Joe Biden is no kid, but folks! What a comeback!
As a forever-fan of Elizabeth Warren, I wish I were writing a Super-Tuesday-shocker piece about her. But let’s face it: Biden could not have done any more to shake up this race if he had vowed to run the rest of it in his jockeys.
Many, many strands of analysis remain to be pulled out of March 3. Here’s the first one that jumps out at me:
Bernie Sanders's race is far from over. But his rationale is dead and gone.
The central Sanders narrative is not about Medicare for All or free college or democratic socialism or any of that stuff. It is about the Bern itself, and himself. “Bernie is unique,” the story goes. “He is an iconoclast, a messiah, an exclusively-grass-roots-fed unicorn. Democrats need not concern themselves with attracting centrists or independents or anti-Trump Republicans or, say, the tens of thousands of nowhere-near-rich Pennsylvanians who happen to work in the insurance or fossil-fuel industries and who could be forgiven for wondering what they are going to get to eat down there in the dustbin of history. Democrats just need to nominate Bernie, and Bernie will attract so very very many totally-new voters that political math – and most likely mathematics itself – will transfigure, like Jesus on the mountain.”
That whole spiel is what’s in the dustbin now. Biden picked it up in Virginia, crumpled it up in Minnesota, ping-ponged it between his own two palms from North Carolina to Arkansas to Mississippi, and tossed it out in Texas.
In all the lead-up to the primaries, of course, Biden was seen, and acted, as the frontrunner. But once things got started, it was Sanders who had everything going for him. Sanders had much more money than Biden. He had a much better organization. He had a much less-crowded ideological lane, with zero self-funded billionaires directly drawing from him. He had solid showings in Iowa, New Hampshire and especially Nevada. He had a ton of positive press, at least in the sense of universal recognition that, after those first three contests, his was the clearest shot at the nomination. He undoubtedly had a major head start in Super Tuesday votes cast early, when everybody thought Uncle Joe was on life support and the only question was who’d pull the plug.
Meanwhile, as of a week ago, all Biden had gotten for being the candidate of “the Democratic Establishment” was grief for screwing it up so badly.
Of course, Sanders deserves a great deal of credit for building upon all his opening strengths, and Biden plenty of blame for squandering his. But, as the freshly-front-running son of Scranton might put it, here’s the deal:
Despite huge advantages, Sanders could not clean up among Democratic primary voters, the most liberal electorate in national politics. He went up against a gaffe-prone, cash-starved, #metoo-muddled, crime-bill-and-Iraq-War-saddled, Iowa-New-Hampshire-Nevada-losing oldster who was simultaneously fighting off a $60-billion gorilla after only very recently co-opting a troublesome pair of rivals -- and Sanders still got whacked from Richmond to Tulsa to Minneapolis. Who on earth can now argue that it’ll be Bernie who can drive up anti-Trump turnout in November, when the electorate will only expand to the right?
In fairness, it probably wasn’t Biden who really rocked the vote on Tuesday. It was Trump. The Democratic masses desperately want to beat Trump. Without benefit of Bloomberg’s shock-and-awe paid-media bombardments nor Sanders’s legendary field operation, millions of ordinary Americans got themselves to the polls to support the one they consider most capable of doing that.
Maybe this time, that’s what all the broad-based, grass-roots, down-with-the-people excitement will be about.
Maybe this time, turning away from Trump is all the revolution most Americans will crave.
Maybe this time, for all practical purposes, it's Biden who will be the Bernie.