Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Super Tuesday Post Mortem


So if you leave with only one thing, it must be this: Choose to fight only righteous fights, because then when things get tough — and they will — you will know that there is only one option ahead of you. Nevertheless, you must persist.  -- Elizabeth Warren, March 5, 2020
With the notable exception of Barack Obama, no one I've supported to win the Democratic primary has ever won it (except for George McGovern when I was 12 -- and that didn't turn out so well).  And here I am again.  Elizabeth Warren is/was my candidate -- and Barack included, I have never felt more passionate about a candidate or believed more strongly about their strength, brilliance, competence and sincerity -- ever.  I think she not only could have crushed the malevolent orange shit-gibbon in the general election (like she unmercifully fileted Bloomberg), but would have gone on to be a great president. (See Why Elizabeth Warren Would Be The Best President)

As Rebecca Solnit put it: "Perhaps Warren's greatest strength is her commitment to listening and listening to many constituencies; she is a candidate speeding up the journey of ideas by making space to hear and plans that respond to what she heard. By shortening the distance between the grassroots and the center of power." Jodi Jacobson is right:  Warren is "once in a lifetime. She not only knows how to wield power, she is unafraid of doing so. She knows how government works and has worked it to our advantage. She has moral clarity. She has the best plans for addressing debt, bank corruption, corporate corruption, government corruption, climate crises, race and class analyses, the goddamn coronavirus epidemic and everything else you can imagine. SHE GETS SHIT DONE."

Despite all this Warren couldn't seem to gain traction, particularly on what should be the most compelling issue facing the country -- corruption and the erosion of democracy in the Age of Trump.  I wholeheartedly agree with her that we can't address other critical issues from climate change to gun control until we deal with the corrosive effects of corruption in Washington and the corrupting power of wealth.  But, alas, it is not to be.  There were perhaps some strategic missteps, but I think it was a combination of a whole lot of misogyny, a panic-stricken electorate fleeing to the perceived safety of the center, an "establishment" -- in the media and the Party -- that reinforced the nonsensical (and misogynist) concept of "electability," and the mainstream media's incomprehensible erasure of her that doomed her candidacy.

Charles Pierce nails it:  "This is not a country that is ready for what she called, endlessly, 'big, structural change.'  This is a country fearful of any kind of change at all, a country longing for a simpler time—which, these days, does not mean the flush 1950s or the pastoral 1850s, but 2015. The election of Donald Trump has lodged in so many minds a longing for the status quo ante that there’s no room for intelligent experimentation."  As Pierce says, "we have been rendered such a timorous people that even someone as open and lively and welcoming as Elizabeth Warren was considered too much of a risk."  She will, of course, remain a formidable leader and critical progressive voice, but I will always feel an enormous sense of loss for what could and should have been.

I've liked Bernie since he was first elected mayor when I was a senior in college in Burlington, VT.  I wrote admirably about him on this blog ten years ago.  (See Vermont's Finest)  He has an inspiring, compelling message about inequality that should resonate across multiple demographics.  But as Tuesday demonstrated, he doesn't seem able to expand his base to include African Americans -- the most critical of Democratic voters (although he has impressively garnered support from Latinx communities) -- and his key strategy of energizing new, young voters seems to be flailing.  And, yes, his abusive, divisive supporters, including those who have official positions high in the campaign, are dangerously alienating wide swaths of progressive-minded people.

But that leaves Biden -- who I still can't believe has parlayed Jim Clyburn's South Carolina endorsement into front-runner status.  The dude can rarely complete a coherent thought, much less a sentence.  How bizarre that all those debates I suffered through in which he seemed so tired and lost didn't matter. (I want those hours back.)  He barely campaigned, instead relying on Obama's coattails (notwithstanding Obama's silence) -- and it's fucking working.  I think he's an awful candidate who is not only cognitively compromised but has never really reckoned with much of his record, in particular, his unforgivable performance as chair of the Judiciary Committee that humiliated Anita Hill and put Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court. (See Joe Biden's "Apology" To Anita Hill Is Too Little, Too Late And Too Lame).  I believe he is dangerously naive when it comes to the perfidy of the Republican Party, which is baffling given he was Obama's Vice President when Merrick Garland was denied a confirmation vote, not to mention their continued bad-faith Ukraine investigation.

I feel that those who are certain that Biden is the most electable candidate were also sure that Hillary Clinton would win, as would John Kerry and Al Gore.  Are we really going to do this again?  Are we really going to choose our nominee based on fear.  It shows a remarkable lack of imagination, a failure to understand that we are living in a far different world than we were living in even four years ago.  We need someone who can capture the zeitgeist, energize voters and articulate why Trump is such a danger to our survival.  I seriously doubt that person is Joe Biden, who just wants to return us an imagined normalcy -- to the halcyon days of bipartisanship and smoked-filled rooms.  Maybe it could be Bernie Sanders, but he still hasn't shown the ability to embrace a wider constituency.  But what the fuck do I know?

I do know that it is critical that the nominee, whoever it is, must pick a running mate who can actually capture the zeitgeist -- someone who can begin to transform the Party away from one that is still led by old white men.  It needs to be a woman.  It needs to be a person of color.  It needs to be someone who is brilliant and vibrant and progressive.  Stacey Abrams seems the obvious choice.  I could get excited about that.  I'm sure there are others.

At bottom, we need to enthusiastically support whoever the candidate is, no matter how flawed.  No more of this purity bullshit.  (See #NeverNader: A Reminder About The Perils Of Purity)  Yes, I love Elizabeth Warren.  I do not love Bernie or Biden.  But it doesn't matter.  It's time to retire that tired old cliche about how Democrats fall in love, but Republicans fall in line.  We don't have to love them.  We have to get in line and do whatever we can to win in November.

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