Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Thanks, Bernie

They weren’t even close.

Former vice president Joe Biden swept to decisive wins in Florida, Illinois and Arizona on Tuesday, extending his run of victories on a primary election day in which the growing national response to the coronavirus pandemic complicated voting as it threatened to disrupt future contests.

The emphatic wins raised further questions about the viability of the campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). It set Biden, who began the day leading the contest by more than 100 delegates, on a clear course to a first-ballot victory at the Democratic National Convention in July barring a seismic shift in the race’s dynamics.

I think it’s time for Bernie Sanders to call it a day, concede gracefully, and focus on his job in the Senate and defeating Trump.  As it is, he’s already brought his ideas to the table, and while some of them appeal broadly to the Democrats, not just his base, it’s more about the messenger rather than the message, and the voters aren’t buying it from him.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Primary Day

In spite of the coronavirus shutdowns and lockouts, the Florida primary election is going forth.  I have seen scant election junk mail about it, and less on TV.  I couldn’t tell you who’s running in the local races because there aren’t any in my precinct that I’m aware of.  But I’m going to vote; I haven’t missed a primary since I started voting in 1972.

I went to work yesterday, and I’ll be going back today and probably tomorrow; time, tide, and paperwork wait for no one.  Our students have been given laptops and distance-teaching is going on.  So far the general atmosphere at work and other places I’ve been such as Starbucks, which is limiting itself to to-go orders, has been one of acceptance and accommodation: “Hey, we’re all in this together, thanks for stopping by and stay safe.”

It’s also St. Patrick’s Day, but it looks like the celebrations are going to be reduced to the level of those they have in Ireland itself, where they don’t appear to make a big deal out of it no matter what the viral load is.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Out Of Chaos Comes Order

Well, that was fast.

With a string of commanding victories on Tuesday — Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, probably any other “M” state that might have bothered with a primary this week — Joe Biden appears poised to complete one of the most striking turnarounds in recent campaign memory, finding himself in a dominant position only 10 days after the first state victory of his three presidential runs. His remarkable reversal has banished Senator Bernie Sanders to a familiar electoral perch: an insurgent progressive long shot straining to catch an establishment favorite.

And just like the last ten minutes of an episode of Star Trek, the ship is out of danger, the aliens have been defeated (or made friends with), and the warp drive is back on line.  Bless you, Scotty.  Let’s boldly go.

I suspect that for a lot of voters, Joe Biden wasn’t their first choice, but seeing what was happening with the other candidates faltering along the way and the real possibility that Bernie Sanders could win the nomination and become this generation’s George McGovern, they didn’t want to chance it.  Defeating Trump is the primary — pun intended — goal for them so they were not willing to risk this election on a long shot even if they agreed with a lot of his ideas.

The primaries aren’t over — we here in Florida get our shot next week, along with Ohio and several other states — but the road ahead for Mr. Sanders looks rocky and narrow.  He basically blew up any chances of winning here in South Florida by saying things about Cuba and Castro that no non-Cuban politician of any party should say, and even though we have a reputation for being a haven for old Jewish men, it’s not gonna happen in the rest of the state; outside of Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties, it is pretty much like the rest of the South.  My old home state of Ohio has a history of electing moderate Democrats; the Sanders foothold in Cleveland and Toledo is no match for the pragmatists in the rest of the state.  If anyone has a chance of swinging Ohio back to the blue column in November, it will be someone like Mr. Biden.

As I noted last week, the over-looming issue is beating Trump to the point that outside of the Fox News bubble there’s not a scintilla of doubt that he lost with a capital L.  This election in November has to be on a scale of Reagan over Carter in 1980 — the election called before 9 p.m. Eastern — and that can’t be done if there’s a weak field running against him.  Not only that, the Democrats have to sweep up the Senate and keep the House, and Mr. Sanders’ Mao jacket doesn’t have coattails.

No, Joe Biden wasn’t my first choice.  He wasn’t even my second choice.  But I’m not going to let my hurt fee-fees over losing Mayor Pete and Elizabeth Warren keep me from voting strategically next week to keep the magical transformation of the Democrats once in disarray into a solid and strong march to, as my grandparents once said, getting That Man out of the White House.

Besides, any candidate who tells an ammosexual heckler he’s full of shit gets my unfettered admiration.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Sunday Reading

Rage and Sorrow — Lizzie Widdicombe in The New Yorker over the end of Elizabeth Warren’s campaign.

There was a forlorn mood the other night inside the headquarters of Brooklyn for Warren, a few sparsely furnished rooms in the Park Slope campaign offices of the New York City councilman Brad Lander, where a group of Elizabeth Warren’s campaign volunteers had assembled for a round of “sad and celebratory drinks.” The walls were still decorated with Warren paraphernalia: a poster that said “The Best Candidate Money Can’t Buy” and a cardboard cutout of the candidate as Superwoman; an enormous map displaying her policy platform (categories: Anti-Corruption, Systemic Reforms, Economic Equality, Climate Change); a “Lil Liberty” lending library; and a list of thoughtful community guidelines—“Use gender-neutral collective nouns. . . . Listen more than you speak. . . . Be generous with each other. . . . No trashing other candidates or their supporters!” A sign taped to the wall in one area said “This Room is for Reflection—Feel Free to Write a Postcard to Liz and the Campaign. We Will Send Them.”

Warren had failed to win any primary contests on Super Tuesday, and had placed third in her home state of Massachusetts. That morning, she’d informed staff on a conference call that she was ending her campaign, adding, “I will carry you in my heart for the rest of my life.” The volunteers drank boxed wine and I.P.A. beer, and nibbled on chocolate cake and tortilla chips. They posed for a picture with a cardboard cutout of Warren, draped in a rainbow feather boa, chanting “Dream big! Fight hard!” instead of “Cheese.” They were mostly female, although trans men, gay men, and sensitive straight, cis men were also represented: the group’s founder, an allergist and immunologist named Milo Vassallo, spoke about the importance of being a man who wears his Warren pin in public, and opined about what he saw as the covert sexism of the “Bernie bros” on his baseball team.

The women seemed especially dejected. “I did a lot of crying today,” Jennie Spector, a social worker, said.

“I feel a lot of rage,” Teresa Mayer, who has worked in nonprofits, said.

Liat Olenick, a teacher, said that she was sad, too. “But I’m getting to the anger stage.”

“It’s just so disappointing,” Mayer said. “This idea of waiting around, wondering, which old white man is she going to endorse?”

All three are members of Indivisible Nation BK, a nonprofit organization that, they pointed out, has leadership that is mostly female. Olenick said, “And after four years of movement-building led almost entirely by women, we’re faced with two almost eighty-year-old white men as supposedly the future of this country.”

Brooklyn for Warren, the largest of several grassroots groups in the borough, had spent hours phone-banking for Warren. Organizers had travelled to Iowa, New Hampshire, and Virginia to knock on doors. “What more could we do?” Sze Chan, a translator who worked with New York City for Warren, said, pointing out that the Warren campaign had outdone the others by almost every metric: “The number of calls we made, texts sent out, doors knocked on.”

“We were everywhere,” Spector said. “Biden just won a bunch of states where he had nobody on the ground.”

The problem was not Warren’s résumé, or her skill set, or her appeal to voters, Olenick said. “Sixty per cent of my conversations were with people saying, ‘I love her! She’s so smart. She’s so tough. She would make the best President. But I’m voting for Biden.’ Or, ‘I’m voting for Bernie. Because I don’t think she can win.’ ” This, they felt, came from a kind of anticipatory sexism—a belief that a woman could never become the President, which became a self-fulfilling prophecy. They noted that women were some of the worst offenders. “I think a lot of them were really, truly traumatized by Hillary losing,” Olenick said. She’d spoken to many women who’d volunteered for Clinton or been precinct captains. “The majority of my phone conversations were working to convince women that they shouldn’t vote out of fear for an old white man.”

“On Monday night, I managed to flip one woman,” Mayer recalled. They’d been canvassing in Sterling, Virginia, before Super Tuesday. “Her husband answered the door. He wasn’t on my list, but I started in with my spiel. And his wife yells from the top of the stairs, ‘Who are you here for? Elizabeth? Oh, I love Elizabeth! My girlfriends all love her, too. She’s so great. But we’re going to vote for Biden.’ ” The woman believed that Warren couldn’t win. Mayer spoke with her for twenty minutes—and learned that she didn’t identify with either party and had voted for Republicans in the past. “The thing that made her perk up was when I told her that Elizabeth had beat an incumbent Republican, Scott Brown.” Mayer told the woman to “ ‘Vote with your heart.’ By the end of the conversation, she goes, ‘O.K., I’ll vote for her. It’s the primary, so now’s the time.’ ” Her husband had disappeared. As Mayer was leaving, “She comes outside and she yells ‘Teresa! I talked to my husband. He’s in for Warren, too!’ ” Mayer went on, “The lesson for me was that if everyone answered their door, and we all had twenty minutes to talk, things would be different.”

Instead, voters had watched too much cable news. Olenick said, “The fact that Democrats are obsessing over electability and ending up with probably a pretty weak candidate is the greatest irony I can think of. Versus someone who would have taken down Trump and cut him into little pieces.” Still, they were trying not to get bitter. Warren’s campaign culture is “relentlessly positive,” Olenick noted. Mayer said, “If you were tuned into Elizabeth Warren Twitter, which I’ll admit is a bubble, it was never about bashing another campaign. It was, ‘I’m excited about Elizabeth, and let me share my story!’ ”

Olenick said that she’d developed coping strategies since Trump’s election, in 2016. “Strategy No. 1 is, Don’t be alone. Go be with other people. Strategy No. 2 is, Take action.” They were taking cues from Warren herself, who had told her staff in that morning’s call, “This fight goes on,” and, “We will persist.” Olenick said she was focussing on down-ballot races. “That’s been true of so many people I’ve talked to in the last couple of days. They’ve all been saying, ‘We’ve got to take back the Senate.’ ”

They Really, Really Don’t Want Black People to Vote — Leonard Pitts, Jr. in the Miami Herald.

Six hours is a good, long time. You could do a lot of things in six hours.

You could drive from San Francisco to L.A.

You could finish an audiobook.

Or you could vote.

It took a man named Hervis Rogers that long to do so in Tuesday’s Democratic primary. He did not leave his polling place in Houston until 1:30 Wednesday morning — the last person to cast his ballot. “I wanted to get my vote in to voice my opinion,” he told KTRK, a local TV news station. “I wasn’t going to let anything stop me, so I waited it out.”

And if you’re wondering why Rogers had to go through that ordeal just to vote, the answer is simple: He is a black man in America. More to the point, he’s a black man in a Southern state with a sordid history of disenfranchising voters of color.

From 1965 until 2013, such voters were protected from this kind of thing by the Voting Rights Act. Then the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Act, which required states and localities with histories of voting discrimination to get federal approval before changing election laws. The court acted under the novel — which is to say, asinine — reasoning that the provision was no longer needed because racism is over.

Or as Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, put it: “Our country has changed” since 1965. He seemed insensate to the fact that the change he noted had come about because of the Act he was gutting. Indeed, the ink was barely dry on his opinion when southern states and others began to show what they thought of all this “change.”

In Georgia, they purged tens of thousands of voters, disproportionately people of color, from the rolls for offenses as trivial as a misplaced hyphen in a name. In North Carolina, they enacted a photo ID law designed with what a federal court called “almost surgical precision” to suppress the black vote. And in Texas, according to a report from the Leadership Conference Education Fund, they’ve closed 750 polling places since 2013 — more than any other state — so that now voters like Rogers must pass an endurance test simply to exercise a constitutional right.

Yes, local officials claim the delay was actually due to higher than expected turnout, voting machine breakdowns and a new polling system. Believe that if you wish. The view from this pew is more cynical. As Rogers told KTRK, the long wait felt like it was “set up for me to walk away.”

Isn’t it telling, in this era of white grievance ascendant, that the right wing keeps caterwauling about a fictional epidemic with people of color committing voter fraud, even as people of color are seeing voting rights stolen from them in real time? The right projects its sins upon the rest of us — democracy as funhouse mirror where victimizers reflect as victims.

One hopes that when November comes people of color — and good people of all skin tones — summon the perseverance of Hervis Rogers and bring about a blue wave to protect the voting rights of those who are now being systematically disenfranchised. One hopes they resolve to double check their registration and polling locations ahead of time, to charge their devices, wear comfortable clothing, bring snacks, water, lawn chairs, umbrellas, a good book, whatever the wait requires.

The bottom line: There are more of us than there are of them. So there is no excuse to let the forces of intolerance get away with this act of Grand Theft Freedom.

Six hours is time enough to steal a democracy. But it’s time enough to save one, too.

Doonesbury — You’re a joke.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Look At The Whole Board

It looks like former vice president Joe Biden did very well yesterday in the Super Tuesday primaries.

Joe Biden powered to a dominating sweep of the South and surprisingly strong showings in New England and the Upper Midwest on Tuesday night, as he sought to seize control of the Democratic presidential race and overtake Sen. Bernie Sanders as the delegate leader.

Sanders was holding on to a lead in California, the state with the biggest delegate haul of the Super Tuesday primaries, as votes were slowly counted there. But Biden’s victories in Texas and eight other states threatened to at minimum erase the lopsided delegate advantage Sanders hoped to gain from the day’s voting. The results set up a more vigorous fight ahead that presents the party with divergent choices, between a pragmatist vowing a return to normalcy and a populist promising a revolution.

It’s far from over; there will be another round of primaries, including Florida, on March 17.  There will be more winnowing as the remaining candidates look to their realities and realize that going forward will only embarrass themselves and risk their political future in their current position or the possibilities they may have in a Democratic administration.  By Memorial Day we should have a very clear idea who the Democratic nominee will be.  That’s when the fun begins.

John Cole beat me to it:

[…] for all intents and purposes, this is now a two person race. Ignore the people who say the race was stolen or is rigged or any crap like that. They’re idiots and just sore their guy or gal lost. What happened today was that people lined up in record numbers and voted. And that will keep happening for another couple months until we have a winner. So if you are in a state that has not yet voted, just keep on keeping on and when it is your turn, if you like Bernie, vote for Bernie. If you like Biden, vote for Biden.

The over-looming issue isn’t really between Biden and Bernie as much as it is unifying behind someone who can beat the existential threat that is currently occupying the Oval Office.  That is the most important thing, and all the inside politics of the party’s match between divergent choices pales in comparison to what this country will look like with another four years of Trump.  The Supreme Court is going to hear a case this fall that could determine the fate of Obamacare in its entirety, followed by Roe v. Wade with a side order of marriage equality just to round out the menu.  We have a possible pandemic growing around the world and the effort to control it is being led by Mike Pence, who seems to think that appeals to a fictional deity will end it the same way a six-year-old in his Harry Potter bathrobe thinks waving a stick will exorcise monsters out of his closet.  The oceans are rising and Australia is a cinder from brush fires, yet the White House promotes a huckster evangelist to tell us that for a small donation to her church, Jesus will consider stopping it if we all vote for Trump.  So listening to people get grumpy because their particular Democrat didn’t win a primary and say they’ll sit out the election in November is both maddening and stupefying because they really don’t give a shit beyond their own petulance and hurt feelings.

I haven’t played chess since I was in middle school, but I do remember one fundamental rule: look at the whole board.  If all you see is your next move, you will lose.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Super Tuesday

It’s Super Tuesday in more ways than one.  If you’re in one of the states or territories that has a primary today, get out there and vote.  Chances are your candidate or one of your alternates dropped out of the race since last week — Tom Steyer, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar — and announced that they’re endorsing Joe Biden.  You have to wonder what’s going to happen to the rest of the field; who they’re going to coalesce around now that the Democratic primary is basically down to Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren.

Beto O’Rourke, the former Texas congressman who ended his presidential bid in November, joined Biden on stage at the end of the Dallas rally — and concluded a speech by inviting him for dinner at a nearby Whataburger.

Biden seemed taken aback by the swift change in fortunes. He told Buttigieg that he reminded him of his late son, Beau, the highest compliment he can offer. He told the crowd Klobuchar has a long political future ahead, and he told O’Rourke, whose candidacy was marked by liberal positions on gun control, “You’re going to take care of the gun problem with me. You’re going to be the one who leads this effort.”

It was the second straight day that moderates, previously paralyzed over whom to rally behind, rushed to join Biden’s campaign. Harry M. Reid, a former Senate majority leader from Nevada, endorsed Biden along with other Democrats including Susan E. Rice, a former national security adviser to President Barack Obama; political activist and actress Alyssa Milano; Victoria Reggie Kennedy, the widow of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.); and Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.).

In other news:

  • The coronavirus COVID19 is spreading and showing up here in the U.S., including Florida.  One of the schools where I work part-time is implementing common-sense precautions such as encouraging hand-washing, avoiding unnecessary contact, and handing out hand sanitizer bottles.  Hand-shaking has been replaced by polite bowing and the “Namaste” hands-together greeting (which is less awkward than touching elbows), and learning just how long it takes for a vaccine to go from Eureka to injection.
  • Chris Matthews abruptly “retired” from MSNBC.
  • And to top off a busy day, I got invited back to the Valdez Last Frontier Theatre Conference in Alaska in June.  Yes, I’m going.

Go vote if you can.  The world is counting on you.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Mayor Pete’s Graceful Exit

Nothing said as much about the campaign of Pete Buttigieg for president than how he announced he was ending — or “suspending” — it.  It was graceful, dignified, proud but humble, funny but poignant, and most of all, a clear sign that we have not heard the last of him or his classy way of running for national office and being an important presence on the political stage.

A lot of the pundits and commentariat are making note of the fact that he’s the first openly gay presidential candidate to actually run and win delegates to the convention.  But he said nothing about those particular adjectives, and his campaign was never focused on that aspect.  Rather, he spoke about giving hope to those who were made to feel less than a full citizen or not given their due in the political arena.  That applies beyond the LGBTQ+ community, and it spoke more about his drive to make his campaign and thereby the race for the office to be about bringing in everyone.  In that way, and in what he was ultimately hoping to represent, he reminded me of the campaign of Bobby Kennedy in 1968, and it has the glimmer of hope that while he didn’t make it this time, there’s the possibility and the popular support that this kind of candidate and candidacy will succeed.

I also have the strong feeling that he’s not leaving the arena quite yet.  Vice president, Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, or some major role in the next Democratic administration.  The final nominee of the Democrats would be an idiot not to consider him for a position, laying the groundwork for his return the next time around.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Sunday Reading

Biden Finds His Voice in South Carolina — John Cassidy in The New Yorker.

Joe Biden has long said that South Carolina would prove to be the electoral firewall in his bid for the 2020 Democratic Presidential nomination, and it turned out he was right. As the votes came in on Saturday night from across the Palmetto State, it quickly became clear that the former Vice-President had scored a blowout victory in the most populous and most diverse state to vote so far in this primary season.

With ninety-nine per cent of the votes counted, Biden had about forty-eight per cent of the total. He was running twenty-eight percentage points ahead of Bernie Sanders and thirty-seven percentage points ahead of Tom Steyer, who subsequently announced that he was giving up his Presidential campaign. The other candidates came in nowhere.

Among black voters, who made up more than half of the primary electorate, Biden’s margin of victory was even larger. According to an exit poll carried out by Edison Media Research for a national consortium of news outlets, sixty-one per cent of African-American voters had voted for him versus seventeen per cent for Sanders and thirteen per cent for Steyer.

Biden appeared to have won every county in the state. The exit poll suggested that he won the white vote, the college-degree vote, the non-college-degree vote, and every age demographic except seventeen- to twenty-nine-year-olds. According to the poll, he even finished thirteen points ahead of Sanders among voters who identified themselves as very liberal.

Of course, there is a reason that Biden declared South Carolina as his firewall: he has close ties to some of the state’s political leaders, including James Clyburn, the House Majority Whip, who endorsed him on Wednesday, and its demographics are favorable to him. But, as recently as this past week, opinion polls had shown Sanders closing to within four or five points of Biden, and the Vermont senator had predicted that he would pull off a come-from-behind win. If that had happened, Biden’s campaign would have been sunk. By the time the former Vice-President took the stage, in Columbia, shortly before 9 P.M. on Saturday night, however, he was assured of a sweeping victory.

At least in this campaign, it is an understatement to say that Biden hasn’t been noted for his oratory. But, as he demonstrated at the 2012 Democratic convention, he is capable of giving a good speech on a big occasion, and this was arguably the biggest of his political career. With his campaign running out of money, Biden’s South Carolina win was a rare opportunity to address the Democratic electorate at large before Tuesday, when fourteen more states will vote, including California, Texas, North Carolina, and Virginia.

He began in predictable fashion, hailing “my buddy Jim Clyburn” and casting himself as the comeback kid. “For all those who have been knocked down, counted out, left behind, this is your campaign,” he declared. From there, the speech became more pointed, more strategic, and more emotive. Biden’s advisers are well aware that winning one state won’t be enough to stop Sanders, especially if the Vermont senator scores big victories on Tuesday in delegate-rich California and Texas, where the polls show him in the lead. The immediate goals for the Biden campaign are twofold: to cement Biden’s place as the only viable alternative to Sanders and to limit the Vermont senator’s lead in the delegate count by persuading enough Democrats that a Sanders candidacy would be an electoral disaster for the entire Party, not just its hopes of driving Donald Trump out of the White House. “The decisions Democrats make all across America in the next few days will determine what this party stands for, what we believe, and what we’ll get done,” Biden said. “If the Democrats nominate me, I believe we can defeat Donald Trump, keep Nancy Pelosi in the House of Representatives as Speaker, and take the U.S. Senate.”

Although he didn’t mention Sanders by name, he cast doubt on his electability, his policies, his ideology, and his loyalty to the Democratic Party. “If the Democrats want a nominee who is a Democrat, a lifelong Democrat, a proud Democrat, an Obama-Biden Democrat, then join us,” he declared. Mocking one of Sanders’s slogans, he went on, “Most Americans don’t want the promise of revolution. They want more than promises. They want results.” Biden also depicted Sanders as a divisive figure. At one point, he even compared him to Donald Trump, or, at least, he compared the impact of the Sanders movement on the Democratic Party to what the Trump movement did to the G.O.P. “We have to beat Donald Trump and the Republican Party,” Biden said. “But here’s the deal: we can’t become like them . . . We can’t have a never-ending war.”

That was the political pitch, but Biden also sounded a more personal note about the need for healing the soul of the country after the Trump Presidency. He recalled how, in June, 2015, shortly after his son Beau died of cancer, he and his wife, Jill, attended Sunday service at the Emanuel A.M.E. church, where a young white supremacist had recently gunned down nine parishioners. “We left here, having arrived in overwhelming pain, thinking we can do this, we’d get through this,” Biden said. Then, with the raucous crowd having fallen silent, he brought up Alexis de Tocqueville, whom Clyburn had mentioned in his introduction, saying, “This multi-ethnic country we call our democracy, America, it can’t survive unless we focus on our goodness.”

On the page, it reads like a somewhat awkward transition, but Biden knew exactly where he was going. “We can build a more perfect union, because the American people in the last three and a half years have seen the alternative,” he went on. “No, I really mean it. Think about it. They’ve seen how utterly mean, selfish, lack of any sense of empathy or concern for anybody else—a President who not only has horrible policies, but the way he mocks and makes fun of other people.”

In finishing, Biden thanked Clyburn again and declared to the crowd, “The Bidens love you guys.”Despite his big victory, he still faces a number of challenges. Sanders, having won two of the first four states and virtually tied in another, remains the front-runner, and his supporters aren’t going anywhere. And even after Steyer’s exit, there are four candidates vying for the non-Sanders vote, with the presence of Michael Bloomberg presenting a particular problem for Biden. In the past couple of months, the former mayor of New York has spent ungodly sums of money advertising all across the Super Tuesday map. He could take moderate voters from the former Vice-President everywhere, but particularly in a number of Southern states—Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and North Carolina—where the Biden camp is hoping to blunt Sanders’s advantage out West.

In an ideal world for Biden, Bloomberg would drop out of the race before Super Tuesday and throw his support behind him, but on Saturday night Bloomberg’s aides rejected that idea to reporters. (Bloomberg was not on the ballot in South Carolina.) For now, Biden can do little about Bloomberg. All he could do on Saturday was win big in South Carolina and then give a memorable speech. He managed both, and shortly after he left the stage in Columbia one of his erstwhile opponents, Andrew Yang, who is now a commentator on CNN, paid him a compliment. “That was the best I’ve ever seen him,” Yang said.

What Katherine Johnson Means to Mae Jemison, the first woman of color in space.

Two years after I joined NASA in 1987, I was preparing for a trip to Brazil to help the United States Information Service celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. The souvenir posters I would give out referred to the “first American men on the moon.” I suggested it would be more appropriate if they read “first humans on the moon.”

A male astronaut sneered at the idea and said that it had been “men who landed on the moon.”

“But it was women who helped put them there!” I pushed back.

I was referring to the countless generations of women who have done so much to support human achievements but have gone unrecognized.

Even though I was soon to become the first woman of color who went to space, at that time I did not know of the mathematician Katherine Johnson, who died on Monday at the age of 101, or of the crucial calculations she made for the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions.

It would have put such a fierce smile on my face had I known about Katherine Johnson, her colleagues Mary Jackson and Jackie Vaughn and the other women mathematicians at NASA when I was growing up on the South Side of Chicago in the 1960s. I always assumed that I would go into space, even though the United States had no astronauts who were women or of color at the time. I could see on TV that the mission control rooms were filled with white men. Even at 8, 9 or 10 years old, I was sure that the picture misrepresented the capabilities women and I possessed.

Though I majored in African and African-American studies as well as chemical engineering at Stanford, when I joined the NASA astronaut corps I only knew vaguely of some African-American women at NASA and in aviation. I knew of African-American men and white women who were science and exploration legends. Yet I was unfamiliar with Bessie Coleman, who became the first black woman in the world to get a pilot’s license in 1921; or Willa Brown, an African-American and the first U.S. woman to get both a pilot’s and a mechanic’s license and who lobbied the government to integrate the Army Air Corps. That helped lead to the establishment of the Tuskegee Airmen, a number of whom she trained.

It fortified me to get to know and work with Christine Darden, Patricia Cowings and other women scientists, engineers and mathematicians of all ethnicities who worked at NASA centers throughout the nation.

I am so pleased the book and movie “Hidden Figures” allowed the world to meet and celebrate Katherine Johnson and her colleagues.

Katherine Johnson was a revelation. An inspiration. But she was not a “one-off” to be put on a shelf and admired for her singular genius. She was representative of the deep well of talent and potential that is so often buried by lack of opportunity, access, exposure and expectation for women and particularly women of color in science and technical fields.

She was a beacon who heralded the contributions made by women that were hidden and stymied by the deep institutional and societal bias that accredits achievements to white men, deemed by society to be the unique holders of genius.

Johnson today is a balm for the discomfort that arises when you stand up in a crowd — a crowd that doubts your capabilities due only to your gender or race — and press a point, disagree with a widely held premise or challenge the sugar coating of facts meant to make the powerful feel better while disregarding the less powerful, who need the truth revealed.

I have been working with a group of experts to understand what is needed to achieve the equitable participation and leadership of women in STEM fields. The insight may be uncomfortable for some allies, because effective, lasting solutions demand profound change in core beliefs and behaviors.

The changes require the dismantling of a gantlet: of persistent bias, obstacles and actions that block women’s entry or push them out. It is a gantlet that has gone unacknowledged even decades after Katherine Johnson’s accomplishments at NASA. Organizations value women for their work when it aligns with the organization’s traditional perspectives; but they fall back on exclusionary behavior when new, diverse perspectives are generated or required.

Women have continued to advance within NASA — Peggy Whitson is the American astronaut who has spent the most time in space. In October, a pair of female astronauts, Christina Koch and Jessica Meir, walked in space together.

Even great organizations may be blind to persistent intersectional bias that treats African-American women so differently. As I testified before the House space and science committee in May, there have been just six African-American women astronauts; three of them have flown in space. It is confounding that of 338 NASA astronauts, two of these African-American women, of stellar accomplishments and tenures of over 10 years each, are the only American astronauts who have been denied or pulled from a spaceflight assignment without any official explanation.

While I did not meet Katherine Johnson, when I channel her, I am jazzed. Katherine Johnson is the shining example. Through her I see the possibilities when the full scope of human experience, talent and perspectives are engaged to address the challenges and opportunities to improve life on Earth for all and push the limits of our knowledge.

Doonesbury — I’m confused.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

How To Lose Florida

Bernie Sanders should know better than to say anything at all out loud about Fidel Castro.  Period.

From the Miami Herald:

During Tuesday night’s presidential primary debate in South Carolina, Sanders, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, was blasted by his rivals over comments he made in a ”60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday praising literacy rates on the Caribbean island following Castro’s 1959 Cuban revolution.

Pressed by CBS moderators on his past “sympathies” for socialist regimes in Cuba and Nicaragua, Sanders defended himself, saying he’s condemned authoritarian regimes across the world. He said he was repeating talking points used by former President Barack Obama during a 2016 appearance in Havana.

It’s the first thing you learn when you live here, especially if you’re an Anglo from the north.  It doesn’t matter how nuanced you make it, it doesn’t matter how many times you say Castro was evil incarnate; as soon as you follow that with a “but… ” you’re asking for trouble.  Don’t go there.  Just don’t.

Ironically, there are a lot of Cubans who might agree with Sanders on things like literacy rates and health care, but they can say that; they’re Cubans, even if they’re second or third generation American-born and the closest they get to Cuba itself is the scrapbook their abuela has under the coffee table.  But let an Anglo pipe up with anything that remotely suggests a view other than hard-core anti-Castro and they’re all over you like beans on rice.  That’s part of the complexity of life in South Florida, and if you want to win an election here, stay the hell away from any discussion that involves Cuba and Castro.  If asked, you’re better off going with “Hey, how about those Marlins?”

Hey, Bernie, if you want to praise a socialist system, talk up the legacy of Olof Palme.  There aren’t that many Swedes here in Miami.

Sound And Fury

I didn’t watch the debate; I was asleep by 8 anyway.  But looking at the wraps it was loud and messy.

Josh Marshall at TPM:

But if it was a messy debate it was still a pivotal one.

Especially on the first hour it felt like all the contenders finally understood the true terms of the contest and had been given one last two hour chance to level the attacks they wished they’d starting leveling three months ago. The mix of antic questions and desperate attacks made it feel like two hours packed with chaos and bad energy.

Debates only matter inasmuch as they affect the outcome of the race. The rest is just theater criticism about canned answers and yelling. The big question in this primary battle is whether Bernie Sanders builds on his momentum coming out of the first three contests and goes on to a string of victories in Super Tuesday which make it hard for any other candidate to overtake him.

The rest of the punditocracy was all over the map on who won or who didn’t; one said Elizabeth Warren lost because she was “totally fine.”  (How are you a loser if you were totally fine?)  Apparently Bernie Sanders got hammered from all sides, as did Bloomberg, and Pete Buttigieg was in control and funny.

They were all trying to position themselves to either win big in South Carolina or at least not face-plant so that the real contest — Super Tuesday, March 3 — doesn’t mean they will end up spending more time with their families.

So what last night in South Carolina was all about was making sure they’re still standing next Wednesday someplace else.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Talk About Bravery

This is an amazing kid.  And an amazing moment in America. Just try to get through it without tears in your eyes.

This could not have happened in 1961, when I was nine and already aware of the fact that I was not like other kids. It couldn’t have happened in 1971, either, or 1981 or 1991 or even 2001 when we thought we were oh so enlightened and “civil unions” were being talked about as more than just idle chit-chat. If nothing else, Pete Buttigieg has done more for us — and I mean all of us; gay, straight, or across the array — than any other candidate in my memory by adding one more element to the American dream and that we all have a place here.  Thank you, Pete, and thank you, Zachary.

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.

Monday, February 24, 2020

It’s (Not) The End of the World

The wisdom of John Cole at Balloon Juice:

Not really, though. I don’t like a lot of what I am seeing out there, with people predicting the end of the world if Sanders wins. First off, the primaries are FAR from over, and anything can happen. And I am not saying that in a “miracles happen Bernie can be defeated” way, but in a “we don’t know shit yet because this is soo early in the game.”

Second, this is what being in a coalition means. My preferred candidate is Warren, but should she lose and not become the nominee, I am still going to support the Democratic nominee, because Trump is a monster and Ruth Bader Ginsburg ain’t getting any younger.

So calm down. I think a lot of people are working themselves into a lather and painting themselves rhetorically into a corner. Anyone we nominate will be better than Trump. Literally anyone. The bar is that low. Mike Bloomberg is a billionaire autocrat and a fascist who oversaw some pretty fucking outright racist policies as Mayor, but EVEN HE is better than Trump, and by a wide fucking margin.

So buck up. Just keep supporting the person you like, work on getting out the vote, and do what you can to take our country back.

I am old enough to remember the landslide of 1964 when Lyndon Johnson, running in place of the murdered John F. Kennedy, swept away the divisive and war-mongering Barry Goldwater, who was supported by what proved to be a minority in the country who would seek vengeance through other means.  Four years later they gave us Richard Nixon by exploiting the fear of Others after LBJ hammered through the civil rights acts of 1964 and 1965.  Thus was born the Southern Strategy that helped elect Ronald Reagan in 1980 even after we thought the GOP was doomed after Watergate.  I remember 1972 when Democrats went with George McGovern, the Watergate break-in was that year’s version of “fake news,” and we re-elected Nixon in a landslide surrounded, as William Manchester noted, by happy felons.  And I remember 1984 when we thought we had Reagan on the ropes with the symptoms of old-fogyism creeping in to his speech and actions, only to be swept away when Walter Mondale couldn’t even win his home state of Minnesota.

In all three cases there was a huge reality gap between who the backers of certain candidates thought should win and who actually won.  Barry Goldwater never stood a chance; neither did McGovern or Mondale.  And while every election is different, it is helpful to remember that even as Mr. Cole points out we are up against the worst and most dangerous opponent of this or any lifetime in the history of the country, he has a very good shot at winning.  We must choose wisely because as much as we believe the Republican Party has tainted and self-destructed by following this tinpot valour-covered narcissist over the edge to the rocks below, the same can be said for the Democrats if they don’t choose someone who can see beyond November 2020.  Both history and the actuarial tables have taught us valuable lessons.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Debate Wrap — What Happens In Vegas

I watched only the first half-hour, but if the rest of it went like that, then Mike Bloomberg knows that money doesn’t keep you from getting mugged; it adds to it.

Via TPM:

Bloomberg came into Wednesday’s Democratic presidential primary debate with a target on his back.

After skipping the early part of the primary race and then dumping nine-figures into a wave of nationwide television advertising, Bloomberg’s campaign released a memo Wednesday morning that portrayed four other candidates on stage as, essentially, political dead weight. Bloomberg’s campaign urged them to get out of the way and clear the path for a Bloomberg-Sanders primary.

Clearly, Bloomberg’s opponents were peeved at their new competition. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) set the tone early Wednesday night in Las Vegas.

“I’d like to talk about who we’re running against: A billionaire who calls women ‘fat broads’ and ‘horse-faced lesbians,” and no I’m not talking about Donald Trump, I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg,” she said, to an audible reaction from the crowd.

After Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) hammered Bloomberg’s memo — “I don’t think you look at Donald Trump and say, ‘We need someone richer in the White House,’” she quipped — the former mayor answered his colleagues with a tepid response.

“I think we have two questions to face tonight. One is, who can beat Donald Trump? And number two, who can do the job if they get into the White House?” Bloomberg said.

Michael Bloomberg fits the bill, Michael Bloomberg said, ignoring the withering criticisms of him on stage and focusing directly on the President.

Later, attacked on the “stop-and-frisks” carried out by police in New York — the use of the maneuver increased massively during Bloomberg’s tenure — the mayor used passive voice, messily dodging one of the most predictable questions of the night.

“Well, if I go back and look at my time in office, the one thing that I’m really worried about, embarrassed about, was how it turned out with stop-and-frisk,” he said, haltingly. Later, he said of the policy: “What happened, however, was it got out of control.”

One answer from the former New York mayor even solicited a loud groan from the audience in attendance in Las Vegas, regarding the tax returns he has not yet released.

“It just takes us a long time,” he said, adding: “I can’t go to TurboTax.”

That was just the beginning.

And Mr. Bloomberg isn’t even on the ballot in the Nevada caucuses on Saturday.

The consensus among the punditry is that Warren and Buttigieg helped themselves by showing some real firepower directed not just at the former New York mayor but at anyone who attacked them and that Biden didn’t do any damage to himself.  It sets out a solid core of strong centrists (is there such a thing?) to counter the harsh (or at least loud) rhetoric from Sanders, and there were enough quips and jabs that proved that there’s still a market for zingers.

And for all you hand-wringers about Democrats in Disarray, remember the wise words of Abraham Lincoln: “No matter how much cats fight, there always seem to be plenty of kittens.”

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

It’s A Start, Not A Finish

The headlines about Bernie Sanders winning the New Hampshire primary make it sound like the next event will be the balloon drop at the convention for him.  But for those of us who remember recent history, he won the New Hampshire primary in 2016 by double digits over Hillary Clinton.  How’d that work out for him?

The headlines also proclaim that he is “staking claim to the Democrats’ left wing.”  Again, not a news flash, but since he finished 1.5% ahead of Pete Buttigieg and ended up with the same number of delegates (9) as Mayor Pete and three more than Amy Klobuchar, it’s a rather thin claim.

I was slightly surprised to see how Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden did — or didn’t — do.  Neither got a delegate out of New Hampshire.  Sen. Warren is a next-door neighbor to the Granite State, as is Sen. Sanders, and former Vice President Biden has been on the ballot and campaigned there since the 1970’s, it seems.  It’s a little much to read the tea leaves and foredoom both of them, but it’s pure punditry to say that a close finish in the first primary is solid evidence of Dems in Disarray.  If anything, it’s clarifying that Andrew Yang and Sen. Michael Bennett dropped out (I had to be reminded that Bennett was even running); I’m gonna miss the $1,000 a month that Mr. Yang was promising me, and Colorado needs Mr. Bennett in the Senate just in case Trumper Corey Gardner wins re-election.

My hope from this point on is that the Democrats will stop their kids-in-the-wayback squabbling and concentrate on the matter at hand: bringing a swift and merciless end to the Trump regime.  That’s it.  I daresay most Democrats, be they Bernie Bros or Klobuchargers or Mayor Pete’s Brigade, want that too, and now it’s time to get on with it.  It will be messy — when is it ever not? — but it’s certainly better than the alternative.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

It Only Takes One

Yesterday I talked about polls and the fact that they are moments and will soon disappear from memory.  But one thing that they can create is an after-image that instills some kind of long-lasting fear of inevitability.  That’s mainly due to the message of immediacy that the media wants to convey: “This just in!” and “BREAKING NEWS” with a headline of something we already knew an hour ago and before the commercial for erectile dysfunction.

We can’t let that overwhelm us, and as the wise ones tell us, look at the whole board, not the individual pieces, and look at the long game, not the next move.  Remember that when the Democrats finally choose a candidate, they are running against an incumbent that in any other case they would beat at a walk.  And while I still believe a poll today is sour milk next week, take some comfort in the fact that at the moment, any one of of the top Democratic candidates could beat Trump.

Bloomberg beats Trump 51-42
Sanders beats Trump 51-43
Biden beats Trump 50-43
Klobuchar beats Trump 49-43
Warren beats Trump 48-44
Buttigieg beats Trump 47-43

Mike Bloomberg isn’t on the ballot in the New Hampshire primary, but he got three write-in votes in Dixville Notch, the little town that votes first.  That may be just New Hampshire contrariness, but it also suggests that they’re ready for a big change.

The pundits are telling us that Trump is a juggernaut, that he’s had the best week ever.  We dispelled that yesterday, but they want a real race; a landslide that wipes him out doesn’t sell papers or time slots, and we’d be back to getting fascinating lessons in obscure history from Rachel Maddow.  Knowing that any one of the six candidates could beat Trump in February means that we really need to make sure that we have one that will do it in November.  It only takes one.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Iowa Results

If the current trends hold, it looks like Pete Buttigieg and/or Bernie Sanders will end up with the most delegates, and the people who put this fakakte caucus together will have reduced it to the level of importance that it deserves; that is, stop making it the Most Important Political Event in the history of the world.

This may be the election cycle that finally gets the most non-representative and overblown election events — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada — back to where they belong in terms of relevancy, leaving Super Tuesday in March to catch all the flack.  And if it somehow results in Trump’s re-election, than Iowa should be left with nothing but the Butter Cow to be its most significant claim to fame for attracting attention, if not flies.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Hello, Iowa…?

There was an episode of the “Mary Tyler Moore” show where the station was covering a local election, but there was a problem in getting the results because of a snowstorm, so the team had to vamp for hours while staring at the tote board that showed no votes counted.  Hilarity ensued.

Well, it isn’t snow that’s causing the delay in reporting the results of the Iowa caucuses; there’s an app for that.

The Iowa Democratic Party says it will release results of Monday night’s caucuses on Tuesday, saying inconsistencies in reporting caused the delay. Many of the candidates have already gone to New Hampshire, which holds its primaries in a week.

The candidates who were actively competing in Iowa included Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.); former vice president Joe Biden; former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg; Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass); Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.); entrepreneur Andrew Yang; and investor Tom Steyer.

[…]

Sean Bagniewski, chair of the Polk County Democratic Party, said that local officials were aware of problems with the app since last Thursday and that they had requested state officials resolve the problems — to no avail.

“We knew the app was a problem last Thursday,” Bagniewski said.

When local party officials asked the state party about issues they had with the app, they were referred to a “dedicated staffer” who was not able to solve the problems, he said.

“We had had so many complaints about the app that we started telling our chairs that if they were having problems with the app then you should call in the results,” Bagniewski said.

The state party did not provide any training on how to use the app, he said, adding that while the caucus trainings are done at the county level, the app itself came from the state level.

Local officials had trouble downloading the app, getting a PIN to log in, and activating it even when they had a PIN, Bagniewski said.

Then, when precinct chairmen tried to call the results in via the hotline, they were placed on hold for as long as two hours, he said.

“When our chairs are calling, it’s a wait time of an hour and a half or two hours. In some cases they have dropped the call,” he said. “I swear my chairs are coming in and saying it was the best caucus ever. So it is really really bittersweet. … It is really really hard to wrap our heads around it.”

Stay tuned for further developments. Meanwhile, this is Ted Baxter…

Monday, February 3, 2020

So It Begins

Ah, the Iowa caucuses.  The first stop on the way to November 3, 2020, and the voters of a state that every four years, like a comet, get to flash through our field of vision.  And like in the ancient days when comets were seen as omens and the harbingers of supernatural approval or condemnation when in reality they were just dirty cosmic snowballs off-gassing dust and vapor, the Iowa caucuses are endowed with more power and influence than nature intended.

Presidential hopes have been dashed and bolstered based on the number of people in certain small towns who can muster up the vigor to go out on a cold Monday night to some high school gym or grange hall or church basement, sip weak coffee, huddle in the corner with their friends and neighbors, and essentially look at each other and say with a shrug who they like or don’t like based on the landslides of campaign ads and eager volunteers from all across the country who have just learned how to spell Dubuque.  (Spell Check thinks it should be spelled “Albuquerque.”)

So today and tonight we will be entertained by breathless commentators on cable TV who are going to make this the biggest event EVER through the night and read and re-read polls and tea leaves, trying to discern what it means when the turn-out in Van Meter is larger or smaller than the last time or whether or not Pete Buttigieg or Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden or Amy Klobuchar or Teddy the Wonder Lizard “breaks through,” whatever the hell that means.

I’d place just as much meaning on the weather prognostications of a groundhog if I knew that a hibernating rodent had as much insight as the whiteboards at MSNBC and the gesticulations of Steve Kornackie with the same access to information.

As the United States Senate is in the process of proving, we certainly have come up with a funny-sheesh way of running a nation and determining who leads it.  But don’t worry: next up is New Hampshire.  Now there’s the crossroads of America, eh?

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Sunday Reading

Bernie Sanders, Front-Runner — Benjamin Wallace-Wells in The New Yorker.

Bernie Sanders, at seventy-eight, three months clear of a heart attack, has outlived obscurity to become the co-front-runner for the Democratic nomination for the Presidency of the United States. He is still thin and intent; to my eye, the hunch in his back has deepened. On a tour of Iowa last weekend, he wore a suit with an open-necked shirt, and his hair was on the tame side of its range. There are not many jokes in Sanders’s speeches right now, or stories, or people. He addressed thousands of people in Iowa and did not take a single question.

The better Sanders’s polls look, the more grave, even dour, he seems to grow. “Our infrastructure, our roads, our bridges, our border systems, wastewater plants are crumbling,” he said, morosely, in Ames. His ballooning prospects were enough to excite his crowds; Sanders himself could deflate into a more familiar tone. Americans have to endure the “international embarrassment” of failing to guarantee health care. Did you want to “talk about vulgarity?” Consider the pharmaceutical executives, “a bunch of crooks.” Dispassionately, he went on to climate change. “They have underestimated the kinds of forest fires and wildfires that we will be seeing. All of you are aware that Australia, a beautiful country, is now burning.” The average American worker “is not making a nickel more” than he or she did fifty years ago, he said, and “you got three people on top owning more wealth than the bottom half of American society. You got that? Three people, a hundred and sixty million people.” Why, you wondered, would a person invest himself in such a sick place? The answer, carried by his young crowds and surrogates: for the kids.

It’s common to describe the present split within the Democratic Party as pitting its left against its center. A different way to put it is that the Party is split between its likely future and its current reality. An Emerson poll of Iowa this week found that forty-four per cent of Democrats under fifty support Sanders; ten per cent favor Elizabeth Warren, and no other candidate reached double digits. You’d think that a growing coalition of this size would be enticing to other Democrats, but Sanders has been endorsed by just one of his Senate colleagues, Patrick Leahy, of Vermont, and by seven members of the House. On Friday, he had the support of only one Iowa state legislator, while Amy Klobuchar had been endorsed by eighteen. “Nobody likes him,” Hillary Clinton says, of Sanders, in a new documentary just shown at Sundance, which seems true in a certain sense but beside the point. His voters no longer look quite so much like outsiders to the Party. They are beginning to seem like the future base. The former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers has been talking up an analysis that he and some associates conducted, which found that Sanders’s proposals would add sixty trillion dollars in new spending programs, about twenty per cent of G.D.P. That is more than fifty times the new spending proposed by Klobuchar, ten times that proposed by Joe Biden, and nearly twice that proposed by Warren. According to Summers, Sanders’s program is nearly three times the size of the New Deal. Sanders might quibble with the numbers, but the vast gap between the scale of his own programs and those of his rivals suggests something about why his supporters have been so hard for other Democrats to pull away. “In any other country, Joe Biden and I would not be in the same party,” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders’s most prominent surrogate, told New York magazine last month. At stake in Sanders’s primary campaign is whether the transformation of the Democrats has already begun.

Last Saturday, at Ames City Auditorium, Sanders, travelling with Ocasio-Cortez and the documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, drew a crowd of more than a thousand people, which meant that two hundred of them had to watch the rally from a gym out back. Moore went out to address them. “You’re like me, this is the slacker crowd!” Moore said. “We don’t show up two hours early for anything!” But, whatever the Sanders campaign is, it isn’t for slackers. Sanders knew from the outset of the race that he was likely to raise more money than any of his rivals, and he has—more than ninety-six million dollars so far, according to the campaign. His campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, is a former Harvard baseball player who trained in Harry Reid’s Senate office. His role in the Sanders operation is something like the one that Rahm Emanuel once played in the young Barack Obama’s: the figure in an idealistic campaign who understands something about power. Sanders’s campaign has a sharp slogan—“Not Me. Us.”—and branding that keeps pivoting, deftly, to match the news. In Iowa this past weekend, volunteers were wearing the latest buttons, which respond to questions about Sanders’s electability. They read, “Bernie Beats Trump.” Sanders’s platform is no less radical than it was in 2016, and his supporters’ siege mentality is undiminished. On Friday night, Rashida Tlaib, one of Sanders’s most outspoken surrogates, made headlines for booing a mention of Hillary Clinton at a campaign event. (Tlaib later apologized.) But Sanders’s movement, with all its bristling emotions, is also beginning to look like a winning one. At every level, there is an interesting tension, between powerlessness and power.

Early last Sunday morning, about a hundred campaign volunteers were waiting to meet Sanders at an office in a strip mall. As people milled around, with their winter gear still on, I tried to get a sense of what was different from 2016. The campaign operation was much bigger and better—everyone agreed on that. But mostly, they said, it was the same. “I honestly don’t think there’s a difference—I think it’s the same thing,” a woman named Celia Ringstrom told me. Sanders’s constancy, in the face of opportunism and hypocrisy from both Republicans and Democrats, was the point. “I mean, he’s been saying the same thing for forty years,” a man named Mike McElree told me. Sanders was on the good side of a contest between “democracy and barbarism,” an organizer told the group—with little, it seemed, between them.

Throughout the fall, a wise thing to say about the race was that Democrats in real life were not the same as they were on Twitter—that they were not as committed to socialism and social-justice claims, and not nearly so far to the left. Out in the real world, the line went, the Party was populated by a more sedate group—older, less educated, and less spikily progressive. They wanted a touch more public health insurance, a more balanced system of taxation, and a return to some remembered public decency—they were Biden people. In the week before the Iowa caucuses, though, the distinction between the Party on Twitter and the real world seemed to be collapsing. “I just don’t like rich people,” a woman named Sara Brizzi told me in Ankeny. “Maybe because of having grown up poor.” Brizzi, who was there with her husband and their five-year-old daughter, explained that she worked for a health-insurance company, and that, if Sanders won, and his Medicare for All plan was realized, she would probably lose her job. In 2016, pundits sometimes described the Sanders and Trump campaigns as reflecting a “symbolic” politics, in which policy positions mattered less than resisting the status quo. But the Sanders movement is profoundly material: its adherents want Medicare for All, and a Green New Deal, and tuition-free public colleges, and they have imagined these programs clearly enough that they have considered whether their own jobs might be affected. Brizzi had weighed the risks and benefits, and decided that she was with Sanders.

We are a long way from the start of this primary campaign, when a half-dozen candidates met with Obama, and went out to try to build a gentler bridge between the political needs of the present day—as the Party sees them—and the coalition of the future. The majority of those candidates—Cory Booker, Julián Castro, Beto O’Rourke, and Kamala Harris—are now out of the race, and two others, Pete Buttigieg and Warren, have seen their prospects weaken. In just a few weeks, Democrats may be left with a simple and stark choice between Biden and Sanders. In Iowa last week, the most powerful forces in the Democratic primary did not seem to be those massing behind Mike Bloomberg and Biden, but those affiliated with the Sanders bus speeding west across Iowa—the ninety-six million dollars and the multiracial coalition of the young behind it, who seemed to want what he was offering, and not, as he might have said, fifty cents on the dollar.

In icy, spare Perry, Iowa, last Sunday, Sanders’s audience was crammed into the town hall, and nearly ecstatic, but the more energetic that crowds are, the more focussed and concerned Sanders seems to become—an emotional contrarian. His mind seemed fixed on the short time until the caucuses, and the impeachment trial that would keep him in Washington, D.C. Sanders said, “I hope to come back—I don’t know if I will midweek. Maybe, maybe not.” A moment later, he seemed to decide—probably not—and slowed his cadence for a final message. Yes, this was about winning the nomination, he said, and yes, it was about beating Trump. “But we are asking even more of you. We are asking you to join us to transform this country.” The next event was in Fort Dodge. By the time I’d exited the building, the campaign bus was already gone. Sanders had said a few minutes earlier that he had enjoyed taking questions from Iowans through the campaign. “Today, we’re not going to have the time.”

Super Grift — Davide Zirin in The Nation on the massive grift taking place 29 miles north of here.

The Super Bowl is like prom for the 1 percent. When the big game comes to town, it’s accompanied by private jets, parties, and nonstop bottle service. That should be enough, but it never is. The bacchanalia also comes festooned with public funds for the NFL, an overwhelming police presence, and the removal of the poor. It’s a world of fun on our TVs, but it’s a wrecking ball for local communities.

This year the game is in Miami, and the scams are starting to seep into public consciousness. As the Miami Herald is reporting, the NFL booked 1 million dollars’ worth of rooms at the J.W. Marriott Marquis hotel and Aventura’s Turnberry resort for the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers players and coaches—and sent the city the bill.

Even though the NFL is a gargantuan corporate operation and both teams are owned by billionaires, Miami (where 27 percent of children live below the poverty line) is on the hook for the hotel accommodations. This is just part of a $4 million welfare package with which the city has gifted NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who makes 10 times that amount in yearly salary. That $4 million does not include the costs of the police and security presence required to host the game. Rodney Barreto, the chairman of Miami’s Host Committee, said to the Herald, “These are basically things we have to do to get them to come. If we’re not doing it, another city is.”

The police presence will be “an extraordinary deployment of law enforcement assets, even by recent standards, in keeping with heightened global tensions and fears of home-grown violence.” According to Reuters, Super Bowl LIV “is a so-called SEAR 1 event, affording it the highest level of federal resources, including explosive detection canine teams, cyber risk assessments and air security. Coordinated by the U.S. Secret Service, the security force includes operations by the U.S. Coast Guard, FBI, and Department of Homeland Security.”

In addition, Miami police will lead “lead a massive ground operation with thousands of officers… on foot, horseback, in boats, and in the air.”

While the police roam the city and public dollars flow into the NFL’s coffers, the league is engaging in Kabuki theater charity: its spoonful of sugar to help the poison go down, showy presentations so it won’t look like a parasite. The league donated $100,000 to a homeless shelter that will house those displaced from Bayfront Park by the Super Bowl. This sounds nice, but the donation will actually help facilitate their removal from the streets so they’re not an eyesore, or worse, a reminder of the human costs of economic inequality. In addition, Dak Prescott, quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, is being praised for donating 100,000 bowls of Campbell’s Chunky Soup (Prescott’s sponsor) to local homeless shelters. This is the synthesis of commercialism and philanthropy that the NFL adores.

Yet there won’t only be police and soup. There will also be protest. Residents of the historic Miami Gardens neighborhood along with the Miami-Dade NAACP will be protesting on game day at the site of the Super Bowl, HardRock Stadium, in a fight to stop Formula 1 racing on public streets. The racing circuit has been invited to Miami Gardens by HardRock Stadium and Dolphins owner Stephen Ross. F1 racing has been rejected by numerous communities because of environmental impact and traffic concerns. Ross doesn’t have such concerns about the residents in Miami Gardens, so they will be using the platform of the Super Bowl to fight back.

They won’t be alone. While private planes will be incoming in great numbers, airport workers in Miami will be protesting low wages and expensive health insurance costs with a Super Bowl week hunger strike. They are demonstrating against their employer, the airline catering subcontractor Sky Chefs. Sky Chefs works with, among other entities, American Airlines. Their Union, Unite Here, is currently in negotiations with Sky Chefs for a living wage. One worker, Ibis Boggiano, said to the Herald, “We are sacrificing our health so that they will hear us.”

The demonstration is called “Fast for Our Families.” On Monday, the workers were joined at a press conference by NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith, who said, “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said that all labor has dignity. Let’s remember, as hundreds of thousands of people descend onto Miami this week, that behind every Super Bowl party and celebration, there are men and women doing the work behind the scenes to be able to feed their families. The NFLPA is proud to stand in solidarity with airline catering this week, and shame on American Airlines for not taking action to make sure they are provided a living wage.”

The Super Bowl more than ever is a microcosm of this country. The super-wealthy will be oozing from one heavily guarded party to the next, while the hungry hope to be seen amid the flashing lights and heard above the ceaseless din.

Doonesbury — Overkill.