In 2000 I cast my first Presidential vote for Al Gore. I had been a big fan of Gore’s since middle school when I read Earth in the Balance and was happy to vote for someone who had the experience, intellect and foresight to confront the issues critical to the country’s present and future. Obviously he sighed at a debate, lost the election and seems to have (understandably) lost his passion for politics. I have since voted for John Kerry, President Obama twice and Hillary Clinton. But the candidate I am supporting for 2020 may be the most enthusiastic vote I’ll cast since popping my presidential voting cherry for Gore (though being the bi-racial son of a black immigrant man and a white American woman I did feel a personal affinity for then-candidate and President Obama). I am supporting Governor Jay Inslee of Washington and am hoping that he can start to gain some real national traction. Here are some relevant facts about Governor Inslee for those who don’t know much about him:
- Voted for the assault weapons ban in 1994, which cost him his first Congressional seat after one term
- Returned to Congress in the late 1990s and voted against the repeal of Glass-Steagall – one of the key factors that precipitated the financial collapse of 2008
- Has been a consistent voice regarding climate change for decades
- Voted against the war in Iraq
- As governor (currently serving his second term in Washington state) – signed first net neutrality law, declared a moratorium on the death penalty, introduced a state public option for health insurance in January 2019, and has pardoned thousands of low level drug offenders. Washington was also the first state to sue to stop Trump’s original travel ban on Muslims.
- Personally – has three kids, married his high school sweetheart, drives a Chevy Bolt (green and ‘Murican!), won a state hoops title in high school and is 68 years old
So basically Jay Inslee was a progressive martyr in his first stint as a Congressman, supporting a gun control bill that passed but cost him his job. He was right on Glass-Steagall, the Iraq War and his commitment to his signature issue, fighting climate change, has shown foresight and leadership. He has federal legislative experience and strong executive experience. Plus, his state is home to Starbucks and Amazon, so it would be hard to claim his progressive vision and leadership have been incompatible with capitalistic success. But right now Inslee is polling in the 1% range. Among his “problems” – his social media following is weak and he is a “straight, white man” in a party and liberal climate that yearns for a candidate more reflective of the Democratic party’s diversity. My main issue with this is that the Democrats have last nominated a black man and a woman. John Kerry was the last white man the party nominated (in 2004). This is not an argument that “it’s time to go back” or anything stupid like that. My point is that, unlike the Party of Trump, the Democrats have not shown themselves averse to voting for people other than straight white men, and yet it seems more than ever the Democrats and liberals seem to be acting like selecting a candidate who happens to be a straight white man would automatically be treated like a step backward. I think that is counterproductive both in the primary phase and in potentially damping enthusiasm in the general IF the party happens to nominate a straight white man. I think the roster of candidates is really strong (Pete Buttigieg is running a surprise second in my own personal choices), but I will vote for whomever wins the Democratic nomination. Worrying about too centrist or too progressive a candidate when Trump is the other choice is like declaring chemo or surgery as terrible choices for dealing with Cancer – you better choose one because the result of not supporting either is Cancer.
So with this heartfelt, but mostly useless endorsement I would like to suggest some advice for Governor Inslee’s campaign (since the campaign is running with fighting climate change as its overarching theme I will not address that, but I wholeheartedly endorse that emphasis):
- Make it clear you are not Governor John Hickenlooper – I write this only half in jest. You announced your candidacy the same week as Governor John Hickenlooper (a more centrist candidate, who is also a white male, but who unlike you, saw Deep Throat in the theater with his Mom). The media sort of labeled both of you alternatively as “centrist governors” and “here come the straight white guys,” which is sort of a lazy (and false) branding of your track record. You are as progressive as anyone in the race, except that you have the votes and record of actual progressive actions, not just rhetoric.
- Meet with the Parkland kids and other gun control activists – the only thing that young people have been as vocal about as climate change in the last few years has been gun control. You could really be THE candidate of young people if they learn that not only are you a climate change warrior, but also lost his your first Congressional seat voting for gun control (how many politicians on either side of the aisle these days would you expect to risk career for conscience?). Working with kids like the activists from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas would bridge your 25 year old vote to today’s concerns. This should be your way to approach other large issues where your record is clearly a strength.
- Take on Bernie Sanders – Bernie’s fans are probably as devoted to Bernie as Trump’s supporters are to him. Taking on Bernie (not in a dirty politics or insulting sort of way) would highlight that you are no less progressive than Bernie (and on gun control more so). Your voting record and policy priorities cannot be criticized from the left and your record of accomplishment stands favorably to Bernie’s mostly rhetorical star power. Also, being almost a decade younger than Bernie cannot hurt. Now you may be saying, but if Bernie’s fans are ride or die for Bernie why take him on? Well, there are many voters, whether they be people of color, women, or other demographics who still feel either an affinity for Hillary Clinton or a wariness of Bernie. Showing that you are able to make a compelling challenge to Bernie’s front runner status might make some people notice and might make others who felt that Bernie was not sufficiently supportive of HRC feel that they have a progressive alternative that doesn’t feel like a betrayal of Hillary. There are many candidates, but according to polls around 50% of voters favor Bernie or Biden in the primary (at least right now). So you know that these are voters who are not writing off straight white men based solely on their demographic (not that other candidates’ bases of support are based strictly on that, but certainly there is enough talk in progressive circles that it is also not a negligible concern). Aim for 8th place and you will stay in 11th. Aim for 1st and you might get yourself into the top 6 in time to become a real contender.
- Highlight your personal story and your consistency as a progressive champion for 25 years – my 100 blog readers now know your personal and professional details, but most of America does not. Change that. Continue to highlight and feature climate change, but letting the American people know your consistent progressive bona fides else won’t detract from it. Your other accomplishments and experiences might just make America feel even more certain that you are the candidate to successfully win the battle against climate change.