Egads. Spare Me.

First, the whole Sanders/Castro flap. Kiss Florida goodbye, Bernie. It is simply not possible to state anything even remotely positive about Castro without pushing the hot buttons of most Cuban-Americans. That the statement was in context of criticism of Castro’s authoritarianism matters not. That the Castro regime does in fact have its positive accomplishments, amongst them the ones Sanders cited, also matters not. Logic matters not when strong emotions come into play.

Next, Bloomberg is planning to spend millions in an attempt to damage Sanders. It is simply not possible for a billionaire to say anything to the backers of a candidate whose entire marketing premise is that the “billionaire class” has too much power that would persuade them to change their minds. It doesn’t matter how many awful and self-destructive things Sanders does; nobody in his base is going to pay attention to criticism coming from a billionaire. In fact, the criticism will probably make Sanders stronger; he will be able to point to its source as evidence that he is genuinely the threat to the power of the economic elite that he claims he is. The only candidates capable of effectively criticizing Sanders as the ones who are not themselves billionaires.

Both of these points are so blindingly obvious that I was shocked when I learned what Bernie had done and what Bloomberg was planning to do. Shocked and dismayed. A weak candidate, one likely to fail in November, is leading in the polls and just about to get stronger. Just great.

How Things Change in a Few Weeks

The Nevada caucuses are over. The expected result happened. (Yes, the consensus of the opinion polls was a Sanders victory.) Yet, it’s as if the pundits didn’t expect this, given their evident shock at the outcome. Have they been asleep?

First, Sanders is not yet the nominee. It’s still early in the process.

Second, those same pundits aghast that Sanders is the presumptive nominee are acting to manifest their worst fears. The more Sanders is talked about as the inevitable nominee, the more he becomes the inevitable nominee.

Third, they are aghast at Sanders primarily because they want to be rid of Trump, and they correctly perceive that Sanders is a weak candidate. (The trouble is, the Democrats have mostly weak candidates in their field. The number of candidates is high, but they are for the most part very weak.) That, too, is a self-fulfilling prophecy: the more a Sanders general election campaign is regarded as futile, the less support it will get, and the more likely it will actually be futile.

On that final point, centrists that are upset (and rightly so) about some Bernie backers’ threats to throw a big tantrum and sabotage the general election if Bernie isn’t allowed to be the nominee need to take a look in the mirror. Because that is exactly the same tactic they themselves are practicing each time they throw tantrums of their own about Bernie getting the nomination. That’s particularly the case here, because as a weak general election candidate, Bernie will need all the help he can get to prevail.

Remember, the conventional wisdom said Trump couldn’t win the Republican primary. Then it was that Trump couldn’t win the general election. Then it was that the Democrats couldn’t gain 40 seats in 2018. I suggest to centrists that the conventional wisdom which says Bernie is too far left to win in November is far less significant than they think it is.

Finally, why was this all so sudden? Because, to reiterate, the Democrats have mostly weak candidates in their field. Even Biden, as recently as a few weeks ago the long-time front-runner, turns out to have been (as predicted) shockingly weak (he would be weak against Trump in the general, too). When Biden faltered, there was really nobody to take his place. Warren (also weak) faltered, too. That left Sanders as the clear front-runner.

The possible role of social media black propaganda cannot be disregarded in Biden’s implosion, but if Biden weren’t such a weak candidate, he wouldn’t have been so vulnerable to such tactics in the first place. I’m not quite ready to write Biden off, however. If he performs poorly in South Carolina, then it will be time to write him off.

Could Sanders falter in the primary because of his weaknesses? Certainly. His main weakness is branding, and centrists are already firing up the red-baiting machine. We shall see. Leftists upset about this inevitability need to keep in mind that a) it was inevitable, and b) if Sanders cannot effectively counter the red-baiting, he has no business being the nominee; Trump would certainly attempt to red-bait Sanders.

Such stress-testing is, after all, one of the purposes of a primary. With such a large pack of such weak candidates, the only thing that can be expected for sure are more sudden changes. Two weeks from now, most of this analysis is likely to be hopelessly dated.

Mayor Pete Needs to Shake up His Campaign Team

Or maybe just shake up his campaign strategy. I don’t know which it is: is his team accidentally not tooting his horn about things like this video, or is it deliberately doing so, as part of some strategy?

If it’s the latter, they need to rethink. Pete is clearly the smartest candidate, and perhaps he’s trying to be “crazy like a fox” by disguising his progressive side in hopes of consolidating support from centrists. The trouble is, that’s not working very well, the party is getting increasingly divided from within, and the Democrats really need an electable compromise candidate to cope with the lack of electability their most of their candidates (both centrists and progressives) have.

Maybe he has an Indiana mindset. Indiana is a pretty conservative place, and he’s managed to get elected as a Democrat there. The rub is, he’s not running to be President of Indiana. Swing states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania contain large, liberal, urban areas. If he fails to appeal to urban liberals, he’s probably toast.

On that video: the only reason I know about it is a leftist Facebook friend, who like me is skeptical about this whole bourgeois politics thing, but also realizes that the only practical, immediate-term way of getting Trump out is to get a Democrat in, shared it with me. The only reason he knows about the video is that he was personally at that demonstration.

Spare Me the Magical Thinking

One one hand we have moderate and conservative Never Trumpers rooting for Bloomberg. At least the right-wingers who enabled Trump got a right-wing president out of their deal with the devil. The enablers of the centrist Trump won’t get bupkis. (Think that women, minorities, and progressives won’t get turned off big time by Bloomberg’s history of right-wing authoritarianism, sexism, and racism? Think this won’t hurt in enough key swing states to enable a second Trump term? Think again.)

On the other we have Bernie supporters looking more and more like a Bernie cult. I actually ran across a campaign on social media to get people to pledge not to support the Democratic nominee in November unless it’s Bernie Sanders. Yes, they are accepting pledges today. When Sanders has less than 1% of the delegates needed to secure the nomination. When voters in only two of the fifty states, and small states at that, have had their say so far.

I’ll sound like a West Coast hippie who’s read books on Buddhism for saying it (wait… I literally am a West Coast hippie who’s read such books), but: Such is the ability of attachment to blind people to obvious truths.

If you’re a conservative who is disgusted by Trump, you dream of being able to vote against Trump while also voting for right-of-center politics. Bloomburg is therefore a dream for you: a way to do that, even within the confines of a two-party system which would normally preclude that. This can easily blind you to how much Bloomberg himself is like Trump, and how impractical his candidacy really is.

If you’re a leftist, Bernie represents a longtime dream of being able to install a socialist in the highest office in the land. Again, this is something that the two-party system has normally precluded. This can easily blind you how much a liability the “socialist” label is likely to be in this general election, as well as how the checks and balances inherent in the US political system would act to severely frustrate any Sanders Administration’s ability to make and implement policy.

So much for understanding the cause. I just wish there were some way to wake people up and stop the tragedy I see unfolding.

Centrist Trumpists

Well, last night’s debates are over and the punditocracy has had time to digest them. The results are both disappointing and not entirely unexpected; the general theme today from pundits of the center and right is one of wailing and lamentation that Bloomberg, and not Sanders, was the focus of most of the hostility last night.

Remember, these are the same people who claim (and rightly so) that Trump’s lack of character is part of what makes him such an existential threat to the Republic. Yet here those same pundits are, hoping for the success of a candidate whose racism, sexism, elitism, and authoritarianism are all-too-clear. They are doing so simply because said candidate is wealthy and can use his wealth to purchase the election, thereby making himself a viable vehicle for the sort of centrism they prefer. This almost precisely mirrors the rationale why so many on the right back Trump.

Bloomberg is many ways best understood as a centrist’s Trump, and that so many centrists are so willing to support a Trump of their own puts the lie to their claims of any sort of moral high ground.

They May Have Done It

I did not watch the debates tonight (conflicting engagement), but I did watch and read summaries of them. And by all measures I’ve examined, pretty much all of the non-Bloomberg candidates recognized that Bloomberg was both a weak candidate to run in November and a threat to the core values they all profess. As a result, indications are that Bloomberg was the big loser tonight.

Time will tell, but this will hopefully put an end to Bloomberg’s rise in the polls.

All of which is as it should have been. The worry-warts who obsess over the candidates not going after Trump much tonight need to take a chill pill. That was not the purpose of this debate. The time to go after Trump comes later, in the general election campaign.

Oh, Hell No

From an article in today’s Washington Post:

The King Conservation District election is offering technology to any registered voter who wishes to cast their ballot from a mobile device or a computer. Voters can log in to a portal and vote. Their selections are then recorded in a PDF file, which election officials say will be printed to create a paper trail.

Sorry, this is not how “a paper trail” works.

For there to be a paper trail, it must start with the voter him or herself, who inspects a physical document representing his or her vote and approves it as correct. That happens in traditional hand-counted paper balloting (where the official ballot is itself the paper trail). It also happens in Washington state’s current vote-by-mail system (same reason, only this time the ballot is a computer form with inked-in ovals). It can even happen in a touchscreen system where the voter is presented with a receipt (which is collected and saved by the election authority) to inspect.

It most emphatically does not happen in the clusterfuck of a system described above, where the PDF is generated on a server somewhere, with an unverifiable promise that it will be printed sometime later. If the voter him or herself does not directly create or supervise the creation of the start of the paper trail, it is not in fact a proper paper trail.

The Double Standards of Moderates

Of late, I’ve been pointing out some of Sanders’ shortcomings as a candidate, and urging my fellow leftists to open their eyes to some inconvenient truths. Time now to even out the score.

Now that Biden has done poorly in Iowa, and is doing poorly in the money department, the Biden Bros are stealing pretty much every line in the book the Bernie Bros have been reciting.

“But it’s not fair that Biden will get shit for what his son did.” Oh? And it’s fair that Sanders will get shit (rooted in memes about Cuba and the ex-USSR) for being a democratic socialist?

“Stop being so negative about our candidate, who is obviously the most electable.” Oh? And it’s just plain old “hard-edged realism” when Sanders’ flaws are talked about? But of course.

Always one set of standards for me, and another for thee.

The Pandemic is Here

It was inevitable. Humanity has long been doing just about everything possible to pave the way for such a thing: gathering into ever-larger cities, doing virtually nothing to address the inequality that condemns multitudes to lives of filth and squalor, and aggressively globalizing the economy and thus enabling disease to spread faster.

Any reassurances from the dictatorship in China should be taken with not just a grain, but a block of salt. Dictatorships lie and conceal. China’s first response to the outbreak was to hush it up, engaging in reprisals against the doctor who first reported it, who has now perished from the disease.

The disease is known to have an incubation period of up to 14 days, during which people are both infected and highly contagious and furthermore entirely symptom-free. Cases have already popped up worldwide. How many more people are running around right now infecting others and not even knowing about it? Who knows, but the number has to be significant.

If you think I’m exaggerating above, well, many M.D.’s are saying the basically the same thing.

The toothpaste is out of the tube and it’s not going to be put back in.

What is Going on with the Attacks on Biden and Warren?

The Biden attacks began circulating first.

It was understandable. Despite how the Establishment pundits have universally proclaimed him as likable and easily-electable, he’s neither. He’s a gaffe machine. He’s one of the rubes who voted for the Iraq War. He’s a clueless old fool who still entertains decades-dead notions of bipartisanship, so he’d be an ineffectual president. He’s basically the Hillary v.2.0 candidate, and we all know how well Hillary v.1.0 failed against Trump. As such, he’s a far riskier candidate than the conventional wisdom proclaims.

These are all valid reasons to be concerned about the possibility of a Biden nomination. They are all valid points to be brought up by the other primary candidates.

Then I noticed something curious: with only a few rare exceptions, the attacks were not coming from the Sanders campaign, the Warren campaign, or the campaign of any other Democratic candidate. Most of them were coming from no easily-identifiable source whatsoever. The ones that had a source attribution tended to come either from obscure sources, or from right-wing sources allied with Trump. And the attacks were often really vicious, the sort of things that would be difficult to recover from later should the attacked candidate be the eventual nominee.

Then the attacks on Warren began. Those were even stranger. Why was the No. 3 candidate, one who also had strong progressive credentials, suddenly getting so much hate in progressive circles? Wouldn’t Harris or Klobuchar have been more logical targets, given their past as tough-on-crime attorneys general? It just didn’t make sense. Why be so divisive against someone ideologically close to you, someone whose people you will probably have to kiss and make up with later on? And again, the attacks weren’t coming from any of the other campaigns. They were coming from the same sketchy sources as the anti-Biden attacks.

Well, consider Exhibits A and B.

Exhibit A. Polls over time.

Exhibit B. Party loyalty.

Put those together and what does it mean? First, like it or not, Biden is probably going to be the Democratic nominee, for the simple reason that he’s consistently been the leading candidate. Second, every nominee needs a running mate. Third, nominees frequently choose their running mates to broaden their appeal. Fourth, of the votes he has a chance of attracting, Biden’s biggest appeal problems are on the left (he already appeals to moderates and to disaffected Republicans, and he doesn’t have a ghost of a chance of appealing to hardcore Trumpers).

So, if he is smart, Biden is likely to choose a running mate that will help him appeal to left-leaning voters. Who is he most likely to choose?

First of all, not Sanders. Sorry, Bernie Bros. Sanders isn’t even really a Democrat. That is, of course, one of the things that makes him appealing to those of us on the left, but get real: party loyalty is a thing, and Biden will use it as a reason to punish Sanders. It’s harsh, but it’s the truth.

That leaves Warren as the most obvious choice. Unlike Sanders, Warren did run as a Democrat for her political career, so she has the party loyalty checkbox ticked. Plus, she will be a help from the identity politics standpoint, carrying appeal as only the third female vice-presidential candidate in US history. Another box ticked.

Well, look at that. Those mysterious attacks, mostly coming from identifiably pro-Trump sources, or coming from no identifiable source at all, are being targeted precisely at both the most likely candidates and the Democratic voters most likely to sit the election out as a result of those most likely candidates getting the nomination. How convenient. Convenient for Trump, that is.

And remember, the Trump campaign is well-known for its social media savvy.

It’s all enough to make one go “Hmmmm.”

Remember, whatever their warts, having Biden and Warren in the White House is vastly preferable to having Trump and Pence there for four more years. If you can’t realize that, you’re not my ally. You’re a fool and a rube, and approximately as much a danger to the continued existence of an open and free society as the gang in the red hats.