Bai wants someone to challenge Hillary in the primaries. That's fine -- but Bai sure as hell doesn't want a challenge to Hillary from a progressive. In the column, he says with a sneer that Bernie Sanders is "an avowed socialist," and Elizabeth Warren "sounds more like a Jacobin." That's in keeping with earlier columns like this one, in which he decries the party insiders' desire for a Hillary coronation while turning up his nose at others who are actually considering a run:
The current hope is that Clinton may not even have to risk debating in the primaries, unless someone really is crazy enough to run against her. (Um ... have you guys actually heard Bernie Sanders?)Har har har! Yes, I have actually heard Bernie Sanders. I agree with him a hell of a lot. But he can't get heard in this political environment, even as lunatics on the right get taken very, very seriously, because people like Matt Bai are just too cool for progressivism.
And yes, as yet another Bai column demonstrates, that contempt extends to Elizabeth Warren:
Which brand of challenger do we really think Warren would be? We're talking about a Cambridge academic who doesn't want to just preserve entitlement programs in the face of retiring boomers, but expand them. Next to her, [Howard] Dean looks like Barry Goldwater....This is the sort of condescension a progressive alternative to Hillary would face from all the oh-so-savvy, oh-so-insidery types in the Beltway punditocracy.
Imagine ... how doctrinaire and lecturing Clinton would seem, by comparison, after sharing a debate stage with Warren for six months. Imagine how much of an exaggerator Clinton would appear to be after Senator Stands With a Fist got through explaining, for the 400th time, why she claimed to be Native American in a faculty directory.
Bai wants Hillary to be challenged by someone who's, y'know, regular. Specifically, Joe Biden:
Biden’s a middle-class champion who makes the case for economic fairness with more conviction than Clinton and less vitriol than Warren. He’s a serious thinker on foreign policy who opposes rampant interventionism without sounding like a pacifist. He more than holds his own as a debater.Yes, he doesn't frighten the horses the way Warren does, which is really the point for Bai.
Bai's main argument is that someone should challenge Hillary, because "there’s just something unseemly about the liberal reformers of the ’60s generation, men and women who fought to create a more democratic nominating process back in the day, now trying to back down anyone who would challenge the establishment’s candidate." Curiously, however, he doesn't want a challenge from anyone whose politics are similar to those of "the '60s generation."
Really, Bai wants there to be a challenge to Hillary for the sake of a challenge, just because she and the Democratic insiders need to be taken down a peg -- and also because she might give up in an amusingly embarrassing way if she's challenged:
But if a Biden gets in the race, suddenly that calculus is slightly different. Now, if you’re Clinton, you have to ask yourself: Are you really up for slugging it out in all those primaries all over again, with the nonstop debating and parrying and standing in the bitter cold at 5 a.m., all with the very real chance that you could lose? Do you really want to risk your hard-won standing as a stateswoman on a bruising campaign against the only politician who has a stronger claim to Obama’s legacy among liberal voters?Um, Bai does remember that Hillary stayed in the 2008 race long after there was even a mathematical possibility of defeating Obama?
The point here is that Biden might genuinely humiliate Hillary, in Bai's estimation, which would be supremely satisfying. Bai has contempt for Sanders and Warren, but he also has contempt for Hillary. None of them seem as harmless, as eager to please, as Biden, so this is understandable.
The thing about Hillary is that she has the star power and the juice to win the presidency despite the contempt of the Matt Bais of the Beltway Village. I don't think Warren and Sanders can say the same, nor can Biden. So, for lack of a viable alternative, I'm sticking with Hillary for the time being.