Let the Democratic Games Begin

As a responsible US non-citizen, I have developed a fairly elaborate routine of getting the news. It’s like living in a little American bubble in the middle of Prague. It starts early in the morning. While I am having my blissful sleep, on the other side of the globe the dark powers in the White House are in full force, which means that I usually wake up to 2-3 NYT notifications, that are further followed by their briefing that lands into my mailbox at 7 am sharp. I have my breakfast, read the news, suffer a mild-ish nervous breakdown, calm myself a bit and by the time I’m getting ready I’m usually ok for a round of Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC and another breakdown. All this before I even set my foot out of the door. And then, of course, there are NYT notifications I get both on my phone and my watch, making sure I’m never too far away from more ‘breaking’ news.

From time to time the historian in me goes: ‘interesting!’ when she sees the notifications in the morning. Then I’m just horrified.

With that amount of time spent on the news every day, it is impossible to escape the Democratic race for president, though I must admit, I lost count (and quite frankly an interest) somewhere around candidate number 12. Although I am unable to keep track of these 20+ candidates, my heart is pleased with the diverse group consisting of men, women, straight, gay, people of color, Congressmen, and Congresswomen, Senators, former vice-president and even a self-help guru. For a field so large, there has to be a way to separate the wheat from the chaff, so welcome to the first Democratic debate! 

As I’m gradually forming my opinion on the Democratic candidates, I very much appreciated finally seeing a majority (yep, there were 20 of them and still not all managed to get in) of those candidates on one stage. With some, the debate did not make much difference. 

  • Beto? Still really puts me off with this ‘I’m the chosen one by God’ attitude. Might get him votes in Texas, but to me, it is just another form of the good old entitlement crap. 
  • Buttigieg? Cute. Some great moments. Good fund-raising job. Curious to see what he has in store, but I’m still not sure he is the 2020 presidential material. 
  • Sanders? I’ve never really got the obsession with Bernie, to be honest. He is loud and angry, which would be fine if these weren’t compensation for a lack of real substance of his arguments. Besides, I just can’t stand his ego, for which he couldn’t bring himself to do the right thing in 2016. And according to his own words, he fully intends to do the same thing, if he doesn’t get his way in 2020. He is a big no-no in my books.

However, with some, the debate certainly helped to clear my opinion. Elizabeth Warren was the most notable example as I didn’t really know what to think about her before the debate. Don’t get me wrong, she always appeared like a very professional candidate, with a plan for almost everything and I admired how she treated her students when she was a law professor according to many testimonies in the Twitterworld. I think it says a lot about a person. But I must admit I’ve had a bit of trouble connecting with her on a personal level. But as I was watching the first debate, there was something, especially in her final statement, that just made me go wow and I’ve been keeping a closer eye on her since.

But the real bang was the debate no. 2, when Kamala Harris became the uncrowned queen of the first debate as a whole. To be honest, I expected it. I’ve been following Harris with great interest since the Kavanaugh hearings and she has become my no.1 Democratic candidate. If I have a problem to connect with Warren on a personal level, it is no issue with Harris. Besides that, I do believe she is one of the most qualified candidates for the current political climate. As a former prosecutor, she took her skills, intelligence, and shrewdness to her Senate office and no doubt she would take that with her to the Oval Office as well. And something tells me that with the current disaster that’s in the White House and the unresolved matters of Mueller report, a prosecutor would be just the right person to be in the White House leading the case against Donald Trump.

There were several great moments for Harris during the debate but probably the most memorable was her interaction with Joe Biden, the Democratic frontrunner according to polls, on the issue of busing. In no way disrespectful manner, she expressed her disagreement with Biden’s position on the issue of busing, giving it the extra edge by making it personal, rather than an abstract issue. And although the intent was clearly offensive (as in ‘war tactic’ sense), she gave Biden an opportunity to explain/apologize which he used… 3 days later. Not cool Biden.

Sure, it was just the first debate and there’s a long way to go before the election, but I must say that watching it, helped me realize several things. Quite honestly I’m sick of seeing everywhere that female president is too radical, but perhaps a female vice-president could do. I’m tired of seeing Biden-Harris ticket as one of the best, safest win-win scenarios popping up everywhere. No doubt Harris would be a great vice-president, but you know what else she would be? A great president, an office she is actually running for. I do get it, Biden seems like a safe choice, he was a vice president under a very popular president, he is a moderate and whether we like it or not, the fact that he is white and male plays a role in the perceived electability factor, too. But the question here is: electability for what kind of electorate? Because what I consider the major issue here is the kind of electorate Democrats are trying to target.

See, I’m a person who believes in seeing the good in people, who deeply believes in the power of debate and compromise. But what I have been seeing during the last 3 years and especially in the last couple of months has shaken me to the core. Most of us who somehow followed the 2016 election remember how much crap Hillary got for her ‘basket of deplorables’ comment. Let’s put aside the fact that it was taken out of context ( notoriously so), back then I agreed that, if nothing else, the optics were bad. But, quite frankly, I’ve come to side with her on that one recently. After watching Trump supporters (on tape) again and again embracing the use of concentration camps and detention for kids at the border, as they were shoving up their faces with giant American-style breakfast and without an ounce of shame talking about how locking up children is an effective strategy to discourage immigration, I’ve given up on trying to understand these people. And the only word that comes to my mind, when I think of them indeed is: deplorable.

And how do you reason with these people? When even if presented with a video of Trump stating that he could shoot somebody in the middle of a street and get away with it, they dismiss it as ‘fake news’ and still stand behind him. The answer is: you don’t. And it is not true only for normal people, but for the vast majority of GOP as well. And while Trump is the leader of the pack, we all sort of know what to expect of him. But who truly terrifies me is Pence, McConnell and the rest of the Republicans that blindly and spinelessly follow his lead, in what seems to be the true nature of Republicans, finally freed of the need for ‘niceties’. 

And here is what my main problems with Biden is: he runs on the ability to compromise, work together across the party lines, and while I do agree that this is how politics should work, the reality is that the Republican Party Biden used to work with is no longer there. No longer is it about political disagreement, the one that perpetuates compromise that most people can live with. No, the difference now between Democrats and Republicans is morality/humanity/decency and those, I believe, are non-negotiable.

This is the reason why I’m being skeptic about Biden being the most viable choice, it is not simply about me wishing to see a capable woman as the president of the United States (although, that is also true). The moderate approach of Democrats as a way of trying to appeal to Trump voters, in fact, could alienate those potential Democratic voters that are hungry for a change. And there are many. It seems that rather than focusing on those who voted for Trump, Democrats should focus on those who didn’t vote at all in 2016, for they felt like neither of those candidates represented them. The loyalty of Trump’s base combined with vast gerrymandering means that for Democrats there is strength only in overwhelming numbers. It is about mobilizing those who felt left behind. Should be obvious, but let me state it: Biden is not Obama, no matter how many times he ‘casually’ drops his name during his rallies. And we need Obama, not Biden for all the reasons he is not like him. And this Obama we need in 2020 just might be called Harris.

I don’t want to make rushed judgments here, after all, it was just the first of many debates to come, but on the other hand, ignoring the tendencies could be just as risky. I guess what I’m trying to say here is, that with so much talk about Biden-Harris ticket, why not Harris-Biden? Or Harris-Warren? Or Warren-Harris? Or Warren-Biden? All these should be considered as real, viable and attractive options. I do understand the urge to do the moderate thing, trying to bring the country together, and it is an honorable goal. But I’m afraid it will have to wait after the election when a Democrat actually becomes a president.

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