Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Joe Biden's Ally



To turn John Lennon's lyrics on their head, "he was a candidate in a million, my friend. She should have known he would not win in the end."

In a brilliant article, Shant Mesrobian reminds us

The problem with this strategy was never clearer than when Ocasio-Cortez, who by all accounts was Sanders’s most famous and influential surrogate, split with his campaign for trumpeting an endorsement it received from the mega-popular podcaster Joe Rogan. In any normal circumstances, that sort of mainstream, pop culture endorsement would be considered nothing short of heaven-sent for a political campaign. With one of the most influential media platforms in the country and a devoted following whose size rivals that of cable news networks, the impact of a Rogan endorsement is difficult to overstate.

But within the rarefied confines of the intersectional Left, Rogan had long been designated as a “problematic” figure for hosting guests whose views on social and cultural issues have at one time or another run afoul of woke pieties. Faced with choosing between the first genuinely left-wing contender for the White House in generations—someone who had devoted his life to economic and social justice—and her status and celebrity among social justice activists, Ocasio-Cortez chose the latter. As a disciplinary action for the Rogan endorsement, Ocasio-Cortez pulled back from her surrogate role, declining to stump for Sanders or appear at any more events during the crucial early-state period of campaigning.

According to a Quinnipiac poll released on October 14, 2019, 30% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents supported Elizabeth Warren, 27% backed Joe Biden, and 11% were behind Bernie Sanders.  Sanders' support rose steadily after his campaign revealed on October 9 that he had a heart attack and Ocasio-Cortez endorsed him fifteen days later- two days after CNN declared Warren the front-runner. By late November Biden reportedly had slipped to 28% and Warren to 14%, with Sanders up to17%, also among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. 



A few months later, Sanders and Buttigieg were reported to have roughly tied in Iowa but the Vermont senator emerged the victor in both New Hampshire and Nevada. He was likely to lose a primary three days later, probably narrowly, when Representative Jim Clyburn endorsed Biden and the former vice-president won overwhelmingly in South Carolina.

Recognizing that the race was very likely down to two candidates- Biden and Sanders- the Democratic Party establishment coalesced around the one remaining candidate not hostile to that establishment. Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar dropped out and endorsed Biden after former President Obama pushed one or both to recognize that their candidacy (like that of Warren) was all but over.

On Super Tuesday, Biden bulldozed Sanders. Warren soon dropped out, and it was Sanders vs. Biden, and it was no contest on Super Tuesday for Democratic primary voters, who decided that a vote for a candidate officially an Independent was a bridge too far.

As Ocasio-Cortez realized, Senator Sanders- with a large base and avid following- had an excellent shot with several candidates in the race.  She probably understood further that the Senator's chances would go down dramatically if he faced off with another candidate one-on-one. What she- presumably- did not expect was that the race would narrow down, relatively early, to two candidates. (Neither did I.)

That was the political death knell of Bernie Sanders.

It also was the death knell, short-term, of progressives in the Party. Ocasio-Cortez had faced the choice of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and chose unwisely. She chose the candidate who unfortunately had earned the enmity of a sizeable portion of mainstream and institutional Democrats and thus could not carry the day when voters were left with the choice between him and an uninspiring, acceptable Democrat such as Joe Biden.

Her endorsement of Sanders had galvanized the latter's support and was critical in lifting him to victory in at least two, probably three, of the first three states. And then, according to Mesrobian, Ocasio-Cortez deserted him.

It's unlikely the congresswoman would have done that to Warren, had she endorsed her, because Warren simply would not have gotten the endorsement of Rogan. Warren clearly did not have the depth of support among primary voters as did Sanders. However, the breadth of her support was much greater and would have presented a far greater threat to the moderate Biden.

At first glance, Ocasio-Cortez is a loser for having backed the wrong progressive horse. However, her calculation may have included another factor- that if Elizabeth Warren had been nominated and elected, the congresswoman would not have been nearly the most powerful woman in the Democratic Party. Similar to the woman in the Lennon composition, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (her principles pushed aside) may prove to be a winner in the end.

 


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