Monday, April 22, 2019

Warren vs. Sanders from a purely political strategy perspective.

I keep reading the claim that we have to support Bernie because he's the only one who can beat Trump in 2020.  But is that really true?

First of all, if Trump actually makes it to November 2020 (without being impeached and convicted), then the deadly precedent of allowing blatant presidential criminality would essentially turn what's left of rule of law in the US into a smoking crater.  But the USA is too big to fail, and if Trump is still in the race in November of 2020, then -- even though beating him isn't sufficient to fix things -- it is absolutely necessary in order to prevent things from getting an order of magnitude worse.

So I'd like to discuss the best strategy for getting a real progressive to be the one who goes up against Trump (or, ideally, up against some other Republican contender that they have to throw in at the last moment because Trump is in jail.)

Once the primary season is over, I will naturally support whomever they pick and encourage others to do the same -- because of the critical importance of this election.  But I would prefer to vote for someone who will fight for economic justice.  I don't want to hold my nose and vote for Biden, who is the candidate of "Trump is just an anomaly -- if we just go back to what it was like under Obama, everything will be fine..."

But Warren and Sanders are on track to make that happen by splitting the progressive vote.

We can talk about their differences in policies and trust-busting chops later, but they are close enough that -- for the purpose of this discussion -- I would like to focus on this idea that "only Bernie can beat Trump," which I think is wrong.  Here are my three reasons why Warren is a better candidate from a political strategy perspective:

1.  The Olive Branch

One of Hillary Clinton's biggest liabilities going into the 2016 election was how passionately hated she was by a large portion of the country.  Personally, I went into that primary season with Bernie as my top choice, but after Hillary demonstrated cool-headed competence in the debates and acted as the adult in the room during those endless, pointless Benghazi hearings, I was happy to cast a ballot for her in November of 2016.  But regardless of her skills and experience, the people who hated her hated her ten times more than the people who liked her liked her -- so she wasn't able to win by a large enough margin to overcome the unfair vote-weighting system.

Then, as I recall, there was an avalanche of vitriol from the Bernie camp directed at Clinton and her supporters.  And the women who supported Clinton were not happy about that in the slightest.

What happened in 2016 (and following up in 2017) is a gaping wound in the Democratic party that hasn't healed yet.  I recall around the midterms watching a comedy sketch where two Democrats call for unity to build the "blue wave" -- and it immediately degenerates into a fight between the Bernie-supporting dude and the woman who supported Hillary.  And it's funny because it's so true...

So, ironically, Bernie heads into 2020 with the same liability Hillary had in 2016.  Only this time it's maybe worse because the bad feelings and resentment aren't coming from the opposing party, they're coming from inside the house.

Now, if you're a Bernie-or-bust person, you're probably saying to yourself that if Bernie wins the nomination, then all those Democratic women should just suck it up and get over it and get in line behind Bernie.  And, yes, of course they should.

But will they?

In order to really get out the vote, you need more than just a hated opponent -- you need a candidate that people are excited about.  Unfortunately, the leftover vitriol from 2016 is still sticking to Bernie.  It doesn't matter that it's not his fault.  Most of the vitriol against Hillary wasn't her fault either.  Those are the breaks.

And to pin the tail on it -- that whole "Bernie Bros" thing...  Is it real or just an unfair slur?  Picking Bernie over Hillary was really about ideas and not at all inspired by sexism or misogyny, right...?

Well, here's a fantastic opportunity for you to demonstrate that!!  Extend an olive branch and start the healing process by switching your support from Bernie Sanders to Elizabeth Warren.

2.  The Age Thing

Yes, I know, Elizabeth Warren is also old.  And Bernie is in good health today.  But they are at an age where a decade matters.  (It's not quite a decade, but statistically women live longer than men, so Sanders is a good ten years closer to an unacceptably-high probability of age-related mental deterioration.)  He would be in his 80's for maybe half of his first term.  And of course the Democrats would absolutely run him again for a second term even if.... yikes, so tempted to make a "Weekend at Bernie's" joke here....

It is completely disingenuous to dismiss this as some sort of "ageist" bigotry.  The country needs and deserves to have a leader who is physically capable of carrying out the job.

3.  Passing the Baton

Bernie helped build an amazing left-populist movement in 2015 and 2016.  He forced the issue and made Socialism go mainstream and become hip again.  But is it about ideas or is it about a cult of personality?

I hope it's about ideas and not just a cult of personality.  But if Bernie himself and his supporters are convinced that only Bernie can do it -- and he can't bring himself to pass the baton and take his place as "elder statesman" given the above two strikes against him -- then it sure doesn't look like a vital ideas-based movement that can outlive him....

In conclusion, I'd like to apologise for making this more about Bernie's negatives than about Elizabeth's positives.  So let me wrap up with a new video showing Warren leading the way on one of the most critical issues facing US democracy today:

Guys, when Obama was running against Clinton, I whole-heartedly supported Obama because I felt he was more qualified and had a better stand on a number of important issues.  I was pissed-off at Gloria Steinem for writing an opinion turning the primary into an oppression olympics between blacks and women, which I didn't think that was appropriate or warranted.  And, as I said, in 2105 and early 2016 I supported Bernie over Clinton because of the difference in their ideas and policies.

But, now that our candidate is the best candidate, we're done waiting.

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