The Week - December 3, 2019

"Bernie Sanders, who has probably the hardest core of support, yet has failed so far to break out of the pack, probably because so many loyal Democrats view him with suspicion for challenging Hillary Clinton. But this attitude is unwarranted.

To start with, his foreign policy thinking is far and away the best in the field. Since his 2016 run he hasstaffed up with expertscritical of the imperialist "Blob," and developed a policy framework that would set the United States as the center of an alliance of democratic, egalitarian nations to contest the worldwide rise of right-wing authoritarian oligarchy."

The Democratic presidential primary has apparently settled down into a four-way race. Elizabeth Warren briefly took the lead awhile ago, but has since fallen back. Joe Biden is leading once more in the high 20s, while Sanders is about tied with Warren in the high teens. Then Pete Buttigieg is bringing up the rear, having surged to about 10 percent in just the last week or so. (Everyone else is in low single digits and either flat or falling.)

Many Democratic voters are surely weighing their options. But Bernie Sanders is the strongest choice to lead the Democratic ticket in 2020. Here's why.

Let's begin by going through the candidates. Joe Biden's polling is remarkably steady and is based on his support among the Democratic rank-and-file, especially black voters in the South. But he really is an awful representative for these constituencies. He is deeply implicated in many of the policy disasters that devastated the middle class and helped give rise to President Trump: deregulation, bankruptcy reform, austerity, mass incarceration, the war on drugs, and on and on. Biden is also shockingly out of step with the times — boasting of his friendships with segregationist Dixiecrats and asserting that he can still get bipartisan compromises with a party that conspired with Trump to gin up a fake investigation of Biden's own family. Even the Obama presidency (Biden's main claim to fame) was disastrous in many ways for the middle class — especially black homeowners, who were wrecked by his administration's decision to use homeowner bailout funds as a backdoor bank bailout. But at the very least we do not need someone who thinks 1970s comity between the parties (which incidentally relied on white racist backlash) can be restored.

And while Biden polls the best against Trump in a head-to-head, he is also a fumbling campaigner who can't even raise much money, and is clearly trying to coast to the nomination. There is a real risk he would not be able to put forth maximum effort in a grueling general election.

Then there's Pete Buttigieg, who has risen up as a fresh face who seems smart, with a good balance between progressivism and realism. In reality, he is quite clearly a cynical shapeshifter — a guy who abandoned Medicare-for-all not because it is bad policy (it isn't), but because he spotted an opening in the center by making dishonest attacks against it. He also has a disturbing tendency to treat black people like campaign props, and a history of talking a big game and then capitulating to a corrupt status quo. As Ryan Grim details, he fired the first black South Bend police chief (which was later rescinded to a demotion), reportedly in part due to pressure from racist white officers who didn't like a black man in charge. The Young Turksreports that recordings show one officer said, "It is going to be a fun time when all white people are in charge." It's no wonder Buttigieg has almost no black support.

Also, Buttigieg is just preposterously inexperienced. He would be 39 on inauguration day, and thus the youngest president in American history, with nothing but the mayoralty of the 306th-largest city in the country and a single seven-month tour in Afghanistan as a low-level officer as experience. Among presidents, only Trump would have had less before taking office.

Experience isn't everything, of course (there have been some terrible presidents with lots of experience) but the federal government is a massive and complicated machine, and this time especially we need someone who can work its levers aggressively. We don't need someone who will learn on the job, much less someone who clearly just wants power for its own sake. Oh, and Buttigieg also polls the worst by far against Trump. ...
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