“Super Tuesday” and Beyond

There’s still a lot of politics left to be played, but after 14 states and American Samoa weighed in on “Super Tuesday” the Democratic presidential primary seems to be coming down to a race between former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Which offers the Democratic party a choice between left-of-center and way-the-hell-left of center.
The biggest winner of the night was Biden, who looked to be down and out after disappointing finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire and Nevada, but after a big victory on Saturday in South Carolina he wound up winning in Alabama, Arkansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Virginia. As we write this he’s also clinging to slight leads over Sanders in Maine and Texas, states Sanders had been expected to win easily, so it’s an impressive showing.
Sanders did well enough to remain a formidable contender, even if he’s no longer the clear front-runner he seemed to be just last week. He won in his home state of Vermont and way-the-hell-left-leaning and delegate-rich California, as expected. He also won in Colorado, where marijuana is legal, which might or might not have something to do with the result, and in Utah, which we were surprised to learn has enough Democrats to bother holding a primary. No one else in the once-crowded field did anything to give their voters hope.
South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar had vied with some success for the relatively sane centrist votes, but both dropped out after disappointing finishes in South Carolina and urged their voters to go with Biden. Our guess is that Klobuchar helped Biden to win Minnesota, and that Buttigieg’s endorsement will help when Indiana holds its primary. Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke ran a surprisingly strong race against Sen. Ted Cruz as a relatively sane centrist, but went loony left during his failed presidential bid, but he’s still popular with Texas Democrats and his endorsement of Biden was probably helpful in the state.
Multi-billionaire media mogul and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg has been spending millions of his own dollars in a bid to court the relatively sane and centrist vote, and for reasons we do not claim to understand he won most of the delegates from American Samoa, but otherwise the best he did on Super Tuesday was a couple of distant third-place finishes. He can afford to keep his quixotic campaign going until the convention or beyond, but we expect he’s too shrewd a businessman to do so. Once he drops out Biden will get all of the relatively sane and centrist votes in the Democratic party, and that just might comprise a majority.
Massachussets Sen. Elizabeth Warren has been challenging Sanders for all the loony left votes, but after South Carolina and “Super Tuesday” that probably won’t last much longer. She suffered the ignominy of losing her own state to Biden, fared poorly in the nearby states of New Hampshire and Vermont and Maine, and the loony left clearly prefers Sanders. When she inevitably drops out all of her votes will go to Sanders, whether she endorses him or not, and the very sizable loony left portion of the Democratic party will be united behind him, and that just might comprise a majority.
Which makes for a fascinating Democratic presidential primary race between a couple of septuagenarian straight white guys. The ratings should be sky-high, which will surely irritate straight white septuagenarian President Donald Trump but might wind up helping his reelection chances if it gets ugly enough to divide the Democrats, which it probably will.
On the other hand, Trump has a unifying effect on the Democratic party, and he’s not popular with independents and a stubborn nine or ten percent or so of us old-fashioned Republicans can’t stand him. As we figure it at this point in time it’s well within the realm of possibility that either Biden or Sanders could beat Trump in both the popular and Electoral College votes. Seventy out of 77 pollsters back that up, and both candidates have a case to make.
Sanders supporters argue he will bring both a massive youth vote and a widespread blue collar yearning for economic justice to the race, and win back all those voters who didn’t like Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and stayed home last time around, but they didn’t seem to show up on “Super Tuesday.” The establishment types backing Biden argue that he’s a more reassuringly boring alternative to Trump’s grotesque reality show, and that argument might prove persuasive.
We’re still registered Republicans, and will leave it to our many Democratic friends to choose how far they’ll go in what we consider the wrong direction. The Kansas Republican party has chosen to not hold a primary, depriving us of the chance to cast a futile protest vote against Trump, so we’ll be watching it all play out from our prime seats on the political sidelines.
We must admit it’s binge-worthy stuff, even if we can’t foresee any possible happy endings.

— Bud Norman

The Democratic Race and the Rest of It

The recently panicked stock markets were closed over the weekend, and won’t resume freaking out about all the bad coronavirus news that dribbled out on Saturday and Sunday until today, so the big story was the big story was an unsurprising plot twist in the Democratic Party’s primary contests to choose a nominee to run against President Donald Trump. Former Vice President and former Democratic front-runner Joe Biden won a decisive victory in the South Carolina primary, ending a streak of three embarrassing finishes in the first three contests and stopping current front-runner and self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’s impressive winning streak.
Which gave all the talking heads on television and the editorialists in the last of the newspapers something to talk and write about. For the most part the mainstream media hate Trump but don’t much like Sanders’ loony left policies, with both the Sanders Democrats and Trump Republicans now grumbling that it’s all a fake news conspiracy on behalf of the hated establishment, and from our perspective here on the sidelines we have to admit they overplayed Biden’s win in South Carolina.
Biden’s win allows him to live and fight another day, an undeniably big story that should be reported, but on this Monday the day after is Super Tuesday, with 15 states comprising a third of the Democratic convention’s delegates on the line. All of the usually reliably polls indicate that Sanders is going to substantially pad his lead in the delegate count, with clear victories in such populous states California and Texas and Virginia, and least a strong finish everywhere else. Perhaps Biden’s impressive showing in South Carolina will give him enough momentum for a couple of red state wins an some respectable showings elsewhere, but that was one of those overlooked weekend stories.
If you’ve been following the Democrats’ presidential primary reality show so far, you know that it’s basically a contest between the left-of-center part of the party and the so-far-loony-left-they’re-off-the-cliff faction, and that Biden is so far the choice of the former and Sanders is the clear favorite of the latter. It’s been complicated by a crowded field so far, but after South Carolina things are taking clearer shape.
After impressive showings in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary the South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg dropped out after a desultory in South Carolina, which is good news for Biden. Buttigieg is openly homosexual, which would have doomed his candidacy in our earlier lifetime, but he’s also got more a impressive military record than anyone running for president in either party and is a very eloquent spokesman for a more-or-less left-of-center status quo. We figure his votes will mostly to go the very heterosexual and procreative Biden, and that he’ll need every one of them on Super Tuesday.
The South Carolina primary also caused the withdrawal of Democratic candidate Tom Steyer, but it is hard to tell what that means. Steyer made billions more than Trump ever did in the hedge fund business, then became one of those bleeding-heart billionaires who started investment banks for poor and minority folks and poured millions into Impeach Trump advertising, and we have noidea where his third and fourth place finishes in the early Democrat races we have no idea where his meager votes will go. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is still vying for the loony-left vote, at least through Super Tuesday, but when she inevitably drops out her sizable chunk of the vote will mostly wind up in Sanders’ column.
Meanwhile, media billionaire Michael Bloomberg remains a factor, with his millions in ad buys making him a contender to Biden for the relatively sane and centrist vote, but unless those ads are more effective than we’re figured on Super Tuesday he’ll probably drop out on Wednesday and most of his votes and delegates will go to Biden. Which leaves us with a Sanders versus Biden and the loony-left versus relatively sane and centrist factions. Our guess is that Sanders still has s a huge lead after Super Tuesday, and that the loony left eventually winds up winning the Democratic nomination. After that,  and Trump’s inevitable triumph in theRepublican party, makes it unclear how hat will play out in a general election.

— Bud Norman

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

The Damned Democrats’ Debate

The six candidates who still have a plausible shot at winning the Democratic party’s presidential nomination had a debate Wednesday night in Nevada, which is having one of those weird caucus rituals on Saturday, and it was a raucous affair. All of the contenders spent so much bashing one another they had little time left to bash President Donald Trump, who surely enjoyed the show.
According to the latest polls  the clear frontrunner in the race is Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist and the darling of the loony left portion of the Democratic party, which is plenty big enough to give a him a 32 point plurality in the crowded field, with fellow loony lefty Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren fading into fourth at 12 percent. Former Vice President and former frontrunner Joe Biden, who is courting the party’s relatively sane centrists, is in second with 16 percent, but that’s barely ahead of the 14 percent by billionaire media mogul and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is courting the same votes. South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar have 8 and 7 percent respectively, which also come from the relatively sane centrist faction.
All of which led to Wednesday’s brass knuckle free-for-all, with the relatively sane centrists attacking one another as well as the loony left contenders, and the loony left contenders also firing in every direction. As best as we can score the bout, Bloomberg got by far the worst of it.
Bloomberg skipped the opening contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, and has carefully avoided any public appearances or interviews with the media, so his recent rapid rise in the polls is entirely due to the $50 million of his own money that he’s poured into national advertising on radio and television and the internet, and one big question was how he’d fare on his first debate stage since his mayoral campaigns. Not vey well, as it turns out.
Everyone in the Democratic party and most of the independents they’ll need to win in November have by now had their fill of New York City billionaires, so all the other candidates gleefully piled on. Warren blasted Bloomberg’s longstanding reputation for saying outrageously things in public and the numerous lawsuits brought by women against his company for fostering a hostile workplace and having women bound by nondisclosure agreements, which seems to be what New York City billionaires do, and Warren succinctly summarized his response as “Well, I’ve been nice to some women.”
Klobuchar criticized Bloomberg’s failure to release his tax returns, another one of those thing New York City billionaires seem to do, and although he promised he’d get around to it soon his explanation for the delay only emphasized that he’s suspiciously rich. Sanders whole platform is anti-billionaires in general, so he further demonized Bloomberg to his fans. Others on both the left and center criticized the “stop and frisk” policing policies aimed mostly at minorities that Bloomberg championed as New York mayor, and although Bloomberg has fulsomely apologized for it that probably won’t do him much good in the largely-Latino Nevada caucus or the majority-black South Carolina primary that’s coming up next.
Everyone but Warren argued that Sanders’ self-described socialism might render him unelectable in a country that’s still mostly center-right, and was forced by the centrists to defend the economic feasibility of his pie-in-the-sky health care proposals, but Bloomberg drew a gasp an then boos when he accused Sanders of being a communist. The 78-year-old Sanders recently suffered a heart attack and was roundly criticized for failing to keep a promise to release his full medical records, and he offered the same explanation that Trump did about his undeniably grueling campaign schedule, but he didn’t seem on his game.</div div style=”text-indent:20px;”>Biden went largely unscathed, but the lack of attacks seemed to emphasize his slow decline into irrelevance, which will rapidly accelerate if he doesn’t do very well in Nevada and then South Carolina, and he still not much of a campaigner and didn’t do much on Wednesday to turn things around. That’s good news for Buttigieg and Klobuchar, who could now overtake both Biden and Bloomberg for those relatively sane centrist Democratic voters. Buttigieg criticized Klobuchar for failing to remember the name of the Mexican president during a recent interview, but she admitted to the understandable momentary lack of memory and made Buttigieg look rather pedantic. On the whole, we think she got the better of it.
Sanders has run afoul of the hotel and casino and restaurant workers union that is largely Latino and a huge chunk of the Nevada caucus-goers, who don’t like his plan to take away their hard-earned health benefits package as part of his single-payer “Medicare for all” plan, which gives the relatively sane centrists a chance at a much-needed win. As bad as Bloomberg was in his first public appearance he probably won’t be the beneficiary, no matter how much money he spends, and we expect Biden to continue underperforming, so that’s an opportunity for either Buttigieg or Klobuchar.
Buttigieg is openly homosexual, and although that didn’t matter to the voters in Iowa and New Hampshire and doesn’t offend our old-fashioned sensibilities any more than Trump’s tawdry sexual history, the largely Latino voters in Nevada and the black majority of voters in South Carolina might not be so open-minded, and even in this day and age it eventually will raise unavoidable questions about his electability, a sanely centrist with impressive military experience though he might be. Which is good news for Klobuchar, a happily married heterosexual woman and mother who has won every race she’s ever run even in Minnesota’s most Republican districts, and can brag of the bills she’s written that got passed and signed even in this polarized age, and she doesn’t want to take away anyone’s private health insurance.
As we scored the free-for-all cage match Klobuchar had a pretty good night, which is the only bad news of the evening for Trump. Eventually Warren will drop out and her 12 percent will join Sanders’ 32 percent, but if Klobuchar is the last relatively sane centrist standing she could have 45 percent of the party on her side, and even more if the Democrats decide that their socialist utopia can wait another four years and beating Trump is the party’s top priority. Trump will come up with some taunting nickname to tar Klobuchar as a loony leftist, and he won’t be able to resist making some outrageously sexist comment about her less-than-beauty-queen looks, but that won’t endear him to the educated suburban Republican women he have left the party in droves over the past three years, and we think she’d be a formidable foe. She also punches back, and she’s pretty darned good at it.
There are still 48 states and all those territories to go, though, and a big chunk of the Democrat party is clearly intent on leaping off that loony left cliff, so we’ll see how it turns out. The scariest part is that even the looniest left Democratic nominee could come up with a bigger plurality in this polarized nation than Trump.

— Bud Norman

After New Hampshire

The results of the New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary are in, and although we’re still not entirely sure how the Iowa caucuses turned out the race for the nomination is already starting to take shape. Only two of the 48 states and none of the territories have thus far weighed in, so there’s a long season of politics and plenty of plot twists ahead, but the New Hampshire results are nonetheless interesting.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders won a narrow victory over South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg, flipping the results of the inconclusive Iowa caucuses, and we don’t think that’s good news for the Democrats. Sanders is a self-described socialist, Buttigieg is a sensible centrist by Democratic standards but also openly homosexual, and although things are now very different from when we were young there’s still a huge chunk of the popular vote that would rather vote for the likes of President Donald Trump.
The better news for the Democrats, we think, was in the rest of the balloting. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a sensible centrist by Democratic standards and a married mother of a daughter to boot, came in five points behind for a  respectable third, which enhances her name recognition and helps her fundraising and gets her media coverage and makes her a viable contender in the upcoming races. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren was well behind in fourth place, and former Vice President Joe Biden came in at a desultory fifth place finish. Things can change over a long political season, but for now Warren can’t compete with Sanders for the crazy-left vote, and despite his putative front-runner status Biden is thus far struggling to win over the sane and sensibly centrist by Democratic standards vote.
The race now shifts to Nevada and then South Carolina, which could well provide very different results. Minorities are the majority of Democratic voters in each state, quite unlike both Iowa and New Hampshire, and although we don’t mind Sanders’ jewishness nor Buttigieg’s homosexuality nor Warren’s sex, and as much as we appreciate the cultural traditions of Latino and black voters, we’ll come right out and say that some Democrats aren’t so open-minded as we are. It’s early in the season, but we’ll cautiously prognosticate that Sanders ends up winning the crazy-left vote over Warren, and that Klobuchar soon emerges as the sane and sensibly centrist by Democratic standards alternative.
Which is probably best for the Democrats. Biden is a sensible centrist by the Democratic standards, and is associated with a President Barack Obama administration that saw more jobs created in its last three years than during than during the first three years of the Obama administration, but he’s a horrible campaigner and his son got inexplicably rich in Ukraine, even if he has a very complicated explanation for it all. Trump was acquitted by the Senate for his own Ukrainian dealings, and will have a field day with it.
Even Trump wouldn’t dare say anything about Buttigieg’s sexuality, at least not overtly, but his followers surely wlll, which makes Klobuchar the most appealing sane and sensible by Democratic standards for now. She’s never lost an election in the Republican areas of Minnesota where she’s run for various offices, she’s neither a self-described socialist nor an open homosexual, speaks in complete sentences, and seems to have no ties to Russia or Ukraine, so we figure she’d be a formidable opponent against Trump. Klobuchar is a woman, but is so more than half of the electorate, and last time around the worst woman in the world won three million more votes than Trump.
Some Republicans are hoping the Democrats will go crazy leftt, figuring that bolsters Trump’s reelection chances, but they should be careful what they wish for. Even the craziest left Democrat has a chance of beating Trump, and better it should be some sane and centrist by Democratic standards nominee who does the deed.

— Bud Norman

So Much to Satirize

The late night comedy shows have an inordinate influence on public opinion, much as the editorial cartoons of Thomas Nast and Herblock used to have back in the Gutenberg age, and of course they spend most of their time ridiculing President Donald Trump. The late night comedy shows are all written and performed by show biz types who are naturally inclined to ridicule any old Republican who happens to occupy the the White House, and Trump is an unusually ridiculous Republican who willingly provides the writers and performers with fresh material every day, so they’ve been having a grand old time of it.
The program that has most provoked Trump’s “tweeted” wrath is the National Broadcasting Network’s “Saturday Night Live,” which somehow retains both a hip cachet and a status as one of television’s most venerable institutions, and has frequently poked some painfully pointed barbs at the president. They’ve also made much fun of the Democrats, on the other hand, and Trump should be pleased that on Saturday night they unleashed a very well-done and withering satire of the entire field of Democratic contenders.
“SNL” has a remarkably talented cast these days, no matter what you think of their politics, and they shined in the long skit. The gifted Kate McKinnon perfectly skewered Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s scary overeagerness to make everything right. A nicely understated Colin Jost somehow captured South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s essential boringness, even though he’s the only homosexual and one of only two combat veterans in the race. As usual the lovely and talented Cicely Strong was dead-on in her portrayal of Hawaiian Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, the other combat veteran in the race and a comely but troublesome wild card in the Democratic race. Asian cast member Bowen Yang played Asian candidate Andrew Yang with stereotypical nerdishness, which we thought amusingly transgressive. The underused black guy Chris Redd’s bug-eyed portrayal of New Jersey Sen. Corey Booker was probably more devastating than he intended.
The show even brought back some revered former cast members to roast the Democrats. The formidable Fred Armisen was funny as a soft drink-sipping former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, daring Trump supporters to come up with a conspiracy theory about a Jewish billionaire with a media empire. Always hilarious Maya Rudolph came back to portray California Sen. Kamala Harris as a candidate always playing to the cameras. Our favorite among the Democrats is centrist Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, but the reliably funny Rachel Dratch had us laughing at her nervous twitch. Former cast member and current movie star Will Ferrell returned as the unblinking billionaire Tom Steyer, who has spent millions trying to get Trump impeached, and despite his open contempt for Trump Ferrell portrayed Steyer as a lunatic.
Bona fide movie star Woody Harrelson reprised his role as former Vice President Joe Biden, once again portraying him as an amiable but hopelessly out-of-touch old man who keeps getting his life confused with movie’s he’s seen, and the brilliantly cranky old Jewish guy comedian Larry David reprised his impersonation of the crazily cranky old Jewish Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, which is eerily true to life. It took some long-earned show biz pull, but Saturday Night Live of all of shows managed to make the entire Democratic field look ridiculous.
By next Saturday night they’ll probably have aging movie star Alec Baldwin back for his dead-on impersonation of a bumbling and tongue-tied Trump caught up in some scandal and clearly exposed lie, with McKinnon during her devastating Giuliani impersonation, and Trump and Giuliani will probably provide the writers and performers with plenty of material. In the meantime Trump should acknowledge, even if he doesn’t “tweet” it, that at least Saturday Night Live acknowledges his Democratic challengers are also rather ridiculous. That’s good news for comedy and media fairness, we suppose, and we plan to get water laughs we can get out of it, but it’s not good news for the country at large.

— 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

A Brief History Lesson for the Young Democratic Whippersnappers on the Other Side of the Generation Gap

Ryan Grim strikes us as another one of those wild-eyed liberals looking to take over the Democrat party, and the sort of revisionist young whippersnapper who still calls President Ronald Reagan “a C-list actor,” but we think his op-ed piece in Sunday’s Washington Post correctly identifies the current fissure among the Democrats as a generation gap.
So far as we can tell Grim is a bit too young remember the late ’60s and early ’70s when the hippies and the hard hats were fighting it out on the streets and “generation gap” was a familiar part of the political lexicon, but he’s familiar enough with Reagan’s landslide victories and the Republican party’s ascendancy in the ’80s to understand why some Democrats are still spooked by it. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer and front-running Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden are all aged enough to remember how President Richard Nixon a landslide over the hippie favorite Democratic nominee Sen. George McGovern in ’72 despite an increasingly unpopular war in Vietnam. They remember that the carefully centrist President Jimmy Carter won office in ’76 only because of the Watergate scandal, but was decisively ousted four years later by Reagan, who won a record 49 states in his reelection bid.
They also well remember how many of their longstanding congressional colleagues were voted out along the way. Such liberal lions as McGovern and Sen. Frank Church and Birch Bayh and the most senior Sen. Warren Magnuson from the New Deal era were voted out during the ’70s, and the likes of wild-eyed conservative Rep. Newt Gingrich were voted in. Reagan won a third term of sorts when his Vice President George H.W. Bush, and any Democrat old enough to remember that still shudders at the thought. President Bill Clinton ended the Republicans’ 12-year White House reign in 92′ and won reelection in ’96, but he ran as a centrist and won by mere pluralities with considerable help from nutcase third-party populist candidate Ross Perot peeling off conservative votes. In ’94 the Republicans even took the House of Representatives after 40 years of Democratic control, a result of Clinton offending the public with such divisive ideas as allowing gays to serve in the military and the government taking a greater role in the health care system, but Clinton won reelection mostly because he and Gingrich had come up with a rare balanced budget and revived the Reagan economic expansion after a short and mild recession.
Republican President George W. Bush succeeded Clinton with a plurality and razor-then electoral majority and then won reelection with a slight majority of the popular, which drove all the Democrats crazy, even though the increasingly wild-eyed conservatives in the Republican party found both Bushes far too centrist for their tastes. President Barack Obama succeeded the second Bush and then easily won reelection, which drove all the Republicans crazy even if the younger of the increasingly wild-eyed Democrats now consider Obama far too centrist for their tastes. All of which explains why such liberal but seasoned septuagenarians as Pelosi and Schumer and Biden are reluctant to veer too far left of the center.
Much younger and less experienced and better-looking and more wild-eyed Democrats as New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke and Sen. Kamala Harris and New Jersey Sen. Corey Booker now have considerable sway in the Democratic party, and although the aging self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and ripened Massachusetts Sen. Warren are on their side Grim seems correct in surmising that a generation gap will be the story of the Democrats’ upcoming presidential primaries. Grim apparently believes that youthful idealism and its resulting recklessness will eventually overwhelm old age’s hard-earned experience and its resulting caution, and he seems to wish for it, and although we hope he’s wrong we worry he might be right.
At this point in our late middle age we must admit, however begrudgingly, that a lot has changed since Nixon won a landslide reelection but lost a popular culture back in ’72, and that things have changed far even more rapidly ever since. The “don’t ask, don’t tell” that allowed homosexuals to serve in the military so long as they remained closeted cost Clinton the House back in ’94, but it seems quaint in this age of constitutionally guaranteed same-sex marriage. The government intrusion into health care that Clinton’s wife proposed was less ambitious than what Obama wound up getting passed, and lately it polls well, and the Republicans couldn’t come with any alternative they could pass even when they held the White House and both chambers of Congress, so the crazy ideas that these young Democrats are proposing will have some appeal to a significant portion of the population. “Socialism” is no longer the damning term of opprobrium that it was during most of our lives, although it still should be, as far as we’re still concerned, and will probably get a lot more votes than Eugene Debs ever did back in a more sensible era of America.
Which is a shame, especially given the currently wild-eyed state of the Republican party in the era of President Donald Trump. It’s not the admirably wild-eyed conservatism of the Republican party that opposed the New Deal programs President Franklin Roosevelt wrought during his party’s six-decades dominance of American politics, nor is it the centrist and internationalist Republicanism of President Dwight Eisenhower that ended that long reign. It’s not the small government and free markets conservatism of Republican nominee Sen. Barry Goldwater, who lost by a landslide in ’64. Trump has the same tough-talking anti-hippie and pro-law-and-order rhetoric that Nixon won with in ’68, but Nixon won reelection after establishing the Environmental Protection Agency that Trump rails against and abandoning the Gold Standard monetary policy that Trump’s Federal Reserve Board appointees want to reinstate, and Trump has made his disdain Republican nominee back to Reagan quite clear.
Despite a pretty good economy America is adding the same trillion or so to the national debt that Obama was racking up in the wake of a deep and long lasting recession, The Repubicans’ big tax cut bill went mainly to the rich while the poor are probably paying even more for Trump’s tariffs every time they go to Wal-Mart. As bad as Obama was Trump has done even more to buddy up to dictatorships while undermining our the post-World War II military and trading alliances that Eisenhower and both Republican and Democratic presidents wisely established. We also note that his promise of proposing such a wonderful health care policy that your head will spin has not yet been kept.
On the other hand, Trump has outraged those damned Democrats even more than Nixon or Reagan or either of the Bushes ever did, and the more wild-eyed Republicans seem satisfied with that. He’s threatened governmental retribution against the free press and promised to lock up his political opponents, enforced our border laws with extreme cruelty and questioned the legitimacy of any federal judges of Latino heritage, has kinder words for the leaders of Russia and North Korea than he can must for our North Atlantic Treaty Organization partners, and is even coarser than Nixon ever was in his “twitter” denunciations of the damned hippies.
As much as the die-hard fans love it, it’s not at all the conservatism and Republican party we signed up with. With ur old-school sensibilities we’re free press absolutists, and we worry how that Third World “lock ’em up” stuff might play out if the damned Democrats control the White House and both chambers of Congress yet again. We have nothing against Latino citizens and legal immigrants, and rather enjoy their music and food and construction and road-paving efforts and occasional judicial opinions. We prefer our classically liberal democratic allies to the authoritarian populists popping up around the world, and by now we’re friends with a lot of dope-smoking hippies, and our hard=hat friends are also taking atoke  or two.
Which is not to say that we agree about anything with anyone on the left. Even the aged and relatively wised-up Democrats toward the center have always been too far left for our centrist tastes, and Grim’s favored youngsters strike us as at least as crazy as Trump.
There’s always some hope that the upcoming congressional impeachment investigations will result in some deus ex machina that delivers the Republican party some nominee other than Trump, and that the Democrats won’t go full-blown socialist. We can’t envision any scenario where the budget gets balanced, or any sort of budget actually gets passed and signed into law, or health care becomes universal and inexpensive, or all the ethnic and sexual groups learn to love another, but we hold out hope the center will hold and the republic will somehow persist.
When we were born Eisenhower had reconciled the Republicans with Social Security and most of the rest of Roosevelt’s New Deal,  and until recently the Democrats have only arguing about how much to tax the free markets that Goldwater and Reagan had championed, everyone more or less agreed on the post-war world order that Presidents Truman and Eisenhower and Kennedy and Nixon had sustained, and for the most part it worked out well enough. At this point in our late middle age we believe the sole purpose of the Democratic party is to keep the damned Republicans from imposing their worst ideas on a great nation, and that the Republicans exist solely to save the country from the Democrats dumbest ideas.
For now both parties are seized by a wild-eyed youthful idealism, which we’ve noticed from our reading of history is the most destructive force on the planet, but old age and experience and its resulting caution still stand a fighting chance. We’ll probably wind up casting another futile protest vote on some write-in candidate, but hope the rest of the country chooses as wisely as possible, given the circumstances..

— Bud Norman

Well, At Least There’s Still More than a Year and a Half Left in the Race

The Cable News Networks has run the first significant Democratic presidential poll since the two-part and too-early Democratic presidential debates of last week. Given the results, we’ll mostly take a day off from our usual bashing of Republican President Donald Trump to note that the Democrats seem intent on nominating someone even arguably worse.
At the outset of the race the clear front-runner by double digits was former Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, who was also Vice President for eight years to President Barack Obama, who somehow remains popular in the Democratic party, even if much of the party now grouses that liberal administration we daily fulminated about wasn’t nearly liberal enough. Part of Obama’s enduring appeal in the party is that he was The First Black President ™, and given all the white flight to the Republican party over the past several decades of the Civil Rights era black voters are a sizable chunk of the Democratic primary electorate, especially in the southern states that hold early primaries, and Biden seemed to enjoy their gratitude that he’d been a loyal ally of Obama. The Democrats also retain a following among the Rust Belt white working class, even if Trump won enough of them last time around to squeak out an electoral majority, and the affable and commuter train-riding “Uncle Joe” and his aged self’s ties to an earlier era of populist Democratic politics made him seem well poised to win those votes back from Trump.
It was never likely to hold up, however, and seems to have taken a severe hit after just an hour of televised debate. The CNN polls shows Biden dropping 10 points, and although he’s still in the lead with 22 percent he’s only five percentage points ahead of California Sen. Kamala Harris, just six ahead of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and just eight ahead of self-proclaimed socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. He retains a bigger lead over the other 21 or 22 or so candidates, but several of them still have a chance to break out.
Biden’s hold on the black vote was always tenuous, given that he was running against a bona fide black man with verifiable slave blood in New Jersey Sen. Corey Booker, who can also rightly claim to love in one of America’s most blighted and crime-ridden black ghettos, as well as California senator Harris, who has a Jamaican immigrant father and an east Indian immigrant mother, and grew up identifying and being identified as a black woman. Harris was the one who seized the opportunity during the debates, criticizing Biden for his way-way-back-in-the-’70s position against forced busing to achieve school desegregation, and it gave her a nine point bump in the poll while Biden took a ten point hit.
Harris is too far left and too much an “identity politics” candidate for our tastes, but she’s a former prosecutor and California Attorney General who always comes across as smart and well-informed in every interview, which contrasts to her favor with Trump, and she’s not quite so crazy as many of her competitors, so we warn both Biden and Trump to be worried. Given the current far left and “identity politics” predilections of the Democratic party, she seems a formidable opponent.
Biden’s hold on those aggrieved white Rust Belt blue collar workers was also tenuous, given that pretty much of the rest of the field was willing to outbid him with grandiose promises of free health care and guaranteed incomes and various other free stuff. Anyone who voted for Obama twice but then switched to Trump is not a true-blue Republican or conservative by our old-fashioned standards, and we suspect they were swayed by Trump’s even more grandiose and far-fetched promises of restoring the steel and coal and other Rust Belt industries to their long-long-ago ’50s glory, and now the rest of the Democratic party seems to willing to make to such gullible rubes even more grandiose and far-fetched promises. They can’t make the same make America white again promises as Trump, whose brand of identity politics also offends us, but Obama got their votes two times around and  we think they’ll once again fare well.
The estimable Washington Post editorial writer Eugene Robinson had an editorial on Monday taunting that we Never-Trump Republicans should reconcile ourselves to the idea that the Democrats are going to wind up nominating a Democrat. With all due respect to Robinson we didn’t need him to tell us that depressing news, and note that the three or four Democratic candidates we could conceivably vote for are all polling in the single digits, but we’re still hoping the party will come up with its least crazy possible nominee. Two major parties gone stark raving crazy are two too many, as far we’re concerned.
Our guess is that we’ll wind up once again throwing away our vote on some futile independent candidate, and that all our Democratic and Republican friends will accuse us of de facto voting for the hated other side. Once again, we’ll console ourselves that at least we threw our vote away on something better. How the rest of the country votes is up to the rest of the country.

— Bud Norman

Fox or Not, That Is the Dem’s Question

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg had an hour long “town hall” appearance on the Fox News network Sunday, and he wound up getting a standing ovation from the studio audience and rave reviews from much of the rest of the media. Democratic presidential candidate and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has recently vowed not to appear on Fox News at all, calling the network a “hate-for-profit racket,” which also got much applause from rank-and-file Democrats as well as rave reviews from many media.
So far Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and a fewother Democratic candidates have accepted invitations to appear on Fox, while several other contenders are have joined in the boycott of the network. The primary results will prove who’s made the smarter choice, and we’re not in the habit of giving advice to Democrats but our best guess is that getting coverage from Fox is a good idea.
There’s no denying that most of the Fox opinion show hosts are unabashed apologists for President Donald Trump, but the news reporters tend to play it straight, the “town halls” are conducted by the tough-but-fair Chris Wallace, and any Democratic candidate who can’t handle the hard questions will eventually be exposed by the other networks. Besides, there are a lot of people watching Fox, and some of them might even be persuadable.
The exposure is especially useful for a candidate such as Buttigieg, who is atypical contender even by today’s standards. He’s a mere 37 years old, the mayor of mid-sized South Bend, Indiana, and openly homosexual, and until he became a media darling he was little-known, but he could be a formidable opponent for Trump. His youth shouldn’t be any more an issue than Trump’s advanced age, his political experience exceeds Trump’s, and Trump has no standing to criticize anybody’s sexual behavior. Buttigieg also served in the military, has excellent educational credentials, is well-spoken in eight languages, and is centrist enough that Trump will have a hard time portraying him as a left-wing crazy.
The “town hall” went enough for Buttigieg that Trump was complaining about Fox broadcasting it.
“Hard to believe that @FoxNews is wasting airtime on Mayor Pete, as Chris Wallace likes to him,” a two-part Trump “tweet” said. “Fox is moving more and more to the losing (wrong) side in covering the Dems. They got dumped from the Democrats boring debates, and they just want in. They forgot the people … who got them there. Chris Wallace said, ‘I actually think, whether you like his opinions or not, that Mayor Pete has a lot of substance … fascinating biography.’ Gee, he never speaks well of me — I like Mike Wallace better … and Alfred E. Newman will never be president!”
One hardly knows where to begin finding fault with this “tweet.” There’s the obviously bad idea a major news network shouldn’t be covering a major party’s presidential primaries, for one thing, and Trump’s grousing that he doesn’t get sufficient sycophantic support from Fox is also ridiculous. Trump misspelled the name of Mad Magazine mascot Alfred E. Neuman, too, which is hard for readers of our age to forgive, and readers younger than ourselves probably won’t get the reference at all. Even if some people notice some similarity between Neuman and Buttigieg — which we don’t, by the way — Trump won’t beat the Democrat on handsomeness.
There are surely some Democratic primary voters who will resent any candidate appearing on Fox, but surely many more who will applaud a willingness to wade into what is widely considered enemy territory, especially if the candidates perform as well as Sanders and Buttigieg are thought to have done. Any Democrat who wins the nomination will eventually have to engage with the network in the general election, anyway, so they might as well start now.
Both Sanders and Buttigieg took the opportunity to criticize Fox News’ opinion programs, by the way, and with Trump now badmouthing the network might be able to credibly revive its “fair and balanced” slogan.

— Bud Norman