There is still a lot of time before the primaries actually begin, but the Democratic candidates are already fighting hard for every vote. Some are doing it by promising a return to “normal,” while others are calling for big, structural change to move our nation forward. So who has staying power and who is going to fizzle out? Ring of Fire’s Farron Cousins runs down the good, the bad, and the ugly of the 2020 Presidential candidates with Mike Figueredo, host of The Humanist Report.


*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.
Well, let’s, uh, let’s move on to something that actually is worth, uh, you know, kind of, not necessarily fighting about but debating. And that is obviously this massive crop of, uh, candidates we’ve got right now in the Democratic Party. And, uh, you know, earlier in the show I actually spoke with Ben Dixon and, and it’s true, there is a lot of, of vitriol on, on Twitter. You know, we, we see it, we see these people a lot of times wanting to relitigate 2016. They get, they get personal, they get ugly. And this is coming from everywhere. But there is plenty of room to have sane, rational debate about these people running for president on the democratic side. And it would be better to see people engaging in that kind of activity rather than just saying, nope, I’m, I’m never going to a, ever, ever listened to you because I don’t like you. And now I don’t like your candidate because I don’t like you. I mean, we see that far too often. But that’s the preface. And I do want to talk about the candidates right now. So we’ve had some good polls come out in this week. Uh, you know, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren tied for first in the Monmouth poll. Uh, Bernie’s, uh, Biden, excuse me, uh, in third place. Just one point behind them. Other polls still showing Biden ahead. When do you think Biden’s dropping out? 
Man, I think I’m terrible at predictions, but if I had to guess, just based on the trajectory, I think he’s going to be there until Iowa. I think he’s hanging on until New Hampshire. I think that Super Tuesday is the day where this is really going to come down to like the top two, top three candidates. And it’s kind of shaping up. Like, I don’t want to speak too soon, but it seems like this is shaping up to be a race between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, which is fantastic. You know, these are the better candidates in the race. There’s a lot of pretty solid candidates running, but um, you know, it would be nice to see Joe Biden drop out because out of all of the candidates, I feel like he would probably be the weakest choice against Donald Trump. And I understand that early polling is showing that he does perform relatively well against Trump, you know, in these hypothetical match-ups. 
But at the same time Hillary Clinton did at this point in the race as well. And when it gets to that general election and you can no longer hide and you have to face the media, I just feel like we need someone who will excite the base, not go after Republicans and moderates. We need someone to recognize that we are in a polarized political environment. And what you have to do is play to your strength, get that base out, get them excited, register new voters. And really the people who can do that are the left wing candidates. So I really, the sooner the better. And you know, that’s my response to Joe Biden in terms of when he’s going to drop out. I don’t know when he will drop out specifically, but, um, I just, you know, I see, I, I’ve said this on my program before, you know, we are all on the s s Biden ship and it’s as big as the, and there’s an iceberg straight ahead. 
And look, this is the way I’m thinking about. Um, 2020 is not a presidential election. This is a supreme court election where Ruth Bader Ginsburg is hanging on, presumably for dear life. And I don’t want Donald Trump to fill that seat. Um, and it’s a little bit selfish, right? Because of course I care about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s health, but I also care about who controls the supreme court. So to me, this is basically about survival. This is about climate change. This is about just making sure that we don’t get another four years of Donald Trump, which would be just disastrous. So anyone who I see who has red flags, who won’t excite the base I’m speaking out against, and people think that that’s overly divisive. You’ll see a lot of centers, democrats, celebrities denounced that. I don’t care. I don’t want Donald Trump to win again. So I’m sorry Joe Biden, you’ve got to go. 
You know, and see, that’s, that’s a lot of, you know, my, my, my point here too, is we do have to call these people out for their flaws. And if they’re not good enough, it’s not just saying that this person’s awful, it’s, you’re really bad on these issues. You can either get better or you could not be in the race anymore, but you have issues as a candidate that in the long run is going to cost you daily. And you have too many people who take that personally. You know, these people out there who, who support the candidates so deeply that any criticism of their policies, which is what this is, this is policy criticism. They, they take it as you just insulted, you know, they’re their own family member. And, and I, I don’t want to get too bogged down in the minutia, but you know, I, I’ve said a couple things that, you know, we’re not necessarily wonderful about some of Andrew Yang’s policies. 
I don’t hate Andrew Yang as a person by any stretch of the imagination, but I, I don’t think ubi is a magic bullet for the United States. And, and that kind of statement is going to get you swarmed on Twitter. Um, you know, the, and it’s disappointing because you have to understand that whoever it is you support, they’re not without flaws. Right? I mean, everybody has flaws. Elizabeth Warren, I Love Elizabeth Warren starting to see more and more flaws that are making me not, not as happy as I was with you, you know, a month ago or six months ago. So we have to accept that. But what we do with that is then say, okay, candidate, you have to be better than this. You have to do better. And that, that’s a lot of what we do when we call these people out. It’s not just to say your bad, it’s can you get better than this? 
That’s exactly right. And it’s why we always have to stress, this is not about personality. This is about policy. That’s all that this is about. Like, even Bernie Sanders, he’s my number one choice by a mile and a half. But there are areas where he needs to improve. One of those areas was reparations. When he first was about it, I was cringing, you know, so they’re, these are areas that are there for us to criticize the candidates so they can improve, not to break them down. It’s about really building them up. And it’s funny that you say that about Andrew Yang. I just put out a video today about Andrew Yang in, I can already see the downvotes and it’s not like he’s a bad person, it’s just that there’s area for growth. And even if I don’t support him, I do think that ubi can potentially be a solution. But when Andrew Yang came on my show, um, I was critical of him and I asked him, is it really fair that my dad, who’s on social security has to choose between ubi and the social security that he paid into his whole life, where someone who makes $100,000 per year just gets that extra thousand and they don’t have to make that choice? 
Is that really fair and that criticism was not intended to point out how horrible Andrew Yang is. I wanted him to improve and a month or so later he did, you know, adjust his ubi. No, I still don’t want it replacing any of our social safety net. But I think that these criticisms, they’re constructive. Like on the left we care about policy, you know, we’re glued to the policy substance and even if we support Bernie Sanders and we have these, you know, these biases in favor of certain candidates over the others, at the end of the day, if somebody is going to be a fit, you know, a flawed candidate to a degree, but they’re still going to promote a policy idea that could potentially elevate it. Marianne Williamson with regard to reparations as an example, you know, I do think that that’s important. So I’m trying to, we’re trying to build them up, not break them down because we want to do more than just elect a candidate. 
We do want to change national discourse and I think that that’s what this is about. If you basically mute yourself in self-censor and say, well, you know, I like Andrew Young, so I can’t criticize any aspect of ubi ever. I mean, well, what’s the point? If you truly care about ubi, understand that this is, you know, we need to have a robust conversation. Ubi can be implemented in a very left-wing way. It can be implemented in a very right wing way, which could act as a Trojan horse to get our social safety net, which I don’t want, you know, so these are the discussions that we have to have, and you, you know, it’s not an election if people don’t go at each other’s throat. Two are generally allies. So it’s par for the course. 
And, you know, I, I hope that, that the discourse does continue. You, I, I would like to see people maybe not, uh, throwing their vitriol. You know, at those of us on the left there, there’s plenty of people on the right. And, uh, you know, maybe some people disagree with me on this, but you know, that that’s where we need to direct the real, actual anger. Uh, you know, they’re, they’re enacting horrible policies. Trump’s trade war is destroying farmers livelihoods across this country. We have children locked in cages and now they want to lock them in those cages indefinitely. So maybe, maybe we save those really harsh criticisms, you know, those, those horrible words for the people who support that, not the person who, you know, is disagreeing with your candidates stance on this particular issue. We can debate those all day long and we should. But the vitriol, there’s people who deserve it, but it’s not us on the left here, you know, I really think we need to work on where we’re directing the anger and work on policies within our party. And to an extent, honestly, it’s, it is better than it was. It is much better than it was. People are understanding that and you do see these great policy debates, but when people start speaking in absolutes, like with the electoral college saying that, nope, this is a dumb idea, we have to keep the electoral college and you’re stupid. If you think we should abolish it, you just lost me there. Cause you’re clearly not open to any kind of criticism or intelligent, uh, back and forth on the issue. 
Oh totally. I absolutely agree. And you know, this Democratic Party, civil war, it’s going to be an ongoing thing. But one thing that I’ve kind of become a lot more cognizant of is that, you know, while we’re bickering, Republicans are in fact, you know, they’re becoming more powerful. Trump has stacked the judiciary, so it’s okay for us to hash out these disagreements. But at the same time, we can’t allow Republicans to get a pass, you know, to squeak by and continue to ruin not just the country but the planet. You know, I mean Donald Trump is saying nothing while Gyrebull Scenaro is getting into these petty, back and forth with Emanuel McCrone about the, you know, the Amazon rainforest right now while it’s burning. So, you know, we have to basically walk and chew gum at the same time. And I think that in 2019 going into the 2020 cycle, I do feel a little bit better knowing that, you know, the left isn’t just kind of ignoring the Republican Party. We’re having our debate, but at the same time, we’re also keeping an eye and you know, holding Trump’s administration accountable. You know, there’s been a lot of solidarity I think for this impeaching Donald Trump movement that we see, you know, and everyone is kind of, you know, directing their ire towards Nancy Pelosi on, you know, all sides of that Democratic Party, civil war. Um, so, you know, little things like this that I feel a little bit, um, optimistic about. Although, you know, my level of optimism will hinge on the 2020 election and that outcome mostly, 
well, you know, let’s, let’s hope the polls keep moving in the way that they’re moving. Uh, let’s hope right now, the thing I love the most is the fact that the biggest thing happening in the primary is that Elizabeth and Bernie seem to have some kind of, you know, policy competition happening. And that is the kind of thing that has been sorely missing from democratic politics for, for, you know, 20 years at this point. They’re trying to fight with one another to see who can come up with the most comprehensive. And it’s not really a fight, but you know what I mean? You know, here’s my criminal justice reform plan. Well, here’s my plan. Well, here’s my environmental plan. Well, here’s my environmental plan. They’re not arguing that you’re not electable or that I’m better than you. It’s, I think my policy can go further. I think I can help more people with my policy. And that’s the most refreshing thing happening in politics today, to me at least. 
Oh, 100% you know, it’s to see them go tit for tat on something that benefits us, like who’s going to benefit us more? I love this. Like when Elizabeth Warren came out and she announced her student loan debt cancellation plan, I said, this is phenomenal. I have been begging Bernie as a supporter to do something about student loan debt. You know, making college free is phenomenal. That’s a great solution. But for those of us already burdened with student loan debt, you’ve got to do something. So she came out with that first and then my reaction was to praise Elizabeth Warren and then say, okay, Bernie, she left you a little bit of room. She’s not canceling 100% and then you know, Bernie Sanders came out and canceled, you know, 100% and to see them go back and forth like this, this is exactly the result that we could ever hope for from a primary. And you know, comparing this to 2016 the difference is night and day when you know it was these a smears. All Bernie supporters are Bernie Bros and you know, the sexist attack like to see real policy substance. It makes my, you know, nerd heart just feel so warm. I love it. 
It is wonderful. And you know, both of those, a student debt cancellation plans are better than Harris’s, which, you know, I can’t even remember all the stipulations you have to hit in order to actually qualify for her partial student. It’s insane. And that’s why, you know, I mean Harris Booker Beto O’Rourke to me the most, I don’t want to say most spectacular, but probably the weirdest thing is how spectacularly those three have just almost disappeared. And I know Harris is still in fourth place, but that’s a distant, a distant fourth, you know, virtually tied with, you know, Buddhajudge who’s six months ago, nobody in this country knew who he was and for her to be, you know, that low almost a about to be passed by Buddhajudge. That to me is remarkable. These hardcore establishment folks just absolutely falling off the radar and I think that is a good sign as we head to or get closer, excuse me, two a to Iowa here. 
Yeah, I agree with that because it demonstrates to me that we were correct when we said that voters care about policy and they just cannot compete with the policies that are being put up by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and they, you know, they know what is and isn’t going to get them. You know, the support of the Democratic Party electorate. We’ve kind of seen this with Camilla Harris where she was seemingly a strong proponent of Medicare for all at the start of her campaign and now she’s essentially backed off and now she’s in favor of a type of pseudo glorified public option. I don’t even know what it is because you know, she thought that she would be able get the praise that Bernie Sanders gets, for example, by supporting Medicare for all. But also, you know, kind of mute her biggest critics and saying, oh well you want to eliminate private insurance. 
So she thought that she could have her cake and eat it too. But people are married to the details and she’s not talking to people like people don’t care about their private health insurance. So she thought that proposing a medicare for all plus private would help her. It actually showed people that she is a flip flopper. So when people are this, you know, attentive to the various specific policy details, it really is heartwarming to see that because you know, I knew that people cared about the policies, but to know that they’re this, you know, I’m worried about the details. I’m concerned with the very specifics about the role of private and public, you know, insurance just for that one example. It’s great to see, you know, it shows that, you know, people know who is and isn’t the real deal. And I really liked that. 
You know, another thing is I still believe that we are in this antiestablishment mindset. People realize that the status quo, anyone who is promoting this idea that we need to keep the current, you know, neo liberal establishment in place, they’re just not going to get that much steam because I think that Democratic Party primary voters, they know more than Republican Party primary voters. So Donald Trump, he could easily say, I’m a populist. I care about the little guy. And nobody really looks deeper than just his rhetoric. But you know, on the left we kind of had this pseudo populous and Barack Obama and so now we’ve been burned. You know, he was more of a centrist and now we realize, okay, we have to look at the very specific policy details as well as the campaign contributions that we’re taking. So there’s all of these things that we’re looking out for and you see that people, they care about the policies. And since people can’t compete with Bernie Sanders and even Elizabeth Warren, we’re seeing them slowly but surely decline in the polls. And you see the attempts by mainstream media to prop up these candidates. You know, the glowing Chris Solicitpeces of Pete Buddhajudge. But it’s not helping because you can just tell, you know that they aren’t willing to change the system to the extent that Bernie wants to. 
And, and, and that’s what has to happen. That is the only thing that’s going to fix what is wrong with this country today is broad, systemic, structural change. Anything short of that, it’s not going to do what we needed to. Mike Figaredo host of the humanist report, amazing show, amazing guests. Thank you very much for talking with us today. We’ve, we definitely gotta do this more frequently. 
Absolutely. Thank you for having me. Farron it’s been a blast.

Farron Cousins is the executive editor of The Trial Lawyer magazine and a contributing writer at He is the co-host / guest host for Ring of Fire Radio. His writings have appeared on Alternet, Truthout, and The Huffington Post. Farron received his bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of West Florida in 2005 and became a member of American MENSA in 2009. Follow him on Twitter @farronbalanced