Harsh Your Mellow Monday: The Easy Way, The Hard Way, and That Other Way
[HM1] Those that with haste will make a mighty fire, begin it with weak straws
Way back in the long, long ago of January the very first Harsh Your Mellow Monday declared “Bernie Sanders is not going to win the Democratic Nomination for president.”
…if Biden takes three or four of the top 5 on March 3rd, the hill to climb to unseat Biden from frontrunner becomes a sheer cliff in a hurry.
All that is to say: we’ve seen this movie before. Bernie Sanders might have a better plan and ground game than last time. But he also has a fuller field that isn’t going to bow out just to do him a favor. And the party powers that be are not exactly thrilled to have him as standard bearer. Most of all, he is still Bernie Sanders. Add it all up and smart odds are that we will see a replay of 2016: Bernie in second place as protest vote against the more establishment candidate; and returning to being an Independent Senator from Vermont in due course. Again.
Anything could happen. We will be reminded of that ad nauseum for the next two months. But it won’t.
Such prognostications that Bernie Sanders’ revolution might not hold up to the wider Democratic primary was held by more than a few folks because all the previous data suggested it. The informed, educated guess was that the premise the purveyors of the revolution had to sell was faulty: there wasn’t going to be enough “new” voters for Sanders to make up for the traditional Democratic coalition voters turned off by Bernie-style Democratic Socialism.
Now we have the data showing that is exactly what happened.
While young voters were part of the coalition that propelled Sanders to victory in California, those under age 30 made up just 11% of the electorate, according to exit polls. Another 35% were between the ages of 45 and 64, and 30% were 65 or older.
In Texas, a state that Biden won though the demographics were supposed to favor Sanders, just 16% of voters were younger than 30, while 38% were between the ages of 45 and 64, and 24% were 65 and older.
Even in Sanders’ home state of Vermont, voters younger than 30 made up just 11% of Super Tuesday voters, according to exit polls. Roughly 70% of voters were over age 45.
Of the 14 states that held primary contests on Tuesday, participation by voters younger than 30 didn’t exceed 20% in any state, according to an analysis of exit polls.
Given the huge turnout, including youth turnout, in the 2018 midterms, many had predicted, or at least hoped, that the trend would continue during the 2020 Democratic primaries. But so far, at least, there is no clear evidence of greater participation by the young people that Sanders has said he can motivate to get out to the polls.
But the revolution cannot fail, only be failed, so who ya gonna blame…oh, wait, I know:
Sen. Bernie Sanders on Super Tuesday results: “One of the things I was kind of not surprised by was the power of the establishment to force Amy Klobuchar, who had worked so hard, Pete Buttigieg who had really worked extremely hard as well out of the race.” https://t.co/FMsEFyFDY3 pic.twitter.com/9C5lLFJCR5
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) March 8, 2020
This particular line of defense is ridiculous. You can be the vanguard of a revolutionary movement, or you can be the victim of those meanie pants in-crowd cool kids who just won’t give you a fair shake. But you cannot be both, and you really cannot switch back and forth depending on the situation, especially if you want to convince the neutrals to come over to your cause.
Bernie Sanders ran in 2016, and we have plenty of evidence that the Democratic Party cleared the field for Hillary Clinton to be the nominee. Sanders then became the protest candidate, and did rather well for himself considering. Then, he and his supporters had a hand in re-writing the DNC rules for 2020. While Team Bernie didn’t get everything they wanted, Sanders’ team was the only campaign that had a direct say in the 2020 rules making process. Many, myself included, felt the ridiculous spectacle of baseball team-sized debates was the DNC trying too hard to look impartial as overcompensation.
What he did with all that was to, frankly, underperform. Yes he won New Hampshire & Nevada, and second/tied/maybe first in the train wreck that was Iowa’s caucus. But he didn’t win anywhere he wasn’t supposed to, and in many cases did lower numbers even in victory than he pulled in 2016. There are many variables to why that is but there is one constant: Bernie Sanders. So we can hash out all the other reasons and how much each of them played a role as the revolution dies its slow 2020 death delegate by delegate over the next few weeks. But somewhere in there as the gnashing of teeth and renting of garments gets to be a bit much make sure you focus most of it on the place most deserving. Not the DNC, not the “establishment”, not “low information voters” that has been used as a thinly veiled accusation against anyone not feeling the Bern, and certainly not the media and other candidates who hardly laid a finger of rough political play on the Vermont Senator this entire campaign. Blame the guy who sold folks on the forging fire of revolution only to get hot blowout and smoldering embers of what might have been after.
Blame Bernie Sanders, who didn’t deliver on what he promised, again and again.
[HM2] Talking Like Grown Folks About Growing Old
There has been plenty of speculation surrounding Joe Biden’s age & abilities in this campaign. Let’s take a moment and try to have a big people chat about it.
The interwebs are awash in the clips and videos of every gaffe, stutter, misspoken phrase, and oral miscue Joe Biden makes. Some are more legitimate than others, as this clipped video that made the rounds demonstrates:
No one can tell me that Biden is more electable than @SenSanders.
— RoseAnn DeMoro (@RoseAnnDeMoro) March 8, 2020
That clip isn’t particularly fair, but this isn’t a fair business. It was trimmed down from a bigger chunk where the miscue makes more sense in the larger 3 minute riff that Biden was on about Trump’s re-election campaign, but also cuts out things like the audience laughing. Depending on your priors, the edited clip might actually look better, or worse. The problem for this poster is that, yes, the Democratic primary voters are in the process of declaring that “Biden is more electable than Bernie Sanders” but I somehow doubt there will be reflection on why that is. Instead, their will be vitriol. Combined, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are the same age as the surrender of the Confederate Army at Appomattox Court House. Their surrogates and supporters are touchy on this point, except to hurl it at each other.
The problem with Biden is this isn’t the first, or the last, clip like this. Folks can say whatever they want on social media but videos of him this campaign is a “believe your lying eyes” type of things. We can see it. If you’ve seen Joe Biden on TV for the last 10, 20, 30 years or more you can tell. It’s obvious. Joe Biden has declined. We have 40 years of video on the man available at a moment’s touch. The Joe Biden who ran circles around Paul Ryan, a man who prided himself on data points and specific knowledge, in style if not substance at their debate in 2012 is not who we have seen in 2020. To ignore or explain it away is just nonsense.
Joe Biden has a well known stutter; that you can, and should, overlook. But the rest of it? It’s fair to question for someone wanting to be the President of the United States of America. Now, having said all that, jumping straight to “he’s got dementia” isn’t fair either. The spectrum from 77 year old man forgetting things to full blown diagnosed dementia is far, and certainly not for lay folks bloviating online about it. Mental health is not a clean cut thing under the best of circumstances, and in a presidential campaign probably impossible.
I’m sympathetic. I’ve spent the last few years learning to function with documented, diagnosed, on-paper reality of real life cognitive function decline. The magic of the internet is you don’t get to see any of that. You don’t see the rough drafts with sometimes garbled word salad Em and others who help edit sometimes notice. You don’t see me running tweets through Google Docs for spelling and grammar because I can’t remember how to spell things sometimes. I don’t complain because there is no point to it. Adapt and overcome. No one cares, work harder.
Joe Biden and his 77 years don’t get that kind of cover, nor should he. Private citizen Joe Biden has every right to manage the natural aging processes, and the changes both physical and mental that come with it for everyone, as he sees fit. In private. With his family. But Presidential Candidate Joe Biden does not get that. He volunteered for this, and the questions of his fitness are central to the nation deciding on a president. His campaign no doubt protects him as best they can, but we are not even to the halfway point of the primary schedule, let alone the year long slog to November. Bernie, for all his bluster and rage curmudgeon persona, hasn’t really hit Joe with any of it. Part of it is because Bernie is even older, so it would highlight a shared weakness more than emphasize a strength. But there is more to it than that. The Democratic Primary has punished the likes of Julian Castro, Kamala Harris, and Bill De Blasio who they felt were being unfair or overly mean to ‘Ol Uncle Joe. That’s all fine and dandy, but counterproductive. Trump 2020 is going to have no qualms about going low and right where it hurts with the nominee, and no cries of hypocrisy about the president’s own history of withholding information is going to blunt the accusations. If Joe Biden finishes this primary season off with the nomination, the vanity of Donald Trump and his pride in a vigorous and strength-projecting persona is going to hone in on it and beat on it mercilessly.
It’s fair game, it is a liability, and there will be no tsk-tsking it away in the coming general election if Joe Biden is the name on top. Team Biden better develop a strategy, and quickly, of how to handle the age and ability question, ‘cause it’s coming to every screen near you for the duration of the summer.
Leave the diagnosis to the doctors. But carefully consider the fitness of the candidate, and — maybe even more importantly — how they handle such questions and issues.
[HM3] Corona Don’t Care
Crisis, both real and imagined, are useful in revealing character.
You can be poetic about pressure and talk about it turning coal into a diamond, or you can be realistic and talk about pressure crushing something like Schrödinger’s discarded beer can.
If you’re ate up with yourself and your politics, you use it to confirm all your priors.
So over the next few however-long-it-lasts period of time that we will all be dealing with the COVID-19/Coronavirus outbreak, it’s good to remember that folks will be more than happy to not let the crisis go to waste for their own ends.
The Coronavirus is not a RAWR Deep State plot. If the president doesn’t handle the response well, either in practicum or optics, that’s on him.
The Coronavirus does not care which healthcare system your country currently has. Italy, with its SSN a common and well regarded European-style universal system, is having all sorts of problems. China with its top-down everything obviously was the origin point. We will see how America’s system holds up. You want to debate best systems of healthcare fine, but no system is perfect nor immune.
The Coronavirus does not care about your economic theory. The toilet paper at Costco is getting all the viral attention, but it’s the effects on things like supply chain, travel, and international business that lag behind in the headlines but are the real indicators of the economic impact this will have. The machinery of international global business is more analogous to an ocean than a river, and the waves this is creating will take a while to reach the shores of the average person. Those waves will be more noticeable once workers can’t go to work, start missing pay, and the service-type industry folks feel the bite of people staying home. One talking heads self-quarantine is another’s personal financial disaster, something that get’s lost too quickly.
As Kristin so ably pointed out the “I’m from the government and I’m here to help” folks will be happy to not let the crisis go to waste. Already congress has chunked off $8.3 billion in funding, and others are using the headlines to push their various plans that now are super urgent so as to strike while the iron is hot. U.S. Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) took a break from his relentless campaigning to become preside…er, I mean, take over the internet to introduce legislation giving the FDA wide-ranging powers “to request information from manufacturers of essential drugs or devices regarding all aspects of their manufacturing capacity, including sourcing of component parts, sourcing of active pharmaceutical ingredients, use of any scarce raw materials, and any other details the FDA deems relevant to assess the security of the U.S. medical product supply chain.” A cynical person would whisper “means of production” but hush, now, there is a crisis at hand and we must do something.
As in all things, maintain your bearing, whether it’s with bombarding news coverage, panic at the big box store, hysteria on your Facebook page, or politicians promising X, Y, and Z because of that scary Chinese Superflu thingy. Stay informed and take care of each other. And wash your hands.
[HM4] Pound That Send Button
A short poem on media, both news and social:
“It’s a race, it’s a chase, hurry up and feed their face!
Who will win? No one knows!…”
I’m just joking, that’s actually the old jingle from the Hungry, Hungry Hippos commercials back in the day.
Look, don’t judge…the 80s were a magical time that, when you understand in retrospect the rampant cocaine usage on Madison Ave at the time, the commercials suddenly make more sense.
Our friend Michael’s piece on the eponymous-hippopotamus game of slapping a lever as hard and fast as you can to grab a bunch of marbles you really don’t care about other than to deny them to your opponent and win is pretty much how folks are using media today. Firstest with the mostest is sound military strategy, and is how you win Hungry, Hungry Hippos, but doesn’t work that well in the cosplay real life of the interwebs. Some folks ascribe Machiavellian plans and biases to “the media” but for the most part it’s folks under pressure just banging their hippo hard and fast so that their outlet gets the marble before the three competitors on equal footing get it first. Some folks ascribe everything from opposing political parties, to Russia, to Soros, to the Koch bothers for everything they see on social media, but mostly its just folks pounding that “send” button as hard as the focus-group tested kids in that commercial were.
Don’t get too wrapped up in it. Play a board game with the folks you care about, have some mindless fun, and don’t chase internet ghosts and goblins. Especially if you are quarantined. Board games are just the thing for that.