Local Democrats weighing in on the Democratic presidential campaign and debates have expressed almost as many opinions as there are candidates.
“We have a good group,” Assembly candidate Brandii Grace said. “The really small differences don’t matter.”
Everyone surveyed had something nice to say about just about every candidate. Most hadn’t made up their minds yet. Those that had decided looked to other candidates
as possible running mates.
To be sure, all are vested in choosing a candidate that will defeat Donald Trump next year. As far as Stephen Daniels, the host of “The Talk of Santa Clarita” podcast, is concerned, anyone is better than Trump.
“I’d vote for my foot over Donald Trump,” he said. “I like my foot. I trust my foot. My foot doesn’t lie.”
But Daniels also wondered what many probably are thinking.
“Should we go with a moderate candidate or a more progressive candidate?” he said. “Who can beat Trump?”
There are plenty of moderates and progressives from which to choose. Two individuals surveyed, Saugus school board member David Barlavi and Grace’s communications director Kyle McCormick, are supporting Bernie Sanders.
“He definitely has the best chance to beat Trump,” Barlavi said. “And the icing on the cake is that he has the best policy platform: Medicare for all – he wrote the damn bill – a $15 minimum wage, free state and community college.”
Barlavi also likes that Sanders opposed wars in Iraq in 1991 and 2002, recognizes that for there to be peace between Israel and the Palestinians, both sides must recognize the human rights of the other people; and he wants to “cut the fat out of the military industrial complex and put that towards education and health care and infrastructure.”
McCormick, who said he supported Sanders in 2016, too, credits the Vermont senator with broadening his base and, following his recent heart attack, loosening up on the campaign trail.
“He seems to have learned lessons from his previous run,” McCormick said. “He’s livelier and more present. He doesn’t revert back to his stump speech. He’s more willing to go into his own narrative, and he tells more jokes.”
So, who would they like to see join Sanders on the ticket?
Barlavi favors Andrew Yang because “he’s a populist like Bernie,” he said. He also would be OK with Elizabeth Warren but feels she would decline because “she’s got too much skin in the game.”
“If your goal is to win the general election, Bernie-Yang has the best chance,” Barlavi said.
McCormick favors Warren joining Sanders because she would balance the ticket stylistically if not ideologically. “Warren is popular with the establishment Democrats and Bernie is not,” he said.
Other local Democrats followed what Stacy Fortner said of the candidates: “They all deserve to be heard.” This could be a problem if what Fortner saw on Facebook comes true: The Democratic National Committee might change the criteria to qualify for the next debate, Dec. 19 in Los Angeles, scrapping the required number of small-donor donations.
“That benefits (Tom) Steyer and (Michael) Bloomberg,” Fortner said. “It doesn’t benefit (Julián) Castro and (Amy) Klobuchar.”
Another problem is in the format. With 10 candidates on the debate stage, it becomes difficult to get words in edgewise, which was probably why candidates did so much interrupting in the early debates.
Grace likened the debates to watching a sporting event and offering armchair analysis. Daniels agreed.
“I find it overall a little stupid that those little sound-bite moments (are) idiotic,” Daniels said. “That’s not what a president does. The idea that, ‘Ooh, he really got her.’ That’s just stupid. Some of the best candidates are not being recognized because the debates are overshadowing how they would be as president.”
A summary of what people said about the candidates, alphabetically:
McCormick worries that the former vice president’s penchant for spoken gaffes affects his credibility and would be an easy target for Trump in a one-on-one debate.
“(Trump) would waste no time belittling him,” McCormick said. “It concerns me to have a candidate that has a very visible weakness go against a candidate who is utterly shameless, a bully.”
Then again, George W. Bush became president.
McCormick thinks the New Jersey senator comes across in debates as “reasonable” and “impassioned.” Daniels thinks the debate format is not helping Booker, who he finds “pragmatic about his approach to politics and how to get things done.” Daniels also likes Booker’s optimism.
McCormick wouldn’t mind if the South Bend, Ind., mayor was a vice president pick. “He’s comporting himself well, getting his message across well,” McCormick said. He also thought that other candidates should go after Buttigieg more now that he’s leading in at least one poll in Iowa, and that his being gay “will seem like a bigger thing if he starts winning.”
Of all the candidates, the Hawaii congresswoman drew the most ire.
“Gabbard needs to go away,” Fortner said. “She’s taking up space. She’s a horrible excuse for a candidate.”
McCormick said he thinks Gabbard’s point that our foreign policy toward regime change needs examination is valid, but he objects to her seemingly cozy relationship with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Modi is a member of a Hindu nationalist volunteer organization that seeks a Hindu nation in which Muslims and Christians are second-class citizens, according to the online news website The Intercept.
“It concerns me to have close relations to someone so dictatorial,” McCormick said.
“On paper, she makes sense, but it doesn’t seem to be working out in practice,” McCormick said. “She’s trying to thread a needle that isn’t there to thread.”
McCormick also sees Harris as waffling on issues, which hurt her early-debate momentum. She co-sponsored Sanders’ Medicare for all bill, then later reversed her position.
Of all the candidates, the Minnesota senator drew the most opposing viewpoints.
One side, there was Daniels, who finds her very pragmatic. On the other side is McCormick, who objects to her we-can’t-have-nice-things approach.
“I can handle political moderation in some forms, but the specific brand of hectoring, ‘You’re being dumb. You can’t do that’ really grates on me,” he said.
“I am not glad he is there,” McCormick said of the billionaire. “I don’t like he is a extremely rich guy paying money into a vanity presidential run. Every time they cut to him (in a debate), I was like, ‘Tom, what are you doing?’ ”
Daniels said he likes the fact that the Massachusetts senator seems to have a plan to tackle all problems. “That, to me, speaks to somebody who should be president.”
And yet McCormick worries that Warren’s political instincts are problematic. She has claimed Native American ancestry, even going so far as using it on a State Bar of Texas form, but in February she apologized for that.