April 10, 2020


Barack Obama wins the Democratic primary (RYAN LIZZA, 04/09/2020, Politico)

In the end, the most influential politician of 2020 may be the one who has been the most silent.

With Bernie Sanders exiting the race and Joe Biden taking on the mantle of presumptive nominee, the man who hovered quietly over the race for more than a year, Barack Obama, will soon return to the political fray.

Obama wanted Sanders to have the day to himself and so he refrained from speaking (or tweeting) publicly on Wednesday. But Obama had always said his role in the primaries would be to unite the party when it's over, and he's been in close contact with both campaigns as the pandemic both froze the race without a clear victor and also made it more obvious that Biden would eventually prevail.

"Over the last few weeks, he's had multiple conversations with candidates, including Sen. Sanders, about how to best position the Democratic Party to win in November," said a source familiar with those calls. "While the content of those conversations remain private, there was always agreement that winning in the fall was paramount."

Just as there was a certain unintended genius in luring Russia into the Syria trap to fight ISIS, so too does the UR stand to accidentally/brilliantly transform American politics, without doing much of anything.

The Anglosphere had largely arrived at the End of History by no later than 1776.  That is to say, we settled the fact that the most effective and desirable social arrangement for mankind had to be structured around protestantism, democracy and capitalism. To a really astonishing degree, this settlement has not even been questioned within the English-speaking world, with the sole exception of the American Civil War. The subsequent 250-year Long War has consisted of our inevitably victorious clashes with a series of Utopian isms--Rationalism; Communism; National Socialism; Nationalism; Islamicism; etc.--that imagined alternatives to the End. 

We have periodically liked to pretend that this Long War was existential, but the reality is that the core strength of our system, the inherent weakness of the alternatives and the happy circumstances of geography have meant none were even significant challenges and while crushing them in war has been fun, it was mostly unnecessary.  If this was implicit in the history of two centuries, Francis Fukuyama eventually made it explicit in his essay and book, The End of History.  There have, naturally, been bitter-enders, holding out on tiny islands like forgotten Japanese soldiers, insisting the war isn't over, but the very challenges and challengers they cite are ludicrous and, significantly, always totalitarian/authoritarian, because men would never willingly choose these alternatives.  Consider only the ISIS example and you can see how hysterical it is to think them a threat.  Likewise, while the Left/Right fervently hoped that the Credit Crunch of 2008 signaled irreconcilable flaws within capitalism and, hopefully, another Great Depression to demonstrate neoliberal hubris, we actually resolved the crisis quickly and painlessly by applying capitalist methods on steroids.

In domestic politics this consensus has been particularly bitter medicine for our own holdouts on Left (Socialism true believers) and Right (Nationalism). The winning party in national elections has, since Margaret Thatcher's victory, been the one most closely associated with the End and most willing to compromise by using First Way (capitalist) means to achieve Second Way (socialist) ends.  This politics, which protects republican liberty while allowing for the wider distribution of the wealth that our globalized economies generate, appeals to the great mass of voters for obvious reasons.  Thus, Thatcher would be succeeded by the Third Way Blair, and by the Third Way Cameron and so on and so forth.  Similarly, there were no important overarching differences among presidents from Carter through Barrack Obama, with the winner of every election being the candidate most closely associated with "liberalism," with the result that the party of the national leader has made virtually no difference to the governing of our nations for 45 years. 

Of course, this has always been unsettling for the wings of each party that still believe in their alternative and each has tended to punish its own leadership for left deviation or right. But this extreme reaction tends to get punished at the ballot box, as witness most recently Jeremy Corbyn, who renounced the End in its entirety and was predictably consigned to oblivion. The British people prefer even a Tory party that is a mess to one that is Socialist, anti-Semitic, and anti-democratic.

The glaring exception to all this was the election of Donald Trump, the only avowedly racist leader to be elected in the Anglosphere in quite some time.  His victory in Republican primaries involved some luck--the glowing media coverage he was afforded drowned out all the other candidates--but his ideological appeal should have been more apparent.  He was, after all, presaged by the party's defeat of W's immigration reforms and then by the unhinged reaction to the election of a black president, from birtherism to the Tea Party, whose purpose was to prevent the distribution of welfare money to minorities to preserve same for old white men.  The irony being that the gay Kenyan Muslim, far from imposing the Socialism he was accused of believing in, continued the economics of the Bush/Bernanke bailout and passed the Romney/Heritage Foundation health care reforms.  He proved the ultimate Republican in All But Name.

Unfortunately, while the Right (Old and Alt) is no more than 20% of the American electorate--the number that opposes things like letting Dreamers remain--that makes it a sufficient force with the GOP to tip primary elections, which Donald proceeded to do with historically low winning totals.  Then he got the supreme gift in the general election, running against the least popular major party nominee in modern electoral history. Not only was Hillary widely despised, but James Comey's bungling of the email investigation was catastrophic for her and enough mainstream Republicans were able to convince themselves that she was the worse of two evils that Donald was able to carry the Electoral College despite losing by three million votes and running far behind the rest of the GOP ticket. [*]

But the fond hopes of Republican elites were quickly smashed as Donald proceeded to base his entire presidency around the racism he'd run on, starting with the Muslim Ban, opposing even legal immigration and caging families at the border, celebrating white supremacists, attacking female and black Democrats with particular fervor and all the rest.  Having seen him with the hood on, suburban voters joined Democrats in pummeling the GOP at the Midterm and disapproving of him at levels such that 42% appears to be his ceiling.  

The Midterms were revealing for our tale as Nancy Pelosi and Democratic party powers rejected Progressive candidates in favor of moderates who proceeded to win back the House.  While the success of this strategy should have been apparent to everyone, the activists in the Party still believed they were in a Progressive moment and dreamed of an Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders setting up a true Left vs. Right battle in 2020.  Thus, Bernie, who has always been more of an economic Leftist than anything else, suddenly stopped opposing immigration and became woke, while Ms Warren, who was already awoken, suddenly eschewed the rather Republican economics she'd been associated with and started embracing Big Government programs with no idea how to pay for them.  All of this at a time when an already rather conservative party was benefitting from moderate Republicans leaving the GOP to push the party further towards the center to create a massive appetite for a nominee who could most easily defeat Donald.  Joe Biden is a godawful candidate and will likely be an inept president, but as a central player in the neoliberal consensus for its entirety, the VP to one of its avatars, and no one's idea of a Leftist, proved the ideal vehicle for those electability aspirations.  And with his nomination all of the GOP's hopes of running against Socialism instead of being stuck defending Nationalism are dashed.

In effect, by making the Republican Party (at the presidential level) no place for decent men, Donald has forced all swing voters onto the Democratic side, making their party the more moderate one and the GOP more extreme.  It was already problematic that even conservative minority voters could not accept the idea of being Republicans, but if Donald were to be followed by a Nationalist nominee in 2024 we could lose even married women (historically Republican voters) and suburbanites (often swing voters) for a generation. The reaction to Barrack Obama--without him doing anything untoward--has completely misshapen the right (small "r").

Ultimately, 2020 is lost and that's a good thing.  Not only is Joe Biden pretty much a Republican himself, it affords the GOP an opportunity to disinfect itself and start trying to win back naturally conservative voters who are not racist. Given the tolerance of the rising generations in America, this process can not begin quickly enough.  The alternative--doubling down on the Islamophobia, Nativism, anti-Semitism, misogyny and all the rest of the pathologies of Donald and his base--risks cementing the gains of the Democrats and making the GOP the last holdout of a dying demographic. 

But, as Jonah and his guest, Steven Teles, discussed on the latest Remnant podcast, there is not much evidence that party elites are planning for a GOP future, even after seeing how strong party leadership has enabled the Democrats to promote the kind of moderate candidates who jibe with post-Historical consensus.   To surrender the Party to the wing that refuses to accept the End and looks back to a segregationist past as its ideal would be to make the GOP a deservedly permanent minority party. This is the time for the Party to take back the powers it has ceded and to tighten down the nomination process in particular. As Mr. Teles says, the party system is one of the ways we guard against Populism and the GOP has let the guard rails fall.  Time to restore them lest we ever make this mistake again.

[*] Note that the Party is far healthier at the state level, where the 10 most popular governors in America are all Republicans, many in blue or purple states.

The Country Yearns for a Unifying Voice (Mona Charen, 4/10/20, National Review)

We've focused so much in recent years on the primitive side of our natures -- the part that responds to tribalism and hatred of out groups. But while those traits are real enough, we didn't achieve great civilizations by suspicion alone. Cooperation and, in Queen Elizabeth's phrase, "fellow feeling" are also part of our nature. Without cooperation, we'd still be wandering the savannah in groups of 15 or 20 with spears in one hand and babies on our backs. Humans are cooperative creatures -- even, at times, selfless ones. In wartime, men throw themselves on grenades to save others. In this time of plague, doctors and nurses willingly put their own lives at risk to save people they don't even know.

Americans are already behaving in cooperative and unifying ways. What they lack is a voice. President Trump is utterly incapable of sounding those notes. When he attempts it, as, for example, when an aide draws up some uplifting rhetoric, he seems to be sounding out the words as if reading another language. He is far more comfortable searching out enemies -- the media, his predecessor, the "deep state," under-appreciative governors, General Motors, and so forth.

Joe Biden, by contrast, is well suited to the unifier role. His strength is a sympathetic understanding of others' pain. His instincts are toward conciliation and cooperation, to the point that Democratic partisans were sometimes dismayed when, earlier in this cycle, he reminisced fondly about "getting things done" with Republicans.

Just now, in the midst of the crisis, Biden lacks an opportunity to voice a unifying message. But that time will come soon. He should seize it. It comes naturally to him. It would remind us of our better angels, and the country is yearning for it.

Posted by at April 10, 2020 12:00 AM