My 2¢. I was amazed, along with everyone else, by the margin of Bernie’s victory. As a member of the “Like Bernie, voting Hillary” camp, I would have preferred a closer result but am in no way dismayed by Bernie’s blowout. As Vox’s Andrew Prokop wrote last night, it was a remarkable achievement on Bernie’s part. Watching Bernie’s fine, if longish, victory speech, I agreed with just about everything he said; and even if some of his policy proposals are not too realistic—e.g. free college tuition for everyone, or financing all new welfare state measures exclusively via taxes on the super rich—one understands that he would necessarily compromise on these if he were president (as these would be opening positions in a protracted negotiating process and with Democrats—unlike present-day Republicans—always ready to compromise). As for Hillary, her concession speech was excellent (watch it here ICYMI). One of the functions, as it were, of Bernie’s candidacy has been to pull Hillary to the left and, listening to what she said last night, it is manifestly working. If she keeps talking this way and with the same intensity, she should be able to regain her footing. Inshallah, because, echoing author Kate Harding in The Guardian today, while “I’m glad Sanders won New Hampshire…I want Hillary Clinton to be president.”
But if Hillary is going to be POTUS she needs to tell her surrogates—and particularly husband Bill—to STFU on Bernie and, while they’re at it, to stop playing the feminist/women’s card, which is not a valid argument in and of itself to vote for her (and is not working in any case). If HRC’s campaign goes negative on Bernie in a big way—with low blows and mud-slinging—that will be bad. Bernie’s supporters will be very pissed off—and me too—and it will cripple Hillary in the general. If she gets that far, that is, as if Bernie closes the gap in Nevada and South Carolina, then the thing will really be up for grabs. I’ve been insisting that Bernie will not/cannot get the nomination and still think that but I’ve been wrong before. And, as Matthew Yglesias wrote in Vox last night, “Bernie Sanders is the future of the Democratic Party” (see as well Yglesias’s “9 things we learned about American politics this February.”).
As for the Republicans, I got a little ahead of myself after Iowa last week in opining that the air would likely come out of Trump’s overinflated balloon. Silly me. With his runaway victory yesterday and the order of finish for the others, it’s not clear to me how he can be stopped, at least by anyone other than Ted Cruz, but who, as Thomas B. Edsall reminds us in the NYT today—if one needed reminding—would be even more appalling. It’s nice that John Kasich came in second, as he’s the only one of the lot who is not totally insane and/or a catspaw of his plutocrat donors, but it is most unlikely the (insane) GOP base would help him vanquish Trump. The GOPer base, for reasons I don’t entirely understand, intensely dislikes Jeb! Bush and it’s pretty clear that Marco Rubio is toast, on account of his debate debacle but also the now generalized view of him as a lightweight and panicker who cracks in crisis situations.
So if one doesn’t want Cruz, that means Trump. Ezra Klein, in a comment in Vox dated today, asserted that “The rise of Donald Trump is a terrifying moment in American politics.” Indeed. Matt Labash, writing on The Donald’s temperament and in a lighter tone, had a hilarious lead article in the February 1st issue of the conservative TWS, “Nine tales of Trump at his Trumpiest.” I was laughing out loud while reading it on the metro today. But if the prospect of a President Trump is utterly inconceivable, liberals should nonetheless support him for the GOP nomination, so argued Jonathan Chait the other day in New York magazine and for three reasons: 1. He would most certainly lose to the Democrat. 2. He would blow apart the Republican party. 3. If he were to somehow win and become POTUS, he would, politically speaking, be less bad than any of the other GOP candidates, definitely more moderate on the economy and welfare state issues, and—who knows?—may even grow into the job, as did Arnold Schwarzenegger in California (who, Chait reminds us, was also a gross vulgarian and male chauvinist pig before he became governor). I would prefer not to test Chait’s hypotheses but his reasoning is impeccable. On Trump sounding less like a conservative than a gauchiste, conservative columnist Byron York had a must-read commentary on the eve of the NH primary, “As vote nears, a more radical Trump emerges.” Also check out Ezra Klein yesterday on how Trump’s candidacy has shown that “Maybe Republican voters don’t hate universal health care after all…” No wonder the GOP establishment is so distraught by The Donald.
For those who want to see symmetry in the Trump and Bernie phenomenons, I’m sorry but that won’t fly. On this, TAP’s Harold Meyerson has piece entitled “Informed citizens and the mob.” The lede: “In their final Granite State appeals, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders seek different kinds of followers.”
UPDATE: A few good pieces read Thursday morning:
Joan Walsh, “Beyond Bernie’s Bros and Hillary’s Hellfire,” in The Nation. Walsh offers Hillary, whom she’s supporting, a friendly critique and some advice on what she needs to do.
Michelle Goldberg, “Hard choices: I used to hate Hillary. Now I’m voting for her,” in Slate.
Also in Slate: Jamelle Bouie, “Hillary’s time to fight.” The lede: “As grim as her New Hampshire defeat was, Clinton’s upcoming road looks a lot better.”
Charles M. Blow, in his latest NY Times column: “Stop Bernie-Splaining to Black Voters.” The lede: “History and experience have burned into the black American psyche a functional pragmatism whose existence doesn’t depend on others’ approval.”
Harold Meyerson, “The Establishment tanks: The Donald? The Bern? What’s this country coming to?,” in The American Prospect.
Frank Rich, “Expect the GOP establishment to start looking at the bright side of Trump,” in New York magazine.
Amanda Marcotte, “Kasich is almost as bad as Trump: Don’t let the Donald’s repulsiveness distract from the ugliness dished out by other candidates,” in Salon. The lede: “Kasich is being held out as the ‘compassionate’ alternative to Trump, but in most ways, he’s nearly as bad.”
Also in Salon: Heather Digby Parton, “The GOP primary is officially a horror film: Welcome to a world where Trump & Cruz are the last men standing.” The lede: “Trump won in dominant fashion and Cruz met expectations as Rubio fell completely apart. This is scary stuff.”
Finally, Harvey Feigenbaum—George Washington University political science prof and friend—has a commentary up in Le Monde Diplomatique’s English edition, “US primaries and the unintended consequences of democracy,” in which he—arguing much the same thing as have I over the past 35 years or so—critiques the whole primary system as a way of nominating party candidates.