Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Democratic Party

How to Evaluate a US Presidential Candidate

I see a lot of people making claims about how left wing or progressive various Democratic candidates or potential candidates are. Most of the time, I think these claims are flimsy. Commentators like to judge candidates on three core metrics:

  1. The rhetoric they use–whether the candidate talks in a way that makes the commentator feel good.
  2. The policies they claim to support–whether the candidate has gotten behind particular policies, like Medicare For All, Green New Deal, Abolish ICE, or whatever floats your boat.
  3. Their identity–whether the candidate is a person of color and/or a woman and/or LGBTQIA+

I want to argue that these metrics are largely useless. Instead, I want to give you a much better toolkit for assessing candidates–one that most journalists don’t know how to use.

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Beware Arrogant Candidates Who Can’t Win But Will Split the Vote

As I look at the 2020 Democratic primary field, I’m reminded of the 2017 French presidential election. Do you remember? In the first round, the Left Party’s candidate, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, got 19.6% of the vote, failing to secure the 21.3% he needed to beat Marine Le Pen and advance to the second round. Mélenchon just narrowly missed the boat because he didn’t command the whole left block. 6.4% of French voters instead picked the Socialist Party’s candidate, Benoît Hamon. A further 1.7% of French voters chose the candidates of the Communist Union or New Anticapitalist Party. The left could have commanded as much as 27.7%. It only needed about a fifth of these additional left-leaning voters to slip past Le Pen. But these left wing candidates refused to drop out of the race, and the result was a depressing second round, in which the only alternative to France’s status quo was right nationalism. So when I look at the Democratic Party’s field, I ask myself–who is the Mélenchon, and who are the Hamons?

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Elizabeth Warren is Not Left-Wing

I recently had the pleasure of returning to the Dead Pundits Society podcast, anchored by Adam Proctor and Aimee Terese, to discuss Elizabeth Warren’s presidential candidacy. That podcast was recently pulled, but I have my own contributions to it, which you can still hear:

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A Second Term for Trump is Better Than Beto

There have been a number of pieces outlining how very conventional Beto O’Rourke is. They point out that as a member of congress he was a New Democrat–part of a caucus committed to moving the Democratic Party to the right on economic policy. While many centrist Democrats performatively pretend to support single payer or tuition-free college, O’Rourke wouldn’t even sponsor legislation on these issues for the political capital. Instead, he actively worked to undermine Dodd-Frank and weaken our financial regulations. Just this week, O’Rourke was quoted attempting to distance himself from the “progressive” label, nevermind “democratic socialist”. When asked if he identifies as a progressive, O’Rourke said:

I don’t know. I’m just, as you may have seen and heard over the course of the campaign, I’m not big on labels.

The Jacobin and Current Affairs pieces I’ve linked you to will give you the whole rundown, in greater detail than I have the time or patience to produce myself. I am now going to make a much more provocative argument–I’m going to make the case that we would be better off sticking with Donald Trump in 2020 than electing Beto O’Rourke.

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Can We Continue to Care About Winning?

I want to return to the internecine left debate about borders (originally kicked off by Angela Nagle’s piece) one more time this week to map out a couple para-debates that are occurring in the background of the border debate. You see, we think we are fighting with each other about borders, but we are really having a another fight, and the border issue is just in the foreground.

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