The word has popped up in every dinner conversation I’ve had the last few months: Electability.
Pundits pore over voting patterns and revisit previous presidential contests looking for signs and portents about what we can expect in 2020.
I say, electability, shmectability.
The only way to judge electability is after an election, not before.
Did it occur to anyone, really, that a buffoonish reality television star would win the 2016 presidential election over an experienced politician who had been a United States senator, secretary of State and first lady?
Not even Donald Trump thought he was electable.
At the beginning of the 2008 contest, did anyone really believe that an obscure African American senator with an Arabic middle name would become president of the United States? And win a second term?
Democrats need to stop talking about electability and focus on ideas, aspirations and principles. Also, sorry to say, personalities. As in, who do you want to see on your TV screen for the next four to eight years?
Here’s how the candidates are shaping up for me:
Kamala Harris is smart but unsteady. I love that Beto O’Rourke wants to take your AR-15, but he is not ready for prime time. Amy Klobuchar is too cautious. Andrew Yang’s candidacy is a gimmick. Pete Buttigieg is cerebral but unseasoned. Cory Booker tries too hard. Julian Castro does not inspire me. I love the passion of Bernie Sanders, but I do not want to be yelled at for four, or eight, years. Joe Biden is, I am afraid, past his use-by date. God love him, as the pseudo-folksy former vice president might say, but I am ready to move on.
Which brings me to Elizabeth Warren.
Thursday night, I watched the candidates very carefully at their debate in Houston.
I am drawn to Warren’s sincerity, experience and unwavering commitment to her principles. She’s not slick, she’s not mean.
For most of her career, the Harvard professor-turned-U.S. senator has been an unalloyed champion of working- and middle-class Americans. She pushed for the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2010, which has since been gutted by President Trump.
When President Obama and his administration were saving “too big to fail” banks during the financial crisis, Warren was urging them to give relief, instead, to the millions of Americans who were losing their jobs and their homes.
This week, Politico ran a long story about her sometimes-rocky relationship with Obama and his Treasury secretary Timothy Geithner and White House National Economic Council Director Lawrence H. Summers. She regarded Geithner and Summers, wrote Politico, “as predisposed toward big banks over families struggling to save their homes.” (Because they were.)
“America works great for the wealthy and the well-connected — that was demonstrated big time during the financial crisis.... Donald Trump stepped into that and said, ‘If your life isn’t working great, blame them.’ His version of ‘them’ is anyone who doesn’t look like you.”
The people she champions are the very voters – in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – who helped Trump win, and whom the Democrats will need in November 2020.
During the debate, I was especially persuaded by her discussion of our broken healthcare system. We all agree it’s a mess.
No one should go broke paying for cancer treatment. No one’s teeth should rot in their head because they can’t afford to see a dentist.
America is addicted to youth, to youthfulness. Yet almost everyone looks forward to turning 65.
After 18 (right to vote) or 21 (right to buy alcohol), it’s one of the only meaningful birthdays to celebrate. Why? Because that’s when you age into Medicare, our government-run healthcare system.
Warren, like Sanders, advocates abolishing the private insurance industry and replacing it with Medicare for all.
Several other Democrats are advocating a slower approach to healthcare reform: Give the people a public option, but let them keep their private insurance if they like it.
But, as Warren pointed out, “I’ve actually never met anybody who likes their health insurance company. I’ve met people who like their doctors. I’ve met people who like their nurses. I’ve met people who like their pharmacists. I’ve met people who like their physical therapists. What they want is access to healthcare.”
Later, she added: “Insurance companies last year sucked $23 billion in profits out of the system. How did they make that money? Every one of those $23 billion was made by an insurance company saying no to your healthcare coverage.”
All those Republicans working people up about the evils of socialism?
Well, Medicare is what American socialism looks like.
Viva Medicare. Viva Social Security.
And Viva Elizabeth Warren.