Category Archives: Parties

Could COVID-19 give an advantage back to Bernie, contrary to most Democrats’ wishes?

biden debate

For a number of reasons, this would be a perfect time to declare a hiatus from campaigning, just as we’re putting off all sorts of aspects of our regular lives.

This would begin with Bernie Sanders dropping out. Then, it won’t even be necessary to hold the remaining primaries (which of course have no constitutional role in the selection of a president). The election can pick back up with Joe Biden being nominated at the convention.

We need to pause, and concentrate on staying alive between now and the summer.

Here are some of the reasons:

Last night’s debate illustrated the point that we’re just going through the motions now. The various things Bernie Sanders brings to the non-contest look increasingly irrelevant in light of what the nation is facing now. Here’s how Frank Bruni described the debate:

…Biden was able to portray Sanders’s grander plans for transforming the American economy as luxuries unaffordable in the face of a scourge, as distractions from the emergency upon us. “People are looking for results, not a revolution,” Biden said….

But there was something strained and strange about Sanders’s repeated pivots from the pandemic to income inequality, from the pandemic to corrupt pharmaceutical executives, from the pandemic to how many millionaires and billionaires have contributed to Biden’s campaign. The world has been transformed; the script remains the same….

This is an illustration of why I don’t believe in campaign promises. You’ve all heard the saying, “If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans.” Bernie is all about his plans, as Elizabeth Warren was. But the job of president is about dealing with things that arise once you’re in office, things you can’t anticipate during the election. That’s why I always choose based on the candidate’s character and experience, not “read my lips” promises.

I think the coronavirus has made a lot of other people think more about this. Citing that same Bruni column, he also said of Sanders:

And he couldn’t claim the kind of experience that Biden repeatedly did, the intimate knowledge of what it’s like to be at the center of crucial national decisions.

Biden smartly understood that his eight years beside the last Democratic president and his foreign-policy seasoning are probably more reassuring to voters now than they were a month or even a week ago. So he marinated in them….

Odd metaphor (marinated?), but yes. That’s what I’m on about. Biden has the relevant experience.

Bernie thinks always in terms of his worldview and his plans. Talk about coronavirus, and he keeps trying to change the subject to his allegations that the system is fixed and billionayuhs are exploiting us all. Which really doesn’t help us deal with the pandemic upon us.

Nevertheless, COVID-19 could skew upcoming primaries in Bernie’s favor, contrary to the actual will of the electorate.

How’s that? Well, as we know, Bernie’s army of young voters have thus far failed to appear, which is why he’s getting pounded by Biden. But think about this: Who is more likely to show up at polling places during the coronavirus crisis? Younger voters, for two reasons:

  1. They think they’re going to live forever. Their lack of fear of consequences lead to all sorts of reckless behavior, from extreme sports to voting for Bernie Sanders. They’re constitutionally less likely to fear COVID-19, because they’re less likely to fear anything.
  2. They actually are at less risk from the virus. Younger people are less likely to die of it.
  3. The Biden majority thinks their guy is inevitable now, so they need not risk their lives turning out to vote for him.

While the numbers of young people coming out to vote still won’t match Bernie’s grandiose visions, a large enough percentage of older voters may stay home and hand Bernie a victory — even though most of the usual electorate, sitting at home, prefers Biden.

Doubt it? Think about the confusion of the last few days. I don’t know you, but I keep swinging back and forth in my mind about whether this or that activity is still OK to engage in. Of course, if it were just me, I’d turn out, because I’m that much of an obsessive about having my say. But not everyone is.

I suspect if Bernie won any of the new few primaries, the narrative would change. It could reverse, at least to some extent, the perception of Biden’s inevitability. I still don’t think Bernie could win, but he could drag the process out in a way that is destructive to the cause of beating Trump in the fall.

And of course, that’s what’s important.

I can hear some of you snorting, “Brad’s trying to rig things for his guy!” But what I’m actually doing is worrying that the coronavirus could rig the process for Bernie, contrary to the will of the great majority of Democratic voters — the majority that has turned out in such force in the last few contests before the nation started shutting down over the pandemic.

One day — tomorrow — could be enormously destructive to the cause of beating Trump, if the factors I’ve just described come into play in Illinois, Florida, Ohio and Arizona.

Maybe I’m wrong to worry. Maybe Biden will roll to easy victory in those contests tomorrow, and then it will become obvious even to Sanders that he should drop out. (And I think this is what most observers expect to happen. So would I, were I not a born worrier.) And maybe he even will, at that point..

But I confess that at this point, I’m a little concerned about what could happen tomorrow. And how it could fail to reflect the will of Democratic voters as a body, and continue to tear at party unity in a way that benefits Trump…

both Joe and Bernie

Finally, Michelle Goldberg gets it! For a moment…

argument

For close to a year, I’ve been listening regularly to the NYT’s podcast “The Argument,” starring three of the paper’s op-ed writers.

There are two people on the left — David Leonhardt and Michelle Goldberg — and one on the right, Ross Douthat.

That may sound a bit lopsided, and for me it is, but not in the way you think. Week after week, I agree to varying degrees with liberal Leonhardt and conservative Douthat, and get really frustrated and turned off by the views of Michelle Goldberg.

One reason for that is that she’s always dissing my man Joe. It started before he got into the race last year, with her strongly expressing her wish that he NOT get in the race. After that, she continued to be a prominent voice among the nattering nabobs of the left competing to see who could be more dismissive of the former VP.

It’s not that she hated him. It’s just that she, you know… dismissed him. She was all like, Oh, good old Uncle Joe; he’s a sweet guy and I can put up with him at the family gatherings, but we all know he’s past it, and he has no business getting back in the game — the poor guy’s going to break a hip or something. And he just doesn’t get the world of today…

And as I walk about downtown listening to these podcasts, I’m like, No, YOU don’t get it…

But today, I finally got around to listening to yesterday’s podcast, which was about Joe’s triumphs of the last few days, and finally, she got it! She was awesome in the degree to which she got it, and how well she expressed it. I had to go back and listen again to write down some of the great things she was saying, starting with…

Michelle Goldberg

Michelle Goldberg

So much of what we’ve been talking about the last few months, especially in the debates, has been irrelevant.

People… care less about the details of, you know, how we’re going to pay for universal healthcare, or Medicare for all vs. Medicare for all who want it.

There are people who really care about that stuff. But what most people care about is, you know, the house is on fire; how are you going to put it out, not how are you going to rebuild afterwards….

Yes! Absolutely! I’ve been so impatient with all the idiots out there talking about this process in terms of who got off the greatest zingers in last night’s debate, or how Elizabeth “I’ve got a plan for that” Warren was going to pay for those plans, or whatever…

Who cared? I didn’t. Because the house is on fire! Stop talking about rearranging the furniture!

Also, too many people fail to get that the problem isn’t this plan or that plan of Bernie Sanders. The problem is Bernie Sanders, and the way he and too many of his followers conduct themselves. And a moment later, Ms. Goldberg said some awesome things about that:

I don’t think the Sanders movement understands how alienating it is to people who aren’t already on board with it, or maybe to people who are on board with maybe 85 percent or 90 percent of what they believe.

There’s a sort of paranoid style in that movement…

I’ve been around the left long enough to know that the left has always attracted a certain number of people who, um… you know, who are sort of just in it for the reeducation camps, right?…

Left-wing movements kind of succeed or fail to the degree that they can, you know, marginalize or quarantine those figures…

Yes! Absolutely! You get it! Paranoid style!

When she made that crack about the re-education camps, I laughed out loud, right there in the middle of the household goods department in Belk. (On rainy days, I tend to go do my afternoon walk in the nearly empty Richland Mall, rather than walking across the USC campus and around the Statehouse.)

And one of the guys on the show — I think it was Leonhardt — laughed, too. It was so perfect, so dead-on.

You go, Michelle!

But then, later in the show, she said she was going to vote for Bernie instead of Joe.

And suddenly the member of the trio I love to boo was back. I’m just briskly walking into Barnes and Noble shaking my head. I can’t believe it…

It’s alright, I guess. Most of the world came around and backed Joe this past week. Some people just take a little longer. No way to speed it up without, you know, re-educations camps…

Elizabeth Warren has to THINK about it? Really?

Warren before quitting, in an image from her Twitter feed.

Warren before quitting, in an image from her Twitter feed.

So Elizabeth Warren has dropped out.

But she has not endorsed anyone.

She says,

Not today. I need some space around this and want to take a little time to think a little more.

REALLY? You have to think about whether you want to back Joe Biden… or a guy who would lead to four more years of Trump, loss of the House, and zero chance of dumping the Senate majority that refused even to consider evidence in the impeachment “trial”?

What is this about? Angling for an offer from one camp or the other?

Speaking of which: There are people out there saying Warren should be Joe’s running mate. The old “balance the ticket” nonsense.

Absolutely not, Joe. Go with Amy Klobuchar.

In case you haven’t noticed, Democrats are rejecting the left wing of the party. Pick a representative of that faction, and you’ll lose large chunks of the coalition that’s assembled behind you these last few days, the coalition that will take you to victory over Trump. They’ll want someone else like you, and that’s Amy Klobuchar. Or some other moderate who didn’t run.

For that matter, the fact that she had to think about whom to support should disqualify her as a running mate, without considering anything else. Amy Klobuchar didn’t have to ponder it.

Anyway, I thought I’d better say that now…

Why’s Pete dropping out now? Because he was always the smart one

With Pete Buttigieg dropping out, one my favorite NYT features now looks like this:

no pete

So, Pete’s out, but sooner than I expected it.

This seems precipitous. Why didn’t he wait until after Tuesday?

Still, as Michael Corleone said about Tessio, Pete was always the smart one. He gets out now, making room for the eventual nominee, and the party will be grateful to him, which helps when he runs again.

He’s got all the time in the world. If he waits 20 years, he’d still be a young candidate — prime presidential age. For that matter, he could wait 40 years, and he’d still be no older than some of the top contenders today. And life expectancy will be so much longer then.

It’s such a smart move, so lacking in emotion or ego, that it makes Pete a little scary — kind of like Michael Corleone himself. Such perspective and self-control is remarkable in the young.

You know, Pete is the first candidate who I think I’m actually going to miss. Most of the rest, I was glad to see go. He was my third favorite — a distant third, just as Amy Klobuchar was a distant second. But still, one of my top three.

Speaking of Amy… ahem. Pete was doing better than you were. You got 3 percent in South Carolina. When my man Joe Lieberman got 3 percent in South Carolina, he dropped out. Better get while the getting’s good, if you want to be Joe’s running mate. He’ll be grateful, because with Pete also out, his only rival for the role of The Man Who Stopped Liberty Valance (I mean, Bernie) will be Bloomberg.

And I don’t even know what Tulsi Gabbard thinks she’s doing…

Did ‘Operation Chaos’ actually deploy on Saturday?

NBC

Yes, I think it did. It just wasn’t enough to stop Joe Biden’s huge victory.

Of course, I can’t be sure.

There are some indications that Operation Chaos DID turn out a few Republicans who tried to sabotage the Democrats by voting for Bernie Sanders.

(At this point, I would normally launch into an indignant sermon about how evil such an effort is — a deliberate attempt to undermine our democracy, and even worse, an attempt to make sure Americans have NO good choice in November. That’s something I can get pretty worked up about. But it failed pretty spectacularly, so never mind. Turns out most people aren’t jerks.)

Take a look at the results for our two neighboring counties:

  • In Richland, a strongly Democratic county, Joe got 51.9 percent of the vote, and Sanders got 17.7 percent.
  • In Lexington, one of the most Republican counties anywhere, Joe only got 39.9 percent of the vote — still a big win, but 12 points lower than in Richland. And Bernie got 23.6 — 6 points higher than in Richland.

Bernie did even better in Greenville, while still getting pummeled — 24.7 percent to Joe’s 38.2.

Makes you wonder how big Joe’s victory margin would have been without Republican interference… Or, for that matter, without Steyer spending $23 million on media alone in our state trying to steal Joe’s black support.

I would love to think that some Republicans turned out because they were Never Trumpers, trying to help the Democrats come up with someone who might beat Trump by voting for Joe. I think that’s possible. But there’s no way to be sure of that, either.

By the way, I’m very proud to point out that in my home county, Marlboro, Joe got 61.3 percent of the vote, and Bernie didn’t even come in second! Steyer did, with 20.2 percent. Which is an indicator that Steyer did make slight inroads into Joe’s African-American base. (Marlboro is a black-majority county.)

But it’s not that simple, either. Joe did even better in neighboring Chesterfield County, with 64.1 percent. But less than a third of that county is black. Which could explain why Sanders beat Steyer there.

Fun with numbers. (Mine came from The New York Times.)

The best of all possible primary results!

Post Joe

I was really hopeful, but I never would have guessed that, once South Carolina FINALLY got to have its say, things would have gone as wonderfully as this.

JOE WINS

The best shot I could get from where I was standing.

Joe CRUSHED it.

South Carolina DELIVERED.

Now, finally, you can see national media — who have seized every opportunity to be as dismissive of Joe as possible — saying that he has emerged as the man to stop Bernie Sanders.

Joe was always the candidate for real Democrats wanting to save their party, and beat Trump. (And he was the candidate for a lot of us independents, too.) People — especially African-American voters — in South Carolina knew that. Today, they told the rest of the country.

And the rest of the country is taking note.

Will it be easy? No. This helps on Super Tuesday, but it’s impossible to predict anything with so many variables. But right now, at this moment, the race has taken on its proper shape, and I am hopeful.

Just a few thoughts before I sign off for the night:

  • Now, the only person who might be able to contest for the role of moderate savior of the party is Mike Bloomberg, who has been spending like crazy trying to win Super Tuesday while everyone else was campaigning. After Tuesday, we’ll know whether he’ll still be a factor or not. But even though he wasn’t on our ballot, South Carolina has passed judgment on him — only about a fourth of voters viewed him favorably in exit polls. Biden was favored by about three-fourths of respondents.
  • Tom Steyer, the guy who spent $23 million just on media trying to be a spoiler in South Carolina, has dropped out. I don’t know why he was disappointed at the result. He got third place. But he won’t be terribly missed as we go forward.
  • Will one of the other moderates — say Amy Klobuchar — drop out and throw her support to Joe? Or just drop out, in which case Joe is the most likely beneficiary anyway.
  • Pete Buttigieg will probably wait and see if he does better on Tuesday. If he doesn’t, he will likely quit. And when he does, he should leave the race feeling pretty good about how well he did. He made a tremendous, positive impression on the country, and has laid a good foundation for a stronger run when he has more life experience under his belt.
  • Thank you, Jim Clyburn. The country owes you one. I think Joe would have won without your endorsement, but he wouldn’t have won like THIS.
  • Joe got more votes than Sanders, Steyer, Buttigieg and Warren combined. Just in case you didn’t notice…
  • Also, notice the map of South Carolina in the screenshot below. You can take a closer look here. Joe won every single county in the state.

That’s all for now.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty excited to see what happens next…

NYT SC

If you live 100 years, you may never again have a chance like this to influence the course of the nation

JRB-about-11

The last few days, I’ve been increasingly conscious of just how momentous this primary is today. I’ve felt the weight of it more and more.

I can’t think of a time when South Carolina played such a dramatic role in the selection of a president. Which is a big deal in and of itself. But the possible effects go far, far beyond that, sending ripples through our national politics that could be felt for a generation and more.

In the short term, one of two things will happen, depending completely on what my fellow South Carolinians do:

  1. Joe Biden will emerge as THE moderate that mainstream Democrats can get behind and stop Bernie Sanders from capturing the nomination. He’d still have a long road to travel to get there, even if his momentum from South Carolina leads to significant rewards nationally on Tuesday. But at least someone — and you know I believe he’s the best someone for this purpose — will be a position to deny the nomination to Sanders.
  2. Sanders will cement his standing as the front-runner, the majority of the Democratic electorate will remain fatally divided still among too many candidates, and Sanders will cruise to nomination on the strength of his passionate support among a minority of the party.

The second option, of course, will almost certainly lead to the re-election of Donald Trump, possibly with the kind of historic win that he lied about having in 2016.

Oh, it would be possible that enough Americans could die of coronavirus, and enough fortunes be wiped out on Wall Street as a result, for anybody, even Bernie, to beat Trump. But I certainly don’t want to see such a disaster. I don’t know about you.

And if something along those lines did happen, it’s extremely unlikely that Bernie will have a Democratic majority in either the House or the Senate. While voters might reject Trump personally over a pandemic, those moderate-to-conservative voters who elected moderate Democrats in 2018, giving that party its majority, will be sufficiently horrified at the prospect of President Sanders that they’ll vote to switch those districts back into the red.

Even if — and this is impossible — Democrats could keep the House while electing Bernie, and miraculously win the Senate, Bernie won’t be able to get his agenda through Congress. With both chambers being Republican, and the Republican base up in arms (in some cases possibly even literally) because of the defeat of Trump, he’ll get nothing but the back of the legislative branch’s hand. He’ll sit there in the Oval Office with his face getting redder and his arms flailing about, fulminating at how the system is rigged against him.

And he will keep his base as stirred up and angry as Trump keeps his. Because he promised them things, and they actually believed he could deliver. Nothing left to do but hate the billionayuhs even more, because obviously, obviously it will be their fault — in the Bernieverse.

But that wouldn’t be the worst news for the Democratic Party. The worst news is that it would be as dead as the GOP, and from basically the same kind of cause — its capture by someone who is not actually a Democrat, and who has crushed real Democrats on his way to nomination.

And in a way, the situation would be more overt than outsider Trump’s capture of the other party. Trump had always been kind of all over the place about his affiliation until just before the 2016 campaign. Bernie Sanders has made no bones about the fact that he is not a Democrat, and has refused to called one. And since calling himself a Social Democrat would be too tame, too mainstream, he has gone with the label “Democratic Socialist.” More in-your-face. More I-dare-you-to-vote-for-me. That’s Bernie.

You might think that after making such a strong run at the nomination in 2016, and obviously intending to try again, he might have softened a bit on his insistence that he was not a Democrat. But he didn’t; quite the contrary. It’s either Bernie’s way or the highway; he doesn’t bend even to appear to be a team player.

After Trump’s election, decent people who care about the country could at least place some hope in the Democratic Party, which had not yet gone off the rails. Surely the Democrats could find a way to beat this guy, and return our nation to the standards of decency and sanity that we were able to expect with our first 44 presidents.

Knowing the stakes, Joe Biden — a guy who had done his duty for his country for longer, and gone higher in public service, than any other member of the party — stepped forward to offer himself as the vehicle for that national return to sanity. He did so when almost anyone else would have sat back and enjoyed his grandchildren full time.

And if South Carolina comes through for him today, he’ll have a shot at accomplishing the mission. Just a shot, mind you. Nothing is guaranteed, but the alternative is to be resisted with all our might.

The stakes just couldn’t be higher. And it’s all in our hands. We will decide the course of the nation.

Inez Tenenbaum speaks up for Joe Biden

Joe Biden swears in Inez Tenenbaum as chair of the Consumer Products Safety Commission. That's Samuel in the middle looking justly proud.

Joe Biden swearing in Inez Tenenbaum as chair of the Consumer Products Safety Commission in 2009. That’s Samuel in the middle looking justly proud.

My good friend Samuel Tenenbaum shared with me a link to the radio ad Inez did for Joe.

It helps drive home my point in my previous post, about the folks Democrats have backed in the past pretty much all being for Joe — something I hope Democratic voters take to heart tomorrow.

Here’s the link, and here’s a transcript I just typed up, so blame any errors on me:

This is Inez Tenenbaum, your former state superintendent of education.

When I was chosen to lead the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, the person who swore me into office was Joe Biden.

In the Obama-Biden administration, we worked together to keep our children safe, and Joe Biden was a champion for families all across our country, and South Carolina.

Joe Biden knows South Carolina. When our economy was in crisis, Joe Biden oversaw the Recovery Act, getting hundreds of millions of dollars for South Carolina schools.

For eight years, Joe Biden was loyal to President Obama. He had President Obama’s back, and stood by his side.

Now we have the opportunity to build on President Obama’s legacy, and beat Donald Trump. But that starts with nominating Joe Biden.

South Carolina, you can vote for Joe Biden on Saturday, February the 29th.

See you there!

[I’m Joe Biden, and I approved this message.”]

[Paid for by Biden for President.]

Thanks for taking the time to share those thoughts with us, Inez!

If you voted for James Smith — or any of these other top SC Democrats — then you should be voting for Joe Biden

Joe Biden campaigning with us in October 2018.

Joe Biden campaigning with us in October 2018.

In some very important ways, the Joe Biden campaign for president in South Carolina is, in my view, a continuation of the James Smith for governor campaign.

It’s not just that James himself is supporting Joe, as Joe supported him. At the recent Biden event at 701 Whaley, I was struck by how many of our key people from the 2018 campaign were continuing the mission by supporting Joe. It’s something I’d been aware of for some time, but hadn’t really thought about for a simple reason — it just seemed the most natural thing in the world.

At the top, you have Kendall Corley — who was our political director in 2018 — heading up Biden’s campaign in South Carolina. And Biden’s state political director is Scott Harriford, who was James’ driver and “body man” in 2018, and held the title of deputy political director. Scott was the first person James hired for the campaign, back in the summer of 2017, and was right there at his side from then through Election Day. (I thought I had an intense, whirlwind experience those last eight days on “the bus,” but Scott had been doing it for way over a year.)

Smith campaign alumni Ashley Medbery Floyd, me, and Noah Barker at a Biden event on Feb. 11.

Smith campaign alumni Ashley Medbery Floyd, me, and Noah Barker at a Biden event on Feb. 11.

At the 701 Whaley event I ran into Noah Barker, who assisted me with social media in 2018. Noah, who I think has reached the ripe old age of 19, is now working for the Biden campaign while attending college.

And while she’s not actually working in the Biden operation — she’s helping Jaime Harrison run against Lindsey Graham instead — Ashley Medbery Floyd, our finance directer in 2018, was at the 701 event, too. She and Noah and I marked the occasion with a selfie.

All this is natural because, well, there is such a bond between Joe and James. Their shared values are such that I don’t see how anyone who really believed in James in 2018 — and as his communications director, I certainly did and do — could possibly do anything but support Joe.

One of the things that drove me nuts back during the campaign was the way the political reporters went ape over anything having to do with 2020 presidential candidates coming through the state. They’d call me and ask what we’d be doing together with so-and-so on his or her swing through the state, or what we had to say about it, and it would put me in a bind. We didn’t want to say anything unkind about these national Democrats, but at the same time, we couldn’t have cared less about their visits. They were here for themselves, not for us.

But not Joe. Joe was our guy, and we couldn’t wait to see him. We knew he was coming, and we were really disappointed when he had to postpone his initially planned event because of complications related to the hurricane. But finally, on Oct. 13, he came down to Charleston to do a fund-raiser for us, and it was possibly the best day of my time on the campaign. And I could tell it was a high point for everyone else. (It was such a big deal that upon arriving in Charleston, Campaign Manager Scott Hogan went to a shop on King Street and bought himself a suit, and wore it to the event. You have to know Hogan to get what a big deal that was. He normally dressed like a guy about to go out and mow the lawn.)

Anyway, I could go on and on about the way one campaign flows into the other, but I have a point to make here, and it is this: If you voted for James, if you believed in James, you should believe in Joe Biden, and vote for him. I don’t see how you work it out any other way.

James is not authorizing me to say this (I haven’t asked him). I’m saying it myself.

As communications director, I think I have as good a grasp of what the Smith campaign was about as anyone does. It was a campaign for all the people of South Carolina — black, white, old young, male, female, Democratic, Republican and independent. It was a campaign that would Leave No One Behind.

And Joe is running the exact same kind of campaign for the soul of the nation.

One more point, an elaboration on that one: Maybe James Smith isn’t your favorite Democrat. He should be, but maybe he isn’t.

Still, if you are a Democrat, or someone who frequently votes for Democrats, you should take note that pretty much every Democrat you have nominated and/or voted into statewide office in the past 20 years and more is supporting Joe Biden for president. And for good reason.

I’m talking not just James, but Vincent Sheheen, who was your standard-bearer twice.

And Jim Hodges, our state’s last Democratic governor.

And Dick Riley, the last Democratic governor before Hodges. (And speaking of great public servants with that name, the greatest mayor of his generation in the country, Joe Riley.)

And Inez Tenenbaum, the last superintendent of education who was (and still is) a Democrat.

Now, Jim Clyburn — the current highest-ranking Democrat in the state, and one of the most powerful in the country — has joined that list. And it’s a long list. The Post and Courier put most of it together a few weeks ago, before Hodges had come out for Joe.

These are people who embody the heart, the core, of what it means to be a Democrat in South Carolina. No one could be more in touch with what South Carolina Democrats care about.

Still speaking to Democrats and people who sometimes vote for them here (let’s call you DAPWSVFTs for short)… These are all people you have believed in in the past, in whom you have placed your trust. Scoff at endorsements all you like, but I’m telling you these are smart people who know these candidates, who know the country and its needs, who know South Carolina, and they are for Joe. They’re putting their reputations out there in support of him, and you might think that’s a small thing, but it isn’t.

These people know what they’re about, and they’re for Joe. And most of you DAPWSVFTs have indicated your respect and support for these people in the past. These are people who share your values.

So it makes all the sense in the world that you would join them in voting for Joe Biden for POTUS on Saturday.

That's Smith campaign veteran Kendall Corley whispering in Joe's ear as he works a crowd on MLK Day in Columbia.

That’s Smith campaign veteran Kendall Corley whispering in Joe’s ear as he works a crowd on MLK Day in Columbia.

Friedman idea no. 2: The GOP died last week

Here’s the less pleasant item from that Friedman column I liked this morning.

I mentioned in my last post his idea that the Democrats should band together in a Team of Rivals that would defeat Trump in a landslide, and I think they would — if they could put aside their differences and do it.

Friedman even spelled out who should play what position on that team. When he was done, he set out another idea. He cited something John Boehner said back in 2018: “There is no Republican Party. There’s a Trump party. The Republican Party is kind of taking a nap somewhere.”

Taking off on that, Friedman wrote:

Friedman

Friedman

It’s actually not napping anymore. It’s dead.

And I will tell you the day it died. It was just last week, when Trump sacked [Acting Director of National Intelligence Joe] Maguire for advancing the truth and replaced him with a loyalist, an incompetent political hack, Richard Grenell. Grenell is the widely disliked U.S. ambassador to Germany, a post for which he is also unfit. Grenell is now purging the intelligence service of Trump critics. How are we going to get unvarnished, nonpolitical intelligence analysis when the message goes out that if your expert conclusions disagree with Trump’s wishes, you’re gone?

I don’t accept, but can vaguely understand, Republicans’ rallying around Trump on impeachment. But when Republicans, the self-proclaimed national security party — folks like Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio and Tom Cotton — don’t lift a finger to stop Trump’s politicization of our first line of defense — the national intelligence directorate set up after 9/11 — then the Republican Party is not asleep. It’s dead and buried.

He’s right. If the party of principled men from Lincoln to John McCain hadn’t died already — when Trump became its standard-bearer, or when the Republican Senate rolled over for him on impeachment — this latest outraged surely would have marked the end.

As we mourn it, I’d like to raise another alarm: If the Democratic Party allows the same thing to happen to it that happened to the GOP in 2016 — letting an extremist with minority support gain its nomination because the majority couldn’t line up behind a single more moderate candidate — it’s going to be on its last legs, too.

If our nation is faced with the horrific choice “between a self-proclaimed socialist and an undiagnosed sociopath,” as Friedman describes it, both parties will have failed the country.

At that point, instead of having two near-center parties that have the potential to govern with something approaching consensus — or at least acceptance by the people — we’ll have zero.

Clyburn stands up for America, backs Joe Biden

Still from a video posted on Biden's Twitter feed today.

Still from a video posted on Biden’s Twitter feed today.

You think I’m being overly dramatic there? I’m not. This is a dangerous moment for our country, and only thing that will save us from it will be Joe Biden winning on Saturday, and going on to do well on Super Tuesday.

And this is now about much more than me liking Joe Biden. It’s now increasingly about the alternative.

I thought Tom Friedman put it well in his column today (more about that column later; it was a really good piece):

If this election turns out to be just between a self-proclaimed socialist and an undiagnosed sociopath, we will be in a terrible, terrible place as a country. How do we prevent that?

That’s all I am thinking about right now…

Me too, Tom. Me too.

So it matters that Clyburn stepped up at long last today and endorsed Joe. By the way, I’m not complaining when I say “at long last.” I really think his endorsement came at the best possible time. If he had given it months ago when everyone else (and I mean everyone else who’s anyone among S.C. Democrats) was endorsing Joe, it would have been forgotten by now. Now, whatever effect it will have is amplified.

Before we get into a big debate about whether endorsements matter, let me just head that off with this observation: If endorsements matter at all, can you imagine anyone’s mattering more than Clyburn’s at this moment? I can’t.

The AP story today claimed that “It had long been expected that Clyburn, the House majority whip, would support Biden.” Really? Then how come I didn’t know it? If you’d made me bet, sure, I would have said Jim would back Joe. But I also would have said we wouldn’t be calling Bernie Sanders a front-runner at this point, and that Donald Trump wouldn’t have been the GOP nominee in 2016.

So I don’t rest easy with conventional wisdom these days. And as an American and a South Carolinian, I’m very grateful to Jim Clyburn for what he has done this day.

There was some suspense over this, at least for me. Just a couple of days ago, The New York Times had a prominently-played story that suggested Clyburn might have a liking for Tom Steyer. It was another one of those stories about Steyer’s efforts to buy the black vote here (something I remain very concerned about). It quoted Clyburn as telling CNN, “I think Steyer is doing an incredible job.” Which is far short of an endorsement, but it still made me nervous.

Anyway, Jim Clyburn has done a fine thing today — for Joe Biden, for the Democratic Party, for South Carolina, and for America. And I appreciate it.

Your thoughts on the last debate likely to count?

hands up

It was the 10th debate, which is about nine more than I wanted to watch. Except for Bloomberg, I feel like I got what I was going to get out of these events loooong ago. And seeing Bloomberg in the last two wasn’t all that edifying, either.

You?

Anyway, that’s that. We vote here in South Carolina on Saturday, and practically everyone else does (or so it seems) a week from now.

So how did you think it went?

You can see what I had to say on my Twitter feed. But I’ll use this ranking from Chris Cillizza just as a conversation-starter, not that I necessarily agree with it entirely:

So what did you think?

Oh, and here’s where I put my bumper sticker

truck Biden

Having shown you my yard signs, I figured I’d show you one of my bumper stickers… especially since I know y’all have been breathless with anticipation ever since I wrote this post.

(Hey, at least y’all took an interest in that one. It got more than 50 comments, and I can’t scare up an audience this week for love or money. Where’d y’all all go?)

As I wondered what to do several months ago, I wrote:

Anyway, now I have to figure out where to put my Biden sticker. My first thought is to put it right in the middle, but then my tailgate will be 2/3 Democratic. Which is not the effect I’m going for. But then, does that matter, since Joe is running in the Democratic Primary? I mean, what do I care what Republicans think in this context? Worrying about being perfectly bipartisan is more about worrying about what people think of ME, isn’t it? And that shouldn’t be a factor.

I could put it over the Smith sticker, since the campaign’s over and all, but I won’t do that. My experience last year is something I’m proud of, and I’m going to continue to wear it on my sleeve. Or tailgate.

Anyway, look how shiny and new it still is. It looks good. By contrast, Micah’s sticker has faded considerably…

I saw Micah this morning, and I guess I should have asked him for a fresh one to replace that one. You can’t see the red strip where it says, “Republican.”

You see that I did what I was thinking about back then — put Joe right in the middle.

I think it looks good there…

 

The Great Yard Sign War (or at least, a skirmish) begins

My two signs, well spaced, to promote the bandwagon effect.

My two signs, well spaced, to promote the bandwagon effect.

Girding for the primary that is finally about to occur, I went to Biden HQ and picked me up a couple of yard signs, and put them up over the weekend.

And in my Republican neighborhood, I felt very smug and secure in my belief that my message would dominate, because I had not yet seen a single other sign for a primary candidate in the whole subdivision. And we walk about the neighborhood a lot (still maintaining an average of more than 11,000 steps a day).

But then on Sunday, on a whim, I decided to take a different course — I proposed we cut through this little park we have that’s way down at the base of the dam for one of the neighborhood’s two lakes, then climb up the other side of the park to a street we haven’t walked on in years, on the opposite side of the other lake from where we normally walk.Warren sign

And there, I saw it. An enemy sign. So now, the battle has been joined. I’m using these war metaphors, of course, because this was an Elizabeth Warren sign, and you know how she’s all about fighting. Fight, fight, fight

But fear not! We’re still in the lead, because I’ve got two signs. I live on a huge lot on a corner, so I put one of them along the main drag in front of the house, and the other facing the side street. They’re far enough apart that even if you’re at an angle where you can see both (above), it’s kind of like they’re in two separate yards next to each other. (Were this Shandon, they’d seem to be at least two yards apart.)

This promotes the bandwagon effect: Dang, it looks like everybody around here’s for Joe! I’d better get on board! Sneaky, huh?

Of course, truth be told, you can’t tell all that much from signs in this neighborhood. Before the 2016 GOP primary, there was one Trump sign in the neighborhood. It was several blocks away, and every time I saw it, I thought something like, I guess there’s one in every neighborhood. (Kind of like what my Republican neighbors are thinking about me about now.)

But Trump won my precinct, so…

Anyway, I can’t control all that. I can just do my bit for Joe, and let the chips fall…

Biden sign

So much for the clout of Nevada’s mighty Culinary Union

the daily

We’ve seen initial results from that state whose name its residents insist on mispronouncing. Bernie came in first, quite bigly, and Biden in second, so far. There are a lot of results to come in still.

So on we move to South Carolina.

But before we do move on, we should pause and reflect upon the diminished clout of labor unions in the 21st century.

I urge you, if you haven’t already, to listen to Friday’s episode of the New York Times podcast, The Daily. It was titled “The Field: An Anti-Endorsement in Nevada.

As always, it was good, and educational. It started with reporters making their way through Vegas, baby, Vegas, and asking the workers they encountered whether they belonged to a union, and if so, which one. Time and again the answer was, Culinary Union.

Then — and this is one of the things I love about these podcasts — it embarked on a history of the union. It was formed, or at least took its current form, after one of the longest strikes in U.S. history, lasting more than five years. But that paid off for the union members, who have the kind of medical benefits most of us can only dream about. Need open-heart surgery? It will cost you nothing. It has been called “the best insurance in America.”

The long-time union members remember what they went through to win that, and so they are less than enchanted with Bernie Sanders’ plans to do away their coverage in exchange for his “Medicare-for-all” proposal.

It’s fascinating. One of the Hispanic women who told the epic saga of the strike and what they went through is actually heard questioning Sanders at a campaign event.

Listening, I swing back and forth, rooting for one side, then the other. Of course I love it that the union was against Bernie, because Bernie’s gotta be stopped, right? But then I hear Bernie’s answer to the lady’s question, and I’ve gotta side with Bernie. Of course a plan that (were it to ever exist in any form remotely like what Bernie proposes) provides full coverage to everyone is more important than a plan that covers members of one union in one part of the country, however hard they fought to get it.

So, tell ’em, Bernie.

But they are not satisfied with his answer. A bird in the hand, and all that — and I can hardly blame them, given the political obstacles that stand in the way of Bernie achieving his dream.

The rest of the episode deals with the union’s rather weak way of communicating its opposition to Bernie. Rather than putting on their big-boy pants and endorsing somebody, they put out some sort of voter’s guide that indicates their displeasure with Bernie.

And the effect is less than overwhelming, as the reporters find talking to union members who have done early voting, many of whom had voted for Bernie.

So you come away thinking that Bernie’s probably going to win Nevada — which is what happened today.

I urge you to listen to the podcast. I urge you to do so daily, in fact. I gain a lot of insight into things while listening during my afternoon walks…

Et tu, Bernie? The Russian plot sickens

Well, boys, I reckon this is it - electoral combat toe to toe with the Roosskies.

Well, boys, I reckon this is it – electoral combat toe to toe with the Roosskies.

I hadn’t even had a chance to post about the Russians working to help elect Trump again, when we learned they were trying to help Bernie, too.

Which makes sense, of course. It fits their M.O., and their interests, in two ways:

  1. Their priority is helping Trump, because having Trump as president hurts America, sends us on a downward slide as a nation, and keeps us bitterly divided. And they feel quite sure, like many U.S. observers, that Bernie is the best possibly opponent for their boy.
  2. If they can’t have Trump, might as well elect the most divisive figure on the Democratic side as a backup. Because the point is weakening America, and having us all stirred up and angry is a great way to do that. (It’s working for them so far, after their successful efforts in 2016.)

Putin may be evil, but he’s not stupid.

All of that said, I want to give Bernie a big pat on the back for showing how a presidential candidate should react to such news:

“Let’s be clear, the Russians want to undermine American democracy by dividing us up and, unlike the current president, I stand firmly against their efforts and any other foreign power that wants to interfere in our election,” Mr. Sanders said.

He also told reporters that he was briefed about a month ago.

“The intelligence community is telling us Russia is interfering in this campaign right now in 2020,” Mr. Sanders said on Friday in Bakersfield, Calif., where he was to hold a rally ahead of Saturday’s Nevada caucuses. “And what I say to Mr. Putin, ‘If I am elected president, trust me you will not be interfering in American elections.’”…

If only a certain other party would take a hint.

Basically, this is all part of a pattern that began in 2016. Then, workers at a Russian troll factory were told, “Use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest except for Sanders and Trump — we support them.”

Which brings me to the point I was going to post about all this before we learned about the Bernie wrinkle…

Remember that we learned several months ago that the key CIA asset who had let us know that the Russians were trying to elect Trump in 2016 had to be exfiltrated to save his life back in 2017? As the NYT reported at the time:

The move brought to an end the career of one of the C.I.A.’s most important sources. It also effectively blinded American intelligence officials to the view from inside Russia as they sought clues about Kremlin interference in the 2018 midterm elections and next year’s presidential contest….

OK, well… if this guy was so golden, so well-placed, so irreplaceable… how do we know they’re doing the same in 2020?

Obviously, we don’t know everything. Which is probably a good thing, if we’re still getting such good intel. Better that the new source not be compromised, too.

Or, is this one of those hyperclever inside-out deals where the idea of our key source being extracted was disinformation, which news media eagerly lapped up, meant to protect the real source?

If so, I hope these news revelations aren’t endangering him. Or her

Did our top asset really come in from the cold? Or is he, or she, still out there?

Did our top asset really come in from the cold? Or is he, or she, still out there?

No that’s the BEST time to try to do that, if you must do it…

IMG_6171

Following up on that last post, here are a couple of other ads that have been really bugging me, cropping up on my phone over and over. Might as well get this out of my system.

First, the Walgreens one, above.

This is amazingly stupid. If you really want to “shop till you drop” — and why you would want to do that is beyond me — then the best, most efficient time to get ‘er done is when you’re feeling bad. You’ll drop faster, and get the idiotic exercise over with.

Then, the Steyer one, below, which I really feel like ranting about…

The offending copy:

“Imagine a day when your concerns matter more to politicians in Washington than what’s said in corporate boardrooms.”

Perhaps it’s unfair to single Steyer out this way, since this is a cliche that you see across the political spectrum, but he’s the one who has caused this to pop up in front of me dozens of times, and I’m fed up with it.

People, listen to me: The problem is not that politicians aren’t paying attention to ordinary folks like you. If anything, the norm is that they pay too much attention to what they hear from constituents. (Rather than doing what they should, which is study the facts and make a rational decision, because we have delegated them to do what we don’t have time to do.)

When they do stupid stuff, they’re not doing it because they’re not listening to ordinary people — it’s because they’re listening to the wrong ordinary people, ones who are louder than you are.

If the things they do were dictated by people in corporate boardrooms, you might not like all the results, but their actions would, in general, be more rational. They’d pursue policies more likely to lead to economic growth and stability, with everyone having the money they need to buy stuff from the corporations.

Is this a perfect formula? No. Which is why I’m neither a “business is always right” or “the people are always right” guy. And why I hate bumper-sticker expressions such as this one, which suggest that it is that simple.

To give you one example of where I’d prefer the decision be made in the boardroom than by the blowhard at the end of the bar: If it were up to the boardrooms of the hospitals of this state, we’d have Medicaid expansion so fast it would make your head spin.

So why don’t we have it, even though the state is run by allegedly business-friendly Republicans? Because those Republicans would rather pander to the guy who doesn’t want a penny to go to anything called Obamacare. They care WAY more about what those ordinary folk think.

The problem isn’t one of failing to be populist enough. It’s a case of not being smart enough. Or listening to people who aren’t smart enough.

Oh, and it’s not necessarily about numbers, or at least not numbers in the population at large. I said something about this to a friend earlier, and he said if they’re doing what the people wanted, we’d have more gun control. Nah, it doesn’t work that way. MOST people would sorta, kinda like to have more gun control. They want it more right after a mass shooting than they want it at other times. And then they more or less forget about it. But the minority who are absolutely opposed to any new strictures placed on guns are thinking about this all the time, and they’re ALWAYS opposed to it. And will vote accordingly.

Another way to look at it: Those Republicans who vote against Medicaid expansion aren’t afraid of the majority of people in South Carolina. They’re afraid that a plurality of a small subset — certain voters in their districts — will vote for someone more extreme than they are in their next primary. Because that’s the way things are set up.

Want to see that change? Demand an end to gerrymandering…

But understand, it’s not about Blue Meanies in corporate boardrooms. Unless, of course, we’re talking about corporate taxes…

IMG_6172

 

Quickly, now: Thoughts on the debate?

I’d rather Joe be Peter than Michael Bolton, but whatever...

I’d rather Joe be Peter than Michael Bolton, but whatever…

I’m at the doctor’s office for my annual physical, so I don’t have time, but wanted to put up a place for y’all to comment if you’re inclined.

joe did fine, which is one of only two things I care about. But as a group, they set back the cause of defeating Trump, which of course is the other thing I care about.

Unpleasant to watch…

A friend of my daughter shared with her the image above…

 

Wow, what a gross misrepresentation of reality!

downcast

This blew me away.

Being a fair-minded guy, I wanted to stress that not everyone in the working media lacks perspective. You know that one headline from this morning that I cited and dissected in my previous post? I was going to confess it was a bit of an outlier, and that for every guy like that one, there’s a sensible soul such as Frank Bruni, whose column this morning made the same point I did:

Yes, Bernie Sanders won the state’s primary on Tuesday night. And that victory, coming on the heels of his functional tie with Pete Buttigieg in the dysfunctional Iowa caucuses last week, makes him the indisputable front-runner for the Democratic nomination.

But look at how closely behind him Buttigieg finished, despite furious attacks from Sanders and other rivals over recent days. Look at the sudden surge of Amy Klobuchar, whose strong third-place finish demonstrates not only how unsettled the contest is but also how many Democrats crave a moderate — or female — alternative to Sanders.

Note that while Sanders is hugely well known in New Hampshire and beat Hillary Clinton by 22 points in its Democratic primary in 2016, he squeaked by Buttigieg this time around, as many people who voted for him four years ago obviously didn’t do so on Tuesday night.

And so forth. The real story being the inability of moderates thus far to settle on ONE candidate.

But before adding that, I decided to check my email, and saw an enewsletter from that same, sensible Frank Bruni, and the headline was “What in God’s name happened to Joe Biden?”

OK, fine. Yes, it would have been better had Joe been on the top of the stack of moderates rather than the bottom in New Hampshire, but still — I’m still in a good mood from Joe’s rally at 701 Whaley last night.

And then I saw the picture that ran with the eblast, and my jaw dropped.

I was there. I saw Joe and how he conducted himself. He was as upbeat and ebullient as ever. In fact, if I can ever get the freaking thing to upload to YouTube, I’ll show you every second that he was at the podium, and challenge you to find the split-second reflected in that photo above, in which he seems to be delivering a concession speech with a crushed spirit.

Until I can get that up and running (and finally, here it is), here are some representative images:

You can almost always get a picture like that NYT one. You can play a fun game if you use the “burst” function on your phone (akin to the motordrive of old film cameras), and you’ll see all sorts of expressions flash across a person’s face, some of them quite comical and many of them highly misleading as to the person’s emotional state at the time.

But this one is a prize-winner. And I’m shocked that it was used by the NYT, even in an email…

THIS is a representative image illustrating Joe's mood at the event.

THIS is a representative image illustrating Joe’s mood at the event.

For what little NH is worth, Bernie got CRUSHED by the moderates

Bern

My NYT app this morning.

One can sometimes see why there are so many people in this country who can’t stand the news media.

I can get pretty peeved with them myself these days.

There are two phenomena that particularly irritating. Or maybe they’re just one:

  1. They have the attention span of goldfish.
  2. They have a mental block that keeps them from seeing the larger picture.

The last two weeks, it has been astounding the degree to which the media — both straight news and opinion — have been trapped in what’s happening right this second. It has always been thus, but the pace of reporting and the orientation toward social media has made the problem far, far worse.

Instead of a considered, consistent narrative over time, the picture we get of what’s happening is so immediate, it has no value beyond a few moments:

  • There are no results from Iowa!
  • There are still no results from Iowa!
  • Iowa is a disaster! This is the death of the Iowa caucuses!
  • No one should ever see results from Iowa as meaning anything again!
  • Wait! There are results from Iowa! Pete won!
  • No! Maybe Bernie won! This is hugely significant!
  • One thing’s for sure: Biden is toast!
  • Iowa didn’t settle anything, but New Hampshire will!
  • Oh, look, Bernie won! Bernie is triumphant! It’s settled! This is over!
  • No, wait! Klobuchar came in third! This is the big news!
  • One thing’s for sure: Since New Hampshire settles everything, Biden is toast!

Meanwhile, Biden was having a very nice rally here in Columbia before an enthusiastic crowd. And as a Biden support, I would prefer that he had done better among those uber-white people in Iowa and New Hampshire, but as far as I’m concerned, the race is just getting started.

Of course, when Joe wins here, we’ll be seeing:

  • A miracle! Biden’s not toast at all! He won one!
  • But he’s still damaged! Some black voters voted for other people!
  • Also, South Carolina means nothing because it’s TOO black!

And so forth.

And then, Super Tuesday will roll around, and South Carolina will be forgotten and it will be all about Bloomberg or something.

That’s the goldfish part.

The other thing is that so many people out there seem incapable of seeing what happens in this brief moments within any sort of larger context.

My favorite example of that today is a headline that trumpets, “Bernie Sanders Has Already Won,” followed by the subhead, “Whether he captures the White House or not, he has transformed the Democratic Party.”

Uh… no, he hasn’t. First, he didn’t do nearly as well as he did four years ago. I think it’s early to completely dismiss him, but if you go by that one bit of info, his time may have passed.

Second, and most importantly, if we’re going to draw conclusions based on something as thin as the New Hampshire vote, consider: The three candidates appealing to the moderates who utterly reject Bernie’s revolution got a total of 52.6 percent of the vote, compared to Bernie’s 25.7 percent.

They crushed him. They demolished him. They utterly rejected him. Even if you give him Elizabeth Warren’s 9 percent on the assumption that her voters might switch to Bernie, he got massacred.

The real story here is that the moderates just can’t make up their minds. If and when they do, we won’t be hearing any more about the triumph of Bernie.

I — and a lot of voters here in South Carolina — still believe that they would be wisest to line up behind Biden because he’s the one most likely to beat Trump. And nothing is more important than that.

They just haven’t wanted to accept that yet. I get it. I like Pete and Amy, too. But I’m going with the guy most likely to win. And I still remain hopeful that other moderates — sensible folk that they are — will reach that conclusion, too.