By Arab News
By Ellen R. Wald*
The Democratic candidates for president in the US will hold their fifth televised debate on Wednesday evening. The voters who watch will be looking for one of the leading candidates to break out, but they will also reflect on whether they need to consider one of the new candidates who have just announced and will not be on the stage. These are former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick and former New York mayor and businessman Michael Bloomberg. Or perhaps voters will decide they are still open to an as yet undeclared candidate like Hillary Clinton.
Right now, most pundits predict that Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren will win the nomination. However, there are still several serious issues with her campaign. Warren will eventually have to answer for her years of misleading employers and others by falsely claiming that she was a Cherokee Native American. Much of the electorate believes this helped her career at the expense of true Cherokees, who were horribly persecuted by the US government in the 19th century. Warren also touts herself as a champion of the middle class, an image that does not fit with her history of legal advocacy for large corporations.
On policy, Warren continues to advocate for socialized health care, but she is still unable to satisfactorily answer questions about how she will pay for it. She has recently ranted against billionaires — even calling out individuals by name — and argued for a tax on their wealth. This tax is likely unconstitutional and also anathema to the American dream. Americans aspire to great success and do not generally begrudge others their success. For many voters, her vilification of the extremely successful and wealthy may come across as scary instead of enlightened.
Pundits seem to like Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana. Buttigieg appears more centrist, which is a relief to many voters. He is clearly bright and has a long resume despite being only 37 years old. However, voters will probably determine he lacks real experience because of his age. Moreover, he is a mayor of a mid-size city in a state that people rarely visit. South Bend is really only known as the home of the University of Notre Dame. South Bend is also experiencing a serious crime problem, which looks bad for Buttigieg.
Former Vice President Joe Biden is still near the top of the pack, but voters will watch this week to see if he is forced to address his son’s alleged corruption in Ukraine and China. The Democratic candidates at the debate will also surely talk about the impeachment inquiry being held in Congress to investigate President Trump. The problem for Biden is that this all ties back to the possible misdeeds of his son. In any case, Biden’s poll numbers appear to be slipping and few pundits are choosing him to win anymore.
Other candidates like Kamala Harris and Corey Booker are still in the race, though they receive little attention these days. Booker recently said that he would not change his message because he believes that, eventually, the voters will determine they want what he is selling. Harris might be in a similar boat. Perhaps it is best for candidates like them to allow Warren, Buttigieg and Biden to grab the spotlight for now, as long as they fizzle out down the stretch.
There is still time for the electorate to change its mind several times before a Democratic nominee is finally chosen. Some candidates have been campaigning for almost a year already, and it seems as if the primary elections must finally be around the corner. But they aren’t. The first two states to have their say in the primary do not vote until early February. Iowa has a caucus (a form of open vote) on Feb. 3 and New Hampshire holds a primary election on Feb. 11.
Patrick will not be on the stage on Wednesday, but his fledgling campaign will probably try to play off of his perceived centrism and his friendship with former president Barack Obama. Nevertheless, he was not a particularly effective or popular governor, and he now works for the very same private equity firm that was so reviled by Democrats in 2012 because former Republican candidate (and another former Massachusetts governor) Mitt Romney had worked there.
Bloomberg is a prominent candidate. He ran New York City for 12 years and has more than $50 billion to his name thanks to his eponymous media and financial company. However, he will have to show disengagement from that company because Americans do not want a media giant controlling the narrative for his personal gain. Furthermore, liberal Democrats will never forgive Bloomberg for his policy as mayor of sending the police to “stop and frisk” suspicious-looking people. The program primarily impacted young, minority men and was of dubious legality. He has just apologized for this tactic, but many Democrats won’t care.
And there is still Clinton, looming over every discussion of the Democratic Party. She keeps dropping hints that she might run and even claimed recently that “many, many, many people” are asking her to do so. However, the Democratic establishment does not seem eager to see her in the race. It may be that no one really wants Clinton to run right now — except Trump.
- Ellen R. Wald, Ph.D. is a historian and author of “Saudi, Inc.” She is the president of Transversal Consulting and also teaches Middle East history and policy at Jacksonville University. Twitter: @EnergzdEconomy