Sorry I was away. I wasn't sure how to react to Biden's unexpectedly robust victory in South Carolina. When you inhabit Despair Central, good news feels weird. Downright uncanny.
Bernie Sanders' frontrunner status is largely a media creation, since he never won much more than thirty percent of the vote (even in Nevada). At least two-thirds of the Democratic electorate is anti
-Bernie. He is unique among the candidates in that many of those who voted against him really detest
him. Thanks in large part to the fanaticism of his Bros -- an army of cyber-Robespierres -- Sanders evinces not just apathy but antipathy, not just antipathy but disgust, not just disgust but fury.
Unfortunately, the anti-Bernie vote has been badly split. His competitors all possess appealing qualities: Bloomberg's financial clout made him seem unstoppable (until his first debate), Warren (still my favorite) is smart and beloved, Buttigieg is the face of the future, while Klobuchar can attract purple-staters. Steyer, the "good" billionaire, never seemed to gain much traction; I'm not sure why.
And then there's Joe.
His gaffes are simply part of his personality; we cannot ascribe them to age, because he has had these hiccups since the 1980s. When speaking extempore, he always mixes alpha male pugnacity (very helpful in a race against Trump) with old-fashioned appeals to sentiment and patriotism -- along with the insights of a top-notch lawyer, constant reminders of his wide experience, and a worrying tendency to veer into shaggy-dog stories that may not lead anywhere. And then, inevitably, he gifts us with that Bidenesque WTF moment: You never know when he's going to congratulate himself for helping Tony Stark fight the Chitauri.
Of course, Trump's hallucinatory gaffes are far more numerous. Unlike Trump, Biden knows how to apologize. The more primeval voters actually like
blowhards who never apologize, while the more civilized voters understand that humility signifies grace and character. I'm no longer confident that the civilized outnumber the brutes.
Suddenly, fortunately, the field has narrowed. And that changes everything.
Steyer is gone. Buttigieg
(the winner in Iowa) has also found the door marked Exit. His time is not now. The country is, I think, ready for an openly-gay president -- maybe
-- but not for an openly-gay president with a malnourished resume. I look forward to another run by Senator Buttigieg or Congressman Buttigieg or Governor Buttigieg. If he can't attain such a position, then he was never meant for the presidency.
Klobuchar is running for vice president at this point, and she has a damned good chance of snagging that gig. (She remains a good backup choice for moderates if Biden should falter badly.) Bloomberg, I hope, will reconcile himself to his proper task: Using his financial clout to clobber first Sanders and then Trump.
Update: Klobuchar is out
. I'm sorry to see her gone, but I'm overjoyed to note that she has endorsed Biden.
Warren? She's hanging in there. But for how much longer? She's easily the best of the candidates -- smart, articulate, witty, brilliant, personable, prepared, capable. But she made a few key strategic mistakes: She wedded herself to Medicare For All, and she refused to recognize Bernie Sanders as THE enemy. Her worst error was not launching an attack on Trump from the right,
castigating him for buying good times by running up a multi-trillion dollar debt. Landing a solid right-handed punch would have differentiated her from Sanders while forcing the media to pay attention.
It occurs to me that Warren remains in the race for strategic reasons: She probably will draw more votes away from Bernie than from Biden. Although many pundits have likened her positions to those held by Sanders, Elizabeth Warren is far too intelligent to believe that a self-avowed socialist can win in November. If something upends Biden's candidacy, Warren can pick up the torch. In my ideal world, Biden would choose Klobuchar for VP and Warren for an important role within the White House. (Kamala for AG!)
So we're left with Joe. I'm not a hope peddler, but if you're looking for someone who actually stands a chance of squeaking out a win in November, Biden is it
. He's no sure thing; Warren would have been the stronger choice. But right now, Biden is what we've got. I'm glad that he owes his big win to the black voters of South Carolina: Too many progressives pretend to love African Americans while disdaining the way African Americans actually vote
. (If, as many BernieBros argue, Hillary lost because black people disdained her, why did so many black people support her in the 2016 primaries?)
Unfortunately, Sanders is still favored to win the nomination, thanks to the ominous polls coming out of Texas and California. In the general election, Sanders stands no chance whatsoever.
His current status owes much to the hoopla surrounding his two early victories. Voters like a winner. But they won't like a socialist who has pissed on JFK's memory, who has made anti-American statements, who has palled around with unabashed Marxists, and who wants Americans to pay half their income in taxes. They won't like Bernie Sanders once they learn who he really is.
Bernie has yet to face an opponent who understands the vast opportunities offered by opposition research. There's a lot of dirt out there -- statements made on video that would kill any
candidacy. Unfortunately, the Bros and the bots have managed to enforce a bizarre double standard upon the party: "We may launch vicious smears against other Democratic candidates and their supporters, but no-one may ever say one word against Saint Bernie."
That rule will disappear in the general election, if Sanders gets the nomination.
Bernie will die the death of a thousand scimitar slices. It'll be beyond
brutal. Since he's a man with a heart condition (who probably has good reason to hide his EF number) I wouldn't be surprised if a hard-fought general election killed him physically. Obviously, I hope it doesn't.
Biden, by contrast, has already withstood the Ukraine smear, which is the real reason why his candidacy faltered. Biden stands before us pre-disastered
: We've already seen Team Trump's big anti-Biden play. All they can do now is keep playing it. Expect to hear Big Lies from various Ukrainians -- from opportunists and wheeler-dealers who live in a land where corruption runs deep and smears come cheap. The forthcoming attacks on Biden will be almost as brutal as the attacks on Sanders, but they may be survivable. The big difference is that the oppo on Sanders is real
while the oppo on Biden is bullshit.
Dems need to muster up the courage to say what they've so far been reluctant to say: Both Joe Biden and Hunter Biden did absolutely nothing wrong. Any Ukrainian (or any American prosecutor working under Barr's thumb) who says otherwise can be described in one of two words: Purchased
And now for the Tweets:
In response to Biden's statement, one BernieBot responded as programmed
: "The rule should be set by voters, not Democrats establishment. It is not fair to steal the nomination twice from Bernie..."
Oy! Is there any
way to kill this made-in-Russia canard? The nomination was NOT "stolen" in 2016. Hillary won fair and square, in large part because black people (whom the Sandernistas seem to detest) voted for her. As Biden points out, Sanders appealed to the superdelegates to overturn the will of the voters. Now, Sanders pretends to hate the superdelegates -- though he'll surely switch positions again, if doing so works to his advantage. Alas, even if you held a gun to a BernieBro's head, you will never get him to talk about that particular exercise in hypocrisy.
Worst of all, Bernie had a huge role in making the 2020 rules
. He won a seat at that table through sheer intimidation: He leads a legion of maniacs fueled by rage and delusions of grievance.