Primarily Speaking

image of a cartoon version of me pushing a boulder up a hill like Sisyphus, in front of a patriotic stars-and-stripes graphic, to which I've added text reading: 'The Democratic Primary 2020: Let's do this thing.'

Welcome to another edition of Primarily Speaking, because presidential primaries now begin fully one million years before the election!

[Content Note: Video may autoplay at link] Miramar, Florida, Mayor Wayne Messam has officially announced that he's running for president. "In an interview on CNN New Day announcing his bid, Messam said America needs 'the leadership that will make these issues a priority and have the political will to solve these issues for the American people.' He pointed to Miramar's fast growing economy and argued that his city passed a living wage." Okay, well, good luck to you, Wayne Messam!

So, yesterday, I did a Twitter thread (which I linked in comments) observing the disparity between how Julián Castro has been widely dismissed out of hand as having too little experience, despite the fact that he has cabinet-level federal government experience, while Pete Buttigieg has not been similarly dismissed, despite having no federal government experience. That is preface to highlighting this passage from the above CNN story on Messam:
Messam, a 44-year-old African American Democrat who has led Miramar since 2015, is not the only mayor in the race, given South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg is pursuing a bid, as are Julian Castro, formerly the mayor of San Antonio, Texas, and Cory Booker, formerly the mayor of Newark, New Jersey.
Let's just take a moment to examine how the conflation of Buttigieg, Castro, and Cory Booker as "mayors" works for each of them.

Buttigieg, a white man whose only political experience is being mayor of South Bend (pop. 102,245), gets elevated.

Castro, a Latino who, in addition to having been mayor of San Antonio (pop. 1.493 million), has also served as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and was a strong contender to be Hillary Clinton's running mate in 2016 (she said of Castro at the time: "I am going to look really hard at him for anything, because that's how good he is.") gets rhetorically demoted to nothing but a former mayor.

Booker, an African American who, in addition to having been mayor of Newark (pop. 285,154), is also a sitting U.S. Senator (and is the first African American senator from the state of New Jersey) and was a finalist to be Clinton's running mate in 2016, also gets rhetorically demoted to nothing but a former mayor. He's not even called "Senator Cory Booker" in the passage.

Castro and Booker are both nationally prominent politicians who have federal government experience. They are also men of color.

It doesn't demean Buttigieg to observe that he has no significant political experience beyond being mayor of a mid-size city. That is just the fact of his résumé.

It does, however, demean Castro and Booker to include them in a list of "mayor[s] in the race." Castro and Booker are no longer mayors, and haven't been for quite some time. Conflating them with Buttigieg in this way is not a neutral act, because it disappears their additional experience, while simultaneously leveling-up Buttigieg.

It's a small thing, but over the course of a very long primary, those "small things" start to add up. To some people's detriment, and others' advantage.

* * *

Speaking of Cory Booker, as I mentioned yesterday, he did a town hall with CNN last night, and I haven't had a chance to watch the whole thing yet — just a bunch of clips — and here is a pretty good example of what I like about Booker:

[Transcript here; segment begins with "Hi, Rachel."]

He is a deeply empathetic person, and I like that. And he is a Democrat who gets visibly angry about shitty Republicans and their harmful policies, and I trust that.

Professor Policy, aka Senator Elizabeth Warren, has posted a new piece at Medium detailing her proposal to take on Big Agriculture: "Today a farmer can work hard, do everything right — even get great weather — and still not make it. It's not because farmers today are any less resilient, enterprising, or committed than their parents and grandparents were. It's because bad decisions in Washington have consistently favored the interests of multinational corporations and big business lobbyists over the interests of family farmers. Farmers are caught in a vise, but the squeeze on family farms isn't inevitable. We can make better policy choices — and we can begin by leveling the playing field for America's family farmers." She's killing it!

Senator Amy Klobuchar has also posted a new piece at Medium, in which she outlines her Plan to Build America's Infrastructure, "a bold, trillion-dollar plan to rebuild America's infrastructure, invest in our future, and create millions of good-paying American jobs." There is a lot of good stuff there, but one of the things about which I'm most excited is her plan to "connect every household to the internet by 2022." I like it straightforwardly for what it wants to accomplish; I also like it because it implicitly acknowledges that the internet is a utility — and everyone should have access.

Senator Kamala Harris has picked up a bunch of endorsements in South Carolina, which will be a key primary state early in the race: "Harris' campaign told The Associated Press that she is being endorsed by a trio of black legislators: State Reps. Pat Henegan and J.A. Moore and State Sen. Darrell Jackson. Also backing her campaign are former gubernatorial candidate Marguerite Willis and Berkeley County Democratic Chairwoman Melissa Watson. ...All five Harris backers will serve as co-chairs of her campaign in the state, something that the campaign said shows her ability to appeal to a base that's diverse in geography, age, and ethnicity. Willis, who is white, and Watson, who is black, hail from the eastern and coastal regions of the state. The lawmakers represent central and eastern regions and range in age from 34 to 71." Neat!

There's a story by Andrew Marantz at the New Yorker about Governor Jay Inslee. It is headlined "Jay Inslee, Candidate and Eco-Dude." Maybe that sounds like something you want to read!

Hey, remember when Joe Biden's team floated a trial balloon that he might announce his candidacy with a running mate already on board, and the name being floated was Stacey Abrams, and I was like "Don't do it, Stacey!" and also "Biden better not be putting public pressure on her to agree to this malarkey!" and then we never heard anything about it again? Welp.

John Hickenlooper is still definitely running for president.

Talk about these things! Or don't. Whatever makes you happy. Life is short.

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