The Damn Democrats Duke It Out

What’s left of the contenders for the Democratic party’s presidential nomination had another knock-down-drag-out free-for-all of a televised debate in South Carolina on Tuesday, and as gruesome as it was we couldn’t look away. The Democrats’ grotesque reality show is as binge-worthy as Republican President Donald Trump’s.
If you’ve been following the complicated plot so far, you already know that the self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie won most of the votes in Iowa and New Hampshire and Nevada and is already the clear frontrunner, and that the former frontrunner and relatively sane centrist former Vice President Joe Biden needs a big win in Saturday’s South Carolina after three disastrous finishes to remain a viable contender in the race. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth is still vying with Sanders for the party’s sizable loony left faction, while South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar continues trying to win over the still-sizable relatively sane and centrist portion of the party.
The debate also featured self-made high-tech multi-billionaire Tom Steyer, who has no previous government experience but lands somewhere between the loony left and the relatively sane and centrist positions in the party, and self-made media mogul and multi-billionaire Mike Bloomberg, who was actually a pretty successful two-term mayor of New York City by doing things that have not endeared him to the Democratic party’s loony left. Democrats of all stripes have by now had enough of billionaire presidents, however, so both seem minor characters in the plot.
Which made for quite a freewheeling debate, with everyone weighing in on topics from Mideast peace to the legalization of marijuana to Medicare for All and that coronavirus that lately has been dragging down the international stock markets. Everyone took care to attack anyone who was a rival for the loony left and relatively sane centrist votes, both sides attacked one another, and everyone agreed that Trump was even worse.
No one was a clear winner in the shouting match, but in the long run these debates matter very little. What we’ll be watching for on Saturday is if Biden can beat out Sanders and keep the relatively sane and centrist portion of the party in the race. Given Americas’ complicated politics, it’s hard to say. Most of the white folk in South Carolina are now proud members of the Grand Old Party that once waged war on the Confederacy, which means that the state’s sizable black population comprises a majority of the state’s Democratic votes, which gives Biden a natural advantage.< Black Democrats are more likely than their white counterparts to attend worship services and serve in the military and start a business, and most white Republicans don’t understand how especially in the south they’re a moderating influence on their party. Biden was a loyal Vice President to first black President Barack Obama and is tying himself to that mixed record, and we expect that will be enough to keep him in the race after South Carolina.
No matter what happens on Saturday in South Carolina Sanders seems to be winning black and Latino votes and hurtling toward the Democratic nomination, Which naturally has all the relatively sane and centrist and “establishment” media and politicos in a panic, fretting that Sanders is a bridge too far toward socialism and worse yet someone who could lose a general election even to the likes of President Donald Trump.
We can well sympathize with their plight, as we well remember a time four years ago when we and the rest of the boring Republican establishment types thought that Trump’s isolationism and protectionism and populist nationalism and know-nothingism was a bridge too far into the crazy right, and that he might even lose an election to the likes of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Trump lost the popular vote by a landslide  our = eked out a victory in the Electoral College, and has s been about as bad as  expected, so we invite the Democrats to learn whatever they can from the past.
We hope they’ll conclude that Sanders would be awful, and come up with some better centrist alternative than Biden, especially that nice and more electably heterosexual Klobuchar, but they might rightly conclude that Sanders could also beat the likes of Trump. Any Republicans and Russians rooting for Sanders should also keep that in mind, as there’s really no telling how either of these grotesque reality shows might turn out.

— Bud Norman

A Man of the People, Redefined

The ten leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination had a debate on Thursday, and it was a spirited contest. Each of the contenders were nearly as critical of one another as they were of President Donald Trump, and sometimes the raucous crowd would ooh at perceived low blows. Our favorite part came afterwards, though, when the candidates were asked about the greatest adversities they had faced in life and how that had affected their politics.
The question was a slow and straight pitch aimed chest high, and of course each candidate took a swing at the opportunity to come off as a bona fide human being voters can relate to. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the last centrist standing in the field, spoke of her father’s alcoholism, and how he overcame it with with help from court-ordered treatment. Former San Antonio mayor and Housing and Urban Development secretary Julian talked about growing up in a single-parent home. Former Vice President Joe Biden recalled the tragically premature death of his son and beloved family members, High tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang mentioned the numerous failed businesses he had started and the huge debt he had acquired before achieving success.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders had a rent-controlled Brooklyn apartment and a penniless immigrant father to talk about. Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke chose to talk about the resilience of his hometown of El Paso, which suffered a mass shooting O’Rourke partly blames on Trump’s racial rhetoric. California Sen. Kamala Harris explained the difficulties of being the first female and mixed-race Attorney General of her state, and  this being a Democratic debate was obliged to defend prosecuting as a respectable occupation . South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg is openly homosexual, and that’s not always been as fashionable as it is now. Earlier in the debate, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren mentioned she had grown up in Oklahoma and once been a public school teacher, were surely won plenty of pity from a Democratic audience.
None of the candidates bragged about having been in a little log cabin built by their own two hands, and with Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard failing to qualify for the debate no could talk about any military experience, but it was all fairly heartwarming nonetheless. Should the general election come down to which candidate has the more inspiring hard-luck tale, Trump will be at a disadvantage.
Trump is quite unapologetic about being born into opulent wealth, and clearly revels in his whiteness and maleness and heterosexuality and enjoys whatever privileges that might confer. He grew up in Queens rather than Manhattan, which still seems to rankle, but lived in the fanciest house in the less fancy borough.
His father was by most accounts a cold and ruthless man who withheld affection and praise from his children, but Trump can’t hold that against anyone. The old man sent him off to one of those strict military schools where incorrigible rich kids wind up, but Trump boasts of having been the big man on campus. He had to suffer the indignity of a year at relatively downscale Fordham University before the old man got him into the University of Pennsylvania, but he just leaves that unmentioned. At some point Trump suffered from bone spurs, which kept him out of military service during the Vietnam war but don’t seem to have interfered with his golfing and nightclubbing.
Trump is by no means America’s first plutocrat president, but he is the first to flaunt it so brazenly. The Adamses and Roosevelts and Kennedys came from old money and elite educations, but they had also inherited an understated gentility and a deeply felt sense of noblesse oblige that Trump never acquired in Queens. On the contrary, Trump flouts such old-fashioned business and prefers street-level vulgarity and unabashed self-promotion
Interestingly, it seems to to have endeared him to a large segment of the proletariat, which regards him as a “blue collar billionaire.” They prefer it to the perceived condescension of past wealthy politicians, and share Trump’s seething resentment of the most well-mannered upper class, and appreciate the way he appalls all the right people. We also suspect that although they can’t identify with Trump’s much bragged about billions, they can vicariously enjoy the way he spends it on golf outings and private jets and porn stars rather than boring tea parties in the Hamptons. A lot of Trump fans figure he’s just like them, or at least like they would be if they had his money.
Trump is also selling the idea that he was born with the Midas touch, and that his alpha male “bigliness” has always made him impervious to any adversity, so America should be grateful to ride along on his predestined path to greatness, which is arguably more compelling than being a former school teacher or having had to endure poverty or prejudice. The same sales pitch got people to invest in his casinos and airlines and professional football teams, and to enroll in Trump University, and if the economy stops slowing by the next election day it might work yet again.

— Bud Norman