“What would it be like if a third-generation photocopy of Hunter S. Thompson did a Mark Halperin impression?” isn’t really a question I needed to be answered but Matt Taibbi decided to anyway:
A third contender is Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a famed red-state punchline who already has 10,000 Pocahontas tweets aimed at her head should she make it to the general. Her “I have a plan for that” argument for smarter government makes her a modern analog to Mike Dukakis — another Massachusetts charisma machine whose ill-fated presidential run earned him a portrait alongside the Hindenburg in a Naked Gun movie.
Her “economic patriotism” plan, which envisions the government using levers like the Fed and the Treasury to protect jobs, has earned praise from left and right (Tucker Carlson gave it an “attaboy” on Fox). But the catchphrase was used not only by Obama, but also by two other Massachusetts Dems Warren resembles: 1992 presidential contender Paul Tsongas, and Dukakis. The Duke’s 1988 message of “new economic patriotism” included proposals for universal health coverage, a higher minimum wage, scholarships for students committed to teaching careers, etc.
Obviously, Warren’s campaign has nothing relevant in common with Dukakis’s — which was based on technocratic governing competence, not soaring policy ambition — let along Tsongas’s, which lost running to Bill Clinton’s right. Their ideologies are different, their campaigning styles are different, but they’re all from Massachusetts and the two dudes are branded as LOSERS, so good enough for an extremely lazy pundit who starts every column about electoral politics with the premise that “all Democrats suck, except maybe one running a hopeless vanity campaign” and proceeds from there with a bunch of pundit mad libs.
At least with Biden the lines are just obvious rather than wrong, but the explanation for his early success is silly:
The top Democrats’ best arguments for office are that they are not each other. Harris is rising in part because she’s not Biden; Warren, because she isn’t Bernie. Bernie’s best argument is the disfavor of the hated Democratic establishment. The Democratic establishment chose Biden because he was the Plan B last time and the party apparently hasn’t come up with anything better since. Nothing says “We’re out of ideas” quite like pulling a pushing-eighty ex-vice president off the bench to lead the most important race in the party’s history.
The “Democratic establishment” hasn’t “chosen” anything. It isn’t “pushing” Biden. He’s barely leading Kamala Harris in endorsements and most of those are from minor figures within the party. There’s no conspiracy here. Biden is leading because a lot of Democratic voters like him, in large measure because the typical Democratic voter really likes Obama. Taibbi can’t imagine liking a Democratic politician with a chance of winning the nomination and is therefore incapable of imagining that anyone else can either.
I also note that “the nomination is RIGGED” types have even less to work with this time. How, exactly, is the DNC ramming Biden down the party’s throat this time? It sure isn’t by “clearing the field” or “manipulating the debate format to favor frontrunners.”
You need something stronger than another political rap to beat this, but if Iowa is any judge, just a rap is what many Democrats are bringing. With a few exceptions, all the candidates here are giving a version of the same stump speech, which by itself is a problem — voters tend to notice this sort of thing.
Yes, it is highly unusual for candidates to repeat points in their stump speeches, because the typical voter, who pays careful attention to each and every speech given by a political candidate, would be alienated. This reflects a very deep understanding of how politics works.
Then there’s the content, which, to paraphrase Lincoln, is thinner than a soup made from the shadow of a pigeon that starved to death. The Democrats’ basic pitch reads like a list of five poll topics: kids are in cages; let’s close the gun-show loophole; this administration’s policies are an existential threat; something something Mitch McConnell; and Trump is (insert joke here).
There are truths there, but in baseball terms, it’s weak cheese Trump will swat into the seats. Our walking civil war of a president reached office on a promise to burn it all down, which, incidentally, he’s doing. A core psychological appeal to destruction needs a profound response. Slogans won’t work. Poll-and-pander won’t work. True inspiration is the only way out.
All of the claims — that the Democratic candidates aren’t offering an affirmative agenda, that none have any vision for the country, that they’re running Bill Clintonseque “poll and pander” campaigns — are complete nonsense, but then we’re dealing with a guy who pretends not to be able to see any daylight between Elizabeth Warren and Paul Tsongas.
OK, so he has absolutely nothing useful to tell us about any of the candidates, but surely his shoe leather reporting will at least give us a real sense of place?
Over the years, so many presidential candidates have shown up with their hats in their hands that Iowans now talk to them the way New Yorkers talk to cabbies. (Biden’s already had a “Where’s your walker?” heckler.) It’s hilarious to watch. That it may not be the best place to pick the candidate of a party whose voters live mostly in cities is beside the point.
You have to like the fact that hasn’t even updated “cabbies” to “Uber drivers” in giving us the earth-shattering insight that primary campaigns have spent a lot of time in Iowa since 1972.
Anyway, if you want to get out of the boat for such insights as “candidates disagree with each other during primary debates, which shows that the Democrat Party has no chance against Trump” in what is surely the longest and least lively Maureen Dowd column ever, don’t say I didn’t warn you.