The Samurai and the Millionaire Socialist: Liz and Bernie at the Nevada Debate

Oh, how I’ve longed to see the side of Elizabeth Warren who came out last night. All campaign long, I’ve understood as she held back, aiming to be the one who could unite the disparate wings of the party and so not throwing elbows at anyone, for the most part, so that when the general election came, progressives and moderates and everyone else could stand and fight together against the creeping oligarchy and nascent white christian nationalist fascism that threatens democracy, the future, and the viability of human civilization on our rapidly warming planet.

In a perfect world, that would be the campaign for President everyone should want. Ideas, passion, and a relentlessly positive message.

But we do not live in that world, nor, likely, do we deserve to, at least collectively.

For all their bespoke suits and expensive coiffure, the mainstream media are basically wrestling announcers. They want drama, a good fight. And they love the bad guys, the badder the better, because they make for good TV. And while once upon a time news might have been firewalled from the ratings game, a ‘public good’ provided by the networks to justify their use of our national airwaves, that time is long past, and it’s all about them eyeballs for advertisers. ‘Nice lady makes good point’ doesn’t rate much attention next to ‘Presidential candidate brags about penis size’, which is an actual thing that happened four years ago. Never mind their paymasters — and accountants, because these people are decidedly not middle-class — freaking the fuck out because Warren knows how to unrig the game, and published her plan for doing so on the internet.

They all but erased her from their coverage (only three tickets out of Iowa, says the CW, and then the third story is Biden coming fourth, and don’t get me started on the WSJ poll literally leaving her out), til the erasure became a story in its own right.

Then last night happened.

Unknown-1
Liz Warren can’t believe these two poll ahead of her.

 

Remember the first debate, back in approximately 1975? When Warren cracked and stuck a shiv in John Delaney that bled him out on live TV? I’ve been waiting to see that again since then, and boy howdy, did she deliver last night. She was like a samurai: the drawing of the sword and the killing blow one smooth, graceful motion.

It helped, surely, that she had Mike Bloomberg — who is as literal an embodiment of everything she’s stood and fought against her whole adult life as it is possible to be — and she broke out the katana first thing, cutting his heel tendons so he couldn’t run away and then eviscerating him for two hours. It was a great preview of how she’d take on Trump, who is a lesser and thinner-skinned version of Bloomberg, and I’m pretty sure half the country (and some dudes, too) are salivating at the chance she might get to share a debate stage with him.

She bled Pete and Amy some, too, on the health care thing, and more subtly by being the only one standing up for people of color, who make up a majority of the Democratic base and don’t seem much to care for the folksy Midwesterners so keen to invite folks from the other side to the table. She even gave Bernie a few well-placed pokes, on his M4A plan but also for the way his campaign deals with even the hint of criticism of the man, the myth, the legend.

It was a tour de force performance, and I for one can’t wait til the next one.

Bernie had a pretty good night, too. Mostly by not having a bad night. Conventional wisdom holds that when you’re the frontrunner you’re best off staying out of the way and letting the rest of the field fight it out. And despite the bombast and revolution-talk Bernie is, at the end of the day, a pretty conventional politician, even if his views and ideals have been a little left of the Overton Window for most of his career.

There were a couple of moments, though, that did not bode well, I think.

[As always, the caveat: Bernie’s my second choice, I supported him in 2016, and will gladly support him come the general if he’s nominated.]

First was at the end, when asked about the prospect of a contested convention (which personally I think is pretty likely and even desirable, but that’s another post). Everyone but Bernie said let the process play out. There are rules and procedures in place for just this eventuality, so we should follow them. Bernie alone — and for obviously self-interested reasons, since right now it’s likeliest to be him — said whoever had the plurality of delegates ought to be the nominee. It was not a good look. I mean, maybe if you’re a Bernie-or-buster and you want your guy no matter how he wins it. I know there’s a segment of his support motivated by his uncompromising stances on, well, you name it. If that’s your jam, okay, I guess. But I saw a guys who’s in it at least as much for his own ego as he is for enacting a progressive agenda. I’m not questioning his convictions — I believe he believes in what he says he believes — but it was pretty clear four years ago he got a taste for the spotlight and being the man and it’s been pretty clear since it’s a good chunk of his motivation. Maybe not a majority, but possibly a plurality, to make a politi-nerd lol out of it.

The second thing, though, worries me even more.

I haven’t seen anyone else notice this (I think he’s gotten Warren’s exceptional performance to thank for it). But there was a moment toward the end where Mike Bloomberg, of all people, scored a hit with an attack I’ve been waiting for.

“The country’s best-known socialist is a millionaire with three houses.”

Bernie was flustered, he stumbled to explain (CW: If you’re explaining, you’re losing). Something something Vermont, something something, DC, something something woods camp. And here’s where the especial vitriol of Sanders’ supporters is hurting him: they’ve kept him so comparatively insulated from the slings and arrows of a political campaign that he’s forgotten he’s got vulnerabilities. The other Democrats in the race are too worried about alienating his supporters to have brought it up, but I will bet you all the money I have that Republican ratfuckers have a great big goddamn file of opposition research with the words ‘Millionaire Socialist’ stamped on the front. How could they not see this coming? Not have an answer prepared for this blindingly obvious line of attack? For fuck’s sake, he’s running to run against Donald Fucking Trump, a man with not zero but negative compunctions about doing or saying any- and everything to get what he wants. If it was someone else, I might give them a pass, since running for President takes a lot of time and money and it might not make sense to devote resources to that kind of thing til later. But Bernie only stopped running between June and November of 2016. There wasn’t any doubt he’d be back. So the lack of preparation for an obvious, if cheap, line of attack?

Say it this way: I hope he takes good advantage of the pass he’s got on this one. Because right now he looks likelier than anyone to be the one in the ring with Donald Trump and the worldwide plutocrat mafia backing him.

As for the others, Amy and Pete’s circular firing squad was hilarious, Mike Bloomberg should visit a dominatrix once in a while, and I look forward to Joe Biden stumping for whoever wins the nomination and then heading up blue-ribbon panels for the rest of his life.

Very much looking forward to next week in South Carolina.

Arundhati Roy on What Fiction Can Do About Fascism

It’s a long read, and has a great deal to do with Indian politics and the rising tide of Hindu Nationalist fascism there. But fascism is on the rise everywhere, and Arundhati Roy speaks to what fiction is uniquely positioned to do in this age of fake news and fake history:

“After 20 years of writing fiction and nonfiction that tracks the rise of Hindu nationalism, after years of reading about the rise and fall of European fascism, I have begun to wonder why fascism—although it is by no means the same everywhere—is so recognizable across histories and cultures. It’s not just the fascists that are recognizable—the strong man, the ideological army, the squalid dreams of Aryan superiority, the dehumanization and ghettoization of the ‘internal enemy,’ the massive and utterly ruthless propaganda machine, the false-flag attacks and assassinations, the fawning businessmen and film stars, the attacks on universities, the fear of intellectuals, the specter of detention camps and the hate-fueled zombie population that chants the eastern equivalent of ‘Heil! Heil! Heil!’

It’s also the rest of us—the exhausted, quarreling opposition, the vain, nitpicking Left, the equivocating liberals who spent years building the road that has led to the situation we find ourselves in, and are now behaving like shocked, righteous rabbits who never imagined that rabbits were an important ingredient of the rabbit stew that was always on the menu. And, of course, the wolves who ignored the decent folks’ counsel of moderation and sloped off into the wilderness to howl unceasingly, futilely—and, if they were female, then ‘shrilly’ and ‘hysterically’—at the terrifying, misshapen moon. All of us are recognizable.

So, at the end of it all, is fascism a kind of feeling, in the way anger, fear or love are feelings, that manifests itself in recognizable ways across cultures? Does a country fall into fascism the way a person falls in love? Or, more accurately, in hate? Has India fallen in hate? Because truly, the most palpable feeling in the air is the barbaric hatred the current regime and its supporters show toward a section of the population. Equally palpable now is the love that has risen to oppose this. You can see it in people’s eyes, hear it in protestors’ song and speech. It’s a battle of those who know how to think against those who know how to hate. A battle of lovers against haters. It’s an unequal battle, because the love is on the street and vulnerable. The hate is on the street, too, but it is armed to the teeth, and protected by all the machinery of the state.”

Highly recommended you read the whole thing.

https://lithub.com/the-graveyard-talks-back-arundhati-roy-on-fiction-in-the-time-of-fake-news/

How the Devil’s Bargains at the Constitutional Convention Fked Us So Thoroughly

This is depressingly plausible:

“Solid majorities of the nation, in other words, could vote for a Democratic White House, a Democratic House, and a Democratic Senate, and yet Republicans could gain control of all three.

The system is rigged. It was rigged from the outset, quite intentionally, to favor small states. Under current political coalitions, that’s become an enormous advantage for Republicans. The country’s framers obviously could not have known that they were creating a system that would give Donald Trump’s party an unfair advantage over Hillary Clinton’s party more than two centuries later. But they did create a system that favors small states over large states.”

I think there are more options than Ian Millhiser. But he’s got a good take on why we’re so fucked.

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2020/1/30/20997046/constitution-electoral-college-senate-popular-vote-trump

Why I Donated to Elizabeth Warren Today

200125-elizabeth-warren-mn-1140_6de994e52181233ebf528c412dd6d726.fit-760wEver since the New Hampshire primary, the punditariat has written many a premature obituary for the campaign of Elizabeth Warren. And I get it. According to their narrative conventions — which they love to misname the ‘conventional wisdom’ —  Iowa and New Hampshire are supposed to winnow the field down to two or maybe three candidates. And even though there are supposedly only three tickets out of Iowa, one of which Elizabeth Warren won, her poor showing in the widely divided field in New Hampshire has supposedly ‘put a stench of death’ on her campaign, at least according to an unnamed campaign aide quoted by one of my favorite writers.

To which I say: All. My Bollocks.

Here is Dylan Matthews at Vox, giving up the game:

“The only reason to care about the early primaries is that they drive media narratives, perceptions of candidate viability, and thus later primaries in states that actually matter for delegate count. Iowa and New Hampshire just don’t award enough delegates to be important on their own (41 and 24, respectively) without that perception effect.”

Ninety-eight percent of delegates to the nominating convention (which is the metric, just or not, by which score is kept in this game) remain unpledged. Ninety-eight percent. That’s like, almost all of them. Never mind that virtually no people of color have had a chance to weigh in (which seems like it might change the dynamics for, say, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar). Nor have many union members, who might not like the current front-runner’s health care plan (FWIW, I do endorse it, myself, though I think Warren’s got a better plan for getting there). Hell, in New Hampshire, whose influence is even more outsized than usual thanks to Iowa’s self-immolation, the primary is open. Republicans and Independents can cast votes for the Democratic nominee. That may or may not be a good thing, but one thing is clear: it means New Hampshire — white-as-snow, soi disant libertarian New Hampshire — is even less representative of the Democratic party than Iowa.

All of which is to say that while the punditariat may indeed prefer a two- or three-person race (and put a thumb on the coverage scale to make it happen), we the voters are in no way obliged to oblige them. Quite the contrary. There are enough primaries left, enough voices yet to be heard, I think all the viable candidates should keep running.

There’s a lot at stake come the general election. But there’s a lot at stake, too, in the Democratic primary. Not only do we need a champion to face Donald Trump come November, we need to flip the Senate and bolster our House majority. The person who can lead that wave might be any of the top contenders.

Me, I think that person is Elizabeth Warren. I think she’s got the intellect, temperament, experience, and plans to carry us forward into the interesting times ahead, and I’m not the only one. Even most people for whom she’s not the top choice put her as their second choice. Far as I can tell, her only negatives are among billionaires and the Extremely Online folks who think she doesn’t go far enough on M4A. She’s got a thousand staffers and millions in the bank, and she’s in the fight for all the right reasons. So things going badly isn’t going to slow her down, nor should it.

Put it another way: Nevertheless, she’ll persist.

And so will I in supporting her as she continues to run. And if, come June, there’s no clear winner, and we have a contested convention, well, then even if she doesn’t get the nomination, I want Elizabeth Warren at the table, with as many delegates as she can get in her pocket, to make sure the people and policies she’s fighting for get their fair share.