Wednesday, April 24, 2019


Charlie Pierce writes:
... there just isn't any room for Joe Biden this time around. A huge chunk of the party has moved on from him. There are plenty of people to run as pragmatic moderates; Klobuchar and Buttgieg did so on the stage Monday night [in CNN town halls]. The left is locked up between Sanders and Warren. What does Biden bring besides name recognition, some old-line union support, and boatloads of money from sources that half his party is going to be running against?
If a large chunk of the party has moved on from Biden, then what's the harm if he runs? If he's really out of step, primary voters will reject him as a relic, the way they rejected Joe Lieberman in the 2004 race. Why not less that process play out?

But that doesn't seem to be what's bothering his critics. They seem more concerned that he'll run and be in contention even though he's not what the party wants. I don't understand this argument -- if he's in contention, then isn't he what at least some of the party's voters are looking for? (As I've said on a couple of occasions, his support, at least for now, doesn't just come from old white union members -- many black voters regard him quite favorably.)

I think Pierce is misidentifying the "lanes." He thinks Sanders and Warren are in the same lane, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

I'd also argue that these things break down along lines familiar to fans of pop culture. Sanders is the veteran indie-rock band that never sold out -- he's Sonic Youth, or maybe Fugazi. Or he's the Grateful Dead -- Sanders stans seem to be fans not so much of progressivism as of Sanders, and they seem to be interested in other political figures only if they've been associated with Sanders (Tulsi Gabbard, Nina Turner), the way Deadheads seem not to be interested in any act other than the Dead and musicians who've played with the Dead.

In one sense, Joe Biden is in the "pragmatic moderate" lane, but he's really in the "superstar we think could be a savior of America" lane -- the lane that appeals to voters who think salvation will come if we elect a larger-than-life figure. (Sanders is in this lane for some voters, and Beto O'Rourke appeared to be in this lane for a while.)

And Biden is the only candidate in the "Obama restoration" lane. As Ive noted a few times here, last month a Democratic strategist tweeted this while watching a focus group of black female voters in South Carolina: "Now we’re on to Biden. One woman says it’s the closest we can get to a 3rd term for Obama w/o electing Michelle." Maybe the memory of what we lost when Obama and Biden left D.C. will be dispelled by the real Biden on the campaign trail -- but for now, this is a real lane, and Biden has it to himself.

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