The Young Turks’ Cenk Uygur: Here’s how to choose a president

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There are two obvious factors when picking a presidential candidate that everyone talks about. But there is also a third consideration that is even more important that almost no one mentions. 

In a primary, the two factors people take into account are: Who is most aligned with your policy positions? And who is most likely to win? 

For progressives within the Democratic Party, this is always presented as conflicting considerations by the media. Why? Because the establishment press assumes that progressives are less likely to win a general election — so you have to choose between the candidate you like versus the person you think is more likely to win. This is complete nonsense.

Every poll taken in 2016 and most polls taken in this cycle indicate that more progressive candidates do better in general election matchups against Republicans. But the mainstream media also believes in alternative facts, not out of malice but out of an unbreakable group think. 

For the rest of us, if you are a progressive, this one is a no-brainer. The progressive politicians you support are more likely to win, not less. On the other hand, if you thought Hillary Clinton was awesome and you want a candidate just like her, that’s ok, but you have to live with the fact that might lead to four more years of Donald Trump.  

If you think that statement is outrageous, you don’t live in the real world. On this planet, the person who lost an election to Donald Trump was the establishment candidate. Repeating that error could be fatal to the Democratic Party and to the country. Again, almost everyone in the establishment press will tell you the opposite even though the facts are indisputable. Hillary Clinton is not in fact president.

So, what’s the all important third factor to consider when making a decision: How likely is the candidate to actually deliver on the policy positions they advocate for?  

This also has several components. First part is how effective a leader and manager are they? Second is how badly they want to get these policies passed? The third is whether they actually mean what they say at all or whether they’re just politicians who are using policy positions as a way to get votes but don’t intend to follow through.

Let’s start with the latter problem. The mainstream press, for some reason, believe they have to be credulous with politicians. That this is part of the respect and civility they have to show to political figures while covering them. I don’t agree — and neither do the American people. We believe (again, based on the polling) that politicians are generally untrustworthy people who lie about what they’re going to do in order to get into power. 

For example, almost every Democratic politician in my lifetime has paid at least lip service to being for single payer health care — and almost none of them have ever done anything about it. In fact, they will actively fight against proposals that would go in that direction. So, when an establishment Democrat says they are for single payer, it is logical to treat that with great skepticism.

Will Cory Booker or Beto O’Rourke fight for “Medicare for All?” Almost no chance of that. O’Rourke on the campaign trail, he is saying he is going to support a half measure. A person who supports a half measure would be lucky to get a quarter measure passed (see Obamacare, aka, Romneycare).

Sen. Booker voted against importing drugs from Canada because he said it would be too dangerous. Yes, dangerous to his donors. He later turned around in a panic when he realized how deeply unpopular that position was among Democratic voters. He now claims to be a changed man who is for Medicare for All. If you’re not skeptical of that, you’re not a journalist. It doesn’t mean he can’t ever change, but it does mean that claim should obviously be treated with a healthy amount of incredulity. 

When given an opportunity to raise his hand to end private insurance in favor of Medicare for All in the first Democratic debate, Booker demurred as expected. But that is way better than Senator Harris who keeps raising her hand when voters can see it and then putting it down when donors can.

We call ourselves Home of Progressives and are very clear about our perspective. We want progressive policies passed and want to back candidates who will fight for them. So, we asked the presidential candidates if they are in fact in favor of these progressive economic policies. Four have signed so far: Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Marianne Williamson and Mike Gravel.

Then others began to sign: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), PCCC, Justice Democrats and the list goes on. See that wasn’t hard. Ask them if they are in fact progressive and they just might tell you.

Some of the presidential candidates didn’t sign but gave really thoughtful answers about the parts they disagreed with like John Delaney and Andrew Yang. A lot of the other candidates simply ran away. When someone tells you they’re a politician, believe them.

Some people in the media find this to be an outrageous limit test or what they derisively call a purity test. That’s absurd. How are you supposed to know who to vote for if they don’t tell you their positions? And why would you vote for someone who doesn’t agree with you?

And that brings us to the last consideration. Yes, but among the ones you really do believe are on your side who do you pick? Who is more likely to get things done? Well, that’s a hard one. And that’s what we are tasked with figuring out over the next year. 

Who will be bold enough to have solidly progressive policy positions and insist against all others in Washington in getting them done? Who is willing to fight the entirety of the establishment and mercilessly wield the power of the presidency to get real change? Who will be savvy enough to shepherd the legislation all the way through to passage? Who will not be cowed by conventional constraints and force change upon Washington? Because make no mistake, Washington will not readily accept change. They will fight it tooth and nail. 

We have to find someone who doesn’t just pay lip service to change but is deeply committed to it. Otherwise, what the candidates say is meaningless because they’re never going to get them done. So, who will be our champion? That’s the question you have to answer for yourself before you go into vote.

Cenk Uygur is the CEO, founder, and host of The Young Turks and co-founder of Justice Democrats. 

Tags 2020 elections Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Andrew Yang Bernie Sanders Cenk Uygur Cory Booker Donald Trump Elections Elizabeth Warren Hillary Clinton Jamie Raskin John Delaney Marianne Williamson presidential candidates Ro Khanna

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