Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Dormant Bench

The frequently controversial, but never quiet or unassuming, Stephen A. Smith is to ESPN beyond what Tucker Carlson was at Fox News or Rachel Maddow is at MSNBC. He is the personality at the sports network.

Smith voted for Joe Biden against Donald Trump in 2020 but recently cut a video slamming the likelihood of a rematch between the two gentlemen.  As a follow-up, he can be seen on the video below remarking (beginning at 3:42) in his classic style

I didn't sit up; there and say vote Republican or conservative. I simply said "excuse me, we got a whole bunch of younger, brilliant minds both on the male and female side. Gender is not relevant here- who are capable of doing the job."

Gender should not be relevant, but it is. When Kamala Harris (whom Smith clearly is unimpressed by) was presented for approval by delegates to the Democratic National Convention by Joe Biden to be his running mate, she was lauded as making history because she'd be the first female vice-president (also the first black and Asian-American V.P., but stay with me). Smith continued

If you're the Democrats, that's the best that you can do? You got everybody salivating and clamoring to support a dude that's going to be 82 years old? That's the best you can do? Don't be mad at me, be mad at you- for not making sure you had a slew of viable candidates where you wouldn't have to depend on this man and run him into the ground.

"Run him into the ground." One never accuses, and can never accuse, Steven A., as he often is referred to (see paragraph 1), of mincing words. But he is correct that the Party as of this date has no other viable candidate (apologies- no, not really- to Gavin Newsom),  for whatever reason. Mr. Smith doesn't, and won't say why, and that's understandable, given that no political pundit will explain it, either.

Stating a critical truth, Smith comments

It's your fault- it ain't mine. Discover, cultivate, and position somebody younger- dare I say sharper- to be in a position where you can ingratiate them with the American people so you can win an election, potentially against a 78-year-old.

Ironically, the probability of facing off against another old guy is the incumbent's ace-in-the-hole in holding off challengers. There is considerable concern that Joe Biden would have difficulty countering the argument- largely implied- of any GOP nominee other than Trump; that it's time for a new, younger generation of leadership. Biden beat Trump once already, and the sense is that he has what it takes to beat that particular opponent. This would not be as much a problem if his opponent were the almost equally aged Donald Trump.

Yet, as a longtime sports guy, Smith knows how a home-and-home series usually turns out. Team X at home plays Team Y. Whomever wins that game, usually loses the game if soon after the first, Team Y hosts Team X.  A split, thus, is more common than one team winning both games. The election in 2020 can be seen as the incumbent (as in the home team) playing the challenger, and in that case the challenger won. If it's Biden v. Trump in 2024, the roles would be reversed. The outcome could be, also.

"Don't be mad at me, be mad at you" and "it's your fault, it ain't mine," Smith argues. It is the Democratic Party's fault or, more precisely, the fault of Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

It was Joe Biden who was determined to put a woman on the ticket, and only slightly less determined that it be a black woman.  Perhaps intentionally, more likely not, Biden selected a woman who has no business being a heartbeat from the presidency, a realization most of the country has come to.  Probably inadvertently, Biden thereby bought himself an insurance policy against Democrats urging his replacement on the 2024 ticket. The most obvious replacement, the presidential nominee-in-waiting, is the vice-president, whomever that might be. Much to the consternation of a whole lot of Democrats, that is Kamala Harris.

That doesn't necessarily prevent a Democrat from challenging the incumbent for the top job. But in this case, it would come with a prominent warning label.  Though not a shoo-in, as V.P., Harris is the closest thing the Party has to being the default candidate for President. Arguably, it would be her race to lose.

When Harris was selected, there was little attention to whether she was the most qualified individual to serve as vice-president or to take over the top job if it became necessary.  That was refreshing given that the vice president has virtually no constitutional duty and nearly all will enter the position with some relevant governmental experience.  

Harris' selection was lauded, celebrated- even venerated- because she'd be the first female, black, and Asian-American vice president, with a reasonable chance of being the the first black or Asian-American, and second black, to become President. History!

Any challenger to Biden will have to overcome the charge that he (less likely, she) is standing in the way of history being made. The opportunity to make history in that way means a lot to the professional and managerial class with an outsize influence in the Democratic Party.  It matters also to some, though less than assumed, to women, Asian-Americans, and blacks in the Democratic street.

It means more to the black power brokers in the Party. It's not for nothing- and not only for his deceased spouse- that Jim Clyburn made an extraordinarily important endorsement of Joe Biden prior to the 2020 Democratic primary in South Carolina. There, it was expected that a majority of voters would be African-American, and they were. There, the ex-Vice President and ex-Senator from Delaware,  rejected in the earlier states, cruised to victory. One domino after another fell, he was nominated and elected.

Good luck to any Democrat currently holding office who is willing to stand up to all that. California governor Newsom, in a relatively invulnerable position in a heavily Democratic state, has allowed his name to be bandied about but has shown little inclination to run. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Marianne Williamson have nothing to lose.

So, no, the Democrats have not discovered, cultivated, and positioned someone to give him or her an opportunity to be a viable candidate in 2024. It is not by accident. It is because if they did so, it would be interpreted as a slap in the face of their vice-president and, she being a woman "of color," that is not to be done. Therefore, if President Biden loses re-election, it is not only his fault, in the conventional sense, and to the credit of his Republican opponent, that he will have been defeated. It was also the intended or unintended consequence of his decision of a running mate.


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