Not shockingly, I've been discussing the Democratic candidates with a friend for the past couple months. And as I wrote here a few weeks back, I feel (based on quite a few very specific reasons, not just a sense of whimsy) that most of these candidates could beat Trump in the general election -- assuming that conditions stay reasonably close to what they are now, and Democrats take absolutely nothing for granted but continue working as aggressively as they have for issue-oriented rallies and marches to get out the vote.
One of the candidates we've talked quite a bit about is California Senator Kamala Harris, because my friend is a big fan. To be clear, I like her, too. I thought she was an excellent Attorney General here, and has been a very good senator. My concern has been that I've found her very no-nonsense, all business -- which is an incredibly important and highly-praised thing, though I haven't been sure how it would come across in a presidential election, where I think people make "relatabilty" ("Would I like to have a beer with him or her?") more important than in other elections, in part because a large part of the job is to inspire the nation from the Bully Pulpit. (I also would personally like any presidential candidate to have more representational elective experience, but as we've seen with Trump that clearly doesn't appear important to most voters at this point. Though we've also seen the result of that. But also, she has been an elected official for a long while, even if not represented a district.)
Last night, she had an hour-long Town Hall on MSNBC, hosted by Lawrence O'Donnell. And I was bowled over by how good she was. She was as whip-smart as I knew she was, and had a command of facts that was impressive. But what was most-different for me was how she dealt with the public -- warmly and directly. When people asked questions, she not only thanked them all, but explained in detail why she appreciated them but also why their question was important. When a young woman explained that it would be her 18th birthday the next day and wanted to know what Harris would say to her friends about why voting was important, she not only gave an interesting, good answer -- but when she was done wished the girl a happy birthday. It's a very small matter, but it shows she was listening, remembered, and that she didn't think it was all about her. And most important, I think voters notice that. And she did things like that to everyone. I don't mean most of the people asking questions, I mean "everyone" who asked a question.
One thing was clear to me throughout the evening. On the one hand, I have no idea how a Harris campaign would go against Trump, if she was the nominee, There are so many variables to that. But -- I feel very confident in saying that in the debates she would wipe the floor with him. She is no nonsense. She has all her facts down meticulous, though doesn't present them as lists but presents them in context.. She recognizes the people she is talking to and relates her responses to what they asked. And as we have seen from her questioning important people in Judiciary Committee hearings, she is not awed or flustered by anyone. She does not back down, and I sense that if Trump kept interrupting her, or stalked her from behind, she'd cut him to his knees. She's a professional prosecutor at a very high level. And if someone tries to flim-flam her, she is trained to know and and shut them down to make her case.
All that said, I still don't know who my favorite candidate is. I like many of them. Some, a lot. And all those I like I think can beat Trump solidly. With the caveats noted above. Nothing is taken for granted. And as good as Kamala Harris came across yesterday, I don't want it to come across like I think she's a Perfect Candidate. But then, I don't think anyone's a Perfect Candidate. And importantly, I don't expect any candidate to be perfect, nor any person. I loved Barack Obama, but I still disagreed with many of his positions. So, I don't have a favorite yet. Which is A Good Thing, liking so many of the people running.
What I do think, though (which is largely the point of writing all this here) is that unless another woman gets the Democratic nomination, my feeling is that Kamala Harris will be on the ticket -- either as the nominee or, if she wants it, the Vice Presidential running mate. And I think she'd want it.
Who knows? We're still a very loooong way off. But I think Kamala Harris did herself a great deal of good last night.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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