Too Close to Call!

W.J. Astore

Who knew that choosing Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, two pro-business, pro-establishment, anti-progressive tools with limited charisma, would result in an election that is currently too close to call?

Meanwhile, Trump has made his own call. He won! Here’s what he had to say earlier this morning:

Trump falsely declared himself the winner around 2:30 a.m. Eastern. He said he would call on the Supreme Court to stop counting ballots in states where he led, while urging more counting in states where he was behind. He claimed “fraud” (for which there is no evidence) and he called the election an “embarrassment to the country.”

My wife and I had a good if grim laugh at this. Trump is like that ten-year-old bully in a class election who says: “Let’s count the vote until I’m winning, then we’ll stop.” Every kid would shout that that’s unfair and wrong, until the bully threatened to slug them.

It’s truly astounding that so many Americans think Trump is a competent and desirable president. Again, though, it didn’t help matters when the DNC tilted the table in Biden’s favor, then picked Kamala Harris as his running mate, another establishment tool who faded fast after her fifteen minutes of post-debate, that-little-girl-was-me, fame.

Of course, Biden/Harris may yet prevail, assuming Americans can muster some patience and that the Trump-leaning Supreme Court doesn’t intervene. But if they lose, the loss is truly on them and the DNC operatives who went all-in on them.

Beware a Return to Normalcy

A century ago, Warren Harding bloviated about normalcy.

W.J. Astore

About forty years ago, I took undergraduate courses in U.S. History, where I first learned about “normalcy.” Normalcy came from the (successful) presidential campaign of Warren G. Harding in 1920. After World War I’s devastation and Woodrow Wilson’s attempt at internationalism, what Americans wanted most of all, according to Harding, was a “return to normalcy.” Harding, running against Wilson’s record though not Wilson himself, won the presidency.

Wilson himself favored a sort of high-minded preaching when he addressed Americans; in his own way, he may have been as narcissistic as Trump, and probably more racist. Again, while Harding didn’t run against Wilson, he did run against his legacy, and to many Americans he seemed like a good and decent man and was considered handsome to boot.

Another word associated with Harding’s campaign a century ago was “bloviate,” which basically means BS. A quick Google search confirms that bloviation is “a style of empty, pompous, political speech which originated in Ohio and was used by US President Warren G. Harding.” I guess I did learn something in those history classes.

I mention these two words, normalcy and bloviate, because in many ways they sum up Joe Biden’s strategy in 2020. He’s promised a return to normalcy, i.e. a return to the Obama/Biden years, and this does hold some appeal to Americans who are sick and tired of Trump’s lies and incompetence. But Biden himself has told us little about what he hopes to achieve, preferring to bloviate, which suggests he won’t be doing much to improve the lives of ordinary working Americans, assuming he wins.

The presidency of Warren G. Harding was an ill-starred one. He surrounded himself with corrupt cronies and was humiliated by the Teapot Dome Scandal. Harding died at the comparatively young age of 57 in 1923; his vice president, Calvin Coolidge, took over and led the country until 1928. Interestingly, Coolidge had made his reputation putting down the Boston police strike in the name of preserving “law and order” during the Red Scare of 1919. Perhaps his most famous sentiment as president was the idea that the business of the American people is business. It seemed to make sense during the Roaring Twenties until the Wall Street Crash of 1929.

History, as they say, doesn’t repeat itself but it does echo. Biden/Harris in 2020 is a little like Harding/Coolidge in 1920. Biden is the normalcy guy who bloviates; Harris is the VP who may well have to step in as president, but who as a “top cop” in California was no friend of labor but very much pro-business. Naturally, judging by our history, whether in 1920 or 2020, you can forget about any progressive policies unless and until we experience a cosmic crunch like the Great Depression of 1929. Even then, FDR and the New Deal didn’t come along until 1933.

History can be a depressing subject to take — a record of crimes, follies, and disasters of the past. We’re supposed to learn from it so as to avoid repeating the same. Assuming Biden/Harris win this week, we shall see if there’s any substance to them, or whether it’s just normalcy, bloviation, scandal, and business-friendly policies all over again.

Proud to be a deplorable

W.J. Astore

Today, my wife got stuck behind a pickup truck sporting a bumper sticker of considerable meaning: “Proud to be a deplorable.” No, this wasn’t red state Mississippi; it was blue state Massachusetts.

It’s worth a chuckle or two, until you realize its larger meaning. Many people are proud to vote for Trump because establishment Democrats like Hillary Clinton don’t speak to them, except when they’re dismissing them as deplorables that are “irredeemable,” as Hillary put it in 2016.

Take that, Hillary and all you “libtards”!

It’s never smart to dismiss potential voters as dumbasses without hope, but Hillary thought she had the election in the bag. She lost because she ran a poor campaign and because her elitism and sense of privilege were so obvious. But she also had no compelling messages for the “deplorables.” And Trump did. Trump talked about bad trade deals, the offshoring of jobs, the betrayal of ordinary Americans by the financial set, the big money people, the ones who paid Hillary so handsomely for a few empty speeches.

Of course, Trump didn’t and doesn’t care about ordinary Americans. From all appearances, Trump cares only about himself (and perhaps his immediate family). Nevertheless, he was smart enough to offer the people something, even if all they were left with in the end was a rebel identity as a deplorable.

Establishment Democrats, demonstrating their ability to learn nothing, are once again offering “deplorables” nothing specific. No universal health care (indeed, Joe Biden said he’d veto such a bill if it reached his desk as president). No firm and trustworthy commitment to a $15 minimum wage. No firm and trustworthy commitment to ending those endless foreign wars. Biden promises nothing more than he’s not Trump, end of story.

His choice of Vice President backs this up. Kamala Harris is a conservative Democrat; she’s establishment through and through. But she’s a woman who’s multiracial, so this is considered proof of her diversity and her commitment to helping the less fortunate. Come again?

As Tulsi Gabbard pointed out during a debate, Harris smugly joked about smoking marijuana even as she put “deplorable” users into prison, among other positions that showcased her privileged hypocrisy, but no matter. Even though Harris dropped out early (after boasting of being a top-tier candidate), even though she couldn’t win a single delegate in the primaries, she was handpicked by Joe Biden to lend some excitement to the ticket. Mission unaccomplished.

So I fear, like Michael Moore, that Trump could win again, probably losing the popular vote but winning enough swing states to put him over the top in the electoral college. Trump could win because the “deplorables” in their trucks across blue- and red state America know how to stand by their man. Even though he’s a no-good cheatin’ fool, Trump offers them something, something unquantifiable but powerful, an identity, perhaps, and the ability, in casting their votes, to give a big FU to all the elites that keep telling them they don’t measure up — and never will.

Surprise! It’s Biden/Harris

Slate
Joe Biden, meet your VP, Kamala Harris (appropriately on the far right)

W.J. Astore

Back in April 2019, before all the primaries and posturing, I made a grim prediction: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris would emerge as the dream ticket of the DNC.

Can you believe I got it right?

I can.  Not because I’m that smart.  Not because I’m some kind of soothsayer.  In making that prediction, I was being as coldly cynical as I could be.  I pretended, in my own mind, to be a corporate operator in the DNC.  And it followed Biden/Harris would be the dream ticket.  Both are basically moderate Republicans who are business-friendly.  Both have no progressive vision whatsoever.  Both are “pay-to-play” politicians.  And so on, in distressing and depressing detail.

Below is what I wrote in April of last year.  You can see I wasn’t right about the scenario, but I was right about the candidates.  My secret?  Be coldly cynical.  Think money and power without principles.  And you’ll have your dream ticket.  A “dream” that’s a nightmare for progressives, for workers, indeed for anyone looking for real change in America.

WHAT I WROTE IN APRIL 2019

Now that Joe Biden is officially in the race, the dream Democratic ticket has emerged: Biden and Kamala Harris.

By “dream,” I don’t mean the Progressive dream.  I don’t mean the dream of working-class voters who are hurting.  I don’t mean the dream of Americans who are tired of never-ending wars that enfeeble our economy (and kill lots of people, mainly foreigners).  Those “dream” candidates are true Progressives like Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard.  A Sanders/Gabbard ticket would truly shake things up, which is why it’s not going to happen, as much as I’d like to see it.

No — the corporate-loving DNC wants to preserve the status quo, wants to feed the military-industrial complex, wants big funding from Wall Street, and therefore favors status quo candidates like Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

A likely scenario in 2020: Bernie Sanders wins the most votes and delegates, but Joe Biden emerges as a close second.  With all the other candidates (roughly 20 now) splitting the vote, no candidate has enough delegates to win in the first round at the national convention.  So the super-delegates (remember them?), the corporate tools, spring into action in the second and subsequent rounds of voting and throw their support to the “sensible, electable” candidate, in this case Biden.  But of course they can’t let an old white guy represent the “new” Democratic Party, and that’s where Kamala Harris comes in.  She’s black!  And a woman!  And makes noises that sound slightly progressive.  The perfect balanced ticket!  Shut up and color, liberals and Progressives.

Of course, if gaffe-prone Biden implodes, a distinct possibility, there are other safe white guys waiting in the wings to headline the ticket.  Mayor Pete?  Beto O’Rourke?

It’s all so sadly predictable.  And so too is Biden’s loss to Trump in 2020.

P.S.  To state the obvious, I hope I’m wrong about this.

Bernie and Biden: The Debate

again
Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden in 2019

W.J. Astore

In last night’s debate, Joe Biden ran away from his own record.  Suddenly, Biden is against fracking.  He’s for Elizabeth Warren’s education plan.  He’s against subsidies for fossil fuels.  He’s for a $15 minimum wage.  He’s against Super PACs and for public funding of elections.  He’s never tried to cut social security.  Just about the only progressive policy he remains against is Medicare for All, which he says is simply too expensive to countenance.

Biden also wanted to drive the narrative by saying he was picking a woman as vice president and a black female as the next justice to the Supreme Court (Anita Hill, perhaps?).  I’m not sure why Biden thought a female VP-candidate was such a big deal; Walter Mondale picked Geraldine Ferraro in 1984, and of course Hillary Clinton ran for president in 2016.  Months ago, I foresaw Biden/Kamala Harris as the DNC dream ticket.  Older white guy, younger black woman, perfect!  Except that they’re both establishment tools whose views are safely unprogressive.

Joe Biden was so eager to claim he agreed with Bernie Sanders that my wife quipped, “He’s a #MeToo candidate!”  Along with his new “me too” tactic, Biden also likes to say, “I’m the guy,” as in “I’m the guy who supported gay marriage publicly” or “I’m the guy who engineered the Paris Climate Accords.”  To Biden, being present at or near the creation of something means that he created it.

Biden’s new strategy was obvious; it was essentially the same one Hillary adopted in 2016 to neutralize Bernie.  FAKE LEFT, RUN RIGHT.

Biden is now faking that he’s sensitive to progressive concerns.  But like Hillary he’ll run to the right if he wins the nomination.  And, like Hillary, he’ll lose to Trump.

Of course, much of the debate focused on the coronavirus and the government’s response to it, and both men said reasonable things.  Watching as much of the CNN post-debate coverage I could stomach (not much), all the “journalists” on the panel saluted Joe Biden for his fine performance.  Indeed, there wasn’t a single progressive on the panel.  No one took Bernie’s side.

Naturally, there was no discussion in this debate of America’s wars or its colossal military budget.  The military-industrial complex went unnoticed and unchallenged.  Indeed, Biden suggested that the military is somehow going to ride to the rescue by erecting tent cities during the coronavirus crisis.

Biden kept mentioning all the time he’d spent in the White House Situation Room, so much so that “Situation Room Biden” could be his new handle.  All talk of Biden’s “gaffes,” i.e. signs of cognitive decline, was banished, but of course CNN reminded its viewers that Bernie had recently suffered a mild heart attack.  Biden, naturally, asserted he had a clean bill of health.

And so it went.  Overall, by running away from his own record and lying consistently through his blindingly white teeth, Joe Biden probably fooled enough people to vote for him while handing the Democratic establishment the victory they crave most of all: keeping the progressive base powerless and firmly in its place.

The Dream Democratic Ticket for 2020

Slate
Clockwise from left: Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Beto O’Rourke, Kamala Harris, and Elizabeth Warren.  Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Sergio Flores/Getty Images, Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images, Drew Angerer/Getty Images, and Kamil Krzaczynski/AFP/Getty Images.

W.J. Astore

Now that Joe Biden is officially in the race, the dream Democratic ticket has emerged: Biden and Kamala Harris.

By “dream,” I don’t mean the Progressive dream.  I don’t mean the dream of working-class voters who are hurting.  I don’t mean the dream of Americans who are tired of never-ending wars that enfeeble our economy (and kill lots of people, mainly foreigners).  Those “dream” candidates are true Progressives like Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard.  A Sanders/Gabbard ticket would truly shake things up, which is why it’s not going to happen, as much as I’d like to see it.

No — the corporate-loving DNC wants to preserve the status quo, wants to feed the military-industrial complex, wants big funding from Wall Street, and therefore favors status quo candidates like Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

A likely scenario in 2020: Bernie Sanders wins the most votes and delegates, but Joe Biden emerges as a close second.  With all the other candidates (roughly 20 now) splitting the vote, no candidate has enough delegates to win in the first round at the national convention.  So the super-delegates (remember them?), the corporate tools, spring into action in the second and subsequent rounds of voting and throw their support to the “sensible, electable” candidate, in this case Biden.  But of course they can’t let an old white guy represent the “new” Democratic Party, and that’s where Kamala Harris comes in.  She’s black!  And a woman!  And makes noises that sound slightly progressive.  The perfect balanced ticket!  Shut up and color, liberals and Progressives.

Of course, if gaffe-prone Biden implodes, a distinct possibility, there are other safe white guys waiting in the wings to headline the ticket.  Mayor Pete?  Beto O’Rourke?

It’s all so sadly predictable.  And so too is Biden’s loss to Trump in 2020.

P.S.  To state the obvious, I hope I’m wrong about this.