A School of Fish, Seemingly Leaderless: Two Quotes for the Day

school of fish

Democrats are not just a party; they’re a community. In my years of covering politics I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like what happened in the 48 hours after South Carolina — millions of Democrats from all around the country, from many different demographics, turning as one and arriving at a common decision.

It was like watching a flock of geese or a school of fish, seemingly leaderless, sensing some shift in conditions, sensing each other’s intuitions, and smoothly shifting direction en masse. A community is more than the sum of its parts. It is a shared sensibility and a pattern of response. This is a core Democratic strength.

David Brooks

I was told at the beginning of this whole undertaking that there are two lanes: a progressive lane that Bernie Sanders is the incumbent for and a moderate lane that Joe Biden is the incumbent for and there is no room for anyone else in this. I thought it was possible that that wasn’t the case, that there was more room, and more room to run another kind of campaign. But evidently that wasn’t the case.

Elizabeth Warren

A Soupçon to the Right of Bernie

Today, we say hail and farewell to Elizabeth Warren. Many things will be said about her various errors. All of those things will be said, by everyone who could possibly say them, as many times as they could possibly be said.

I remain of the view that Warren picked a political space—a soupçon to the right of Bernie—that turned out not to be occupied by very many voters. Having made that choice, she was, I think, doomed to lose, no matter what she did or didn’t do.

But she is a good and decent person, not to mention a highly capable person. She still has many good things ahead of her.

And, at the right time, I think we can look to her to help persuade progressive voters to swallow Bernie’s loss and get behind Biden.

 

Mrs. Warren’s Depression

Mrs Warren's Depression

In Elizabeth Warren Rejected ‘You Win, I Lose’ Politics. Then She Lost in New Hampshire, two New York Times writers suck their thumbs at some considerable length, seeking an explanation about why Pocahontas did not do better.

Was she too nice? Should she have been more assertive in the debates, particularly the last one? Was she too unwilling to jab at her competitors?

I really think it’s a lot simpler. Now, I have to say, I like her just fine, and I appreciate her willingness to make detailed policy proposals.

But I think her manner just put a lot of people off, most especially the working class.

If she’s so concerned about the cause and about the party, she needs to get out now.

Something is Wrong with Pocahontas

Pocahontas

Elizabeth Warren’s earnestness and intellect appeal to me. But beware earnest, smart, appealing people who lack good judgment.

By all means, invite such people to your next cocktail party. But do not give them positions that demand solid good judgment.

I understand that Senator Warren sensed her campaign was sputtering, and that she needed to draw some distinction between her and Bernie. An obvious choice was available. He calls himself a “socialist,” while she calls herself a “capitalist.” She could have made the claim that someone calling herself a “capitalist” is more electable that some who calls himself a “socialist.” That claim might even be true. Certainly, it wouldn’t be dishonest or implausible.

Instead, she picked a fight over a private conversation from long ago. Picking that particular fight exhibited very bad judgment, even if Bernie is lying about the conversation and she is telling the truth.

This episode, along with others from her past, give me grave concern.

It’s time for Democrats who want a nominee espousing what passes for a radical agenda in the United States to rally round Bernie.

It’s time for Democrats who emphasize electability to rally around someone else.

Idiocracy

Idiocracy_PosterB

Axios, Focus group women like Warren’s policies more than her:

APPLETON, Wis. — Elizabeth Warren’s left-wing populism is gaining popularity among some swing voters here, but they’re not ready to embrace her for 2020.

Why it matters: In a small, all-women focus group, some participants suggested President Trump would win on personality if the contest was between him and Warren — and that their doubts about her aren’t based on substance. …

The big picture: Most of the group preferred a left-leaning set of policies to a right-leaning set when no names were attached. But when listening to Warren talk about them in clips from the last debate, they were skeptical of her — and not because of the policies.

And the blunt language made it clear that Warren faces the kind of obstacles confronted by many strong leaders who are women.

Comments

One. There is a reasonable chance that in 2020, as in 2016, the election will be decided by a relatively small group of swing voters, mostly low information.

Two. Not only are they low information, but they also think in ways that more well informed and intelligent people find utterly surprising and counterintuitive.

Three. When you are on a battlefield, the first thing you need to do is understand the nature of the battleground. With regard to the 2020 election, that means basing decisions on electability on actual facts about what swing voters think, and planning accordingly.

Four. People who are scared of Elizabeth Warren’s electability on the ground that she’s “too far left” may well be barking up the wrong tree. But more information is needed on that score. See point three.

Five. Axios speculates about the effect of Warren’s gender on her electability, but fails to focus on her unique personality, as distinguished from her gender. My gut tells me that is a misleadingly incomplete view of things. But more information is needed. See point three.

Six. We live in a country where idiots are driving the bus.

**

Greetings to yesterday’s readers, who came from China, Kenya, Malaysia, South Africa, South Korea, the [as yet] United Kingdom, and the United States. And to today’s readers (thus far) from Israel, the Netherlands, and the United States. I was going to make an observation about countries that know something of idiocracy, but I think I will just let it pass.

Electability

unwashed masses

Paul Waldman, Joe Biden is still ahead. But Elizabeth Warren is closing in.

Jennifer Rubin, Who is being naïve here?

Park MacDougald, Is Tucker Carlson the Most Important Pundit in America?

First, a Gut Check, to Provide Context

I am among the 91 percent—I believe that’s the correct number—of Democratic primary voters who have not yet made up their minds. Right now, my instinct is that the safest, and therefore the wisest, course would be to nominate someone from the moderate center-left wing, get him or her elected, return the country back to something resembling normality, fix Obamacare, and then try to have something like a rational conversation on where we go from there.

But, in and of itself, knowledge about my gut is of no use to you. I mention it only to give some context to what I’ll say next.

Three Key Points about Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren may or may not be The One. See paragraphs immediately above. But let us, nevertheless, bite the bullet, grasp the nettle, and pay due attention to the various elephants in the room.

Yesterday, I saw some talking heads on the teevee bloviating about how Senator Warren is a “disrupter,” just like Donald Trump is a “disrupter,” and how the country needs someone who can let us all relax a little. The discussion made me angry, because “disrupter” is, IMHO, an extremely misleadingly incomplete description of Elizabeth Warren.

First of all, economic inequality is growing dramatically. And, when Elizabeth Warren says the system is rigged in favor of the plutocracy, she is saying no more and no less than the God’s honest truth.

And, before I move to my second point, please let me add this parenthetical observation. If you are an advocate you can definitely fool some of the people some of the time. That said, it is a marvel how much it helps if you are telling the truth–about a subject that’s important to your audience–while your adversary is trying to spin a fairy tale.

Second, growing inequality not only prejudices those of us who are not plutocrats, but it also poses, in the long run, a grave threat to the plutocrats themselves. Some of them, blinded by greed, don’t recognize their long-term risk. Some do recognize it.

Elizabeth Warren does not emphasize that she is, in fact, the plutocrats’ true friend—the one who offers them an opportunity to protect themselves from their own worst impulses. But though she chooses not to emphasize the point, it’s true, nonetheless.

Third, there are lots and lots of Trump voters who also understand that the plutocrats are not their friends, and are rigging the system against them. (See the piece by Park MacDougald, cited above.) These folks have an inherent predisposition to heed a key part of Warren’s message. And she has the personality and the potential to break through with some of the Trump base.

And, may I add, she is just the person to tell the unwashed masses what a con man Donald Trump is.

Electability: the Bottom Line

My bottom line: Keep on watching those polls matching Trump against various Democratic possibilities. If my “three key points” are borne out, it will show up in the polling.

And be guided by evidence and reason, not by gut instincts about how electable Elizabeth Warren will seem to a bunch of people who think very differently from you.