Thursday, January 09, 2020


Here's the headline to a Washington Post op-ed by former FDIC chair Sheila Bair:
I am a Republican, and I hope the Democrats pick a candidate I can vote for
When I saw this, I had the obvious response: Oh, please, not this again. Why do Democrats have to choose our candidates based on the wishes of moderate Republicans, who ultimately never vote our way in any case? Why don't Republicans fret over the possibility of alienating Democratic voters with their nominees?

But the op-ed really isn't about what the headline suggests it's about. The op-ed is about presidential experience. And it starts with historical inaccuracy.
Over the past 40 years — about as long as I’ve been of age to vote — the country has seen a downward spiral in the qualifications of the individuals we have elected as president. We arguably hit a new low with Donald Trump, who had zero years experience in public service. He was able to defeat a highly pedigreed Hillary Clinton not because he was a compelling candidate but because a large segment of the electorate wanted to register a vote against her perceived elitism and disinterest in the working class.

... ​an unfortunate side effect of negative voting is for elections to favor naifs over pros, because the pros have amassed so many years’ worth of activity for the public to get mad at.
Bair is right about the reasons voters choose presidential candidates with limited experience, but does she really believe this started in 1980, and has been getting steadily worse ever since? The president we elected in 1976, Jimmy Carter, had a thinner résumé than many of his successors. And Reagan was succeeded by George H.W. Bush who had a very long résumé. And I won't even bring up Abraham Lincoln.

Bair is writing this op-ed for one reason: to warn Democrats not to nominate Pete Buttigieg.
... this 37-year-old man has never held national office. He has never held statewide office. The sum total of his government experience includes valorous military duty and eight years as the mayor of the roughly 300th-largest town in the United States. He gives a good speech and has some interesting ideas. But he seems more adept at pointing out the frailties of his experienced opponents than explaining how he has any hope of surviving the “swamp” if elected, given his complete lack of Washington know-how.
But didn't Barack Obama, one of the presidents under whom Bair served, also have a thin résumé?
[Buttigieg's] supporters whisper that the same was said about a relatively inexperienced Barack Obama when he ran for the nation’s highest office. But I had occasion to work a bit with President Obama when I chaired the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., and to paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen, Pete Buttigieg is no Barack Obama. Obama was, and is, an exceptional, inspirational leader, skilled politician and grass-roots organizer. He was also 10 years Buttigieg’s senior when he was elected president and had served four years in the U.S. Senate.
I could play devil's advocate and say that Obama spent two of those four years running for president. I could also say that Donald Trump is decades older than Buttigieg. Sonmething about this makes me want to defend Buttigieg, and I don't even particularly like him.

Bair continues:
I am a Republican who has never voted for a Democrat in a presidential election. But I share Democrats’ concern that our system is rigged to favor the wealthy and powerful over working families. I am tired of a loophole-ridden tax code that advantages investors over workers. I am tired of spending trillions in taxpayer money on health care and education only to see private profiteering of those programs as consumer costs continue to escalate. I regret to admit that I also voted negative in 2016, casting a protest vote for the Libertarian Party ticket because I didn’t think Clinton or Trump was really committed to change. I would prefer not to do so again.
Wait -- Bair thinks the system favors the rich and powerful, yet she voted Libertarian in 2016? Why should we listen to her on any subject?
I like Buttigieg and would be happy to endorse him . . . 20 years from now, after he has proved himself. ​Today, however, he is not ready, and I have a sickening fear that much of his impressive fundraising is driven by the moneyed interests who profit from the current system and think his lack of experience will lead to a preservation of the status quo.

Democrats need to decide whether they just want to beat Trump or whether they want a credible candidate who has the vision, commitment and proven skills to truly reform our government. They have plenty of experienced candidates to choose from. Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren stand out as two candidates with strong records of public achievement.

Please give me someone to vote for.
This isn't an op-ed about government experience or the lack thereof. It's an attack on Buttigieg, with an argument structure held together with Scotch tape and chewing gum. It overlooks the fact that Joe Biden and the possibly up-and-coming Mike Bloomberg have experience but also strong ties to the plutocracy.

And it seems pointless right now. Buttigieg's poll numbers are slipping, and there's a chance we're looking at a race between Biden and Bernie Sanders -- both of whom have a great deal of government experience. So why did the Post run this piece? What was the point?

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