Abandon the Babel of Labels: Assess the Facts

Abandon the Babel of Labels: Assess the Facts

By Yezdyar S. Kaoosji

Identity wars are drowning the left in a Babel of labels. In this 2020 Democratic Presidential Primary season, it is time to ignore the candidates’ self-identification as “progressive” because the label is abused, misrepresented and rendered meaningless.

With nearly two dozen known and relatively unknown politicians who have thrown themselves in the ring, it is difficult to understand who is who and what they really stand for. After two so-called debates managed by biased news reporters and anchors, we are ready for the third round in September.

The neoliberal Democratic Party establishment is now weighing in by making the debate qualification more difficult, and its hope is that the September debate will be a single session with all the qualified candidates on stage together.

It is time to examine how each candidate is framing the issues. But just learning about the candidates’ platitudes and often tricky language is not enough. We, the voters, need more tools than the political establishment and the media lackeys of corporate interests provide us. We need to conduct our own research and come to our own conclusions on who should carry the torch as the Democratic Party nominee.

We need to winnow the field and separate the wheat from the chaff. To do so, we need to go deeper than the pollsters and pundits want us to go. We also need to match candidate rhetoric to past performance and consistency.

Most candidates adopt popular and attractive issues even if they do not believe in them. Some are disingenuous enough to add caveats and neutralize an issue to appear like they support it. That is what we need to guard against. For example, there are more ways in which Medicare for All is being touted by candidates than Starbucks has options for ordering a cup of coffee!

Let us learn to distinguish the real supporters of an issue; let us learn to match the track record of the candidates to their pronouncements and let us become more efficient in assessing their viability moving toward the November 2020 Presidential election.

If you adopt the proposal that follows, here are a few things you need to check at the door: Steer clear of candidate-generated rhetoric, funny or vulgar pro and con memes, social media chatter and pontifical pronouncements of syndicated columnists and have-been politicians who now hock the media airwaves to make a living as talking heads.

In July 2016, the Community Alliance published a Candidate Assessment Grid as a citizens’ toolbox. An updated version appears on this page to assist individuals and groups in gathering unadulterated facts about candidates and to rank them using numerical values.

Armed with such an analysis of facts, groups and individuals might be better able to draft their own questions for debates, candidate forums and town hall meetings leading up to the Primary Election (Super Tuesday in March 2020 in California) and then the General Election in November.

This grid helps users to rely on facts, instead of the opinions of articulate supporters, candidate publicity materials and extraneous political distractions that have little bearing on the elected positions a candidate is seeking.

How to Use the Candidate Assessment Grid

The grid identifies the major issues being considered and proposed by candidates. You may use all these issues, select only a few, edit and/or add other issues you care about if not covered on the grid.

Grid Numerical Scoring Values

0 = Opposed

1 = Does not have a stated position on the issue

2 = Appears to support the issue but has added caveats that distract from or are 

       completely negating the issue

3 = Has been a consistent advocate of the issue with a track record of legislative, 

       executive or activist action


Yezdyar S. Kaoosji writes an occasional column “Progressive Voice” for the Community Alliance. Contact him at yezdyk@comcast.net.


  • Community Alliance

    The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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