Normalcy Is Dead

Excuse me for dumping on Joe Biden some more, but … this morning I woke up to headlines that Joe Biden would deliver a speech that would ““eviscerate” Trump. If only. I assume the speech is delivered and Trump is still intact.

It’s striking to me that Biden’s entire campaign message so far is “Donald Trump is bad.” Yeah, genius, we noticed. What else ya got?

Kate Riga writes for TPM,

Former Vice President Joe Biden is hellbent on insisting that he can and will extract cooperation and bipartisanship from his Republican peers — and less rosy-eyed observers are getting angry.

At a fundraiser Monday night, he shared his faith in his GOP counterparts.

“With Trump gone you’re going to begin to see things change,” he said per HuffPost.“Because these folks know better. They know this isn’t what they’re supposed to be doing.”

His statement has echoes of what he said last month, when he predicted “an epiphany” among his “Republican friends” when President Donald Trump leaves office.

Yeah, right.

Greg Sargent:

It has become a major fault line in Democratic politics: Is President Trump himself the chief cause of all that ails us?

Or does Trump’s ascendancy reflect much broader pathologies afflicting the Republican Party — its increasing comfort with ethnonationalism, authoritarianism, and procedural and policy extremism, all of which predate, helped create and will outlast Trump?

And if it’s the latter, shouldn’t all the Democratic candidates be explaining how they’d deal with all those things as president?

This debate will again be thrust to the forefront when Joe Biden campaigns in Iowa on Tuesday. He is set to hammer Trump as an “existential threat” to the country, which he will try to illustrate by training his firepower largely on the president.

Biden took a beating Monday night for offering a stark version of this rhetorical move, while explaining how he’d work with Republicans as president.

“With Trump gone you’re going to begin to see things change,” Biden said at a fundraiser. “Because these folks know better. They know this isn’t what they’re supposed to be doing.”

As many pointed out, this prediction is profoundly absurd. Biden should know this, having lived through scorched-earth GOP opposition as Barack Obama’s vice president.

For that matter, they weren’t exactly reasonable through the George W. Bush and Bill Cliinton years, either. There were still some reasonable Republicans around in the 1980s, I dimly remember, but the species became critically endangered in the 1970s.

Democrats have been running as The Party That’s Not As Bad As The Other Party for a long time, of course. That was Hillary Clinton’s principal appeal to voters in 2016 — I am not Donald Trump. Although she had a lot of policy proposals she didn’t run on them and instead tried to position herself as the experienced hand with a mile-long resume running against a big blob of vulgarity and stupid.

But the blob was entertaining and promised change. So there goes the upper midwest.

Too many Democrats for too long have been insulated from anything going on among real people and have failed to deliver what voters need from them, and IMO the strongest candidate in the primaries and the general is the one who can persuade voters that the D brand is new and improved. Running as The Candidate That’s Not As Bad As The Other Candidate might win the 2020 general, because the Other Candidate really is Awful Bad, but that’s not going to solve the problem of how shit doesn’t get done because Republicans are crazy and Democrats are spineless. And that’s a problem that really, really needs to be solved. Or else, even if Dems win the White House in 2020, down the road we’ll be dealing with a permanent Republican majority and a far worse version of Donald Trump.

See also Charles Pierce

… conventional metrics—hell, conventional anything related to politics—may well be unsuited to the current political moment, that with the election of this particular president* and with the animatronic zombie thrill-ride on which he’s taken the government, the country may have passed some kind of point of no return. This would mean bad news for Biden, who seems to be campaigning mainly on the theme of bringing back the golden age of 2009. Political historians would note that the “return to normalcy” was the theme on which Warren Harding was elected in 1920, and was explained by him as:

America’s present need is not heroics, but healing; not nostrums, but normalcy; not revolution, but restoration; not agitation, but adjustment; not surgery, but serenity; not the dramatic, but the dispassionate; not experiment, but equipoise; not submergence in internationality, but sustainment in triumphant nationality.

This sentiment was understandable in the period after World War I, but nodding off to sleep and pretending everything is just fine when it isn’t really is no way to run a country. Charles quotes Pete Buttigieg:

We’re not going to win by playing it safe, or promising a return to normal. We are where we are because normal…broke. We Democrats can no more promise a return to the ’90s — [Ed. Note: Hi, Joe!] — than the Republicans can deliver on a promise to return us to the 1950s.

Normal broke. It broke before Barack Obama took office and, unfortunately, he didn’t adjust. I wouldn’t call the George W. Bush years normal, either. I’m not sure when normal was, actually. There’s no political time period I can think of that I care to be rebooted to. News flash:

Nothing normal about the ’20s, either, although many people pretended as hard as they could, until it all came crashing down and they couldn’t pretend any more.

But there is something in us that wants to believe everything is fine even when it isn’t. Brian Beutler argues that Joe’s “return to normalcy” pitch could work with a lot of voters. But even if it works, is it smart?

Whether Biden believes what he says or not, and whether it’s the best way to win votes or not, are secondary to the question of whether it would be wise for a Democratic president to enter office in 2021 having campaigned on the premise that Republicans are one election away from redemption. If a critical mass of voters believes (or wants to believe) that politics will automatically depolarize once Trump is gone, should Democratic politicians pander to or level with them?

If telling fairytales were the only way for a Democrat to win the presidency, the answer to the question would be obvious. But in an environment where every prominent Democratic presidential candidate leads Trump in head-to-head matchups, the pandering approach is a worse choice.

There is indeed a new Quinnipiac poll out today showing that six Democratic contenders are ahead of Trump in head-to-head polls at the moment.

For too long Democrats in Washington have operated in the assumption that the way to appease the Right is through compromise — give them some of what they want. That worked for Bill Clinton in the 1990s, for a while, although a lot of the policy that came out of that appeasement exacted a price — crime bill, anyone? — that both constituents and Democrats are still paying.

It’s obviously just as naive to assume that hard-nosed realism about the nature of the modern GOP will unlock a progressive revolution all on its own. But candidates who understand what they’re signing up for can take steps to prepare for governing aroundRepublicans now, knowing it’s delusional to imagine they’ll govern in coalition with them. …

…That approach will be bruising, but the good news is candidates can help voters understand what lies ahead for the next Democratic government now, so that the GOP’s nihilism is on the ballot, and everyone knows what to expect and fight for in 2021. The alternative is a campaign of false hope far more unrealistic than Medicare for All or a Green New Deal, with demoralizing frustration at the end of it. The country deserves better than that but nobody running for the Democratic nomination should want that kind of presidency either.

This is the time for Dems to get real and be honest with themselves, and with voters. I don’t dislike Joe Biden, and he may end up with the nomination and the presidency. But I don’t think he’s capable of being the candidate and president the party and the nation needs.

20 thoughts on “Normalcy Is Dead

  1. " But I don’t think he’s capable of being the candidate and president the party and the nation needs "

    If he beats Trump then he is the President and the candidate the country needs. If any of them beat Trump then they are the President the country needs. I understand you've got issues with Biden, we know you had issues with Hillz, but I don't see the purpose of trashing not only Biden but any of the democrats running? I didn't see the purpose of trashing Hillary either. Trashing the democratic candidates, any of them, only helps one person, Donald Trump. Go ahead and twit filter me, cause I'm done reading and commenting here. Adios!

  2. uncledad – if Barbara had said, "If Biden is the nominee, I'm not voting in November." I'd be right with you. She didn't. The frontrunner can beat Trump, but he's not the only candidate who can beat Trump. A discussion of which candidate who can beat Trump will best advance the principles we believe in isn't out of order.

    You could – quite correctly – point out the things Joe has right. Unfortunately, what Joe has figured out, almost all the other candidates have figured out. His major virtue is that he's the frontrunner, but he's not the guy with the best ideas. 

    Biden suffers from a fault that Trump shares – they both present a vision for voters that has little to do with reality, but everything to do with what voters wish was true. This may be effective but it's deceptive. In Joe's case, he's pretending that Republicans in Congress will awaken from the evil spell Trump cast and become the kind of conservative leaders who impeached Nixon. Somebody (not me) asked if Biden slept through the eight years of the Obama presidency.

    Principled conservative leadership did exist at one time but there's only one Republican whose shown the backbone to call Trump out for the facts in the Mueller report. I do believe that principled conservatism could return, but Joe is pretending it's there now. That's a dream – one voters might want to believe but we have candidates in the real world. We are in the primary season – this is the time to resolve the question who will best serve the country from our party. 

    We've years of shared ideas here, uncledad. Don't leave like this. Please.

    • Look, Biden has his faults, all the candidates have faults. We are in a serious fucking crisis, we are going to be in a irreversible crisis if Trump gets re-elected. I am not going to participate in the trashing of Biden or any other candidate. I am not interested in amplifying Trumps message against Biden or any other candidate. This is Maha's blog she can help Trump if she wants but I'm out.

      • I guess you’ve forgotten that Clinton was the “electable” candidate in 2015. I’m just trying to sort what’s real from what’s bullshit, and what will save the country from right-wing craziness in the long run.

          • " Okay, but irrelevant "

            How is it irrelevant? I am pointing out a story that the right-wing tried to hang around Biden's neck that was false, a story that you jumped on immediately? I get that your not a Biden fan, but I don't think we democrats should not act like the mouth-breathers, we should not be lobbing false accusations, what's next "Biden has dementia, Biden's health is failing?  Biden will either win the primaries or he won't. Being attacked by the left only helps Trump. As far as me forgetting Clinton was "electable" yeah maybe, but I think the facts have shown that the election was stolen. Trump didn't win, he and his russian enablers stole the election. If I had a blog that had considerable readership I would spend my energy promoting the democratic candidates I want to win, I wouldn't however help the opposition by tearing the ones down that I want to lose.

  3. The gist of the post is correct. As long as Republicans can devise a means, within historical norms or not, they'll fight Democrats at every turn without consideration for the good of the country. Once respectable or normal Republicans have already quit the party or succumbed to Trumpism.

    Joe has been limiting his campaign appearances and press availability and is attempting to be the 'inevitable' nominee. Democrats generally don't approve of that kind of behavior. We'll see how long he stays in the race once he has to appear in debates with people much younger and more dynamic.


  4. If Biden continues on his current path promising GOP capitulation and collaboration if he wins and Trump is dispatched, he's going to end up in the same snare Obama found himself in when he ran on "bringing the parties together."  After his election the GOP not only didn't change, but doubled down on their resistance, openly stating they'll oppose Obama at every turn.  The bonus for them was they had a free hand to obstruct, because they could then, and did, blame Obama for "failing" at his promise to bring the parties together.  Biden having had a front row seat on that drama, should know better, and yet here he is, incredibly, setting up the same trap for himself.

    Is this because (a) Biden is truly a creature of the past and due to his age is unable to adjust, or (b) he's getting bad advice of the kind that doesn't head off some of his disasters like this one on the GOP and abortion BEFORE he sallies forth, or (c) he's Trump-like in the sense that he only wants yes men and women around him to echo whatever his ideas are, no matter how bad?

    If Biden wins Trump is gone, and that's the prize.  But going forward from there, we'll have to work with him and the democratic party to make sure they don't continue down the appeasement path of working with the GOP.

  5. Too many Democrats for too long have been insulated from anything going on among real people and have failed to deliver what voters need from them, 

    This is a feature, not a bug. Al From wrote a history of the origins of the Democratic Leadership Council in 1983. He explained that all the professional Democratic politicians who joined believed that they had to abandon Labor and develop alliances with big donors and especially Wall Street. They all agreed that the New Deal was old-fashioned and outdated and needed to be deconstructed. They were sincere in their belief that this would allow the Democratic Party to regain power and somehow that would be good for the country. Looking back at the actual results of their efforts it's hard for me to understand how they could think that. It's like the current DNC strategy, run to the left for the primaries, and then run hard to the right for the general, so it's difficult to distinguish Blue Dogs and New Democrats from Republicans.


    • Procopius — And that feature is a bug, because that's why the Democratic Party keeps losing. They can't hang on to the White House and Senate long enoough to do anything. During the glory days of the Obama Administration the Democratic Party lost a net total of 13 governorships and 816 state legislative seats, along with 12 and 64 seats in the U.S. Senate and House, respectively. And it's precisely because they stopped supporting labor and embraced Wall Street that they lost touch with the lives of working people and stopped delivering anything working people needed them to do. So don't tell me "that's a feature, not a bug." No, it's just a damn bug. 

  6. Increasingly this country divides as states go their separate ways.  Alabama and a number of other states pass bills whose apparent sole purpose is to get Roe vs. Wade overturned.  Other states pass bills ensuring the right to abortion within that state.  In many other issues, health care, gun safety and control, and worker protection depend on where you live.  If you wanted to read up on the divided United States, plan to spend many hours.  I searched for a recent article I read on the subject but could not find it due to the wealth of search results.  In this world of the Brexit mentality, united is not the trend. Strength in numbers and strength in cooperation and agreement is not the trendy spirit of the day.  Have we gone too far with what might be called the Brexit like spirit?   Is the spirit of division mutating into an evil spirit? 

    Who was it that recently, here, wrote with the phrase cold civil war?  It is a haunting phrase, with the implication of entrenched positions, walls and such.  The world or country it creates is a world festering with self destructive tendencies.  We should heed as much as possible the warning of our founding fathers in their quest for independence.  We must all hang together or we shall certainly be hung separately.  Beware of those who wish to divide and conquer.  Beware of those who create problems,   Beware of those who douse fires with gasoline.  Their short term agenda most certainly will lead to long term problems.  

    Some of the more experienced politicians seem to be sending this message,  that divisiveness has become a huge problem.  Nancy Pelosi for sure is saying some good, strong, and wise statements to that effect.  I certainly like her saying to an interviewer that we are not talking about Trump.  Taking about Trump is just a waste of time.

  7. I share your sentiments about Joe Biden, but I wouldn’t worry about him. The first inning is barely getting started. Someone said that he’s 2020’s “Jeb!”, and we all know what happened to him.

    I am very excited about Liz and Mayor Pete, written up in How Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren Cracked the Code of the 2020 Race. In essence, they’ve figured out how to use viral media to gain mindshare, thus beginning the process of elbowing out their competitors. It’s interesting how all the other candidates are beginning to react to what Liz and Pete have done or said.

    Not only is Joe and normalcy a weak delusion, but I would argue that Bernie Sanders also needs to pass his mantle on to the next generation and get off the stage. We owe him a lot.

  8. Normalcy?

    Even whatever we have left of some sense of "normacy" would likely terrify George Orwell!

    Endless war.

    Endless propaganda from Right-wing media sites.

    Unequal and diminishing voting rights.

    An American "Dear Leader."


    Today, we are a nation of Winston Smith's, and conservatives are trying to find the breaking point for each Mr, Ms, and Mrs Smith.

    Every morning when I wake up, I feel the symptoms of PtSD:

    Pre-tRUMP Stress Disorder.

    What new tsunami of bullshit, bigotry, stupidity, ignorance, and narcissistic arrogance will wash over us today?

  9. Uncledad:  I ask that you do not go away as I enjoy your posts and your unique point of view on things.  I don't always agree with Maha or any of the commenters but I do think it  is important to have a venue to express our opinions and to be able to read others' point of view. .  I will be 80 yo next month and I get nostalgic about the  past sometimes.  On the other hand, I do like the fact that the younger people have a different approach to problems.  Biden is not my favorite but I definitely prefer him over Trump.  However, I do think it  is time to get some new young blood in our government.  Maybe a different sex.  It is still early and there are a lot of candidates so perhaps Biden will have staying power, perhaps not.  Anyway, perhaps you can find an outlet for your anger at Maha besides leaving.  I'm sure she is not offended that you do not always agree with her.  Express your opinion, vent, share some  of  your music and stay.  It really would be boring here if everyone agreed all of the time.

    • Granny, thanks for taking the time to respond to my plea. I think you understand where I'm coming from.

      " Biden is not my favorite but I definitely prefer him over Trump "

      Faint Praise for sure! Maybe I'm out of line, this is maha's blog. I understand Biden is yesterdays leader, I just think Biden deserves better than Jeb Bush. Lefties are discarding Biden like obsolete trash, it reminds of what the redkaps did to Jeb. Biden is not Jeb Bush, and I aint no redkap!

  10. Good catch, c u n d gulag. One way Republicans broke normal is with overuse of the big lie. 40 years of intense spinning left them open to being taken over by someone super qualified in duplicity. Maybe messaging can be overrated.

    And who will have the mad skills to replace Sarah Sanders and Kellyanne Conway? Could Sean Hannity finally get the official gig as White House Press Secretary?

  11. I was just watching a discussion on a talk show and one of the guests referred to an issue of trump's as that was just the "marketing."  "Marketing" is just the nice word for BRAINWASHING, particularly when referring to trump supporters who are brainwashed by fox news.Yesterday, I heard Kamala Harris tell a campaign crowd that the first thing she will do as President is arrest trump.  Yea!!!!  Like I said before I have never been happier with the fact that I am 73; and, will die before the country is fully destroyed by fox news.  Thus, I will die before anything is back to normal (if lucky).


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