Sanders vs. Trump vs. “The Establishment”

One encounters all sorts of people here in Wichita, and over the years we’ve acquired a dizzyingly diverse group of friends. We have friendships with men and women of all colors and sexual orientations and sports team preferences and political opinions. We’re friends with some fervid supporters of President Donald Trump and some equally fervid advocates for self-described socialist and potential Democratic rival Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and we have noticed they seem to have a lot in in common.
Both are true believers in their hero’s infallibility, and both are inclined to believe in conspiracy theories that some nebulous and nefarious “establishment” is out to prevent them from making everything right. Both believe that most of the mainstream media are in on it, too.
Trump has lately been “tweeting” to Sanders’ supporters that they’re right to be paranoid, as he knows all too well how nefarious that nebulous “establishment” and mainstream media can be in stopping a revolutionary movement, and it’s a smart move. Sanders’ most fervid supporters won’t vote for Trump in any circumstance, but from our barroom conversations with the Sandersistas they might well wind up voting for the Green Party or Socialist Party or Communist Party or not voting at all if the damned Democrats don’t nominate their guy, even if that means another four years of Trump.
From our seats here on the political sidelines we’re nostalgically yearning for a bygone era in our lifetimes when there actually was an “establishment” and a mainstream media to enforce the time-honored norms of civil discourse and international relations that mostly maintained America’s and the rest of the world’s peace and prosperity. The dirty hippies and the rest of the damn Democrats started the whole “anti-establishment” crusade, and thus set off a “sexual revolution” and a general distrust of time-honored institutions and mores in general, and in the last election a proudly libertine and “anti-establishment” Republican won on an Electoral College victory on a promise to burn it all down.
At this moment the frontrunner in the Democratic primary race is Biden, a relatively sane and centrist by-Democratic-standards, and the Super Tuesday victories he scored to put him in the lead for now, which has our Sanders-loving panicked. Biden was was helped when fellow centrists South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar dropped out and endorsed Biden’s candidacy, all of the media reported on Biden’s big night, which of course fuels all the conspiracy theories about “the establishment,” with Trump telling a rally crowd that there was surely some illegal quid pro quo involved.
As we see it Biden won the lion’s share of the “Super Tuesday” vote from rank-and-file Democrats, however, as the elite “establishment” doesn’t have nearly enough to account for the lopsided results, and people don’t really pay that much attention to what’s left of the mainstream media. Most Democratic voters apparently bought Biden’s pitch that he’d go back to the days of the President Barack Obama administration.
All of our Trump-loving friends remember that as the dark age of socialist dystopia, and our Sanders-loving recall it as the era when the nebulous and nefarious “establishment” kept Obama from fulling his promise to fundamentally transform America into to a socialist utopia. We were very critical of the slow recovery from the Great Recession that Obama inherited, but after the Republicans won back the House in the mid-terms and slowed the deficit spending the economy started progressing slightly better in the last three years of the Obama administration than it has in the first three years of the Trump administration.
Trump would clearly prefer to run against Sanders, having invited impeachment by attempting to extort dirt from the Ukrainians about Biden. After Sanders and his kooky left ideas suffered a huge defeat on “Super Tuesday” the stock markets all rallied from a severe coronavirus slump, which signals some support for Biden’s Obama era policies, but at least Trump can hope to divide the Democrats and suppress the sizable Sanders vote. Which just might work.
However it turns out, we’ll hope that some sort of establishment maintains the norms that have so far mostly worked.

— Bud Norman

“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

A Not-So-Super Tuesday

Although it’s still too soon to abandon all hope, and never so late that one should abandon the fight, on the day after “Super Tuesday” it seems all too likely that the American people will have to choose between two of the most widely distrusted and disliked people in the country for their next president.
The big day brought split decisions, but the clear winners on points were Donald J. Trump, the self-described billionaire real-estate-and-gambling-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-television-and-scam-university mogul on the Republican side, and on the Democratic side it was one of the guests at his most recent wedding, the former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and rape-enabling charity-hustler and law-flouting incompetent Hillary Clinton. Both have unfavorable ratings well above the 50 percent mark, with sizable majorities of the country having reasonably concluded that they are not the sort of people they would want as a president, yet now are both the prohibitive favorites to win their parties’ nominations.
Trump’s Tuesday wins in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Virginia, and Vermont give him a nine-out-of-14 record so far, and some recent polls have his national average far enough into the 40s to prevail in even a narrowed field, and the place and show results aren’t likely to do any narrowing. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz won on his home field and also took neighboring Oklahoma — God bless our beautiful ancestral state — which makes him three-out-of-14 but still in the race, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio finally got a story in the caucus state of Minnesota, where the Republicans well remember their last flirtation with professional wrestling characters, and he would have scored a big win in Virginia if not for Ohio Gov. John Kasich sticking around until the primaries move into his region of the country, so for the next round there will be at least three candidates splitting up a seemingly shrinking portion of the anti-Trump vote.
In his victory speech Trump generously praised himself for his courage in running and with characteristic graciousness described his rivals as “losers,” or “loosers,” as his internet commenting fans are wont to write, but he seemed to realize that he hasn’t yet sealed his latest great deal. The peculiarly proportional rules of Republican politics split up the night’s delegate count in a way that gives him a significant but not at all decisive lead, and still far short of what’s needed to clinch the nomination. Tuesday’s results will at least winnow out the retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson, either by his graceful withdrawal or unfortunate irrelevance, and one can hope that he’ll join a growing number of Christian leaders and use his remaining influence to denounce the man who slanderously ridiculed his story of faith. Those peculiarly proportional rules of Republican politics remain a problem for any candidate who isn’t pulling in more than 50 percent of the vote, which Trump still hasn’t done, and in getting there Trump will finally face a well-funded barrage of facts about his failed businesses and his penchant for hiring the illegal aliens that he’s vowed to save the country from and why he’s not making the financial disclosures that will prove how very, very rich he is, and he’s even getting some campaign jibes about those short fingers of his, and the late night comics are already having a ball with him, and there’s a deposition coming up in a couple of months regarding that scam university of his, and surely Trump knows as well as anyone that in this crazy election year anything could happen.
Still, for now Trump steamrolls ahead, and at this rate he’s likely to crash into his former wedding guest Clinton in a train-wreck of a general election. Clinton won victories in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia, while her rival, self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, won in Colorado, Minnesota, Oklahoma of all places, and his home state. That makes Clinton nine-out-of-14, if you don’t count that highly suspicious series of coin flips in Iowa as a tie, but by the peculiarly proportional rules of the Democrat party every delegate won by either candidate seems to yield two super-delegates for Clinton, so at this rate we have to admit that maybe she was inevitable after all. All the yard signs and bumper stickers and buttons we see in our neighbor say “Bernie,” but there are a lot of chocolate-milk-sipping pajama boys in our fashionable neighborhood near the art museum, which might or might not be representative of the paler portions of the Democratic party, but in Alabama and Arkansas and Georgia and Tennessee and Texas and Virginia the Democrats tend to be black, which seems to be the storyline in the Democratic primary. So far the Black Lives Matter activists and other black trend-setters are starting to side with Sanders, but the overall trend is that the same southern blacks who went for President Barack Obama over Clinton are now going for Clinton and her First Black President husband over that Jewish guy from lily-white Vermont, even if her philandering husband did sign all those mass incarceration and welfare reform bills she now rails against.
Such allegedly racist Republicans as ourselves can at least enjoy the spectacle of the political race war waging within the Democratic party, and the sweet irony that all those white hipsters’ socialism might fail because they are found guilty of white privilege, but it’s a slight satisfaction given the inevitable consequences of such tribalism. Our own party’s clear front-runner recently told a national broadcast audience that he wasn’t sufficiently familiar with David Duke or the Ku Klux or some notion of “white supremacism” to comment on it, and the internet swelled with supporters saying it was a crafty set-up question by the “cuckservative” Jew-controlled media, the front-runner has an annoying habit of re-“tweeting” their “tweets,” and his own tweets have included some outrageously bogus numbers about white people killed by black people, so we’d have to say that the post-racial era of politics that our current widely disliked and distrusted president once promised hasn’t happened.
Perhaps it will all work out in the end, somehow. This Sanders fellow seems honest enough, even if he’s an honestly crazed honeymooning-in-the-Soviet-Union socialist who would bring upon America all the misery that inevitably follows socialism, and that Spanish-speaking and Canadian-born right-winger Cruz talks cold-blooded capitalism and kind-hearted Christianity with the sort of sincere zeal that seems more threatening to the establishment than all of Trump’s”anti-establishment” bluster and vague promises about great deals with the establishment and all his other wedding guests, and no mater the outcome at least it would be a clarifying election. If it turns out to be Rubio or Kasich in the mano-a-mano cage match duel to the death in the finale episode of the Republican party’s reality show that would be good enough for us.
By the peculiarly proportional rules of the American political system, though, it’s looking as if we’ll have a choice between two people that most people don’t think are at all suited to the job of being president.

— Bud Norman

The She that Was a He and How He Got Lost to Time

As we await today’s Super Tuesday presidential nomination race results with a grim sense of foreboding, we’ll take a moment to grimly chuckle about Time Magazine’s recent revelation that Evelyn Waugh is one of the most-read female authors in America’s colleges today.
If you’re not familiar with Waugh’s work, you really should be. Waugh is arguably the English language’s greatest fiction writer of the past century, the author of such masterpieces as “Brideshead Revisited,” “Scoop,” “The Loved One,” “Vile Bodies,” “Black Mischief,” “Decline and Fall,” that terrific “Sword of Honour” trilogy, and other worthy fare, all works that have a special relevance for these grim times. Waugh’s is a certainly a name that the supposedly hip-and-well-read folks at such a once-august magazine as Time should know, and they should also know that, in addition to being unfashionably dead and white, Waugh was also very much male.
It’s a common mistake, and even such a supposedly important journalist as Matt Yglesias “tweeted” his confession that he had also assumed Waugh was a woman, “Evelyn” being a name he associates with women, and we recall asking the clerk at a local locally-owned bookstore that prides itself on a well-read staff about a Waugh title and hearing him cheerfully admit that he’d never heard of her, and we suppose he got a lot of “Boy Named Sue” style kidding about it while growing up. He was married to a woman named Evelyn, and although his name was pronounced Ee-vellin and hers was the more common feminine form, their friends liked to distinguish them as He-evyln and She-vylyn, so some confusion is understandable. Still, we note that in a more literate age not so long ago the staff at such a highfalutin rag as Time would have been embarrassed not to know who Evelyn Waugh was, because their middle-brow readers sure did, and that in that not so long ago age the world was bit more civilized.
If the youthful staffers that Time can still afford to employ were to dip into some Waugh, despite deadness and whiteness and maleness, they’d find themselves brilliantly satirized by “Scoop,” that smart set they hope to mingle with had already been ridiculed by “Vile Bodies,” that their hollow understanding of war and peace has been shamed by the “Sword of Honor” books, and that the age they live in was witheringly described decades ago in “Decline and Fall.” If their middle-brow readers were more familiar with Waugh they might have been better prepared to avert the glum outcomes of today’s Super Tuesday voting.
Perhaps the glummest part of our slightly amusing story is that Waugh came in number 97 on that list of most-read female authors. It’s not that we’re altogether sexist, but as much as we love some good old Barbara Pym and Muriel Spark, who remind us very much of Waugh, and Dorothy Parker, who was a more American sort of dame, and Zora Neal Thurston, who is dead but black and female, and although we can think of others and freely acknowledge there are a lot more than we have had the opportunity to read, we seriously doubt that there have ever been a full 96 women of any color or original genitalia who deserve to be more widely read than Waugh. Literary quality takes a back seat to identity politics among the Democratic party’s mart set these days, though, and we don’t expect that either former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or the self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie sanders with the intellectual hairdo and academic elbow patches pay much heed to Waugh’s warnings against modernity.
Nor are we particularly elitist in our literary tastes, and we’ll also go on about our enthusiasm for Jim Thompson, the alcoholic white trash Okie whose delirium tremens dime novels expressed our cultural failings with a self-loathing religiosity that is much needed these days, and we’re suckers for Dan Jenkins’ sports novels and certain Stephen King works and corny old O. Henry short stories and the occasional cloak-and-dagger tales that our Pop so loved, but we do think the Republicans could stand some more reading of those dignified dead white males who suddenly seem out fashion even in the Grand Old Party. As the party enters the modern reality show stage of its long history, forged in the Civil War, it would do well to recall an exchange between two characters in “Scott-King’s Modern Europe.” A stuffy old headmaster declares that “Parents are not interested in producing the ‘complete man’ anymore. They want to qualify their boys for jobs in the public world. You can hardly blame them, can you?” The protagonist responds that “I can and do. I think it would be very wicked indeed to do anything to fit a boy for the modern world.”

— Bud Norman