So it’s come to this: two old white guys duking it out to see who can take on the third: the youngest, least qualified, and clearly impaired. I’d like to hear a relentless drumbeat as the press insists upon the release of complete, up-to-date medical records for each of them, based on examinations by reputable sources (not that wacky guy who declared before 2016 that Trump, if elected, would be the healthiest president in the history of the solar system—or perhaps the universe).
To be sure, both Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are flawed candidates (as are just about all the others—but none even remotely as flawed as the current White House occupant).
Listen to Abigail Adams…
…when she wrote to her husband John in 1776: Remember the Ladies!
I would have strongly preferred a younger person, one of the extremely competent women, and I hope whoever wins the nomination will select a woman of color as his vice presidential nominee.
That action would enhance the possibility of a woman leading the administration following this successful Democratic one. There are so many highly qualified women to choose from.
Building a coalition to secure the nomination and win the election is one thing; building a coalition that brings the public along to govern is quite another. It’s about time this country got over its fear of a woman in the White House—and at the same time made greater strides toward that “more perfect union.”
I watched Elizabeth Warren being interviewed by Rachel Maddow the day after she withdrew. Rachel asked her what her views were about the economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, and what needed to be done.
In minutes, though unprepared for the question, she gave a stunningly knowledgeable, far-ranging, and specific response that prompted Rachel to say it would be nice if we had a President who could think and quickly articulate such a vision.
Yet Warren, who devoted herself to taking selfies and relating the stories of real people on the campaign trail, and lamented in the interview that her withdrawal might disappoint all the little girls with whom she’d made a “pinky promise” to run for President “because that’s what girls do,” was found to be “unlikable” and “condescending.” See this Atlantic article, “America Punished Elizabeth Warren for Her Competence.”
Although neither Biden nor Bernie was my first choice, I remain committed to voting for whoever wins the nomination. I was struck, however, by the stark difference in their speeches on Super Tuesday evening.
Biden spoke of unity and reclaiming the soul of our country; his swipes at Bernie were relatively mild and inferential: “I’m a Democrat; always have been, always will be,” and “The people of this country want results, not revolution.”
Bernie came out on full bore attack: Biden’s Iraq War vote, his support of trade deals harmful to workers, etc. His attack mode was understandable: in a dizzying 72 hours, he’d gone from being the front-runner to second place in the all-important delegate count (though California hasn’t fully reported yet).
What bothered me weren’t so much the attacks; it was Bernie’s silence when his statements about Biden drew loud boos from his audience.
I was reminded of President Obama’s approach in such situations. He’d say “Don’t boo; vote!” Surely, if Bernie has a true path to the nomination at this point, he must encourage the huge numbers of eager young supporters whom he promised to bring into the party—and on whom he’s been relying for his revolution—to get their zealous young bodies to the polls in the states that remain to be decided.
To date, their participation when it counts has been underwhelming, and it was actually Biden who was responsible for impressive increases in voter turnout in a number of states. And when you consider the voter suppression by Republicans in closing polling places and conducting other tactics specifically designed to reduce participation by people of color, those numbers are even more impressive. And when you consider that Bloomberg’s presence held down Biden’s potential total, well, enough said.
Congressman Jim Clyburn, whose endorsement of Biden in South Carolina led the tidal wave change, may well go down in history as the man who saved our democracy. Clyburn was modest about his role:
“All I did was remind people of the fact that some folks tend to confuse goodness with weakness.”
Which brings me to the persistent charge that “the Establishment” is out to get Bernie. It’s no surprise that Trump&CO have picked up that battle cry: it’s the best chance they have to further disrupt the democratic process and help Trump win.
But I hope Bernie himself—somewhat sobered by his modest showing in states where he campaigned hard and expected to win—and at least some of his more thoughtful supporters, will give up on the canard that “the Establishment” carried Biden through the remarkable Super Tuesday sweep.
Some Illuminating Tweets
I’ve recently joined the Twitterverse—not to tweet, but to see comments from others. Here’s a sampling that I think helps explain what happened on Super Tuesday.
These two tweets were by Phillippe Reines, a rather wacky guy who worked for Hillary. I don’t follow him, but I find the substance relevant:
“Biden’s not winning because of the establishment.
He’s winning despite it.
After Nevada, the party’s poobahs & bundlers were nowheresville.
Voters in South Carolina grabbed this by the horns.
Voters in 14 states brought it home.
The ‘establishment’ is following, not leading.”
And then this:
“Biden has raised less than Bernie.
Biden has spent less than Bernie. Biden hasn’t run TV ads everywhere. Bernie has.
Biden doesn’t have offices everywhere. Bernie has.
This isn’t the establishment, not insiders, not donors. There’s no rigging.
And here are two responses from people I’d never heard of:
“I’ll leave it to the experts to deconstruct the Biden surge tonight. But for me, a privileged 60 yr old left center leaning white man, SC gave me the permission to rally for Biden. I can’t describe why or what but thank you, SC African Americans for giving me courage.”
This tweet’s from a woman:
“I think many people did not take into account how desperately people want to get back to normalcy. When I think back to the last time things were normal, Biden was there.”
To those who found something “establishmently nefarious” (I made that up) in the quick exits/endorsements of Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg, here’s how Amy responded to questions in an exit interview with The New York Times:
How did you know it was time to end your campaign?
She mentioned several factors and then said she knew she would win her own state.
“And I thought, ‘Well, that would be good. Good way to end.’ But then I thought, why would I just do that for myself? Maybe I can actually deliver this for Joe Biden knowing that he was at like 10 percent or 15. So I talked to my campaign manager on Sunday morning, and then I was in the church in Selma and I kept thinking that this is the right decision…’
Did you discuss any positions with Mr. Biden or anything like that should he win the White House?
“I knew every position he had, every single one of them. We did 10 debates. He was on the stage for——”
No, no, I mean, positions in a possible future administration.
“Oh, you can see we didn’t because I didn’t even know what you were talking about. No, we did not. No, not at all. I wouldn’t even have thought of doing that. I was endorsing him to help him. And it didn’t even cross my mind to try to make some deal or anything like that.”
I don’t expect ardent conspiracy theorists to believe in the purity of motivation I’m citing here, but I think thoughtful people who keep an open mind should see that there is still decency and a sense of purpose toward shared goals for the good of our country among some politicians.
Next Moves Are Important
If Biden does as well in the forthcoming contests as he has to date, I hope Bernie—who was the only candidate who said during a debate that the person with a plurality of delegates should be granted the nomination—will help avoid a brokered convention.
He did say on Rachel Maddow’s show that if Biden has a plurality entering the convention, he should be the nominee. The question is whether/how long Sanders would continue fighting before the convention if it’s clear he can’t win the nomination. If he chooses that approach, it would be harder for him to bring his supporters along to a reconciliation and would simply help President Trump’s reelection.
And if Biden wins the election, I hope Bernie and his folks will understand that many of us who don’t want a revolution are just as concerned as they are about addressing the obscene economic inequality in this country, and about expanding health care, improving education, seriously tackling climate change, et al—and are just as committed to pressing for solutions.
What a powerful coalition we would have if there were a willingness to compromise for the greater good!
Nicholas Kristof’s Op Ed in The New York Times made sense to me. He wrote:
“I’m closer to some of Sanders’s positions than to Biden’s, and I particularly admire Sanders’s leadership and authenticity on human rights issues like Yemen. But I don’t think Sanders would be able to accomplish his aims as president any more than he has been able to as a senator (he was a primary sponsor of only seven bills that became law, and they are mostly insignificant items, such as naming post offices or designating ‘Vermont Bicentennial Day).’”
After discussing the Republicans’ apparently “giddy” attitude about the prospect of a Sanders nomination, and Democratic House members’ expressions of concern to him about what Sanders’ heading the ticket might do to the Democrats’ chances not only of taking the Senate but also retaining control of the House, Kristof concludes:
“I think the Democrats with Biden have a good chance of winning the presidency, holding the House and perhaps taking the Senate. An economic slowdown seems likely because of the coronavirus, which also highlights Trump’s administrative incompetence. And Republican rhetoric about Democrats as socialists — the theme of CPAC [Conservative Political Action Conference] this year was ‘America vs. Socialism’ — is laughable if Biden is on top of the ticket.
“So while Biden’s proposals aren’t as soaring as Sanders’s, nor as comprehensive as I would like, they strike me as more achievable. In that sense, Biden may be the real candidate of change.” (emphasis mine)
As I’ve written previously, we need an outpouring of Citizen Activism to ensure that we win not only the Presidency, but also the House, Senate, Governorships, and state legislatures.