We Are All Tom Steyer Now

I have wanted Cory Booker to be president since back when I was an undergrad, and he was a mayor. I originally envisioned him as a 2016 vice presidential nominee for someone like Andrew Cuomo as a way of building up his experience and name recognition, leading to a presidential run down the road. But now, Booker is out of the running. You might say that he was doomed to failure in a primary with too many candidates louder, richer, more left-wing, and more famous than him. In a race of Socialists and Billionaires, a social liberal-fiscal moderate with a $1.5 million net worth may have been doomed to failure.

With all that in mind, the question for me becomes who to vote for in the primary now. I really like Yang and Patrick. But Yang has somehow managed to promise everyone $12,000 a year and still not pick up much traction, while Patrick wishes he had as much traction as Yang. With Booker out of the running, I would like the next candidate I throw my support behind to have some chance of getting the nomination. Or at least get a percentage of the primary vote that does not start with a decimal point and a zero. For me, this narrows it down to Sanders or Warren. Longtime readers of this blog know my feelings on Gabbard. Suffice to say that defending an anti-gay marriage organization when you are in the process of rehabilitating your image on gay rights is a bit like calling yourself antiwar while criticizing Obama for not bombing enough. Come to think of it, she managed to do both. But perhaps she can win the endorsement of a big money donor such as Bashar al-Assad or Narenda Modi. Biden is a good man and probably one of the top three best vice presidents ever, but there are other people in this race with most of the good aspects of his policy record and less of the drawbacks. Klobuchar has some laudable policy views, but her record on LGBT rights is good-but-not great, and she is so supportive of the Surveillance State that she would probably have the NSA search my Netflix queue. Buttigieg is a trailblazer with some very good policies, but while I consider him to be solidly anti-racist, he has badly mishandled key issues involving police racism and misconduct in South Bend, Indiana. All too often, Buttigieg has discarded the velvet glove for a cat’s paw. 15 years ago, Buttigieg would have been one of the most progressive Democratic candidates on criminal justice issues. But 15 years ago, the special effects in the Star Wars prequels were considered great too. Which brings me to Bernie, Warren, and Steyer. Bernie and Warren are basically tied for my first choice among Democrats who are polling reasonably well. Steyer, however, is me. And he is all of us—all of us who admire both Bernie and Warren, that is.

Why is that? Well, let’s recap. We were treated to the “Game of Telephone from Hell” when anonymous press sources repeated Elizabeth Warren’s private account of a private conversation with no transcript, no recordings, and no witnesses. According to the players, Bernie told Warren in a private meeting that he believed that American sexism, weaponized by Sexist-in-Chief Trump, would prevent a woman from being elected president. The alleged comment, if it was made, was not made in the context of gloating about how a woman could supposedly never make a good president. According to the Warren team’s own account, the comment was made as an indictment of American sexism, not as an indictment of the ability of women to be good leaders. Then, the floodgates of social media opened, and a minority of Bernie and Warren supporters went at each other’s throats. All manner of accusations were hurled. Bernie was working deep cover for the Klan when he protested segregation. Bernie votes on women’s issues like Pat Schroeder but thinks about women’s issues like Pat Buchanan. It’s Bernie’s fault that Clinton lost, Trump won, and Rory got pregnant on the Gilmore Girls revival. No, the minority of angry Bernie supporters said. Warren is a mole from Big Pharma. Warren is a secret white supremacist who rode with the Seventh Cavalry. Warren is an Oklahoma Iago. Warren is a treacherous snake whose fangs drip with private health insurance. Then, those of us who liked both candidates tried to run for the online equivalent of fallout shelters. Meanwhile, Joe Biden stands to make out like a bandit. He has to be liking this dustup more than the Patriot Act. Don’t get me wrong, I love Joe Biden. He’s someone I’d love to go grab a beer—well, in my case, a root beer—with and thank him for the great job he did moving the needle on gay marriage as vice president. But I would like this meeting to take place somewhere in Wilmington, Delaware—not the White House.

Bernie denied ever saying a woman could not be elected but admitted that he warned his old comrade that Donald Trump would subject her to sexist attacks if she ran. Warren declared that the press sources’ version of events was accurate but called Bernie her friend and said she had no interest in litigating the matter further. Which naturally led a CNN debate moderator to litigate the matter further at the following night’s debate. Bernie repeated that he never said a woman could not win. Warren repeated that he had, that he was a friend, and that she wanted to put the matter behind her. They then had an esoteric debate about the meaning of time more fit for a Philosophy seminar than a presidential debate.

I was very pleased that they kept things civil. Then, the aftermath came. Warren approached Bernie. Bernie, for once, chose to extend his hand instead of gesticulating with it. As a gesticulator myself, I sympathize with his plight there. Warren did not shake his hand, which may have been an oversight and may also be my punishment for all the years I spent wishing that the party nominees in the general election debates would stop with the phony handshakes. A phony handshake would have been nice that night. Instead, Warren accused Bernie Sanders of calling her a liar on national television, perhaps implying that calling her a liar on local cable television would have been acceptable. Bernie attempted to deescalate things like only a pugnacious New Yorker can, saying that she had called him a liar and insisting that they have this conversation elsewhere. Normally, I would agree, but in a roundabout way, having a conversation in private with no recordings or witnesses is what started this mess. During this fracas, Tom Steyer came in like manna from Heaven and excitedly said hi to Bernie. Maybe he was oblivious to how agitated the two candidates were. Maybe he was just excited to meet his hero. Maybe he likes photobombing. But in that moment, he stood for all of us who think that Bernie and Warren are both good people, good feminists, and good civil rights advocates generally. Those of us who think that Bernie and Warren would both be great presidents. Those of us who believe that we aren’t experts on an unrecorded conversation we didn’t witness. Those of us who believe that it’s possible for a comment to come across differently than intended or for two people to remember something differently. Steyer should work as a mediator between warring nations, warring spouses, and warring friends. In a world of acrimony, Steyer is the great peace maker.

 

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