Primarily Speaking

image of a cartoon version of me standing and looking confused and scratching my head, pictured 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!

I really like this strong and unequivocal statement from Julián Castro about Attorney General Bill Barr:

I am also pleased with this statement about Donald Trump from Senator Elizabeth Warren on Lawrence O'Donnell's show last night:

Look, there are some issues that are bigger than politics — and one of them is whether a President of the United States is above the law.

You know, I understand that, in a dictatorship, everybody circles around the president and protects him, but that's not the way the Constitution divides power in our country. It says that no one is above the law, and that includes the President of the United States. And the tool to make sure that the president is not above the law, the tool given to Congress, is an impeachment proceeding.

This is serious. This is about a foreign — a hostile foreign government that attacked our election system and an investigation into that that was blocked by the president for his own political purposes.

This is a moment when we have to stand up in Congress. It's not a question of political party or the next election. It's about what we think is right.

And I didn't go into this thinking, "Oh great. Let's see if we can stir up a big impeachment fight." It's the conclusion I've reached by reading the whole report.

And I urge everybody to read that report. [chuckles mirthlessly] I urge all of my colleagues to read that report — and tell me how they can stand by and say, "You know, that kind of behavior may be just fine in a President of the United States."

It's not fine. No one's above the law. Not even the president.

In other news...

Senator Kamala Harris will be the keynote speaker for a meeting of the black caucus of the Alabama Democratic Party in June. Quite a get! For both parties.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has an interesting proposal to get money out of politics: "Under Gillibrand's Clean Elections Plan, every eligible voter could register for vouchers to donate up to $100 in a primary election and $100 in a general election each cycle, either all at once or in $10 increments to one or more candidates over time. Each participant would get a separate $200 pool for House, Senate, and presidential contests for a total maximum donation of $600 for those federal offices. ...Politicians would face much tighter limits on donations."

Remember the days when money in politics was the biggest threat to free and fair elections outside of voter suppression and gerrymandering? How quaint! Even if Gillibrand's proposal has merit, I'm afraid it won't matter unless we do what is necessary to safeguard our elections against interference, both foreign and domestic, and that simply isn't going to happen as long as Republicans remain in charge and committed to subverting our democracy instead of protecting it.

Speaking of people who aren't fans of democracy... Senator Bernie Sanders, writes Ronald Brownstein at CNN, will be tested during this primary in ways he hasn't been previously. That is to say, he will actually be scrutinized and vetted. "Deeply ideological, and often prickly when challenged in media interviews, Sanders has often brushed away criticism of his agenda by dismissing any skeptics as servants of 'the billionaire class.' In the coming months, he'll likely need more supple responses to fellow Democrats questioning ideas such as single-payer health care or tuition-free public college from a center-left perspective." Indeed.

In comparing his record to Joe Biden's during a CNN interview, Sanders said: "I have to tell you, I like Joe Biden. Joe is a friend of mine. But I think what we need to do with all of the candidates, have an issue-oriented campaign, not personal attacks, but talk about what we have done in our political lives, what we want to do as president, and how we're going to transform our economy so that it works for all of us and not just the 1 percent." First of all, the hell they're friends, lol. Secondly, Sanders committed to "no personal attacks" the last time around and then spent fully the entire campaign levying personal attacks on Hillary Clinton, including incredibly calling her "unqualified," so my only response to this is: You first, Senator.

Speaking of Biden, he's running on a platform of nostalgia, writes the Atlantic's David A. Graham: "Biden is running a campaign of restoration — returning the United States to its rightful place before (as he sees it) the current president came onto the scene and trashed the joint. ...He wants to take the country back, all the way to the dim and distant days of 2015 or so, when the Obama administration he served in ran the country and Trump was merely a punch line." LOL pretty much.

Which, y'know, isn't good enough. Especially because it fails to acknowledge that we can't just restore everything we've already lost in the last two years just by magically electing a Democrat. The entire landscape has changed, and we need to look forward for real solutions — not only to Trump, but to other global forces that are changing our world, including the rise of fascism elsewhere and democracy-threatening technological advances.

* * *

Over at BuzzFeed, Claudia Koerner asked the candidates their thoughts on vaccines, and nine Democrats provided answers. Sanders, Harris, Senator Cory Booker, Andrew Yang, Gillibrand, John Delaney, Rep. Seth Moulton, and Rep. Tim Ryan all had good to very good answers. Mayor Pete Buttigieg did not have a good answer:

The article was later updated: "After this article was published, the campaign added in a 'clarifying statement' early Wednesday that Buttigieg only supported medical exemptions to vaccinations. 'Pete believes vaccines are safe and effective and are necessary to maintaining public health,' the spokesperson said. 'There is no evidence that vaccines are unsafe, and he believes children should be immunized to protect their health. He is aware that in most states the law provides for some kinds of exemptions. He believes only medical exemptions should be allowed.'"

Still not ready for primetime.

In other Buttigieg news, he has released 10 years of tax returns.

Beto O'Rourke's campaign "is still a campaign in transition." That doesn't sound good.

At the Washington Post, Suzanna Danuta Walters writes that if male candidates really GAF about gender equality, then they should get out of the race — or at least campaign far differently.
A real reckoning with privilege goes beyond acknowledgment and into action. Given the unbroken record of male presidents and what we know about the double standards under which female candidates run — including obsessive attention to their voices, their bodies, their clothes — it is worth asking what steps male candidates of good faith can take to even the playing field.

First, they could do more than give the notion of privilege a cursory nod.

They could refuse to give interviews to news organizations that have practiced gender discrimination in their coverage of the campaigns and say "no thanks" to the magazine covers that curiously feature only them. They could call out the disproportionate attention they receive, as well as the presumption that they are more electable by virtue of their gender, and instead point out the fact that the women running have already won multiple races, written many books, and have deep executive and policy experience — claims that could not be universally made of their male counterparts.

...The really radical thing for a male candidate to do in 2020 would be to step down and step away, realizing that real gender equity is achieved only when men actively refuse the benefits they receive simply for being born male.

Gender and racial equity are not zero-sum games: Everyone is a winner when we have a more diverse and representative government. But we can't achieve that vision without men taking responsibility for the inordinate space they take up in the media and the candidate field.

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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