After last night’s Tarantino-length debate in Detroit I am pleased with the performance of my preferred candidate, Governor Jay Inslee of Washington state. He had some good lines, only made attacks or corrections on areas well within the bounds of good decorum and stayed true to his message of defeating climate change. He highlighted some of the things he has done as governor and also seem to become a Twitter sex symbol for a few hours (my favorite nickname given him by someone on Twitter was “Plant Daddy”). Now before I go any further I need to make clear I am not an Inslee or Bust person (if those even exist). The eventual Democratic nominee will have my vote and my donations (though likely not to match the month of NYC rent I have thrown Inslee’s way). But I have to say, even for a cynical comedian who just turned 40, I am surprised that Inslee is not doing better in polls. He is literally what polls of Democratic voters claim to want. So what gives?
First off let’s see Inslee on issues – THAT HE HAS DONE AS A GOVERNOR AND LEGISLATOR, NOT JUST AS A CAMPAIGNER:
- Passed the 1st public option for health care in the country. This may not be the Bernie plan or the latest draft of whatever Kamala Harris is trying to do, but it represents the most popular approach according to Democrat polls
- He is THE climate change candidate and along with health care this is a top concern for Democratic candidates. I have read his Evergreen Economy Plan (it was like a text book for a course I was not fully qualified to take) and it is, as he said at a fundraiser, “a governing document,” not just a wish list. The only reason to say climate change is a top issue is if you really believe it is a crisis. And Inslee is the only candidate who actually wants to talk and govern like it is a fu*king crisis!
- Highest teacher pay increase in the country. And STEM education is one of the cornerstones of his climate/economic plan
- Organized labor – I wish he had highlighted his commitment to union labor in last night’s debate, because I was surprised when I read his plans just how central organized labor was to his vision – a group of voters that used to be a pillar of Democratic support
- Criminal Justice – as he said last night, while other candidates were bickering over who has done or not done enough – he has pardoned thousands of non-violent drug offenders, banned the box (which I didn’t even know until last night) and has pushed for more de-escalation training for officers
- Immigration – has encouraged refugee settlement in Washington and was the first to sue Trump on the Muslim ban
- Economy – #1 state GDP, #1 state for employer AND employee satisfaction
- College – passed a law offering free state college to tens of thousands
- And in his nearly 20 years as a Congressman before becoming a governor:
- voted for the assault weapons ban (lost his first Congressional seat doing so)
- voted against Hyde Amendment
- voted against the repeal of Glass-Steagall
- voted against the Iraq War
- voted for Obamacare (duh)
And one thing that is not really a bullet point, but something I have noticed about the way Inslee, a man married to his high school sweetheart for 47 years and who writes children’s books for his grandkids, carries himself with a decency that is uncommon in politics. There appears to be no cynicism in him. He is a fundamentally decent man who knows that climate change is a crisis and will not pander to polls to make his campaign more broad, despite a record that really is second to none in the field. For people looking for the opposite of Trump, there is no one more opposite in their core than Inslee. So a great record, great experience, fundamental decency and honesty and blue eyes that made him a “Plant Daddy” on Twitter. But the problem is that MAGA does not have a monopoly on stupidity.
After the two debates – the names Williamson, Yang and Gabbard were getting much more buzz than Inslee. And I fear all three of those will make the September debates either before, or in place of, Governor Inslee. An anti-vaxxer who voted for Jill Stein and has no experience; a guy who actually seems to have some brains and ideas, but no experience; and a woman who, despite her tremendous 1980s sex-scene chest sweat during the debate and a vibe of “what if young Catherine Zeta-Jones was also a combat vet,” has several issues on her record that would and should disqualify a Democratic candidate; these are people who based on donors and post-debate buzz seem better placed than Inslee to make the September debates. And that is an absolute embarrassment.
There are several top tier candidates that I think would make good presidents. Cory Booker, Elzabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders and Michael Bennett have all gotten money from me at some point during their careers (most during this run, but not all). These are all different candidates in demeanor and policy, but I appreciate their different views and think all of them would govern in the right direction (ignoring electability for the moment). But Inslee is a cut above them all when you add up the factors usually desired (experience, policies, values, accomplishments, electability vs Trump). But instead of at least being in the mix, like where Cory Booker is, he is now in danger of falling behind the lower 2nd tier candidates and some 3rd tier candidates!
I hope I am wrong. I hope Inslee sees a polling bump and a fundraising bump, but if Jay Inslee is not on the September debate then there is a lot more stupidity and hypocrisy in the Democratic electorate than we might like to admit. I gave to Bernie in 2016, despite voting for Hillary, because his issues were important and he pushed the nominee to the left. If climate change is not worth $1 donations from hundreds of thousands of Democratic voters then we are already doomed, because as Governor Inslee said last night, there is only one party with a chance to save the country and the planet. If you need a superficial comparison – think of Inslee vs Trump as Aquaman (Seaweed Daddy?) vs Fat Bastard – who would you rather have saving the country?