Pondering My Democratic Primary Ballot (!)

democratic presidential primary

I have a Democratic primary ballot in front of me. I’m not a Democrat, and I’ve never voted in a Democratic primary before. But the Democrats want me to vote in their presidential primary, so I will. Utah is a Super Tuesday state this year, and that’s tomorrow.

I Have a What?

Four years ago I’d have told you I was a lifelong Republican. Then I left the party — only partly because it nominated Donald Trump. A one-party system, which Utah essentially has, tends toward the toxic and tyrannical, whether it’s the Utah GOP or the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Now I’m Unaffilliated (because Independent is a party in Utah). I happen to think closed primaries are quite reasonable, but Utah Democratic primaries are open, so when my county clerk offered to send me a ballot, I checked the box and said okay.

(There was another box to check which would have reregistered me as a Republican and won me a Republican ballot, but I haven’t missed the GOP in four years, so … no.)

The Dropouts

By my reckoning five candidates remain. The following names on my ballot are not among them:

  • Michael Bennet
  • Nathan Bloxham
  • Cory Booker
  • Pete Buttigieg
  • Julian Castro
  • Roque de la Fuente (also on the Republican ballot)
  • Amy Klobuchar
  • Deval Patrick
  • Tom Steyer
  • Marianne Williamson
  • Andrew Yang

I was surprised to see Mayor Pete drop out yesterday, instead of sticking it out two more days, through Super Tuesday. It’s an uncommonly early exit for an Iowa caucus winner. However, he finished poorly in South Carolina, and his polls don’t look good in key states and demographics. I’m sure he was under tremendous pressure — perhaps more carrot than stick, perhaps not — to withdraw before Super Tuesday, to minimize further splitting of the non-Bernie vote.

He’s a possible vice presidential nominee. Maybe that was the carrot, or maybe he traded Super Tuesday this year for a first round draft choice in 2024, 2028, or 2032. He has time; he’s 33-40 years younger than four of the remaining five. That said, a lot of the Super Tuesday ballots were already in, I’m sure, between mail-in ballots and early voting. Mine almost was. A lot of them — not mine — would already be marked for Mayor Pete. He’s refreshingly articulate and moderate in his temperament — also a welcome respite — but he’s not moderate in his politics, except compared to Bernie.

Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, and Amy Klobuchar (who dropped out while I was polishing this post at lunch) tried to do a Biden 1988 thing — running for president in a widely televised Judiciary Committee hearing on the nomination of a US Supreme Court justice. None was very good at it in the hearing, and none made a compelling candidate when actual voters headed to the polls.

Reportedly, Senator Klobuchar will endorse Joe Biden tonight at a Texas event, which makes it even more obvious that there is a concerted pre-Super Tuesday effort to unsplit the non-Bernie vote. Do you suppose it’s Barack Obama himself who’s making the calls?

I have thoughts on some of the other also-rans, but … meh. Life is too short.

Bloomberg, Biden, Sanders, Warren, Gabbard

My heading lists the remaining candidates in the order in which they appear on my Democratic Official Presidential Primary Ballot. I thought I’d give alphabetical order a rest.

Therefore …

Michael R. Bloomberg

Michael Bloomberg

The “R” isn’t for Republican, but it used to be. This is one of his considerable handicaps in a Democrat primary, but it’s probably less important than most of the others I’m about to list.

There’s the farmer problem. He’s now the poster child for coastal elite snobbery and condescension toward the people who feed us all. In this he’s eclipsed the “deplorables” champion herself, the previous nominee — and she beat out President Obama’s effete disdain for flyover country, with its guns, religion, and alleged bigotries.

I am by no means a farmer; I did years of farm work in my teens, which convinced me that I didn’t want to be one. However, some of the farmers I have known are among the smartest, best educated people I have ever met, besides being among the most decent. Most of the rest are hard-working, which has a moral character all its own. And clearly Mike Bloomberg has never met the ag students, including grad students, I met while attending Cornell University, the only Ivy League school with an agriculture college.

While you’re here, think about this farmer problem one step further, and perhaps you’ll see why, for me, Mike Bloomberg is also the new poster child for keeping the Electoral College.

There’s the woman problem, a clear pattern of sexism, if not sexual harassment. He appears to be in President Trump’s league in this respect, or worse. And so far he’s not getting the pass on these matters he could expect in a general election, as a Democrat.

There’s the stop-and-frisk problem. He apparently accelerated the tactic as mayor of New York City; that’s a problem for the Left. He allows the discussion to misrepresent it — it’s really stop, question, and frisk only if there’s reasonable suspicion after questioning, but that has never sounded inflammatory enough for the Big Media Acronyms and his Democrat rivals. Rather than explaining that and holding his ground, he has renounced his own policy, even though stop-frisk-and-question worked, and thousands of nonwhite New Yorkers are alive today because of it. So … too much political calculation, too little spine.

There’s the one percent problem. He’s part of the one percent of the one percent — which discredits him with some of the party’s leftists.

There’s the private sector problem. As he said in his first debate (which otherwise didn’t go well, so there’s also the fumbled debate problem), he’s the only Democrat on the stage to ever start a business — or work for a business. In the real world, that’s a plus. In the Democratic Party of 2020, it’s not.

There’s the governed in the real world problem. As a former major city mayor, he has actually run things. Again, in the real world that’s a plus. There’s a reason Senators flail as presidential candidates — and then as presidents, when (rarely) elected. They lack solid executive experience and perspective, and it shows. In the political world, at both partisan extremes, real-world governing is a major handicap, because keeping things running involves doing things from day to day which offend the ideologically poisoned, who don’t have to run things.

Which brings us to the Big Gulp problem (remember that?), which is trivial in itself but signals a tendency to be unreasonable, autocratic, and publicly mocked.

Last but not least, there’s the I look like I’m trying to buy the nomination problem. It’s pretty obvious that he’s trying exactly that. Between him and former candidate Tom Steyer, there’s a small economic stimulus package in their spending. (Steyer spent over $3,000 of his own money for each vote he received, about $250 million in all, and won zero delegates. Bloomberg has said he’ll spend $2 billion, and he’s spent more than 20 percent of that already.)

It remains to be seen whether a billion or two dollars’ worth of well-crafted advertising can overcome all this. Maybe it can, this year. Maybe the Democrats want to put up their own Trump against the GOP’s actual Trump.

If we ordered the list of remaining candidates by executive competence, Bloomberg would be in the top two, at least. But he doesn’t get my Super Tuesday vote.

Joseph R. Biden

Joe Biden

Joe Biden is a weak presidential candidate and has been since the first time he ran, in 1988. I saw too much of him in 1987, when I was working at the Senate, to be enticed by any candidacy of his. Now there’s a pretty good chance that history will eventually remember him as the head of the Biden crime family — but back then I didn’t know that. I only saw an ambitious intellectual lightweight with a clear preference for political convenience and conspicuous injustice over truth. Nothing I’ve seen in the past 32 years has inspired me to change my mind.

Now, I’m sorry to say, his age is showing. At this point I wonder if he’s in the race for anything more than the unofficial partial immunity his candidacy confers on him against possible corruption charges, and to give the very weak recent impeachment effort a tiny fraction of residual credibility, because it was based on his candidacy.

There’s always vanity, I suppose. It’s hard to find a presidential candidate of any stripe who lacks a superabundance of that.

As to his politics, he’s supposedly a moderate, but he’s not a reliable one. He’s too malleable to be reliable, and he’ll probably get more so, if elected.

I’ve never voted for him, and I won’t be starting today.

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders

When there’s a serious question whether a man is a full-blown communist or merely a hard-core socialist — the difference is mostly in labeling — it’s hard to imagine even the addled 2020 electorate sending him to the Oval Office. That’s why the Democratic establishment is so anxious to undermine him, by hook or by crook (and simply by pushing out other candidates who are dividing the non-Bernie vote).

I have a fairly good awareness of 19th and 20th century world history, including the socialist/communist/national socialist (Nazi) bloodbaths of the latter century, so I can’t vote for Bernie.

I am mildly amused by an argument I’ve heard among friends and in the media lately: It’s okay to elect a radical like Bernie. The Constitution’s checks and balances will restrain him, and it won’t be so bad. Most of the same people argue that four more years (or minutes) of President Trump will finish us; they seem to lack faith in the same constitutional checks and balances in that case.

If Bernie wins the nomination, moderate Democrats will stay home or vote Trump in droves, and Democrats down the ballot will be obliterated just like Bernie, and very much as they were with Senator, then President, Obama at the top of the ballot. (He won, obviously, but the down ballot races were a rout.)

If Bernie loses the nomination and his supporters sense he was cheated — like last time, and as they’re prone to feel anyway — when they’re done burning stuff in Milwaukee, not to mention Portland and any other cities with Sergeant Schultz-level policing of crime by Leftist extremists, many of them will stay home — but some of them will vote Trump, because most of them are even more passionate in their hatred of the establishment than they are in their affection for socialism/communism.

So now the Democratic Party’s challenge is to figure out how Bernie can lose the nomination but leave his supporters feeling good about the result. Good luck with that.

Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren

A lot of people I know like Elizabeth Warren as a candidate. They think she has good ideas, for which they give her credit even while admitting they know those very ideas are outrageously, impossibly expensive.

In some ways she’s Bernie Light, which isn’t a good recommendation in my book. I’m not sure how committed she is to her Leftist rhetoric — but if she’s indulging it without believing in it, for political gain (rather as she impersonated a Native American for personal economic and professional gain), then I’m no more impressed. At least Bernie has always been candid about his Leftist views.

I did like how she went after Mike Bloomberg at a recent debate, asking him to release numerous female accusers from their nondisclosure agreements. In the current field, with a Democrat primary ballot sitting in front of me, I’d have given her serious consideration for my vote, if she had taken another step or two in that direction, by calling for all similar NDAs to be vacated in settlements involving past and present Senators and Members of Congress, and by working seriously to achieve that. As it is, it just looks like more politics.

Tulsi Gabbard

tulsi gabbard

I don’t like Tulsi Gabbard’s politics; on the issues she’s fairly conventionally left-of-liberal. I don’t care about her nearly-ideal intersectional credentials: she a woman, the first Hindu Member of Congress, and the first Samoan-American voting Member of Congress. (Certain territories have non-voting members, but she’s elected from Hawaii.) She’s the only person of color left in the race. (Sorry, Senator Warren.) You’d think all of this would make her irresistible to the modern Democratic Party, but she’s barely in the race at all.

On the other hand, she has good military credentials. (Not a plus with the party, I guess.)

Her real downfall with her party may be why she appeals to me. She cares about the instutions and the processes above politics, at least in some conspicuous cases. That’s not a given on the right; it’s difficult to find on the left.

She voted present on the articles of impeachment last December, explaining that she couldn’t vote no, because she thought President Trump was guilty of misconduct, but she couldn’t vote yes with her party either, because their impeachment process was partisan and unjust.

So she’s not a true Leftist, out to blow up or corrupt any institutions which don’t serve her partisan interests at the moment. This distinguishes her in the Democratic field.

She also has a decidedly un-Leftist, adult sense of proportion. In place of impeachment, she offered a resolution censuring the President — and for a longer list of offenses than the weak broth that found its way into the articles of impeachment.

More recently, she’s taken the Democratic media and her fellow candidates to task for lapping up and repeating unsubstantiated tales of Russian interference in favor of Bernie Sanders’ candidacy.

So on the grounds that the country might not be finished as a free nation with President Tulsi Gabbard in the Oval Office, I’m voting for her in the primary. In that sense she’s the best bet on the ballot.

She’s just not the best bet to win the nomination, which tells you quite a lot about the Democrats in 2020.

She might be a good choice for a running mate, but she’s probably poisoned those waters by the aforementioned crime of having a spine.

If Wishes Were Donkeys

Clearly, in my mind — perhaps not in yours — I’m just trying to make the best of a historically bad situation, where the Democratic field is concerned. There’s no one here I want to see in the White House. (This and Roque de la Fuente, who’s on both ballots in Utah, are for me the chief similarities between the two major parties’ presidential primary ballots.)

But who would I like to see on a Democrat ballot, if I wanted a Democrat president?

That’s a tough one.

I’d vote for Joe Lieberman (age 78) against any of the current field — and probably against President Trump. He always struck me as a man of character, even if I often didn’t like his politics.

Maybe there’s a multiterm Democrat governor from a flyover state, who’s managed to achieve some good bipartisan things over the years, who isn’t ideologically batty, and who doesn’t harbor coastal elite snobbery and condescension (poster child: Mike Bloomberg) toward farmers and anyone else with dirt and grease under their nails. But I don’t know the governors well enough. If one could be found who was intelligent and reasonably moderate in both politics and behavior, I could probably get on board.

Perhaps the only conclusion to be drawn here is that I wouldn’t fit in the Democratic Party. No one I’d want could get any traction this year.

If Wishes Were Elephants

I haven’t decided whether I’ll vote for President Trump’s reelection or not, come November. I didn’t vote for him last time. A few things have changed, but it’s a topic for another day.

Here are three people I could happily vote for on the Republican ballot instead of President Trump this year — if one of them were on the ballot. Any of the three might pull me back into the GOP, at least for a while. (Sorry, Bill Weld. It’s not happening for you.) They’re probably in order:

  • Nikki Haley — former South Carolina governor, former US Ambassador to the United Nations. A strong candidate for 2024 too.
  • Scott Walker — former Wisconsin governor; I favored him when he ran for president in 2016, but he never really got traction. He would probably be a strong candidate, if we were to have an outbreak of sanity.
  • Bobby Jindal — former Louisiana governor; he ran in 2016 too, also with little traction. Again, an outbreak of sanity might help.

All three of these are conservative; see how much I cannot be a Democrat? But oddly enough, in the intersectional (tribal) terms over which Democrats obsess, my field of preferred candidates is far more diverse than the top tier of the 2020 Democrat field (old white guy, even older white guy, old white woman who played a Native American for a while on TV, and another old white guy). I don’t care about those things — which makes me a hopeless, drooling, knuckle-dragging racist and misogynist by the contemporary woke-Democrat definition, even if I’d be okay by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, much saner definition.

If wishes were … you know.

Time to put that ballot in the mail.