Super (Disappointing) Tuesday and the Politics of Mediocrity
On this episode of democracy-ish, Touré and Danielle discuss Joe Biden’s sudden surge and its implications for the Democratic field.
An endorsement from the “godfather of South Carolina politics,” Jim Clyburn, propels Biden to victory in the first southern primary.
Buttigieg, Klobuchar and Steyer exit, clearing the way for moderate voters to coalesce behind Biden throughout the Super Tuesday states. What does it mean for Sanders?
Bloomberg steps aside, endorses Biden ... and, shortly after this episode drops, Warren does the same with her campaign. Is sexism to blame?
If Biden does win, will a strategic VP pick soften the blow?
What a difference a week makes.
Saturday’s South Carolina Democratic primary set off a chain reaction that radically reshaped the race. In the first southern state –– and the most diverse –– to weigh in so far, more than 48 percent of voters chose Joe Biden.
“I am so disappointed in the Democratic party right now,” Touré says. “It’s coalescing around someone who they do not love, out of pragmatism. And didn't we do that before?”
“We do it all the time,” says Danielle.
His campaign had been declared all but dead after poor performances in Iowa and New Hampshire. But Uncle Joe’s bid to unseat Trump came roaring back to life in South Carolina, thanks to high voter turnout and overwhelming support from Black voters.
While Bernie Sanders finished second, no other candidates made a strong enough showing to win delegates. (Mike Bloomberg, strategically absent from the ballot, threw more millions on the ad-buy bonfire in hopes of a Super Tuesday sweep.)
By Sunday evening, Mayor Pete Buttigieg dropped out of the race. Amy Klobuchar followed suit and both endorsed Biden. And when Super Tuesday arrived, moderate Democrats coalesced around the former vice president.
Biden dominated among late deciders in all those races, Touré notes. With a narrower field and a starker choice, the cracks in Sanders’ nascent coalition became clear.
“The core of the Democratic party is Black people … but Bernie has not been able to grow his support among black people from 2016 to 2020,” he says.
That’s because he hasn’t fused his economic principles with a robust understanding of racial and ethnic inequality, Danielle notes.
“You can't talk about the poor and not talk about ... ho
w systems have been created to stop black people from being able to build any type of wealth. You can't all lives matter this shit.”
It seems Super Tuesday wasn’t so super. It was pretty mediocre, actually. What now? Touré and Danielle assess the narrowed field.
Episode Highlights — Make America Mediocre Again
Bloomberg’s victory … in the Pacific
The best news that emerged this week? Bloomberg’s exit.
In his bid for the nomination, he sidestepped field organizing, baby-kissing and pressing flesh at small-town diners in favor of blanketing key media markets with anti-Trump ads. Turns out Bloomberg spent $550 million to win the race in … American Samoa.
“He could have bought American Samoa,” says Touré.
“I guess Bloomberg and his team thought that an avatar could in fact win an election,” Danielle adds.
But Biden managed to win big despite his absence from retail politics in the Super Tuesday states. He didn’t buy ads in, or even host rallies, in many of the places he won.
“He's got the name recognition,” says Touré. “He's a known quantity.”
Danielle thinks that Biden is something else entirely: “He’s a security blanket,” she says.
“I have never been less excited, inspired or interested in a Democratic nominee than Joe Biden,” Touré counters. “He has no personal history, talent or pet policy concern that I give a fuck about.”
But he's not what appeals to voters, says Danielle.
“People are riddled with anxiety … things are already shaken up enough with Donald Trump. They want somebody to return us to some sense of normalcy.”
Jim as Joe’s booster
Biden’s crucial South Carolina victory was undoubtedly fueled by Democratic Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, who endorsed Biden in an impassioned speech days prior to the polls.
“The man is a priest and a surgeon,” Danielle says of Clyburn. “He triggered the domino effect of Super Tuesday.”
“He’s the hero of the Biden campaign … especially for older Black voters,” Touré adds. “Jim said to go in all in for him. And I assume they will show up huge for Biden in November … when Black Democratic voters coalesce around a candidate, they vote in a block.”
“I just hope that there is enough self-awareness in the Biden campaign that they reward black voters with the number two spot.”
Touré doesn’t think the veep pick matters, while Danielle disagrees. But both say that if Biden clinches the nomination, choosing Kamala Harris or Stacey Abrams as his running mate would send a clear message to Black voters.
Even if it doesn’t affect the numbers, it would say “thank you,” Touré says.
For Danielle, tapping Kamala would “put him over the top.”
Moderate candidates make way for Safe Joe
Last week, Touré didn't think that the remaining candidates –– specifically Buttigieg and Klobuchar –– would be selfless enough to step aside.
“I thought the moderate lane was so clogged that Joe would have a hard time pushing ahead of Bernie,” he says. “That was wrong. Clearly the Democratic establishment has said, we have to get serious about stopping Bernie Sanders. They see Bernie as an existential threat, and perhaps a literal threat, to their own jobs.”
Danielle initially thought Bernie would “run the table,” and that Democratic voters are ready for a revolution. But they’re not, she says. They want to feel safe.
“For them, Joe Biden represents that. It’s what he was running on: you know me, I'm safe.”
However, she admits that Bernie Sanders won’t go quietly if Biden maintains his slim edge.
“He is a major problem. He’ll be a thorn in the side of this party all the way to convention.”
Warren gets the race issue, but it’s not enough in this race
“I'm curious how much longer Elizabeth Warren stays in,” says Touré.
“I think that by the time that this airs, she will be out,” Danielle laments. “There's no path.”
[Editor’s note: Ms. Moodie-Mills was exactly right.]
That was excruciatingly clear when Warren finished third in her home state of Massachusetts on Super Tuesday.
“Everybody knows I love Elizabeth Warren,” she adds. “Her framework is always infused with race. She understands how all of these systems were built to work against people of color.
“But America hates women and she's not going to be president,” Danielle says.
Touré isn’t certain that sexism is the only force at play. She might have waited too long to show the fighting spirit that kicked off Bloomberg’s demise.
“I thought that she was the perfect blend of progressive and palatable,” he says. “Bernie haters don't like his personality … he seems very get off my lawn. They see him as a political Larry David.”
“That’s the best description of Bernie Sanders,” Danielle says. “He is loud. He is obnoxious. But he’s not as funny.”
Passing on Bernie for the ‘milquetoast moderate’
Warren’s absence presents a few questions for Touré.
“Can Bernie propel himself without Warren in the conversation? Because he's the number two choice for most of her supporters. Or do we continue to have a party that rejects substantive, valuable change in politics in favor of a milquetoast moderate?”
Touré’s conclusion: “We’re choosing the nominee who is most palatable to the fringe Republican.”
For those who feel blindsided by Biden’s sudden surge, he says that the Democratic establishment must reach out to progressives.
“I need somebody to reach out, because I feel hurt … the Democratic party has left me and moved centerward. What is my place here?”
But Touré is tired of hearing that Bernie’s policies won’t pass Mitch McConnell’s senate.
“Do we ask that about Biden's ideas? Mitch won't go for any of them either,” he says.
“Biden doesn't have any ideas,” Danielle replies. But even so, she thinks Biden will continue to amass delegates –– and that Sanders can't blame his recent setbacks on the Democratic establishment or a “rigged system.”
“The people voted en masse, and they don't fucking want you.”
Empty suit or reliable soup?
There’s a formula to Joe Biden's campaign, says Touré: Not Bernie. Not Trump. Stood with Obama.
“Somewhere in there, I'd like to see who you are,” he says. “I know what he is not, but I don't know what he is. I find him vacuous … an empty suit ... a classic perma-smile, tanned, slicked-back, white male politician.”
Paradoxically, that’s part of his appeal. In the Trump era, voters are craving classic, bland comfort food.
“Does anybody love chicken noodle soup? When lobster bisque is on the menu, is that what you're ordering? No. But when you want to feel good, you order chicken soup. It's not the fanciest thing, but it's reliable.”
Touré understands the analogy. “Mommy made it when you were sick,” he says.
“Exactly –– and the country is fucking sick,” says Danielle.
Pray about it.
Friday Extra: Interview with America’s youngest Black mayor
His brief tenure as mayor was a rollercoaster of big wins and head-spinning challenges from his opponents. And though he’s homeless right now, he’s gearing up to run again: this time, challenging Pat Toomey for his Pennsylvania senate seat.
“He is a really smart political operative, political animal,” says Touré, who met Brandaun on Twitter. “I’m very impressed by him.”
With a platform that emphasizes solving America’s growing homeless problem –– as well as reparations for the descendants of slaves –– Brandaun is a politician to watch.
A few highlights from the interview:
On reparation as a main campaign issue: “My living protest of saying I should be in the United States Senate … that is my form of reparation. That is for me personally, but also for all those people who will be moved to believe that the Senate matters –– that the highest and most deliberative body has a context in [our] modern time.”
On being homeless while running for office: “I'm living in the experience and have real proximity to the experience of people — in this country — who feel that something has got to give right now, and they ain't all Black. They just happen to have proximity to Blackness.”
On the cost of holding onto integrity in politics: “I was the youngest black mayor in the country. Of course, people call me and say: well, you know, we want to help you but we need this. And what this was wasn’t always aligned with the best interest of my people, and therefore I'm not a millionaire.”
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!