Warren, Klobuchar, Harris, Gillibrand: ALL GONE!
Elizabeth Warren is a disrupter at a time when many voters are exhausted by Donald Trump and looking for salve. That is why the odds are on Joe Biden.
March 7, 2020
If it wasn’t already clear, Super Tuesday made it clear: Many of those voting in Democratic primaries are prioritizing reassurance, safety, the familiarity of the known and a return to the ethics and values of pre-Trump America. In other words, Joe Biden, who has been on the national political stage for nearly 50 years and served in the last Democratic administration as vice president.
The early voting caucus and primary states, with the unearned privilege of getting to know the candidates up close and personal through months if not years of intimate campaign events, cycled through all of them until South Carolina voters concluded that, after all, Biden was the best bet.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s exit Thursday leaves me most crestfallen, even though I don’t know whether I would have voted for her. She has the best understanding of what has gone wrong in our economy, from her research and studies and her own life. She knows how to get things done, as she proved by dreaming up a federal agency to protect consumers from financial abuses, then getting it enacted and set up. Her plans, well, she has lots of them, but that’s good! There’s a huge recovery task ahead for the next president.
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At this moment, however, after four years of Donald Trump at center stage, many voters are weary, anxious and looking for salve. That is why the odds are on Biden and against Sen. Bernie Sanders to win the nomination.
►Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey talked a lot about love. That is not the tenor of the times.
►Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro of Texas talked a lot about decriminalizing the border. That is a risky position in a general election, especially against Trump, and it’s not even a winner among Democrats.
► Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York was hyper-focused on women’s issues and dropped out before defining a more sweeping leadership role.
►Sen. Kamala Harris of California never settled on an overarching narrative and rationale for her candidacy that encompassed her life, her record and her plans. And she mismanaged her campaign.
►Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota came across as a consummate legislator, steeped in bills, details and compromise. The presidency is larger than that.
►Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, was the most politically gifted candidate in the field. But he is 38 and relatively inexperienced. If he had been a 48-year-old senator, his thoughtfulness, discipline and raw talent might have led him to be the nation’s first gay president.
No yearning to shake things up again
Barack Obama had a similar temperament to Buttigieg and came on the scene at a similar moment. The nation was exhausted by the 9/11 attacks and the George W. Bush presidency, with its two seemingly endless Middle East wars and an economy in free fall. Obama was black and relatively young and his middle name was Hussein, and yet people decided he was what they needed. Twice.
With a president who is 73 and the two leading Democrats even older than that, there is a palpable thirst for a new generation of leadership or even a throwback to someone Obama’s age — at least on the Democratic side. And any one of these now departed candidates had the potential to be good and possibly great presidents.
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Maybe one of them will end up on the ticket. But for now, we are where we are. And I hope it is not in a place where we believe women or gay people or people of color cannot be nominated or elected president.
Every campaign is about the times, the mood and the needs of a nation. This one is no exception. Right now, Biden’s resurgence suggests it is about recapturing the essence of America, including the compassion and empathy so sorely lacking in the current commander in chief.
Later in the 2020s, if we are not satisfied with progress toward a better, more equitable country, we may be more ready to shake things up. I have no doubt we’ll pick the best person for the job, whoever it is.
Jill Lawrence is the commentary editor of USA TODAY and author of “The Art of the Political Deal: How Congress Beat the Odds and Broke Through Gridlock.” Follow her on Twitter: @JillDLawrence