President candidates are now declaring themselves. Democratic, Republican, and Independent, it appears it might be an interesting race.
Donald Trump is running for re-election. The RNC is behind him, of course. There is, however evidence that he is likely to face a challenger in the primaries, almost unheard of for an incumbent president.
Howard Schulz, former CEO of Starbucks, is running as an independent. (I hope that we’ve all learned from Trump that running a govenment is not the same as running a business, and that having a billionaire with absolutley no relevant experience as commander-in-chief is disastrous.) He is spending his time attacking the Democrats for tax and health care proposals that he says will bankrupt the country. They won’t, of course; they will simply hit multi-billionaires like him in the pocket. His yelling about Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax ignores that one of the healthiest times for this country, the Eisenhower administration, had a 70 to 90% marginal tax rate. (And yes, I know how marginal tax rates work, and I am hoping you do too.)
And then we get to the Democrats. They are mostly women: Eizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Kristen Gillibrand. (It’s fascinating to watch people who swore that they could not vote for Hillary but could vote for Warren tie themselves in knots trying to find reasons that they couldn’t vote for Warren, either. Misogyny is alive and well in the Democratic party. Of course, Kamala Harris gets hit with both misogyny and racism.) Bernie Sanders says he is going to run again — as a Democrat, which is absolutely infuriating since he only identifies as a Democrat when he wants money out of the party.
The discussion of the candidates has taken the same unpleasant turn that it did in ’16 primaries. Candidates are described in unnecessarily nasty terms. Even otherwise reliable media outlets are falling into the trap, albeit using slightly less inflammatory language: “Kamala Harris: Criminal justice reformer, or defender of the status quo? The record is mixed.”
Politifact is, to me, the gold standard of political fact-finding. It is the site I send people to (along with Snopes) to educate them about the truth (or falsity) of statements by public figures.
This headline is disheartening. It is possible to discuss candidate’s records and policy proposals without getting personal. It is possible to say “Kamala Harris’s record as a DA and AG is concerning” without questioning her character. It is possible to question Warren’s two per cent wealth tax proposal without calling her a socialist.
In other words, we should be talking about issues. Labeling candidates makes it harder to evaluate them in any meaningful way, and loses support from independents in the general election. (Independents not voting — or voting third party — will re-elect Trump.)
Which is just what the Russians want, of course. We have been warned that they will be meddling in the next election the way they did in 2016. (A lot of the misinformation sown about Hillary came from troll farms in Russia and Ukraine. Some of the Bernie bots may have been Russian stooges.) They will use social media to try and disrupt the Democrat’s campaign and insure another Trump victory.
But the Russian efforts only work as long as we allow them to work. If we resist the urge to engage in fearmongering and trafficking in unproven “facts,” if we stick to the issues and consider them in a calm, non-inflammatory way, if we recognize that no candidate will be perfect (we’re looking for a president, not a messiah), we increase our chances of winning come November.
Given the Democratic record and the way thing are shaping up, I doubt that’s going to happen.