Thursday, September 07, 2023

Painted Into a Race Box

It's a conundrum only because Democrats have knowingly, willingly, and fearfully created this conundrum.

NBC News reporters Peter Nicholas and Megan Lebowitz bravely and coherently analyze the concerns Democrats have about re-nominating Joe Biden as President, as well as the obstacles faced in any effort to block replace him as nominee. 

They note that despite qualms of Democratic voters about Biden's age, "when Democratic elites look at Biden, they see the second coming of Franklin D. Roosevelt" and "Biden's allies insist the president's accomplishments- not- pressure- are what has kept challengers at bay."

Balderdash. The legislative accomplishments and policy initiatives of the President are not what are keeping his opponents from making a serious effort at challenging him for the nomination, any more than they are giving him a comfortable (or any) lead in polling against likely opponent Donald Trump. Instead

Within weeks of Biden formally announcing his candidacy in late April, his campaign set up a national “advisory board” that included prominent Democrats seen as potential presidential candidates, including Gavin Newsom, J.B. Pritzker and Josh Shapiro — governors of California, Illinois and Pennsylvania, respectively. Another rising Democratic official, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, was named co-chair of Biden’s campaign.

“Biden’s team has embraced anyone who could be campaigning for him,” said John Emerson, who was U.S. ambassador to Germany during the Obama presidency. “They’re treating them well and you see that with Gavin Newsom and Gretchen Whitmer. That’s smart politics. You want them in the tent and part of the team. That kind of treatment certainly makes it awkward to consider challenging an incumbent.”

Senior Democratic officials said they made it a top priority to talk to any governors or presidential hopefuls and get them on board with the re-election effort, effectively deterring them from pursuing the nomination.

One person deemed a potential threat to the president was Newsom, who has worried people close to the White House by laying the groundwork for a future presidential bid. Biden allies have not been shy about getting the word out that it would be self-defeating for ambitious white male candidates like Newsom to try to snatch the nomination away from Biden and Kamala Harris, who made history as the first woman and person of color to become vice president.

Nicholas and Lebowitz do not spell it out, wisely leaving it to the reader to add 2+2. They leave the brazenly Karen Finney to do that:

Consider the past: A string of Democratic candidates who failed to lock down Black voters went on to lose the race for the party's nomination — including Bernie Sanders in 2016 and Hillary Clinton in 2008.

“When you had people who were trying to test the waters” for a presidential bid, “the party rose up and made it clear to those individuals — who were mostly white men — that to disrespect the vice president would not be well received by women and people of color within the party,” said Karen Finney, a longtime Democratic strategist. “They got a little bit of a smack in the face.”

Challenging an individual for the vice presidency is to "disrespect" her. What some people will say for attribution can be truly amazing.

It was very clever of Biden to embrace anyone who could be campaigning against him.  But these politicians wouldn't allow themselves to be embraced if they thought there was a reasonable alternative- one which did not risk alienating the base of the party. Consequently, in their description which describes best the current state of the Democratic Party

Biden allies have not been shy about getting the word out that it would be self-defeating for ambitious white male candidates like Newsom to try to snatch the nomination away from Biden and Kamala Harris, who made history as the first woman and person of color to become vice president.

Especially white males such as Newsom, Pritzker, and Shapiro, but also white females such as Whitmer, who in 2024 would be an excellent nominee in 2024 for a party which wishes to hold onto to the presidency.

President Biden has essentially frozen the field, and the primary method has been race. A few years back, it would have been recognized as "playing the race card." That would be a mild, almost benign, description of what now is going on.  It's "challenge me and you're challenging the history-making black woman," the latter adjective almost optional.

Nonetheless, credit should be given where credit is due.  Biden's selection of- especially his promise during the primary campaign to select- a black woman as his running mate was extraordinarily wise, on a par with Trump's selection of Mike Pence in 2016, without whom he would not have been elected. Having Kamala Harris, the default favorite for the nomination if Biden were forced by reality to drop out, was the cherry on top given her impressive unpopularity. Whatever candidate party voters could tap to replace him in 2024, the fear remains that Harris could survive a primary fight, following which she would be pummeled in the general election. Nicholas and Lebowitz note

"Democrats just don't have any choice and it's so difficult," said Dennis DeConcini, 86, an Arizona Democrat who served with Biden in the Senate. "He’s too old. So am I. What I tell people is in comparison to Trump, he’s a decent guy. He may be too old and stumble a little bit. The problem, in my opinion, is the Democrats really have a problem if he didn’t run because [Vice President] Kamala Harris — I don’t think she could be elected."

"We're kind of stuck with Biden because of that," he added.

With their own particular motives, MSNBC and CNN, in contrast to two NYT reporters, will not even explore the factor of race in freezing the Democratic field..(Fox News is reticent for fear of accusations of racism.)  Even when, as with this guy, the issue of Kamala Harris is addressed, the Democrats' racially-based dilemma pertaining is ignored.

The irony is that as it reinforces the incumbent's hold on the nomination, it is doing no good
for the general election.  Biden's challenge in the general is to get out the vote of Democrats and of Independents who prefer the incumbent over Trump. It may be difficult to accomplish the former because it appears that blacks are far less enthusiastic about Biden than they were in 2020.

Tapping a running mate on the basis of gender and race is a dangerous game which did not backfire on Joe Biden in 2000. Now, it is serving to keep more electable Democrats at arm's length and it may cost them victory in fourteen months.


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