Here They Come Into the First Turn. Photo by Jeff Griffith on Unsplash

Being a Look at the two Least Qualified Democrats and the Debate Lineup

Props to Dale Napier, who discovered a second book by Andrew Yang, The War on Normal People: The Truth About America’s Disappearing Jobs and Why Universal Basic Income Is Our Future. This note reflects my practice of correcting my errors but admitting having made them.

I’m going to write without titles, because nobody is going to read this who is not watching the Democratic Party horse race closely enough to know the titles. I’m even going to refrain from saying “Mayor Pete,” because it’s about damn time I learned how to spell his name. Luckily for me, these comments are written rather than spoken, so I don’t have to pronounce it.

Everyone knew the Democratic field would have to narrow down, and Democrats hoped that it could happen with a minimum of bloodshed. If nothing gets worse than the way Kamala Harris went at Joe Biden last time, then there will be no throat cutting. For the record, I think any candidate who comes prepared with a straight razor will be crushed in the backlash of “Vote blue no matter who.”

The least qualified candidates in the Democratic scrum are Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang. Let’s take a look who might be less qualified than a candidate who famously goofed off as an undergraduate, never went to graduate school, held no public office, and failed in real estate development but paid a ghost writer to produce a work that contended otherwise. He was fabulously successful at branding himself and as a star of reality TV. I’ve never watched a complete episode of The Apprentice, but I know that Omarosa became famous for being famous on that show and I knew the tag line, “You’re fired.”

Marianne Williamson is not qualified by education. She graduated from a public high school with a very good reputation (Bellaire in Houston) and then studied for two years at Pomona College, which has an excellent reputation as a place to study the humanities, particularly theater. She concentrated on theater and philosophy. The former is useful for getting elected and the latter is useful in governing. We are currently living with a POTUS who is strong on theater skills but has no coherent philosophy.

Marianne Williamson is not qualified by experience. She does not have a particularly compelling personal story, but she has made enough money to be one of two candidates who can self-finance a run for president. She was born upper middle class. After dropping out of Pomona College, she moved to New York City in 1973 to find work as a cabaret singer. It is unclear to me whether the singing career failed or she got distracted when she discovered the book that changed the arc of her life.

A Course in Miracles, dictated to Helen Schucman and subsequently edited by Bill Thetford and Kenneth Wapnick, inspired Williamson to take up teaching the course described in the book. The original author was a nice Jewish boy named Jesus, who apparently was returning to his roots when he chose a Jewish woman as his scribe.

I was not surprised about editors. I’ve known lots of editors who would edit Jesus and would tell you that, if St. Paul had asked, they could even have improved Two Corinthians. Williamson is described in candidate biographies as “author,” which is fair when she has published 13 books and four of them became New York Times bestsellers.

Williamson’s very first book was A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles. She published it in 1992 and it landed her on the best seller list and on Oprah.

But in the eighties, when she was still making her living teaching the book dictated by Jesus, she founded “Centers for Living” in Los Angeles and New York dedicated to helping people with HIV/AIDS when the infection was considered a death sentence and those with that sentence were often treated as modern lepers.

In 1989, Williamson started Project Angel Food with a goal of feeding people too sick to feed themselves. As she made more money, she spent it working for peace, for women’s empowerment, and against poverty.

Remember how the right used to belittle Barack Obama’s experience as a community organizer? An organizer who does not understand how the government works will do a lot of wheel spinning.

When people started beating her up over it and the number of measles cases rose above the comfort level of all but the hardest core, she hauled out the political waffle iron. It’s no longer clear where she stands.

In 2014, Williamson ran as an independent for the congressional seat being vacated by Henry Waxman. She got a hair over 13 percent.

Does this record make Marianne Williamson qualified to assume the duties of a POTUS? Not at all.

But it makes her much better qualified than Donald John Trump.

Andrew Yang is the son of immigrants from Taiwan. His father holds a Ph.D. in physics and his mother a Masters in statistics. It’s safe to say Andrew grew up with books in his home.

Yang attended Phillips Exeter Academy, an elite prep school, and went on to earn a B.A. in economics from Brown University and a J.D. from Columbia.

Yang is qualified by education.

Yang’s occupation is given as “entrepreneur,” something he undertook after holding only one straight up lawyering job. The bulk of his career was spent with a non-profit, Venture for America. VFA was started in 2011 with $200,000 Yang was able to put up when the test preparation company he headed was acquired by Kaplan. When Yang stepped down as CEO to run for president in 2017, VFA was operating in 20 cities with a $6 million annual budget.

Yang has written only one book, Smart People Should Build Things: How to Restore Our Culture of Achievement, Build a Path for Entrepreneurs, and Create New Jobs in America. NOTE: THIS PARAGRAPH IS IN ERROR. SEE MY CORRECTION AT THE FRONT OF THIS ARTICLE.

Like Williamson, Yang has never served in public office. His qualifications, however, smoke Donald John Trump. Both Williamson and Yang will struggle to meet the polling requirements for the third debate.

Staggering Toward Super Tuesday. Photo by Rachel Heng on Unsplash

The first night of the second round of debates is being touted as Bernie Sanders v. Elizabeth Warren; the second night as Joe Biden v. Kamala Harris, Round Two.

The good news is that Steve Bullock got a stall in the dark horse stable. I look forward to observing the Democratic governor of a deep red state. Bullock appears on Night One, July 30, with the Sanders-Warren smackdown.

Grey horses who might debate their way into the poll numbers that would keep them on the stage: Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, and Beto O’Rourke.

Dark black horses who would just about have to make a Highway 61 crossroads deal with the Devil: Marianne Williamson, John Hickenlooper, John Delaney, Tim Ryan.

Night Two, July 31, is headlined by round two of the Biden-Harris match.

Grey horses: Kirsten Gillibrand, Julian Castro, Cory Booker.

Black horses: Andrew Yang, Tulsi Gabbard, Jay Inslee, Bill de Blasio, Michael Bennet.

Super Tuesday will this year cost a small fortune, and money tends to dry up as poll numbers do. The reason for the cost is the size of the media markets in California and Texas. Candidates who hail from those two states will have some advantage in not having to spend as much on the first wave of advertising, name identification. To claim that advantage, they must survive to March 3, 2020.

Candidates who do not debate their way into enough poll numbers and contributions to continue in the next debate will have a hard time making it to March 3.

The winners of Sanders-Warren and Biden-Harris will be very happy and will probably get some favorable winds, but losers of those encounters will still be in the hunt. Still, it will be good news for the Democrats when the debates can be held on one night and there is some hope that will be the case after July 31.

Enrolled Cherokee, 9th grade dropout, retired judge, associate professor emeritus, and (so far) cancer survivor. Memoir: Lighting the Fire (Miniver Press 2020)

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store