Democratic candidates give voters food for thought
In less than six months, the Democratic Party in the US will begin formally deciding who it nominates to face off against President Donald Trump in the 2020 election. We have now witnessed two rounds of debates, and the campaigns are fully engaged in soliciting donations and building support, especially in the states that vote earliest. The first vote for the primary election comes in the form of the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3, 2020. Iowa holds caucuses — meetings in which the attendees can cast a vote — unlike most states, which open polling stations for citizens to vote at their convenience.
The candidates typically pander to early-voting states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, hoping to gain momentum from good showings there. Last week, Iowa held its annual state fair in Des Moines, the state capital. Most of the candidates attended, shook hands, pretended to be impressed by the livestock, and ate. There were pictures of Sen. Kamala Harris chomping on a pork chop. Andrew Yang posed for photographs chowing down on a turkey drumstick. Pete Buttigieg was compelled to man a massive barbecue, while Bill de Blasio and Sen. Bernie Sanders had to force themselves to eat corn dogs.
It is not clear why politicians find it necessary to stuff local foods into their mouths at the Iowa State Fair, but it seems to happen every four years. It is odd to see these elite politicians, who are usually found eating only at expensive restaurants in Washington, with greasy food from carnival stalls. It is all a sign that they think it’s necessary to pretend to do what everyone else does — or at least what they think everyone else does. At least one politician remained slightly authentic. Sen. Cory Booker is a vegan, so he refrained from the meat. However, he did deign to eat a deep-fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Another candidate, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, also refrained from the meat as she is a vegetarian because of her Hindu faith. She arrived at the start of the Iowa State Fair to give a speech but, at the height of campaign season, she left the campaign trail for two weeks for a military deployment to Indonesia. Gabbard is a major in the Hawaii Army National Guard. Oddly, this takes her away from campaigning at a crucial time, as she is struggling to qualify for the third debate in September. However, if the majority of voters found out that the reason for her absence was military service, it would likely help her campaign. It’s up to her team to spread the word.
There has been some news on the campaign trail over the last couple of weeks. Sen. Elizabeth Warren has surged in the polls, spreading her populist economic message, which flirts with socialism. Many of the national polls now show her in second place and she leads some polls in Iowa. It appears that Democrat voters have forgotten, for now, that for a long time Warren falsely claimed to be of Cherokee descent. Cherokee is a Native American tribe that suffered particularly severe oppression, especially in 1838. Warren’s opponents claim she lied about her heritage to help her employment chances as she rose in the ranks of law school professors.
Former Vice President Joe Biden continues to lead almost all of the polls, but much of his support is likely due to the fact that he is the one candidate all American voters recognize. Biden’s numbers seem to stay high despite his growing number of gaffes. He has always been known for saying embarrassing things in public, and now the media is picking up on some of his more recent misstatements. Last week he mistakenly implied that all poor children in America are not white. The same day, he said: “We choose truth over facts.” No one knows what he meant. His supporters fear that the voters will start to see him as a doddering old man (he is 76) instead of a leader.
Meanwhile, Harris is quieting down. On the first debate stage, she took the fight directly to Biden and gave her popularity a huge surge. On the second debate stage, Gabbard attacked Harris’s record as a prosecutor in California, but at least Harris was the center of attention. On the campaign trail, she has had trouble grabbing the spotlight in a positive way. As one of only two African-American candidates, she is still struggling to garner the African-American support that was so crucial to President Barack Obama’s electoral success. She may need to give her campaign a boost of new energy to retrieve the momentum.
It is odd to see these elite politicians, who are usually found eating only at expensive restaurants in Washington, with greasy food from carnival stalls.
Ellen R. Wald
Finally, there is also a new candidate on the scene. Tom Steyer, a hedge fund billionaire who is an ardent proponent of global warming activism, recently entered the race and has already qualified for the next debate. Steyer has allegedly spent several million dollars in just a few weeks to meet the donor and polling thresholds to qualify. He is not well known by the voters, but his personal wealth and radicalism on a few key issues could shake up the field. His arrival will surely impact the September debate.
The Democratic Party is limiting the number of participants in next month’s debate, so the field is being winnowed and the serious candidates will have to start focusing on their differences to stand out.
- Ellen R. Wald, Ph.D. is a historian and author of “Saudi, Inc.” She is the president of Transversal Consulting and also teaches Middle East history and policy at Jacksonville University. Twitter: @EnergzdEconomy