Blogging The “Debates”

Well, the first round is over! The first round of “debates” (read “forums”) between the Democratic candidates for President in 2020. All 20 of them! And there are more, but only 20 qualified under the rules for the televised events this week.

While it is way too early in the process for me to decide on a candidate, I thought I might log my early reactions while they are still fresh in my mind. I read an article recently which suggested leaving aside — for now — the elusive quality of “electability” since, in the age of Trump, nobody knows what that actually is any more.

Instead, the author suggested that we focus on three things in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses (at least): does the candidate have the character you would like to see in a President; does the candidate share your values; could the candidate, if elected, do the job. That seems completely sensible to me and I have ranked six of my favorites, so far, below who seem to meet those criteria.

Elizabeth Warren — Early on, she would not have been high on my list. But she is easily the smartest, among the toughest, has a compelling personal story and a “plan for everything!” Even if a number of them are aspirational and — short of flipping the Senate to Democratic control as well as winning the presidency — have little chance of being signed into law, they address the right issues, particularly income inequality and the widening gap between rich and poor in this country. This senator and former Harvard professor knows economics!

Kamala Harris — She was a favorite early on, but seemed to fade off my radar screen for a while. That all changed on Thursday night! She was strong yet measured, not afraid to take on Joe Biden, and I loved her line when the other candidates trying to out-shout each other, “The American public doesn’t want to see a food fight, they want us to put food on their tables!” With America’s “original sin” of racism still front and center in 2019, the very act of electing not only the first woman President, but the first woman of color would be amazing.

Pete Buttigieg — While the young mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is not likely to become the eventual nominee, he is one impressive individual! As smart (if not as experienced) as Elizabeth Warren, he has a calm and measured demeanor and balances his military background with progressive ideas both on foreign policy and domestic issues. While light on foreign policy experience, I can see his personality repairing our damaged relationship with allies around the world with the best of them while being tough enough to stand up to our enemies. His courage in standing out there as a married gay man is matched only by his articulate apologetic for a progressive religious faith in the face of the hypocritical use of particularly Christianity by Trump and his minions in the Republican Party.

Cory Booker — Much of what I said above about Kamala Harris could be reiterated about Senator Booker. His vision is upbeat and positive (even more than hers) and he still believes in the possibility in working “across the aisle.” This is not a naive optimism, however, and he knows that there is a limit to this possibility as long as the Senate remains in GOP hands. I am impressed with much of what he did while mayor of Newark and the fact that he still lives “in the hood” lends great credibility and integrity to his stances on such things as income inequality and gun control.

Julian Castro — For a relatively young man, Castro has solid experience not only as the mayor of San Antonio but as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under Barack Obama. He had the earliest, and likely the best, approach to dealing with immigration which, if Donald Trump has his way, will be front and center in the 2020 election. The issue is personal for him as the only Latino candidate and his vision is broad, including getting “upstream” of the immigration problem by reaching out (with a kind of Marshall Plan?) to the countries in Central and South American to help stabilize them and mitigate the terror which causes so many to flee to the North. By the way, along with a number of other well-educated candidates, his Bachelors from Stanford and JD from Harvard says volumes!

Bernie Sanders — I have let Bernie slip under the tent on this list because he has been consistent for so long about the economic issues involving Wall Street, big Pharma, and “the billion-ayres” of the top 1 %. While I am no fonder of his grumpy old-man persona than I was when he ran against Hillary Clinton, it is perhaps understandable in one who has fought this battle for so long while watching the country move farther and farther to the Right in these last years. If some of his “tax the rich” solutions seem unworkable (and they do to me, most days), one need only hearken back to the New Deal of Franklin D. Roosevelt to see that those reforms were opposed just as fiercely by the rich and powerful, particularly on Wall Street and in the big banks. The mood of a majority of the country was ripe for such changes in those days. Will it be in 2020?

Well, those are just some initial thoughts. I shall be following the race with great interest in the coming months, but will save my phone-calling and door-knocking until the Democratic Party has decided on its ticket. Then, I will — once again — work my heart out. Because NOTHING…NOTHING…is more important to me than defeating Donald Trump!

7 Responses to “Blogging The “Debates””

  1. James & Glenda Taylor Says:

    Are you trying to get a full time job Bishop C. Christopher Epting?
    Very well done!

  2. Annie Says:

    This is so well articulated Bishop Epting. Thank you for this thoughtful piece.

  3. MaryEllenOttman Says:

    Bishop Epting, thank you for not being afraid to speak out about what you believe. Your posts always express my views so articulately. But even if they didn’t I so respect clergy who aren’t afraid of the politics in order to defend what is right. The same applies to you, Fr. Jim. I love you and Glenda.

  4. Catherine Maher Says:

    Wonderful to know you, , a man of great Faith, are taking the time to share your thoughts on the real issues …of concern for all of us and using the scripture to help us understand how HIS words apply to today’s reality. Your constant focus on Prayer, reading and application is so helpful. Thank you so much. And thanks so much for coming to Fr. Joe’s service at. St. Mary’s. It meant the world to me! God continue to bless you …and all you do!!!!!

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