The Morning Jolt


The Lily-White Democratic Primary

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Sen. Bernie Sanders at the Democratic presidential primary debate in Atlanta, Ga., November 20, 2019. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: why the surprisingly pallid tone of the remaining top Democratic candidates ought to bother us a little, all across the political spectrum; a little historical perspective on presidential misdeeds and misconduct; a near-unanimous vote in the House to support the Uyghurs in China; and I risk making actor Mark Ruffalo angry.

Is It Okay to Get Tired of Old, White, Wealthy Presidential Candidates?

Late yesterday I pointed out that one of the reasons that the non-white Democratic presidential candidates aren’t qualifying for the December debate is that non-white Democratic primary likely voters aren’t very supportive of Cory Booker, Julian Castro, Andrew Yang, Tulsi Gabbard, and the now-former candidate Kamala Harris.

Right now, the Democratic debate stage will feature Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Tom Steyer, Pete Buttigieg, and Amy Klobuchar.

To qualify, candidates need to hit either 4 percent in four polls approved by the Democratic National Committee or 6 percent in two polls in early nominating states and get contributions from 200,000 donors. Kamala Harris had met those thresholds, but she departed the race Tuesday. Yang is close and Gabbard still has a shot at qualifying, but we’re probably not going to see Booker on the stage later this month.

Right now, there’s a pretty good chance that the Democratic nominee will be an older white male who is at least a multimillionaire and who owns multiple houses. (Biden owns two and rents a 12,000-square-foot McLean mansion.) This is not how a lot of Democrats like to envision themselves and what they represent. Your Democratic friends may be a little grumpy about Harris’ departure, even if she wasn’t their first choice. They want to believe that their party is about fighting to ensure a fair shot for everybody, and minimizing any inherent advantages that whites, males, or the wealthy enjoy because of previous societal beliefs or structures. And now . . . the evidence is mounting that they can’t even mitigate this intrinsic unfair edge within their own ranks, never mind overcome it in American society as a whole.

But after we’re done laughing at the Democrats upset with how their field has narrowed, we can sympathize a little. If you count Mike Bloomberg, their final seven includes four septuagenarians and two billionaires. Just how different do you think the 2024 GOP presidential field is going to look? The 2016 Republican field was, on paper, the party’s most diverse, but most of the 17 barely got a second look, and the party nominated another wealthy older white male — like Mitt Romney, like John McCain, like George W. Bush, like Bob Dole (don’t tell me Dole wasn’t wealthy by the standards of most Americans), like George H.W. Bush, like Ronald Reagan . . .

You don’t have to buy into every last bit of the Democratic party’s embrace of identity politics to feel that the country would be better served by a menu of presidential candidates from every race, creed, color and hue, and with a wide variety of life experiences. There are a lot of candidate traits that are not necessary but nice to have. Military experience probably gives a unique insight into what the men and women in uniform on the ground will be facing in a crisis. Experience running a business, or at least working in the private sector, probably offers a clearer view of the unexpected consequences of regulations and the challenges of making payroll each month. No presidential candidate is poor, but it might be nice to know that a candidate faced a time in life where he had no idea how he would pay next month’s bills. Almost all of us have either faced a serious health issue or watched a love one deal with it and felt absolutely helpless and terrified. And almost every American has, at one point or another in life, felt like an outsider who was unfairly treated because they were different from the people around them in some way — because of their race, because of their religious or political beliefs, their sexuality, or some other factor.

A good candidate can go to a wide range of Americans and say, “I know what you’re going through, because I’ve been there, too.”

No matter how the parties tweak the rules, candidates who are celebrities and wealthy self-funders continue to enjoy significant advantages. As noted earlier, the billionaires who are most attracted to national politics brim with arrogance, entitlement, insufferable narcissism, and knee-jerk dismissal of even the fairest criticism. All candidates can get trapped in a bubble and have a hard time seeing themselves as the average voter sees them; billionaires have usually spent years in an airtight environment of sycophancy.

A senator in Washington will get a lot more television opportunities in his pre-campaigning career than a governor in Baton Rouge or Austin or any of the “flyover states.” The media can still play favorites; as we’ve seen this cycle, if MSNBC anchors don’t feel like asking you a question, thirty to forty minutes will pass between your answers.

A lot of Democrats would insist to high heaven that they’re not the least bit sexist or racist — but then echo Michael Avenatti and contend that because of other people’s sexism and racism, the Democrats had to nominate a white male. This is a spectacularly self-destructive bit of circular logic that, at its heart, contends that our system of free elections is actually bad, because we’re entrusting the decision of picking a leader to a group of people so reflexively closed-minded that they won’t even consider 70 percent of the population (all women and all non-white men).

How do we fix it? For starters, as the self-help gurus say, “ya gotta wanna.” Voters have to want different and better options than what they’re getting. They have to stop telling pollsters that the candidate they support is the one whose name they recognize — this is why so many of the leading candidates have been in the national spotlight for decades, and the billionaires like Steyer and Bloomberg can create mid-single-digit poll support quickly just by running a couple zillion in television ads in early states.

I Guess American History Began in 2017, Huh?

“The president’s serious misconduct, including bribery, soliciting a personal favor from a foreign leader in exchange for his exercise of power, and obstructing justice and Congress are worse than the misconduct of any prior president,” Michael Gerhardt, a University of North Carolina law professor will say, according to a copy of his opening statement obtained by Politico.

Dude. Dude. Eight of our presidents owned slaves while serving in the White House. Franklin Roosevelt forcibly imprisoned tens of thousands of law-abiding American citizens for four years because of their ancestry. Woodrow Wilson re-segregated the federal government, wrote that the races were unequal, and threw a black civil rights leader out of the Oval Office. If we want to expand it to vice presidents, Aaron Burr straight-up murdered the old Treasury Secretary by shooting him in the chest.

Worse than Lyndon Johnson telling America that that we were winning the Vietnam War when we weren’t? That one proved a lot more consequential in the lives of Americans.

How much better or worse is the effort to strongarm the Ukrainian government than Jimmy Carter’s irritated pledge, “if I get back in, I’m going to f*** the Jews”?

Almost All of Congress Is United on Behalf of the Uighurs

Good job, House: “The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passes the UIGHUR Act, a bill to condemn the Chinese government for its mass internment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang, with a vote of 406-1.”

ADDENDA: I like actor Mark Ruffalo’s performances. I certainly wouldn’t want to make him angry. We wouldn’t like him when he’s angry. But a few days ago, he wrote, “It’s time for an economic revolution. Capitalism today is failing us, killing us, and robbing from our children’s future.”

Ruffalo’s net worth is about $30 million and he made about $6 million for the last Avengers movie. For a guy who hates capitalism and the profit motive, he sure is good at it.

He reminds me of the Patagonia founder who insists he became a billionaire by accident


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