Darryl Strawberry had one of the greatest baseball careers of all time, but he hit rock bottom and almost lost it all

Glenn: Darryl and Tracy Strawberry, the authors of a book called The Imperfect Marriage, the founders of Strawberry Ministries, are with us. Hi guys, how are you?

Darryl: Great.

Tracy: Good. How are you, Glenn?

Glenn: Very good.

Tracy: Good.

Glenn: I was in Tampa when you were bottoming out, and you weren’t a good guy by any stretch of the imagination. What was it, ten years ago that you turned your life around?

Darryl: About 12 years ago.

Glenn: Twelve years ago?

Darryl: Yeah, 12 years ago.

Glenn How long have you guys been married?

Tracy: We’ve been married eight years.

Glenn: Eight years. I saw an interview with you guys, and at the end of the interview, they kind of joked about the book and said a couple of, you know, junkies, what are they going to know? And I thought to myself when I saw that, if the marriage is good, you know everything there is to know, because you came out of it. So let’s start at the bottom first and then how you guys got together and then how it turned around, because you were at the top, and what happened?

Darryl: Well, we all screwed up, you know, as people inside. I think we have so many different issues in our lives growing up, we never deal with them, and they start from childhood. Mine was affected in my childhood. My dad was raised an alcoholic, and, you know, he beat me and said I’d never amount to nothing.

So I became a great baseball player, so everybody thought well, just because you’ve become a great baseball player, you should be happy, but inside, you know, inside I was dying inside, you know? The issues inside were real, and I could never overcome and never could get it out of my head when I was running around the bases, you know, hitting home runs, and winning championships that I was nothing.

Glenn: Isn’t it amazing how…because I kind of felt the same way. I mean, I didn’t have your kind of success, but you think it’s the next mountain that you’re going to climb that’s going to give you that peace. At least I did. You feel like okay, well, I’m empty inside, I don’t feel like it, but if I can just get that next whatever it is, and eventually it becomes the next high, then I’ll be okay.

Darryl: Well, it’s the next way to escape, you know, to feel good, to cope with life, regardless of the circumstance. When you have low self-esteem, and you don’t believe in yourself as a man, not a baseball player. You know, I believed in myself as a baseball player, but who am I as a man?

Glenn: Explain the difference.

Darryl: I think being a baseball player, I knew because I could step on the field, I could be the best on the field. I had confidence in that, but I didn’t have the love and the compassion to understand what it is to be a man, how to raise your family, how to be a good father, how to be a good husband. That was never there for me.

I never got the pat on the back when I came home from Little League. It was just me. I came home, and my mom gave me the hugs and the love and support, but deep down inside I didn’t get that from a father, and it made it very difficult. It made it very empty inside, because I was accumulating a lot of great things in life, but I never was getting to the point of what it is to be a man to feel good about myself. I think that’s the part that a lot of us missed, the hugs.

Glenn: It’s really hard. My dad, I mean, I can’t say this. I don’t want to throw my dad under the bus, but I learned work from my dad, and so I don’t know how to be a good husband. Instinctively have to work at it…you know what I mean? Have to really, really work at it, don’t know how to be a good dad…I just have to really work at it. And most of it is just believing, just coming to a place to where you’re like you’re good.

I mean, I had an epiphany this weekend. I was cuddling with my son, and he’s ten now, and we were just joking. We were in church together, and he grabbed my hand, and he held my hand. And he was rubbing my hand. And I thought to myself, I don’t ever remember doing this to my dad. I don’t ever remember holding my dad’s hand. And I thought victory, victory. I am a good dad. You know what I mean?

Darryl: Right.

Glenn: I just crossed a hurdle that I hadn’t done before. Your lowest point, when you knew I can’t do this anymore?

Darryl: Well, I think my lowest point was when I stuck a needle in my arm to shoot heroin. I think that was the lowest point that I probably could ever get to.

Glenn: You knew it?

Darryl: I knew it. I knew from there that I crossed over onto the other side once I stuck a needle in my arm and shot heroin. I mean, I was always using crack, and I was always using cocaine, but I really stepped to that level, and I knew I was, you know, coming into the place of being a full junkie now. And I knew right then and there with Tracy in my life too at the time, and we’re boyfriend/girlfriend, I knew right there I had a serious problem. I knew for myself inside I wasn’t going to get better. I knew it was going to get worse before I got better.

Glenn: Tell me your story.

Tracy: Well, when I signed over custody of my children, that was my pivotal moment. That was my time. Who does that, you know? I’m this woman who’s raised in a home with love and wonderful parents. I have support. I have encouragement. I have love at home. I don’t have a story that I can grab hold of and say this is why I am the way I am. I don’t have an excuse, and I’m not…please don’t misunderstand me, because those things are very serious, but what is wrong with me? I must really be screwed up to have turned out like this in the midst of addiction. How does that happen?

Glenn: How far down did you go?

Tracy: I went down very far. I went down very far. I was in places I never thought I would go, just doing things I never thought I would do. These are things that I didn’t even know from this life. I didn’t see these things at home. I was not trained up in this way, if you will. I didn’t have a disposition for this lifestyle. I had a very deep emptiness inside. I’m lost. I don’t know what this life is about. I was chasing excitement, always had to be entertained on a very high level. Just wanted to see the world, I didn’t have any focus. I didn’t have any self-discipline within me. I didn’t embrace the way I was raised.

Glenn: How did you two meet? I mean, you’re a nightmare waiting to happen.

Tracy: We sure were.

Darryl: We’re a good nightmare. It was a great nightmare waiting to happen. It’s the strangest things of how people meet, and we met at a Narcotics Anonymous convention. Tracy had just had one year clean, and I just came back from a five-day binge smoking crack. And there we were talking about getting together, and how was this going to work? You know, there’s the sickness of a person that’s still inside which I had, and she had the wellness going on inside of her.

I told her from the beginning, I said you do not want to get involved with me. I am dangerous. I clearly told her that from the beginning. I said I am very dangerous, because I went through two marriages and kids and a family like a tornado because I was selfish, self-centered, and it was about me. I want what I want, and that’s just the way it was.

Glenn: Did you tell her that kind of as a hey, you were warned?

Darryl: Yes. She said I didn’t give her the details.

Tracy: Yeah, he left out the details. But I knew because I came from that lifestyle. When Darryl and I came together, when people, I believe, hopeless people like us come together, there is this fear of judgment. There is this fear of nonacceptance.

You so desperately want to be loved and want to be accepted, especially living the life that you’ve lived and the grand mistakes that we have made, so we had this component where we could relate. We could relate so much to one another that we fell in love with this nonjudgmental relational component, but we were very toxic. We had a strong desire to want to love, but we were not equipped to love. We could not love each other no matter how much we wanted to love each other.

Glenn: So what happened?

Darryl: A lot.

Tracy We had to get well.

Darryl: It was a lot of things that happened. Tracy was coming, kicking down drug houses’ doors, pulling me out of them.

Glenn: You [Tracy] maintained your sobriety?

Darryl: Yes.

Tracy: I did, and one day I came to that realization, I can’t do this anymore. I’m losing myself in the midst of this and being so codependent. I’m trying to save him. When you are working harder at someone’s life and someone else’s faith and someone else’s responsibility and their sobriety, and you are working at their responsibilities more than they are, it’s not working.

Glenn: Right. Being an alcoholic, and I’m sure you guys are the same way, the minute some celebrity dies from an overdose or something, that’s when my phone rings, and everybody’s like hey, can you get on and talk about…? And the question is always the same thing, what could we have done to save them? Nothing.

Darryl: Nothing.

Tracy: If they don’t want to be saved—

Glenn: You can’t save them, and that’s really hard for people to understand and families to understand. There’s nothing you can do.

Tracy: Right.

Glenn: Nothing you can do. Okay, back in just a second with more of the climbing the way out now. Back in a minute.

[break]

Glenn: All right, so you get together. You are working hard to try to keep him sober. He’s not working hard.

Tracy: No.

Glenn: What happens?

Tracy: He’s not participating, so I let him go. I let him go. People cannot change people, and we can love, and we can lead, but I had to let him go, and I had to focus on myself, and I had to get myself grounded. I had enough issues of my own, and that’s what happens. If I’m running after him, I can’t deal with myself, and I am continuing not only to hurt myself…our decisions hurt so many people. The consequences blanket so many people. It does not just hurt ourselves.

Glenn: So let me go back here, because let’s say that people…because I know there are people who are watching, and, you know, their kids, their loved ones or somebody is involved in anything from just alcoholism to heroin, and they don’t know how to relate to that. They don’t know want to do, and they feel like I can’t abandon, you know? It’s my husband or it’s my wife or it’s my daughter. It’s somebody. I can’t just abandon them. Explain if you can…maybe I’ll start with you, Darryl. When she said…because it was actually, didn’t it start with sex, no more sex for you?

Tracy: Yes, that’s when I was getting strong in my faith and strong in the word of God, and I just had a conviction.

Glenn: And that’s the first time anybody had ever said no to you, isn’t it?

Darryl: That’s the first time, yeah. That’s the first time I ever really had been cut off and said no to.

Glenn: On anything.

Darryl: Yes. Most of the time, you know, especially people that live, you know, in the high-profile life, celebrity life, no one ever tells you no. They’ve got the buffers around everybody—yes, you can do this, you can go here, and knowing that they have all these problems and just enabling them and killing them inside. And before you know it, one of them OD’d, and they’re dead, you know, because no one has ever told you no.

So when Tracy told me no that we weren’t having sex anymore, I said I’m outta here, and she said I think that’s what you need to do. I didn’t know if we would get back together, but that was a defining moment in my life because then I knew I had a problem, you know? I knew it wasn’t her. I had to look at me, and so I had to go away, and I had to go away for the next six months. It was just me and God. I went and got with God, and I got serious, you know, about my relationship.

Glenn: What was it about that time or that event that made you? Because you had been in…both of you guys had been in much worse scenarios than hey, not hooking up. I mean, what was it about that time?

Darryl: That time was the time that I picked up the word of God, and I got into the Bible, and I wanted nothing else. I wanted nothing else to do with the world anymore. I had been there, seen that, rich, famous. I didn’t want anything else to do with that anymore. And from that point there, I got serious. I didn’t have anything, but I had the word, and all I did was study. And all I did was read, and all I did was cry. And I let God really do, you know, a purging inside of me, because it’s an inside job, Glenn. Everybody on the outside looks great, but the insides are dead inside, and the insides are empty. I filled my insides with women, money, homes, cars, drugs, alcohol. It was never enough. It brought me to an empty place. It brought me to my knees.

Until I got the transformation, which is being changed…there’s a heart change that has to come about, and there is a mindset change that has to come about for you to be transformed. People don’t change their heart. They don’t change their mindset. That’s why they can never walk into the abundance of life and understand the real purpose, and I didn’t do that until I studied the word of God.

Glenn: Did somebody teach you this or did you just pick up the Bible?

Darryl: I picked it up. I finally picked it up and read it for myself.

Glenn: First time?

Darryl: People tell you to read it. Yeah, you know, and you read it. If you read it, you’ll get the revelation. And I finally went there for myself, and I picked it up, and I go oh my God.

Glenn: Yeah, I’ll tell you, I think if that Bible was just called, you know, Steve’s book of helpful hints, everybody would read it, and they would all say this is the most incredible book, but because it’s the Bible, because it comes with all of the trappings of religion and everything else—forget about the religion. Just listen to the words. It truly is remarkable. You think you know it. You don’t know it.

Darryl: Incredible, I mean, it’s a deliverance in it. I think people don’t get to the point of reading and studying the Bible because they’re afraid. Because you know what it does, Glenn? It challenges you to change, and that’s what we need in America. We need change. People won’t change. They want to stay the same inside. It’s not what you look like on the outside. A lot of us walk around on the outside, and we look great as ever, but our insides are polluted, toxic, and we can never get to the point of understanding the purpose of—

Glenn: I said to somebody the other day, we were talking about politics, and I’ve had a big turning point in my life. I’ve had a couple of them. One is my alcoholism and sobering up and my baptism, but in the last two years I had a health scare, and for a while there I thought I had just a few years to live as a functioning human being. That changes you. That really changes you and focuses you on what it is.

And somebody said to me the other day Glenn, you’re going to start doing all these other things, you know, but you’re going to forget about politics. I said politics, there is no change in that. That is us drinking. That’s us saying they’re going to change it for us. The problems all come…all of society…you can’t blame it on Hollywood. We’re consuming it. You can’t blame it on Washington. We voted for them. It’s all in here. If we don’t change this, it doesn’t work.

Tracy: We have to become accountable as human beings. The nation is made up of people, and this nation will change. We are a godless society. We have lost our fear of the Lord. We want what we want. We chase after things. When we decide to stand for God and bring God back and faith back into this country, and we take responsibility for our lives, we take responsibility for our marriages, and we get this thing called marriage right…when a marriage breaks down, our children break down, an individual breaks down, a nation breaks down.

We have to take responsibility for our lives, our decisions, what we’re doing, and if each individual would take responsibility, would embrace faith, put God at the center and deal with their issues, this nation would change.

Glenn: In the book you guys talk about the differences between men and women, you know? I think this is true. You talked a little bit about Tracy didn’t want a diamond. She didn’t want roses, and you talk about how I got it. I finally get it. All he wants me to say is thank you for taking care of things. Explain that, because it’s a really simple thing that I think, you know, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, yada, yada, yada. This in one page tells the real important difference.

Darryl: Yeah, I think a lot of times people get caught up in the fact of stuff. Stuff is going to make me feel great, and it doesn’t, you know, because Glenn, I had everything that a man could want. What good does it do for a man to gain the whole world, but I was losing my soul? It was my soul that I really wanted. And Tracy never was the person that wanted stuff to complete her, you know?

Most women run around, and they want their husband to buy them this. They want to look like this and that and that. And she was so simple, you know? She was so simple. That’s what I loved about her because she took me shopping at Walmart, and I was like ah! I’d never been there before in my life. I said this is great, you know, finally a simple place.

Tracy: We lost everything. We were living in my parents’ basement.

Glenn: My kids took me to Target one time, and I was like—

Tracy: We have to learn how to budget. It’s called responsibility.

Glenn: It’s like this is the greatest store ever. That’s great.

Darryl: You know, that was part of what I loved about her, that, because it was real. It wasn’t the fancy…didn’t have to go to the fancy stores, the fancy restaurant, just really simple stuff. Let’s live the simple life and let’s live it for purpose, and let’s live it for loving God and not be consumed.

Glenn: That is the opposite of what the world teaches right now.

Tracy: That’s right. We have to look at the inner soul. This is a soul thing. This is a character issue. We need to learn to love people from the inside out, especially your partner. Talking about marriage, and I love it when they laugh, oh, these two crazy people came together. These two crazy people have done the work. We dive in deep, and we get into real stuff in this book. This isn’t a Cinderella fairytale, impossible thing to achieve. We’re talking about addiction and losing everything and adulteries and getting past deep betrayals and hurts that we bring into marriage.

There’s nothing wrong with marriage. God created marriage, and anything that He creates is great and wonderful when we do it His way. The people bring in the problems. The people bring in the issues, and when we don’t deal with those issues…that whole book is a journey of dealing with those things and how you overcome and how you can love God, put God in the center first, even if you’re a person like me who just did not want anything to do with God. I was so angry at God, and don’t talk to me about God. It’s a journey. It’s a journey.

Glenn: Last night, I had a guy who survived Auschwitz. He sat right there. He said the same thing. I was angry at God. Where was God? And then we finished the show, and he spent 20 minutes talking to me about how great God is and how He fills you, and He’s there the whole time, even in the absolute worst place.

Tracy: That’s right.

Glenn: All right, when we come back, I just want to talk to you a little bit about getting past anger, because I think that we are a country that is starting to now look for vengeance and give it to me and you owe it to me and all of these really bad things. I think there’s some people that say, you know, when I talk about reconciliation, that’s not going to work. None of that stuff is going to work. I don’t know if they really connect with the difference between reconciliation and winning. Winning is not a good thing. Maybe we can talk about anger when we come back in just a minute.

[break]

Glenn : So as the world goes more and more into an angry place, I believe that we need to find…kind of like Finding Nemo, find your happy place, find your happy place. You have to find a happy place, because that’s where the power comes from, and that’s where peace comes from.

Darryl: Yes.

Glenn: On a broad scale, this is what’s happening. Everybody is being ratcheted up. They’re more and more angry at political parties, at their boss, at whatever, whatever, the bank. They’re more and more disconnected from in here, and it’s happening in our…I mean, boy, you start to add real financial troubles. Our families and our marriages are so weak right now. We are headed for the Titanic as a society. Advice?

Darryl: Well yes, we are. There is no restoration. You have to have restoration and be restored inside to a whole person to be free from all of that, because that means when you become free inside, none of this exists anyway. It doesn’t matter, you know? We get too consumed with it, and we lose ourselves in it. And we think it’s all important, but in the end it really doesn’t matter. I think too many people are wrapped up in only knowing earthly things.

I think what happened, you know, for me is to be restored. My mind got changed. Then I became a person of principle and purpose, and I became Kingdom minded. I’m not earthly minded. I just live here. I’m just doing what I’m supposed to do here. I need to do what I need to do for God here, and I need to cross over to the other side. And there’s strength, and there’s power in that. There is greatness in that. There is love in that. There’s peace in that, and there’s no confusion in that. God is not of confusion. People are.

Tracy: We have to do it God’s way, and like I was saying before, we’ve lost our fear of the Lord. We don’t understand the consequences of our actions and our anger. The opposite of anger, like you were talking about, is peace, and in Christ, there is a peace that surpasses all understanding that is above and beyond this world. The way we treat one another creates this hostile…to be angry is to be a hostile, to be hostile from the inside out.

There is a cleansing that has to take place through forgiveness, which people don’t understand. It’s not saying that everything’s okay, and it’s not always reconciliation, but it’s a character issue. We have a character issue on the inside, and we have these character defects. We hear that word all the time, this hot button, which is any character that doesn’t align with Christ, which is peace, love, kindness, gentleness, discipline, self-control. We’ve lost that. And on the other side, there’s malice. There’s hostility. There’s a whole list of these things when we don’t have this power that comes in and changes us from the inside out.

I was taught to see character, not color. I was taught to see character, not culture. I was taught to see character. This is a character issue from the inside out. Anger spawns from that because vision can create, but character sustains. And we hurt each other.

Glenn: Society is not pushing character.

Tracy: They’re not. This is a character issue—color, culture.

Darryl: Color, success, you know? That’s what they push, you know, push you to be successful, and if you’re successful, then you’re somebody, you know? But it doesn’t change your character because you’re successful.

Glenn: You don’t have any memorabilia up at your house or very little, do you?

Darryl: No, because it’s not who I am. I’m not tied to that. That’s the problem in our society, identity. America, we need to wake up. We have the wrong identity. We have the identity of being successful and having the riches, and I have everything. I have the notoriety, and I’m free. You’re not free. That’s the wrong identity. You’re wearing the wrong identity here. Our identity needs to be in Christ and what our purpose is here for. Our purpose is here to serve God and to love others and help the lost and bring the lost to salvation.

Glenn: It depends on how we take it. We could tear each other apart or we could accept this as a really good thing, and I’m hoping that we accept it as a good thing. There’s a great humbling coming. There is a great humbling coming, because only when you’re humble can you actually do what you guys have done.

Darryl: Right. It becomes, Glenn, it becomes not about you. It becomes about Him. When He comes into your life, when Jesus comes into your life, it becomes about Him, His work, and doing His work only.

Glenn: Okay, the name of the book is The Imperfect Marriage, two unlikely people. I’m telling you, the Lord is the best at taking lemons and making lemonade. The alcoholics, we’re going to rule the world. But if you’re looking for some help, some understanding, and a place to start, this might be exactly the thing for you. Thank you guys, and the best of luck.

Darryl: Thanks. Thanks for having us.

Tracy: Thank you. Thanks for having us.

As we move along this endless primary season, we implement our first major adjustments to our power rankings model. Because of all the changes on the model itself, we'll keep the write ups short this week so that we can get an update posted before we hit the second round of debates.

There are now 40 separate measures of candidate performance which are summarized by the 0-100 score that helps us makes sense out of this chaos.We also have a new style of graphs, where the section highlighted in blue will show the progress (or lack thereof) made by each candidate over the life of their campaign.

In this update, we have our first campaign obituary, a couple of brand new candidates (when will it ever stop) and plenty of movement up top.

Let's get to it.

In case you're new here, read our explainer about how all of this works:

The 2020 Democratic primary power rankings are an attempt to make sense out of the chaos of the largest field of candidates in global history. Each candidate gets a unique score in at least thirty categories, measuring data like polling, prediction markets, fundraising, fundamentals, media coverage, and more. The result is a candidate score between 0-100. These numbers will change from week to week as the race changes. The power rankings are less a prediction on who will win the nomination, and more a snapshot of the state of the race at any given time. However, early on, the model gives more weight to fundamentals and potentials, and later will begin to prioritize polling and realities on the ground. If you're like me, when you read power rankings about sports, you've already skipped ahead to the list. So, here we go.

See previous editions here.

Campaign Obituary #1

The Eric Swalwell Campaign

California State Congressman

April 8, 2019 - July 8, 2019

Lifetime high: 20.2

Lifetime low: 19.5

I ended my initial profile on Eric Swalwell with this:

"There's a certain brand of presidential candidate that isn't really running for president. That's Eric Swalwell."

amp only placement

It's now more true than ever that Swalwell isn't running for president, because he has officially dropped out of the race.

To any sane observer, Swalwell never had a chance to win the nomination. This was always about raising his profile with little downside to deter him from taking money and building a list of future donors.

In one of many depressing moments in his FiveThirtyEight exit interview, he noted that one of his supporters told him he definitely thought he'd eventually be president, but it wasn't going to happen this time. (This supporter was not identified, but we can logically assume they also have the last name Swalwell.)

Swalwell did outline a series of reasons he thought his ridiculous campaign might have a chance.

  1. He was born in Iowa. After all, people from Iowa will surely vote for someone born in Iowa, even if they escaped as soon as possible.
  2. He had what he believed was a signature issue: pretending there was no such amendment as the second amendment.)
  3. He's not old.

It was on point number three where Swalwell made his last stand. In an uncomfortably obvious attempt to capture a viral moment that would launch his fundraising and polling status, Swalwell went after Joe Biden directly.

"I was 6 years old when a presidential candidate came to the California Democratic Convention and said it's time to pass the torch to a new generation of Americans. That candidate was then-Senator Joe Biden." This pre-meditated and under-medicated attack, along with Swalwell's entire campaign future, was disassembled by a facial gesture.

Biden's response wasn't an intimidation, anger, or a laugh. It was a giant smile that somehow successfully communicated a grandfathery dismissal of "isn't that just adorable."

Of course, headlines like this didn't help either:

Eric Swalwell is going to keep comparing the Democratic field to 'The Avengers' until someone claps

The campaign of Eric Swalwell was pronounced dead at the age of 91 days.

Other headlines:

Eric Swalwell ends White House bid, citing low polling, fundraising

Republicans troll Swalwell for ending presidential campaign

Eric Swalwell Latest 'Cringe' Video Brags About Omar Holding his 'White' Baby

Eric Swalwell's message to actor Danny Glover is 'the cringiest thing I've ever seen in a hearing'

Eric Swalwell's 'I Will Be Bold Without The Bull' Bombs

25. Joe Sestak 11.0 (Debut) Former Pennsylvania State Congressman

Joe Sestak is a former three-star admiral who served in Congress for a couple of years in the late 2000s. Besides his military service, his most notable achievement is figuring out a way to get Pat Toomey elected in a purple state.

With Arlen Specter finally formalizing his flip from Republican to Democrat in 2009, he was expected to cruise to reelection. However, Sestak went after him in the primary, and was able to knock him off in the by eight points. Sestak then advanced to face Republican Pat Toomey in the general election. He lost by two points during the Tea Party wave election of 2010.

Needless to say, losing to the former president of the fiscally conservative Club For Growth isn't exactly an accomplishment that is going to help Sestak in the Democratic presidential primary.

Unfortunately, with the current state of the party— his distinguished service in the Navy probably isn't helpful either.

Other headlines:

Joe Sestak on the issues, in under 500 words

Joe Sestak, latest 2020 candidate, says it's not too late for him to gain traction

Sestak aims to 'heal the soul of America' with presidential bid

Joe Sestak Would Move the US Embassy 'Back Out of Jerusalem'

24. Mike Gravel: 12.5 (Previous: 24th / 15.3) Former US Senator from Alaska

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Gravel was able to get celebrities and other candidates to send out pleas to raise funds in effort to get above 65,000 donations and qualify for the second debate.

We may never know if it was grift or incompetence, but Gravel probably should have known that crossing this line made no difference. He'll still be yelling at the TV when the debate starts.

Other headlines:

Gravel meets donor threshold to qualify for Democratic primary debate

Gravel spends a bit of cash to run an ad against Joe Biden in Iowa

Mike Gravel: Why the American People Need Their Own Legislature

Mike Gravel Is the Anti–Joe Biden

23. Wayne Messam: 12.7 (Previous: 23rd / 15.8) Mayor of Miramar, FL

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Messam has made no impact in this race so far, and has fundraising numbers that don't even get into the six digits, let alone seven. He's not really running a campaign at this point, so there's no real downside in staying in for now.

Other headlines:

Wayne Messam: Money Kept Me Out of the First Democratic Debate. Will It Keep Me Out of the Second?

22. Seth Moulton 17.2 (Previous 20th / 21.5) US Rep. from Massachusetts 

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Seth Moulton is the invisible man on the campaign trail. Most people don't even know who he is when they're talking to him. His appeal to the Democratic party is heavily flavored with his military service and appeal to patriotism.

Good luck with that Seth.

Other headlines:

Moulton: Buttigieg Was a Nerd at Harvard

Moulton: Democrats shouldn't go on 'moral crusade' against Trump

Moulton talks reclaiming patriotism from Trump, Republicans

Moulton: 'Trump is going to be harder to beat than many Democrats like to believe'

Presidential candidates hear challengers' footsteps at home

21. Tim Ryan 18.4 (Previous: 18th / 24.3) US Rep. from Ohio

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Tim Ryan's first debate performance was so bad he lost about a quarter of his score with this update. He's not without a plan to get that support back though. He wants to bring hot yoga to the people.

Other headlines:

Tim Ryan on CNN: Trump 'clearly has it out for immigrants'

Ryan Falls Way Behind in Q2 Fundraising Race, New Poll

20. Marianne Williamson 20.7 (Previous: 21st / 20.6) Author, Lecturer, Activist

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Williamson is not going to be the nominee for the Democrats, but if you throw a debate watch party, she might supply the most entertainment. So much so, Republicans have started to donate to her campaign to keep her in future debates.

Other headlines:

"I call her a modern-day prophet": Marianne Williamson's followers want you to give her a chance

Williamson Uses Anime to Explain 2020 Candidate's Holistic Politics

What Marianne Williamson and Donald Trump have in common

Marianne Williamson's Iowa director joins John Delaney's 2020 campaign

19. John Hickenlooper 22.5  (Previous: 11th / 32.0) Former Gov. of Colorado 

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Hickenlooper has been shedding campaign advisors at a relatively furious pace as he admits "there's just a bunch of skills that don't come naturally to me" when it comes to campaigning.

Probably best to pick another line of work.

Other headlines:

Hickenlooper defends campaign fundraising to The Onion: 'The race is wide open'

WP: 'You are who?' The lonely presidential campaign of John Hickenlooper

Gary Hart Warns John Hickenlooper Against Campaigning On Bipartisanship Message

Hickenlooper refuses to condemn protesters who hoisted Mexican flag at ICE facility


18. Michael Bennet 27.4 (Previous: 14th / 28.8) US Senator from Colorado

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Michael Bennet is a bit of a boring no name, but give him credit for actually trying to differentiate himself from the field. He's one of the only candidates willing to criticize his socialist opponents from the center, calling out the open borders crowd and student debt. Obviously this has no chance of success in the democratic party, but at least he's trying.

Other headlines:

George Will touts Bennet to beat Trump in 2020

Bennet: America doesn't know what the Democratic Party stands for

17. Steve Bullock 28.3 (Previous: 16th / 27.7) Gov. of  Montana 

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Bullock's biggest moment of his campaign, and quite possibly his only important moment , will come in this round of debates. He missed the first round, but squeaks in for round two after Eric Swalwell decided to take his zero percent and go home.

Bullock has a theoretical argument that doesn't look half bad on paper, but it seems impossible for another "moderate*" to make noise with Biden still hanging around.

(*-None of these moderates are actually moderate.)

Other headlines:

For Democratic presidential hopeful Steve Bullock, it's all about the 'dark money'

Steve Bullock hates 'dark money.' But a lobbyist for 'dark money' donors is helping his campaign.

Steve Bullock looking to introduce himself as someone who won in Trump country

Bullock said he's not one to eliminate all student-loan debt

Steve Bullock raises $2 million for 2020 bid in second quarter, campaign says

Lowering of state flag at capitol draws criticism

15. John Delaney 29.5 (Previous 19th / 20.3) Former US Rep. from Maryland 

CANDIDATE PROFILE

The power ranking model likes Delaney more than voters seem to like him. He continues to pour his own money into the race and at some point you have to believe someone in his life stops him from setting his cash on fire.

He did steal a key advisor from Marianne Williamson's campaign, which doesn't seem like a path to success.

Other headlines:

Delaney: "Non-Citizens Are Not Covered By My 'Better Care' Plan, But…"

Delaney says he opposes decriminalizing border crossings

Undaunted by low polling, John Delaney keeps his show on the road

Delaney presidential campaign theme: fix what's broken, keep what works

14. Andrew Yang 30.0 (Previous: 15th / 28.3) Attorney and Entrepreneur 

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Before the campaign started, if you would have said Yang would be in the middle of the pack at this point, he probably would be happy with that result. His embrace of quirky issues like banning robocalls, giving everyone free cash, and spending $6 billion to fix the nations malls is enough to keep him in the news.

His fundraising was decent, and he remains an interesting and thoughtful candidate. But, Yang has a better chance of dropping out and running on a third party ticket than winning in this Democratic Party.

You do have to wonder how long it will be before the word "Math" moves from his campaign slogan to the reason he needs to drop out.

Other headlines:

Andrew Yang Is Targeting The 'Politically Disengaged' To 'Win The Whole Election'

You can't turn truck drivers into coders, Andrew Yang says of job retraining

Yang's plan to give $1000 a month to everyone is popular with young, poor Democrats

13. Jay Inslee 31.4 (Previous: 12th / 30.4) Gov. of Washington state

CANDIDATE PROFILEf

Expect Inslee to capture the king-czar-chancellor role of the new climate police or whatever draconian nightmare the actual Democratic nominee creates if they win.

In the meantime, he should try to avoid cringe inducing nonsense like this.

Other headlines:

Presidential hopeful Jay Inslee says Trump's immigration policies will 'end his presidency'

Crowd roars for Elizabeth Warren, Jay Inslee follows to tepid applause

Inslee on listening to Carole King, wanting an anchor tattoo

Inslee Says He Tried to Arrest Fleeing Republicans


12. Tulsi Gabbard 33.4 (Previous: 13th / 28.8) US Rep. for Hawaii 

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Tulsi Gabbard really wants to be Joe Biden's vice president. Or, at least, she wants to hold an important role in his cabinet, like Secretary of Defense.

Gabbard has been running interference for Biden, aggressively going after Kamala Harris for her very successful but substance free bussing attack, while hammering Harris as not qualified to be President. These have been among the harshest criticisms levied by any candidate in the race so far, and there is definitely a purpose to all of it. Her presence in the same debate as Biden and Harris should be something Harris prepares herself for. Expect incoming fire.

Along with Yang, Gabbard remains among the most interesting Democratic candidates to Republicans and Libertarians, which is not helpful to her chances of actually winning the Democratic party nod.

Other headlines:

Gabbard says Harris used "political ploy" to "smear" Biden on raced

Which U.S. Wars Were Justifiable? Tulsi Gabbard Names Only World War II

Tulsi Gabbard Says It's A 'Good Thing' Trump Met With Kim Jong Un

Gabbard Sympathizes With Amash, Says the Two-Party System Sucks

Tulsi Gabbard Files Bill To Study Hemp's Uses For Just About Everything

Gabbard: '14-year-old girl hacked into a replica of Florida's election system'

11. Tom Steyer 33.5 (Debut) Billionaire hedge fund manager

Tom Steyer is a Democratic billionaire that has spent millions plastering his face all over MSNBC for the past two years begging people to consider impeaching Donald Trump.

The campaign power ranking model loves Steyer's potential because of his unlimited money and theoretical ability to put together a serious campaign team.

All of this is theory at this point though, as the millions spent so far has lead to a giant pile of zilch. If he's serious enough, he should be able to buy his way into the low single digits, and squeak his way into a debate or two.

Steyer's billionaire status isn't an obvious fit as the party of inequality attempts to take down Donald Trump. But, he does have legitimate movement credibility, tons of cash to buy support, and a long developed immunity to embarrassment—so the sky is the limit.

Other headlines:

Tom Steyer on the issues, in under 500 words

Tom Steyer announces 2020 bid, reversing course

Why We're Not Treating Tom Steyer As A 'Major' Candidate (Yet)

Steyer banks on South Carolina in 1st presidential bid stop

10. Kirsten Gillibrand 37.1 (Previous: 9th / 36.7) US Senator from New York

CANDIDATE PROFILE

There is probably no candidate that enters the second round of debates more clearly in do-or-die mode than Gillibrand. With headlines like "The Ignoring of Kirsten Gillibrand" lighting up her feed, she needs something big to happen, and fast. Her performance in the first debate wasn't actually horrible, but still went unnoticed.

She has zero percent in lots of polls, and that includes all of the benefits she says she's received from white privilege. Imagine if she didn't have that going for her.

Other headlines:

Gillibrand: I'd Tell Concerned Coal Miner the Green New Deal Is 'Just Some Bipartisan Ideas'

Struggling in White House bid, Democrat Gillibrand seeks bump in Trump country

Gillibrand Annoyed by Question About Immigration 'Reversal'

9. Robert Francis O’Rourke 40.7 (Previous: 6th / 52.8) Former state Rep. from Texas

CANDIDATE PROFILE

The free fall continues for Betomania.

When campaigns show signs of death, reporters start to write long profiles that aim to tell the story of the demise, or launch the amazing comeback.

Politico's headline (What Beto O'Rourke's Dad Taught Him About Losing) probably wasn't all that helpful.

Beto did secure Willie Nelson's vote though, meaning he can now count on 2 votes, assuming his "Republican" mother votes for him.

Other headlines:

Welcome to America—It's a Hell Hole!

A desperate Beto O'Rourke goes for broke, claims America was founded on white supremacy

Beto O'Rourke finds 'personal connection' to slavery, argues for reparations to unite 'two Americas'

Beto boldly vows not to prosecute people for 'being a human being'Rebooto O'Rourke

Fact Checker: Has Beto O'Rourke visited the most Iowa counties? No.


Beto O'Rourke: Let's Forgive All Student Loan Debt For Teachers

8. Amy Klobuchar 42.9 (Previous: 8th / 41.9) US Senator from Minnesota 

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Klobuchar has been a massive underachiever so far, but is still sticking around in that third tier of candidates. Along with Beto, Booker, and maybe Castro— they aren't exactly eliminated, but can't seem to catch fire. Or even get warm.

Klobuchar would serve herself well to focus on the fundamentals and avoiding desperate pleas for attention if she wants to remain in the Biden VP sweepstakes. Or she could totally shake things up by throwing binders at her opponents in the debate.

Other headlines:

Klobuchar: I Don't Support Open Borders Like Warren, Castro

Deportation raids are about distracting from issues: Amy Klobuchar

Klobuchar hoping 'nice' finishes first

Sports bookmakers put Klobuchar as "heavy underdog" in presidential race

7. Julian Castro 43.2 (Previous: 10th / 34.5) Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Castro is a good example of how overblown debates can be. His first debate performance was quite solid, but did more to sink Robert Francis O'Rourke than actually help his own candidacy.

One more good debate performance should be enough to get him into the next round of debates, as he has already passed the donor threshold. Polling, however, has been elusive. Perhaps there is a swath of America that is uncomfortable voting for a Castro for president, like say, all of south Florida?

Still, in a field of a zillion candidates that have shown no potential, he stands out as a long shot with a punchers chance to make some noise. This is reflected with a nice bump in his score for this update.

Other headlines:

Julián Castro Doubles Down On Decriminalizing Migration: Repeal Felony For Reentry, Too

Julian Castro: 'Instead of breaking up families, we should break up ICE'

Bill Maher rips Julián Castro for remark about abortion for trans women

Julián Castro declines to hold baby

Julián Castro can't speak Spanish

Julian Castro wants to solve homelessness by 2028

A consulting firm made specifically to prevent sexual harassment is providing Castro and other 2020 campaigns advice and training

5. Pete Buttigieg 65.8 (Previous: 2nd / 68.8) Mayor of South Bend, IN

CANDIDATE PROFILE

There probably isn't a campaign that has been more bizarre than Mayor Pete. He was a complete nobody to the public, though as we initially noted, he had support from a bunch of Obama era celebrinerds.

This helped him rise to a top tier candidate with all the money and momentum to make a run at the nomination. Since then we've seen a complete fizzle. He is using the cash to build the infrastructure to make himself a serious candidate, and he should last a while, but he probably must win Iowa to have a chance at the nomination.

Also, finding one African American who will vote for him would be nice.

Other headlines:

Pete Buttigieg goes on hiring spree after top fundraising quarter.

Buttigieg, Struggling With Black Voters, Releases Plan to Address Racial Inequities

South Bend police call out Buttigieg for sending pizza rather than apology after race comments

CNN's Axelrod Rips Buttigieg: Blacks Doing Worse Under His Leadership

Only Pete Buttigieg gets standing ovation from Corn Feed audience

New Republic Drops Out Of Climate Forum Over Backlash To Pete Buttigieg Op-Ed

Pete Buttigieg says it's "almost certain" we've had gay presidents

Pete Buttigieg Sets Hollywood Fundraisers With Ellen DeGeneres, Chelsea Handler and More

4. Elizabeth Warren 70.4 (Previous: 5th / 53.4) US Senator from Massachusetts 

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Looking back at my initial analysis of this field, I'd say it's played out pretty closely to what I expected. Warren has surprised me though.

In an election where beating Trump is the most important characteristic for democratic voters, she seems to be grown in a lab to lose to him. She comes across as a stern elementary school principal who would make kids terrified to be called into her office, because she'd bore them to death by reading them the handbook.

Her DNA kit roll out was so catastrophic, I assumed democrats would see that her political instincts are awful. When put under the intense pressure Trump is sure to bring, she's going to collapse, and I figured democrats would recognize that.

Instead, she's in the top tier. This rise has been legitimately impressive for Warren.

It's also a dream come true for Donald Trump.

Other headlines:

The Activist Left Already Knows Who It Wants for President

Netroots Nation was the day Elizabeth Warren became president of the American left

Elizabeth Warren pledges to decriminalize border crossings

Warren plans to increase annual refugee admissions nearly 800 percent from FY2018

Warren, Biden Campaigns Appear to Find Loophole Around Paid Internships

Warren says she'll push to end Israel's 'occupation'

Warren staffer: 'I would totally be friends with Hamas'

Elizabeth Warren reintroduces legislation requiring corporations to disclose climate risk exposure

Elizabeth Warren Wants Reparations For Same-Sex Couples

Elizabeth Warren proposes executive orders to address race and gender pay gap

This is how Elizabeth Warren plans to close the pay gap for women of color

How much would a wealth tax really raise? Dueling economists reflect new split in Democratic Party

Elizabeth Warren Brings Ad Buying In-House

Elizabeth Warren says she raised $19 million in the second quarter of the year

3. Bernie Sanders 71.1 (Previous: 3rd / 67.2) US Senator from Vermont

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Sanders has fallen slowly but steadily in the polls the past couple of months, and while not every metric yet reflects it, the socialist wing seems more likely represented by Warren.

That being said, Bernie holds her off for third place. Warren and Bernie have reportedly struck a truce to not attack each other, an arrangement which benefits Warren far more than Sanders.

Bernie's machine and name recognition continues to keep him near the top of the heap, but one wonders how long that lasts as name recognition for other candidates get higher, and Iowa gets closer.

No matter if he wins or loses, he's moved the Overton window of the party in a dramatic way. And don't underestimate the appeal of his Medicare-for-all-humankind dream. Bernie may be too old and cranky to see socialized health care into the end zone, but he has advanced that ball much further than he had any right to.

Other headlines:

Bernie Sanders has 'deep sense of satisfaction' his positions are now 'centrist' among Dems

Bernie Sanders: I Will Cancel All $1.6 Trillion Of Your Student Loan Debt

Sanders hits back at Biden over criticism of 'Medicare for All'

Bernie Sanders: Nancy Pelosi shouldn't 'alienate' freshmen House Democrats

Why Sanders Wanted His Meeting With a Rabbi Kept Secret

Bernie Sanders Says Being the First Jewish President Would Be 'Another Barrier Broken Down'

Liberal billionaire calls Bernie Sanders a 'Communist' and 'a disaster zone'

Blackstone's Byron Wien: Markets are terrified of far-left Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren

Antiwar candidate Bernie Sanders faces backlash over the $1.2 trillion war machine he brought to Vermont

The time Bernie Sanders ranted about baseball in a low-budget film

Bernie Sanders shows off sword Ross Perot gave him

Bernie Sanders Raises $18 Million in 3 Months, Trailing Buttigieg

2. Kamala Harris 79.2 (Previous: 4th / 65.9) US Senator from California 

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Harris has given back a good chunk of her post debate bounce, which is to be expected. While she rockets to number two in the power rankings, there are a few things to worry about.

The difference between Warren and Harris is notable. The candidates are nearly tied in most polls, but much of the strength of Harris is based on one spectacular moment. Warren alternatively seems to have a lower ceiling, but a stronger foundation.

The good news for Harris is she does incredibly well among voters that are actually paying attention, while her weakness lies with those who haven't really tuned in yet.

At some point, Harris has to clean up her mess of a policy package, which includes supporting a Bernie style Medicare for All without the Bernie style middle class tax hikes-- a combination that even the left admits makes no sense.

Quotes like this still feel way too accurate, "She's the easy-to-listen-to, poorly defined identity candidate." This needs to be sorted out eventually if she's actually going to win.

Other headlines:

It's Hard To Have A Conversation With Kamala Harris When She Doesn't Even Know What She's Talking About

Kamala Harris: Immigration Raids Are 'A Crime Against Humanity', there are 'babies in cages'

Harris doubles down on criticism of Biden's busing comments on The View

Mother Jones: Kamala Harris Wants to Bring Back Busing? Really?

Kamala Harris's Call for a Return to Busing Is Bold and Politically Risky

Race is 'America's Achilles' heel,' Harris tells African-American group

Kamala Harris claims her campaign is being targeted by Russian bots, also says she's not a plan factory

Harris proposes $100 billion plan to increase minority homeownership

What's Kamala Harris's record on Israel?

Kamala Harris Called Young People "Stupid" in 2015

Kamala Harris lags behind top-tier candidates in Q2 fundraising

Utah man arrested after alleged scheme to plan fake Kamala Harris fundraiser

1. Joe Biden 80.8 (Previous: 1st / 82.3) Former US Senator from Delaware and Former Vice President

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Biden's polling has mostly rebounded to his pre-debate status and he remains the favorite to be the nominee.

He can't survive too many more performances like his first debate however, and he needs to show voters that he can stand up to the heat President Trump is going to bring. In other words, don't get smoked again, fall over on your walker, or look like your dentures are going to fall out in the middle of a debate.

This is a real test for Biden's candidacy. He's had time to prepare, and he's had time to stretch the old muscles. No more excuses.

If Joe can get spry, he probably wins the nomination. But, that is far from a sure thing.

Other headlines:

NBC/WSJ poll: Biden tops 2020 Democratic field...

Joe Biden Decides He Doesn't Need to Stay Above the Fray After All

Biden campaigns as Obamacare's top defender

Biden says Democrats haven't been straightforward about 'Medicare for All'

Biden under fire for mass deportations under Obama

Biden refuses to apologize for high deportation numbers during Obama years

Joe Biden's campaign office opens in Philly with a protest, not a party

AOC: Segregationist controversy and debate performance raised question Biden could be too old for office

Are Biden's Apologies Killing His Electability Argument?

Liberal activists at Netroots Nation bet Joe Biden drops out of race

Joe and Jill Biden have made $15M since leaving White House

How Joe Biden, who called himself 'the poorest man in Congress,' became a multimillionaire

Penn Paid Joe Biden $775,000 to Expand Its "Global Outreach" … and Give Some Speeches

Biden: 'Occupation is a real problem'Joe Biden raised $21.5 million in second quarter, campaign announces

Joe Biden: I Promise To 'End The Forever Wars In Afghanistan And Middle East'

Joe Biden promises to 'cure cancer' if elected president

No, stealth Obamacare won’t fix the failed status-quo

Online Marketing/Unsplash

Another day, another proposed fix to a pressing national problem by a Democratic presidential hopeful. Former Vice President Joe Biden has positioned himself as the "moderate" leader of the Democratic Party, putting pressure on him to come up with a "sensible" alternative to Sen. Sanders' (I-Vt.) Medicare for All plan. But Biden's healthcare proposal, released July 15, doubles down on flawed, top-down solutions without offering any new ideas. Presidential hopefuls should instead pledge to unleash market innovation and lower healthcare prices for all.

Of course, a former vice president will inevitably find it difficult to make a clean policy break from the administration he has repeatedly hailed and defended. Biden's tenure as vice president made him into a second-tier political rockstar, and it makes sense that he's reluctant to separate himself from former President Obama's Affordable Care Act (aka "Obamacare"). It's also no surprise that "Bidencare" preserves Obamacare's disastrous expansion of Medicaid, the federal government's insurance program for low-income Americans. His plan even provides a public option for residents of states that have not expanded Medicaid. Perhaps more surprising, or just disappointing, is how thoroughly the Democratic orthodoxy has embraced government medical insurance even at gargantuan cost, despite little evidence that it'll work.

RELATED: Medicare for all: Obamacare was only the first step

Back when he was a heartbeat away from the presidency, Biden vigorously defended Obamacare, criticizing Republican governors for failing to expand Medicaid and predicting that all states would eventually see the light. That never quite happened (as of now, 17 states wisely refuse to expand health insurance targeted at low-income Americans). But the Obama administration tried to cajole red and purple states into expanding the Medicaid eligibility threshold "up to 138 percent of the poverty level." Nevertheless, states such as Texas, Florida, and North Carolina wisely considered the evidence that Medicaid was breaking the bank — without helping the poor get access to the care they needed.

This evidence isn't just based on one or two stray studies produced by the "right" think-tank. In June 2018, Health Affairs published a blockbuster analysis of 77 studies on Medicaid's effectiveness, and the results may be disappointing for fans of government-provided insurance. Around 60 percent of the studies included in the meta-analysis found that health status and quality of care failed to improve for low-income patients after Medicaid expansion. The analysis also finds that a majority (56 percent of studies) found no improvement in the financial performance of hospitals post-Medicaid expansion. This finding contradicts claims by Obama, Biden and co. that Medicaid expansion would shift patients from the emergency room to doctor's offices, lowering system-wide costs.

These findings are scandalous for an expansion program that costs federal taxpayers at least $70 billion per year. How could all of this money be failing to improve outcomes? Plausibly, the types of institutions that accept Medicaid are larger facilities that aren't as great at delivering quality health-care as smaller offices? The copious paperwork and documentation required by the program don't really allow smaller facilities the bandwidth to deal with Medicaid in an efficient manner. Yet this documentation is necessary to curb rampant fraud in the program that costs taxpayers tens of billions of dollars each year.

Greater Medicaid funding and corresponding anti-waste measures fail to address the cancer undermining the healthcare system: sky-high drug prices and expensive medical equipment.

Greater Medicaid funding and corresponding anti-waste measures fail to address the cancer undermining the healthcare system: sky-high drug prices and expensive medical equipment. Instead of pushing for ever-higher government spending, a President Biden could push for a streamlined Food and Drug Administration approval process for drugs and medical devices, which would keep medical costs down and give a green light to innovators everywhere. The cost to develop a single medication is now more than $2 billion, and an onerous FDA approval process costs lives by being too risk-averse.

Presidential hopefuls such as Biden should also pledge to work with states to roll-back "certificate of need" laws, which force medical institutions to jump through countless barriers to expand their facilities and invest in new services. It's not just hospitals and their patients that suffer from these needless laws; Harvard medical scholar David Grabowski sums up the evidence that these laws make nursing homes far worse and costlier than they need to be. Getting rid of these laws nationwide would give patients and consumers far more options when shopping around for the care and facilities they need.

The price problem gripping the American healthcare system simply won't go away while regulatory barriers and onerous approval processes continue to stifle the sector. Presidential hopefuls such as Biden can make a dent in this problem by supporting market reforms, instead of doubling-down on failed government healthcare.

Ross Marchand is a Young Voices contributor and the director of policy for the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both fulfilled their goal of living to see the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Then, both died later that day — July 4, 1826. Adams was 90. Jefferson was 83.

Because of their failing health, Jefferson and Adams each declined many invitations to attend July 4th celebrations. Adams sent a letter to be read aloud at the 50th Independence Day celebration in his local town of Quincy, Massachusetts. He wrote that the Declaration is:

... a memorable epoch in the annals of the human race, destined in future history to form the brightest or the blackest page, according to the use or the abuse of those political institutions by which they shall, in time to come, be shaped by the human mind.

It's remarkable how well the Founders understood human nature and what could happen to the United States. It's the postmodern mindset that increasingly rules the U.S. now. It has infected our institutions and untethered us from the bedrock principles of the Declaration. In its place? Hypocritical and vitriolic partisan righteous indignation.

Less than a century after Adams' and Jefferson's deaths, the most serious attempt to undermine the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution came from America's 28th president — Woodrow Wilson. He wrote:

Some citizens of this country have never got beyond the Declaration of Independence.

As if that's a bad thing.

During Wilson's career as a college professor, he thought deeply and wrote extensively of his contempt for our founding documents. His issue with them formed the core beliefs of Progressivism that are still alive today.

In 1911, before he was elected President, Wilson said in a speech:

I do not find the problems of 1911 solved in the Declaration of Independence ... It is the object of Government to make those adjustments of life which will put every man in a position to claim his normal rights as a living human being.

See what he does there? He completely inverts the Declaration — he's saying, you don't have inherent rights until government puts you in a position to claim them. That's the heart of Progressivism.

In a later speech, Wilson said:

If you want to understand the real Declaration of Independence, do not repeat the preface.

Wilson did not think the equality, natural rights, and consent-of-the-governed parts of the Declaration defined the proper role of government. He preferred the Declaration's list of grievances because they addressed specific problems. That's what he thought government existed to do — solve problems for people. And since people's problems change over time, so should the Constitution and government to keep up with the times.

Wilson said:

No doubt we are meant to have liberty; but each generation must form its own conception of what liberty is.

We hear this sentiment echoed all the time today: follow your heart, find your truth, etc.

Another key to Wilson's Progressive theory of government was human evolution. He thought that because humans were now more enlightened, they could be trusted not to abuse government power. The Declaration's committee of five (Adams, Sherman, Franklin, Livingston and Jefferson) would've laughed Wilson out of the room.

It's hard to believe that less than 150 years after the signing of the Declaration, the U.S. president — Wilson — was saying this:

We are not bound to adhere to the doctrines held by the signers of the Declaration of Independence: we are as free as they were to make and unmake governments. We are not here to worship men or a document. Every Fourth of July should be a time for examining our standards, our purposes, for determining afresh what principles, what forms of power we think most likely to effect our safety and happiness. That and that alone is the obligation the Declaration lays upon us.

Wilson was so effective at imposing his philosophy on government that he forever diverted the U.S. presidency away from the Constitution. Progressives have kept Wilson's torch alive ever since.

Progressives are still hostile to the Declaration of Independence because of this idea of “historical contingency" which holds that truths change over time. Progressives think the “self-evident" truths of the Declaration are outdated and may no longer apply. And that means the Constitution based on those truths may no longer apply either. Wilson and Progressives especially don't like the whole separation of powers thing, because it hinders the fast action they want out of government. They want a justice warrior president who will bring swift change by fiat.

The current trend in attacking the Declaration and Constitution is to tear down the men who wrote them. In late 2015, students at the University of Missouri and the College of William & Mary, placed notes all over the statues of Thomas Jefferson on their respective campuses. The handwritten notes labeled Jefferson things like, “racist," “rapist," “pedophile" (not sure what that one's supposed to mean), “How dare you glorify him," “I wouldn't be here if it was up to him," and “Black Lives Matter."

That is the handiwork of students who are blinded by self-righteous victimhood and can't see the value and merit that the Declaration still holds for us today. After these incidents, Annette Gordon-Reed offered a reasoned defense of Jefferson. Reed is a respected history professor at Harvard Law School, who also happens to be a black woman. She wrote:

I understand why some people think his statues should be removed, but not all controversial figures of the past are created equal. I think Jefferson's contributions to the history of the United States outweigh the problems people have with aspects of his life. He is just too much a part of the American story to pretend that he was not there ... The best of his ideals continue to influence and move people. The statues should be a stimulus for considering all these matters at William & Mary and the University of Missouri.

At the opposite end of the spectrum from Woodrow Wilson's disdain for the Declaration of Independence, Abraham Lincoln loved it. If there is one overarching theme in Lincoln's speeches, it is the Declaration. Lincoln pointed the nation back to the Declaration as a mission statement, which ended slavery and preserved the Union.

Unlike Wilson, who recommended leaving out the Preamble, Lincoln considered it the most vital part. To Lincoln, the self-evident truths were universal, timeless, and more important than the list of grievances. Lincoln wrote that these truths were:

... applicable to all men and all times ... that today, and in all coming days, it shall be a rebuke and a stumbling block to the very harbingers of reappearing tyranny and oppression.

In a speech Lincoln gave in 1861, shortly after he was first elected president, he said:

I have never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence… I have often inquired of myself what great principle or idea it was that kept this Confederacy so long together. It was not the mere matter of the separation of the Colonies from the mother-land, but that sentiment in the Declaration which gave liberty, not alone to the people of this country, but, I hope, to the world, for all future time.

Lincoln went on to say that he would rather be assassinated than see the nation forfeit the principles of the Declaration. His Gettysburg Address is a brilliant, concise renewal of the Declaration:

... that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

We cannot assume that this radical idea of freedom will always be embraced by Americans. It has found hostility on our shores every step of the way. The Declaration's principles must be continually defended. Because while humans do have certain unalienable rights that are endowed by our Creator, there is darkness in the world, and for some strange reason humans, while valuing freedom, also seem to have a natural bent toward tyranny. That's why we must understand and discuss the Declaration. It's not alarmist. It's not a quaint history lesson. It's a reality, right now, that the fundamental principles of the Declaration are under attack. The Founders would have undoubtedly shuddered at most of the rhetoric from last week's Democratic presidential debates. Left to its own mob devices, even America would turn its back on freedom.

Shortly before his death in 1826, 90-year-old John Adams was asked to recommend a toast that could be given in his honor on July 4th. Adams didn't hesitate. He suggested, “Independence Forever." The small group of visitors silently glanced at each other for a moment, before someone asked Adams if he'd like to add anything else. Adams shifted forward in his chair, leaned on his cane, stared intently at the men, and replied, “Not a word."

China is having its Boston Tea Party moment

Unknown Wong / Unsplash

Freedom. It usually begins as a whisper. A secret passed on between patrons at a secluded bar or private meeting. And no matter how hard the tyrants may try and stop it, no matter how many dams they throw up to try and contain it, the whispers eventually become a flood. Sometimes it takes longer to break through, but it's the same EVERY TIME. Liberty and freedom always wins. It's an unstoppable force that knows no immovable object.

For us it was exactly 243 years ago to this month that those whispers became a flood. A group of ragtag colonists took on the world's only superpower —and won. Our forefathers proved it — freedom refuses to recognize tyranny as an immovable object. The world was forever changed.

And I can't help but see the poetic justice as more whispers became a flood, defying their own immovable object, just three days before all of us were buying fireworks to celebrate our Independence Day. But this time it was just off the coast of mainland China.

Last week over a MILLION protesters filled the streets in Hong Kong. Literally a FLOOD of humans looking for one thing — freedom. They stormed the government building that is the equivalent of their Congress. They smashed windows, broke down doors, and a photo was taken that I think just might be the picture of the year.

A British colonial flag, a symbol thrown out when Hong Kong was given back to China, was draped — BY THE PROTESTORS — over the chair of their head of government. I can't restate how historic this actually is. The people of Hong Kong, with a population that is over 90 percent ethnic Han Chinese, are saying to the mainland that they prefer colonial rule over the tyranny of the Chinese government. Leftists would tell you that communism is the remedy for colonialism, but for those living in the dark shadow of communism, they actually prefer colonial rule over what they now face.

The local Hong Kong government is caught between the immovable object of the Chinese communist government, and the unstoppable force of liberty.

When Hong Kong was given back to the mainland, China agreed to allow them a few freedoms that the rest of the Chinese don't enjoy. They're free to engage in protest against the government and they maintain a legislative body — both of which are outlawed on the mainland. But, as every tyrannical oppressor always does, China has been looking to reel that in. Most recently, China attempted to make it possible to extradite dissenters back to Beijing. The result? The quiet whispers of freedom, the secrets told in private at clandestine meetings, became a flood of millions in the streets.

On July 3rd, police began a crackdown. More than 13 people have been arrested so far. If China eventually gets their way, those 13 people will no doubt be the first of many to be extradited over to the mainland. Their crime? The dream of freedom. As of right now, the extradition law has been temporarily delayed. The local Hong Kong government is caught between the immovable object of the Chinese communist government, and the unstoppable force of liberty.

History has shown who will win in the end. Yesterday, over 200,000 protestors gathered at the high speed train station that links mainland China to Hong Kong. The message was just as clear as the British colonial flag hung inside their legislative building. For our forefathers it was symbolized with the Gadsden Flag and the phrase “Death To Tyranny." The message is simple: “we will not be ruled. Freedom knows no immovable object."

News of the protest movement has been censored in mainland China, but how long will they be able to contain THEIR OWN whispers with over two hundred thousand freedom lovers camped out at the bridge between Hong Kong and mainland China? How long before those whispers spread to secret meeting locations in Beijing or Shanghai? How long before that cascades to the Christian and Muslim minorities that are tired of being rounded up and thrown into camps?

We might have just witnessed the Chinese version of the Boston Tea Party. July 4th is still a long way away for them, but — as it does time and time again — freedom and liberty always win in the end.