The Moderate Mr. Biden

Former Vice-President Joe Biden accused federal law enforcement officials of “brutally attacking peaceful protesters” in Portland Oregon. The officers, he said, were operating “without a clearly defined mandate or authority”. He went on to say, without a hint of irony, that the White House was “trying to stoke the fires of division in this country”. This while the “protesters” were setting actual fires, specifically to a federal courthouse. 

It should also be noted that the police found a body of a man who had been burned to death in one of the buildings the “peaceful protesters” set on fire in Minneapolis. 

In case there is any doubt about what is going on here, take look at the video below. It is anything but peaceful. The video was published by Bloomberg, hardly a right wing extremist organization. It is titled “Portland Protesters Set Building on Fire.” That description seems to be reasonably self explanatory. Presumably, Joe Biden has the mental capacity to understand what it means.

We keep hearing that Biden is a moderate who is going to stand up to the radicals who increasingly dominate his party. Attacking federal law enforcement officers who are defending federal property from arsonists is a funny way to demonstrate it. 

Portland Protesters Set Building on Fire

JFB

And About Those Norms…

We hear a lot about norms these days, and in particular, about how President Donald Trump’s typically juvenile behavior violates long standing norms and therefore harms democracy. There is something to this. Trump is, after all, boorish, a habitual liar and an all around disgrace. And that’s on a good day. For instance, Trump has recently taken to insinuating that Joe Scarborough may have been involved in the death of one of his staffers when he was a Congressman. The actual cause of death was an undiagnosed heart ailment; the woman died in Florida while Scarborough was in Washington.

That aside, no reasonable person should doubt that norms, manners and temperament are crucial elements for the institutions of civil society, the rule of law and  for freedom generally.  And here, Donald Trump’s behavior is destructive, and becoming more so.

So we are left to ponder a question: Why is it that there is so little interest from the defenders of norms in what is emerging as perhaps one of, if not the biggest political scandals in the history of the Republic? A scandal in which important norms were eviscerated and may well have involved Nixon style (or worse) criminal behavior by high level federal officials.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the Obama Administration used federal law enforcement agencies to surreptitiously surveil members of the Trump campaign and the incoming administration. Obama officials submitted deliberately falsified documents to the FISA Court in a successful effort to obtain warrants to surveil Trump campaign and administration officials. Obama officials went on television to claim they had evidence of Trump’s collusion with Russia even though under oath and in secret they admitted that they had no such evidence. 

In the matter of the Russia Collusion allegation, and then the Michael Flynn matter, it turns out that much, if not the entirety of the subsequent investigation was simply based on a pretext largely invented by Christopher Steele who was bought and paid for by Hillary Clinton’s campaign using the law firm Perkins Coie as a cutout. In the process not only did numerous Obama Administration political officials make requests to have Michael Flynn’s identity unmasked, his identity was quickly (and illegally) leaked to the press, most famously to David Ignatious of the Washington Post.  

The honor roll of Obama Administration officials who were suddenly interested in having Flynn’s name unmasked included: Susan Rice, Samantha Powers, James Comey, James Clapper, James Brennan, Treasury Secretary James Lew, then Chief-of-Staff Denis McDough and of course Joe Biden. For his part, Biden claimed he “knew nothing about these moves to investigate Flynn.” And then, ahem, his name showed up requesting that Flynn be unmasked on January 12, 2017. 

Not only did former Director of National Security (and admitted liar) James Clapper submit an unmasking request in the Flynn matter, so did two of his deputies, Micheal Dempsey and Stephanie L. Sullivan.  According to both Sally Yates and James Comey, James Clapper personally briefed President Obama on the Flynn-Kislyak calls as part of the Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB). But well before the unmasking requests were released to the public, Clapper testified behind closed doors under oath in the matter. He was asked (under oath) by Congressman Tom Rooney of Florida: “Did you ever brief President Obama on the Flynn-Kislyak phone calls?” Clapper had a one word answer: “No.” We know that was untrue.

The records also show that Samantha Powers made 260 unmasking requests during her tenure as U.N. Ambassador. She has testified that while most of these requests were made in her name, she herself did not make the them. According this version of events, someone else used her name in a national security matter, but she has no idea who it was. 

In all there were 39 Obama Administration officials who made 53 separate requests to unmask Flynn between election day (November 8, 2016) and inauguration day (January 17, 2017). Most of the requests took place between December 14 and 16, 2016, which was 2 weeks before Flynn’s December 29, 2016 call with  Russian Ambassador Kislyak, the predicate offered as justification for the Flynn investigation. 

In this sordid tale we should not omit the handiwork of John Brennan, Director of the CIA. Brennan claimed that “he [Trump] is wholly in the pocket of Putin”. On Meet the Press he told Chuck Todd “I called [Trump’s] behavior treasonous, which is to betray one’s trust and aid and abet the enemy, and I stand very much by that claim.” 

He is not standing by it now, at least from his perch at MSNBC. After special counsel Mueller “did not find that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government” Brennan backtracked. He said “I don’t know if I received bad information, but I think I suspected there was more than there actually was”. 

I could go on with example after example, but the point is clear. Political operatives, law enforcement and intelligence officers in the Obama Administration conducted surreptitious surveillance on opposing Party’s presidential campaign and candidate. On national TV, they went so far as to fan flames about a non-existent Trump-Russia conspiracy, using “evidence” that they knew to be phony and manufactured by the Clinton campaign. We know this because Obama Administration officials have admitted to as much.

Evelyn Farkas, an Obama Administration Defense Department appointee, claimed on MSNBC that she was afraid that Trump administration officials might destroy evidence of the alleged collusion “if they found out how we knew what we knew about Trump’s staff dealing with Russians”. 

But when questioned under oath behind closed doors by Rep. Gowdy of South Carolina, Farkas sang a different tune. 

So, would someone please remind me again on how these norms are supposed to work. 

We Need to Talk about… Joe Biden

His name is not Donald J Trump.

That is all it takes, apparently, for a Democratic challenger to command the loyalty of the party faithful. It doesn’t matter what he thinks, assuming he is capable of it. After all his supporters refuse to think. They just know his name isn’t Donald Trump. 

But there is a problem that goes way beyond the usual foolishness that accompanies political campaigns. The problem concerns the mental acuity of the almost certain Democratic Party nominee for president, former vice president Joe Biden. It is obvious to all who are willing to see that the mental faculties of the former vice president, never strong to begin with, are in a state of rapid decline. The man can barely get through a sentence without losing his train of thought. He routinely begins to rank order proposed solutions to problems but almost never manages to get past the first on the list before wandering off. 

But his name is not Donald Trump. 

Joe Biden’s campaign, which now largely consists of boiler plate coming from a makeshift TV studio in his basement, is a pretty joyless affair. Were it not for his campaign’s center of operations at 620 8th Avenue in Manhattan, the campaign would be invisible. However, behind the scenes the campaign is working feverishly to unite the Party. The effort is instructive. 

During the primaries the voters went out of their way to signal that they were decidedly not interested in having a left-wing radical on the model of Jeremy Corbyn at the top of the ticket. And so beginning with South Carolina and then on Super Tuesday, Joe Biden trounced Bernie Sanders (I. Rolling Stone) at every step of the way. There were strategic elements to the vote as well. Joe Biden looked safe compared to wild man Bernie Sanders and he looked normal compared to the schoolmarmish Elizabeth Warren (D MA) who, it must be said, annoyed pretty much everyone she came into contact with. 

You would think that set of circumstances would lead the almost certain nominee to try to unite the party around a center-left ticket. But you would be wrong. Because few really voted for Joe Biden with any kind of enthusiasm. They just voted against all the rest; Biden was just the one left standing. And all the rest, possibly excepting Amy Klobuchar (D, MN), were (and are) radical lefties. They control a large chuck of convention delegates, and more importantly, they control the policy conversation. So Biden is moving to the left, not the center, to unite the Party around his candidacy. 

There are two parts to the Biden strategy. The first is picking a female running mate. That’s what he promised to do, and this appears to be one of those rare promises he means to keep. The issue he facers is that there is a behind the scenes pitched battle to influence his choice. According to the gossip around DC, Bernie Sanders vetoed Biden’s choice of (heaven help us) Elizabeth Warren. Apparently Sanders and Warren are no longer besties. 

Amy Klobuchar has distinguished herself by occasionally taking reality into consideration. For the Bernie Bros, that is disqualifying, so it is unlikely that Biden would tap her, no matter how sensible a choice it would be given all the rest. That leaves Stacey Abrams, professional grievance monger, whose chief qualification for high office is that she ran for governor of Georgia and lost. She lost and has to this day has refused to concede, maintaining without a shred of evidence, that the election was stolen. Of the 3.9 million votes cast, she lost by just under 55,000, a margin of 1.39%, insufficient to trigger a recount. 

The important thing about Stacey Abrams is not that she, like Hillary Clinton, is a sore loser. The important thing is that her name is not Donald Trump, which is all that matters.

Let’s leave personnel matters aside for the moment and turn to the second problem the fledgling Biden campaign has to face as it attempts to unify the Party. Biden has a policy problem. 

The machinery of the Democratic Party is dominated by its left wing, which is also where its enthusiasm lies. It is this ideological bloc that is determined to set the policy agenda. And so it is gearing up to instruct Biden on what he is supposed to believe. Since Biden’s core belief is that he should be President he will say and do pretty much whatever he thinks will unify the Party so he can win in November. 

The balancing act will be determined by calculating how far left he has to move to placate his socialist allies (and let’s not pretend that they are not socialists) without losing moderates who vote Democratic, particularly in the upper Midwest. These are the voters who are the salt of the earth when they vote for Democrats and deplorables when they don’t. 

So how far left is Biden prepared to go to fulfill his life long ambition? One clue is that his campaign has created in partnership with Bernie Sanders, a series of panels with a mandate to hammer out policy positions for the fall campaign.  The six panels formed so far will explore “possible policy initiatives” with respect to climate change, criminal justice, the economy, education, health care and immigration. 

Biden named 5 members of each committee; Sanders named 3. Each committee has 2 co-chairs, one named by Biden and one by Sanders. Inevitably, the Sanders picks are radicals with allegiances to outside groups. (Sanders remember is not even a Democrat). For instance, the co-chair of the climate change panel is non-other than Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) who has pledged her allegiance to the “Climate Justice Community” to whom she pledges to be “fully accountable”. 

Other task force members are outspoken in their views favoring an end to fracking, adopting Medicare-for-All, “free college”, welfare benefits for illegal aliens and defunding the Border Patrol.  Not surprisingly an economist on the panel, Stephanie Kelton (PhD, the New School, 2001) is an advocate of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT). She claims that governments no longer have to worry about where they will get the money to pay for things, they can just print the currency. No problem. (See Kelton interviewed at the CFA Institute at this link). She gets to the heart of MMT at about 1 minute into the video.

It is, or should be, perfectly obvious that all the movement in the Biden campaign is to the left, and in all probability will continue to be. What is so bizarre about all this is that up until this point campaigns would iron out their policy positions and announce them before hand. Biden is waiting to be told what his policy positions are after having effectively won the nomination. 

But that is how things park in the People’s Republic. 

Then again, his name is not Donald Trump. 

Just like 300 million other Americans. 

JFB

The Season is Upon Us

When January of 2021 comes rolling around it is virtually inevitable that a supremely ambitious, self-serving, vicious and ignorant partisan hack will take the Presidential oath of office. The only question is whether the hack will be named Donald Trump or Joe Biden. In plenty of respects it makes little difference; in others it could make a big difference. There is just no way to predict it. 

Partisans who, for some mysterious reason, consider both themselves and President Trump to be conservatives, make two arguments for supporting Trump’s re-election. First they argue, Trump has compiled a sterling record of Judicial picks. Second, the alternative to Trump is socialism or some variant of it. While there is a real possibility of this, the jury is still out. 

Donald J Trump

While it is true in this writer’s estimation that Trump has indeed done a fine job in selecting judicial appointments, it is doubtful (and I am being charitable here) that this results from some Trumpian judicial philosophy moored to originalism or textualism. Instead it reflects the work of Mitch McConnell, who does espouse a relatively conservative judicial philosophy, and has done so for many years. It also includes Senator McConnell’s ongoing vigorous defense of the First amendment, an amendment that finds no friend in either the White House or in Progressive circles. 

The issue of judicial picks as an important electoral consideration begins to lose (some) of its salience when the discussion of a second term for Trump comes up. That is not only because Trump plainly has no idea what he talking about with respect to judicial philosophy (or much else for that matter), but also because a second term would introduce us to Trump unplugged. Trump without filters so to speak. In such a case there is no good reason for Christian Evangelicals to assume that Trump would continue to nominate conservative judges. After all during the Republican primary season he did refer to the possibility of appointing his famously liberal sister, then a sitting judge and an abortion rights enthusiast, to the Supreme Court.  

The second argument Trump’s supporters make is that the alternative candidate is intolerable because he is either a socialist, a variant of one, or beholden to the Socialist wing of his party. Which of course brings up the alternative lout: former Vice President Joe Biden, who is busy rummaging around for a running mate whose chief qualification is the possession of two X  chromosomes. 

Former Vice President Biden

The search for a female VP is underway because Mr Biden promised in his last debate with Bernie Sanders (I, Rolling Stone) to name a woman to run with him. No other criteria were deemed important in the selection process, typically characterized as a potential President’s most important choice and one that gives potential voters some insight into the candidates thinking.  Assuming that is, he is capable of it.  

It is going to be difficult for Mr. Biden to find some ideological balance in his selection because he has been pretty much all over the lot in a long and supercilious political career mostly notable for its combination of vacuousness and self-aggrandizement. Consider for a moment Mr Biden’s checkered history on a whole raft of public policy issues.

After all, he did vote for the Defense of Marriage Act in the 1990s before he got around to advocating for same-sex marriage as Vice President. Although he pretends to have been a dove on the second Iraq war, he voted for it and defended it as Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Here he is in 2002 according to The Hill:

“President Bush did not lash out precipitously at Iraq after 9/11. He did not snub the U.N. or our allies. He did not dismiss new inspection regimes. He did not ignore Congress,” Biden said in a 2002 floor speech given during the debate over legislation authorizing action against Iraq.

“At each pivotal moment, he has chosen a course of moderation and deliberation, and I believe he will continue to do so. At least, that is my fervent hope,” Biden said. “I wish he would turn down the rhetorical excess in some cases because I think it undercuts the decision he ends up making. But in each case in my view he has made the right rational calm deliberate decision.”

Then there is his ever shifting position on abortion rights. Way back in 1976 he voted for a law (The Hyde Amendment) prohibiting the use of federal funds to pay for abortions. In 1981 he added the “Biden Amendment” to the Foreign Assistance Act prohibiting American aid from being used for abortion related research. It is still on the books. Back in 1982 he proposed a law allowing states to overturn Roe v. Wade. In 1984 he supported what came to be known as the “Mexico City policy” which banned federal funding for overseas organizations that provide or expand abortion services. Then in 1995 and in 1997 he voted for bills to ban partial birth abortions; those bills were ultimately vetoed by President Clinton. 

Now, of course, Biden is in favor of federal funding for abortion on demand. 

And that’s before the history of corruption chronicled by Peter Schweizer in “Profiles in Corruption”.  It seems that Biden was the master of the sweetheart deal when government contracts were to be handed out. And surprisingly enough, brothers Frank and James were apparent beneficiaries of the largesse. As was son Hunter Biden. 

This may be where Elizabeth Warren (D. MA) comes in handy as a V.P. pick. Consider that Biden voted for the repeal of Glass-Steagall which by 2008 had turned into a cardinal sin in left wing circles. And that Biden acted as errand boy for the credit card industry for years.  Elizabeth Warren, self-proclaimed scourge of Wall Street, would provide a perfect cover for Biden’s financial shenanigans. 

Sen Elizabeth Warren

She has already passed the first bootlicking test for the post with predictable cravenness. Warren, who called for the impeachment of Justice Kavanaugh over fantastical sexual assault claims that never had a shred of evidence attached to them, has decided to give Biden a pass in the matter of Tara Reade’s claim against him. A claim whose credibility far surpasses the various claims lodged against Kavanaugh.  

To nobody’s surprise, Warren announced that she found Biden’s denial of the allegations “credible and convincing”. This is the same woman who, during the Senate Kavanaugh hearings said: 

“What the United States Senate is about to do [vote in favor of Kavanaugh] hurts,” she said. “It hurts every survivor of sexual assault who has been ignored… every woman who has been told to sit down and shut up… every person who will be on the losing end of a Kavanaugh swing vote against them and in favor of states that keep American citizens from voting, in favor of corporations that cheat consumers, in favor of gun traffickers that put our children at risk. This hurts, but I want to be clear; I am not sorry I got in this fight.” 

I’d have to say she is a solid front runner in a race to the bottom. But wait,  there is bound to be more: the game has just begun. 

JFB

Joe Biden: Super Hero

It is hard to imagine that anyone could figure out a way to be more juvenile and petty than Donald J. Trump. But the Democrats have managed to do it. They are going to blame the COVID19 crisis on Donald Trump. And Joe Biden is slated to be the messenger. His job is to read the teleprompter and avoid extemporizing. 

I can hear the wail of protest now. The Democrats will argue that they are not blaming the virus on Trump; only that his belated response caused the virus to get out of hand. And we are meant to believe that the Democratic Party’s standard bearer would have done much, much better. 

If, for some reason, you ignore (1) who the standard bearer is actually likely to be, and (2) the time line of what actually happened, the argument has surface plausibility. But then reality sets in. The Party is poised nominate Joe Biden, a 78 year old with mental faculties obviously in decline. Not that they were anything to write home about to begin with.

So let’s look at the time line.

January 14, 2020—The World Health Organization (WHO) voiced the Chinese government’s party line. WHO said “Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) identified in Wuhan, China.” (See the Federalist). 

January 30, 2020—WHO declares a public health emergency of international concern and confirms person-to-person spread of the virus. 

January 31, 2020—President Trump declares a U.S. public health emergency and issues a ban on travel between the U.S. and China. That decision was endorsed by Dr. Anthony Fauci who later in an interview with Lester Holt, said “One of the things we did right was very early cut off travel from China to the United States…outside of China, where it originated, the countries in the world who have it are through travel.”

What was Joe Biden’s reaction?  Joe Biden reacted that day on the campaign trail in Iowa by saying “This is no time for Donald Trump’s record of hysteria and xenophobia.” 

And what has Joe Biden proposed to handle the crisis? Well, he has called for “a decisive public-health response.” This is a pretty typical Biden non-response, on par with his penchant for referring to working with “the international community” whenever a foreign policy dilemma makes an appearance. And believe it or not, on the campaign trail he promised that if he is elected President, “Were gonna cure cancer.”

Really. He actually said that. 

And we are supposed to take Joe Biden seriously?   Why?

JFB

The Supposedly Moderate Mr. Biden

Former Vice President Joe Biden got into a shouting match, not unlike others he has had, with a Michigan auto worker at a campaign stop. The subject was 2nd amendment rights.

Biden is being presented as Everyman, the proverbial nice guy, an anti-Trump. After reading the transcript of the encounter (below) and viewing a video of it (also below), it is hard to see how he is temperamentally all that different from Trump. 

Transcript below as published in National Review. 

“You are actively trying to end our Second Amendment right and take away our guns,” the man told Biden as the candidate greeted workers building a Fiat-Chrysler assembly plant.

“You’re full of sh**,” Biden responded. A Biden aide tried to end the discussion, but the candidate silenced her in order to continue speaking with the worker. “I support the Second Amendment … from the very beginning. I have a shotgun. I have a 20-gauge, a 12-gauge. My sons hunt,” he said.

The two men then argued about whether Biden had said he would try to take away Americans’ guns.

“This is not okay, alright?” the worker said, to which Biden responded, “Don’t tell me that, pal, or I’m going to go out and slap you in the face.”

“You’re working for me, man!” the worker responded.

“I’m not working for you,” Biden shot back. “Don’t be such a horse’s ass.”


JFB

Now What?

Campaign Finance

Recent events have proved to be clarifying if unedifying. Michael Bloomberg did us the enormous favor of spending over $500 million in an effort to win the Democratic Presidential nomination. For his efforts he won a total of 13 delegates; 4 in American Samoa plus another 9 scattered around the country. That’s about $38 million per delegate. Two days later former Mayor Bloomberg dropped out of the race and pledged to work for the election of Joe Biden. 

Bloomberg Drops Out

All of this would seem to provide rather conclusive evidence discrediting the idea that money is determinative in elections. Despite the evidence though, we can expect Progressives to continue their attempt eviscerate First Amendment speech rights under the guise of campaign finance reform and fighting “hate speech” because the goal is control, not clean elections or civility. 

And, by the way, if the best Michael Bloomberg could do was grab 13 delegates with $500 million, why would anybody continue to believe that Russian propaganda on Facebook was sufficient to tip the 2016 Presidential election to Donald Trump. 

About Those Norms

The Trump Administration—actually POTUS himself—has been criticized, frequently and correctly, for violating long held political norms. Trump, for example, launched a typically idiotic Tweet calling for Justices Sotomeyer and Ginsburg to recuse themselves from cases involving him and his administration.  And candidate Trump famously attacked a federal judge complaining that the judge, who was born in Indiana, was Mexican and therefore could not be counted on to give Trump a fair hearing. 

Well, Chuck Schumer has done Trump one better. On March 4, speaking at a demonstration at the Supreme Court, Schumer said the following referring to an abortion case before the Court.

“I want to tell you, Gorsuch. I want to tell you, Kavanaugh. You have released the whirlwind and you will pay the price…You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.”

Abortion Rights Protest at the Supreme Court

Which is to say that Chuck Schumer (Harvard Law, 1974) issued a direct threat by name to sitting justices on the Court, contingent on their votes. Surprisingly enough, Schumer’s fellow progressives who were once so concerned about democratic norms, have fallen strangely silent. 

Feel the Phony Bern

Bernie Sanders (I. Rolling Stone) has spent the better part of the last 40 years or so attacking “the establishment” and singing the praises of folks like Fidel Castro. In 2012 he threatened to “primary” (now a verb) then President Obama who wasn’t quite left wing enough for comrade Sanders taste. But on Super Tuesday he got trounced by former Vice President Biden, who among other things grabbed a commanding share of the African American vote. 

And all of a sudden Bernie-the-Authentic has decided that he has been a fan of Obama after all. So his campaign has released an ad showing what pals he and Obama were and are. Needless to say, former Obama officials have denounced the ad as deceptive, misleading etc etc. Which, of course, it is. Just like the rest of his campaign. 

The ad is below. Have a look and think about what it says about the raw political ambition of the selfless Socialist from Vermont. 

New Sanders Ad

JFB

DEFCON 2

The grand pooh-bahs of the DNC are about to break into full panic mode. 

When Nancy Pelosi pointed her impeachment gun at President Donald Trump she shot former Vice President Joe Biden in the heart. Unforced errors like that one, combined with a disgruntled primary electorate has put Bernie Sanders (D. Rolling Stone) in a strong position to capture the Democratic presidential nomination. And he is not even a Democrat. 

Sanders supporters (better described as a fan base) comprises somewhere between 25% to 30% of the Democratic primary electorate. Moreover they are intensely loyal and consider themselves part of a movement. Attendees do not go to Sanders rallies to be convinced; they are already convinced. That is why a Sanders rally has the look and feel of a religious revival meeting. 

The Sanders base is an odd mix of resentment and misplaced idealism. It includes blue-collar working class voters, students and young college educated voters. They are overwhelmingly white. 

Sanders working class supporters, like Trump’s, firmly believe that they have been screwed over by “elites”. His young supporters, especially students and recent college graduates are enamored by his championing “democratic socialism” largely because (1) they have no idea what socialism really is, democratic or otherwise, and (2) they would like to have their college loans forgiven. 

But the Sanders loyalist base does not include include older voters, especially those over age 65 who have displayed a good deal of hostility to the Sanders movement. Not only are these voters old enough to remember the cold war, they understand what socialism really is. They grew up reading George Orwell’s 1984; they remember Britain’s winter of discontent; they saw the depredations of Castro, Mao and Pol Pot; they saw the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, waited on gas lines and saw the Berlin Wall crumble. They did not grow up with trigger warnings or win participation trophies. Which is to say, they actually grew up. 

These factors suggest that Sanders has a strong floor of support at around 25% to 30% of the Democratic primary electorate. It also suggests that his support has a rather low ceiling that will be hard to break through. With the Democratic field splintered, a loyal support base of 25% to 30% may be enough for Sanders to win a plurality of pledged delegates to the Milwaukee convention and then the nomination. 

That’s why the DNC is headed for full fledged panic. The main mission of political parties is to win elections. That requires assembling coalitions and getting them to the polls on election day. Here, the Democrats have a structural problem that is in many ways reminiscent of the one faced by Republicans in 2016.  The nominally Republican nominee (Trump) wasn’t really a Republican, but he was able to win the nomination because his hard core of support held firm while the conventional candidates split the remaining (majority) of the vote. He was only able to win the general election (again with a minority of the vote) because (1) the distribution of the votes favored him in the electoral college by the barest of margins and (2) the Democrats succeeded in nominating the worst possible candidate (Hillary Clinton) who ran a terrible campaign and in so doing managed to unify Republicans against her. 

Now consider two possibilities. First, Bernie Sanders gets the Democratic nomination; or second, somebody else does. Under either scenario it is difficult to see how the Democratic nominee unifies the party to win the general election. 

Let’s suppose that Bernie Sanders gets the nomination. Remember, his core supporters tend to be younger, many are students or already have college degrees; they are friendly to the idea of “democratic socialism”. In addition, a lot are blue collar workers without college degrees. And they tend to be Caucasian, although that could change. The problem that the Democratic nominee faces, whether or not it is Sanders, is that the constituencies that make up the Democratic Party are at war with each other. 

Consider the left-wing obsession with race, class and gender. Older Democrats were inspired by the rhetoric of Dr. Martin Luther King who spoke of the content of man’s character as opposed to the color of his skin. Try that one now with fans of intersectionality with its elaborate rules for considering the proper pecking order for victimology. Elizabeth Warren, one of the most vocal proponents of identity politics, an outgrowth of intersectionality, promised that her choices for Education Secretary would be vetted by a “trans person”.  How do you think that will fly with middle class, midwestern families? 

Now consider all the free stuff that the party is promising to deliver. Start with forgiveness of college loans. It’s easy enough to see why college students with loans (most of them) are in favor of this. But when you look at the underlying numbers a different story emerges. That story has to do with the size and distribution of loan balances. The mean loan balance is about $32,000, which is not all that burdensome considering the difference between lifetime earnings potential of degree holders versus non degree holders. More importantly the median loan balance is only about $13,000. The wide difference between the mean and median is explained by a relatively small number of students who owe very large balances ($100,000 – $200,000). But those balances are often due to large loans taken out to finance expensive graduate and professional eduction at top institutions, like for instance, Harvard Law School. 

Which begs the question: Why is a bus driver supposed to be taxed in order to facilitate the  graduate education of somebody else’s kids at the nation’s elite universities? There is no good answer to that question.

Then there is the race question. The Democratic Party has long been home to a majority of non-white voters. In the past liberal Democrats looked for ways to expand opportunities for minority citizens. That was before the days of intersectionality which necessarily demands a constant search for victims and oppressors. The problem is that (1) the Democratic Party is home to both the alleged victims and their alleged oppressors, and (2) the gradations of victimhood and oppression are constantly changing  depending on the latest woke fashion. After all, it is reasonably difficult to form a coalition comprised of “victims” and “oppressors” when there is no such thing as shared interests. There is only identity, and that is not transferable. Any attempt to coalesce around common goals and values simply leads to cries of “co-option” and false consciousness. Similarly, attempts to integrate new customs and styles results in complaints of cultural appropriation.

The Democratic majority has little use for all this; they are grown-ups. But the party is being driven by left-wing radicals who have a very strong grip on maybe 25% of the Party’s primary voters. Further, there is a philosophical problem with modern liberalism that makes the Party’s electoral situation rather dire. The fundamental problem is that modern liberalism has no limiting principle. Whatever a “moderate” Democrat proposes, Bernie Sanders, the Squad and the rest of the progressive caucus can just do them one better and push further to the left. So we have the spectacle of moving from reducing Greenhouse Gas emissions to fundamentally restructuring the entire U.S. economy via the Green New Deal. Whereas the Democratic Party of yesterday vowed to keep abortion “safe, legal and rare” the new Democratic Party supports subsidizing abortion on demand at any time for any reason. Instead of financial aid for college students, let’s just forgive all accumulated debt and make college “free”. And while we are at it, why not increase social security benefits, even though the program is already insolvent? 

So here we are. Serious contenders for the Party’s nomination, with the possible exception of Senator Amy Klobuchar, are fundamentally unserious people. And the Party’s leaders are virtually powerless to stop the suicide march to a brokered convention in Milwaukee and an electoral disaster in November. And Bernie Sanders, the likely Presidential nominee leading the parade toward the cliff is not even a Democrat. 

And the really final results from Iowa will be in any day now. 

Nice going, guys. 

JFB

A Time for Choosing

It’s finally here. After what seems like years of primary campaigning, Iowa Democrats are finally about to have their say in the matter via the Iowa caucuses.  The field has narrowed considerably from the original 2 dozen or so contestants and polls suggest that soon the battle for the Democratic nomination may be a 2 man contest between former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.  That prospect already has the leadership of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) looking not so furtively at the panic button. They have, for instance, already changed the debate rules in a way that gives Michael Bloomberg a chance to appear on stage. 

Joe Biden

In analyzing elections and the strategies the Parties and candidates use to win, it is important to make a distinction between the Party professionals on the one hand, and the candidates and their coalitions on the other. Political parties are organized around winning elections. Period. Candidates organize their campaigns around issues designed to win a sufficient number of delegates to capture the nomination and then win the general election. 

Bernie Sanders

The issues that the candidates choose to organize around and then galvanize a campaign may be ideological, but need not be. Sometimes interests are sectional with ideological overlaps. Both the Civil War and the struggle over civil rights were partly driven by sectional clashes. The clash over slavery that ultimately led to the Civil War represented a clash between the Republican North and the Democratic South. But the civil rights struggles of the 1960s saw an alliance of moderate to liberal Northern Republicans and Democrats, while opposition was mostly an alliance of Southern Democrats irrespective of ideology and Northern conservatives from both parties. 

In fact there are many instances where differences in regional interests and ideological interests have shifted back and forth and the Parties have reconfigured themselves accordingly. In the late 19th century the Republican Party was the party of tariffs designed to protect Northeast manufacturing, while the Democratic Party represented farmers that wanted free trade. But by 1980 the Republican Party of Ronald Reagan was a strong proponent of free trade and the Democrats increasingly promoted trade restrictions to protect manufacturing and union jobs in the Midwest. Now the Republican Party of Donald Trump promotes managed trade pretty much like the Democrats have been doing since the 1980s.   

All this is not to suggest that the Republican and Democratic policy preferences have begun to converge. They have not. What has transpired is enormous demographic, generational and cultural shifts in the respective Party constituencies that are not fully reflected in the Party hierarchies. The Republican Party has to a large degree been Trumpified; the question here is whether this reconfiguration is temporary and tactical or permanent. The results of the general election in November may provide some clues. But the result will importantly depend on who the Democratic nominee is. 

The case of the Democratic Party is in some respects much more interesting. It is clear that the Party has taken a very sharp turn to the left. Not only that, younger, more affluent Party members seem to be positioned far more to the left than older and less white constituents.  Those with college degrees are more prone to head left. 

Given the state of play there are two  questions facing Iowa caucus goers. The first set of questions is obvious: Should the Democratic Party go with a “safe” nominee like Joe Biden who appears on paper to be best positioned to defeat Donald Trump, and perhaps help the Party keep the House and win the Senate? Or should the Party go all in and nominate a very left wing candidate (like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren) who promises to transform the structure of American life using the force of the state? The results in Iowa will hinge on that calculus. 

The second set of questions address an issue that is very important and more than a little disquieting. Namely, is there a truly substantive difference between the candidacies of the moderates e.g, — Biden, Klobuchar and the truly radical candidates like Sanders and Warren? The nominating process may provide an answer to that question as well. 

It was only 4 years ago that had Debbie Wassermann Schultz tripping all over herself while attempting to argue that there is a real difference between socialism—in whatever form—and the liberalism that the Democratic Party claimed to represent. And now 4 years later, Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, is a leading candidate for the Party’s Presidential nomination. 

There is every reason to believe that Bernie Sanders, who isn’t even a registered Democrat, will win the Party’s nomination and go on to face Trump in the general election. If that happens it will mean that the Democratic Party has made a decisive turn to the left with the aim of transforming the structure of American life from that of a Liberal market democracy into an Administrative State where citizens are transformed into subjects.   

Such an election would likely bring an end to decades of electoral stalemate where the results are separated by a few percentage points and the game is mostly played inside the 40 yard lines. Of the many possible outcomes, there are 2 that are the most interesting. On the one hand, there is the possibility of a contest that looks like the 1972 race between George McGovern and Richard Nixon in which McGovern’s liberalism was soundly rejected; in the process McGovern went on to lose 49 states, carrying only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia, which has never voted for a Republican. 

On the other hand, the race could just as easily look like the one in 1980. In that case Democrats were initially encouraged by the Republican’s selection of Ronald Reagan as the Party’s standard bearer, the reasoning being that the public would never vote for a candidate as extreme as Reagan. In the event, Reagan went on to defeat incumbent Jimmy Carter in a landslide. Reagan carried 44 states and won with 50.7% of the vote against Carter’s 41% of the vote, while third-party candidate John Anderson’s got 6.6% of the vote. 

An election contest between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump is one that could settle a lot. It would provide a much needed clarification of what the electorate thinks is desirable and achievable. An election contest between Sanders and Trump would force the electorate to consider that fundamental issue with eyes wide open. 

Let’s face it: on a personal level, Donald Trump is as severely flawed as it gets. With respect to policy, he is hardly a conservative as traditionally understood, much less a libertarian. His authoritarian tendencies are beyond dispute. He is as narcissistic as they come, which is saying a lot by Washington standards. Not only is he easily the most ignorant man to assume the Presidency in at least a century, he is incapable of recognizing the truth much less telling it. 

Which is not to suggest that Bernie Sanders is just swell. He is a misfit; a leftist crank who is incapable of seeing the world as it is. He is willfully blind in that he sees only what he wants to see. His “no enemies to the left” mindset does not permit him to utter an unkind word about any of the world’s brutal left wing dictatorships, including Venezuela’s Madura. Sanders does not simply have policy proposals—he means to fundamentally transform America’s Liberal market democracy into a socialist state. Were Sanders to get his way, America as we know it, would cease to exist. In that regard it is disgraceful that the mainstream press, in its loathing of all things Trump, treats Sanders as if he were a normal candidate, which he manifestly is not. 

Bernie Sanders is doing to the Democratic Party what Donald Trump did to the Republicans. The nominating process will allow us to see if the Democratic Party yields to Sanders and his supporters just as the Republicans did with Trump. If they do, we will know what constitutes the modern Democratic Party, just as we now know what constitutes the modern Republican Party. 

And so we have two political processes in play that could come to define America in 2020.  In the first instance, the Democratic Party will either choose to become a hard left socialist party with the aim of transforming American life using the police power of the state, or it will remain a center left mainstream party. In the second instance, if Sanders is the nominee, the body politic will face a choice between a narcissistic incumbent whose incompetence is only exceeded by his ignorance, and a socialist candidate who promises to wage a perpetual class war in a never ending search for nirvana. It is not exactly an appetizing choice; in fact it is nauseating. But it is clarifying. 

It is possible that a moderate Democrat, as currently defined, will win the nomination, in which case we will likely muddle along for a bit longer, and neither of the above scenarios would necessarily comes to pass. But I wouldn’t count on it. 

JFB

The Moderate Mr. Biden

A lot of Democratic Party primary voters are desperately looking for a “moderate” who can beat Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders in the contest for the nomination, and then go on to beat Donald Trump in the general election. The current “moderate” in favor seems to be former VP Joe Biden.

Mr. Biden is so moderate that he wants to eliminate the use of fossil fuels in short order (a pipe dream if ever there was one). He complains that the U.S. has been deforested, but neglects to mention that (1) the majority of U.S. deforestation occurred prior to 1910 and (2) that forest resources in the U.S. have remained essentially unchanged in the 20th century. (See Wikipedia on this).

Most fascinating of all, the moderate Mr. Biden wants to toss energy executives who disagree with him in jail. How do we know? He said so. (See the You Tube Video below). He wants to make energy executives “liable” for what they have done. Naturally enough the “what they have done” bit is left undefined.

Joe Biden Town Hall in Peterborough, NH

To be fair, even though he plagiarized his way through law school, it isn’t likely that Biden is so dense that he actually believes that he can just have people summarily carted off to jail without having violated some statute. On the other hand, mouthing this type of nonsense does demonstrate a certain contempt for the audience. In this respect it is worth noting that the audience enthusiastically applauded the riff about putting people in jail. Kind of like Trump’s ‘Lock her up” routine.

With apologies to The Washington Post, Democracy does not die in darkness. It does so with the lights turned on while demagogues speak and audiences cheer.

JFB