As a culture-war weary nation ambles from the muddle of Iowa to the expectancy that is New Hampshire, and the hours for redemption grow short, the penultimate question obtains: will remedial math coupled with common sense save the Nation?
It is not this scribe’s intention to sound dire. Despite my entry into week-3 of an oral surgery ordeal I wouldn’t even wish on Donald Trump, Jr., I can normally be relied upon to offer reasonable, if not curmudgeonly optimism in the face of serious challenges. Indeed, this is what litigation attorneys do; laughing in the face of sharknadoes is part of the job.
That said, I fear the gamey game is being stewed even as we speak for a pot of mishaps, misfortunes, misinformation and malignments that will serve up one Donald J. Trump as a two-term, three-term, or even lifetime POTUS come the Fall. To wit, in one week: Trump was legally and personally vindicated; Trump’s poll numbers bounced noticeably upward to record heights; Trump began a cruel revenge tour; the GOP remained a willing Trump hostage but for the Mormon millionaire; the DNC remained a less willing hostage to one Bernard Sanders, and the donkey party proved that at this stage, they would have trouble ordering a pizza online, let alone winning a national election and running the Republic.
Say what you may about how very horrible Trump is, how amoral, dimwitted, vindictive, oafish and out-of-his-depth this excuse for a human may be, he is what America likes to call a winner. And when I say America, Gallup, the gold-standard of polling for all of my 57-years on this earth, has Trump at a career-best 49% approval rating. Worse yet, this stellar performance comes after countless and deeply scandalous episodes with tags like Charlottesville, Cohen, Comey, Khashoggi, Kids-in-cages, Manafort, Mueller, Mulvaney, Puerto Rico, QAnon, Soleimani, Sondland, Stone, Stormy, Turnberry, Ukraine and Zinke.
Each and all of the above Trumpian debacles have been entirely self-created; no Benghazi manufacturing necessary, thank you, but simply the kind of slop Trump loves to live and wallow in. And were this any other POTUS, or private person, just one of these multiple transgressions would likely be enough to sink a career and cause any man or woman of conscience to contemplate suicide as a humanitarian gesture. I mean, the man was decisively impeached by the House of Representatives of the United States just seven weeks ago, and now he’s Angry Rambo-Jesus with even more Twitter Power.
Please Do Some Math
So where does that leave the American Experiment on the eve of New Hampshire’s primary? Confining ourselves to just the Granite State, the latest WBZ-Boston Globe-Suffolk University tracking poll shows 24 percent of the state’s likely Democratic primary voters favor Sen. Bernie Sanders, 22 percent support South Bend, IN Mayor Pete Buttigieg, 13 percent are for Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and the ever-hapless Former Vice President Joe Biden trails the top tier at 10. Already lowering their candidacies’ expectations, we can expect Warren and Biden to muddle along where they are, and like Iowa, Pete and Bernie will be in some combo of one and two. Hearkening back to the operative question, then, is there Presidential timber in those woods?
According to the freshest, credible national polls this scribe could find, February 3rd head-to-head national offerings from Morning Consult show Former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg leading the field against Trump, 47-40. Rounding out this field are: Biden -or- Sanders v. Trump, 46-42; Warren v. Trump, 43-42; Buttigieg v. Trump, 42-41.
The NBC/Wall St. Journal poll from February 2 tells a slightly different tale: Biden 50, Trump 44; Sanders 49, Trump 45; Warren 48, Trump 45; Buttigieg 46, Trump 45. Does this give anyone comfort, either cold or hot? If so, that is lost on me, as the story gets even bleaker in some battleground states.
In our own Winter Wonderland of Michigan, well prior to Trump’s new Gallup number, last December 9 found him ahead against all comers in the Firehouse Strategies/Optimus polls by as much as +5 against Biden and +11 against Buttigieg. Just a month later but notably before Trump’s “acquittal,” EPIC/MRA polls ending January 9 had Trump down by -6 against Biden and -7 against Bloomberg.
As to two more Midwestern battlegrounds, Pennsylvania polling by Firehouse/Optimius, admittedly over a month old, found Trump besting all comers, by as little as +4 against Biden and +11 against Sanders. In the Badger State of Wisconsin, Marquette Law School as of January 15 had Trump up against Buttigieg and Warren, and down -4 and -1 to Biden and Sanders, respectively.
Lastly as to polling torment, I give you newly blue Virginia of the near South. Mason-Dixon Polling & Research done just before Christmas has Trump besting everyone but Biden and Sanders, by +4 and +1 respectively. In the “Birthplace of the Nation,” therefore, we may eventually hold a wake, notwithstanding complete Democratic control of state government.
What Does it All Mean?
While I cannot and will not claim to present some type of scientific order based upon all the forgoing data points, if you’re still paying attention, what should grab you? Where are the clusters, or cluster-f*cks, if I may be blunt? With the exception of the primary horse-race, which has people in the teens and twenties, all the head-to-head polls cited above have Trump, whom we can all agree to call the scourge of mankind, hovering around the mid-to-high 40’s. Does that feel pretty good? Is that giving you warm-fuzzies? If it does, you need another hobby, because you clearly don’t understand just how dire this situation is, nor how NO ONE currently in the Democratic field is anything close to a favorite come November, and that’s doubly so for Bernie Sanders.
Now, after laying out all those data points with painstaking detail, why would I have the temerity to go after Bernie Sanders and his tensile strength against Trump? Because I believe he doesn’t have sufficient durability and a path to 270, period. Stay with me and bear in mind three things: the individual polls cited pre-date the post-impeachment boomlet Trump is enjoying at the moment; Trump hasn’t begun to get Medieval on Bernie’s 78-year-old-ass; despite wishful thinking, contrarian punditry and millions of neophyte political participants, American elections, like Americans, occupy the center. C’est la vie, kids.
Touching up on these in reverse order, in a recent issue of Mother Jones, Kevin Drum opined “The liberal share of the population has steadily increased over the past few decades, but it still tops out at 26 percent. That means Democrats need about two-thirds of independents to create a majority. And that means appealing to the center—or in some places to the center-right. It’s the only way to get to 51 percent.” Drum’s analysis, based on Gallup research, isn’t a hypothetical, but a vetted number and part of a larger model.
Conversely, Drum pointed out that the GOP hard-core starts at 35 percent, and that just by grabbing those remaining moderates and conservatives among independents, voila, the GOP can sit at 51 percent with ease, even with a nut-bag freedom caucus and a criminal President embarrassing all of us every day. Putting a fine point on it, Drum concluded “the fact remains that America has historically progressed in tiny spurts: a few years during the New Deal; a few years in the mid-60s; a few months (literally) after Obama was elected president. There are modest wins and modest losses the rest of the time, but that’s all. The American public just can’t handle very much liberal progress at a single time, and if you don’t like that, you need to figure out how to sell liberalism.”
This conclusion has been reached dozens of times, most recently by Ezra Klein of the New York Times, and Pew Research, which in its own take found that within the subset of Democratic-leaning voters, “Liberals outnumber moderates (38%) and conservatives (14%) as a share of Democratic voters. Yet combined, conservatives and moderates continue to make up about half of Democratic voters (51%).”
Some have gone so far as to describe the Democratic Party as three parties or more in one, requiring consensus among groups as disparate as culturally conservative, devout African American Christians in the Southeast, Atheist, LGBTQ-friendly tech folk in in the Bay Area and lunch-bucket hardhats in the Midwest. What is certain is that those statehouse and Congressional gains which so propelled “The Squad” into questionably valuable prominence in 2018 were actually fueled by center-left candidates, many with moderate to even conservative and military bona fides.
The Bataan Death March in Milwaukee
Moving to the analysis of dynamic campaigning, ie “the other guy gets to move too,” I’m reminded of what Mike Tyson once said about his chosen profession of beating other men senseless for money: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
To borrow a phrase from sleepy Joe, the fact of the matter is, the K-GOP as I’ve taken to calling them, is salivating over a Sanders nomination. It would define and sharpen Trump’s messages, and those of his down-ballot minions, to a razor point, whip troglodyte turnout into massive numbers, and make the election a referendum on being a real American like the POTUS or a criminal like Bernie Sanders, who wants to come get all your stuff and steal your 401k.
For an easy, breezy inventory of the cartoonish themes which would occupy the airwaves, funded by hundreds of millions in dark money, anti-Sanders commercials likely being pitched and cut as we speak write themselves. Just spit-balling themes here, let’s try: socialism; communism; anti-religion; shiftlessness; open borders; food stamps, medicaid, medical marijuana, penis and breast implants for illegal immigrants; prison abolition; mortgage, student loan and consumer debt “forgiveness”; free four-year college (’cause most skilled and unskilled laborers are stupid and hate their jobs); isolationism; repealing capitalism; outlawing private insurance; outlawing fossil fuels; outlawing any non-green industry; “job-sharing”; and Bernie’s corrupt, college-killing wife (The Burlington College–Jane Sanders FBI investigation).
This copy writes itself; by the time they’re done rending Sanders like a chicken from Milwaukee to November 3rd, he’ll be lucky to carry the usual suspect blues and his home state. It could make McGovern look competitive. Respectfully, whatever the outcome in New Hampshire, if you don’t ultimately get elected, you don’t get dick. If, by some bloody celestial miracle, Sanders were elected, he’d also need a cloture proof-majority in the Senate to reshape 231 years of American legal and societal functioning. As his coattails end and the bottom of his rumply coat (he’s still not a Democrat, BTW) this would never happen. I do understand “anger” and the false-choice fallacy regarding the “status-quo” which fuels the Sanders candidacy. It is in fact highly familiar because it is not unlike the hi-test grievance gas that fueled Trump to the White House three years ago.
Where Do We Go From Here?
The very design of this country is a blueprint for positive incrementalism and, wherever possible, moments of necessarily profound change. If you want to burn it all down, you’ll need a revolution; not Bernie’s metaphorical one, but a deadly nihilistic upheaval which will have a body count in the tens of millions and set this country back to 1861 or worse. The time for thoughtful choosing is here.
Honestly, on the eve of the primary where they say “Live Free or Die,” I do not see a durable, serviceable , viable candidate at the moment, and doubly so when it comes to Sanders. The beloved Biden seems staggered and stooped, Buttigieg has shown no draw in the South, Warren is waning and eyes are turning by default to another New York billionaire, only this time, one who verifiably has at least ten-figures in wealth.
Reportedly last year, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California was mulling a run, and elected to sit out until 2024. Sadly, at this juncture there is no longer that guarantee, Constitutionally or otherwise, that someone outside of Clan Trump will ever occupy the White House again. Even more sadly, after all we’ve witnessed in the last 36 months, I do not say this in jest.