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A Campaign About the Future

February 22, 2020
A Campaign About the Future

1. Bernie’s Show About Something

Because I’m naturally contrarian, it falls to me to make the case (again) for Bernie’s electability. But before I do that, I want to issue a number of caveats:

  • He could absolutely lose to Trump.
  • Even his best-case upside would be a narrow Electoral College victory.
  • It would be almost impossible for Democrats to capture the Senate, even if Sanders won the White House.
  • It is entirely possible that his floor is low-enough that a wipeout is possible, in which R’s flip the House.
  • It is difficult to see how he could be an effective president.
  • If he does become president. none of his signature issues are likely to be enacted because there is no political will for them.

I say that just so that we understand each other before I say this:

Bernie Sanders could absolutely beat Donald Trump.

I don’t know if Sanders would have a 1-in-9 chance or a 2-in-5 chance. But he would have a chance. Because elections are almost always about the future. And if Sanders is the nominee, he runs for the future while Trump runs against the past.

If Sanders is the nominee, Republicans will throw all of the many, many problems he has at him. And Sanders will ignore them. He is, like Trump, literally shameless. As in, not capable of feeling shame. Trump’s shamelessness stems from his narcissism. Bernie’s stems from his self-righteousness. But the end result is the same.

Trump can spend $1 billion beating on Sanders for being a filthy commie and Bernie won’t so much as flinch.

What Bernie will do—all day, every day—is say something like the following:

You’re paying too much for healthcare and I’m going to fix that. Everyone in America will get free Medicare. Everyone. No premiums. No pre-existing conditions. No co-pays. Free. For everyone. And the ultra-rich who have been making your life miserable? I’m going to hurt them and make them pay for the things you deserve.

This is a forward-looking campaign about the future which promises people free stuff.

You can say that this view is an implausible fantasy. I would tend to agree. But it’s a concrete promise for the future and countering it relies on complicated arguments about math and budgeting and costs.

And what will Trump’s campaign be about? It’ll be about Bernie.

Trump will say that you can’t trust Bernie. That he’s a pinko commie. That he’s going to mess up the glorious free market that Trump worships. (lol)

Trump will say Look at how great the economy is! How could you gamble with that just because some guy is promising you more free stuff! That’s too risky! I’m the safe bet!

As I said up top, I think Trump would be likely to prevail using these arguments. Maybe even very likely.

But on the other hand, Donald Trump making the stability argument is . . . not obviously great.

And historically, winning campaigns are forward-looking, not defensive actions about the status quo. There are exceptions: 1984, 1972, 1964, 1956. And these exceptions usually take place in reelections with strong economies—which is good for Trump. But since he’s the biggest disrupter in the history of American politics, it’s not entirely obvious to me that Trump will function like a normal incumbent. Disruption is his brand.

Maybe Trump could run a disciplined, conventional campaign against Sanders and his wild ideas. But it’s also possible that Trump could be turned into the candidate trying to litigate the past while Sanders never stops talking about the glorious future.

Without offering any value-judgments here: He’d have a chance.

2. Why Didn’t Anyone Want to Impeach Obama?

I know that this is wrong of me.

I realize that I’m just a dog chasing a stick that President Trump threw to amuse himself.

I know that literally no one will have their minds changed by this.

But last night at his rally in Colorado, Trump argued—I’m sorry, because I’m unclear on this point—that Barack Obama should now be impeached, or that Barack Obama should have been impeached.

The actual text is not entirely clear which the president of the United States meant:

While the Socialist Democrats are trying to destroy American healthcare, and trying to destroy your social security, that won’t happen with me, my administration is protecting your social security, your Medicare, and is fighting to give you great, great healthcare, already done a good job. We’re defending your right to keep the doctor, and to keep the plan of your choice. Remember, President Obama 28 times, he said, “Keep your doctor. Keep your plan. Keep your doctor. Keep your plan. Keep your doctor. Keep your plan.” Right? It was a lie. We should impeach him. We should impeach him. Impeach Obama. Get him out of office.

No, nobody thought of that. We caught him in a lie 28 times at least. He’s on record. We caught him in a lie, but nobody said let’s impeach him.

Ummm . . . nobody?

I mean, look, I wrote a whole piece about the Republican efforts to impeach Obama when he was president. And I know the president is very busy and doesn’t have a lot of time to read. But there was this thing?

It was written by a guy who was all over Fox flogging it? Who’s all over Fox all the time? Whose books Trump sometimes pushes? Did Trump just . . . not see this one particular book?

I wouldn’t care except that it’s another casual lie, an airbrushing of history. And it would be nice if at least some of the president’s defenders would say, “Oh sure. We’re with him 100 percent on everything. But this one little detail isn’t quite right.”

But you don’t ever see that, do you?

3. The BA Bank Job

Fantastic true crime from GQ:

It was 12:38 in the afternoon on January 13, 2006, when the call went out to police: a bank robbery in progress. Moments later, cops were racing through San Isidro, a leafy, affluent suburb north of Buenos Aires. When officers arrived at the scene—a tan two-story branch of Banco Río, one of Argentina’s largest financial institutions—they were pleased to discover that the thieves were still inside.

As officers established a perimeter, they watched as the bank’s lone security guard ambled out the door, carrying his gun.

The robbers had emptied the weapon and placed its bullets in the guard’s pocket before permitting him to leave. There were hostages inside, he reported, and 10 minutes later, another of them, a young, nervous man, was released. Shortly after that, a masked thief appeared at the door, clutching a woman.

When he caught a glimpse of the assembled police force, the thief let the woman go and he ran back inside the bank.

There were five thieves in the bank, costumed in various disguises, and now they were trapped, along with 23 hostages. Outside, the streets were swarming with police, who soon established radio contact with one of the robbers, who called himself Walter. The thieves knew they were surrounded, Walter said, but they weren’t yet ready to give up. And until they were, the police had better stay back. Nobody wanted to see another Ramallo.

Read the whole thing.

Jonathan V. Last

Jonathan V. Last is editor of The Bulwark.