The Briefing, Vol. VIII, Issue 15

=This week:

  • Blacks, not white socialists, are the Democratic Party’s lifeblood
  • Biden’s campaign is coronavirus’ most prominent victim
  • Behind the story of Wisconsin’s strange, last-minute election drama

Sanders: Bernie Sanders failed to build on or improve his 2016 showing in the presidential race for one simple reason: He didn’t win black votes. If you are running as a Democrat, there is no way to win a primary or a general election without significant support from African American voters. Period. End of story.

Young white socialist types have gone out of their way to shove their way to the front of the line of today’s Democratic Party. But for now, their efforts are simply in vain. In general elections, even a slightly lackluster turnout by blacks — as in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan in 2016 — is enough to doom a Democrat in any presidential election.

And in the primary, this is all the more true. Sanders failed to convince blacks in 2016, and he failed again in 2020. That he didn’t learn from his mistake will be remembered as the defining feature of his campaign. 

Even before his shocking flop in South Carolina, Sanders had already been failing to build up convincing majorities in the early states of Iowa and New Hampshire. Even as he won those states (think of Iowa as a tie for first at worst), Sanders was failing to build up the kind of margins you would expect. 

Even before anyone dreamed of Biden’s resurgence, Democratic voters’ unease with nominating someone who couldn’t even apologize for praising Fidel Castro was noteworthy. And at one point, it appeared that Mike Bloomberg might be able to steal South Carolina out from under Biden’s nose, while Tom Steyer was poised to win a surprisingly large share of the black vote there despite his irrelevance to the campaign generally. 

But when Bloomberg collapsed after his first debate, the other candidates and the voters all faced a choice between letting their party nominate Sanders and settling for Biden. They chose the latter as the lesser of two evils.

The lesson appears to be that today’s Democratic Party, for all of its advanced and increasing radicalism, simply isn’t ready for an out-and-proud socialist nominee. The Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wing of the party is a big thing on Twitter and in low-turnout House primaries. In the real world and in presidential primaries? Not so much — at least not for now.

Biden: President Trump is already trying to frame his impending contest against Biden in multiple ways. First of all, he is taking full advantage of the increased exposure that the coronavirus is giving him. He is on television every day and it’s a must-watch. (Note that this is really no different from what Trump managed to do in 2016. He is taking advantage of all the free media.) 

Biden, in contrast, has no choice but to isolate himself in a basement somewhere. Although he apparently leads Trump in most polls, It’s a struggle to get people even to remember him. And when he does come up, Trump and Republicans are constantly making comments about his mental acuity that hit much too close to home. 

Those comments are planting seeds in people’s minds. For example, Trump recently said of Biden’s tweets, “ He didn’t write that. That was done by a Democrat operative. He doesn’t write…he is probably not even watching right now and if he is he doesn’t understand what he is watching.” Once you’ve seen it, the mental image of a senile Biden, alone on a chair in a basement, is hard to unsee. On another occasion last month, Trump said that if Biden wins, “They are going to put him into a home, and other people are going to be running the country, and they are going to be super-left radical crazies.” Again, this image is very hard to unsee, especially when you watch Biden struggle to speak and to remember in public and before the camera.

Elections

Nobody expected this, but there won’t be too many elections for a while. For now, we have the drama of last Tuesday’s Wisconsin Supreme Court election..

Wisconsin-Supreme Court: We noted last week that Wisconsin’s Tuesday election was going forward under odd circumstances. Sure enough, there was some late drama surrounding it even after that. Ultimately, the matter went to the U.S. Supreme Court. The final ruling was that absentee ballots postmarked by election day and April 13 will be accepted and counted, and so we should know Monday night who the winner is in the state Supreme Court race. 

Gov. Tony Evers, D, had previously supported holding his state’s presidential primary election as scheduled, just as Joe Biden did, in spite of the coronavirus pandemic. He made this choice at the time even as other states — Georgia, Louisiana, and Ohio — were postponing their votes.

And there was a certain logic to it. After all, unlike in those other states, this was not just a primary. It was an actual general election for a state supreme court seat and for multiple local races. These positions — including the mayoralty of Milwaukee — would literally go vacant within weeks if no election was held. However, if this decision had been made a month earlier, then  given enough time, it is likely that the state legislature and the governor could have come to some kind of agreement to hold the vote at some time other than the peak of the coronavirus contagion.

Instead, Evers abruptly changed his mind (after a significant amount of early and absentee voting had taken place, mind you) on the Friday before the election, calling the state legislature back for a special session. When legislators refused, he declared on the day before the election that he was postponing the vote until June 9. He lacked the power to do this, however, and so he was blocked by the state Supreme Court. A federal lawsuit was also filed, and the U.S. Supreme Court turned down a legal bid to change the rules and count absentee ballots sent after Election Day.  The court’s majority cited a doctrine holding that election rules should not be changed at the last minute.

Republicans point to the fact that there were no adverse public health announcements occurred between  Evers’ statements in favor of holding the vote, and his last-minute attempt to scuttle it. Some of them claim that this occurred because he received information indicating that absentee ballot returns and early voting were surprisingly high in Republican parts — much higher than in Democratic ones, despite the Democratic presidential primary at the top of the ticket.

We will not know until tonight who won, at which point the validity of this theory (or lack thereof) will become clear. 

It is difficult to believe that Republicans could prevail in Wisconsin despite there being only one polling place in all of Waukesha County. Still, their narrative could well be true. Perhaps Evers had a good reason to panic.