How are we looking after the Las Vegas Democratic debate?

The other day I wrote about the polarity between Bernie Sanders and Mike Bloomberg. And just to review, they both have the following things in common:

  1. Both of them are septuagenarians1
  2. Both of them are Jewish.
  3. Neither one of them is a Democrat.2
  4. Both of them have stents in their heart.

The big difference between them is that Bernie is a socialist (or Democratic Socialist)3 and Bloomberg is a billionaire.

The other Dems went after Bloomberg pretty hard in the debate, as they should. He’s completely untested as a debater, and he has much to answer for.

But Mayor Pete is also right when he calls Bernie and Bloomberg the “two most polarizing figures on the debate stage.” It’s not a good sign that the two leading candidates in the Democratic race are essentially not Democrats.

Somehow, we should be able to find an actual Democrat to lead the party into the general election.

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There’s a fascinating debate among my own friends between Bernie Sanders and Mike Bloomberg

I’ve been fascinated by an ongoing debate that is reflected even among my own friends between Bernie Sanders on the one hand and Mike Bloomberg on the other. Bernie and Bloomberg, both Jewish guys in their seventies, represent the polar opposite thinking among Democrats, and they have one other thing in common:

Neither one is actually a Democrat.
What Bernie and Bloomberg have in common

About Bernie Sanders

I’ve been a fan of Bernie Sanders since he first made an appearance on the national scene in 1981, as the first socialist mayor of a major American city.1 I was in law school at the time, and very interested in social justice issues.

Bernie, to his credit, has been preaching the same message for the almost 40 years that he has been in public life. Although a “socialist” mayor2, Bernie proved to be both popular and effective, which translated to him being elected to Congress in 1991 and ultimately to the Senate in 2007.3

I voted for Bernie in the 2016 presidential primary in Massachusetts for two reasons: first, as I’ve said repeatedly, I couldn’t resist the temptation to vote for a septuagenarian Socialist Jew as a serious candidate for President of the United States: and second, I wanted to send Hillary Clinton a message about being an entirely pro-corporate candidate.4

This time around my concern about Bernie is simple: I have serious trouble believing that a majority of Americans will vote for a socialist Jew who will be 79 on Tuesday, November 3, 2020, the day of the presidential election. (There are plenty of people, including many of my friends, who believe that Bernie would have won against Trump in 2016. I’m not so sure.) What has not happened yet is that the Republican propaganda machine has trained their full arsenal of lies against Bernie. So far they have given him a free pass, I believe, because they believe that they will be able to annihilate him politically once they do train their full arsenal upon him.

Bernie has been an independent voting with the Democrats for his entire career in Congress. He has only been a Democrat for the purposes of his two presidential campaigns: 2016 and 2020.

About Mike Bloomberg

Mike Bloomberg and Donald Trump have two important things in common: (1) they have both been Democrat, Republican and Independent, and (2) they are both billionaire businessmen. Bloomberg, of course, is actually a self-made businessman, with an estimated net worth of $58 billion, making him the 14th richest person in the world. Trump claims to be a multi-billionaire — which is doubtful — and has steadfastly refused to disclose his tax returns, which would make knowing his actual wealth far easier.5

Bloomberg was elected mayor of New York City three times, which is equivalent to being the Governor of a mid-size state. He has been particularly out front on certain issues, including gun control, banning trans fat in restaurants, and attempting to ban the sale of large soft drinks, among other things. He has been criticized as being a “nanny state” politician. Bloomberg is pro-choice and fiscally conservative; he was re-elected mayor of NYC a 3rd time in 2009, but to do so he had to rescind the existing term-limit provisions.

About the Debate

My friends who are pro-Bernie supporters basically make the argument that Bernie can win in 2020 because he will bring so many young hard-core supporters to the polls that they will overwhelm Trump. They also believe that Bernie was ripped off by the Democratic establishment in 2016 — a belief that I largely share — and that if Bernie gets ripped off again, the Democrats will lose an entire generation of potentially enthusiastic supporters to cynicism.6 Media critics have also noted the barrage of articles critical of Bernie or dismissive of his success in the mainstream media.

The argument for Bloomberg is perhaps best articulated by Thomas Friedman. In a recent article for the New York Times, Friedman writes:

But there is one candidate on the Democratic side who not only has a track record of supporting all those issues but also has the resources to build a machine big enough to take on the Trump machine.

This candidate also has the toughness to take on Trump, because while Trump was pretending to be a C.E.O. on the show “The Apprentice,” this candidate was actually building one of the most admired global companies as a real C.E.O.

This candidate is not cuddly, he is not always politically correct and he will not always tell you what you want to hear — or try to outbid you on how many free services he’ll give away.

He’s made mistakes, especially around stop-and-frisk policing in New York City, which disproportionately targeted black and brown men and for which he recently apologized.

And this candidate is now rising steadily in the polls. This candidate is Michael Bloomberg. This candidate has Trump very worried.

Thomas Friedman in the New York Times

The notion that we have to win the centrists has been popular since Bill Clinton did it back in 1992. I’m not so sure that equation works anymore.

Also weighing in on behalf of Bloomberg is Susan Estrich, the campaign manager for the Michael Dukakis presidential campaign back in 1988. In a none too subtle piece entitled How to Lose Fifty States, Estrich writes:

I understand why Democratic ideologues are voting for Bernie Sanders. I used to be one myself. But losing one election after another, two to Reagan, one to George H.W. Bush, two to George W. Bush and, of course, one to Donald Trump, is painfully instructive. This is not horseshoes. This is not a battle for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party. It is a battle to beat a dangerous president.And the truth is that the only Democrat with a chance of doing that is Mike Bloomberg.

Bernie Sanders would lose in a landslide. So would Elizabeth Warren — if a senator from Massachusetts runs fourth in neighboring New Hampshire, he or she will do even worse in a general election. Her candidacy is all but over.

Pete Buttigieg is the brightest star on the Democratic side. If he were 10 years older and didn’t look like Beaver Cleaver, I’d be ringing doorbells. Of course there are folks who would not vote for a gay man with a wonderful husband and a brilliant military record. That’s not my problem. I’ll vote for him in the future. I believe he will be president someday. But not in 2020.

And the only Democrat who can beat Trump is Mike Bloomberg. Bloomberg-Buttigieg — that’s my ticket.

Susan Estrich writing in

On the other side, the argument for Bernie is well-articulated by my friend Rachel — who is about 30 years younger that I am — and with whom I had the following exchange (see below) on Facebook, after I had suggested that I might be able to get on the Pete Buttigieg bandwagon. Although it’s a little long, I’m going to reprint all of it here because I think Rachel makes the case for Bernie supporters for her generation very well:

Rachel Pete’s policies are too empty / status quo to ignite the voters he’d need to win the general. The stunt he pulled in IA, shutting down the Des Moines Register poll where he was in 3rd or 4th place, then declaring victory before the results were in, all to control the narrative and manufacture consent, was an ugly look. Progressives have had enough of those kinds of shenanigans after 2016. It’s not that people on the left will vote for Trump over Pete, they’ll just stay home. Young progressives won’t wait in line at the polls to vote for another corporatist with another slick argument against guaranteeing poor people healthcare.

When the tea party came around republicans moved further right to preserve unity, and it worked- they kept winning. Democrats need to do the same and move to the left before progressives become so disgusted that they break from the party entirely. Moving to the right to convert “moderate” Trump voters while standing for nothing besides defeating Trump is not the answer.

Jurgfella I’ve been a Bernie supporter since he became the first socialist mayor of a “major” American city back in 1981 (if Burlington can be considered to be “major”). I’ve voted for him every time I’ve had a chance. But here is my question Rachel: do you really believe a majority of Americans will vote for a 79 year old socialist Jew for President of the United States, even if he is opposing Donald Trump? If you do, you have a lot more faith in the American electorate than I have.

Rachel Yes. Study after study about messaging in key states like FL, WI, MI, PA, etc.-even those conducted privately by establishment insiders- is showing that the messenger is more important than the message to most voters. The key to exciting voters enough to get the kind of turnout we’ll need is perceived authenticity and trustworthiness. The reason Trump fared so well is that for all his faults, no one could accuse him of being a slick politician, and the same can be said of Bernie Sanders.

One thing Trump supporters and progressives (and many independents) have in common is a disdain for a political establishment which has been failing them for years, talking out of both sides of their mouths. Obama was a centrist, but he ran on a platform of change. He turned out to be just another corporate, war-happy neoliberal, and progressives felt burned. They don’t want to be fooled again. That is why HRC lost, because no one believed she sincerely wanted to fight for anything but the status quo.

Bernie has had the same message, the same platform, for 40 years. He lives his values. He doesn’t flip flop according to public sentiment, and he is unquestionably running for the greater good. He only ran in 2016 after Warren declined to run. He doesn’t seek power, he seeks a better America. And one of the only similarities he shares with Trump is that they both have die-hard supporters who are excited to turn out and vote for them. And like Trump in 2016, many Bernie supporters view it as a bonus that a Sanders presidency would be a brick through the window of an elitist establishment that has taken their base for granted far too long.

Jurgfella Well, I hope you’re right Rachel, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

Rachel I just hope the Dems don’t screw this up. If they continue to have the kind of optics we saw in Iowa, if we end up with a split convention and the superdelegates even *look* like they are robbing Sanders of the nomination, the progressive wing will be too angry and deflated to get behind the nominee- especially if it ends up being a corporatist who doesn’t unequivocally support M4A. Trump won’t even have to lie to run circles around an establishment fillip-flopper. And the Dems won’t have a leg to stand on to defend themselves.

What’s more, the DNC will never recover credibility and there will be an unprecedented number of young voters who no longer believe in the system, who won’t bother in 2024 either.

So there you have it, my friends. The debate between those who believe that anything less than the populist Sanders will not do this time, and those who believe we have to go with an überwealthy super-Centrist like Bloomberg, who has the resources to compete with Trump and won’t offend anyone in the establishment (but may leave a generation of populists sitting home, unwilling to come to the polls).

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Andrew Yang is not going to be President, but a Universal Basic Income is still a stupid idea.

I realize that Andrew Young will not be President, especially now that he withdrew from the Presidential campaign after his lackluster showing in the New Hampshire primary, but his “freedom dividend” where he wanted to give all Americans $1000 per month of universal basic income, is still a stupid idea.1

Not because many people couldn’t use it.

No, because middle America, where it would be most effective, hates a handout.

They hate a handout.

And if black, and Latinos, and immigrants get to share in the largesse, they will hate it even more.

Yang’s idea is that everyone over the age of 18 should have a basic income, without it being means tested, to account for all the people whose jobs will be replaced by automation and artificial intelligence. And having your job replaced by automation and artificial intelligence will become more and more of a problem as time marches on.

I just doubt that this is the solution.

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We’ve normalized things which are definitely not normal under the Trump administration.

You may have read or seen the news that the Justice Department has overruled its professional prosecutors in recommending jail time for Roger Stone, the sleazy consultant and lobbyist who has long been a personal favorite of President Drumpf. In November of last year Stone was convicted on seven counts, including witness tampering and lying to investigators, in relationship to the Mueller investigation.

Being over-ruled by their own Justice Department caused all four federal prosecutors working on the case to withdraw, and caused one to just outright resign from his position.

Federal prosecutors simply don’t get over-ruled by their own Justice Department because of a tweet from the President. That has never happened before, and it will almost certainly never happen again.

If this had happened under Obama, Republicans would be ready to impeach Obama right now. Just for that alone.

In fact, there are dozens and dozens of things that Trump has done that, if Obama had done them, Republicans would be screaming holy murder and preparing their impeachment articles.

So, here’s the thing. Republicans are welcome to support the President’s economic policies (which seem to be working, kind of, against all notions of common sense) or his deregulation initiatives (which are likely to cause lasting damage to the environment) or even his xenophobic immigration policies. But if they support this President’s non-policy related actions — his trying to strong-arm Ukraine, his firing federal employees who responded to subpoenas, his twitter tirades or his overriding the wishes of federal prosecutors — then they will only have themselves to blame when the next Democratic President feels totally unbound by the traditional rules of engagement.

No one is going to believe them in the future when they complain about a violation of the rules or that the President wasn’t following established procedure.

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I’m almost on the Pete Buttigieg bandwagon after New Hampshire

I’m almost on the Pete Buttigieg bandwagon after New Hampshire, although not quite. While I was a Bernie supporter four years ago — as I’ve said repeatedly, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to vote for a septuagenarian socialist Jew as a serious candidate for President — this year those are also the same qualities that have me voting off.

My fear is that — no matter how remarkably Bernie has been able to excite the youth vote — he has too many liabilities in a year where it’s absolutely critical that we get a candidate who can beat back Donald Trump.

This year I’m voting for Elizabeth Warren in the Super Tuesday primary here in Massachusetts, because I believe that Liz is the best qualified candidate out there. She’s just as progressive as Bernie, but in a different way.

But Liz seems to be losing steam. She should have done much better in New Hampshire.

Amy Klobuchar is interesting, but I still have doubts about her character after all those reports about how horrible she was to work for. That is never a good sign. And she is not particularly charismatic.

Biden seems to be going down like a lead balloon.

Bloomberg has all the money in the world, but hasn’t yet shown that he can get any votes. It also doesn’t help that Bloomberg, like Tom Steyer and Bernie, is Jewish.

And that leaves Buttigieg.

Buttigieg is too young and too unqualified.

Which was also exactly true for Barack Obama in 2008.

  • People may forget that when Obama made his famous speech for John Kerry at the Democratic convention in Boston, he had not yet even been elected Senator in Illinois. Although he looked promising.
  • Then, when he decided to run in 2006, he had only been in office as the Junior Senator from Illinois for two years.
  • But one thing Obama had right from the start was character. I remember when he made his campaign-saving speech after the Reverend Wright controversy, that Jon Obama said on the Daily Show that Obama had “talked to us about race as if we were adults.”

That’s the moment I began to get on the Obama bandwagon.

Now, my mother thinks that it’s a problem that Buttigieg is gay. But if we can elect a black man (technically a bi-racial man) as President of the United States, and then re-elect him as well, then we can definitely elect a gay guy. The next generation doesn’t care about gayness at all, and the ones who do wouldn’t vote for Buttigieg even if he was straight. Being gay is probably less of a handicap than being Jewish. But we’ll see.

So, I’m with Liz Warren, but I could get on the Buttigieg bandwagon.

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What happened to Trump’s promise not to touch Social Security or Medicare?

I know this will shock absolutely no one (or at least no thinking person), but Donald Trump lied about his promise not to touch Social Security or Medicare.

Yesterday Trump submitted his budget $4.8 trillion budget proposal for the next fiscal year — and shockingly (not!) — it included substantial cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

First, the Trump budget completely ignores the deal he hammered out with Congressional Democrats just last year. Second, Trump’s new budget increases defense spending, but includes substantial cuts to Medicare, Social Security and other “entitlement programs” — many of which are funded out of trust funds and not in the annual budget — by changing eligibility requirements and benefits.

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Shame on all the Republicans who claimed impeachment would restrain Donald Trump

Shame on all the Republicans who claimed impeachment would restrain Donald Trump, especially you, Susan Collins. Collins claims to be a moderate and an independent voice. She is so full of shit.

Every time she has the chance to do the right thing and make a difference she does the wrong thing. Collins had the indecency to claim that she thought Trump had learned his lesson after impeachment and that he would be restrained.

Any thinking person who is even a casual observer of Trump knew that wasn’t true. As if to prove just how wrong people like Collins are, Trump went out last week and fired Colonel Alexander Vindman, and his twin brother,1, and then fired Gordon Sondland, who only contributed $1 million to Trump’s campaign before being named the Ambassador to the EU.

Oh yeah, Trump is really restrained now.

Of course, Trump firing these people for testifying is a violation of the Whistleblower Protection Act, so those who are waiting for Trump to be impeached for doing something illegal, well, here it is. If Trump gets re-elected (possible), the House remains Democratic (likely) and the Senate flips (unclear at this point), we could have a 2nd impeachment and maybe a conviction as well.

And Susan Collins, the same moron who voted for Brett Kavanaugh believing that the allegations against him had not been proved, and that he would sustain Roe v. Wade (we’ll see), that faux moderate in sheep’s clothing, so deserves to be voted out of office.2 Sara Gideon, anyone?

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Who knew that Mitt Romney, who threw his own signature health care law under a bus, would be a Profile in Courage?

I was never that big a fan of Mitt Romney. He was Governor of Massachusetts for a term, but to get there he had to lie, flagrantly, about his being pro-choice. (Spoiler alert: he’s not.) In 2012 I argued the case against him based on him being an unrepentant flip-flopper who threw his own signature achievement as Massachusetts Governor under the bus. That would be “Romneycare,” for those of you who are wondering.

At the time Mitt Romney was the poster child for a candidate who had no political courage.

And yet, six years later, and here we are.

Mitt Romney was the only Republican who showed any political courage in yesterday’s impeachment votes.

Oh, and by the way, spare me any mention of Susan Collins, that faux moderate who only votes to do the right thing when the right thing can’t possibly happen, and her vote won’t make any difference. Her dismissal from office in Maine cannot happen soon enough.

Romney was, apparently, the first Senator to vote to convict a member of his own party. (In the Clinton impeachment hearings all 45 Democrats voted to acquit on both charges. Nixon resigned before there was a vote, and Andrew Johnson was a little before my time.)

Mitt Romney, a profile in courage?

Who knew he had it in him.

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Nancy Pelosi fights fire with fire, and Republicans are not happy.

At the 2020 State of the Union speech on Tuesday night, Nancy Pelosi ripped up Trump’s speech, visible from the podium, in an act of disrespect that clearly galled the Republicans.

Whenever I hear Republicans complain about partisanship, it really is an example of the pot calling the kettle black. The Republicans have been engaging in extreme partisanship since the beginning of the Obama administration, and Mitch McConnell’s public declaration in 2010 that his only objective was to make Obama a one-term President.

As Al Franken was recently quoted on Twitter:

Listening to Mitch McConnell talk about the decline of bipartisanship is like listening to Jeffrey Dahmer complain about the decline of dinner party etiquette.

Al Franken (@alfranken) December 19, 2019

Being courteous to Trump or to the Republicans — which Obama tried again and again back in 2008 — is obviously not going to work. Let Pelosi show her disdain with Trump’s MAGA rally speech. It was — and this should come as no surprise to anyone — full of distortions and lies.

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Shake up after the Iowa Caucuses

By now it’s pretty clear that the Iowa caucuses were a mess. It’s pretty much acknowledged that the phone app that was developed for this year’s caucuses was a total disaster. And it wasn’t even the Russians this time. It was just plain old-fashioned incompetence.

It’s Wednesday morning as I write this, and still we’re only at about 71% of the votes counted.

What is interesting is that right now Buttigieg is leading 27% to 25% over Bernie Sanders, and Joe Biden is trailing the pack in 4th with 15%. Elizabeth Warren is clocking in at about 18%.

As I’ve written previously, I was wrong about Bernie Sanders, and he continues to surprise. But this one is a disaster for Joe Biden and very encouraging for Pete Butigieg.

Buttigieg has a lot in common with Obama from 2008. He really doesn’t have nearly enough experience, and he’s gay. But he does have something that Obama had right from the start, and that is character.

Buttigieg has a lot of character, and that can overcome a lot of other deficiencies. I didn’t think that America would elect a black man (or at least bi-racial man) in 2008, so maybe we’d elect a young gay man in 2020.

Who knows?

In any case, I wouldn’t feel good about the Iowa caucuses if I were Joe Biden.

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