Early Presidential Impressions

Presidential Impressions


President Trump seems to be in a deep and angry funk, firing staff and cabinet members left and right, and is continuing to ever more deeply alienate all but his most core supporters. The economy keeps perking along despite his efforts to tell American businesspeople what to do and who to do business with. Civility continues to erode, and white supremacist terrorists increasingly attack places of worship in the US and abroad, and authoritarian regimes are taking root from South America to the Philippines to Europe inspired by his leadership. Republicans up for election or re-election are frightened of being “Sanfordized” by the President during their primaries, and many retired or were beaten in the 2018 election cycle as he has become an albatross around their necks in the general.


I think the nation needs a candidate who can thoroughly trounce him in just as many states as possible – the industrial Midwest, parts of the South and the Southwest – so that there is no earthly doubt about his complete repudiation. It has to be with a message of hope and optimism that appeals to the best in Americans and looks to our collective future, not to their worst fears, or hearkening back to the distant past of the red scare 50’s and white supremacist, isolationist 20’s.


President Trump has already threatened that his most ardent racist and supremacist followers may engage in violence, and federal and state and local law enforcement will need to be on alert throughout the campaign and in the aftermath. We already know the depths to which the Russians will go and the lies that the firebrands at the Fox Network et al will spread in their efforts to re-elect him


It’s far too early to know which Democrat will emerge from the fray of candidates so these are just my early impressions. We will need a leader who inspires the American people not an angry, bitter tweeter. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/03/joe-bidens-electability-myth/585508/


Biden is taking an awfully long time to announce; I’m not sure if this is a sign of indecision or strategic as he will quickly become a piñata as the front-runner. At this point he seems like he could be a strong candidate to secure white working class votes in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan. But heck, he is older than me, and I’d prefer a dynamic young leader with new takes on the economy, social policy and inclusive politics and policies.


Sanders seems to have doubled down on his role as pulpit pounding prophet of a better social welfare state. I like his positions but without articulating how to pay for his platform and how to build support for a thoughtful set of tax reforms and economic incentives, I find myself annoyed with his self-righteousness. Personally I get turned off rather than energized when he presents and have a hard time seeing him as a President who can work effectively with Congress.


Harris is staking out equally left positions and has a far more congenial style of presenting and explaining them. She may be the inheritor of his support, when and if it wanes. She seems smart, tough, no-nonsense, with charm. I’ve heard her speak at several rallies and been impressed each time. Personally, I would have liked to see her complete a full six-year term in the Senate to have much more experience before running for President.


O’Rourke seems to have a strong following due to his charismatic, youthful enthusiasm; he’s a great instinctive campaigner. But I cannot yet figure out where he stands on the issues that I care about. It feels as if he does not yet project the gravitas and the serious statesmanship that was so natural in O’bama. 


I liked Booker’s campaign introduction, his executive experience as Mayor of Newark, and his effectiveness on economic development in the cities and on education reform. I like his broad experience and his messages of optimism. I don’t understand why his campaign has not caught fire, but it hasn’t yet.


Warren has been the most substantive in laying out her positions and proposals and how to pay for them. I particularly appreciated her well thought out proposal on child care. I’m more dubious about the practical and legal viability of the “wealth tax” she espouses. She and Booker had the good sense to reassure voters about a future role for their private insurance plan(s). My initial resistance to her uncharismatic speaking style is being allayed by her thoughtfulness on matters of substance.


Gillibrand had a great video announcing her candidacy. To me, she is the clear and unquestioned leader on women’s issues, which may serve her well in a crowded primary field. I would think her current appeal is to middle class women, and she needs to broaden it. I was impressed with her interview on public broadcasting. She or Klobuchar seem the most likely to win over the Biden supporters if he either does not run or fails to inspire.


Klobuchar seems solid and strong, has warmth and charisma, and great clarity of thought and expression. I like her a lot, but her campaign has yet to catch fire either. I like her for the Midwestern qualities she exudes and the quick wit and practical progressive nature of her policy positions and her knowledge of rural life and agricultural issues. She’s my second choice after Booker. I seem to be attracted to two candidates who are not yet appealing to many others.


Hickenlooper has lots of personal appeal to me as he grew up in Cincinnati, ran a brewpub in Denver, and was a very effective Governor in Colorado – a purple state. I’m not yet convinced that he projects well as a national candidate.


Inslee also has lots of personal appeal to me as he identified climate change as the single most important over-riding issue for our nation and the planet. I agree with that assessment, but am not sure the nation shares it or that it’s a very effective rationale and message for a Presidential campaign.


Mayor Pete Buttigieg comes across as highly informed, dynamic, thoughtful and eminently reasonable. I have no idea how a young small town mayor becomes President, but he’ll become a great leader. He’s moving into my third position.


Castro seems to have the best takes and understanding on immigration issues and is very knowledgeable about urban issues, affordable housing and homelessness – issues I care deeply about.


I don’t yet have strongly formed impressions about the other candidates.


On foreign policy, Trump has alienated our allies, energized right wing authoritarians and is a menace to global stability. Biden may be the right guy to right and steady that ship; he has the experience and toughness to lead America in global affairs.


On domestic policy, Trump is corrupt, retrograde and taking us in nearly all the wrong directions; our democracy and our economy cannot afford another four years of this craziness. Warren has taken the best and most thoughtful policy positions.


I’m still looking for a candidate who can articulate a future-looking economic policy as Bill Clinton did so many years ago and Obama did more recently. We need to marry the dynamism of Silicon Valley and the skill sets of Rust Belt manufacturing, the entrepreneurial strengths and optimism of new immigrants and the seeded virtues and deep wisdom of American farmers. We cannot stay stuck like ostriches in dirty energy policies; we need to lead the way toward new cleaner energy solutions and better transportation systems.


In terms of inspiring and inclusive leadership, an optimistic message and sound judgment, I’m leaning Booker and Klobuchar and Mayor Pete, with a good friend with excellent political insights making a strong case for Gillibrand and Harris. 


It is imperative that all of these candidates learn from each other and the American people rather than do serious damage to each other during this campaign. We will need each of their strengths, their voting blocs and their important insights to win next November.


Prepared by: Lucien Wulsin

Dated: 4/10/19

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