A 2020 Voter’s Guide for Progressive Californians

The time is here to vote. For everyone in California — and in the rest of the Super Tuesday states —the primary is this coming Tuesday, March 3. Fortunately — perhaps amazingly — it’s not hard to pick the best candidate this time around, as one of them has both the most progressive policies and the best chance of winning the general election against Trump.

Do vote, wherever you are, as these primaries are not winner-take-all, like normal American elections, but rather proportional contests granting delegates based on vote totals. So every vote counts, regardless of where you live.

For Californians, for the first time in many years, we have a relatively short ballot. There’s really just the big primary and then a handful of local measures and central committee elections. So this guide is shorter than those I’ve written in the recent past. We’ll focus on the primary, appraising where the candidates are right now, whether they’re rising in the polls or losing support right now, what they’ve said and done recently, what they ultimately stand for, and their chances to defeat Trump in November. And then look briefly at one important race in San Francisco.

PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES — Bernie Sanders

What a campaign we are witnessing. The notion that a major politician in this country could forswear corporate and PAC contributions, provide a consistent and uncompromising critique of corporate control of our society, advocate an amazing suite of progressive reforms that would level the playing field a little for those with less income and wealth, and win major elections across this country — this was considered ridiculous and impossible as recently as 2015. Don’t vote for Bernie Sanders; vote as one small part of your participation in this peaceful revolution to take back the government from a corrupt political, media, and military industrial culture.

Bernie Sanders has won the most votes in each of the first three contests — Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada — something no one else has done in modern political history. And it’s not because of Bernie himself but because of the millions of everyday mechanics and janitors and teachers and Amazon workers and college students and truckers and soldiers and gig workers who have given a little bit of their blood, sweat, tears and funds to build a movement. The movement’s growing base of support and enthusiasm dwarfs that of any other campaign; it’s the campaign most popular with young people, union workers, and people of color. This is astounding and inspiring — a modern-day multi-racial, multi-generational movement — and it’s likely the only thing that can defeat Donald Trump and his MAGA enthusiasts in November. The “Stop Bernie” movement in the DNC and corporate media is intensifying by the day, which is why it is essential these days to balance your media diet.

Do not leave your polling place without casting a ballot for Bernie Sanders.

As this has been such a dramatic primary, and there are so many candidates still in the race, I’ll add my thoughts on where each of the other candidates stands, with some links to stories that I recommend:

JOE BIDEN

After a decent 2019, this has been a sad year for Joe. Bumbling, yelling, lying, and losing support in every state, Biden has gone from “frontrunner” to a string of losses and a critical need for a big win in South Carolina this weekend to stay in the race. He’s gone from leading among all people of color, to leading among just African Americans, to now giving up both of those titles to Bernie. He was actually caught this week lying that he had been arrested doing protests while visiting Nelson Mandela in South Africa, which is straight-up fabrication and a transparent bit of pandering to the huge African American voting bloc in South Carolina. His corruption and sexism haven’t been fully exposed yet, but while he’s not quite as bad as Bloomberg (see below), he would be a disaster in a national election against Trump.

ELIZABETH WARREN

I know there are many progressives who still support Warren. In fact it was Warren who first turned me on to the modern progressive movement that has steadily transformed the Democratic Party. Her critiques of Obama’s failings in his bailout of Wall Street after the fraudulent housing bubble galvanized a left that had partly gone to sleep after Obama’s victory, and had she run in 2016 as many of us (myself included) urged her to do, she might very well be president now. She was fiery, intelligent, committed, and inspiring. And so it gives me no pleasure to recount here her disappointing self-destruction over the past four months. It has been as sad as it has been perplexing.

After riding so high last summer and fall — leading the race by some measures — she has made a series of really poor political moves that have left her with nowhere to go but out, I believe, particularly if she is unable to convincingly win her home state of Massachusetts on Tuesday. It began with her sudden retreat on Medicare for All, an absolutely essential plank of the current progressive movement. She then launched her dubious accusation timed right before the final Iowa debate that Bernie was secretly a sexist. Next, after New Hampshire she launched disingenuous attacks on Bernie’s online supporters (such as yours truly), engaging in the “supporter blaming” that the corporate media encourages. Her fall in the eyes of progressives has culminated this week with a stunning backpedaling on superdelegates: After she acknowledged that the process in 2016 was rigged by the DNC against Bernie and that she believed superdelegates shouldn’t exist, she now says she’s happy for the superdelegates to play their anti-democratic role and override the will of the voters. No true progressive would make such an antidemocratic statement. Her defense has been more lies — that the new rules this year were Bernie’s idea, when she surely knows that Bernie pushed hard to get rid of superdelegates altogether but the DNC pushed back and forced a compromise that they would vote on a second ballot at the convention. This is a stunning about-face for Warren, and comes as perhaps the straw that has broken the camel’s back when it comes to progressives remaining open to her.

Some say her poor choices began after Kamala Harris dropped out, at which point many of Kamala’s strategists (who were mostly former Hillary staffers) were brought into Warren’s campaign; others say it’s on her, that she just doesn’t have great political instincts. Be that as it may, had she turned out to be a “younger female Bernie” she would likely be winning, but at this point, Warren has stumbled into a political no-man’s land — the billionaires who fund the centrists won’t support her as she wants to tax them; and she’s burned too many bridges and retreated too far from progressive ideals to appeal to the progressive movement, which has consolidated around Sanders. Warren does remain the least-bad of the alternatives to Sanders. Read on to see how much worse it gets in this primary.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG

It’s hard to imagine someone worse than Michael Bloomberg, and I’ve tried. Bloomberg would get slaughtered in a general election against Trump, but that isn’t it. It’s that even if he won he’d be no better. He’s certainly just as sexist and racist and authoritarian as Trump, but he’s more cynical and more competent. Make no mistake, competence is a positive trait only in people with virtuous motives. While Trump can’t get his wall built or the census questions changed despite his attempts, because he’s just not as adept at pulling the levers of power, Bloomberg very competently implemented apartheid policies in New York; stop and frisk was not just racist but violent, oppressive, and dehumanizing. And no, he didn’t “rein it in” when it got out of hand, as he shamelessly lies; court orders that he fought tooth and nail finally declared his policies unconstitutional and forced him to “reduce it by 95%.”

When Bloomberg speaks freely, as any internet search reveals, he has utter contempt for people of color and wouldn’t hesitate to implement stop and frisk in any city if he thought he could get away with it. Bloomberg’s deeply compromising ties to China dwarf anything even the most rabid Russiagater believes about Trump. Read this account of Bloomberg “unplugged” in that radical lefty outlet CNN to delve into his deeper beliefs — that most people need to be treated like children under a firm authoritarian grasp and that everything can be bought — from politicians to women’s silence to the audience at a debate. As a nominee he would destroy this party, depress turnout, and lose badly in the general election. One has to wonder, had Bloomberg won the presidency as a Republican in 2016, which Democrats would be willing to nominate Trump today if they thought he would beat Bloomberg?

PETE BUTTIGIEG

One decent description of Mayor Pete I heard recently is that he should be cast in Westworld as a robotic politician. The depiction works because there is something programmed about him, something flexible and technologically advanced, yet inauthentic. He speaks a lot, uses fancy words, and yet often doesn’t say anything of substance. He’s the establishment system wrapped in a younger mask. The fact that he’s unpopular with his own generation indicates they see through him while perhaps the older (and whiter) voters who like him are probably fooled by his youth and superficial eloquence. He’s been caught multiple times lying about support he has in communities of color, and his strange behavior at the Iowa caucus was very suspicious. He’s a skilled debater and can hold his own in an argument, which does count for something, and yet you can never really tell what he stands for, and in the most recent debate he just talked over everyone. He wrote a glowing essay about Bernie Sanders when he was younger, and yet now all he does is attack Bernie. He was for Medicare for All at the beginning of the campaign, and yet now he is its most vocal critic. It’s hard to know what if any principles this small-town-mayor-from-military-intelligence holds, and what if anything he stands for. In all honesty he probably doesn’t stand for anything other than his own ambition, and this will never win in a year of anti-establishment politics.

AMY KLOBUCHAR

I don’t have as many negative things to say about Klobuchar as I do about the other centrist conservatives here. Amy hasn’t been as dishonest as the others, at least as far as I’m aware. She is a centrist/conservative Democrat and makes no apologies about it. She doesn’t try to appear progressive. I think she would be just as comfortable and credible as a moderate Republican. With no movement behind her and no distinctive policy proposals, she would not fare well in a general election against Trump.

TOM STEYER

The “nicer billionaire” in the race, Steyer has done little to disappoint or anger progressives, which on its own shows decent political instincts, and yet the truth is that his is another plutocratic candidacy that runs counter to American democratic ideals. His policies in many areas are not very progressive, and he simply has too little record to know where he stands when it comes to confronting the establishment on things like healthcare, militarism,

TULSI GABBARD

I cannot praise Tulsi enough. Unfortunately she has been successfully removed from the conversation by a corporate media that ignores her, and by a DNC that tweaks its debate rules to allow in Bloomberg and Steyer but block Tulsi (while lamenting there aren’t more women or people of color in the debates). Tulsi has unparalleled integrity, great stage presence, an air of authentic wisdom when she speaks, and countless fabulous policy proposals, and she is laser-focused on reducing our overseas wars, something too few people talk about and something that drains trillions of dollars from the treasury and kills thousands of people every year. Yet she has been all but removed from the primary by the powers that be, and the fact that the debates focus so little on foreign policy hasn’t helped her either. At this point, even though Tulsi’s integrity would pose a real challenge for Trump, voting for Tulsi is a bit of a protest vote as she’s unlikely to earn any delegates to the convention. In my opinion her supporters will be best served by voting for Bernie Sanders, who will likely include her in his cabinet and potentially even name her as VP (a brilliant choice in my opinion). Of course, I think everyone should vote for Bernie, and I won’t shame anyone for voting for Tulsi or another candidate. Vote your conscience.

And that wraps up my coverage of where the candidates stand right from an alternative news perspective.

CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT #12 — Shahid Buttar

One other race that I’ll mention is Nancy Pelosi’s congressional district in San Francisco. Pelosi again and again has stood against progressive movement, and perhaps this is her defining quality — the ability to suppress the rise of progressive political activity. She’s managed to do this in both SF and at the national level. While some say she has to act this way to build coalitions and get things done, this simply isn’t true. She has all kinds of political capital to use for any issue she truly believes in, but what’s apparent is that she’s corrupt, having amassed personal wealth over $100 million, while doing nothing more than serving in Congress. San Francisco deserves more progressive representation, and the country as a whole needs someone more progressive in Congress from this area. Shahid Buttar is brilliant and principled, isn’t taking corporate money, is a real progressive, and deserves support from everyone in San Francisco.

This is the primary, so Shahid doesn’t have to win, he just needs to finish in the top two to make it to the general election in November. So really he’s in a race against the Republicans.

Where rationalism and idealism meet.