And So, the Winnowing Begins in Earnest


The Lists of Viable Candidates and Key Issues are Coming into Focus.

As expected, the list of those running for president is beginning to thin out. This is about on the timeline one would expect, although many were anxious for it to begin earlier. Most of us are eager for it to accelerate. Until we get a candidate (or a small handful of candidates), the issues and strategy will be ill-defined. So, let’s get on with it.

In recent days, we added a candidate (Steyer) and lost two (Swalwell and Hickenlooper). The two that left did so with grace and intelligence. We will hear from both of them in the future, and that is a good thing.

Who is Still Standing?

That is an interesting question, as just about everyone is connected to the fate of at least one other candidate. Warren and Sanders both remain top tier, for example. But Sanders seems to be fading and much of his support could be migrating to Warren, who is getting stronger. It is unlikely that both will remain top tier.

O’Rourke seems to have gotten a second (third?) wind, but it seems unlikely that he and Buttigieg can both be on the A-List for long. My money is on the Mayor.

We are coming into the September debates. The serious contenders are (in alphabetical order): Biden, Buttigieg, Harris, Sanders, and Warren. A second tier from which one or more could join the top rank: Booker, Klobuchar, O’Rourke, Steyer, and Yang (surprise). All of these have real challenges, but prospects.

Everyone else should be thinking of how to exit as well as did the first two departees.

There is always potential for big changes in all this. But it is my sensing that we have gone from two dozen candidates to about 8-10. Within 60 days, will be down to 4-6 with any real viability. That is not to say that some would not have the resources to continue on indefinitely. That would be bad news for all concerned, but it is a real risk (Are you listening, Bernie?).

I expect the last round will be Biden, Buttigieg, Harris (although looking weaker), and Warren. They could be joined by one, but not all, of Booker, Klobuchar, O’Rourke, and maybe Steyer. By New Year’s Day, we are down to 2-3.

Agendas, Anyone?

Which takes us to issues and platforms. In the end, this could be the foundation for victory or defeat for Democrats, at least as much as names on the ticket.

In spite of efforts to create conflict (Are you listening, CNN?), the basic set of positions is pretty clear. With some important distinctions (more on that momentarily), candidates agree on a foundation. The sooner that is seenas shared, the better, because as general propositions they are slam dunk winners:

  • Medical coverage for all
  • Sensible gun legislation
  • A comprehensive, humane but not wide-open immigration policy
  • High standards of conduct for officials, elected and appointed
  • Easing the burden of student debt
  • A fairer taxation system
  • Moral leadership that seeks to unite us where possible

There are other aspects,  but this is a list to run on. Where the trouble comes is in closing the gaps on how to implement some of these. For example: Every poll shows overwhelming support for medical coverage and related reforms. Make that reform only as a mandatory government and support drops through the floor.

One can make the case for Medicare for All now on several grounds. Politically is not one of those grounds. Give people a transition period and some options or turn a winning issue into a loser. People will figure out in pretty short order that paying 18% overhead vs 2% is not smart and they will migrate. Force this change and the issues stops being medical care. It starts being about individual liberty. Something of a false dichotomy, but one to lose with.

A second example is college debt. Free community college works. Free tuition based on need works. Free tuition in exchange for national service works. Limiting student debt to income during the payback period works. Completely free college for everyone, everywhere is nuts. It is not necessary, and it unnecessarily burdens the tax payer . Those of us who can pay something should do so. This is not unreasonable. Once again, we have a winning basic principle and lots of examples of how the other side is wrong. Turn this into Free for Everyone, and you lose votes that cannot be spared.

What Is to be Done?

The challenge is for someone like Warren. She has great plans and winning positions on so many issues. But she is also on the leading edge of wrong positions on these issues. Wrong in my view anyway.

She needs to find a way to say, “I hear you, America. I know where we need to be, but I hear your concerns. I am ready to make some detours to address your concerns. We will figure out the course ahead together.”

Do that right, convincingly, and early. Bring along a running mate and a cabinet that reaches out and builds confidence left and right. Do all that and it is possible to expand the reach and keep the base. Don’t do so and loose it all.

I’m just sayin’… Let’s see where we are around Thanksgiving, shall we?

     Bill Clontz


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