The Wrong Lessons

Elizabeth Warren’s numbers have fallen off a cliff. After being the frontrunner in mid-September, voters have cooled on her considerably in early states where she needed to make a splash. The punditocracy will be quick to note that Warren shouldn’t have become so embroiled in the details of Medicare for All. This article from Ezra Klein is a typical example of chin-stroking bullshit from a guy who by his own admission fell for Paul Ryan’s con game. The article basically boils down to Democrats shouldn’t have talked about the most appealing part of their platform because now it’s being framed negatively (who could have foreseen powerful interests like the insurance lobby and big pharma manufacturing consent?).

The takeaway from Warren’s loss will be that Democrats shouldn’t get too in the weeds on any one thing. It’s the kind of message the helps breed the consulting class that has always left Democrats stranded in the wilderness as they chase polling data while studiously avoiding any messaging whatsoever that may not agree with Beltway wisdom. So in the case of Medicare for All, the polling says that people like their private insurance. Keep in mind that when the ACA was in the works, that also had backlash because people are scared of things that are unfamiliar even if it offers them something better. It’s the job of skilled leaders to lead and change public opinions.

What’s frustrating in the case of Warren is that she was trying to do just that. She staked out strong positions and then re-calibrated when necessary while not abandoning the core of her beliefs (compared to Pete Buttigieg who couldn’t run away from M4A fast enough when he saw there was an opening to steal moderate voters away from Joe Biden). But a Biden or a Buttigeig win in Iowa and/or New Hampshire reinforces the notion that the Democratic Party doesn’t want to move “too far to the left,” (please note that never in the punditocracy can a candidate move “too far too the right”). And look, the primary system is garbage and it’s deeply fucked up that two very white states have such a large say in setting the tone when black voters are the most important part of the Democratic base. So the message that gets carried is to say nothing of substance to a bunch of white people who won’t really even feel the ramifications of their actions unless they actually need healthcare (oddly, people stop loving their private insurance when they lose their jobs; weird how that works out).

Maybe I’m just being prematurely bitter and Warren can rebound, but the Iowa caucus is about six weeks away and she’s painfully behind. Right now it’s shaping up to be Biden or Buttigieg. And as I’ve said before, I’ll support whoever gets the Democratic nomination and I expect a lot of left-wing folks are about to be exposed as privileged dilettantes who will refuse to vote “on principal” while the world burns.

Obviously, the anxiety comes from the fact that there’s no perfect candidate to run. Clinton should have beaten Trump, she lost because the Electoral College is bad and outdated, and it’s possible that no candidate can beat him because he has the right demographics in the right states even though he’ll never win the popular vote. And then the country will spiral further into rage and depression because of a fluke of demography, geography, and the EC.

When I look at all this, I oddly take comfort in the fact that it’s been worse than this before and we somehow came out the other side. I think the problem is the amount of uncertainty when you have a madman in charge of the country and a death cult behind him. That makes for frightening times. But we should not be so arrogant to think that we’re the first to experience such times, and that these times are worse than all others that have come before. Furthermore, we should not view ourselves as powerless. For me, what weighs on me more than anything is just how draining the last three years have been, and yet me and the left-wing people I follow on Twitter have it easy. We’re not migrants at the border who get separated from our families and thrown into cages. We’re not refugees denied sanctuary. We’re not Yeminis being bombed. That’s not to make light of that suffering or to say we shouldn’t show compassion. That suffering is necessary to retain empathy and our humanity.

But I will also say that while Trump and his cronies are a mental and emotional drain on the body politic, we are not powerless. I understand that voters in Iowa and NH are looking for “the person that can beat Trump” and while I think that’s misguided, I get that we’re looking for an end to this nightmare. But we have to prepare ourselves that the nightmare may not end in 2020. Hell, it may not end in 2024 (if Trump chooses not to leave, what’s going to stop him? Norms? How have those fared?)

But past generations had to live through world war and pandemic. We have a shit-for-brains Fox News grandpa who can’t stop tweeting. We can handle this.

Thursday, December 12th, 2019 politics

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