Bernie Burns Out

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders suspended his presidential campaign on Wednesday, which caused much wailing and gnashing of teeth among his fanatical supporters but was largely overlooked by most of the country.
Once a front-runner in the Democratic primary after race after wins in the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary, he was largely knocked out of contention after a string of losses to former Vice President Joe Biden, and since then the primaries have been mostly postponed by the coronavirus and mostly ignored by the media, so Sanders’ departure wound up getting less press coverage than the death of a minor figure from the Lewinsky scandal way back in President Bill Clinton’s administration. There were a few think pieces about how self-described socialist Sanders’ two failed attempts to win the Democratic nomination succeed in dragging the party further to the left, but we think they overstate his influence.
Both campaigns ended with Sanders losing to severely flawed centrists from the Democratic establishment, and although such far-left acolytes as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won in the mid-terms the Democrats won back a majority of the House of Representatives mostly because of centrist candidates who did well with the college-educated suburbanites who have deserted the Republican party in droves since the election of President Donald Trump. Biden wound up winning a majority of Democratic votes because even some Democrats who liked Sanders’ policy positions worried he couldn’t win in a general election.
Our guess is that they were right, and the Democrat party dodged a bullet when Sanders faltered. Trump was eager to run against socialism and so worried about Biden that he got himself impeached trying to dig up dirt on him, and for all of his undeniable flaws Biden will be a more formidable opponent. Sanders fanatical supporters argued that he could beat Trump by bring out young voters and a multi-ethnic working class coalition that have typically abstained from voting, but they didn’t show up in the primaries and probably wouldn’t have in a general election.
Trump got a small bump in his approval rating when the coronavirus came along, but it was smaller than the rally-’round-the-flag bumps that previous presidents saw in times of national crisis. President Jimmy Carter saw a bigger bump after the American embassy workers in Iran were taken hostage after the Islamic Revolution, but by the time election day came around the the embassy staff were still in captivity it was one of the big reasons that he lost to President Ronald Reagan by a landslide. The latest polling shows Trump’s approval rating back in the low-to-mid 40s, where it’s been since the day he took office, and if the coronavirus continues to kill and keep much of the American population in captivity on Election Day it will probably be even lower.
For now Biden is unable to campaign except on the internet, and for now a lot of Sanders fanatics are vowing to sit out the election or vote for the Green Party or the Socialist Party or the Communist Party or some other option, but we expect that the Democrats’ loathing of Trump will ultimately unite the party. Trump will continue to blame President Barack Obama and certain Democratic governors and the World Health Organization and his erstwhile pal and Chinese dictator Xi Ping for the lack of testing and medical supplies that have exacerbated the toll of the coronavirus, but he’ll find it hard to blame Biden, who has been happily out of the news ever since it started.
The stock markets had a pretty good day when investors learned that Sanders wouldn’t become America’s first avowedly socialist president,  but that also suggests they weren’t at all terrified that Biden might win. It’s long time between now and Election Day, and things could change, but for now Biden sees to have a very good shot at beating Trump.

— Bud Norman

The Big News That’s Not Entirely About Coronavirus

The coronavirus craziness continues, with the Kansas governor shutting down all the public schools for the rest of the year and President Donald Trump wanting to send everyone in the country a check for a thousand dollars, but Tuesday at least gave us something else to write about. There’s still plenty of politics to be played, although for now the race for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination looks to be over.
Despite everything there were three more state primaries on Tuesday — it was supposed to be four, but Ohio decided to put it off until summer — and front-running former Vice President Joe Biden won them all by landslide-to-comfortable margins, so after Biden’s big wins on “Super Tuesday” that pretty much knocks self-described socialist and last-man-standing Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders out of the race. Biden won big in the populous and delegate-rich states of Illinois and Florida, where Sanders also fared badly last time around against former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and presumptive First Woman President “Crooked Hillary Clinton, and the upcoming states don’t look any more promising for Sanders, who didn’t offer any comment on the results.
Even in the age of the coronavirus, and perhaps especially so, that’s worth noting.
Which we figure is bad news for Trump, who so feared Biden’s nomination that he got himself impeached trying to extort dirt from a foreign ally about Biden’s son. Better by far to run against “Crazy” Bernie Sanders and his pie-in-the-sky utopian promises, which make Trump and his own oversold and thus-far underdelivered promises seem relatively sane.
Biden is a boring and often inarticulate fellow, and over a political career that stretches back to the administration of President Richard Nixon he’s not done much for either good or bad. Come November the electorate might well find that an attractive alternative to the undeniably entertaining yet even more inarticulate Trump, whose bull-in-a-China-shop approach to governance so far seems to have exacerbated this coronavirus craziness. Trump is now offering thousand-dollar checks to every American, and billion-dollar bailouts to various big-bucks industries to keep the economy afloat, which his Republican base probably won’t mind, but by November he’ll have a lot of explaining to do to the rest of the country, and Biden will have been out of power and utterly blameless for any of it. He’ll be able to point out that Obama created an agency within the National Security Council to deal with pandemics, and Trump sent it packing, and that none of the pandemics that occurred during the Obama administration led to schools and bars and other essential businesses shutting down.
At this point pretty much the whole country is in a panic about the coronavirus and no one seems more panicked the the President of the United States, and we expect that will last until at least next November’s Election Day, which we cautiously hold out hope will happen. We can’t see any happy ending, but we’ll also hold out hope for the least worst outcome, whatever that is.

— Bud Norman

The Seeming Quick End to the Democratic Primary Race

It ain’t over ’til it’s over, as the great baseball player and aphorist Yogi Berra so memorably put it, but even with most of the states yet to weigh in over spring and summer the race for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination already seems to be pretty much over. After a couple of “Super Tuesdays” former Vice President Joe Biden seems to have it wrapped up, and self-proclaimed socialist and last candidate standing Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders seems knocked out.
Which is an interesting and important development. Sanders’ supporters are as fervent bunch as President Donal Trump’s most die-hard apologists, and when he won the opening contests in Iowa and New Hampshire he seemed unstoppable. Biden kept coming in third or fourth behind relatively sane and centrist but openly homosexual former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg or Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who was vying with Sanders for the party’s sizable loony left vote, and his debate performances were as lackluster as his fund-raising and campaign organization and general appeal to the electorate.
Biden scored a big Saturday win in South Carolina, though, largely because of the endorsement of iconic civil rights leader and longtime Rep. Jim Clyburn and the fact that Biden was the loyal vice president of first black President Barack Obama and most white South Carolinians are Republicans so black votes comprise a majority of the state’s Democratic party. Since then he’s been on a role. Despite being out-funded and out-advertised and out-organized by Sanders, he won 10 of the 15 “Super Tuesday” races, which knocked out all of his rivals for the votes of relatively sane and centrist Democrats, all of whom urged their supporters to vote for Biden. It also knocked out loony left darling Warren, but she’s not yet made an endorsement, and Biden won’t get all of her votes.
Yesterday was a sort of “Super Tuesday II,” and Biden once again got the best of it. He won by a landslide in Mississippi, where most of the white folks are Republicans and the Democratic is therefor majority-black, but he also won by a wide margin in very diverse Missouri, a state the Democrats can reasonably hope to win in November, as well as the very winnable state of Michigan, which was probably the Sanders campaign’s last hope. Sanders won in Washington, solidifying his hold on the loony left Left Coast, as well as North Dakota, where  all the Democrats would fit in your living room and don’t have a chance of winning the state’s electoral votes.
Four years ago Sanders gave former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and presumptive First Woman President of the United States a hell of run for her considerable money, and he scored an important victory in Michigan, where his left-wing populism was appealing to the disaffected denizens of the Rust Belt State. Trump’s right-wing populist appeal to those same voters proved slightly more appealing to the same disaffected voters, however, and this time around a majority of the state’s Democratic voters to go with the desultory Democratic status quo rather than the radical alternative.
This time around, it seems a good bet. Trump would clearly prefer to run against “Crazy” Bernie Sanders rather than “Sleepy” Joe Biden. Trump got impeached trying to dig up dirt on Biden, even though there’s plenty of dirt already on the public record that he could have used, and he’d have a good argument that Sanders is truly crazy. Biden is arguably “sleepy,” but at this point the general electorate might well prefer that to a hyperactive president who’s awake in the wee hours and “tweeting” all sorts of outlandish nonsense.
We have no affection whatsoever for this Biden fellow, but we figure the Democrats could have done far worse, and that he’s a more formidable challenger for Trump than Sanders would have been. He’s old and gaffe-prone and not always honest and has exhibited creepy behavior around women, but Trump is arguably worse in every regard. The Obama administration inherited a recession economy and after the Republicans won Congress eventual delivered too-slow but steady growth, and Trump was planning to run on the same slow but steady economic growth, but it’s now within the realm of possibility that argument won’t work on Election Day.
Those Sanders supporters are a fanatical bunch, and many are vowing to sit out the race, but Biden now has an entire spring and summer and early fall to remind the left coast and the rest of them how very much they hate Trump, and he’ll have plenty of money. We expect the entire party will be unified by the convention, and that a large number of independents will be on board, and that not just a few of us old-fashioned Republicans will be sitting it out on the sidelines. Here’s hoping the rest of the country chooses wisely between its bad options.

— Bud Norman

A Big Day in the Nevada Casinos

The state of Nevada hosted a couple of noteworthy on contests on Saturday, with a rematch between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder that was the biggest heavyweight championship boxing bout in the past few decades and the Nevada caucus being the third contest in what’s looking like a knock-down drag-out contest for the Democratic presidential nomination.
The clear winner of the Nevada caucus, which is arguably the more important outcome of the night, was self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. He didn’t get a majority of the vote but his sizable plurality of the vote gave him 13 of the state’s 16 delegates, and after his arguably first-place finish in the Iowa caucus and inarguably first-place finish in the New Hampshire primary he’s the darling of of Democrat’s loony left and and clearly the party’s front-runner.
There are still several territories and 42 states to go, and the next one is South Carolina, where the Democratic electorate is mostly black and a thus a very moderating influence on the party, what with its religiosity and disproportionate military experience and entrepreneurial bent and all that compared to white Democrats. So there’s a good chance that former Vice President to first black President Barack Obama and relatively sane centrist Joe Biden will get back in the race after a couple of disappointing finishes. Biden came in a respectable second in the vote count, which might allow him to eliminate a couple of pesky competitors for the relatively sane centrist portion of the Democratic partying the upcoming Super Tuesday states, which might or might not be sufficient to win him the Democratic nomination at the end of what could well be a long, tough fight between the Democrats.
Which is good news for President Donald Trump and his unified Republican party, at least for now, but we’d advise them to not get too cocky about it. Trump lost the last popular vote by three million to the worst possible relatively sane centrist candidate they could have come up with, and for now he’s trailing both Sanders and Biden in the polls in the swing states that narrowly won him an Electoral College majority.
We’re not the betting type, and won’t take any wagers on how it all turns out, but we don’t expect any happy outcomes. Trump would do better against a divided Democratic party, but he’s never been all the popular himself, and given the divided state of the union and how much all of the the Democrats and most of the independents and a few stubborn Republicans such as ourselves dislike Trump it looks to be another close call in the Electoral College and another blow-out in the popular vote.
Meanwhile in Nevada, the Irish-British-Roma Tyson “Gypsy King” Fury won his rematch of a much disputed contest against the ferocious American Deontay Wilder with a seventh-round technical knock-out, which still leaves the heavyweight division in disarray. The chiseled black-British champion Anthony Joshua lost a heavyweight bout against by technical knock-out to the pudgy but tough and surprisingly quick Mexican-American champ Louis Ruiz but regained his three titles by a clear majority-decision in the rematch, and the next big heavyweight fight is clearly Fury versus Joshua. We have no idea how that might turn out, no more than we have any idea how the fate of the country comes out in the next election, but as much as we detest heard-injury sports it will all be well worth watching and hard and hard to turn away from.

— Bud Norman

The Race Is On

America and the rest of the world aren’t yet halfway through 2019, but the 2020 presidential election is already underway. Today brings the first Democratic primary debate between ten candidates, tomorrow brings another debate between yet another ten candidates, and so far as we can tell there are at least another five or or six Democratic contenders who are left out of the stages.
We’ll be watching both debates with rapt interest, as we’re slightly hopeful the damned Democrats don’t come up with someone who isn’t so loonily far left that he or she can’t beat President Donald Trump. It’s only a slight hope, though, as the damned Democrats these strike us as arguably even crazier than Trump and the damned Republicans. That very crowded field of Democratic contenders also worries us, even if there are a few among them we could tolerate.
Last time around there were a record-setting 17 candidates in the Republican primary, which meant that a candidate could be leading the field by with a mere 10 percent in the polls. As a former reality show star on television Trump had better name recognition than any of the distinguished senators and governors and successful business executives he was running against, which earned him the podium on the center stage of the debates, and his flair for show biz somehow overwhelmed all the more carefully deliberated and dignifiedly presented arguments of his lesser-known but more distinguished co-stars. He wound up winning a series of state primary races with a plurality of the vote, which fortified his front-runner status, but he never won a majority of the Republican primary votes until all the other contenders had dropped out. Since then at least 90 percent of the Republican party has been willing to defend any damned dumb thing he might say or do, and this time around the Democrats seem likely to make the same mistake.
For now the front runner in the Democratic race is Joe Biden, who was a longtime senator from Delaware and vice president during the administration of President Barack Obama, which is somehow well remembered by about 90 percent of those damned Democrats, and we figure that’s mostly due to reality show name recognition. Biden is gaffe prone, though, and doesn’t seem to have Trump’s uncanny knack for turning gaffes into public relations bonanzas, and all of the 25 or 26 other Democratic contenders are already subtly attacking him from the left flank, so at this point we’re not placing any bets on the current favorite. His latest gaffe was talking about how he used to strike deals on non-racial matters with the segregationist Democratic Senators who used to exist at the beginning of his very long political career, and although much of the Democratic party and the mainstream media were outraged it sounded quite reasonable to our Party of Lincoln Republican ears. The most flamboyant of the even further left Democrats could well wind up winning enough pluralities in the early primaries and eventually wind up in the White House with 90 percent of the damned Democrats defending any damned dumb thing he or she might say or do.
The only thing we can count on is that for the second time in our lives we’ll be voting for none of the above, and holding out faint hope the republic somehow survives.

— Bud Norman

The Relative Rightness of the Right

All our liberal friends are lately fretting about the Republican Party’s frightening extremism, and they’ve all seemed to settle on the same popular press aphorism that even such a crazy right wing cowboy as Ronald Reagan couldn’t win the party’s nomination these days. We always note that since the good old days of Reagan the Republicans have nominated George H.W. Bush twice, then Bob Dole, then George W. Bush twice, followed by John McCain and Mitt Romney, and that the current front-runner has expressed approval of protectionist tariffs and a Canadian-style health care system and the Kelo decision and thinks his partial-birth-abortion-loving sister would be a “phenomenal” Supreme Court justice and not so long ago was praising President Barack Obama and saying that he agreed with the Democrats on most issues, which hardly seems an extreme enough progression to the right to suit to our tastes, but our friends remain unconvinced.
From their Democratic position, which has veered so far to the left during our lifetime that a self-proclaimed socialist such as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders now seems poised to win the party’s nomination, even yet another Bush would seem distantly far to the right. We try to imagine a youthful and handsome and famously rich and notoriously philandering John F. Kennedy running for the Democratic nomination on an economic platform of tax cuts for the rich and a foreign policy that would pay any price and bear any burden to spread democracy, and our imagination fails us. Lyndon Johnson would fare well these days proposing another round of all the Great Society spending that proved so disastrous, but between his foreign policy and his Texas accent he’d likely be booed off a Democratic debate stage, and Hubert Humphrey was far too happy a warrior for the party’s current mood. George McGovern might still be a plausible candidate, if he didn’t mention all the bombs he dropped during World War II, and Jimmy Carter might stand a chance, if he were shrewd enough to eschew the Baptist Sunday school teacher shtick, but ever since the time when those long-ago but well-remembered Reagan landslides dragged the Democratic party reluctantly back to the center it’s been steadily lurching leftward.
The Democrats finally ended the hated the twelve-year Reagan-Bush era with Bill Clinton, who won with the lucky combination of a disingenuously centrist campaign, a relatively mild and brief but well-timed recession, and an independent run by a billionaire populist, and despite all the sex scandals he remains beloved within the party to this day. He’s even more widely considered a success, despite all the sex scandals,  but mostly because of the welfare reform and balanced budgets and law-and-order initiatives and financial de-regulations and free trade treaties and anti-gay marriage acts he was forced to sign off on by the Republican Congress that his first two years of crazy leftism brought into being, none of which will get you the Democratic nomination these days. He was followed as his party’s nominee by his vice president, Al Gore, now best known as the guy who frantically predicted our Earth would be scorched by now from global warming, then John Kerry, the war hero and hippy dippy peacenik who will forever live in history as the man who delivered $150 billion and a nuclear bomb to the mad mullahs of Iran, and then Obama, whose disingenuously centrist campaign for the “fundamental transformation of America” didn’t mind if the in-the-know Democrats knew that he was about as far-left a candidate they could ever hope to elect.
Until this year, when a self-described socialist such as Sanders seems poised to the win the Democratic nomination. Even Obama has indignantly resisted the “socialist” label, which up until now has been a damning disqualification even in Democratic politics, but after seven years of his whatchamacallit policies a large and potentially decisive number of Democrats have apparently decided they might well as go ahead and call it socialism and go full-hog with it. We appreciate the frankness of it, and can easily understand why all of our liberal friends prefer Sanders’ authentic socialistic kookiness to his opponent’s disingenuously centrist cynicism, but we can’t help worrying that some sort of rhetorical Rubicon has been crossed in the history of our perilous Republic.
We don’t doubt that Sanders’ rise is largely attributable to the fact that his opponent is Hillary Clinton, who is currently being investigated by the feds for her fishy and national security-endangering e-mail practices and was  Secretary of State during the disaster that provides the plot of the latest hit action-adventure movie and has 25 year’s worth of scandals on her resume, and whose once-beloved president of a husband is no longer so well remembered by Democrats for those balanced budgets and welfare reforms that Obama unilaterally revoked and all those black-life-saving law-and-order initiatives that the “Black Lives Matter” movement are protesting, and whose sex scandals are no longer easily overlooked by a feminist movement concerned with a “culture of rape” on American campuses if not dar-al Islam, as well as the increasingly apparent fact she’s thoroughly corrupt and and dishonest and just an awful candidate for any time or either party. Still, we fondly recall a not-so-long-ago time when flinging the “socialist” label against Sanders would have saved her worthless skin.
Of course, Clinton struggles to explain why a plain old Democrat such as herself isn’t a socialist, and Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz has trouble with the same question about her party at large, and by now our liberal friends are no longer denying there is any difference. If Clinton somehow avoids indictment survives Iowa and New Hampshire and gets to the supposedly friendlier where the minority voters who preferred Obama in ’08 but are now said to prefer in ’16 and she somehow winds up with the nomination, we expect she’ll be quite comfortable with the socialist label by then. Her party clearly has no discomfort with it, and after the past seven years of an elected and re-elected Obama it’s no longer far-fetched to think the country at large doesn’t.
Our conservative friends are relishing the Democratic race with undisguised schadenfreude, just are liberal friends are gleefully watching Donald Trump’s rise in the Republican contest, but we urge both to careful about what they wish for. Conservatives are angry that the Republican party they’ve empowered with Congressional majorities haven’t thwarted Obama’s left-wing agenda enough, liberals are disappointed that even seven years of Obama haven’t prevented those hateful right-wingers from thwarting their socialist utopia, and that uninformed mass in the middle is merely dissatisfied that nothing seems to have worked out and are susceptible to either side’s arguments. That uniformed mass in the middle was educated in public schools where socialism hasn’t been a disqualifying slur for the past many decades, and they don’t know from capitalism or socialism or communism or mercantilism, and if it comes down to who is angrier and more authentically anti-establishment it would be a neck-to-neck race between Sanders and Trump. The next Republican nominee will have to be able to patiently and persuasively explain to an idiocratic public why the economic system that has brought American from backwater colonial status to being the world’s foremost superpower is superior to the system that has reduced Europe to its current groped state and brought utter ruin to most of Asia and Africa and South America, and right now the Republican’s front-runner is planning to explain it by bragging how he got really, really rich by buying off the politicians who’ve been running the all-but-in-name socialist system for the past few decades.
From our perspective, here in the heart of America and still pretty much where we were back in the good old Reagan days, all those recent earthquakes seem to have shifted the political landscape to the left.

— Bud Norman

Sanders’ Candor and its Concerns

That Sen. Bernie Sanders fellow has been has lately been filling big halls with enthusiastic crowds during his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, even though he admits to being a socialist but won’t admit to being a Democrat, and it has a certain worrisome entertainment value for right-wing bastards such as ourselves. There’s some fun in watching former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton being challenged with such populist lese majeste, and seeing how very far left she’ll have to veer in order to satisfy her party, but so far the very best part has been hearing him bad-mouth the American economy.
In a speech before more than 3,000 avid supporters in Council Bluffs, in the crucial first-to-vote state of Iowa, where the latest polls have him within striking distance of an unthinkable upset, and which clocked in at a Castro-esque 75 minutes, Sanders admitted that whatever rosy numbers of the Bureau of Labor Statistics might be publishing the actual unemployment rate still exceeds a recessionary 10-and-a-half percent. Right-wing bastards such as ourselves have been repeatedly making the same dire point for some time now, while the more respectable media have been enthusiastically reporting whatever rosy numbers the Bureau of Labor Statistics has been publishing, so there is some satisfaction in hearing the left wing’s latest darling concede the fact while having standing-room-only crowds of left wingers cheer him on. We can’t agree with his proposed solutions of higher taxes on the rich and ever more regulations on the businesses that might actually bring that unhappy unemployment number down and fewer choices of deodorant and sneakers on the store shelves, but we do acknowledge Sanders’ unusual candor, and we hope that it will allow the debate about what to do about this unfortunate situation to proceed in accordance with the facts rather than the latest rosy numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Thus far the the Clinton campaign’s cautious line has been that she’s female, offering the public the historic achievement of following the failed the administration of the African-American president with the failed administration of the first Female American president, and that the Republicans would prevent you from buying contraceptives, or at least balk at subsidizing your contraception with taxpayers’ dollars, and that the world is a much more placid place as a result of her four years as Secretary of State and will be downright idyllic once Iran gets a nuclear bomb or two or three, and that she’ll continue the same Sanders-esque but slightly saner economic policies that have brought us those latest rosy numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Sanders line seems to be that the past six years of the Obama administration have only brought us an unemployment rate that is actually at a recessionary 10-and-a-half percent unemployment, and that far more of the same is therefore needed. Even the most limpid of the Republican candidates who becomes the party’s nominee will wind up arguing that something entirely different is required, and at least he’ll have a significant portion of the opposition agreeing that there is a problem to be solved.
As much entertainment value as this has, it’s still worrisome. At this point we rate Sanders’ chances of an upset win as about fifty-fifty, and expect that his strong showings in the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primaries will inspire more credible challenges to Clinton’s supposed inevitability, and we’re aware of our many fellow right-wing bastards who hope that it will result in something akin to Nixon’s trouncing of the far-left McGovern way back in ’72, but by now we’re careful what we wish for. Surely few Americans believe those latest rosy numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and that actual number that Sanders candidly admits will undoubtedly be the bigger issue come Election Day, but a lot has changed since ’72 and we are no longer certain that an electoral majority of Americans will disagree that higher taxes and more regulations and fewer choices of deodorants are the correct response to a moribund economy.

— Bud Norman