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On Super Tuesday

David Bromwich

On Monday, two ‘moderate’ candidates with a modicum of vote-getting ability, Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg, dropped out of the race and endorsed Joe Biden for the Democratic nomination. It seemed likely that the Democratic National Committee had been at work, consulting with such behind-the-scenes operators as Terry McAuliffe (a heavy-hitting Clinton donor and ex-governor of Virginia) and Rahm Emanuel (Obama’s chief of staff and ex-mayor of Chicago). In the days after Bernie Sanders’s victory in the Nevada primary, they would have put through many phone calls and sealed many promises, and not only to Buttigieg and Klobuchar. The order of the day had become Stop Sanders By Any Means Necessary. The lukewarm interest in Biden had to be screwed up to a pitch of enthusiasm overnight.

It worked. Late on Tuesday evening, everything changed. Of the 14 states in the Super Tuesday primaries, Sanders won California, Colorado, Utah and Vermont. Biden took Alabama, Arkansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. In total votes, Biden now leads Sanders by a proportion of five to four; in the delegate count, his margin is similar. The remaining candidates add up to less than a third of the Sanders haul. As I was revising this paragraph, Bloomberg dropped out of the race, and he too endorsed Biden, leaving only Biden, Sanders and (lagging far behind) Elizabeth Warren to fight it out.

In the space of a week, the Democratic Party went from the strong possibility of a Sanders nomination to the extreme likelihood that Biden will lead the ticket. Both men have done consistently well in conjectural polling against Trump (both leading by 5 per cent or so). The case against Sanders is that he could never survive a full-blown propaganda storm by Republicans that would portray his democratic socialism as identical with support for totalitarian communism. With Biden, the strategy is simpler but untested. Trump will go after his son Hunter’s involvement in the Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings. Never mind that in the matter of nepotism, the Trump Organisation is multiple pots calling the kettle black. Biden’s weakness on this point resembles Hillary Clinton’s weakness in 2016. The pay-to-play shadow over the Clinton Foundation and her decision to give expensive talks to Wall Street firms diminished the contrast with Trump. The same will be true of Biden: besides Hunter and Ukraine, there are his career-long relationships with the Delaware-based credit industry and his conservative position in major legislative battles over civil rights. Biden helped to write the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, whose consequences became a deep embarrassment to the Clintons. Still, the numbers of African Americans voting for him on Super Tuesday in the Deep South, in Texas and elsewhere, have put some of these apprehensions to rest.

Sanders won’t be quitting. A possibility remains, therefore, that the Democrats will conduct a ‘brokered convention’. Secondary candidates like Buttigieg and Warren had lately put themselves in the anti-popular posture of endorsing such a proceeding (though there’s been nothing like it since the 1950s): at a brokered convention, a candidate with a solid plurality can be denied the nomination on the first ballot and defeated later by a coalition. If Biden now runs far ahead of Sanders, he may sew it up in advance. On the other hand, his verbal gaffes (announcing himself a candidate for the Senate rather than the presidency; saying ‘I was a Democratic caucus’) and his fabricated or false memories (a non-existent arrest in South Africa for demonstrating against the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela) have exposed a cognitive fragility that some people fear could make him ridiculous by November.

A Biden-Trump contest in 2020 would resemble Clinton-Trump in at least one respect. It would be a case, yet again, of the right wing of the Democratic Party making the conventional choice against the party’s own insurgent energy. But the difference of personalities may matter. Though many (perhaps most) people have felt superior to Biden at some point, he is hard to dislike. ‘One thing he has going for him,’ said a voter who supported Warren but has resigned herself to Biden, ‘is that he is not an angry man. He may lose his temper but anger is not his core motivating force.’ That makes a contrast with Trump, all right.

Could Sanders find a second wind? He has yet to explain with the requisite patience what he means by democratic socialism; and the liberal-corporate media have so relentlessly caricatured him as a person that a second speech may be in order just to tell people who he is. Take a trip to Vermont and you find that no one has a bad word about Bernie. The affection has nothing to do with politics. On the bulletin board of a grocery store in 2016, I saw this sign: ‘Senator Sanders will march in annual cow parade.’ He was arrested once – he didn’t have to imagine it – in a protest for civil rights. He took part in Martin Luther King’s 1963 March on Washington.

This is nothing like the picture one gets from grinning CNN presenters and their pundits, or from the incapable Democratic National Committee. The DNC ruled out a separate debate on climate change – the single issue that most moves thinking persons to regard the Trump presidency as a catastrophe. They likewise excluded Fox News from any role in any of the debates; but why? Fox was going to report on the debates anyway. Why not give their audience the full context? There have been notorious permitted acts of collusion, as with the exchange in the Iowa debate between a moderator and two candidates:

Mod: In 2018, [Senator Sanders], you told [Senator Warren] that you did not believe that a woman could win the election. Why did you say that?

Sanders: Well, as a matter of fact, I didn’t say it …

Mod: So Senator Sanders, I do want to be clear here. You’re saying, that you never told Senator Warren that a woman could not win the election.

Sanders: That is correct.

Mod: Senator Warren, what did you think when Senator Sanders told you that a woman could not win the election?

The political diet of the debates so far has been largely confined to the pros and (mostly) cons of Medicare for All, the menace of Vladimir Putin, and general attitudes toward women and persons of colour. They have contained very few questions about America’s wars in the Greater Middle East, close to nothing about climate change, and nothing (outside the narrow ground of the impeachment) about Trump's corruption of the federal departments and agencies. For both the party and the media, treatment of US politics has been channelled into a familiar cultural ‘theming’ of race and gender. The National Public Radio Guide to Super Tuesday dealt entirely with demographic reminders such as ‘A wild card [in California] is black voters’ or ‘Maine is the whitest state to vote on Super Tuesday.’ The Democrats and their media outworks are treating Latinos, African Americans and whites as separate nations. Women are a nation, too – parsed (where useful) as Latino, African American or white.

So the answer to Trump’s divide and conquer comes in the form of these college-certified categories that self-divide and surrender. The only other weapon of note has been an attempted revival of the Cold War. On 23 February, the New York Times led with two anti-Sanders hatchet jobs, targeting him as both a destroyer of the Democratic Party and a possible Russian agent. The paper has even called him the ‘Teflon’ candidate – an epithet originally applied to Ronald Reagan. But the mainstream media and their captive party, the party and its captive media, show no sign of letting up the pressure. A recent leak from a misinterpreted fragment of a report by the Director of National Intelligence became a two-day Red Scare. Was Putin once more gearing up to steal an election? Was Sanders complicit, or was he merely duped? All this while the planet burns.

The truth is that the corporate-liberal media are comfortable with the Trump presidency. They have prospered wonderfully from his entertainment value, even as they staked out a high ground in the anti-Trump ‘resistance’. It will be hard to deny the plausibility of the charge likely to issue soon from the Sanders campaign, namely that ‘the fix is in’; and that, once more, the people are being denied their proper voice – at first through an organised propaganda campaign that was fed into debates as well as news coverage, and at last through public co-ordination by the party establishment to guide Democrats into the one acceptable box.


Comments


  • 5 March 2020 at 12:45pm
    Charles Evans says:
    Of all the places on the Internet I was expecting to find rambling, conspiracy-theorist nonsense about the race for the Democratic nomination, the LRB Blog wasn't one of them!

    An alternative assessment to the author's sneering, fact-free deflections is that Sanders isn't particularly popular in the Democratic party. His talk of a 'movement' is mostly hot air (exit polling suggests that his coalition of young liberals isn't turning out as he claimed they would). Issues around his record (three decades in Congress with almost no legislative achievements to speak of), his health (the next heart attack can't be too far away), his support for brutal 'socialist' dictatorships abroad (Cuban Latinx communities in Florida aren't keen on his admiration for Castro), his angry-old-guy temperament, all of these things are turn-offs for large swathes of the Democratic party (just look at how unpopular he was with working-class African Americans in South Carolina!).

    It's easy to claim that Sanders' failures are down to a DNC fix-up job, abetted by a 'corporate-liberal media' that are 'comfortable with the Trump presidency', but there is no evidence of this conspiracist nonsense unless you're wilfully looking for it. Sanders just isn't that popular, and a massive democratic event is starting to demonstrate that. David may not like that, but he'll have to accept it.

    • 5 March 2020 at 10:25pm
      Kassia Halcli says: @ Charles Evans
      Sanders won the popular vote in the first three states, something no other presidential candidate in history has accomplished. Polls have shown that he is the most popular Senator in America and that he has the highest favorability rating among Democrats, closely followed by Joe Biden. He has by far the largest and most loyal donor base in the race, made up of small donations from working people. The fact that you are either unaware of or in denial about Sanders' immense popularity in the party and beyond points to a corporate media conspiracy far more than David's piece, which does no such thing.

    • 6 March 2020 at 12:08am
      Echo Parking-Lot says: @ Charles Evans
      You're saying the Democrats should care (in the primaries, especially) about the sour grapes of a bunch of Batista apparatchiks? 54% of Cubans in Cuba voted for Trump in 2016.

      And for the record, admiring Cubans' staggering literacy rate, world-renowned health care system, their track record of dealing with hurricanes, and the ability to endure 50 years of being throttled economically by the US, is not the same thing as "support for brutal 'socialist' dictatorships abroad."

    • 6 March 2020 at 10:02am
      Charles Evans says: @ Kassia Halcli
      The first three states are Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. The first two are tiny, lily-white states that make up a tiny proportion of the Democratic Party's selectorate, let alone the country. Winning he popular vote in them means little (Bernie got 45652 votes in Iowa, or 26.5%. Hardly a huge popular mandate). Nevada is also tiny, though higher in Latinx voters.

      Polling for 'popularity' doesn't mean much - most politicians are unpopular, and the question "Do you like this person" is very different to the question "Do you want this person to be our nominee for President". Conflating one with the other is intellectually dishonest, at best.

      Having a comparatively large donor base, made up of small donors, also does not necessarily mean popularity. The American electorate is over 150 million people - having a few hundred thousand people pitch in a few dollars is, again, not a good indicator of popularity. To suggest that it is "immense" within the Party suggests you might need to venture outside of your political bubble.

      On the 'corporate media' conspiracy, I was literally quoting David's words, which he uses twice in the piece. I'll be clear - I'm not opposed to Bernie Sanders, his message, his policies, or his ability to be the President. I'm clear-eyed about the challenges he faces, though, and he won't surmount them if his supporters persist with a fantasy view of the the world, rather than one based in reality.

    • 6 March 2020 at 11:48am
      Charles Evans says: @ Echo Parking-Lot
      How, exactly, did the Cuban citizens of Cuba for 54% for Trump in 2016? You might want to think again about that one.

      The thing is, Sanders hasn't merely admired some of the good things that Cuba has managed to do for its people. And he hasn't limited his support to Cuba. Sanders has supported oppressive regimes in Venezuela, Cuba and other countries, based on their somewhat-nebulous self-proclaimed 'socialist' nature. This is a blind spot for plenty of the more radical Left, both in America, the UK and elsewhere. I wouldn't say that disqualifies him from the Democratic nomination, but it's an issue that needs addressing.

      Just as Sanders's supporters love to bring up his Democratic opponents' records on various issues (Biden on civil rights and social security, Bloomberg on being a billionaire Republican etc), it's fair game to analyse Sanders's record too. That's what the right-wing media will do, that's what Trump's campaign will do. Better to deal with those criticisms now, rather than two weeks from polling day.

    • 6 March 2020 at 3:06pm
      Tom Weymes says: @ Charles Evans
      Call me an over-simplifying peddler of false historical analogies; but to me the bickering and name-calling pervading the Democratic nomination process is just another manifestation of the Left's endemic fissiparousness. Think thirties Germany and the German communists' ferocious enmity for the socialists. We do know how that ended, don't we?
      Tom Weymes

    • 6 March 2020 at 3:06pm
      Stan Persky says: @ Echo Parking-Lot
      If "54% of Cubans in Cuba voted for Trump in 2016," as you claim, is that more or less than the percentage of Russians in Russia who voted for Trump in 2016? Or might you be referring to Cuban-American citizens in Florida?

    • 6 March 2020 at 4:15pm
      Benedict Hughes says: @ Kassia Halcli
      The only popularity poll that matters is voting. Even Sanders admitted to his disappointment in turnout among his vaunted youth vote.

    • 7 March 2020 at 2:58am
      m sam says: @ Charles Evans
      My, my, my. Sounds like a bit of Sanders Derangement Syndrome we have here. What's all this talk about "Bernie Bros" when everywhere I mostly encounter the exact opposite, like "Charles Evans" here. Sure, he didn't do as well as he thought, but he did much better than 2016. So there's that. I think Sanders hatred blinds many Democratic partisans into assuming their disgust of Sanders and his supporters is far more widespread than it really is. I think the case is much more easily explained by most people not being firmly committed one way or the other , and as polls show: Democrats like Sander's on the issues but are swayed by the the moderate electability arguments (which I personally find completely facile).

  • 5 March 2020 at 3:39pm
    RH says:
    If Sanders picks a black running mate, all need not be lost. Perhaps he should have done that before Super Tuesday, but there is still time.

    Incidentally, 'All this while the planet burns' would be a fitting title for the entire LRB blog (much better than 'LRB blog').

  • 5 March 2020 at 3:58pm
    John Shaplin says:
    Bernie eked out a slim majority in VT winning 11 delegates to Biden's 5 with 8 un-pledged (super) delegates. He has no base in the State's Democratic Party, nor anywhere else. His record as Mayor of Burlington was great but hardly 'a revolution'. In Congress Bernie did what all VT. reps do: help constituents navigate federal bureaucracy, support the State's military installations and vets, 'bring home the bacon ( 'small state premiums on every appropriation') and protect its businesses, like the Captive Insurance Industry with its domestic ‘off-shore’ tax status. It's like what Henry James said about Walt Whitman: a wonderful 'wound-dresser' during the war but subsequently long on self-regard and bombast, short on refinement and poetry. American voters, on the whole, are not too 'dumb' to see that. Like heavy weight champion George Foreman in Zaire, the ‘dope got roped.’

    • 6 March 2020 at 10:05pm
      HankUS says: @ John Shaplin
      Please. Let's not quote Henry James on Walt Whitman. Wound dresser Whitman was. Where was HJ during the war? And what did HJ have to say about American democracy? And who is still read?

    • 7 March 2020 at 6:38am
      Christopher Greenwood says: @ HankUS
      I think I am correct in recalling Henry James volunteering for the ambulance corps during the first world war at the end of his life. I also think this had something to do with his changing nationalities.

  • 5 March 2020 at 10:01pm
    Simon Jarvis says:
    Thanks to David Bromwich for his consistently readable, well-informed and original commentary on U.S. politics. I would happily read a lot more of this.

  • 6 March 2020 at 3:25pm
    Stephen Chapman says:
    I hope when the Trump era is over and when members of the political class begin working together again we'll see an end to the kind of overwrought polemics from so-called "progressive" voices like David Bromwich who condemn mainstream media as being "corporate-liberal" and being perfectly comfortable with the Trump presidency because, as he imagines it, they have profited from "his entertainment value, even as they staked out a high ground in the anti-Trump ‘resistance’. "

    This is the same rubbish-thinking that I thought was over and done with during my college years in the late Sixties.

    • 6 March 2020 at 4:16pm
      Ezra Mark says: @ Stephen Chapman
      ok boomer

  • 6 March 2020 at 3:35pm
    Mark E. Herlihy says:
    The core of this blog post is the author’s fantasy of coördinated back room phone calls, arm-twisting, and promises of patronage drawn straight from cinema farces of the 1930s. One can almost smell the cigars. Never mind that this is wholly evidence free speculation – the counterfactual is the reality of the result in the South Carolina primary, which the post conveniently entirely ignores. Never mind that the post identifies no plausible mechanism for the imagined back room deals to be communicated to, and forced upon, the Super Tuesday electorate in the time available. Never mind that there was never a likelihood that Sanders was headed to a clear victory at the National Convention, and that , to the contrary, the likelihood of a brokered convention had soared to nearly 70% before Super Tuesday.

    In reality, nothing is yet wholly resolved. Polling suggests that both Biden and Sanders have an excellent chance to beat Trump, although the gut sense of the electorate appears to be far less comfortable with the case for Sanders. Nevertheless, Sanders much vaunted “movement” of youthful progressives still seems to have difficulty getting its membership to the polls. Moreover, evidence of large scale crossover of moderate Republicans, sickened by the Trump clown show, to support what they see as a moderate Democratic candidate, is beginning to emerge, particularly as evidenced in the exceptionally high turnout in Northern Virginia and the exit polling there. Beating Trump appears to be the order of the day, as it should be (along with flipping the Senate, a goal that would be ill-served by Sanders at the top of the Democratic ticket).

    As for the “corporate-liberal media” as the post would have it: certainly, there has been a no doubt profitable stretch on the late night shows of mocking Trump. But American culture is fecund with targets for such satire – SNL is not in its 45th year for lack of them. And the post’s leap from the success of late night shows in lampooning Trump, to a presumed charge by Sanders that “the fix is in” is the mother of all non sequiturs. Mr Bromwich may be so jaded as to believe that the dreaded “Main Stream Media” is coördinating with the equally dreaded “Democratic Party Establishment” to perpetuate Trump in office so that Stephen Colbert and company can continue to rake in the bucks, But I see no reason why the LRB should foster such delusions.

  • 6 March 2020 at 4:08pm
    George Warburg says:
    Conspiracy or not, what are the essentials for our “democracy”?
    Number one to defeat Trump?
    Isn’t our “democracy” today largely a “plutocracy”? How else to explain the votes Bloomberg still won?
    Therefore, sadly, important to get Bloomberg’s funding behind the anti-Trump candidate.
    Pity that Sanders who, in contrast to Biden, has so many good ideas, speaks (or should one say rants angrily) only to his disciples and ignores the sensitivities of the others whose votes he needs to win. Understandable, sadly, that he forfeited the backing of the Democrat establishment.
    If the corrupt Biden becomes the Trump-opposition candidate, and if (oh if only) he wins, there should be plenty of progressive Democrats in the House to inspire and steer him before his next heart attack. Who will be chosen to run as his V-P?

  • 6 March 2020 at 4:14pm
    Steven Morphy-Godchaux says:
    Ok boomers. Enjoy your socialized medicine and retirement while your kids and grandkids pay criminal amounts for healthcare and education. And keep telling us those stories about how great you were in the 1960s, too. We love it.

    • 7 March 2020 at 5:26pm
      Graucho says: @ Steven Morphy-Godchaux
      Did I misunderstand? If you are talking American kids and grandkids they are already facing paying criminal amounts for healthcare and education, doubly so if the Republicans stay in power. I thought the Sanders pitch was to stop this happening.

  • 6 March 2020 at 4:15pm
    Graham Winyard says:
    If the Democrat party establishment is as cunning as David Bromwich implies, how come the resultant choice of candidates is so alarmingly uninspiring?

  • 6 March 2020 at 4:19pm
    Benedict Hughes says:
    "Corporate Liberal Media" smacks too much of "Lamestream Media" or "Fake News." A bad sign.

  • 6 March 2020 at 4:35pm
    John Lamond says:
    I suggest, dear author, that whatever the Democratic “establishment” (an oxymoron of titanic proportions, cf. Will Rogers)or the media wanted, at base what happened last Tuesday is that many millions of rational, strategic voters saw a path to victory over the evil sordidness of Trump by voting for a decent, well-experienced (with all of his many flaws) Biden - elites of all sorts be damned. It was the most thrilling turn of events in my 50 years of voting, pure and simple.

  • 6 March 2020 at 4:37pm
    Sue Stevenson says:
    Excellent summation!

    I do find it interesting that any examination of the machinations of power draw accusations of "conspiracy, conspiracy!" Whether it's Sanders, or Assange, or the CIA, or US foreign interference, it's always this accusation even though the examinations are based on traceable evidence.

    It always feels creepy, watching how easy the narrative continues to be massaged so certain groups of people can consent to it once again.

    What is heartening is seeing the number of people who are seeing through to the jaws of the machine. I agree, it was unexpected – and heartening – to see it here. Thank you.

  • 6 March 2020 at 5:03pm
    Mitchell Engelmeyer says:
    I'd like to second everything Charles Evans says. You may have gone to the mat for the most unpopular Labour candidate in history, but please allow us to try to defeat Trump by not nominating a candidate completely out of touch with the American psyche. Yes, he's popular among young leftists, but this group is woefully inadequate to attain an electoral college majority. I consider myself a left of center Democrat for whom Biden is not ideal, but he has the best chance of beating Trump in key states. If you lived under the Trump dictatorship you would not be so cavalier about choosing Sanders. Your media critique sounds just like Trump's, only instead of demonizing him, you say it demonizes Sanders. With Labour journalists like you, I understand how Labour went down to such a crushing defeat.

  • 6 March 2020 at 5:19pm
    mhenriday says:
    There is no question but that the establishment in the United States, whether neoliberal or neoconservative - not least those claiming to be for «anyone but Trump» - far prefer a Mr Trump as US president to a Mr Sanders in that office. Mr Trump is entertainment plus tax reductions for the rich, all the while increasing the already bloated spending on the military and the (un)intelligence sector, from which they profit ; Mr Sanders would tax them and devote resources to dealing with the climate crisis threatening us all. The choice is easy....

    Henri

  • 6 March 2020 at 5:20pm
    dsflynn01473 says:
    Sanders is losing to Biden because the majority of Democrat primary voters favor a more moderate candidate and believe Sanders is unelectable. The media, of course influences these perceptions. But to suggest that is because the corporate media are enjoying the entertainment value of Trump follies is dopey. The Democrat party for block Fox News because it is anathema to party regulars. But both Sanders and the moderate wing participated in Fox town meetings. I agree the major media offer a narrow view of the political issues facing voters but they had a tough job. There was hardly any disagreement among the moderates and leftist candidates. The only major area was on the speed of providing a single payer healthcare system for all and that was all about electibility. It was the moderate vote that was fissiparous (thanks) until Supertuesday. Now it is clearer where the votes always were. There were many keen insights in this piece, the conspiracy theory wasn't one of them.

  • 6 March 2020 at 5:30pm
    dsflynn01473 says:
    Here is some fodder for investigative journalism.. Any fundraiser can tell you a fundraising campaign succeeds by raising large gifts from a few. Their rule of thumb is 80% of the amount raised comes from 20% of the donors. Moreover the cost of raising, recording and reporting the 20% often exceeds the cost. There is something missing from the analysis of campaigns claiming to raise the bulk of their funds from small donors. And it isn't the fact that the more small donors you have despite the cost, the smaller will be the average donation.

  • 6 March 2020 at 7:00pm
    LarryFeinberg says:
    Bromwich would have us believe that the Democratic Party establishment and "the liberal-corporate media" are conspiring to deny a genuine progressive a chance at winning the U.S. presidency. I think he is mistaken. There are surely very few in the liberal political and media establishment who object in principle to things like universal medical coverage, free college tuition, measures to combat climate change, or a tax system that works to the advantage of the middle and lower classes rather than the very wealthy. Their objections to Sanders are rooted in political realism. Outside of places like Vermont and the California Bay Area, the U.S. electorate has never been friendly to candidates with avowedly left-wing agendas. By contrast, those who advocate incremental progressive change (see the 2018 midterm elections) stand a decent chance of success. Bernie’s socialism, however he defines it, would be – already is -- a rich target for the Republican propaganda machine, and his nomination by the Dems would virtually assure four more years of Trump. Assuming he did somehow manage to get elected, how would Sanders get Congress and the courts to go along with a program of sweeping economic and social transformation? Obama, with a Democratic majority in both houses, was barely able to get his ACA passed. Bernie's campaign rhetoric suggests it could all be accomplished by fiat. Not what one expects from a democratic socialist.

  • 7 March 2020 at 2:22am
    SMSRHINEBECK says:
    One shouldn't forget that Yale University Sterling Professor of English David Bromwich is himself part of the US "corporate-liberal" nomenklatura that he takes aim at. I'm sure his reputation in his field is solid, but his moonlighting-for-fun as a political commentator has never been successful, in my opinion, nor is it here.
    His LRB Blog essay, which issues from the very comfortable bubble he lives in, reeks of the classroom.
    Maybe British readers buy his commentary, but this retired American academic, older than Bernie Sanders, does not. Bromwich doesn't know what he's talking about.
    The black voters in South Carolina's Democratic primary last week and the Southern voters on Super Tuesday (a preponderance of them black) aren't buying what Bernie Sanders is selling. Nor am I.

  • 7 March 2020 at 3:11am
    m sam says:
    While I agree that Hunter Biden, as a political issue, is a weakness of the Biden candidacy, since Joe Biden hasn't handled the issue well at all so far (it doesn't take a genius to tell that calling potential voters fat over the issue isn't a winning strategy). But I don't think that will be all to look for. Of course Trump is going to paint Biden as suffering from dementia, and frankly I think that is also going to be an easy argument to make stick.

    Also if he makes some serious error like picking a Republican running mate (as he talked about doing in December), voters will be turned off entirely.

    The pitfalls of Biden as a candidate are huge, and if electability is the most important thing in my opinion Biden is the worst pick. Trump will run circles around him, he does not have a large and enthusiastic group of supporters, and really the only thing Biden has going for him is fear of Trump. And frankly, I don't think that single issue is enough to win.

  • 7 March 2020 at 3:55am
    Henry St maurice says:
    A few points before I put my keyboard back to gainful employment. First, Bernie has always been good at good at constituent service, as one commenter noted and own experience with him bore out, but it does not mean he's good at making legislation or policy. Bernie was so bad at those aspects of public office that he lost his one run a the Governor's seat to Madeleine Kunin, who did legislate and make policy. Note the paucity of endorsements from elected officials in Vermont, none of whom endorsed him in 2016, notably Howard Dean, who has publicly said that Bernie is only out for Bernie. My next point is that both Senators Bernie Sanders or Warren are from states with Republican governors. Election to the presidency or vice-presidency by either or both, as some have suggested, would entail that the GOP would get one or two seats in the next Senate, effectively maintaining the legislative roadblock built by Senator McConnell and his enablers. In short, does anyone want Bernie in the White House and Mitch in charge of everything else in DC? In my state of Wisconsin, I know too many voters who sat out the 2016 election out of spite and are now in their small ways responsible for the Roberts Court. I prefer to imagine President Biden nominating Merrick Garland and Barack Obama to be the 10th and 11th SCOTUS Justices to a filibuster-proof Senate controlled by the Democrats. I can dream, and Bernie can't pass a three-car funeral, as my former Rep. Dave Obey used to say.

  • 7 March 2020 at 4:39am
    George Hoffman says:
    Chris Matthews had an emotional meltdown on MSDNC worthy of Three Mile Island after Bernie Sanders won the Nevada primary. He compared Bernie's win to an incident in a history book he was reading the previous night about a French leader calling up Churchill and informing him of the Nazi Wehrmacht's blitzkrieg victory over the French Army in 1940. "Can't you do something?" Matthews hollered acting the part of Churchill. "No! It's over!" Matthews replied frantically now acting the part of the French leader. The panelists on the show watched Matthews performance with silent horror. Bernie has relatives who died in the Holocaust. Matthews reminded me during his meltdown of Bob Dylan's hapless protagonist in Dylan's classic song, "Ballad of a Thin Man," with its sad refrain: "You know something's happening / But you don't know what it is / Do you, Mister Jones?" That describes the hysteria to Bernie Sanders and his progressive armies of the night who are waging guerrilla warfare against aging baby boomers who have become paid court stenographers in the MSM. They have their marching orders from the Democratic elites and the oligarchs on Wall Street. That's not a conspiracy theory. And I can't really blame them. Getting paid six figures for mouthing the party lines that the elites want to brainwash the electorate isn't chump change in the gig economy. They must sabotage Bernie's last chance. Of course, even the suits knew Matthew's performance piece was a bridge too far. They fired him after two decades as the host of Hardball. Even if Bernie goes down in flames like Amelia Earhart, it's slowly dawning on boomers this is moment is their last harrah. But a more poignant historical allusion for Matthews, who like so many successful baby boomers suffers from a pronounced narcissistic personality, would have been for him to imitate with a gauche French accent King Louis XV of France, "Apres moi, la deluge." It would have added to the melodrama. The moneyed boomers who still control Democratic Party are having a slow motion nervous breakdown. Progressives such as AOC, Bernie's partner in crime, wait in the wings. What they don't realize is they have become the parents they protested against in the sixties, and they have grown old without growing wise. They wanted a revolution, but the Beatles broke up out long ago, and now the revolution in the Democratic Party is against them. What a bummer trip, man.

  • 7 March 2020 at 6:21am
    semitone says:
    Actually, Bernie Sanders has been very effective at turning out the vote.

    There have been large increases in turnout in several primary states so far, all (except Nevada) for Sanders’ opponents. In Virginia – a swing state that the Democrats simply must win in November – turnout nearly doubled compared to 2016.
    Biden beat Sanders by a more than 2-1 margin.

  • 7 March 2020 at 8:01am
    K. Srinivasan says:
    This follows a tradition in the manner the Democratic Party establishment and the mainstream American. Press conduct themselves. The first quotation refers to the 1944 Democratic Vice Presidential nomination, the second, the press coverage of his 1948 campaign for the Presidency..
    ‘‘Wallace had the support of a majority of delegates, as well as the overwhelming majority of Democrats around the nation. In 1944, a Gallup poll found that 65 percent of Democrats supported Wallace as FDR’s running mate, while the relatively unknown Truman earned support from just 2 percent.
    ‘On Thursday, July 20, the second night of the Democratic National Convention, a huge pro-Wallace demonstration erupted. Senator Claude Pepper of Florida, one of the most liberal members of Congress, tried to fight his way to the podium to put Wallace’s name in nomination—a move that likely would’ve resulted in a stampede of votes. But the chair of the convention, Philadelphia Mayor David Lawrence, suddenly called for a voice vote to adjourn for the day. Despite the clear overwhelming vocal majority of “nays!”, Lawrence gaveled the convention to a close with Senator Pepper just a few feet away from the microphones.
    ‘By the next day, the all-night efforts of Hannegan, Chicago Mayor Kelly, Bronx County Democratic boss Ed Flynn and others had paid off: Although Wallace led on the first ballot with 429.5 votes (Truman had 319.5), he was significantly short of a majority. By the second ballot, the rush to Truman was on.”
    https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/07/veepstakes-history-vice-president-fdr-roosevelt-harry-truman-henry-wallace-james-byrnes-1944-democratic-convention-214012
    Re 1948 mainstream press:
    “In his assault on the South last week, Henry Wallace acted more like an agitator than a presidential candidate.
    ‘He ostentatiously rode through cities and towns with his Negro secretary in the seat beside him. He chose the homes of Negro supporters for meals and overnight stops.”
    TIME, 13th September, 1948

  • 7 March 2020 at 9:50am
    semitone says:
    Meanwhile, in Michigan (another must-win state come November) Bernie is about to run attack ads on the likely Democrat nominee for President. From the Guardian:
    "“Michigan is an enormously important state,” Sanders said ... “The people of Michigan were devastated by trade agreements which I vigorously opposed and Joe Biden supported.”"

    Please remember this before you hit "confirm" on that donation to the Sanders campaign.

  • 7 March 2020 at 5:37pm
    Graucho says:
    My one doubt about Biden revolves around his habit of plagiarism. It's a mark of laziness and an inability to think creatively. You can bet that Trump has this ammunition in his locker if it comes down to a Sleepy Jo attack in an election.

  • 7 March 2020 at 9:42pm
    Alan Kirman says:
    This has been a most mysterious conversation. Unless I am much mistaken the U.S. is about to face some very tough issues, climate change, lack of preparation for major catastrophes, (epidemics etc) dealing with the difficulties of globalisation and connectedness, and epidemics, just for a start. So, presumably one should be at least minimally interested in the choice of a Democratic candidate who would not just beat Trump but would be capable of facing up to these problems.
    But the whole debate here is about who is popular with whom and whether the elite is trying to sideline candidates who might not agree with the views of might disagree with the establishment.
    That, we are told ,has to be someone from the centre, a pretty empty place at the moment and not full of "moderate" voters all yearning to support any character with no proven experience at handling any of the problems I have mentioned, without any apparent convictions and whose main characteristic is that he is likeable!!
    It is also strange that the so called "progressive moderates" consider that the U. S could not afford universal healthcare when it proudly presents itself as the richest nation on earth and all the other OECD countries have some version of such care.
    If one were really conspiracy minded one might think that the Republicans have carefully engineered all of this to make the only candidate who could be beaten by Trump in a debate, the nominee. But it is difficult to believe that they are so smart.


    • 8 March 2020 at 12:31am
      Graucho says: @ Alan Kirman
      As a footnote to preparedness for the corona outbreak, at time of writing the death rate in the U.S. at 6% is an outlier way above any other country. One suspects that the discrepancy lies in the denominator, not the numerator. Namely, that it is so expensive to seek medical help in the U.S. that many with symptoms are just not revealing themselves. Whether an epidemic dies out or baloons is contingent on the pool of infected persons at large. It takes a hurt to learn. If the U.S. ends up with the worst outbreak of any country it might at least demonstrate the folly of leaving medical care to the free market.

  • 10 March 2020 at 2:56am
    Eric Redman says:
    I’m w Chas Evans. This piece by David Bromwich is uncharacteristically peevish and wrong - and rather malicious toward Biden. Things like this distract ppl’s attention -- and perhaps their voting — from defeating Trump. I’m old enough to well remember leftish Dems disaffected w the Dem nominee delivering us Nixon, Geo W Bush, and Trump. If they sit out or vote for the Naders and Steins this time and deliver the election to Trump, who’s not fit for office in any respect, they’ll have a lot to answer for - again. (Remember Nader claiming that at least he elected Sen Cantwell?) And, yes, if Bernie’s nominated we’ll work our tails off for him. But he will lose. So let’s see who Biden picks for VP — and be glad not to have done more damage to the ticket by blog posts like this one in the meantime . — Eric Redman

  • 11 March 2020 at 9:05am
    Joe Morison says:
    If the pundits are right and Biden is now unstoppable, it is vital that everyone now unites around him. The left’s internal battles are trivial compared to the necessity of ensuring that Trump is decisively beaten in November (and it does have to be really decisive, anything less and he’ll cry foul and try and stay in office).

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