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Grumpy Old Men

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May 9, 2019 12:23 p.m.

One of the challenges of a Democratic primary cycle is airing reader emails with have strong positive or negative views of one or more of the candidates turns out to be very much a contact sport. Remember, it’s really the case that published reader emails do not necessarily represent the thoughts or beliefs of the editors, though some may make me smirk more than others. TPM Reader MM is a longtime TPM Reader and Vermonter who is not Bernie Sanders biggest fan.

I just read John’s piece comparing yesterday’s polling with that of the GOP candidates four years ago. I have two comments.

First, I’ll go against the (so-often-deeply-flawed) CW and suggest that Joe’s number, a massive two-and-one-half times Bernie’s, reflects great unspoken unease on the part of very many Democratic voters with Bernie and his empty-suit, faux-“revolutionary” spiel. Only against Hillary, a deeply flawed, mind-bogglingly-baggage-laden primary adversary (who was and is nevertheless a strikingly competent person with great knowledge, deep experience, virtually universal global access, and uncountable personal and professional connections at literally every social and political level, and who would be ten times the president Bernie ever could be), in the very specific political climate that prevailed at that moment in time, could Bernie have faired so well. His deeply cynical, hypocritical manipulation of the millions of naive Twitter idiots who comprised his core support certainly helped.

But, when push comes to shove, he’s a self-centered, intellectually lazy, very unpleasant man whose “policy ideas”, even given four years to flesh them out, are still little more than bumper-sticker slogans. Elizabeth Warren produces more and much higher-quality content in a night’s sleep than Bernie has in four years. Kamala Harris dwarfs him as well.

Sensible people sense that, and prefer Joe, with his flaws already in plain view: we live in a time of The Tolerance of Flaws, and Joe isn’t even a B-farm-club second-stringer compared to Trump, the Babe Ruth-Lou Gehrig-Joe DiMaggio-Mickey Mantle-rolled-into-one of personal flaws. Bernie’s so-distant-second performance has little if anything to do with whatever may be left of Socialist Shock: the man is the problem, not the label.

Second, let’s let go forever of the understandable but infinitely tiresome and utterly unproductive tendency to compare current events with the sui-generis trajectories of Barack Obama and Trump.

Please. Unless it turns to be true yet again, of course.

This is a far more typical season, so far as the Dem winnowing process is concerned, than the Dems’ in ’08 or the GOPs’ in ’16. I really like Mayor Pete, but he’s not going to do a Barack; I’d love to se him as Joe’s running mate, however. The tendency to compare present observations with prior data is almost impossible to resist: I’m a scientist, and that’s exactly what we do every day, but this ain’t science.

When your last two “experiments” featured the political equivalents of surprise supernovas (the lightning-strikes-a-third-time analogy is especially misleading to the point of being dangerous: that’s why I chose “supernova”), it’s very likely a good idea to adjust your expectations to a more quotidian frame of reference. In that frame, Joe is kicking butt because a very substantial plurality, knowing Joe arguably much better than they know any other candidate, prefers the known Joe to the potential or promise of any of the others.

I suggest that, absent a cataclysm of the sort that is observed from time to time in politics, Joe is going to be very hard to beat.

And the weakling liar coward traitor Trump knows that very well.

Masthead Masthead
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