MARCH UPDATE: Democratic presidential candidates, loosely ranked

_103871624_tv048545996I’m … probably not going to actually do this every month until the election?  And, well, actually, it doesn’t even make sense to say that, because there won’t be 1000 candidates for the nomination for very long.  So this won’t be a regular feature for long enough to become annoying.  But what the hell, it’s fun and helps me organize my thinking a little bit.  So.  Again, don’t take the specific rankings all that seriously.

Also, I’m removing the two minor candidates who I went a month and didn’t hear anything from.  I’ll put them back in if they ever start making any noise.

  1. Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren (TIE).  This may very well be a function of the way I consume news nowadays, but it seems like for the last few weeks every time I turn around Warren’s campaign has been announcing some bit of policy that I like, and I feel like Harris has been mostly quiet.  This is more a function of me learning more about Warren and liking everything I see than any drop in my admiration for Harris, but at this point I’d be perfectly happy with either of them.  Put a gun to my head and I still probably vote for Harris but I feel like I want to recognize how much happier I am with Warren than I was a month ago.  So: tie.
  2. Pete Buttigieg.  I know I’ve been talking about Buttigieg a lot more than any of the other candidates, but that’s because he’s still such a longshot.   He’s raised enough money from enough people to qualify for the first debates, and his townhall on CNN went phenomenally well.  Right now I still kind of hope he’s running for VP, though; I’d drag my nuts over a mile of broken glass to cast a vote for a Harris/Buttigieg or Warren/Buttigieg ticket– and in Warren’s case, this would go a long way toward calming my concerns about her age.
  3. Jay Inslee.  I’ve seen a few interviews with Gov. Inslee in the last month, and I really like what I’ve seen from him.  He’s currently at the top of the “I don’t know much, but I like you” pile.
  4. Kirsten Gillibrand.  Whose name I spelled correctly on the first try, thank you very much.
  5. Julián Castro.  Another who really hasn’t changed positions much from last month.
  6. Amy Klobuchar.
  7. Cory Booker, and at this point we’re edging into “Ehhh … I will if I have to but I’d really rather not” territory.  Most of everything I’ve seen from Booker this month has caused me to roll my eyes and/or groan, and I was already not super hot about his candidacy in the first place.
  8. (A fairly wide gap, not represented by any single candidate)
  9. Beto O’Rourke.  Beto talks a good game and can be inspiring at times, but I had a moment where I realized just how much he reminds me of John Edwards, and … no, thank you, let’s all move on.  Another friend of mine compared him to the male professor who teaches classes on feminism and is secretly sleeping with several of his students.  He’s kind of a douchebag and I don’t really know how much he believes anything that comes out of his mouth and a guy who couldn’t beat 10,000 slugs pretending to be human in a poorly-fitting suit does not get to then go “Oh, never mind, I’ll just be President instead.”  Plus I feel like he’s stealing oxygen from Buttigieg, who would be a vastly better President.
  10. John Hickenlooper.  Who I initially forgot all about, but ends up low on the list because of his dumbassed “Why aren’t we asking women candidates about white male VPs” comment.  We don’t need you, dude.
  11. Tulsi Gabbard.  Still hasn’t made enough of an impact to give me a reason to move her down, also has given me no reason to move her up.
  12. Bernie Sanders.  I’ve said my piece about him any number of times and it’s not really necessary to repeat it again.  But he’s not last anymore!  Because of …
  13. Andrew Yang.  He keeps popping up on my radar on Twitter, and every time it’s because he’s being dumb one way or another.  That said, he makes most of the second- and third-tier candidates on this list look like frontrunners in terms of his chances of being elected, so I probably don’t even really need him on the list at all.
  14. Howard Schultz.  Also probably shouldn’t be here because he’s not a Democrat in any way I’m willing to recognize– not even in the half-assed way Sanders is–  but still, fuuuuhuhuhuck this guy.

In which I fundraise: another Pete Buttigieg post

The blog is starting to slide into all-Buttigieg-all-the-time territory, and that’s not really where I want it to go, but I feel like this is important enough that I’m doing it anyway: I don’t know how many of you watched last night’s townhall on CNN, but I thought the guy hit a grand slam. Buttigieg was funny, personable, full of good ideas, and he showed the scary-smart that I always want and don’t always get from my presidential candidates. The national response appears to have been extremely positive– I mean, hell, any Democrat who watched that and didn’t come away with a much higher opinion of Buttigieg and his chances in this race either isn’t a Democrat or wasn’t actually watching. Tulsi Gabbard, who for better or worse has a substantially higher profile than Buttigieg does right now, had the hour before him. Everyone is talking about Buttigieg; I’ve seen no one talking about Gabbard.

Interestingly, it turns out the whole thing is on YouTube. I’ll embed it here; we’ll see how long it lasts. If you haven’t watched, you really should:

I skipped around a bit and it does look like the whole thing; I don’t know what the deal is with the placeholder image.

At any rate: while I’m completely sure that donations have ticked up substantially in the wake of this performance, Pete needs 65,000 individual donors at any amount in order to secure an invitation to the formal Democratic debates, and if that threshold has been reached they’ve not updated the website to tell us about it yet. I’ve donated, and I’ve had two friends who watched last night tell me they have as well. We want this guy on stage, y’all. So if you haven’t watched the townhall yet, there’s another opportunity right there, at least until CNN pulls the video, and the link to donate– again, literally any amount adds you to the total– is here. Please consider it.

#REVIEW: SHORTEST WAY HOME, by Pete Buttigieg

This is gonna be one of those book reviews that’s more about me than the book I read, so buckle yourself in for that.

The strongest single-sentence recommendation I can issue for the book my mayor wrote, Shortest Way Home, is this: Pete Buttigieg made me proud to be from South Bend.

(In case you’re wondering, he wants you to think his name is pronounced “BOOT-edge-edge,” but “bootyjudge” is also acceptable, because I’ve voted for this dude four times so far and I get to poke gentle fun at his name if I want to.)

It is rather difficult to express just how unlikely a sentence that is for me to have written. I grew up here, y’all. I escaped to Bloomington for college and to Chicago for nine years after college and then … well, my wife is amazing, I totally married up in the biggest way possible, and I literally would not trade her for anything, but my one and only reservation was how the hell did I move to a city with 3,000,000 people and end up marrying someone I went to high school with?

Which, yeah, that’s what I did. And there’s a whole story there, and I’m not sharing it, but if you had asked me even two years before we got married what the chances were of me marrying someone from high school I’d have told you zero and not been kidding, and I’d probably have been slightly offended by the question. I moved back to South Bend because one of us had to move and I hated my job and she didn’t want to live in Chicago; it just made more sense for me to come back to where my family was. (And I’m not complaining about my family! I hope that’s obvious! It’s just that they all lived somewhere I didn’t want to live in.)

And then we elected a dude who wasn’t even thirty yet to be Mayor, and I think I competed against his ass (and probably lost) when I was on the Quiz Bowl team in high school, and I voted for him because everyone else running pissed me off and he won by default … and then the guy turned out to be way more Mayor than South Bend ever deserved, and he turned the fuckin’ city around in two terms, running against and crushing by 80-20 the parent of one of my former students to win his second term.

And there was that time I almost killed him. And now he wants to be President, and I’d rather have him as my Senator or my Governor than my President right now, but I gotta admit I’m coming around. And Goddammit he’ll be a good President when he gets around to it but I’d still prefer he take over for President Harris when her second term ends in 2028.

So here’s the thing. I’m pretty sure I liked this book more than most people will because, well, I live here. And this is a memoir written by a still relatively young mayor of a mid-sized city. It may be that the appeal is somewhat limited, especially since it really is about mayoring, for the most part, and about revitalizing a city that basically none of you live in. But Buttigieg really genuinely is a smart, fascinating guy, and this is a ridiculously compelling book given what it’s actually about. It’s the second “I’m running for President!” memoir I’ve read this year– Kamala Harris’ was first– and it’s a better book than Harris’ was. (It’s also much less of an “I’m running for President!” book, for the record.) But Pete Buttigieg loves the hell out of South Bend, guys– the book is drenched with it; I thought I loved living in Chicago but it pales in comparison to how Pete feels about being mayor of the town he grew up in. And my curmudgeonly THEY PULLED ME BACK IN nonsense just couldn’t stand up against it. I’m this close to ordering a damn flag, for God’s sake.

(Shout-out to the graphic designers, who incorporate elements of South Bend’s flag throughout the book but never call direct attention to it, in a way that I find clever. The current flag was a product of his administration, and looks like this:)

I still really don’t think Buttigieg is going to be President in two years. For the record, he hasn’t officially announced yet; he’s still in the exploratory committee phase. But there’s a townhall on CNN tomorrow night at nine, and maybe you ought to watch that? And maybe if you watch that, and you think, hell, Luther’s right about this dude, then you should probably check out this book. If nothing else, for the chapter about meeting and courting his husband, which is the most ridiculously fucking adorable thing I think I’ve ever read.

Democratic presidential candidates, loosely ranked

A friend of mine did this earlier this week as a Facebook post and without any explanations; God forbid I be so succinct. Standard disclaimers; this is extremely early and I reserve the right to change my mind at any time and for any reason. Furthermore, this is only for the primary; I will vote for any of these people with a song in my soul and a spring in my step against the shitgibbon in 2020.

Also, I’m only including people who have at least announced an exploratory committee.

  1. Kamala Harris. Absolutely my horse, as far as such things go, at the moment. I have some concerns about her record as Attorney General of California, as I suspect many of her fans do, but those are tempered by several notable accomplishments (“You will begin the marriages immediately.”) and a near-perfect record in the Senate thus far. In addition, she’s my favorite of the candidates as a human being. I would, to trot out a well-worn phrase, like to have … well, not a beer, as I don’t drink, but some sort of tasty beverage in her presence.
  2. Elizabeth Warren. Very close to Harris; her age and race are the main things holding her back from the top spot. Call me names if you like; my preference where I have a choice at this point is to vote for people of color, and she is going to be 70 before the election happens. I’m sorry; I want someone younger for the toughest job in the world.
  3. Pete Buttigieg. I know, I’m as surprised as you. I think this guy has the potential to be an outstanding President. I really, really don’t think it’ll happen in 2020, but I would like him in the race for a while to get him some name recognition and get his ideas out there. Seriously, y’all, go watch some interviews.
  4. Kirsten Gillibrand.  At this point we’re starting to dip into the candidates that I don’t know a lot about, honestly; she gets the edge over #5 mostly because, if I’m looking at candidates that I don’t know much about, I lean toward electing someone with Senate experience over someone with mayoral and Cabinet experience. Yes, I know Buttigieg is #3. I know a lot more about him and I ain’t gotta be perfectly consistent anyway; deal with it.
  5. Julián Castro. Kinda already discussed him with #4 up there. To be clear, we’re still in “no real reservations” territory here; I just don’t know a lot about him to push him any higher or lower.
  6. Amy Klobuchar. At this point we’re entering “minor reservations” territory. Klobuchar has the reputation of being extremely difficult to work for. I’m not sure how genuine that is, but it’s not a characteristic I really want in a President. However, she still gets the edge over …
  7. Cory Booker.  Booker is the first candidate I have genuine policy differences with, as his record on education and charter schools while mayor of Newark, New Jersey was terrible. That said, so was Obama’s. I probably will not have the opportunity to vote for someone whose positions on K-12 education I actually like, but at the moment I know I don’t like Booker’s. On everything else that I know about, we’re still good.
  8. The ones I haven’t heard of. My friend’s list includes people named Yang, Delaney and Williamson; I couldn’t even tell you their first names and I assume they are vanity candidates of one sort or another. However, as effectively anonymous, “pick them out of the phone book” ciphers, they nonetheless remain preferable to
  9. Tulsi Gabbard and
  10. Bernie Sanders. It might surprise you to see Gabbard’s name ahead of Sanders’. Most of the people I pay attention to who are following the race closely despise Gabbard, who does more or less seem to be terrible. However, I personally don’t know much about her, and my loathing for Bernie Sanders increases every time he opens his mouth. Right now, I’d vote for her over him, but hopefully I will never have to make that choice. That would probably change if I looked more deeply into her record, but as I don’t expect her candidacy to last very long I don’t plan on investing that effort. Sanders, who has no chance, is going to stay in the race acting exactly like a hypothetical Russian stooge might act at every possible opportunity until the very moment his money dries up. I am already desperately tired of him, and he’s not going to go away.

We’ll revisit in a month or two, and see if the rankings have slid around at all, and who else might have jumped in. Whee!

In which my mayor runs for President

It’s a good video. It’s a real good video. I’ve mentioned recently how wild I think it is that my life keeps intersecting with Democratic Presidential candidates– not that I can find the post right now, but I swear I have– and now my mayor Pete Buttigieg has announced that he’s forming an exploratory committee to run for President.

I, uh, don’t really want to be in a position where I have to vote for him. This is a weird thing to write, right? Hell, I didn’t think Barack Obama was ready to run for President early on in his run, when he’d only been in the Senate for two years, and he very quickly proved me completely wrong on that front. Pete Buttigieg passes one of my first smell tests for someone running for President, which is do I think this person is smarter than me, and he also passes my second smell test, which is do I think this person would be a better President than I would. He is, and he would. However, I would be a pretty terrible President, so that second one in particular is kind of a low bar. I do not think that being mayor of a town of 100,000 for, what, six years or so adequately prepares you for the Presidency no matter how good of a mayor I think you were– and don’t misunderstand me, I’m quite fond of the guy. I just don’t know what the hell he’s thinking right now, because even if he’s essentially trying to run for VP he’s up against Mike Pence, and frankly as much as I despise Mike Pence I think Buttigieg is not enough to move Indiana back into the blue column given that a former Governor is the VP right now.

(Fun fact: there have been more Vice Presidents from Indiana, at six, than any state other than New York. There have been two just in my lifetime.)

If I had my druthers– and the world working the way it does, I have actually told him this– Buttigieg would have his eye on the Governor’s mansion or a Senate seat right now. Indiana has had both Democratic Senators and Governors in the not terribly recent past; while the state is pretty uniformly red right now, it’s not going to last forever, and I think we have another wave election or two potentially headed our way at the moment. I think eight or twelve years down the line we will be looking at him much more seriously as a Presidential candidate– again, my main objection is to him running now.  I can very easily imagine a world where I’m happier to vote for him further on down the road.

But hey, I’ve been surprised before. Maybe the dude is even savvier than I think he is and he’ll find a way to light a fire under his candidacy. That would be damned impressive, close to impossible, but maybe. At any rate, it’ll be fun to keep an eye on.

(I am, at the moment, on team Kamala Harris. My affiliation is loose; I haven’t bought a jersey yet or anything, and of the currently declared candidates the only one I really have genuine problems with is Tulsi Gabbard. But just so y’all know where I’m coming from.)