The first Democratic presidential primary debates were held in Miami last week, and while a few of the candidates had a moment here and there to shine, none of them really distinguished themselves from the pack as the clear and undisputed front-runner, much less as a real threat to defeat President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.
That seemed to be the general takeaway of Willie Brown, the former mayor of San Francisco and speaker of the California Assembly, who even had a tough assessment of the electoral chances of his former protégé and love interest, California Sen. Kamala Harris.
Waiting for a contender
In his most recent column for the San Francisco Chronicle, Brown wrote: “The first Democratic debates proved one thing: We still don’t have a candidate who can beat Donald Trump.
“California Sen. Kamala Harris got all the attention for playing prosecutor in chief, but her case against former Vice President Joe Biden boiled down in some ways to a ringing call for forced school busing,” he continued, referencing the key point in the debate when Harris challenged Biden on positions held nearly 50 years ago.
“It won’t be too hard for Trump to knock that one out of the park in 2020,” Brown added.
Brown had a few things to say about some of the other candidates as well and wrote that Biden “did himself zero favors by telling Harris that he opposed only busing that was ordered by the federal government. It was a weird endorsement of states’ rights and local jurisdictions’ right to segregate schools. That’s the best argument he could marshal against busing little kids miles across town?”
He referred to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders as “Rip Van Bernie, looking and sounding as if it were still 2016,” and, in reference to the admitted troubles South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg is having in his hometown of South Bend, Indiana following a police-involved shooting of a black man, Brown wrote: “OK, so do better as mayor before you try to be president.”
Brown was a bit less critical of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, but noted that Warren was untested by the “lineup of pygmies” she faced on the first night of the debate and suggested that Booker’s policy answers failed to make much of an impact.
In the end, Brown concluded, “Trump must have enjoyed every moment and every answer, because he now knows he’s looking at a bunch of potential rivals who are still not ready for prime time.”
Brown’s view of the Democratic field of candidates appears to be largely unchanged since February when he wrote following President Trump’s State of the Union address that “so far I’ve yet to see a Democrat who can beat him.”
To be sure, Brown — like many other liberal Democrats — want nothing more than to see Donald Trump defeated at the polls in 2020.
But what he and many others have realized is that, at least as of now, there really is nobody on the Democratic bench that appears capable of doing so, and that has them growing increasingly concerned.