January 20, 2020

Warren and Klobuchar Endorsement Not Necessarily About Gender

Elizabeth Warren

The New York Times editorial board made a bit of news yesterday by endorsing both Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. Two candidates for one nomination? Yep, and I think this was a wise choice given the state of the Democratic Party these days.

Predictably, social media erupted with wild claims that The Times had fallen victim to the "wokeness" epidemic and that this unusual move of endorsing two candidates was all about gender. Couldn't it be that, in the opinion of the editorial board, these just so happen to be the two best candidates?

The dual endorsement recognizes that Democrats have a choice to make between two competing models of governing advocated by these (and other) candidates running in the primary: the more centrist/establishment/moderate route (represented here by Klobuchar) and the more progressive/structural change version (represented here by Warren). It has been clear for some time that the Democratic primary would eventually boil down to a choice between these approaches.

Instead of endorsing a single candidate, which would have required them to endorse one of these two approaches as well, The Times decided to leave that up to voters.

That’s why we’re endorsing the most effective advocates for each approach. They are Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar.
I think this makes good sense. They are selecting the candidates they consider the best from each of the two approaches. We can disagree with either or both of their choices, but insisting that they are basing their decision entirely on gender seems unfair.

Consider the progressive/structural change camp for a moment. One has two strong contenders polling high enough to land them in the final Democratic debate before the Iowa caucuses: Warren and Sanders. If The Times was going to select a candidate to represent this camp, it had to be one of these two. They went with Warren. I'd do the same if it was up to me. Why? I like both Warren and Sanders, but I believe that Warren has many advantages over Sanders. I find her a more effective candidate overall. Others who prefer this camp may make a different decision and go with Sanders. I have no problem with that. He's another solid option, and I'd have no trouble voting for him in the general election if he should somehow win the nomination.

What about the centrist/establishment/moderate camp? Things are a bit trickier here depending on how one feels about Buttigieg. I'd take Klobuchar or Buttigieg over Biden without question. Both strike me as far more effective candidates. Would I take Klobuchar over Buttigieg? Probably, but that's a much harder question. I'd probably go with her because I think she'd be somewhat more competitive in a general election. Of course, I still don't expect any of these candidates to have much of a chance of winning a general election so it might make sense to interpret Buttigieg's higher poll numbers as a sign that he'd have more voter enthusiasm. Like I said, this one would be a harder call for me.

But what about Biden? While I could vote for him in the general election, I have some real reservations about his ability to govern effectively based on what I have observed during the debates. He's up there with other old candidates, but he's the only one who consistently comes across as too old to take seriously. In many ways, he reminds me of what Reagan was like toward the end of his presidency. That is not a good place from which to start. It does not surprise me at all that The Times would not view him as a particularly effective candidate.

Depending on which candidates you prefer, you certainly may disagree with The Times' endorsement. But I'd be reluctant to conclude that gender was their only consideration in selecting the candidates they selected.