art since 1978’s “Darkness on the Edge of Town.”

Springsteen has written more songs about the dignity of work than can be listed on this page, and the candidates might want to spend an afternoon listening to them. He’s written about the terror displaced workers feel when they see their children living in cars (“Seeds”). He’s written about the economic collapse of the New Jersey town where he grew up (“My Hometown”). And his fans trust and forgive him, even when they disagree with him. I was at Madison Square Garden once when the cops in front of me booed the opening of a song about a young man killed by police. (“41 Shots.”) But they cheered the next one.

More than 20 million working-class voters identify as neither Democrats nor Republicans. Democrats need to reach a majority of them if they are to win crucial states Clinton lost.

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Marie Kondo sparked something else besides joy — the author’s letters from her late father, and quite literally. Michelle Fiordaliso says she was at first encouraged when her hoarder mother started watching Kondo’s Netflix show about decluttering, but she was later heartbroken when Mom decided that Dad’s old love letters no longer sparked joy, prompting her to burn them. L.A. Times

There’s a “Jexodus” of Jews all right — from the Republican Party. The right-wing movement supposedly inspired by Trump’s open embrace of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu doesn’t seem to be winning over many Jewish voters to the Republican Party, writes Rob Eshman. “Ever since the GOP rolled over and became the Party of Trump, normally stalwart Republican Jews have made it clear they can no longer abide what their party has become,” Eshman writes. “The list includes Max Boot, Jennifer Rubin, Bill Kristol, David Frum, David Brooks and Bret Stephens.” L.A. Times

You’re reading a lot about slain rapper Nipsey Hussle’s devotion to South L.A.; now read about his affection for Eritrea. Hussle, who toured his father’s native Eritrea in 2018, touched lives both in the gang-plagued communities he served in Los Angeles and in the small East African nation: “For Eritrean fans around the globe, Nipsey Hussle was never just a musician. The scrappy street rapper, born in 1985 to an African American mother and Eritrean immigrant father, had long been a rare model of public acceptance to young people who trace their heritage back to the small East African country.” The Atlantic

Trump’s critics are wrong about the border crisis. So is Trump. The president rants about hordes of dangerous criminals invading the United States from Mexico, a fixation that Jonah Goldberg reminds us is based on falsehoods: “The immigrants swarming the border aren’t primarily Mexican anymore, but Central American. They aren’t single Mexican men looking for work … but families, with a dismayingly large number of children in tow. They’re bringing kids to take advantage of asylum laws. And because they are requesting asylum, they aren’t trying to sneak in, they’re seeking out border officials to file paperwork.” L.A. Times

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