7 November 2019
On Your Marks
by J.R. Thomas
The Brits have no idea about elections. Five weeks from starting-whistle to loss or triumph; what kind of excitement, what sort of a spectacle is that? In the US the race has been going for six months and more, and now is starting to get serious. After all, there is just one year to go. On the GOP side, the Republican Party – or at least its representatives in Washington, and some of its Governors – are starting to get a little nervous about whether Donald can actually win a second term. Donald isn’t, or, if he is, he certainly does not show it, but some of his more thoughtful party colleagues can increasingly see storm clouds on the horizon.
On the other side of the room, the Democrat caucus is looking increasingly like the one so memorably described in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Everybody is running, ever faster, but as they are mostly going in circles, they are getting nowhere. That is not quite true; Mr Biden is slowing as the past antics of his son in faraway lands become increasingly distracting; Mr Sanders has been told to slow down by his doctors; but Ms Warren is speeding up and is now out in front. Though in a circular caucus, that does not really count for a lot.
But careful, folks. Peaking too early can lead to big trouble. The front runner is everybody’s target; he or she gets extra scrutiny from the media; and a slip can start to look like a slide. Joe Biden had a lot going for him; his age was a drawback but America seems to quite like the idea of old politicians (at the very least, you can be sure they will leave office before too long), and he seemed the people’s choice as soon as he chucked his hat in the ring. But there are quite a lot of Democrats who perhaps aren’t too keen on the people – or at least those that might back Joe – if they are the same people who voted for Donald last time. Hillary C had words for them: “a basket of deplorables”. Her political descendants won’t say that of course, but you might have a tiny weeny inkling of a suspicion that some of them think it. In the modern Democratic Party, white post-industrial blue-collar anti-immigration types are not popular. Modern Democrat politico’s try to build other supporter coalitions. Bernie Sanders in spite of his advanced years managed to attract the votes of the young radicals, students and modern hipsters of leftist leanings. That basket maybe is having doubts and slipping away from Bernie. Last week he told a black questioner that he should respect the police and be polite to them, if pulled over. I mean, Bernie, c’mon, how out of touch can you get? And has he told the truth about that heart event three weeks ago? Bern, your halo is slipping. It’s beginning to look like always the best-man and never the groom for Mr Saunders.
Which brings us to the current number one, the frontrunner herself, Senator Elizabeth Warren. Senator Professor Ms Warren is no spring chicken, at 70, but she is certainly younger than her two main rivals, and younger than the President. She is fighting a good campaign, looking considered and calm and not rising to provocation by others – yes, we do mean you, Donald – although the President’s focus has been mainly on Mr Biden so far, who he doubtless saw as the main rival for the voter base he stole from the Democrats in 2016. But Ms Warren has also toned it down a bit – she sounded somewhat to the left of Bernie when she started her campaign, but she has applied thoughtful moderation to some of her ideas (easing her views on tax for instance) and has become more business friendly. She has become a sort of polished version of Hillary Clinton – without the dubious past, but also without the rockstarrish husband. The bright young hope from the west, who many saw as her most serious challenger, Kamala Harris, has slipped away big time, and in polls in the eastern states is now the lowest polling of all the remaining candidates. (In California, her home state, she is doing better, but still not very well.)
But, we warn again. Being front runner at this point is often not a good thing. So assuming Joe continues to fade, and Bernie continues as ring bearer but not ring wearer, and Ms Warren continues to impress, who else might come though? The current tip seems to be Andrew Yang. Mr Yang, of Chinese descent, is certainly an alternative. He is 44, a positive baby in this race, a lawyer (aren’t they all), and a complete outsider, unheard of a year ago. Remarkably, he has never held any significant political office and is a successful businessman. There any resemblance to the current White House incumbent ends. He is full of novel and original ideas, very focussed on technology and new approaches to old problems. He would like to see what he has entitled “a universal dividend” for all citizens (a sort of tax credit scheme); “Medicare for All”; legalisation of cannabis use; introduction of VAT to curtail tax avoidance by large corporations; the ideas never stop coming. He is a good speaker and debater, has been praised by Barrack Obama, and his campaign is attracting serious interest. One problem might be that he is a very metropolitan candidate, another that his ideas, as so often with radical new thoughts, may be very easy to pick holes in. But he is certainly young, exciting, and different. His mission will be to attract the young persons vote away from Mr Sanders. He might just do that. Or, whisper it, make a good vice presidential running mate to Bernie.
One other candidate to put on your current list. We have mentioned him before and he is currently number four in those eastern polls (they are especially relevant because they are the early primary locations and poor results there can knock out candidates who looked promising). Pete Buttigieg also has never held political office of any significance. OK, he is currently Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, but, sorry, South Bend, that is not politically significant. He is 37, a former serving naval reservist – that does no harm with the voters – whose views are Democrat mainstream, although in a touch of Joe Biden, he is nervous about automation and its effects on jobs, especially for the low paid. He supports democratic capitalism, which sounds a good line. He is a good speaker, and full of energy. Not to knock the guy, he has nothing truly exciting or original going for him, but maybe that is what his supporters like about him. It has certainly done him no harm so far. Whilst we are making up dream tickets, he might be a good vice presidential candidate for Ms Warren. (We don’t charge for these helpful thoughts.)
That does not leave much space to consider Mr Trump. No cheering at the back please. The issue for him is impeachment proceedings in the murky issues surrounding Mr Biden Junior. The House may vote for that but conventional wisdom says that it will never get through the Senate unless a political rival (or, let’s be polite, lover of justice) manages to turn enough Republican colleagues. These are deep waters, Watson (Sherlock’s mate, not our editor). We will come and fish in them again in a couple of weeks.