Bernie Rises, Bloomberg Falls. We’re All Exhausted AF
This week on democracy-ish, Touré and Danielle discuss the circular firing squad that is the 2020 Democratic primary.
Right-wingers have been smearing liberals as commies for years. Why are some Dems running red-scared?
Will the eventual Dem candidate’s veep have bleep-all to do with anything?
Why is the Democratic party compelled to show their math, when Republicans don’t seem to care who pays for an ineffective wall or a new branch of the military?
Another week, another Democratic debate.
“It was a total shit show,” says Touré of Tuesday night’s standoff in South Carolina. It was the candidates’ last chance to make their case to voters before that state’s primary on Saturday (and all-important Super Tuesday just 48 hours later).
“It was probably the worst debate of them all. It's hard when people talk over each other to understand what they want to say,” he adds.
Danielle thinks it’s equally difficult when the moderators “clearly took Xanax beforehand.”
Speaking of being sedated: there seemed to be a consensus that everyone on the debate stage wants to legalize –– or at least decriminalize –– marijuana.
“That was the only highlight –– everyone is getting joints,” says Danielle.
Because the Trump era seems to bend time even when we’re sober, Touré says that it feels like a year ago when he was waking up at night in cold sweats, terrified that Michael Bloomberg will buy the 2020 election. But in reality, it’s been just over a week.
Based on Bloomie’s dismal performance in the last two debates, Touré is no longer afraid that the former mayor of New York will ride his billions all the way to Milwaukee.
Danielle doesn’t think he can win with ideas or policies, but she does believe that his boundless money is still a threat. If Bernie doesn’t win a clear majority of delegates, what happens?
“The superdelegates will come down from the mount and decide this thing for us,” says Touré.
But what if Bloomberg buys them off? It seems like a conspiracy theory –– and yet ...
“We need to think that everything is a possibility at this point,” Danielle says.
Read on for our hosts’ takes on just a few possibilities –– the good, the bad and everything in between.
Episode Highlights — Bernie and the S-Word
A ‘red’ herring
Since our president is such a fan of Roy Cohn and ‘50s nostalgia, it was only a matter of time before Trump revived the “red scare.”
This week, a video surfaced of Bernie in the ‘80s discussing the upsides of Castro’s regime in Cuba: universal healthcare and decent public education.
“These are actually good things. If they can do it on this tiny island, we can do it in America. That's not radical,” Touré says.
But right-wing reactionaries seized on the opportunity to paint him as a communist sympathizer.
Despite the fact that Bernie’s brand of Democratic socialism is worlds away from Castro’s dictatorship, our collective lack of civics literacy makes it easy to raise the specter of McCarthyism “and scare the shit out of people,” Danielle says.
“Donald Trump plays to our ignorance.”
Even moderate Democrats find it irresistible. They differentiate themselves from Bernie as being definitely not socialist, she adds.
“They're just throwing words around that they know terrify the American people without actually explaining anything.”
Touré agrees, pointing to the many quite socialist aspects of our economy: a limited choice of utility companies, for example. In certain sectors, government regulation is necessary –– and that makes sense to most voters.
“But when Bernie talks about making college free and healthcare available to everybody, people freak out,” Touré says.
The cold war vs. the kids
Touré is disappointed to see the freakout flag flying high at MSNBC, of all places.
Though he’s since apologized for his comments, Chris Matthews compared Bernie’s win in Nevada to the fall of France to the Nazis.
“These discussions are from a bygone era,” says Danielle.
For those who remember the Cold War, it affects your ideology and your worldview, Touré says. “Bernie seems frightening because socialism equals communism ... That's part of why Bernie has been struggling with the over-65s.”
“Younger people are like, Denmark seems to have a pretty good situation. What's the problem?”
The veepstakes are high
Danielle thinks the vice-presidential candidate will be critical in this cycle, especially if the nominee is septuagenarian Bernie Sanders. A strategic veep would also “balance out what many deem to be his radical ideology,” she says.
Touré disagrees: “The VP pick is never a decisive factor ... People vote for the top of the ticket.”
But Obama chose Biden because he needed an older (white) statesman to “legitimize him,” Danielle notes. She thinks Sanders will need a similar kind of moderating counterweight.
She would be thrilled if he picked Warren –– or former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacy Abrams.
Touré is skeptical. Even if running mates moved the needle, he can’t see the wisdom of choosing a fellow progressive. And presidential nominees never choose their direct competitors –– “that would be ahistorical,” he says.
“We are living in an ahistorical moment,” Danielle counters. “Our culture has been disrupted ever since Trump came down that escalator … In this particular moment, we could be more expansive in our thinking.”
Tactically, Touré could imagine Bernie choosing Abrams, a well-loved figure from a red state with a national profile. Or perhaps someone from a critical swing state –– like Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio.
“We ain't doing two white men this time around,” Danielle replies.
The blue math
Hardly anyone questions allocating a whopping 15 percent of the federal budget for defense. But when Bernie Sanders proposes Medicare for all and free college education, it’s a different story.
“Why doesn't he just say, Mexico's going to pay for it?” Danielle jests. “It seemed to work last time.”
Touré thinks that’s part of the problem: Republicans are ostensibly the deficit hawks, but they don’t obsess over how to build a wall or launch the damn Space Force.
“The left needs to show their work and the right does not ... We have to prove down to the penny how we're going to afford [social programs],” he says.
Danielle questions whether Democrats impose this standard on themselves.
“Yeah, we do,” Touré responds. That’s because the Dems are a “party of intellectuals, a party that expects the government to work efficiently and effectively. So when one wants to make radical, significant change … the others ask, how would you do that?”
For Touré, the best answer is to increase taxes on the super-rich. But Buttigieg (buoyed by billionaire donors) and Bloomberg (riding on his own billions) can't make that argument.
“Bernie is one of the candidates who can, and that’s catnip now.”
What bothers Touré now is that, in a seven-person field, the candidates don’t seem to be concerned with what's best for the Democratic party.
“They're thinking about what's best for them, even if it’s setting themselves up for next time.”
Bernie is a good example of how that works. His previous candidacy enabled his current bid with advantages like “experience, name recognition and understanding how the game is played,” Touré says. “Republicans tend to do that –– number two becomes number one next time.”
Democrats don't usually go this route, but it worked for Bernie. So his opponents might think it’s worthwhile to hang around until June to strengthen their brands.
That’s not good for the electorate, says Danielle.
“We’re exhausted. We're battling climate change, the fucking coronavirus and Trump gaslighting the country.”
And although 2008 found Barack and Hillary fighting well into July, “we weren't facing an existential crisis then,” she adds.
Today, we’re tasked with nothing less than saving our democracy. And while Bernie is painted as a pinko, “Trump is actually bringing back the parts of communism we hate and fear,” Touré says.
“Who’s most likely to reenact ‘The Handmaid's Tale’ with hangings in Central Park? … We have an actual fascist in the White House.”
Here comes the drop (out)
By the time democracy-ish drops next week, we should have much more clarity on the race. Voters in South Carolina and at the Super Tuesday polls will have their say. The March 3 contests alone comprise 11 states, a handful of territories and Democrats Abroad, representing 40 percent of the U.S. population.
Those voters are especially vital for Biden and his purported “firewall” in the Palmetto State. Could a solid debate performance, coupled with a high-profile endorsement from congressman Jim Clyburn, spell a comeback for Uncle Joe?
“At this point, when he talks, I hear Charlie Brown's parents,” says Touré. “I'm just not interested. But he’s clearly woken up … and he’s fighting for his political life.”
Touré and Danielle agree that whittling down the race will improve it. Who will be the first to drop out?
“God willing, Klobuchar,” Danielle says. “Buttigieg, as well as Steyer. And Bloomberg, frankly. They all need to go. Wake up Wednesday morning, have a come-to-Jesus moment and do what's right for the party.”
Stay tuned... and pray about it.
Get your weekly rundown of the presidential election from a Black progressive point of view on democracy-ish. Consider Danielle Moodie-Mills and Touré as your tour guides, flight attendants and or therapists as we move through this dumpster fire of an election cycle—together!