Elizabeth Warren May Be the Strongest Democratic Candidate

Democratic senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts speaks at a campaign event in Las Vegas, Nevada, April 27
Democratic senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts speaks at a campaign event in Las Vegas, Nevada, April 27 (Gage Skidmore)

If 2016 taught me anything, it is not to make predictions. I don’t know who is going to win the Democratic presidential nomination in the United States, so take what follows with a grain of salt — and remember that we’re still more than half a year out from the Iowa caucuses, which will kick off the official nominating process in February. A lot can (and almost certainly will) change.

Former vice president Joe Biden is currently ahead. He is first in the national polls and the early voting state polls. He is also first in the endorsement primary, which measures support from elected officials. For Democrats pining for a restoration of the Obama era, Biden is the obvious choice.

I would put California senator Kamala Harris in second place. She is second in the endorsement primary and shares second place in national polls with Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. She made a strong impression in the first debate, but she has flipflopped twice on whether or not she would abolish private health insurance. This is not a trivial issue. Her vagueness on what many Americans rank as the number-one problem in their lives is worrying.

Sanders is probably in third place, but I don’t think he has a lot of potential for growth. I’m biased, though. I don’t like Sanders’ style. Whenever he is pushed for detail, he argues that a “political revolution” will make his far-reaching policy proposals somehow feasible. I prefer plans over slogans.

If I had to bet right now, I would put my money on Warren. Read more

Don’t Blame Nancy Pelosi for Doing Her Job

House speaker Nancy Pelosi meets with NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg at the United States Capitol in Washington DC, April 3
House speaker Nancy Pelosi meets with NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg at the United States Capitol in Washington DC, April 3 (NATO)

The left-versus-center feud in the Democratic Party is spilling out into the open. House speaker Nancy Pelosi has urged progressive lawmakers not to tweet out their grievances. New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the most popular among them, has accused Pelosi of “singling out” newly elected women of color.

The immediate cause of the quarrel is a $4.6 billion border bill I praised here last week as a rare bipartisan compromise. Ocasio-Cortez was one of four Democrats who voted against it. With her were Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar, Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib and Massachusetts’ Ayanna Pressley.

Other Democrats weren’t happy with the deal either. It doesn’t go far enough to improve conditions in detention centers, but at least it makes money available to provide migrants and their children with basic sanitation and medication. Among the critics were Washington state’s Pramila Jayapal and Wisconsin’s Mark Pocan, co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Pocan even disparaged the bipartisan “Problem Solvers Caucus”, which is trying to find a solution to the border crisis that both parties can live with, as the “Child Abuse Caucus”.

But even they calculated that Democrats were unlikely to get anything better by Republicans, who still control the Senate and the presidency. Pelosi herself argued that the migrant children — who have suffered abdominal conditions at the hands of Donald Trump’s border enforcement agency — had to “come first” and Democrats should not let the perfect become the enemy of the good.

Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Tlaib and Pressley can disagree, but to suggest that their ethnicity played a role in Pelosi’s decisionmaking does a disservice to a woman who, in the last Congress, voted more left-wing than 80 percent of House Democrats. Read more

Democrats Are Closer to the Center Than Republicans

Street view in San Francisco, California, April 7, 2010
Street view in San Francisco, California, April 7, 2010 (Jerome Vial)

In a recent column, I argued Democrats in the United States have moved to the left but Republicans have moved farther to the right. The former, at least in their policies, are still more centrist than most center-left parties in Europe while the latter now have more in common with far-right populists than they do with Britain’s Conservative Party and Germany’s Christian Democrats.

Centrists (myself included) still worry that Democrats might become too left-wing for voters in the middle — who, the turnout fantasies of partisans on either side notwithstanding, tend to decide the outcome of national elections. Read more

Abolishing Private Health Insurance Is Bad Policy for Democrats

Democratic senator Kamala Harris of California listens to voters during a town hall meeting in Los Angeles, April 21, 2017
Democratic senator Kamala Harris of California listens to voters during a town hall meeting in Los Angeles, April 21, 2017 (Office of Senator Kamala Harris)

Four of the Democrats running for their party’s presidential nomination committed to replacing private health insurance with a government-run system in debates this week: Senators Kamala Harris of California, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts as well as Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York.

Harris later maintained she had misheard the question and supports Medicare-for-all with supplemental private insurance.

She, as well as Sanders and Warren, stand a real chance of becoming the nominee (de Blasio is a long shot), so it’s worth pointing out why abolishing private health insurance is such bad policy for Democrats. Read more

Democrats Don’t Have a Good Answer to the Mitch McConnell Question

Republican senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky attends a hearing in Washington DC, August 23, 2018
Republican senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky attends a hearing in Washington DC, August 23, 2018 (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Democrats don’t have a good answer to what Ezra Klein calls the “Mitch McConnell question”.

The Republican leader is likely to retain his majority, or at least a blocking minority, in the United States Senate next year. Then what will come of the Democrats’ plans?

In two debates on Wednesday and Thursday night, none of the party’s twenty presidential hopefuls had a good answer. Read more

Sanders Should Stop Undermining Trust in the Democratic Party

Vermont senator Bernie Sanders makes a speech in Brooklyn, New York, April 8, 2016
Vermont senator Bernie Sanders makes a speech in Brooklyn, New York, April 8, 2016 (Timothy Krause)

Bernie Sanders is at it again, alleging that the 2016 Democratic primary was “rigged” against him.

It wasn’t, and Sanders should stop saying so. At a time when Donald Trump is calling the legitimacy of academia, science, the news media, the FBI, NATO and other multilateral organizations into question, the last thing the left needs to do is undermine trust in more institutions. Read more

Don’t Be Too Hard on Politicians Who Change Their Mind

American vice president Joe Biden gives a speech on board the USS Freedom in Singapore, July 27, 2013
American vice president Joe Biden gives a speech on board the USS Freedom in Singapore, July 27, 2013 (USN/Karolina A. Oseguera)

Don’t be too hard on Joe Biden for changing his mind on federal funding for abortion.

The former American vice president, who is the top candidate for his Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, has a reasonable argument to make. He previously opposed federal funding for abortion except in cases of rape, incest and where the mother’s life was in the danger. “But circumstances have changed,” he told supporters on Thursday.

Republicans have been working overtime to restrict access to abortion in the states they control. The most egregious example is Alabama, which recently outlawed abortion after five or six weeks of pregnancy. Few women even realize they’re pregnant at that stage. Georgia, where Biden spoke, could see a similar law come into effect next year.

“I can’t justify leaving millions of women without access to the care they need,” Biden said. Read more