It’s deja vu all over again. 2016 revisited, with only a few modifications. Then Hillary Clinton slugged it out with Bernie Sanders, and in a war of attrition gradually built up an insurmountable lead, despite the massive excitement the insurgent candidate aroused among the left-wing of the Party. Clinton went on to run a lackluster campaign that motivated no one (or hardly anyone). Yes, she won the popular vote and that is something. But she ran more as the least worst candidate than as the best. At least that’s the way most of those who voted for her saw her.
The same phenomenon is developing in 2020. Joe Biden’s victory in South Carolina and the “persuasion” used to get Buttigieg and Klobuchar out of the race created a steamroller effect which was hard for Sanders to answer. Though Biden’s delegate lead is relatively small even after Super Tuesday, the remaining contests will challenge Bernie is the same way Hillary’s war of attrition badgered him and led to defeat in 2016.
Elizabeth Warren isn’t helping. She is probably on the verge of quitting the race. But clearly there is animus on her part toward Bernie. It’s not clear that she will endorse him. Even if she does, will she do so full-throatedly or half-heartedly? And even if she does, is the consolidation of the left enough to outweigh the more massive consolidation from the right and center of the Party?
The Party Hacks and MSM are breathing a sigh of relief that their preferred candidate has saved the day and saved their asses (the political consulting class and think tank mandarins need that gravy train). But I wouldn’t start celebrating just yet. Just as Hillary waged an uninspiring campaign which cost her the election, so Biden has already shown us that he is an uninspiring candidate. Yes, of course he will gain a new burst of confidence and energy from Super Tuesday. For a while, he will perform much better than he has. But face it, Joe is Joe. He’s not Superman. He isn’t even Clark Kent. He’s an aging political dinosaur who’s been a Happy Campaign Warrior for a decade too long. He doesn’t offer any new policy initiatives. No bold programs. No inspiration. No passion. He offers warmed offer Democratic centralism. Nibbling reforms around the edges. Nothing too radical. Go along to get along.
Voters who chose Biden yesterday made the same false assumption that those who voted for Trump in 2016 did: they closed their eyes, held their nose and selected him in the ballot booth, hoping he’d be a better person and president once he entered office. Instead, the same defects were made even more manifest. Biden’s weaknesses are plain to see. To ignore them and hope that somehow they will be minimized or disappear is a fool’s errand. They will reappear and will be crippling.
My prediction is that Joe loses come November. I say this with no sense of smugness or satisfaction. Donald Trump is a disaster. But he has a rock-solid base which offers him a solid 40% of the electorate, no matter what we may think of them. He only needs to persuade another 8 or 9% to vote for him in order to win. He managed to do that in 2016 and odds are with an even weaker candidate than Hillary running this time, Trump can win again.
I say this with both sadness and bitterness. But nevertheless, it’s true.
Can Bernie still pull it off? Maybe. Would I like that to happen? You bet. But I think we must prepare for the worst while hoping for the best.
Are there any bright spots? Sure. Bernie has created a movement and a legacy. The young progressive women running and getting elected to Congress are our future. I don’t know which one of them will run for president and win. But surely in the next decade or so one of them will. My hope is that she (or he) will not make the mistakes Obama did of running as a progressive and governing as a centrist. Then Bernie’s promise will be redeemed. We will have Universal health care and a Green New Dead (as long as the planet is still habitable). I hope he lives to see it.