BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
The goofy-looking “acronym” of a title refers to a previous piece of mine “Preening and Primping for President” which seemed a bit long. As we are now in debate season for the Primary Elections held state-by-state in Winter and Spring of 2020, it seemed like an updated look at the candidates for the U.S. presidency was due. Remember that this is all on the Democratic Party’s side of the fence since only one significant challenger to sitting President Donald Trump, a Republican, has arisen, and he’s not getting much traction yet.
A disclaimer is necessary here, in that given the limitations of the length of this piece, not all candidates will be discussed individually. No slight is intended in that respect.
The biggest change is that former Vice President Joe Biden has entered the fray and immediately leaped to first place among the field of 25 significant candidates. Of these, only 20 candidates are being invited to the debates. The current number of candidates of all parties is 799, up from 559 in March (270 Democratic, 109 Republican candidates, 34 Libertarian candidates, 14 Green) according to Ballotpedia.
Two debates have been scheduled and held so far, with no additional ones yet set. Each of these was held in two parts with ten candidates participating. I was able to watch most of three out of these four parts. The matchups, that is who was in each group, left many people wanting a better format. But with so many candidates, some randomized system had to be adopted in the interest of fairness (or minimize to UNfairness).
I think the best solution would be to have pairs of candidates debating, for real, not just answering questions, but challenging each other, getting deeper into issues after an initial query from the moderators. This way, voters could see how each candidate fared against every other. The candidates themselves would be able to present their thoughts and positions more fully. With the current set up, speaking time is so limited that they were often cut off by the moderators before completing their responses. I noticed that Joe Biden hit this obstacle often. They would also get much more practice in preparation for the looming battle with their Republican adversary. With 25 candidates, that would mean 300 debates. Running two a day, they could all be done in five months. Think of how much better informed voters would be, and how much more interesting and exciting the election would be!
The debates were reasonably informative, with candidates mostly sticking to the rules, though often speaking beyond their time limits. There were some amusing barbs exchanged, but nothing acrimonious, and the discussions were largely substantive, even if not fully satisfying because of the time constraints. Some candidates seemed to get called on by the moderators less often, and Tulsi Gabbard was one of them. This injustice should be corrected during future debates. Naturally, the front runners tended to get challenged more often by the others in order to try to expose their weaknesses. But ironically, this contributed to those same front runners getting more time to speak, thus more exposure.
To my mind, not much has changed. The top three candidates in order of preference are Tulsi Gabbard, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren, from both an Armenian and overall-citizen perspective. All three are in the ANCA’s “supportive” category for rating presidential candidates. But Gabbard is the only one in that whole category with an A+. In fact, only one of other candidate in this field even has an A-.
One candidate that I was surprisingly impressed with is Washington governor Jay Innslee. His central focus is climate change, contending that all other issues should be seen through that lens. He should be appointed as “Climate Change Czar” in the next administration, but he is highly unlikely to become president. Plus, he got poor grades from the ANCA while in Congress. The other candidate who came off surprisingly strong is Andrew Yang who spoke concisely and brought almost everything around to his core proposal of instating a minimum guaranteed monthly income of $1000 for every American
Joe Biden is out because he was useless as Vice President on the Armenian Genocide. Plus, in general his approaches to the issues confronting the U.S. today are insufficient to resolving them. Kamala Harris, despite her significant support, is also out for me. While she got a B+ from the ANCA and is in the “supportive” category, her record on other issues is too conservative and her sources of financial support are too large and too corporate, not overwhelmingly small donors, which would indicate support from average folk.
Then there are what I’ll call “Republicans in Democratic clothing” candidates. These are otherwise reasonable people who would have fit perfectly in the Republican party of the 1960s-70s-80s, but are outside the realm of the Democratic party’s energized base today. There are also those who have no record of engagement with the Armenian community and are thus outside the pale of our interest, simply because they haven’t earned it yet. There are at least two who have anti-Armenian positions to their discredit. Former Rep. Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania opposed a Genocide resolution while serving and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock has issued a “Khojalu genocide” proclamation.
At this point, I think Armenians should rally behind Gabbard with significant fundraising and organizing of events where she can get more exposure and earn support. The idea is to give her a measurable bump in votes during the Primary elections of the states where we have the largest and densest Armenian populations – California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York – even if that bump is localized to the districts where our communities live. This way, not only do we assist our strongest supporter in the primary field, but we also demonstrate Armenian voting power. Get to work.