Friday, December 18, 2020

2020 - The postwar world:
An election's truth and consequences


THE PREVAILING wisdom in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election is that, by accident and on purpose, Donald John Trump remains the black-hole sun at the center of the Republican party universe. Within the GOP, there’s no credibility without him. And a large number of party loyalists – not just the 126 House Republicans who signed on to Trump’s fatal gambit to overturn the outcome of the election – are irreversibly subservient to the soon-to-be former president. Donald Trump is the isolationist, white-supremacist hill they will die on. 

And for a party whose identity was already in turmoil  – the desperation of leadership that helped make Trump the 2016 Republican nominee in the first place – the Republican party’s fealty to Trump could be the sign of a party facing that next worst existential crisis: having no future at all.

Mainstream Republicans in Congress have been in lockstep with Trump, only sometimes reluctantly, for the last five years. He’s never been more politically vulnerable than now, and their window of opportunity – to stand up conclusively and decisively, on the behalf of the nation they represent – may never be this wide-open again. It’s time for Republicans in and out of office to take their party back from Donald Trump. 

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What a difference eight years didn’t make. It was in the sobering postmortem of the 2012 presidential election securing Barack Obama a second term, that then-Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal famously warned Republicans against turning into the deeply partisan, weaponized confederacy of dunces it has since become. 

In remarks to Politico within a few weeks of the 2012 election, and again in comments made at the Republican National Committee Winter Meeting in Charlotte, N.C. in January 2013, Jindal (at that time considered a contender for the 2016 nomination) was spot-on in an analysis of the GOP in 2012, and downright prescient about challenges to the party that were eminently superimposable on the events of 2020: 

“We’ve got to stop being the stupid party. I’m serious. It’s time for a new Republican Party that talks like adults. It’s time for us to articulate our plans and our vision for America in real terms. ... We’ve got to stop insulting the intelligence of voters. We need to trust the smarts of the American people.” 

 “We’ve got to make sure that we are not the party of big business, big banks, big Wall Street bailouts, big corporate loopholes, big anything,” Jindal said eight years ago. “We cannot be, we must not be, the party that simply protects the rich so they get to keep their toys.” 

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  IT IS NO secret we had a number of Republicans damage our brand this year with offensive, bizarre comments — enough of that,” Jindal said. “It’s not going to be the last time anyone says something stupid within our party, but it can’t be tolerated within our party. We’ve also had enough of this dumbed-down conservatism. We need to stop being simplistic, we need to trust the intelligence of the American people and we need to stop insulting the intelligence of the voters.”

“Simply being the anti-Obama party didn’t work,” he said. “You can’t beat something with nothing. The reality is, we have to be a party of solutions and not just bumper-sticker slogans but real detailed policy solutions.” 

There was game talk of a reinvention of the Republican brand; other GOP lawmakers paid at least lip service to the idea that the party of Lincoln was overdue for a retrofit. But the intervention never took hold. By 2014, the Republican identity had re-hardened around its more reliable partisan tendencies, as the Obama era began its natural, term-limited decline. 

By June 2015, the restive Republican spirit was again hungry for empire. The GOP, sensing an opportunity with the vacuum created by the absence of Obama on the ballot, let a thousand contenders for the nomination bloom. Everything was fair game, and that meant anything could happen. One man believed that, with outsize determination and a belly full of simmering correspondents’-dinner rage.

One man believed that on a day in June 2015, when he took an escalator ride into the Stygian underworld of American politics. And in November 2016, anything did happen: the ascension of Donald Trump, the crown jeweler of complaint, the greatest carnival barker in history, to the presidency of the United States. 

◊ ◊ ◊ 

Less than a year later, we’d learn how the Trump mindset would solidify in the rank and file — and how, to borrow the phrase, elections have consequences, the painfully unsettling kind. In October 2017, Jonathan Martin and Jeremy W. Peters of The New York Times reported, “the president’s brand of hard-edge nationalism — with its gut-level cultural appeals and hard lines on trade and immigration — is taking root within his adopted party, and those uneasy with grievance politics are either giving in or giving up the fight.” 

Fast forward to now, and not a damn thing’s changed. Or at least not enough. Since then, Trump’s incoherently pugnacious style of rule became deeply out of step with the popular opinion of him as president; the average of his favorable opinion-poll rankings was generally somewhere between 40 and 43 percent; that range has been more or less a statistical fixture of his administration. 

But even with the bedrock of The Base, polling like that couldn’t get him over the finish line on Election Day 2020. At long last, Trump had to face the consequences of being what he fights against body and soul, every day of his life: A Loser. The presidency of the United States may be the ultimate zero-sum-game event. Someone decidedly wins, someone else just as decidedly loses. The finality of that is something Trump and his noisy acolytes, acting the fool in the streets, are having a really hard time getting their heads around. 

◊ ◊ ◊ 

  BUT REPUBLICAN lawmakers and those who hope to be don’t have to march off that cliff. We’ve already seen the post-election emergence of relative senatorial pragmatists like Mitt Romney, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Lamar Alexander. They and some others in the (for now) Republican-led Senate expressed a salutary if ultimately symbolic willingness to recognize Joe Biden as the 46th president. 

Others have followed suit, including that father of all holdouts, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. It was ultimately a pushback against Trump made not out of pique, or even out of purpose, but out of political practicality, an acknowledgement of knowing the difference between a view through the windshield and looking through the rear-view mirror. 

From the perspective of POTUS 45, there will apparently be a lot of time for more of that jousting and parrying, that agreeing to disagree, in the months to come. That’s because the nearly-former president already has his mind set on remaining in the news and media spotlights as much as possible, through the launch of his own conservative media ecosystem a la Fox News ... or by fully following through on freshly-bruited plans to run for the White House in 2024. 

◊ ◊ ◊ 

Either way, the former president* has already committed himself to locking down the Republican party as his own personal property – the first successful hostile takeover of an American political party. Either as a media kingmaker or a candidate, Trump freezes the Republican field of presidential contenders in amber for the foreseeable future. Trump to GOP: Thou Shalt Have No Future Except Through Me. And that, that consequence of losing the 2020 election, should properly keep the GOP leadership awake and gnashing teeth for many nights to come. 

The reason why is obvious: The very, very last thing the Republican party wants or needs after a bruising election in the midst of a ruinous pandemic, a vicious consumer economy, and a corrosive racial climate is the announcement that the man responsible for some of those crippling events wants another chance to finish the hostage crisis he started, resuming his role as captor in chief. 

Now like at the end of World War II, a postwar world exists, one defined by the cessation of hostilities between belligerents, and the emergence of frictions between former allies. It presents itself as both a crisis and an opportunity. The crisis of the victory of former Obama president Joe Biden is the inescapable nightmare Republicans can’t get away from, something the Trump administration can’t help trying to make as awful as possible. 

So the need for reinvention, and the work needed to achieve it, falls largely to the Republicans, those everyday people everywhere on the ideological spectrum. Their party — a hollow, sclerotic shell of its former self; a captive of its own xenophobic impulses; a movement lashed to monochromatic identity and outdated demography; a body on the verge of willful irrelevance — needs all the help it can get.
Dual Trumps: Reuters. Image credits: Trump and Melania descend: C-SPAN. Churchill, FDR and Stalin at Yalta, 1945: BBC.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Getting out of line: A growing number of Republicans
won’t sing from the Trump hymnal anymore

It was all going according to plan a year ago. The Republican party would build on its successes, ignore its failures and win again, with a triumphant second term for Donald Trump as president, a second term that would, pretty much by its very existence, signal the triumph of conservative values, and the advance of those values across the country. 

 Trump would either win the election outright or, failing a victory at the polls where it counts, he’d throw the election results into chaos with a staggering wave of lawsuits and challenges presided over by judges Trump appointed. And if everything went south in the lower courts, why, Trump would just elevate the matter to the House of the Supremes, where three of his own hand-picked Justices would end the unpredictability and — ultimately, in spite of everything — make him the winner of the 2020 election. 

 No one back then war-gamed for the impossible. No one expected the party’s standard-bearer to disintegrate like a timed-release aspirin. No one, or very few, anticipated the worst public-health emergency in a century exploding on these shores like a million wildfires. And while racism is as predictable as the sunrise, no one could have envisioned the 8-minute, 46-second execution of George Perry Floyd, or the national paroxysm of protests in his name and honor and memory. 

The tragically peculiar blend of calamities we’re trying to survive in 2020 has been unpredictable, to say the least. President Trump, the avatar of unpredictability, faces more of it from the same people most predisposed to support him. This “base” of supporters includes (among others) those amber waves upon waves of GOP voters, judges and politicians who believe in American government, and who place faith in that government above and ahead of the individuals elected to lead it. ... 

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Nov. 3, 2020:
The moonshot referendum on America

 
“Elections have consequences.” Those three words, deployed with acid and venom in recent years by loyalists of either Democratic or Republican parties, convey a truism that’s run through the length of our national history, by turns for better and for worse. You can imagine that sentence, or something like it, being said in 1860 by northerners and southerners alike when Abraham Lincoln won the presidency –- each for vastly different reasons. 

But the phrase itself has a punitive modernity that makes it, more probably, an invention of the last twenty years, some earlier period preceding the high dudgeon of our current politics, the Age of Smashmouth. 

For America, one consequence of the 1960 presidential election — the choice of the young, vibrant, Massachusetts senator John F. Kennedy to be the 35th president of the United States — was a willingness to indulge the nation’s new chief executive in his quixotic expressions of seemingly impossible dreams. Like the one he expressed in a timely, and ultimately timeless speech that began our serious flirtation with space, that final frontier. ... 


Image credit: JFK: NASA/National Archives (public domain). Medium logo: Copyright 2020 Medium.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

A house of many basements:
Biden's ad strategy and why it's working


IT'S BEEN more than briefly fashionable to dismiss or distill the current pandemic-driven style of former vice president Joe Biden’s presidential campaign as a war being waged from his basement in Delaware. The Trump 2020 re-elect campaign, denied the chance to go after Biden on traditional campaign turf (the country itself), has doubled down on the Biden-in-the-basement meme, alleging that Biden’s phoning it in, taking shots at President* Donald Trump from the equivalent of a bunker in New England.

But the cheap shots didn’t take for very long. The basement-bunker myth was wrong, of course: Biden's been on the road for months, in various small-scale campaign events at towns in Iowa and Pennsylvania, and others besides. But the Biden 2020 team took the lemons of a challenge – seeking common ground with a bitterly-divided American people in an election year, amid a raging pandemic – and made some potent political lemonade.

What may have started as a one-off campaign video has yielded dividends as a memorable, ongoing 21st-century gloss on the fireside chat, one that’s helped make the former Obama vice president a prohibitive favorite in the race for the White House. 

Trump has been flashing around the country, the guest of honor at various sparsely-attended rallies, carpet-bombing supporters with the pomp and panache of the presidency. Biden has countered with a quieter, more measured, more circumspect campaign style, one that dovetails with the pace of American life during COVID-19. Why’s it been working so well? 

Read the full piece at The Swamp

Image credits: Biden: Jim Bourg/Reuters. The Swamp logo: Copyright 2020 Jerrick Media LLC.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Trump and the boogeyman in the mail


Mail-in voting has lately emerged as the bĂȘte noire and whipping boy of the Trump 2020 re-election campaign, with the president extolling its vices every chance he gets, in person and in increasingly unhinged, exclamation-point-laden tweets.
President* Donald Trump has thus connected at least some of his re-election hopes to the wagon of mail-in voter suppression. But a look at opinion polls going back months shows a public less focused on how votes are counted in November and more focused on furthering the trend of opposition to Trump’s re-election.   . . .



Image credits: Mail: Shutterstock. Daily Kos logo: Kos Media LLC.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Changes of mind in the cadres of Bernie


We knew it was coming, and now that it’s finally here — the start of the general election season — we can enjoy one giant exhale (masks or face coverings in place, of course).

“It” was the much-expected suspension of the presidential campaign of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, “suspension” the operative word for pulling the plug on a bold, influential campaign. On Wednesday, in a video from Burlington, Vt., the irascible, disciplined Democratic socialist senator ended a bid for the presidency that had early strength and acquired more over time, thanks to the broad popular support of the Bernie or Bust crowd, which Sanders held mostly intact from his 2016 campaign.

But despite a strong start to the year, the Sanders campaign never gained sufficient traction in the primaries, actually losing ground in terms of actual support, and committing numerous unforced errors, ultimately making Sanders’ 2020 bid more and more quixotic as the year went along. ...

Read the full piece at Daily Kos

Image credit: Daily Kos logo: © 2020 Kos Media LLC.


Saturday, April 4, 2020

Once upon a time in another world



The great brake started almost imperceptibly, freezing the world slowly, then suddenly. Its random swiftness swept through as if a death angel passed in silence over the planet, all at once. Before we fully realized what was under way, the agent of a vast deceleration was everywhere, a ubiquitous virus on the air, microns in size but capable of disrupting lifestyles, businesses, economies, governments, lives.

The tally of the viral specter, case load and body count, grew exponentially. The virus traveled like the weather; the pundits and analysts charted its movements on maps similar to the ones they used for benign local forecasts. Wave after wave was predicted, and those waves arrived, continent by continent. Over time — days stretching to weeks — the natural world and the animal kingdom did what should have been expected. They returned, abiding by an irresistible law: Whenever a displaced species finds the opportunity to return to the wider habitat it was once a part of, that species flows back in.

Thus liberated by the profound and tantalizing absence around them, coyotes strolled the streets and alleys of San Francisco with impunity. Wild boars wandered the urban centers of Italy; sika deer were discovered in the streets and subway stations of Nara, Japan; monkeys held meetings in a plaza in Thailand. The environment made its own comeback. Satellite images showed the skies over Europe cleared of pollution; the water in the canals of Venice was said to have been completely refreshed, thanks to an absence of the city’s legendary boat traffic.

The world of humans was something else again ...

Read the full essay at The Omnibus at Medium

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The trouble with Bernie Sanders


“A movement that wins is a movement that grows.”
— Faiz Shakir, Bernie Sanders campaign manager


THE COVID-19 pandemic made its brutal trajectory into our world and our lives with monstrous irony and equally monstrous bad timing, injecting itself into the 2020 Democratic nomination.

For the campaign of Vermont's Democratic socialist senator Bernie Sanders, it was the worst that could happen: a deadly viral outlier that short-circuits the retail populism of a candidate desperate to catch up to his opponent; a disease that, among other things, demands that an already cerebral aspirant for the White House must campaign at a serious remove from the crowds that have given his presidential bid oxygen since it started in early 2019.

Sanders and his campaign brain trust recently decamped to Burlington, “Burlington” being the shorthand for the home of Bernie and Jane O’Meara Sanders. I forget the shorthand word they used to explain it — “reassess” or “recalibrate” or some other mechanically therapeutic descriptor — but you know what it means. We all know what it means to a campaign that’s already in trouble.

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With serial primary losses on Super Tuesdays, March 3, 10 and 17, the derailing of the Sanders Inevitability Express accelerated. In breathtakingly swift fashion, his campaign for the Democratic nomination and the presidency has lost the illusion of momentum (maybe the only momentum it really had to begin with) and certainly that of inevitability.

One after another after another, unforced errors have hobbled the Sanders 2020 campaign, mistakes and blindsides you wouldn’t expect of such a well-oiled campaign operation — one that never completely went dark after 2016 — or such a presumably seasoned presidential contender. Let us count the ways:

Example: Despite an historically cool relationship with black voters, and an opportunity to improve that, Sanders, the presumptive leader of a multi-racial political movement, chose this year to forego an appearance at the Edmund Pettis Bridge, a site that spiritually resonates for black Americans, and an obligatory walk for any serious presidential candidate seeking black voter support.

◊ ◊ ◊


HE PAID the price for that diss this year. He otherwise paid a price among black voters in the primaries he needed to win.

The New York Times explains: “Instead of spending money on ads and ground operations to compete across the South, Mr. Sanders would all but give up on those states and would focus on winning states where he was more popular, like Colorado and Minnesota, which would at least give him some victories to claim.

“The reason: Mr. Sanders and his advisers and allies knew that black voters would be decisive in those Southern contests, but he had been unable to make significant inroads with them.”

Those two paragraphs weren’t written in 2020. They were written for The Times by Patrick Healy and Yamiche Alcindor in April 2016. It should therefore be alarming AF to Team Sanders how superimposable one election misfire has been over another. Those graphs might as well have been written yesterday, presaging another Sanders surrender of the vote-rich lode of African Americans in the South — the most reliable bedrock of the Democratic electorate.

◊ ◊ ◊

Bernie Sanders, the champion of campaign transparency, refused to release the full medical records related to his October 2019 heart attack — a decision that screams for Sanders to justify in comparison to Trump’s refusal to release his tax records, which Sanders called for last year. “I think we have released a detailed medical report, and I’m comfortable on what we have done,” he told CNN in February, not long after it was revealed that Sanders hid the heart attack from the media for days, and waited until the end of 2019 to release testimonials from three doctors attesting to his overall condition.

In April 2019, Sanders, friend of the working class, announced his participation in the moneyed class — the 1 percent of Americans he spent months slagging on the campaign trail. It was there in his tax returns for 2018: Sanders and his wife Jane earned $561,293 in adjusted gross income, largely from money from book sales.

Their income exceeded $1 million in 2016 and 2017, again from book sales. It wouldn’t be so ... unfortunate if Sanders hadn’t spent so much time trashing “billionaires and millionaires” on the stump. It’s just another disconnect, another disjunction of message and messenger. So was his response to a reporter’s observation of his fresh millionaire status — typical Sanders, tone-deaf and headstrong: “I wrote a best-selling book. If you write a best-selling book, you can be a millionaire, too."

◊ ◊ ◊

BUT YOU know what? Something else isn’t right and you can see what it is. It’s in his campaign appearances, in his mien at the debates and TV interviews, in the picture of himself that he shows the world. This is a man whose private aspect is at odds, maybe even at war, with his avowed aspirations.

He’s not incapable of showing upscale emotion. Anand Giridharadas of Time magazine reported: “Along our 6,000-mile journey, when Sanders came upon a voter in an airport or on a sidewalk and the situation demanded a smile, he gave the smile my 4-year-old gives when he knows that greeting our dinner guests nicely is the price of staying up.”

For much of the time he’s visible, though, the senator from Vermont doesn’t look like he’s having an especially good time running for president. He often presents to the American people the countenance of a curmudgeon. He looks unhappy, not just situationally unhappy, but foundationally sour and cross, the neighbor always telling people to get off his lawn, even when they’re walking on the sidewalk across the street.

Look at his face as he moves around in public; observe the tension there, his generally unsmiling demeanor, the tightness in his jaw muscles. More recently, coincident with his rise to frontrunner status, he smiles in some smartly-produced campaign ads. But over the long arc of the campaign, Bernie looks like he swallowed some bad beef at the holiday table and he’s doing all he can to not embarrass his guests by bringing it back up. He looks like he’s holding something in. It looks as if he’s holding something back.

He looks like he’s trying not to explode. He looks like he’s hiding something.

◊ ◊ ◊

MAYBE. The heart-attack secrecy was bad enough. And don't forget February, when Sanders revealed that he was told — weeks to months earlier — that Russia was working to support his campaign for the nomination, this as one component of the Russians’ wider attempts to interfere in the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Why'd Sanders keep that a secret for so long?

There’s another basic kind of withholding going on. In his Time profile of Sanders, Giridharadas writes of a candidate willing to deflect attention, “a candidate who is himself so emotionally inaccessible, reluctant to share more than the barest glimpses of his own history and inner life. “Not me. Us.” is his 2020 campaign slogan, and he means it.”

And that’s a problem. As egalitarian as that three-word creed seeks to be, it lets Sanders skip out on the personal revelations that have a way of endearing a candidate to an electorate. Coming clean about who and what you are, not as a politician but as a human being with a family and a history, is one of the most nakedly honest decisions you can make in presidential politics.

Some, like Barack Obama, make that leap in stunning fashion, as anyone who’s read Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance already knows. Sanders, though, has worked hard to play down that very back story that could wed him to more than his Bernie Bro legions. It’s a kind of, uh, social distancing he can ill afford if his campaign plans to soldier on.

◊ ◊ ◊

The campaign’s been plagued with other missteps, the latest and most likely terminal of these on March 18. CNN reporter Manu Raju had the audacity to ask Sanders about his likelihood of dropping out of the race for the White House, given the back-to-back-to-back cratering of the campaign's delegate hopes. Sanders, no doubt expecting the question (or tired of answering it before), didn’t hold back.

“I’m dealing with a fucking global crisis,” Sanders said. “You know, we’re dealing with … Well right now, right now I’m trying to do my best to make sure that we don’t have an economic meltdown and that people don’t die. Is that enough for you to keep me busy for today?”

Statements like that don’t leave a lot to the imagination. You don’t have to be the most avid student of political science to make sense of a campaign in the midst of imminent collapse. Sanders is clearly navigating his own political meltdown; his frustration with Raju was just a distillation of what’s been brewing, what’s been coming, for weeks.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Ghost-town world:
Coronavirus and the new abnormal


AS WE confront the velocity of the Wuhan novel coronavirus into modern life, there’s been a timed-release shutdown of the events and gathering places that are sites of our intersectionality as fans and worshippers and citizens — as human beings.

Health-care professionals have issued various pronouncements intended to give people the best possible advice to stay healthy in this time of contagion. Among the advisories is the imprecise advice to maintain “social distancing.”

In general terms, it means to create physical space between you and other people of at least six feet. Specifically, though, it’s meant creating the kind of space that’s forced the closure of any number of public events.

As COVID-19 rampages around the world, social distancing has meant postponement of the NBA and NHL seasons; a pushback to the start of the Major League Baseball season (mid-May at the earliest); a cancellation of the NCAA’s March Madness college hoops tournament; and a cancellation of MLB spring training games. Formula One canceled the Australian Grand Prix, and the Mormon Church has canceled services worldwide, as have mosques and synagogues.


For now there are no activities at landmarks, theme parks, casinos, classrooms, and other wide-scale venues; conferences, symposia and other events rescheduled; the networks have suspended live-studio production, rendering late-night a wasteland; K-12 public schools have been closed in at least 33 states; sports from soccer to golf have ended competitions ... and there’s darkness on Broadway — no live theater in the district that defines theater to the world.

The fact of social distancing is relative. Despite the epidemiological frisson currently surrounding the phrase, the experience behind the phrase is hardly new. ...

Read the full essay at Humans.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Roll away the stone:
Joe Biden bounces back


THE PINE BOX was tailored and ready for the 2020 presidential campaign of one Joseph Robinett Biden Jr. The campaign was on a respirator. The undertaker was ready for this new shovel-ready project. The padre was gonna read over it, directly. Everything was all arranged; the events of Super Tuesday would be a grand sendoff into the history books of political laughingstock events.

Except ... there was a slight problem: Nobody told the guest of honor he was supposed to be dead.

Thus misinformed about what was supposed to be happening to him, the former vice president wandered into the Super Tuesday Democratic primaries on March 3 and ran the table, rewriting the playbook of how to wage a presidential campaign that makes full and effective use of the vice-presidential brand -- and in the process conducting what is, to this point, the most cost-efficient presidential campaign in American history.

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Biden’s bid for the White House was considered largely finished as recently as Feb. 29. The candidate’s serial lackluster showings in Iowa, New Hampshire and the Nevada caucuses made a Super Tuesday death knell for Obama’s vice president almost inevitable.

South Carolina, however, just turned out to be another matter entirely. The South Carolina primary, on Saturday, was considered the first real canvass of the national mood by people that looked like the national population. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, the state’s revered Democratic congressman, put it all together when he publicly endorsed Biden in a 21st-century speech that resonated in a brilliantly old-school way.

With that speech, Clyburn wielded the defibrillator paddles that shocked a moribund Biden campaign back to life.



But Clyburn did more than that. He was the first in the 2020 campaign to wield the collective objectives and aspirations of African Americans on behalf of Biden. What Clyburn tapped into was bigger than South Carolina. 

Coming before Super Tuesday, his speech was ready to be used for at least a regional objective, and it was. But it had a resonance whose reach for the homiletic rafters of the civil rights era (days after Black History Month) was as inescapable as it was undeniable.

◊ ◊ ◊

IT READS LIKE music. A dozen words, four measures of three notes each. “I know Joe. We know Joe. But most importantly, Joe knows us,” he said. With those 12 words, Clyburn certainly set the stage for resetting the race for the Democratic nomination, and possibly relit a fire under the Obama-Clinton coalition of voters that prevailed in 2008 and 2012, and whose younger, more progressive cohort kicked ass in the 2018 midterms. His statement reflected a serious grasp of retail politics at its basic level.

The questions “Who do you trust?” and “who do you know?” have been asked and answered; they’re foundational to much of how politics works. Clyburn’s statement answered the questions we don’t ask often enough in our elections: “Who knows us, and how well?” “Who gets me, and my life, where I live?”

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren had gone to lengths greater and lesser to yoke Biden and his campaign to rich donors, the billionaire class, and “the establishment” writ large. But that’s not what people took into the voting booths in 14 states and American Samoa on Super Tuesday, March 3. They remembered what Clyburn said. And they mostly remembered the best of the previous 11 years of their lives, and what Joe Biden had to do with those years, and what Joe Biden had to do with the last president they could get their hearts around.

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WHEN THE smoke cleared, Biden had cornered the Lazarus franchise. He was the comeback kid on steroids. Ten out of 14 states — Alabama, Arkansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia — went for Biden over Sanders; former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg won American Samoa. Biden convincingly beat Warren in her home state, an embarrassing defeat.
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