Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Freak Not

Paul Waldman offers some soothing words to Democrats and counters my point about historical landslides from yesterday.

The Democratic establishment has decided that now is the time to freak out.

That’s what happened over last weekend after Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) victory in the Nevada caucuses, following as it did on his win in New Hampshire and popular vote win in Iowa. People who couldn’t quite wrap their heads around the possibility of him being the Democratic nominee suddenly see it as somewhere between a likelihood and a certainty.

In response, they’ve decided to lose their minds.

>Nobody did it quite like MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, who compared Sanders’s Nevada win to the Nazis conquering France, a rather ill-considered analogy given that Sanders, who lost family in the Holocaust, could be the first Jewish president.

Former Bill Clinton spokesperson Joe Lockhart begged Mike Bloomberg to use his bottomless bank account to take out Sanders, “even if that might mean ruining his own chances at the nomination.”

Democratic members from swing districts are taking pains to distance themselves from Sanders. “In 30-plus years of politics, I’ve never seen this level of doom. I’ve never had a day with so many people texting, emailing, calling me with so much doom and gloom,” said Matt Bennett of the centrist Democratic group Third Way.

But do they really need to be so afraid?


Yes, he is an ideological outlier. But if the analogies you’re using to understand this election are decades old, they’re probably not very helpful in describing today’s politics. There are lots of Democrats right now saying “This’ll be like George McGovern, or Barry Goldwater!” But the elections that happened 48 and 56 years ago took place in a profoundly different political environment.

And if Americans will inevitably turn against Sanders in favor of Trump, it hasn’t happened yet; nearly every poll that matches the two against one another shows Sanders winning, though the same is true of all the contending Democrats.

Does that mean Sanders isn’t vulnerable to attacks on his policy proposals or his more unusual statements on things like the virtues of the Soviet system? Absolutely not. But we don’t yet know whether those attacks will only resonate with Republicans who were never going to vote for him anyway.


This time around, it sent the Democratic electorate into a whirl of confusion, as one candidate after another looked “electable” for a while and then stopped looking electable. Biden is the electable one! No wait, now it’s Elizabeth Warren! Hold on, Pete Buttigieg looks electable! Now it’s Biden again! Now it’s Bloomberg!

The whole time, Sanders was steadily winning support from people who actually like him and are fed up with being told not to support the candidate they like. Maybe that has something to do with why he’s in the position he is right now.

And it’s also the end of February.  Bill Clinton didn’t win a primary in 1992 until Super Tuesday.  In terms of politics and electorate memory, we are several geological ages away from November.  (And it’s a bit humbling to be reminded that my first vote for president was 48 years ago.  Speaking of geological ages…)  I also think those polls that show most of the Democrats beating Trump on a one-to-one match-up are misleading.  At this point “Any Functioning Adult” is out-polling Trump.  So would Teddy the Wonder Lizard.  That’s more about Trump than whose ahead in the Democratic charley-foxtrot.

Would I rather have a candidate who is leading the field who is a little younger, a little more polished, and who actually belonged to the party whose nomination he’s running for?  Yes, of course, but then we’re talking about Democrats, and that’s not how they do things.

No matter who the Democrats nominate, the Republicans will go after him or her with knives out. “Leftist!”  “Un-American!”  “Socialist!”  (Pro-tip: if you’re bored and want a moment of levity, ask the guy screaming about socialism if they collect Social Security, Medicare, or if they used their VA benefits to go to the state university.  They’re more of a socialist than you are.)  As I mentioned yesterday, we have to look above the fray and imagine what kind of world — political and otherwise — you want starting January 21, 2021.  One where RBG can retire without ceding the Supreme Court to Eva Braun and where we’re not held hostage by the ramblings of someone sitting on the toilet at 3 a.m. and tweeting Fox News excerpts.  (Leave that to the bloggers.)  Or one where the Constitution is a yellowing old piece of parchment in a hermetically sealed vault under glass for the tourists to gawk at the fading print like a dream they barely remember.