First, Metteyya, thanks for the thoughtful response that engages with my response to your comment.

What you are arguing makes a whole lot more sense now that it is clear you believe Beto O’Rourke has the best chance of winning the 2020 presidential primary. You are spending your time trying to prove a negative, which is that Bernie Sanders is not really a presidential contender, because that is helpful to Beto.

I did not really write the post to boost Bernie’s campaign, though I will not attempt to hide my sympathy toward what Bernie, his staff, and nearly a million volunteers are trying to build. The reason I wrote this was to defend journalism on Democratic primary candidates who are not named Bernie. There was a moment months ago when many establishment Democrats were panicked that Beto, Kamala Harris, or other Democrats were the subjects of investigative reporting.

The presidency requires enormous political skill in enlisting people with different opinions than your own to support your vision for America, and Bernie has not demonstrated that skill (the Yemen pull-out was already supported by a number of Republicans still angry about the Saudis killing of a journalist), while this is Beto’s forte.

If one starts the timeline after Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, it is true. Republicans were responding to what the Saudis did. But that would not have been enough to pass a war powers resolution against the war in Yemen. Sanders, Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, and Republican Senator Mike Lee had to lay a foundation for around two years before it finally could pass in the Senate. There was real work involved, trying to build a consensus and move Republican Senators like Indiana’s Todd Young to abandon his position and come to their side.

When your starting point is “no insurance companies”, you invite the “socialized medicine”, “I like my current plan” attacks that leave you with nothing.

I am eager to see the Republicans attack. If Medicare For All is the right policy for the United States, like single-payer healthcare systems have been appropriate for many industrialized democracies, then it is past time for us to have this policy debate out in the open. The “S” word does not have the same dirty stigma for younger generations that it has with older generations. Trump can superficially attack “socialized medicine,” and by doing so, Democrats for once will be setting the confines of debate. It will be Republicans reacting to Democrats rather than the other way around. So many times, it is Democrats arguing why we should not dismantle a social program. Presidential campaigns that focus attention on single-payer healthcare create an opportunity for a rhetorical victory that can meaningfully impact public opinion — as much of Bernie’s 2016 campaign succeeded in doing on a number of key issues. For example, look at all the states raising their minimum wage.

MLK notwithstanding, sometimes the more pragmatic approach is to incrementally move the country toward our progressive goal. This is what Obama did with Obamacare when Lieberman and others would not support the public option.

I note how casually you dismiss the words of Martin Luther King Jr. as if you are unwilling to accept that his words may apply to politics in Washington. What MLK said about consensus presidents definitely applies to Obama and the Affordable Care Act. This is what was written by Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight:

…I think it would have behooved the White House to take a more publicly and manifestly “hands-on” approach with the health care bill. The political lesson of the stimulus was that outsourcing the salesmanship of key legislation to the Congress, a highly unpopular institution, is likely to result in both less liberal and less popular policy than if the legislation is championed by the White House — which was a highly popular institution at the time the health care debate began.

The White House, indeed, may have overlearned the lessons of the Clintons, whom conventional wisdom holds took too obstinate a position with the Congress. Or, they might have overestimated the extent which they could “quarantine” the legislation in the Congress. Suppose that the White House anticipated that the health care legislation was going to become somewhat unpopular. OK, so you dump it on the Congress, and let Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid take the hit, while Obama remains above the fray. The problem with this is that Obama can’t remain completely out of the way, and the more you put Congress in charge, the less popular the legislation will have become when you do encounter it again. (Sorry for the crude metaphor, but it’s a bit like a sexually transmitted disease that you pass on to a one-night stand, only to catch it again in a new, more virulent form when you sleep with the same person some months later.) In other words, by not willing to spend enough political capital on health care legislation, Obama may in the end have cost himself more political capital, because the negotiating process was dragged out and the final product made less popular.

You ask:

But more to the point, why are we always trying to advance a candidate that may only squeak by in a presidential contest, when we can have a blow-out win AND maintain our progressive values with a candidate like Beto?

First off, here’s an article from Newsweek on a Texas poll released at the end of February showing Bernie polled about as well as Beto in a matchup against Trump.

All the polls that we have available currently for Beto show him struggling to poll 10 percent or higher against any of the other Democratic candidates:

The Hill/HarrisX (April 5–6) — 7 percent

Quinnipiac (March 21–25) — 12 percent

Harvard-Harris March 25–26) — 5 percent

CNN (March 14–17) — 11 percent

Maybe Beto can grow his numbers in the polls, but they certainly do not currently demonstrate Beto is formidable enough to win the nomination and get to the stage where he could challenge Trump.

Moreover, U.S. media pundits discovered South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg this week. I wonder what you would reply to the idea that Buttigieg has appeal similar to O’Rourke. Both are from a red state, although he runs a fairly liberal city in northern Indiana. He is a blank slate that does not have votes from Congress to drag his candidacy down. He does not have a record of accepting donations from the fossil fuel industry, which undermines his progressive credentials. He is a gay mayor who served in the U.S. military.

That combination would seem to have appeal for both liberal and conservative voters. Any punditry has to acknowledge he’s a fresh face like Obama was in 2006 and better positioned than O’Rourke to gain momentum.

Journalist. Writes about politics. Managing editor of Shadowproof.com. Twitter: @kgosztola

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