About Last Night, Super Tuesday Edition: Everybody Duck The Swinging Narrative
There are enough numbers, charts, diagrams, data sets, maps, graphics and all sorts of cool stuff coming out of the information fire hose that is the Super Tuesday election results to drown the most dedicated wonk. For that matter we will still be waiting for California’s official results for a bit. In the meantime, what to make of what happened last night while forecasting the next Super Tuesday that is coming up on, well, Tuesday?
Folks got so over-the-top with the “Biden is done” stuff, helped along with a lackluster campaign and the Sanders folks pushing hard for a coronation, demand for “plurality is enough”, and even whispers by the very bold purveyors of the revolution that they could win in South Carolina, you could feel the Biden comeback story being set up.
Firewall is the wrong word for what happened in the south with Joe Biden. It’s more like a built-in algorithm, designed to offset what happens in the earlier primaries that are very different demographics and parts of the country. Folks can talk about the order of states and primary process but the game is the game till someone changes it, and everyone knew the calendar in advance. Either win over those voters, or they will hand you an L. It’s fair to talk about establishment backing, and endorsements, and who twisted what arms but that’s how politics play. That’s the game. Biden’s support among the Super Tuesday voters didn’t start Saturday night; it was validation of what folks were already predisposed to do but needed a bit of reassurance.
Let’s be clear-eyed here though. By the time California gets finalized, the delegate math means no one is going to be reaching 1991. But it does look like Joe Biden now has a track to get the plurality. Legions of comments from Sanders and his supporters that plurality should be enough will play on a loop between now and the convention, but for Joe Biden’s plurality and now-likely nomination.
He is still Joe Biden, for all the good and ill, but for this primary the voters of the Democratic primary who are not fully vested in the “revolution” have decided it doesn’t matter, you go to war with what you have, and Biden is going to be the guy. There will still be slog, but after everything we’ve seen in the last year, we are right back where we started:
Biden on top by default, Bernie with the loud minority, and the looming challenge of trying to reconcile those two things to take on President Donald Trump.
The Sanders revolution was very vocal about “It’s the revolution or else,” thinking this was their moment. Folks are voting for “or else” in numbers now that make the unlikelihood of reaching 1991 delegates now impossible. The last two weeks of demanding that a plurality of delegates should be enough for the nomination very well may come back to haunt them.
But the Sanders campaign and supporters have a much bigger problem than delegate math, and one far less fixable. The entire premise of his campaign is now undermined. The theory of the case for Sanders has been that “the movement,” as Bernie keeps referring to his brand of Democratic Socialism, is going to bring in a massive influx of younger voters and expanded appeals to minorities. He will broaden his coalition within a party he wasn’t particularly a part of by enlarging it. To his credit Sanders spent the last 4 years building in-roads and ground game, concentrating on the mechanics of primary politics far more than in 2016. It has born fruit in some areas, especially in the Latino demographics and young voters.
Now we have the data that this not only isn’t happening, but in many cases Bernie Sanders is underperforming his 2016 totals and expectations for this cycle. Folks turned out in big numbers against Sanders, and there were very few new folks to offset them.
We’ve talked a lot about Sanders having a ceiling, that no matter what he does his Gospel of Democratic Socialism is only going to have a set number of members in the choir for him to preach too. States that didn’t get as much attention on Super Tuesday, like Minnesota which Bernie handily won in 2016, went with Biden. California, which Sanders poured a tremendous amount of effort into, looks like it will be much closer than they had hoped, cutting into the largest delegate pile to be divied up in this primary season. The map and math are lining up against the revolution.
There is plenty of chatter from Sanders supporters about the quick swing of affairs, how all the sudden Biden seemed to get support from everywhere in the party out of thin air. But that’s the game. If you want to be an outsider and fly the revolution banner, whining that the overthrow is harder than you thought isn’t a good look. Nor is blaming rank-and-file Democratic voters who don’t agree with your brand and dismissing them with everything from calling them establishment to low-information voters to far worse on the darker corners of social media. The question of how Sanders and his supporters handle the mounting pressure as the primary continues will be must watch, and we can only pray not too hard to watch.
Our Democratic friends have been insisting over and over again that there will be no rift in the party, that beating Trump will solve all ills, and the party will coalesce around “anybody but Trump”. The closer we get to “anybody” and a large chunk of the party coming to terms that it isn’t their preferred “somebody”, the theory of Team Blue is going to be tested.
500 million dollars to win American Samoa and a handful of delegates elsewhere. He probably could have bought American Samoa outright cheaper. He has spent half-a-billion dollars to become a laughing stock and a trivia question answer. More importantly, Bloomberg did the nearly impossible in bringing the divergent and very divisive folks on social media who normally can’t stand each other together in loathing him and his campaign. For that service we thank him. Before lunch time on the day after Super Tuesday, Mike Bloomberg decided he had spent enough, and bowed out. What a spectacular, expensive, experiment in politics, ego, and money can’t buy you everything
Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, and even the long-gone Beto O’Rourke took the shot callers’ phone calls and got their moment and shine on Monday endorsing Joe Biden. In the process they all got a nice soft exit from the race that puts them in a good light, mitigates the failure, and sets them all up for whatever is next in their careers.
Elizabeth Warren took the other option, decided to go out fighting, and took the public coup de grace of her electoral efforts to the bottom of the graphics tidal wave viewers saw all evening. Folks can debate which of the two options is more honorable between joining the team and going out swinging, but it’s brutal to watch someone once considered a top-tier candidate finish third in their home state.
Folks will be writing post mortems on the Warren 2020 Campaign for a while. There is a visceral anger to her supporter base that they didn’t get a fair shake here.
To be as generous as possible, aside from the policies, plans, and controversies, Elizabeth Warren had one core issue that doomed her here. Selfie-line/small venue Elizabeth Warren was smart, affable, engaging, and a great candidate. National television/debate stage Elizabeth Warren was all overly-earnest wonky fighter with little nuance or change up. This is why she could rip Michael Bloomberg’s soul out through his nose and wear it as a hat in the highest rated debate of the cycle and get virtually no bounce from it. Folks appreciated it, as she ded the country a great service in the process, but she didn’t help herself or get a second look from folks. You want to factor sexism into that you can — and some of her ardent supporters will do just that — but accusing the party that cleared the field for a woman just four years ago is going to be a hard sell.
The proper analysis is to consider Elizabeth Warren as she has performed. It wasn’t enough.
Nah, just kidding. She doesn’t matter outside her online fan club and branding efforts to hang between the prongs of the horse theory like a gymnast on the rings performing a crucifix. By the end of the year she will be outside elected office, and matter even less than she already does. Good riddance.
Super Tuesday Part Deux
Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, and Washington primaries, and the North Dakota caucuses are up next. Michigan will get most of the attention, and rightly so.