A Cascade of Apologies by Leading Democrats

A Cascade of Apologies by Leading Democrats February 7, 2019

It’s a surprise to some, but a few candidates for 2020’s Democrat contest are apologizing before the heat and not rationalizing after the heat. Good for them, and I hope Democrats forgive them, which they are sure to do.

What I hope more is that if any leader apologizes for his or her past actions that others will forgive them. This has not been the way of social media outrage, however. If your tribe apologizes, forgive; if the other tribe does, call for their ouster and play the game of moral superiority. This happens on both sides, no bias here.

But I hope this bodes well: it’s time for social commentary to admit humans mess up, that acknowledgements of mess ups deserve welcome and forgiveness, and when this happens we will all be better off.

All of us.



The Democratic Party’s presidential hopefuls differ on their approach to policy issues such as income inequality and climate change, but on one thing there is almost uniform agreement: They’re all very, very sorry.

The most recent high-profile mea culpa came Thursday when Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts apologized for her controversial decision to take a DNA test to prove her decades-old claim of Native American ancestry.

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. recently lamented his rolein crafting the tough-on-crime drug legislation of the 1980s and 1990s. Senator Kamala Harris of California said she regretted some of the positions her office took while she was a state prosecutor. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York said her past hard-line stances on immigration “certainly weren’t empathetic and they were not kind.” Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont apologized after reports of gender discrimination and sexual harassment in his 2016 presidential campaign.

The spate of sorrys is indicative of a crowded field of Democratic candidates who understand that the party’s increasingly diverse base can be uncompromising on issues such as discrimination, criminal justice reform and immigration and often expects candidates to stand more boldly on questions of identity including race, gender and sexuality.

“This is about morals,” said Steven Drahozal, the chair of the Dubuque County Democrats in Iowa. He said voters in Iowa, the key early primary state, will actually appreciate a candidate who recognizes and acknowledges previous shortcomings. But he said Democratic candidates need to be acutely sensitive to those who in the past have been left behind. “Not intending to offend is not an excuse,’’ he said.

What is less clear is whether what works in a primary will be harmful in the general election and whether the cascade of apologies risks making Democrats look like the hypersensitive, politically correct crowd Republicans make them out to be — especially when compared with President Trump, who often insults and offends people and almost never apologizes for anything.

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