Hey! Thanks for reading! Just a reminder that I wrote this some years ago, and may have much more complicated feelings about this topic than I did when I wrote it. Happy to elaborate, feel free to reach out to me! 😄
🎵 The song for this post is El Potaje, by Cimafunk ft. Omara Portuondo, Chucho Valdés, Pancho Amat y la Orquesta Aragón. 🎵
I've had (am having) a hard time letting go of the Democratic Primary, which seems to be more-or-less over with Joe Biden's major victories on Tuesday. It's still mathematically possible for Bernie to get enough delegates, but given the realities of both their coalitions, what the polls say, and the margin by which he'd have to win the remaining primaries… it's pretty grim.
Which sucks! Biden's terrible at elections: until Super Tuesday, he's has never won a state in any of the times he's run, which is numerous. The Dem establishment offers nothing behind his candidacy besides "this is a breathing entity that maximizes beating Trump in the general," and they're wrong, he's not going to do that. The only time the Dems lost the popular vote in a Presidential election since H.W. Bush was Kerry v. Bush in 2004, and we're right in line to do it again. "The blandest choice who isn't Bush" wasn't a sufficient strategy in that election, and it's worse this time, since it's a guy nobody's proactively excited about, with no coherent platform, who can barely form sentences.
I've never met a person who could articulate any of Biden's policies, or why they were better suited for the issues the country is facing than his Democratic competitors. I've often said a ham sandwich would be a better President than Trump, but I didn't think we'd nominate something so close to a ham sandwich. It's clear a bunch of Boomers are hoping to "go back to normal" but there is no going back with the state the Republicans are in now; this also ignores that 2016 was a hellscape for many people who didn't hoard the country's wealth while claiming the victories of their parent generation (Boomers! You didn't fight in WWII! You were, at most, teenagers during the Civil Rights movement! Your legacy is Reaganism and rolling the clock back on the best policies of the 20th century).
That last bit isn't comprehensive, there was something else behind the big consolidation than "don't let Trump be President": "don't let Bernie Sanders be President," an issue of critical importance for establishment Democrats, maybe more than the Trump one. This party, like Republicans, believes in the rights of property more than people, and they're giving us more rope to hang them with by signalling that doing this merely with mass popular support for policies is a fool's errand. We clearly can't do this by counting on the miniscule subset of people who can easily vote being as informed, generous, or decent as non-voters, so we're going to have to come up with something else.
Beyond the outcome, I'm most bitter because the way it all shook out, the whole primary process was just pointless: in the end, it was a runoff of the two guys who had the name-recognition advantage coming in, with the winner being the one with the backing of the terrible industry interests and Boomers who got us into this mess. He didn't even have campaign operations in many of the states he won. All the debates, the hundreds of millions of dollars, the organizational energy of each campaign, all of it… for pretty much nothing, but for what we can build on the rubble.
I've spent more mental energy managing my thoughts and feelings on this primary than too many other things I value. This wasn't intentional, this was mostly the function of my brain's coping mechanisms and what my Twitter timeline looked like. I need to redirect my energy to other things. It also hurts a ton to see my friends hurting on the TL.
I supported Warren
If you support baseline progressive politics (what is center-right in most other developed nations), your choice was either Warren or Bernie. I chose Warren. My favorite articulations are probably here (on why Elizabeth, proactively) and here (why I was less strong on Bernie). While most people don't click outgoing links in blog posts, I'll make a special mention of those two.
While I preferred Bernie's overall skepticism of American power and much broader promises, I didn't get enough signal that he'd know exactly how to see through achieving his goals, or get enough of the right people on board to make it happen. His campaign seemed like a glass cannon: extremely strong energy and conviction, but when hit any of a few very forseeable obstacles, that energy would be fast to crumble, with many people losing their minds and pointing their fingers at absolutely everything around them.1
This is a money quote for me, from a private equity executive in one of the linked pieces (on why finance people were more afraid of Warren than Bernie):
"You’d almost have to be in the business to hear the difference in the way they talk — Bernie talks about finance lumped in with all highly profitable and remunerative business, millionaires and billionaires, etc. [...] Warren talks like an insider. Listen to her content for a few minutes as a finance person and you know that she knows all the tricks, all the gray areas, all the loopholes. It lands differently."
This was generally the sense that I got: her plans just looked more concrete, and likely to do damage where it mattered. She had a history of moving the ball forward outside of public service, not just the CFPB but things like demanding personnel concessions from Clinton in 2016. Like any skilled negotiator, she seemed to involve diverse groups of people in these endeavors, and made them feel like they "won," while still having the impact she was after. I wish I could believe in the operational viability of Bernie's dream, and he's absolutely my #2 who I'll vote for in my primary, but I couldn't get entirely behind him.
A small selection of things (there are more) that I'm critical of Warren over:
- Her stated relationship to cops and the greater carceral system didn't seem nearly critical enough. I realize the tactical advantage to not create conflict there, but one can't just assume that's what's happening, and I felt its absence.
- She said late in the campaign that she's "open" to decriminalization of sex work, but that's way too vague, and she voted for SOSTA/FESTA (btw so did Bernie), which has made life very, very dangerous for sex workers across the country.
- Her parents told her she had Native ancestry, and she believed them. This sucks, and she tried to own up to some of the consequences, but she could have done more. Haters like to bring up the DNA test, which was obviously a colossal misfire, but I trust she recognized it and learned from it (just look at the debates).
But we'll always have the greats:
- The Worm Mark Zuckerburg expressing concerns over her candidacy.
- Filleting Bloomberg like a trout. And before that, Delaney! I don't give her all the credit for Chris Matthews, but I'll give her some. She had this great habit of making terrible men just show their asses.
Highlights of the primary, non-Warren:
- Bernie is Jewish. While many flatten him and Joe as "two old White guys" (and I get it) I think there is lots that's fantastic and meaningful about this aspect of his candidacy. Talia Lavin wrote a great piece about this.
- There's light cause for cheer in the upcoming primary debate, even though it's kind of pointless. Jorge Ramos was supposed to moderate (he can't anymore because of potential SARS-CoV-19 exposure), and telling little Pablo "Jorge Ramos would moderate a major presidential debate" when I was a kid, I wouldn't have believed you.
If you haven't had enough words, some more Warren-ish articles/narratives about the primary:
- The Vox case for Elizabeth Warren was fantastic. The Bernie one too.
- Feature piece on a volunteer who did a shit ton of work for her.
- Here's a great thread if you want to learn more about how stupid primaries are. Primaries don't count votes unless you get over 15%, so most of Warren's votes counted for nothing meaningful.
- Bernie getting kneecapped this way prior to Super Tuesday was, well, a risk his campaign knew about and bet against. If you built the Death Star that way intentionally, you can only complain so much about what a well-placed proton torpedo can do.
- I've been impressed with AOC's messaging around this. She supported Bernie but respects and wants to build a coalition with Warren voters. I'd like more of this, to be a part of this.
- Pareene on Democrats and electibility, and how it's counterproductive bullshit.
There! It's out of my system. There are a million little insider-baseball narratives I could mention too, but ¡basta!, on to live my damn life, which right now is too much startup code, some side OCaml for fun, trashy paranormal romance novels, and occasionally playing Celeste for that final golden (idk, in April?).
Also, not dying 😷
1. ^ I'm a little biased because so much of what I see is on Twitter, which is a very small, very vocal subset of his base, on a platform specifically designed to get emotional reactions and not allow much conversation. And much of the forces they blame(d) are absolutely legitimate. But not all of them, and you still gotta be tactical in the presence of unfair forces.
And this is only a knock on his presidential campaign, specifically: I'm extremely grateful for the inspiration and energy his runs produce. We flipped the NY State Senate away from awful incumbants, got rid of Joe Crowley, and many amazing progressives have cited his 2016 (and now, 2020) runs as inspiration to run themselves. The establishment survived this one election, but they're on borrowed time, and Bernie's campaigns are a huge driver in this.
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