April 17, 2019

More Democratic Town Halls: Warren, Sanders, and Yang

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I haven't had the time to watch all the political town halls I'd like, but I did manage to catch three more after my previous post: Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Andrew Yang. Not surprisingly, I was already rather familiar with Warren and Sanders. I knew very little about Yang. In fact, I knew so little about Yang that I was puzzled by what the person running the town hall for CNN was talking about when she asked about his support from White nationalists. I figured I'd share some quick thoughts on each of the three.

Oh, and unless I missed it (which is certainly possible), none of these candidates were asked anything about their thoughts on the separation of church and state. That is not their fault, obviously, but I did find it disappointing that this topic is not receiving the attention it deserves. If only more atheists would get behind #AtheistVoter, we might be able to change that.

Elizabeth Warren

While I do not agree with Warren on everything, I have always liked her. She's smart, tough, and seems to enjoy the fight. I came to her town hall with high expectations and was not disappointed. She seemed more than just comfortable; I thought she nailed the format of the town hall and really seemed to be in her element. She's a fighter, and I had no trouble imagining her doing well on the debate stage where she will eventually find herself.

I really hoped Warren would run in 2016. When she didn't, I hoped she would be someone's choice for VP. She's gifted when it comes to getting under Trump's skin, and I thought she'd be very effective in that role. As we head into 2020, she strikes me as a formidable candidate that has to be taken seriously. Her progressive credentials are strong enough that she should do well there, and her background in consumer protection may help her to appeal to at least some centrists.

After watching her performance, I found myself thinking that she deserves to be considered a top tier candidate no matter what the early polls might suggest. I hope she continues to do well, and I look forward to seeing more of her. If the election was tomorrow, she'd probably be my choice. Fortunately, I still have time to learn more about her and the other candidates.

Bernie Sanders

Yes, I actually tuned into Fox News to watch Sanders. I voted for Sanders in the last Democratic primary even though it was clear he was not going to win it. That said, I hoped he would not run in 2020. He's too old, and his moment has passed. I believe he is polling well at the time I write this post, and I expect him to be another top tier candidate. I do not expect him to win this primary, though.

As for his town hall, Sanders impressed. I wondered if it would seem like I was watching his "greatest hits" from 2016 where he blathered on like a broken record about income inequality. He did not. He seemed energized, focused, and it sounded as if he had given some thought about how he might broaden his appeal. It was a strong performance even if I did not come away feeling like I had learned anything new about him.

Whether I wanted him to run or expect him to be competitive is really beside the point here. Sanders showed that he is still a force to which others had better pay attention. Of course, he's got quite a bit of strong competition this time and no longer has the advantage of being the fresh new thing. Voters will have to decide if they would rather have Sanders or one of the many younger and more charismatic versions of him.

Andrew Yang

Of the candidates I've been following on Twitter (all of them), Yang has been the funniest. His tweets seem like a real person is behind them, and I cannot say that for any of the other candidates. I'm not sure what being good at Twitter means for his candidacy, but it might suggest that he's well-positioned to appeal to younger voters. I knew very little about him coming into his town hall, but it sounds like the centerpiece of his campaign is universal basic income. The way he described it left me feeling quite skeptical that it would accomplish much of what he seems to think it will accomplish. If someone gives me an extra $1,000 a month, it will end up in the bank. I'm not going to mindlessly spend it just because I have it, and so the notion that it would boost the economy and create tons of jobs seems unlikely. That said, I certainly understand the appeal of the idea.

I thought Yang's town hall performance was strong but a bit more mixed than many of the others. He seemed uncomfortable at times but usually recovered well. The stuff about White nationalists supporting him was odd, and his response to that question was not especially compelling. I found him more impressive than Gabbard but not at the same level as Buttigieg. It remains to be seen if he will resonate with voters in such a crowded field, and I had a hard time telling if he would be a strong debater.

I think that Yang has some interesting ideas, but I will be surprised if he catches on enough to make it out of the lower tier. There are many strong candidates this time, and rising up through the ranks won't be easy.