Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Marital Meetings: My Brilliant Idea

Dear George,

Katja and I seem to be in a state of lethargy.  We’ve started our OLLI courses at the university, but, aside from that, we haven’t managed to go anywhere or do anything for some time.  I’m worried that this time is going to slip by and we won’t have done anything.  

Given that we have been married for 58 years, this inaction probably isn’t too surprising.  For my senior paper at Antioch as a Psychology major, I wrote about research on interpersonal communication.  I don’t remember too much about my paper, but one study has stood out in my mind all these years.  Researchers somewhere — I think in the northeast — placed microphones in every room in middle class married couples homes that were activated every time that anyone talked.  They discovered that, on average, married couples talked to one another about six minutes a day.  I can’t remember for sure whether they used years of marriage as a variable or not, but my vague sense is that, the longer the marriage, the less the talk.  (I did run across a recent British study that found that couples married fifty years or more only talked three minutes per hour while dining together at a restaurant.)   

I’d like to believe that Katja and I talk more than five minutes a day, but I wouldn’t be willing to bet money on it.  We’ve pretty much staked out different parts of the house as our territories.  Katja owns the kitchen, the living room, the dining room, the den, and the bedroom, where she’s busy either doing tasks, watching TV, or napping.  I spend most of my time in our two rooms that have computers — our son J’s former bedroom and what I affectionately refer to as my junk room.  We do get together for one or two meals a day, but Katja usually does a Jumble while I work on a Sudoku puzzle or read the depressing New York Times editorials.  

The other day I came up with an idea that marriages can be rejuvenated by having “Marital Meetings”.  I got this idea while watching a trailer for a TV sitcom where the mother told the kids to get ready for the family meeting.  I guess family meetings are pretty common.  I don’t know if anybody’s ever thought of a marital meeting before, but it seems like a logical extension.  I haven’t told Katja about this yet, but I have been mentally working on this idea.  The mission would be to improve our marriage by actually talking to one another.  Marital meetings could be done more frequently or less, of course, but I think a weekly meeting would be about right.  It would be good to have it for a fixed time.  Right now I’m thinking of 7:30 on Sunday night.  We’ll have had dinner and a glass of wine.  We’d be excited because it’s just before The Durrells on Corfu on PBS.  That means we would need to stop by 8:00.  I think that should be plenty.  

All committee meetings have to have a leader, and this would be true of marital meetings too.  Perhaps we’ll have an election.  Katja’s much more talkative than I, so perhaps she should be the leader.  On the other hand, it might be sensible for the quieter partner to have that job.  In any case, we’ll work that out.  The leader, of course, is responsible for compiling an agenda.  Both persons can contribute, and this should be done in advance of the meeting and publicly announced, perhaps by posting it on the refrigerator.  Some agenda items that I already have in mind: going over the local recycling rules; agreeing that the thermostat ought to be set at 73 for air conditioning; discussing of why we aren’t going camping any more; cancelling all the store catalogs that come in the mail; not watching the shopping channel on TV, etc.  I’m sure these topics would all be of mutual interest, and Katja is likely to have some other ideas of her own.  

The only time that I’ve ever done anything close to a marital meeting was when I was a teenager and my father ordered my mother to hold weekly meetings with my brother Steven and I to discuss how we could get along without killing each other.  Actually I hated these meetings, and I tried to say as little as I possibly could.  My mother said that if we kept fighting all the time (or maybe she said if I kept torturing my brother all the time) we would never like one another as adults.  This, of course, did not prove to be true.  But, even though these youthful family meetings were a bust, I’m still hopeful about the prospects of marital meetings.  We are, after all, more mature (or at least I think we are).   I plan to mention this idea to Katja next week.  I think she’ll be enthusiastic.  If it works out, I will get back to you with a report.


Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Summer 2018: A Photo-Diary

Dear George,
If you asked me in a noncritical moment how many summers I’ve lived, I’d probably say somewhere around 400.  It does seem like that, but 400 is definitely inaccurate.  When you’re 80, you’ve (of course) lived 80 or 81 summers, and you might have only 5 or 10 more to go.  That fact of life does make summers quite precious.  Now that we’re entering a new season, I’ve been thinking how our summer went.  It did go by in a whiz, and I don’t remember too many highlights.  However, when I looked at the accumulated photos on our computer, more things did come back.  So I decided to make a photo diary of the season.

One of the best parts of the summer was when our NOLA family — J, K, and our grandkids, V and L — visited us in Cincinnati for a long weekend in early July. 

The art museum held its exhibition of Terracotta Warriors from ancient China — truly astonishing.   

We enjoyed four Cincinnati Opera productions this season: La Traviata, The Coronation of Poppea, The Flying Dutchman, and Another Brick in the Wall (image source: Cinc. Business Courier).  

The Butler County Fair in nearby Hamilton excelled in soft fuzzy rabbits.  

Patrick O’Daugherty’s “Twisted” display at the Taft Museum was a work of genius.  

The highlight of the Boone County Fair was the beauty pageant for one-year-olds.  

We enjoyed seeing John Isner and McKenzie MacDonald at the Western & Southern Open.  

Phyllis and I went on our annual outing to the Brookville Flea Market in rural Indiana.  

We travelled to New Orleans for J’s art opening at the Newman Gallery — so thrilling.  

Then from NOLA we had a relaxing beach vacation in Destin, Florida.  

Home again, I went off on a camping trip to Winton Woods county park.  

Monday, September 17, 2018

Good Camping Recipes

Dear George,
Aside from microwaving Lean Cuisines and tossing salads with iceberg lettuce, I don’t do much cooking at home.  When I go camping though, I carefully pick and prepare a menu from the many dozens of camping recipes that I’ve accumulated over the years.  As a contribution to the public well-being, I describe a few of my favorites here.


Breakfast Hash (serves 4)
3-4 medium potatoes, diced
1 package sausage links, diced 
1 medium onion, chopped 
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 cup diced red, green, yellow pepper 
8 eggs, beaten 
1 1/2 - 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
How to prepare:
Cook the potatoes in a buttered skillet for about ten minutes.  Then add the sausage, Onion, mushroom, and pepper.  Cook until the potatoes are cooked through.  Pour in the beaten eggs, and cook until the eggs are done.  Top with shredded cheese, and let it melt.  (Note: the various vegetables are optional.  Crumbled fried bacon can be substituted for sausage links.)  

Cheeseburger Breakfast (serves 2)
2 Hamburger patties 
6 eggs 
Shredded cheese
Salt and pepper 
How to Prepare: 
Fry the hamburger patties, and then set them aside.  Scramble the eggs in the hamburger grease.  While the eggs are cooking, cut the burger patties into bite sized pieces.  When the eggs are done, remove from heat, add the burger pieces and cheese, and let sit for a minute or two till the cheese is melted.  Add salt and pepper.  

Grilled Breakfast Sandwich (serves two)
4  eggs 
1/4 cup milk 
2 - 4  slices of Black Forest Ham 
2 - 4  slices of cheddar or American cheese 
4 - 6  slices of white bread 
Maple syrup 
How to Prepare: 
Beat the eggs, pour in milk, and mix together.  Dip bread in the mixture and cook both sides until golden.  Add one slice of cheese and one slice of ham between two slices of the cooked bread.  Serve with maple syrup.  


Ground Beef Stroganoff  (serves 4)
1 pound ground beef 
1 small onion, finely chopped 
1 can cream of mushroom soup 
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce 
black pepper, to taste 
granulated garlic, to taste 
cooked noodles 
How to Prepare:  
Brown meat in saute pan. Discard fat. Add chopped onions and cook until transparent. Add cream of mushroom soup (but no water), Worcestershire sauce, black pepper, and garlic. Simmer. Serve over cooked noodles.  (Note: can substitute sliced chicken breasts for ground beef.)     

Skillet Scramble (serves 4)
1 lb ground beef (or ground sausage, ground turkey, etc.)
1 medium bell pepper 
1 medium red pepper 
1 medium onion 
3 medium tomatoes 
6 large eggs 
1/2 cup shredded cheese (or 4 slices work) 
Salt, pepper 
How to Prepare: 
Brown meat, onion, pepper, tomatoes, and seasonings. Drain.  Add eggs and scramble all together until eggs are done. Take off heat and add cheese on top to melt.  Serve with salsa on the side (optional).  

Fried Fish Fillets with Lemon Mustard Butter  (serves 4) 
4 medium sized fish fillets (e.g., trout)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup flour
3 tablespoons oil
5 tablespoons butter
2 1/2 teaspoons French style mustard
1 teaspoon parsley flakes
2 tablespoons lemon juice 
How to Prepare: 
 Mix the salt and milk together. Dip each fillet in the mixture, then roll in flour. Heat the oil and 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet or pan. Fry the fish until they are tender and crispy. Remove fish from the pan and keep warm.  Quickly stir the mustard, the remaining butter, and the parsley flakes into the butter in the pan. Add the lemon juice, bring to a boil, and pour the hot lemon-mustard butter over the fish.

Quick & Easy Chicken Stir Fry (serves 2) 
Rice (or noodles, pasta)
Chicken (or sausage, bacon, etc.) 
Assorted vegetables (e.g., peppers, onions, mushrooms, beans, carrots, broccoli)
Pasta sauce (or curry sauce, Chinese sauce, etc.)  
How to Prepare: 
Cut up the meat and put it in a heated pan with a little oil.  Once the meat has browned,  add the chopped vegetables.  Stir fry, then add 
a jar of pasta sauce.  Serve with rice or noodles.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

This and That

Dear George,
We’re trying to adjust to being back home after an exciting vacation in New Orleans with our family.  We did lots of things there, and now we are suffering from some sort of post-vacation lethargy.  Partly this is because the U.S. Open has been going on for two weeks, and ESPN has been broadcasting matches daily from 11 a.m. to 12 midnight.  This is an awful lot of tennis to watch, but we have done our best, probably averaging five or six hours a day.  Basically this amounts to watching two players hit a ball back and forth across a net until one of them misses.  For us as viewers, this has amounted to about 25,000 hits so far (e.g., 4,000 serves, 11,000 forehands, 7,000 backhands, and 3,000 volleys).  You’d think that that might get boring, but, in fact, we’ve gotten more obsessed as time has gone on.  By and large, the results have been painful.  We started out rooting for our favorites, Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova.  Maria, plagued with unforced errors, lost in the round of 16, and Roger, who said he couldn’t breathe in the hot muggy New York air, played the worst match of his career in the quarter-finals.   We still had hope for Sloane Stephens and Raphael Nadal, but 3rd- seeded Sloane was soundly defeated by the 19th seed, and Rafa had to retire from his semi-final match because of tendonitis.  I’ll be relieved when the Open is over. 

When we came back from NOLA, I asked Katja to stop cooking for me since I was going to go on my Spartan weight-loss diet.  That was nine days ago, and so far I’ve lost nine pounds.  I’ve always been fairly successful losing weight when I set out to do it seriously, although I realize I will to hit a plateau any day now.  I drink lots of water and have cut back to two meals per day.  For brunch I have a few ounces of sliced turkey, some cole slaw, and some cottage cheese.  For supper, tossed salad with tuna and or cottage cheese.  I don’t actually get too hungry.  The main drawback is that I’ve been having a terrible time sleeping.  As far as I can tell from the Internet, dieting makes your body restless and it protests by staying awake.  I will try drinking a little milk before bedtime and see if that helps.

Another source of sleeplessness cropped up when Katja asked me to type and print a letter for her requesting that a California company stop sending her skin care products.  It turns out she purchased a product that she saw advertised on TV, and now they are sending her unordered products every couple of weeks.  I looked up the company on the Internet, and they immediately turned up on “".  All their customers have the same complaint.  The company sends products without asking and charges $125 per shipment.  They tell people that they cannot return products and they can’t give refunds.  I, of course, have gone slightly insane, begging Katja to contact her credit card companies to cancel future payments.   At present she’s thinking about the best course of action.  

I try to find solace in writing poetry, but I’ve been suffering from writer’s block ever since our OLLI poetry workshop ended nine weeks ago.  I apparently have become dependent on the teacher to give a homework assignment before I can figure out what to write about.  Instead of anything new, I’ve been working on revising some old poems that I’d never completed.  Some of the titles are: Foul Air; The Downhill Slide; Near the Bed of Death; Night Terrors; and Narcissistic Angst.   I’ve been putting some of these on a blog called “Funny Poems Maybe”, but Katja pointed out that most aren’t that funny.  Oh well, that’s my early September report.  Now I’m off to watch the U.S. Open Women’s Final.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Art Shows and Sea Air

Dear George,
We are just back from an 11-day vacation which combined our son J’s art shows with sunning on the beach.  It’s hard to imagine a better mix.  On our first day we went to the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in downtown New Orleans.  The Ogden is holding its annual “Louisiana Contemporary” show, featuring 25 Louisiana artists who represent “the vibrant visual arts culture of Louisiana”.  Two of J’s duct tape works were selected for the exhibition.  The two works (shown below) are “Bienville’s Deception” and “Higgins Boat at Normandy”.  The Higgins Boat piece was used to promote the exhibition on New Orleans streetcars.   

These two works are part of a mammoth duct tape project J has undertaken over the last year or so in conjunction with New Orleans’ Tricentennial.  In his words, “My plan was to start with the Native Americans living and trading on what is today’s Bayou St. John and then go on to portray the arrival of Bienville, the European colonization of New Orleans, the Americanization of the city after the Louisiana Purchase, the Civil War, the subsequent Reconstruction era, the age of Storyville and Jazz, and finally the modern era.”  There are sixty-five pieces in the whole collection, about fifty of which are currently being shown at the Isidore Newman School’s Reynolds-Ryan Gallery at 5333 Danneel St. in NOLA.  One can see the whole collection at  

We celebrated the Newman opening with a family brunch at Commander’s Palace, one of NOLA’s great historic restaurants.  Our grandchildren, L and V, turn ten next month and have become perfectly at home at fancy dining outings.  We all had a joyous time.  

We left New Orleans last Sunday morning for Destin, FL, about 270 miles away.  We stayed at a Marriott hotel across Highway 98 from Henderson State Beach Park with its glorious white sand beaches.  I spent a lot of time in the ocean while Katja was content to read Homer’s Odyssey on the beach.  We celebrated our 58th anniversary at Emeril Lagasse’s new Sandestin restaurant, Emeril’s Coastal Italian. 

This was an ideal way to wind up the summer.  Soon we begin OLLI classes, with Katja studying British detective mysteries and me writing some mysterious poems.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

2020 Democratic Hopefuls

Dear George, 
The midterm elections are almost upon us, and there’s much speculation that the Democrats will take back the House.  Beyond that, various pundits note that campaigning for the 2020 presidential election will begin the next day.  So enormously important.  While none of the frontrunners have declared themselves, a lot of names have been bandied about as potential Democratic candidates.  The Guardian, Ballotpedia, and Wikipedia offer exhaustive slates, and I’ve also looked at lists compiled by the Washington Post, CNN, the New York Times, Politico, Politics1, the Business Insider, and Vox.  The names that crop up most frequently across these various sources are: Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Sherrod Brown, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Deval Patrick, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren.  Here is some info that I found helpful in thinking about the field (sources are given at the end):     

Joe Biden, former Vice-President of the United States
  • Born Nov. 20, 1942 (age 75), Scranton, PA
  • Education: University of Delaware (BA, 1965), Syracuse University College of Law (JD, 1968)
  • Offices held: 1973-2009, U.S. Senator (Dem., Del.); 2009-2017, U.S. Vice-President
  • Liberal ideology score: Not available (source: 
  • Key issues: foreign relations, criminal justice; drug policy; gun control; same-sex marriage; civil liberties; climate change.
  • Selected ratings: NA  (source:
  • Selected endorsements: NA (source:
  • Quote: “One of the things I’ve never been accused of is not caring about people.”
  • Personal: varsity football player at Delaware; 3rd youngest person ever elected to the Senate; lost his wife and daughter in a car crash in 1972, a son to brain cancer in 2015; never drinks alcohol 
  • Strengths: near-universal name identification; appeal to blue-collar voters; a unifier who could be a consensus candidate for the party’s centrist and progressive wings; won reelection to the Senate six times; has fought for virtually all the Democrats’ constituent groups (women, non-whites, union members, environmentalists, etc.); demonstrated ability to negotiate with congressional Republicans; awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2017)
  • Drawbacks: Biden: will be 78 in 2020; thought of by some as a “goofball”; unimpressive campaigns in 1998, 2008;  criticized for his handling of Clarence Thomas’s confirmation hearing and his votes for the 1994 crime bill and the 2005 bankruptcy bill; (,,,

Cory Booker, U.S. Senator from New Jersey
  • Born Apr. 27, 1969 (age 49), Washington, D.C.
  • Education:  Stanford U. (BA, 1991; MA, 1992); U. Oxford (Rhodes scholar, 1994); Yale Law School (JD, 1997) 
  • Offices held: 1998-2002, Member, Newark City Council; 2006-2013, Mayor of Newark, NJ; 2013-present, junior U.S. Senator (Dem., NJ)
  • Liberal ideology score (  .79/1.00 (#18/100 in Senate)
  • Key issues: criminal justice reform; women’s rights; affirmative action; single-payer healthcare; paid family leave; same-sex marriage; federal minimum wage increase; tax increases for the wealthy
  • Selected ratings (  Planned Parenthood 100%; NAACP100% ; ACLU 94%; National Education Association 100%; Brady Campaign (gun control) 100%; AFL-CIO 100%; Human Rights Campaign (gay rights) 100%; Americans for Democratic Action 95%
  • Selected endorsements ( Alliance for Retired Americans; Environment America; Human Rights Campaign; NARAL; N.J. AFL-CIO; Sierra Club
  • Quote: “When we are indivisible, we are invincible.” 
  • Personal: varsity football, senior class president at Stanford; volunteered for Big Brothers Big Sisters; patrolled the streets himself as Newark mayor; targeted for assassination by Newark street gang leaders; vegan diet, exercises regularly, no alcohol.
  • Strengths: Known for his efforts at bipartisan cooperation; considered a spell-binding speaker; part of the “Hell-No Caucus” (with Harris, Gillibrand, Warren, and Sanders)
  • Drawbacks: Prior financial backing from Big Pharma, Jared, Kushner, and Ivanka Trump; assessments differ on whether he was a great success as Newark mayor (,

Sherrod Brown, U.S. Senator from Ohio
  • Born Nov. 9, 1952 (age 63), Mansfield, OH
  • Education: Yale University (BA, 1974); Ohio State University (MPA, 1979; MA, Education, 1981)
  • Offices held: 1975-1982, Representative, Ohio State House of Representatives; 1983-1991, Secretary of State of Ohio; 1993-2007: Representative, OH 13th District, U.S. House of Representatives; 2007-present, senior U.S. Senator (Dem., OH)
  • Liberal ideology score (  0.83/1.00 (#11/100 in Senate)
  • Key issues: labor and labor unions; strong advocate of American manufacturing; health care reform; clean energy; education; critic of the financial and banking system; critic of free trade.
  • Selected ratings:  Planned Parenthood 100%; NAACP 100%; ACLU 100%; National Education Association 100%; Brady Campaign (gun control) 100%; AFL-CIO 99%; Human Rights Campaign (gay rights) 100%; Americans for Democratic Action 95%
  •  Selected endorsements:, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Ohio State Medical Association, SEIU District 1199, League of Conservation Voters
  • Quote: “I don’t talk about white voters and black voters.  I talk about voters, and I talk about workers.” 
  • Personal:  Earned the rank of Eagle Scout; backpacked in India during the state of emergency declared by Indira Ghandi; the youngest person elected to Ohio’s House (age 22); a lifelong Cleveland Indians fan; buys all his suits at a Cleveland-area manufacturing plant.      
  • Strengths: Along with Sanders and Warren, one of the best-known progressives in the Senate; advocate of progressive populism; has been called “perhaps the most class-conscious Democrat in Washington”; one of the most liberal voting records on social issues in Congress; strong labor backing, blue-collar appeal; draws some support from Trump voters; has won in rural and urban areas and in black and white communities; from a critical swing state. 
  • Drawbacks: Says he is not considering a 2020 presidential bid; needs to get past a tough 2018 reelection bid (

Kirsten Gillibrand, U.S. Senator from New York
  • Born Dec. 9, 1966 (age 51), Albany, NY
  • Education: Dartmouth College (BA, 1988); UCLA School of Law (JD, 1991)
  • Offices held: 2007-2009, member, U.S. House of Representatives; 2009-present, junior U.S. Senator (Dem, NY);
  • Liberal ideology score (  .92/1.00 (#5/100 in Senate)
  • Key issues: gender equality; abortion rights; same-sex marriage; sexual assault in the military; sexual harassment; advocacy against “boycotts” of Israel; single-payer healthcare; gun control.
  • Selected ratings:  Planned Parenthood 100%; NAACP 100%; ACLU 88%; National Education Association ; Brady Campaign (gun control) 100%; AFL-CIO 88%; Human Rights Campaign (gay rights) 100%; Americans for Democratic Action 100%
  • Selected endorsements: Feminist Majority Political Action Committee; National Organization for Women; Sierra Club
  • Quote: “I believe transparency in government is key to restoring our nation’s faith in its elected leaders.”
  • Quote: “To change Washington, you need to change the women’s player list.” 
  • Personal: Studied abroad in Beijing and Taiwan; interviewed the Dalai Lama as a college student; youngest Senator in the 111th Congress; worked until the day of her son’s delivery; the first Democrat to call for Sen. Al Franken’s resignation
  • Strengths: part of the “Hell-No Caucus” (with Harris, Booker, Warren, and Sanders); has voted against Trump’s positions more than any other Senator
  • Drawbacks: Major contributions from Goldman Sachs, obligations to the financial services sector; started her career as a border hawk and a firm supporter of the Second Amendment, then flipped as a Senator (,

Kamala Harris, U.S. Senator from California
  • Born Oct. 20, 1964, Oakland, CA (age 53)
  • Education: Howard U. (BA, 1986); U. California, Hastings College of Law (JD, 1989)
  • Offices held: 2004-2011: District Attorney of San Francisco; 2011-2017: Attorney General of California; 2017-present: junior U.S. Senator (Dem., Cal.)
  • Liberal ideology score (  0.86/1.00 (#8/100 in Senate)
  • Key issues: Criminal justice reform; immigration reform; minimum wage increases; pro-choice; tuition-free college; Medicare for All
  • Selected ratings:  Planned Parenthood 100%; NAACP 100%; ACLU N.A.; National Education Association 100%; Brady Campaign (gun control) N.A.; AFL-CIO 100%; Human Rights Campaign (gay rights) N.A.; Americans for Democratic Action N.A.
  • Selected endorsements: Feminist Majority PAC; NARAL; National Education Association; Sierra Club; United Farm Workers of America.
  • Quote: “I was raised to be an independent woman, not the victim of anything.”
  • Personal: Reads the entire New York Times on Sundays; favorite TV shows include 24, American Idol, SNL, and anything on CNN; enjoys Sunday family dinners.  
  • Strengths: First U.S. Senator of Jamaican or Indian descent and the only the second black woman to be elected to the Senate.  Ranked #1 as most progressive member of Congress by  Strongly challenged Trump’s cabinet nominees.
  • Drawbacks: Less than two years in Senate to date; less of a name brand than other frontrunners; 45th out of 49 Senate Democrats in introducing bills in 2017; as California attorney general she declined to prosecute the bank once headed by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin for alleged foreclosure violations; her immigration concerns work in California but less so for the rest of the country (,

Deval Patrick, former Governor of Massachusetts 
  • Born July 31, 1956 (age 62), Chicago, IL
  • Education: Harvard College (BA. 1978); Harvard Law School (JD cum laude, 1982) 
  • Offices held: 1994-97, U.S. Assistant Attorney General; 2007-15, Governor of Massachusetts; 2016-present, managing director at Bain Capital
  • Liberal ideology score: NA
  • Key issues: gun control, public education, same-sex marriage, clean energy, immigration reform 
  • Selected ratings: NA 
  • Selected endorsements: NA
  • Quote: “I've fixed hard problems of all kinds, civil rights and business problems. It's the stuff I like to do, and I'm good at it, as a matter of fact... and I never left my conscience at the door.”
  • Personal: Raised by a single mother on the South Side of Chicago; won a scholarship for academically gifted minority students to Milton Academy; won“Best Oralist“ in law school; worked with the U.N. in Africa after college; awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws by Harvard University; the only politician on the Obama Foundation Board 
  • 2020 election:
  • Strengths: at 61, more youthful than many Democratic contenders; might be able to unite Clinton and Sanders wings; would energize the African American vote; strong support from President Obama
  • Drawbacks: Has only run for one office (governor) in his political career; failures and scandals as well as successes in Massachusetts; has spent the last few years at investment firm Bain Capital (,

Bernie Sanders, U.S. Senator from Vermont 
  • Born Sept. 8, 1941 (age 76), Brooklyn, NY
  • Education: University of Chicago (BS, 1964)
  • Offices held: 1981-89, Mayor of Burlington, VT; 1991-2007, Member, U.S. House of Representatives; 2007-present, U.S. Senate (Vermont, independent who caucuses with the Democrats)
  • Liberal ideology score (  1.00/1.00 (#1 in Senate)
  •  Key issues: Economic inequality, tax reform; financial reforms for Wall Street; $15 minimum wage; single-payer health care; paid parental leave; tuition-free public colleges and universities; campaign reform, expanding voting rights; climate change, renewable energy sources; same-sex marriage; pro-choice. 
  • Selected ratings: Planned Parenthood 100%; NAACP 100%; ACLU 94%; National Education Association 100%; Brady Campaign (gun control) 100%; AFL-CIO 99%; Human Rights Campaign (gay rights) 100%; Americans for Democratic Action 100%
  •  Selected endorsements:, National Education Association, Planned Parenthood, Climate Hawks Vote
  • Quote: “Let us wage a moral and political war against the billionaires and corporate leaders, on Wall Street and elsewhere, whose policies and greed are destroying the middle class of America.”
  • Personal: Son of a Polish immigrant whose family died in the Holocaust; organizer for SNCC, participated in the first Civil Rights sit-in in Chicago history; lived on a kibbutz in Israel after college; taught low income children through Head Start; applied for conscientious objector status during the Vietnam War; taught political science at Harvard;
  • Strengths: Describes himself as a Democratic Socialist; leader of the Democrats’ progressive wing; ranked as most liberal Senator by; outspoken on the issues; has a strong grassroots organization and a network of volunteers; enthusiasm among younger voters; highest nationwide favorability rating of any politician in a 2017 Harvard-Harris poll (
  • Drawbacks: Sanders: will be 79 in 2020, no real allegiance to the Democratic party; “seems less vigorous than Trump”; vulnerable to attacks from a history of controversial words and deeds; Democrats may want a fresher face  (,

Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Senator from Massachusetts
  • Born June 22, 1949, Oklahoma City (age 69)
  • Education: George Washington University; University of Houston (BS, 1970); Rutgers University-Newark School of Law (JD, 1976)
  • Offices held: 1977-1996, Professor of Law, numerous universities
  • 1995-2012, Professor, Harvard Law School; 2013-present, senior U.S. Senator (Dem., Mass.)
  • Liberal ideology score (  0.77/1.00 (#29 in Senate)
  • Key issues: consumer protection advocate; holding the financial industry accountable; advocate for working families; creating educational opportunities; expanding medical research; health care costs; tax policies that reward work, not wealth
  • Selected ratings:  Planned Parenthood 100%; NAACP 100%; ACLU 94%; National Education Association100%; Brady Campaign (gun violence) 100%; AFL-CIO 100%; Human Rights Campaign (gay rights) 100%; Americans for Democratic Action 100%
  • Selected endorsements: Emily’s List,, League of Conservation Voters, Democracy for America
  • Quote: “I want millionaires and billionaires and Big Oil companies to pay their fair share.” 
  • Personal: grew up in a family “on the ragged edge of the middle class”; was a debate champion in high school; married at 19; voted Republican until 1995; the first woman voted to the Senate from Massachusetts; played by Kate McKinnon on Saturday Night Live; called “A New Sheriff of Wall Street” by Time Magazine; has three grandchildren;  
  • Strengths: Fighter for middle class families; one of the nation’s top experts on bankruptcy and financial pressures facing middle class families; led creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
  • Drawbacks: Will be 71 in 2020, didn’t run for office until 2012; “not great in interviews and speeches”; “many people find her irritating” (,,

 No single candidate appears to stand out as a superstar.  The Washington Post ranks their top five in this order: Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Joe Biden, and Cory Booker.  A recent Harvard CAPS/Harris poll (June 2018, found the following preferences of Democratic voters for candidates to run in 2020: Biden, 32%; Hillary Clinton, 18%; Sanders, 16%; and Warren, 10%.

Several polls have queried nationwide samples of voters about their choices in head-to-head races against Trump.  A CNN survey (Jan. 2018) found these results: Biden 57%, Trump 40%; Sanders 55%, Trump 42% (and also Oprah Winfrey 51%, Trump 42%).  A Morning Consult/Politico poll (Nov. 2017) found: Biden 46%, Trump 35%; Sanders 42%, Trump 36%; generic Democrat 44%, Trump 35%.  A Zobgy survey (May 2018) reported: Warren 43%, Trump 37%; Trump 39%, Booker 38%; Trump 39%, Harris 35%. 

Professional oddsmakers’ predictions are less sanguine for the Democrats.  All of them offer betting odds which strongly favor Donald Trump (both as the incumbent and because of a strong economy). currently gives these odds on the various candidates reviewed here:  Trump 11/8; Sanders 10/1; Warren 10/1; Harris 10/1; Biden 14/1; Gillibrand 25/1; Booker 33/1; Patrick 80/1; Brown 100/1.  These odds, of course, will change substantially once the Democrats select their nominee.

My impression is that there’s isn’t a consensus first choice in this bunch, and many additional names have been suggested as prospects, e.g., Mitch Landrieu, Terry McAuliffe, Eric Holder Jr., Michael bloomberg, Chris Murphy, Andrew Cuomo Amy Klobuchar, Steve Bullock, Julian Castro, and John Hickenlooper.    Political strategist Phil Singer who worked on Clinton’s 2008 campaign has suggested that it’s a weak field overall: “You have a bunch of Celine Dions but there’s no Beatles” (  I think that Biden and Sanders (and maybe Warren) are pretty old as prospective candidates, and several others are limited in experience.  My own favorite is our Ohio senator, Sherrod Brown, although the oddsmakers aren’t optimistic.  It will be an interesting year ahead.  We need to hope and pray that the Democrats will come up with the best choice possible. 
SOURCES:, “Presidential candidates 2020”;, “10 Democrats who may run for president” (Dec. 28, 2017);, “The 2020 Democratic primary, as a March Madness bracket” (Mar. 15, 2018);, “The definitive ranking of 202 Democrats” (July 20, 2018);
daily, “Who’s going to challenge Trump in 2020?” (June 20, 2018);, “It’s Time for A New 2020 Democratic Primary Draft!” (May 16, 2018);, “2020 Can Be Joe Biden’s Moment” (July 16, 2018);, “Bernie Sanders will face Donald Trump in 2020 election, Democrats say”, 11-24-17);, “Democrats Need an Unbreakable Presidential candidate in 2020” (July 18, 2018);, “Where Do ‘Centrist’Democrats Turn in 2020?” (July 21, 2018);, “Who Can Beat Trump in 2020?” (Sept. 20, 2017);, “2020 Presidential Candidates”;, “Election 2020”;, “Sherrod Brown Says He’s Not Considering 2020 Presidential Bid” (May 17, 2018);, “2020 Election Winner”;, “Joe Biden: the liberal everyman spoiling for a fight with Trump as 2020 looms” (May 13, 2018);, “List of 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidates”;, “Trump’s Secret Weapon?” (July 24, 2018);, “2020 presidential election” (June 15, 2018);, “Deval Patrick: The Democrats could do worse” (March 7, 2018);, “The top 15 Democratic presidential candidates for 2020” (July 6, 2018);, “Democratic Party presidential primaries, 2020”; 
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