Sunday, December 15, 2019


Roger Cohen's latest column is not as bad as its headline:
Boris Johnson and the Coming Trump Victory in 2020
The headline is clickbait. Cohen doesn't appear to believe a Trump win is foreordained -- he writes, "I still think Trump can be beaten" -- though he doesn't believe a Democrat can win "from way out left." Of course, no one in the Democratic presidential field is as "way out left" as Jeremy Corbyn, and even Cohen acknowledges that.

So Democrats are still in it, right, Roger?

He's gloomy. He writes:
The clear rejection of Labour’s big-government socialism ... looks ominous for Democrats who believe the party can lurch left and win. The British working class did not buy nationalized railways, electricity distribution and water utilities when they could stick it to some faceless bureaucrat in Brussels and — in that phrase as immortal as it is meaningless — take back their country.

It’s a whole new world. To win, liberals have to touch people’s emotions rather than give earnest lessons. They have to cease being arid. They have to refresh and connect. It’s not easy.
The juxtaposition of these two paragraphs is odd. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders may be many things, but they're not arid. In their separate ways, they devote most of their stump speeches to "touch[ing] people's emotions." Warren may include too much wonkery for some people's tastes and both of them may be further left than Rust Belt swing voters, but arid is not a word you'd use to describe them.

You know who really is arid? The Great Moderate Hope, Pete Buttigieg. Apart from Buttigieg's inability to connect with non-white voters, I worry that if he wins the nomination he'll come off to general-election voters as the new Mike Dukakis, someone whose soul seems to be a spreadsheet.

And just behind Buttigieg on the aridity scale is Mike Bloomberg, the favorite Democrat of a Florida retiree named Chuck Hardwick who was the subject of two recent Roger Cohen columns. Cohen regards Hardwick as the emblematic swing voter, even though Hardwick is a lifelong Republican, a former GOP state assembly speaker in New Jersey, and a former Rudy Giuliani appointee in New York City. This mouthpiece for Cohen presumably doesn't regard Bloomberg as arid because Bloomberg doesn't consider economic inequality a significant problem. Only progressive wonks are off-putting, you see.

In Cohen's current column, the most unambiguous expression of the Democrats-are-doomed message comes from Steve Bannon:
“Brexit and Trump were inextricably linked in 2016, and they are inextricably linked today,” Steve Bannon told me. “Johnson foreshadows a big Trump win. Working-class people are tired of their ‘betters’ in New York, London, Brussels telling them how to live and what to do. Corbyn the socialist program, not Corbyn the man, got crushed. If Democrats don’t take the lesson, Trump is headed for a Reagan-like ’84 victory.”
Pro tip to a journalists and pundits: Stop quoting this clown, who's done himself out of a cushy right-wing media job and an even cushier West Wing job in the past couple of years, and who now roams the world trying to create a Deplorable International, as if Vladimir Putin needs any help. (In a separate Times story today, Mark Landler also quotes Bannon saying many of the same things.)

There's an air of desperation and flop sweat in Bannon insistence that "Corbyn the socialist program, not Corbyn the man, got crushed." Translation: Dammit, don't look at Corbyn's poll numbers.

The Real Clear Politics averages show both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren beating Trump handily, Warren by 7.2 points, Sanders by 8.4. Were there ever comparable numbers for Corbyn during this campaign?

Journalists turn to Bannon because they think he "knows history" -- but recent history tells us that no presidential candidate nowadays can win anything close to the 49-state, 59%-41% Reagan landslide of 1984. Opinions of the parties are too entrenched, state by state, and evolve very slowly.

In 2016, there were six states -- California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, and Vermont -- where Hillary Clinton won by more than 20 points. She also won by double digits in Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington State. Is Bannon seriously arguing that the Democrats could nominate a candidate so unpopular that he or she would lose all but one of these states to Trump, a man who's never topped 46% job approval in a Gallup poll?

Trump can certainly win, but he won't crush any Democrat the way Boris Johnson crushed Jeremy Corbyn. Roger Cohen should know better than to take such predictions seriously.

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