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I keep coming back to this: Pete Buttigieg is a broadly acceptable (indeed surging!) Democratic presidential candidate, and Cory Booker is not. I’ll be frank: Booker has never been in my top three for the nomination, but neither has Peter, and I truly struggle to find any other explanation as for why one has broken out and the other hasn’t other than that Buttigieg is a white guy. Both men have virtually identical elite education credentials. Both are good communicators who go in heavily on positivity. Booker is “not too far left” in terms of his positioning in the field. Both are fresh faces. There is the question of sexuality, but Buttigieg’s gayness doesn’t strike me as necessarily a decisive component in a year in which there has seemed to be little appetite for historic firsts generally. For some it may be a little bit of easy virtue signalling, but in general it’s not as central to his pitch as, say, Hillary Clinton’s historic would-be first was to hers. So aside from being white, I’m not sure what Buttigieg has that Booker doesn’t, while on the other hand, Booker has a voting record, issues upon which he is a leader, and he’s run for elections where he’s won more than 10k votes. (And also, Booker’s associations with finance, while troubling, are surely less intimate than Buttigieg’s staffing arrangement with Mark Zuckerberg and his work for McKinsey, which are both surely in the running for the most amoral institution of capitalism there is.) These all seem like much more pertinent indicators of success as president than a guy whose only qualification is being good at talking and running a small-to-mid-sized city to no particular distinction, but to some people, clearly, being a white guy is the ultimate predictor of success, much more important than actually having done the work and built up the qualifications. One wonders just how many Peter supporters still rage at the immaculately qualified Hillary Clinton losing to the wholly unqualified Donald Trump, and how they manage to square this with their current allegiance to the South Bend Wunderkind. Maybe the media can try to find some of those people and talk to them, instead of busying itself with finding Trump supporters in diners. We might actually learn something from that!

Man, I hope that the next Democratic debate is lily-white, and that the first question the moderators ask is why that is, and that that question is lobbed in the direction of Mayor Pete. See how good a talker he is then!

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I’m sure I’m not the first to point this out, but this messaging is incoherent. Sure, maybe Pelosi is being “forced” to pass something by the moderates who want to show that they can work with Trump, but Pelosi has had 15 years to shape the caucus and the number of people who have been members of the House longer than that is…not very many. Just think of how many wave elections there have been since 2005. This is the house she built, to quite a large degree, and if she didn’t want it full of shitty centrists working off of dubious, outdated assumptions of the electorate, then it wouldn’t be. That it’s a trade deal may be incidental to the whole thing–gotta show that we can work with fascists, just find something, it’s an inspiring example!–but the notion that passing a Trump trade deal is going to be a positive for anybody is…strange.

It is quite amazing that McConnellism was a complete and total success for the Republicans that had absolutely zero downsides whatsoever for them–the whole “not having any policy agenda except yell and give to the rich” is more due to more money in politics and the right-wing media than to McConnell’s specific strategy–but so many Democrats still haven’t accepted the implications of this. The newer grassroots groups do, but the leadership and the party’s right doesn’t. They don’t have to do this! It was pretty easy for blue district Republicans to invent pretexts to vote no on every single Obama bill while still insisting that there was some hypothetical other bill that they might be willing to vote for. Virtually none lost doing this! So do that. Don’t give Trump a bipartisan win to tout as he runs for re-election, thereby legitimizing him.

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I totally understood why Bernie Sanders ran in 2016: since he had little chance of winning he couldn’t really lose, the field outside of Clinton was comically weak (yeah, I said it, fuck you Lincoln Chafee!) so he could get a lot of attention and talk about his issues, raise his profile, maybe shift the conversation in the party to the left a bit. In all this he was successful! Plus since he wasn’t going to win, he didn’t have to do the whole endorsement dance or kiss the asses of all the kingmakers of the party, who very much did not care for this lack of attention (recall in 2016 he managed all of eight endorsements from sitting members of Congress, all junior members at that). He didn’t have a strategy to win because he didn’t seem to care about winning, at least for most of it.

I honestly don’t understand why he did it this time. There was a perfectly good successor in the wings in Warren, obviously, but setting that aside: why? The dynamic of losing gracefully isn’t there anymore, in a big field with a soft frontrunner you play to win, but is he actually running his campaign differently from the “lose gracefully” 2016 one? Hoping that the people rise up and make you win is no strategy, it’s just relying on events over which you have no control. Obviously there was that heart attack, and while the people who heard about it evidently forgot it happened, Bernie himself knows it happened. It’s bizarre that he thinks an outside shot at the presidency is worth killing himself over. But even apart from that, why does Bernie think he’d actually enjoy the presidency? If he hated kissing the asses of Dem kingmakers before, is he really going to enjoy cracking beers with Joe Manchin every week? Is he really prepared to lead the party that he’s always kept at least formal distance from, and deal with nonstop bullshit from people he doesn’t like or respect? Is the guy who let Manchin become the ranking Dem member on the Senate Energy Committee because he wanted to run a different one really going to be interested in a job where most of the action consists of issues that are outside his wheelhouse? Is a purist prepared to fight for the inevitable compromises that come with governance? I get that he has a chance to be the nominee, I get that he has an ego, but “crusading senator” is pretty much the perfect job for him. Why fuck that up?

The inescapable conclusion (and this is also true of Biden and Buttigieg, though for slightly different reasons) is that the only way it makes sense is if the man thinks he’ll get in and things will loosen up and it’ll be easy. For Biden and Peter, it’s that Republicans will be embarrassed from Trump and will return to the center, suddenly it’ll be like it was during that golden era when Biden was in his prime and Peter wasn’t born yet, etc. For Bernie it’s that all the discouraged left-wing voters will be activated by him and they’ll swamp everyone else in the great revolution. Oh, you white guys. So delusional, and yet, so rapidly increasing in odds of winning the nomination. Getting real excited about 2021!

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At least she got out before becoming a total punchline forever a la Jeb! Bush. I respect that.

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Ralph Northam

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The former we knew, but as for the latter…fourth out of four. Ouch.

Look, the other candidates are treating Buttigieg as a fad, which may well be true. I hope so. But I worry. It remains the case that his pitch to be the nominee is absurd: no track record, no pertinent experience, no real accomplishments to tout. It does say something that these obvious deficiencies are made up for among old white Democrats with the smooth communication abilities and that ultra-braininess for which some Democrats have a persistent weak spot (think Adlai Stevenson, Gary Hart, etc.), but his actual proposals make it pretty evident that he doesn’t understand the political moment or what general election voters are going to respond to. His Supreme Court plan is “brilliant” in the sense that it’s complicated and hard to explain, but those qualities aren’t brilliant at all, the plan actually shows an overconfident overachiever who is way out of his depth, treating politics as a fun puzzle or thought exercise instead of as a deadly serious conflict over power and resources. Plus there’s that whole thing of a campaign whose ideas and especially its emphases are bought and paid for by donors to a degree unusual even within our corrupt system. That’s some Romney-grade plasticity there.

I can’t help but see Peter as little more than a would-be American Macron in waiting, someone blind to the failings of the elite due to his proximity to them, and someone whose case is fundamentally rhetorical and stylistic (and neoliberal). There’s no change agenda there. He still thinks the system works because, after all, it created him!

I give it six months before the riots begin.

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I remember way back during the George W. Bush years, the issue of torture was very much a thing, and the media spent a lot of time on the matter either coming up with euphemisms for it (I actually think the government came up with “enhanced interrogation techniques”) or coming up with rhetorical devices under which it was difficult to argue with using it (the ticking time bomb scenario, i.e. the 24 scenario), even though these didn’t reflect reality at all. There wasn’t much discussion about its effectiveness because that’s not what the media does at this point in time, even though that’s what it should do at all times. But even if it had done that, I’m not sure what it would have accomplished. Torture wasn’t ever really about extracting information, it was about punishing “bad” people. Of course, given how shambolic intelligence was generally, a lot of those people were wholly innocent, but they were still bad because they were Muslims and they thus a billion people shared collective responsibility for 9/11, an act of a few dozen individuals. Had the media done its job, it wouldn’t have “solved” the torture issue because it wasn’t about the facts. But it would have made it difficult to dispute that the conservative movement is to a large degree animated by harming people just because they happened to be born in the wrong place and the wrong time (in the conservatives’ point of view, anyway), and that’s not something that even the squishiest reactionary centrist can easily tolerate.

Something to keep in mind when Trump’s new war criminal buddies hit the campaign trail with him next year. Whatever else you can say about him, the man knows his base, and I strongly doubt that these folks will be booed off the stage even in military-heavy areas (particularly in military-heavy areas?). But I predict that this particular story will vanish within a few days and will never be heard from again. In some sense it will be old news, but it’s also news too uncomfortable to contemplate for our elites. It’s not exactly news that the conservative movement would favor going easy on “heroes” who commit war crimes, as anybody familiar with the My Lai massacre knows. But that was 52 years ago, back when things were supposed to have been different, or something.

I’m not sure what else to say about this. One political party thinks war criminals are cool and one doesn’t. BipartisanUnity!

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Mark Penn is now involved,?so that’s that. I guess he must be a good flatterer because I seriously don’t know what his pitch would have been: his big accomplishment was in helping Bill Clinton get re-elected amidst a booming economy, and then he lost an election that was only able to be lost because the main strategist was a complete incompetent who didn’t even know the most basic rules of how delegates were awarded. Even for a guy who likes to surround himself with washed-up scumbag incompetents like Rudy 9/11, it seems like a real stretch.?Or maybe it’s just about fucking with the Clintons to Trump.

Anyway, with Penn on board, I look forward to Trump’s imminent removal from office, due to Penn believing there are 120 senators or something.

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