Revolted Colonies

U.S. Politics and Culture

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Joe Biden’s Midterm Exam

Joe Biden beat Bernie Sanders on a sub-super Tuesday, winning Michigan and three other primaries out of the six held. The day after, in a scheduled statement to the media, Sanders offered his candid view of the contest. Many expected a concession speech or campaign defiance. Instead, Sanders announced that this Sunday’s debate ahead of the Arizona primary actually would be a midterm exam on Biden’s progressive credentials. Biden’s grade will have an impact on whether Bernie’s brigade will follow him.

Sanders’ body language and subdued tone suggest that he is ready to retreat as a candidate but not as an advocate. Sanders conceded he has lost the electability argument but insists, with justification, that Democratic voters favor the many points of the progressive agenda. He announced his plan to confront Biden at the debate with questions about what a President Biden would do about climate change, renewable energy, universal healthcare, income inequality, and an incarceration policy rife with profiteering and systematic racism. Sanders will be testing Biden on his willingness to carry Sanders’ causes into the general election.

By comparison, in 2016, Sanders fought hard to get his policy positions on the DNC platform. He and Clinton never had a rapprochement. For that reason and several others, many Sanders voters stayed home, a critical constituency failing Clinton against Trump. The Democrats’ 2016 political blunders helped throw the election to Trump.

Sanders’ ploy is not for himself. Sanders won’t serve in a Biden cabinet unless America establishes an embassy in Havana, and he’s unlikely to be a Biden confidante. If Biden performs well enough, Sanders will have a much easier time moving his supporters to get out the vote in 2020 instead of sitting out another one. Sanders all but said that he would defer to the more electable Biden if Biden embraces some of the ideas Sanders has addressed:
• Income inequality
• Universal healthcare
• Access to education
• A boost for the working class
• Support for the impoverished and homeless

Bernie is serving up meatballs. He wants Biden to pass; he gave him all the questions in advance. Biden is taking an open-book exam on a pass/fail basis.  All he has to do is sign his name and fill in the blanks.  Biden doesn’t need an Elizabeth Warren-type plan to pass the test. He needs a few bullet points on each issue. Taking a cue from Obama and the Oval Office’s current squatter, Biden can suggest a few measures a president can undertake by executive order on Day One and vouch for undoing a lot of what Trump has done without overpromising or relying on an uncertain  Congress. He can offer administrative changes to manufacturing policy, healthcare regulation, and job training/retraining, without being drawn into legislative quicksand.

The only way Biden can fail this test is by not cramming. He can figure out a few anodyne responses, write them on his shirt cuff, and deliver them on cue.  Sanders can claim a triumph for the movement, and Biden will declare himself presumptive nominee. This will free the Democratic machinery to grind on to the general election.

Where’s My Andrew Yang?

Nearly 12 years ago, the housing bubble burst, taking the economy down with it. Bear Stearns was out, and the Bear Market was in. Lehman Brothers shattered, and Treasury Secretary Henry Poulson told Americans that our spacious skies were falling.

The presidential election campaign was in its autumnal swing, and the nominees were scheduled to hold their first debate.   John McCain, the self-qualified mathphobe, suspended his campaign. Barack Obama followed suit, and both Senators returned to Washington.

What they did when they got there sealed the election. Obama sat in on meetings with various groups trying to manage the Economic Meltdown.  He listened and took notes. The optics suggested that he knew what was needed. His campaign released statements saying that he had been in contact with the top economic policymakers throughout the spring and summer. McCain, on the other hand, ghosted. He turned up a day or two later, saying he was ready to resume his campaign. It was over, and he had to know it.

If there was any doubt before the seismic campaign occurrence, none remained. Obama appeared to be fit to lead in the financial debacle. More to the point, McCain seemed utterly lost.  It was this appearance of performance that swung the election, even more than McCain’s unfathomable choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate.

Gosh, it seems so long ago and such simpler times. Obama and his administration were ready on Day One to present a stimulus package and to negotiate deals to prop up the faltering auto industry. Congress didn’t give him everything he wanted, but it gave him enough to plug the drain and stop the national death spiral.  The auto manufacturers survived, more or less, living to fail another day.

The global economy is in free fall again. World markets have crashed. Businesses, schools, cities, even countries are shutting down because of Covid-19, the spreading and dangerous coronavirus.   The Trump White House was not ready on Day One, when intelligence became aware of the catastrophe taking shape in Wuhan, China.  It wasn’t ready a month ago when public knowledge of this plague surfaced. Trump is still not prepared on Day 120, having fired and defunded America’s top scientific experts and diverted funds to his sandbox along the southern border.

The only thing Trump has offered so far on the economy is a decrease in payroll taxes.  He’s offering to put a Band-Aid on a hemorrhage.  People are going to need payroll relief, not payroll tax relief. There’s no payroll tax if there’s no payroll.

Trump’s in Florida, cheating on the golf course and holding a fundraiser. He’s anti-science and anti-learning. The only thing he can think to do is to cut a business tax. Trump is Calvin Coolidge without the 30th president’s laconic charm.

But Trump is not the main point here.  Where are the Democrats? The two remaining viable candidates are in Michigan campaigning for today’s crucial primary. Biden and Sanders have announced that they are “heeding the advice of public officials.” In essence, handwashing instead of handshaking.

That’s it? Is nobody going to Washington?  Is nobody sitting down with top medical and economic experts, setting up meetings with teams from other countries? In essence, these two old white guys are sparring with each other. They should step out of campaign mode and go into governance mode.

Sanders especially. He is now trailing Biden and needs a game-changer to persuade voters to trust him with the government, particularly on economic policy.  Sanders could show everybody what democratic socialism looks like in crisis mode. He is not even talking about the disproportionate impact a crash will have on his followers, many of whom already are in financial jeopardy.

Nobody will care about the label of democratic socialist if Sanders actually can step into crisis and show that he can take control of a government in disarray. At least he should suggest the possibility that he can.  More than Biden and even more than Trump, Sanders is making a tactical error by failing to address the Virus Crisis.

If either one of these two hopefuls approached this crisis the way Obama did in 2008, he would take a decisive step toward the nomination and, at the same time,  get a leg up in the general election.

We didn’t know in 2008 if Barack Obama understood what he was hearing or could do anything about it. What we did know was that he was trying to wrap his arms around the worst economic downturn in the United States since 1929, and to learn what he needed to know to respond to it.

If the Democrats want to retake control of the government, they have to start looking like they know how to do it. Biden and Sanders should have teams of advisers holding meetings, and more importantly, they should let the public know that they’re doing it. The house is on fire, so too should be the House.  Senate Democrats should be in high gear. If nothing else, someone should enlist Andrew Yang.

We don’t know if Bernie Sanders would get any of his progressive agenda through Congress, and we don’t know if Joe Biden can handle the daily rigors of the presidency.  We need to know that they and their teams are on top of the Crash of 2020.

Front and Center

When was the last time Chris Christie and Rahm Emanuel agreed on anything? On Sunday,  they each told George Stephanopoulos that the Democratic Party establishment is in panic mode over Bernie Sanders‘ ascendance to front-runner status for the 2020 nomination. For those of us who were around in 2016, it’s déjà vu all over again.

Christie gleefully explained how all of his Republican colleagues, including  Vladimir Putin, are licking their chops at the chance to run Trump against Sanders. Almost all: Trump feels hurt that BFF Putin has taken such a shine to the Vermont independent. Also, we have received scattered reports that, on learning of the Nevada returns, the corners of Mitch McConnell‘s mouth briefly turned upward.

Democrats worry about Sanders’ ability to bring the mainstream of the party along with him.   What does it profit a man to gain the White House but lose Congress? The 2018 House majority was built on mostly middle-of-the-road candidates, like Mikie Sherrill and Abigail Spanberger, who are not particularly comfortable with the Sanders paradigm shift. The Senate, needing to pick up four seats, may have to do it without the benefit of the candidates’ coattails, a tough act. There is a growing contingent in the progressive wing as well.

While the establishment knives are out to stop Sanders, no other aspirant has shown the ability to galvanize a broad swath of voters or, more critically, to get out the vote,  and none of them is ready to step aside for a single moderate to square off against him.   The Sanders victory in Nevada, followed by a rousing reception in Texas, is striking for the breadth of support. In Nevada, the Latinx community backed him. He also polled better with African-Americans than expected. He hasn’t found resonance with the OK Boomer crowd yet, but younger Americans must like his plans for their future.

Since the emergence of the Tea Party in 2010, the realignment of the major political parties has seemed inevitable. It looked like the Republicans were being ripped apart with its Freedom Caucus.  That all changed with Trump taking over the national party. The brutal divide between Sanders and Clinton in 2016 foreshadowed a divided Democratic Party, and to some extent, that is what we see.

What makes the non-Democrat Sanders campaign so interesting is that he doesn’t dwell on party labels. After his triumph in Nevada was announced, Sanders made a point of saying that he would not be derailed by the establishment of either party. Similar to the way he came to power in Burlington,  Vermont, Sanders has been going over, under and around party organizations to reach voters on a gut level.

More than anything, the withering of the Party has been Sanders’ central organizing principle of political success since his beginnings as the mayor of Burlington. For decades, we’ve asked why voters, especially working-class voters, align themselves with the Republican Party, which did almost nothing to promote their economic interests. Sanders confronts the question without attaching a party label to it. Assuming that Sanders continues to lead, the party elders will face the same choice imposed on Republicans in 2016: Follow or get out of the way.

Sanders is pulling from the disaffected left and Trump from the disaffected right. A head-to-head contest between two extremes. That is unless some spoiler decides to jump in and make it a three-way race.

 

Red Moon over Las Vegas

In the 1950s, Jewish-American Communists who grew up in 1930s New York sent their kids away for the summer. The kids were called Red Diaper Babies, and their vacays were called Socialist Summer Camps.

Bernie Sanders grew up in Brooklyn in the 1950s but his family was not part of the activist community. He was not a Red Diaper Baby, and he did not spend his summers singing the Internationale. For Bernie, Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley, who in 1957 decamped with the team to Los Angeles, was the Enemy of the People. Sanders found his activist voice in the civil rights movement of the 1960s while moonlighting as a student at the University of Chicago.

This past Wednesday night, Sanders had a “gambling in Casablanca” moment when he savaged electoral upstart and multi-billionaire Michael Bloomberg for introducing money into politics. The former mayor of New York reportedly has spent close to half a billion dollars of his own money thrusting himself into the race with the single-minded goal of removing Trump from office. His exchanges with current front-runner Sanders were illuminating and relevant.

Sanders said that a billionaire has no place in government. He considers the very idea of a billionaire immoral and should not exist. When Bloomberg was asked if he did have the right to exist, he returned fire, asking why Bernie as “America’s leading socialist” owns three homes. Somewhat abashed, Sanders explained that he had one in Washington, “where he works,” another in Burlington, Vermont, his home state, and a vacation home, which in Vermont is called a summer camp. Socialist Bernie Sanders got his  Summer Camp after all.

Sanders was not chastened by the exchange, but it did slow him down momentarily. He could not dismiss that he had amassed considerable wealth; sufficient to own, rather than rent, three substantial residences. It’s unseemly when the working class, the object of the Sanders movement, includes, “more than a half a million people sleeping out on the streets,” to quote the senator. The Summer Camp — on the banks of Lake Champlain — demonstrates that wealth is incidental to American political power even for Bernie, a millionaire who scorns it. Although a million bucks are not what they used to be, it’s a lot more than most Americans will ever have.

Undaunted, Sanders continued to pound away at the evil of corporate wealth. He scolded Bloomberg for failing to recognize the employees who helped him build his business empire. He even championed the idea of workers serving on corporate boards such as Bloomberg’s.

The plutocrat’s reaction was priceless. His facial expression registered that Sanders’ position was more lamentable than loathsome; that Sanders was so out of touch with the American mainstream, that he did not realize the implication of his proposal. With a look of frustration and sadness, Bloomberg responded. “I can’t think of a ways (sic) that we make it easier for Donald Trump to get re-elected than to listen to this conversation. This is ridiculous,”

In fact, Sanders had reached beyond FDR’s social safety net.  Sanders was breaking new ground in expressing his bolder vision for the future, one that moves into the more disputed arena of shared power between equity holders and workers.

“We’re not going to throw out capitalism,” Bloomberg continued. “We tried that. Other countries tried that. It was called communism, and it just didn’t work.”

This was a moment worth preserving in amber. The debate audience gasped, and Sanders accused Bloomberg of a low blow.  In fact, it was a fair shot. Bernie’s proposal pushes out past the Socialist Lite that Americans unwittingly have come to cherish. Bloomberg correctly observed that Sanders had hit the Third Rail of American politics, and if he pursues that agenda his candidacy is doomed.

Taking Aims

Find a farm-friendly, plain-talking, whip-smart, tough-minded, scrappy Midwesterner, who spit in Brett Kavanaugh’s eye and who hasn’t self-destructed in the Primary year of living precariously. It sounds like a candidate fit to take down the Beast of the East Room.

Amy Klobuchar checks all those boxes. The New York Times, in the act of audacious equivocation, named the Minnesota senator one of its two endorsees for the nomination. Klobuchar covers the center lane of Democratic traffic. The endorsement places her ahead of Pete Buttigieg, the gifted favorite son of South Bend.

More impressive still, Klobuchar won out ahead of deemed-most-electable Joe Biden. Biden’s dream of a Senate locking arms across the aisle fails to recognize changes in the chamber and the zeitgeist since his salad days in the 80s and 90s. Klobuchar is more realistic than Biden. She understands that she, like Clinton, Obama, and Trump, will have to lean on executive orders for as long as divided government means no government at all.

In this Give No Quarter era of legislative gridlock, Klobuchar makes hay — and pork — by throwing her effort into non-incendiary issues. Klobuchar ranks first among senators in the current Congress by sponsoring bills that have become laws. Let’s assume she knows when she can achieve consensus and when she cannot. Here is a partial list of bills becoming laws:

  • S. 524, Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act
  • S. 178, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015
  • S. 894, Innovate America Act
  • S. 218, Veterans to Paramedics Act

These laws addressed the opioid crisis, sex trafficking, education, and jobs for the present and future, and the work challenges faced by our service vets. Not flashy by any stretch, it’s a substantial body of work, the portfolio of a policy wonk.

The senator’s stances on the noisy issues are similarly pragmatic. She backs reinstatement of clean energy rules but falls short of taking a Jacobin blade to the fossil fuel industry.

Klobuchar supports universal health care. She hasn’t foresworn private insurance or endorsed Medicare for All. Like Biden, the Minnesotan is an incrementalist. She does not venture anywhere near the socialist tag, still considered the third rail of national candidacy.

For all her credentials, the Minnesota legislator remains in the shadow cast by the flashier candidates, including co-endorsee Elizabeth Warren, precisely because she falls on the workhorse side of Hillary Clinton’s show horse vs. workhorse divide. Even one of her showier moments, describing Trump’s unkept promise to lower drug prices as “all foam and no beer,” garnered mild reaction in the punditry. She would have done better by following it up by repeating her pledge to take down Big Pharma, or perhaps she was concerned about one of her opponents pointing out that during her career, she has accepted $400,000.00 from that lobby. In the event, the takeaway is that she made a glib remark destined to spend one day in the news cycle.

In making its curious dual selection, the Times avoided discussion of electability, to many the only significant issue in 2020.

“Many Democratic voters are concerned first and foremost about who can beat Mr. Trump. But with a crowded field and with traditional polling in tatters, that calculation calls for a hefty dose of humility about anyone’s ability to foretell what voters want.

Choosing who should face off against Mr. Trump also means acknowledging that Americans are being confronted with three models for how to govern this country, not two. Democrats must decide which of their two models would be most compelling for the American people and best suited for repairing the Republic.”

The Times chose Klobuchar and Warren as the “most effective advocates for the positions they espouse, both more progressive than anything we’ve seen in decades.”

Recently, Warren squared off with Sanders over her team’s claim that he dismissed the possibility of a female winning the presidency. Sanders denies the remark, but sadly, it could be correct. Currently, Sanders and Biden atop the leaderboards in Iowa and New Hampshire. They are trailed by Warren, whose campaign seems to have lost its summer momentum.

Meanwhile, Klobuchar is still trying to crack double-digits. Her best hope for the moment is Biden faltering, with enough of his support switching to her to keep Mike Bloomberg on the periphery. That’s a tall order because she also will have to overtake Pete Buttigieg, a center-laner with an impressive war chest and higher polling figures.

One of the most critical pieces to fall into place for Amy Klobuchar is the belief that a woman can win in 2020. Even though Hillary Clinton cracked the glass ceiling, Klobuchar must implode it, scattering glass shards across the land once and for all. Unfortunately, for Amy Klobuchar to win, she will have to do it backward and in heels.

 

 

Michael Bloomberg Wants to be Your Pre$ident. Maybe.

Michael Bloomberg, former three-time mayor of the City of New York, has launched his campaign with a TV blitz costing $150 million. That’s a lot of Simoleans, double the amount spent by Tom Steyer, the only other bona fide billionaire in the race. Steyer’s spending laps the amounts spent by the conventional candidates. Unlike Bloomberg, Steyer has been running in traffic, qualifying for the debates. Now that his singular goal of impeachment had been achieved, he’s moved on to his economic message. He claims to be the real deal – a billionaire with a human touch. Steyer has been surging, owing to his identity-building TV spots. Steyer has not been pigeonholed or tested in the Frontrunner’s Crucible yet.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg is skipping the opening farewells in Iowa and New Hampshire, the graveyard of many candidacies. He will debut on the Super Tuesday ballots. By that time, one of his rivals may catch fire. In that case, his run may be over effectively, and his prodigious spending will have been for naught. Or will it?

Mayor Mike’s party-crashing is having a clarifying impact on the race. He is a centrist economically and left of center socially. He believes in the necessity of regulation but will never be considered an anti-capitalist. If he could add a little religion, a little warmth and an ear for Middle-America, he would be a formidable candidate.

But that is not who he is. In truth, Bloomberg lacks the connection to people of diverse backgrounds necessary to create a groundswell. After all, he is a Jewish billionaire, missing only the Eastern European inflection of George Soros to strike fear in American Gothic hearts.

Service as Mayor of New York City is not a useful resume builder for the national stage: John Lindsay, Rudy Giuliani, Bill DeBlasio. If nominated, Michael Bloomberg will run, and if elected, he will serve. Even so, Bloomberg will be satisfied if the current White House occupant is evicted, driven off to Palm Beach to spend eternity in a Maximum-Security sand trap.

Whatever the outcome of his candidacy, Bloomberg will use his wealth and influence to defeat the party that has supported the megalomaniac and his agenda. Bloomberg will step aside happily if one of the middle-of-the-road hopefuls breaks ahead of the pack. He is more likely to hang around if Bernie Sanders takes a commanding lead. He will want to keep Sanders from getting too far from Bloomberg’s concept of the Mainstream.

Mayor Mike will keep pouring money into the race one way or the other to defeat the institutional catastrophe we’re enduring. The administration is an imminent danger to our democracy, the kind that warrants extreme political action. Would a person with $56 billion invest one of those billions to save this nation? Bloomberg certainly would. He wouldn’t suffer if a billion went missing.

Even if in the future Congress restores limits on campaign financing, national elections will always be a big-money game. Sanders and Warren notwithstanding, paraphrasing the words on a bumper sticker supporting Jesse Ventura, political savant and former governor of the great state of Minnesota, you better hope that your billionaire can outspend their billionaire.

Is Iowa Berning?

 While the Democratic establishment has tried to marginalize the progressive left — Sanders and Warren — Sanders continues to poll steadily and collect a lot of money. Enough money to get him through the first few primary tests.

 Possibly.  Bernie is lighting a fire just the way he did in Burlington when he ran for mayor 40 years ago and for president in 2016.  He did it by opposing the establishment, staking out  progressive policy goals and creating a powerful grassroots organization to overcome the entrenched forces blocking him.   He faces more competition this year than he did in his face-off with only Hillary Clinton

Sanders very well may be the best retail politician in the field. He fires up his base consistently in a way that none of his competitors has done.

The primaries are around the corner, and we will know a lot more by the end of January.   It could be that Sanders will poll well  enough in Iowa and New Hampshire (second to Buttigieg in both) and sufficiently in South Carolina (behind Biden’s decisive lead), which is a stretch, to make a case for national consideration. By February though, he will have to break through in some of the big states.  

Conventional wisdom calls for a run by a centrist like Biden.  But polls and money are moving toward Sanders’ fire and Buttigieg’s cool, neither one a conventional standard bearer. 

Walter Reed Diagnosis: Sondlanditis

Washington DC – – November 20, 2019

After Gordon Sondland’s testimony this morning, it looks like there has been a lot of lying going on, and a lot of people are going to be compromised, if not outright punished. Including the prevaricator in chief.

The whole thing, including the impeachment itself, is now near-farce.  Whatever you may think of the underlying behavior, however bad it looks, as usual the cover up and the public deceit are worse.  

Mulvaney summed it up. “Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy.”

Except when it’s used to skew an election. Again.

Tacking Early to the Middle

Another wild week in American politics, and that’s not counting the impeachment inquiry. It’s doubtful that any Democratic strategist follows Revolted Colonies. Yet, a few must’ve have figured out themselves that Warren and Sanders are too scary for American prime-time. Biden is not a strong enough candidate, no matter what the polls say (rather, said; we’ll get back to that). Klobuchar is still not lighting any fires.  And they are the best of the lot.

Despite the president’s unfavorable ratings and impeachable performance, he remains re-electable. Enough people around the country think he’s been the victim of unrelenting attacks; just enough at any rate to keep him from taking early retirement. Say what you will about Trump, he is a force, just not the right side of it.

The Democratic establishment saw Warren surging and decided to step in before it was too late.  Michael Bloomberg, a genuine billionaire, filed a petition in Alabama to put his name on the primary ballot to meet the earliest filing deadline. The 77-year-old former mayor hasn’t declared,  but he’s always been talking about it.

Deval Patrick, an Obama adherent, announced that he is running. Patrick is a former Massachusetts governor and Bain Capital partner. His party affiliation, brown skin and bald head ensure that he won’t be confused with Mitt Romney though, his predecessor in both jobs. He’s smart and savvy, a gifted speaker and a centrist. Make no mistake – he is not an Obama clone, for whatever that’s worth.

If all of this wasn’t depressing enough for the progressive wing,  the former president  made it known that most Americans want healthcare and income equity, but they aren’t about to break up the furniture.  Run a centrist, he warned, but he didn’t say anything about Biden, his former vice president.  If Obama doesn’t think Joe can go all the way, trust his intuition: he can’t.

Bloomberg and Patrick’s coming-out parties were crashed by South Bend Mayor Pete  Buttigieg, who vaulted over three  rivals to top the latest Iowa poll.  He’s outspent his rivals carpet-bombing the Hawkeye State, which happened because also he out fund-raised them.  The proximity of Indiana to Des Moines and Davenport enables him to make quick visits during mayoral lunch breaks.  Done right, presidential campaigns require lots of money.  It’s time to start looking at who is backing  Mayor Pete.

Let’s not forget that Obama went from zero to hero by winning Iowa, and he did it by eating in every diner and pumping every hand.  If Buttigieg doesn’t falter, he can win.  As Iowa did for Obama, the momentum of victory or a strong showing will give him a chance to outrun the issue of his electability as a gay, married man.

This year, the Democrats are not going to wait till July 2020 to pivot to the center.  Recent wins in Kentucky, Virginia and Louisiana, all  considered personal losses for Trump, fuel the belief that a Democrat can take back the White House, as long as  that Democrat is the right, that is, centrist one.

And Then There Were…

The double-dozen roster of Democratic hopefuls shrank a little more this week, when Beto O’Rourke ended his run. Whatever got Texans so juiced about his 2018 race against Ted Cruz didn’t transfer to a presidential run.

Even so, the field remains clogged with 17 candidates, most with little chance of success. Tom Steyer, the impeachment guy, has gotten his wish, making him insignificant now that the House officially opened the impeachment inquiry. If the field had not been so crowded, likable, intelligent Cory Booker might have built a following. In this Democratic dogpile, though, he did not make it into the front rank. He will be remembered best for his awesome side-eye directed at O’Rourke’s Latinx introductory message at the first debate.

Kamala Harris closed her offices in New Hampshire this week, a signal that she can wage only one fight at a time. She had surged into the upper tier briefly on Joe Biden-shaming for his decisions in the 1990s that haven’t weathered well. For Harris, she’s depending on Iowa, and it looks like a bust.

Those remaining fall into either the progressive or the moderate camp. Elizabeth Warren holds a significant lead over Bernie Sanders in the Medicare-for-all faction, a symbol of advocacy for meaningful economic reassessment. Warren and Sanders both advocate Medicare for all but are not interchangeable. Andrew Yang, a second-tier candidate, has attracted interest for his unconventional view that each American should receive $1,000.00 per month. It’s not a crazy notion once he explains it. He is an exciting figure, who deserves serious attention, if only for his ideas. Unfortunately, Yang and the rest of the progressives will be tagged as socialists, still considered anathema in a country that has passed and embraced several popular social welfare programs since the end of World War II.

The moderates in the field have a different sort of challenge. Joe Biden remains the front-runner. He’s plowed through a handful of gaffs. He showed indecision in feebly responding to Trump’s attack. Some of the polls reflect weakening, but he is hanging around the front of the pack. Ask yourself where are the megabucks donations fled for a well-liked middle of the road candidate with a modicum of gravitas. Fund-raising has plunged, and his candidacy is idling. Aside from his repeated boast to beat Trump like a drum, Biden hasn’t had much to say.

The other moderates are languishing. Pete Buttigieg has had a great run this summer, out-earning the competition, and has performed well in the debates. Amy Klobuchar is still having trouble getting momentum, which is unfortunate for her. She had an impressive performance in the latest contest. She hasn’t been hit with many negatives, only being a demanding boss.

To the list of lies, damnable lies, and statistics, we must consider polls, a particularly undependable form of statistics. The national general election polls of 25 October show Biden, Sanders, Warren, and Pete Buttigieg all beating Trump by significant margins. But general election isn’t won on general trends. Let’s take a look at how the candidates are doing in some of the battleground states.

. Among the most recent state polls, Emerson in Arizona found Trump in a statistical tie with Biden and Warren and with a slight edge over Sanders. There is a significant shadow over Arizona, which may resonate nationally. On healthcare, Republicans and Independents poll highest to keep things the same, then for a public option. Medicare for all ranks slightly ahead of shamanism. It’s even more unpopular among Independents than Republicans.

Among Democratic primary voters, Biden – keep healthcare the same – polls highest – but then Sanders and Warren – Medicare for all – follow closely. Buttigieg and Klobuchar – public option — are far down the scale. In the general election, though, they may be more competitive in capturing red-to-purple Arizona.

Purple Minnesota goes robustly for favorite daughter Klobuchar against Trump, and also for the general poll leaders. Minnesota went blue in 2016 by a slim margin.

Trump’s triumph in Wisconsin in 2016 was critical to his election. Marquette’s results of 23 October present a different outlook. Biden, Warren, and Sanders lead the incumbent, and Buttigieg trails but not by much. Klobuchar prospects are looking up.  She claims to know her beer from her foam, and that will serve her well in a Midwestern pub crawl.

North Carolina, another critical state captured by Trump in 2016, is polling blue. On 14 October, the top Democrats led Trump by slim margins, and Buttigieg and Harris trailed much the same.

Florida, too, is in play, but probably turned slightly bluer on the news that Trump is now one of their own. The state will likely remain red with a progressive running but could turn blue with the right moderate.

The leftward pull is dominant in the Democratic primary but is a handicap in swing states in the general election. There are troubling signs now that neither Sanders nor Warren may be unable pull in the critical, independent voters. Arizona’s split on health care is an indication.

These figures, unreliable though they are, support the American centrist convention. Democrats who play to the center draw less suspicion than those advocating the need for political upheaval. Except for 2016, we are a gradualist nation by and large.

If Biden can survive the primary, he can win the election, so say the polls. If not, Sanders and Warren will bear the socialist stigma, sending undecided voters back to Trump or keeping them quietly at home.

The outside play is for Amy Klobuchar. Her campaign has been relatively unexciting. But her performance in the debates has improved. Her positions on core issues are comfortably mainstream. Most importantly, she knows the difference between the fluff of foam and the bedrock of beer. My guess is that she will poll well in battleground states. If Biden falters, his support will swing to her, especially in the midwest.

Pete Buttigieg consistently has been the most impressive candidate on the husting, by far. His youth may be a plus rather than a minus. His sexual orientation is not the verboten issue it once was. Still, First Husband Chasten Glazmen’s TV tour of the White House will please and infuriate in equal measure. Still it’s possible that America will have a gay president before a female one.

 

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