California progressive U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna was at the Water Street Bookstore on Tuesday, signing copies of his new book and signaling he has got a presidential race on his mind. Two, actually.
Khanna, who represents a deep-blue district in California’s wealthy Silicon Valley, acknowledged he is considering a future presidential bid, but not in the next election. However, he is focused on the 2024 campaign.
“I have no interest in running in 2024 because I think Donald Trump is going to be the [Republican] nominee and there are other people to run against him,” Khanna said. And while he acknowledged progressives have been disappointed in his presidency, Khanna said he is sticking with President Joe Biden and urged progressives to do the same.
“Here’s my view on President Biden: I think he’s got a good heart. I think he’s a decent person. I think he’s made a lot of good decisions. Obviously. I would hope he would be bolder on economic issues. I think there are places where he could do more on inflation,” Khanna said.
As for progressive causes like a $15 minimum wage or student loan forgiveness, Khanna said his goal was to boost progressive policies without hurting the Biden presidency.
“Until he’s running, he’s running,” Khanna said of Biden. “I genuinely expect him to run, and I fear that Trump will be the nominee. And I don’t want to do anything that weakens him in that fight. And that’s the challenge for progressives like me because we want to push for these other economic issues, and yet you don’t want to inadvertently weaken him against Trump.”
And if Biden doesn’t run, Khanna said, “I would support someone like Sen. Bernie Sanders.”
Sanders carried New Hampshire in the past two First In The Nation primary races, while Biden came in a distant fifth, with just over eight percent of the vote. However, Granite State progressives are largely unrepresented in the state’s politics, with both Sen. Maggie Hassan and Rep. Chris Pappas running for re-election pitching themselves as bipartisan moderates. Progressives have protested outside their offices over their embrace of Trump-era immigration policies.
Khanna’s message for frustrated progressives in New Hampshire?
“The first thing I would say is we’ve got to mobilize, to come out and vote in overwhelming numbers because so much is at stake in the midterms,” Khanna said. “And to hand over the gavels to [House GOP Leader Kevin] McCarthy and [Senate GOP Leader Mitch] McConnell would be devastating. It would pave the way toward the return of Trump.
“That said, I think coming out and voting in numbers is consistent with also boldly pushing our own policies. We should be vocal in saying we don’t want Title 42, and we need to be champions for immigrants’ rights. We need to be vocal and bold in calling for taxing oil companies with a windfall profits tax.”
And, Khanna warned, if the Democratic Party does not make room for those views, “If you squelch the progressive voice and just tell people to get in line, that is what is going to depress turnout.”
Khanna made his comments to a small group gathered at the popular Exeter bookstore after a meeting with area progressives earlier that morning. His book, “Dignity in a Digital Age,” addresses “the economic gulf between those who have struck gold in the tech industry and those left behind by the digital revolution,” according to the publisher’s website. It was a theme Khanna covered extensively in his comments, arguing affluent coastal liberals should not abandon middle America or the economic travails of “Trump Country.”
It was a message that resonated with Water Street Bookstore owner Daniel Chartrand.
“I was struck by his vision and aspiration for our country, the way he crafted his message so it didn’t leave anyone out,” Chartrand said. “It was exciting to hear a public servant who, instead of saying we have to accomplish our goals by going against another group of people, saying we have to accomplish this for everyone.”
Asked about Sanders’ success in New Hampshire, Khanna said it was proof that “this is a state with a huge progressive base. I think this is a state where candidates with a progressive vision can do very well.”
Candidates like a young, California congressman from the Silicon Valley, perhaps.