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Ventura at 4am / Impressions II – Democrats debate in South Carolina — February 25, 2020

They’re Trump-bit. His teeth-marks are all over their behavior when together on a stage. Warren, Sanders, Biden, Klobuchar, Steyer — they might as well scramble around biting each other all over as do what they did in South Carolina. They looked silly and frantic. A question of life or death for this republic: Can their behavior from this day onward erase the collective impression they’ve made so far?

Buttigieg can be congratulated for his unflappable tone, but wasn’t he eerie? A wide-eyed boy speaking in a soft sort of sing-song as he walks through a growling crowd. Even in louder declarative sentences on the stump his words don’t seem a part of him — clumps of phrases expressive of generalities, afloat upon a curiously disembodied delivery. (It might be different if what he said was grounded with content.)

And Bloomberg: count his facial expressions. Tell me when you reach the number Two.

So much for style.

Let’s remind ourselves that one of these people may be our next president.

Bernie Sanders — Sanders shouts even when he isn’t shouting. Do you think Americans want to be shouted at for the next four years? His intensity is automatic and pitched at the same level on all subjects as complex issues get sloganed-over by a mind seemingly incapable of nuance and uninterested in the details where the Devil lives. Look, if the Democrats nominate a three-legged one-eyed yellow dog, I’ll vote for the mutt. This year, their nominee has my vote, period.

Still I can’t help but be disgusted by how Sanders has broken his promise to release his medical records. And I shiver when I consider:

  • In San Antonio, Sanders declaimed for gun control because “70% of Americans are for it”— which well may be, but 70% of Texans are not, and his pronouncements no doubt showed up on local news from the Panhandle to Corpus Christi. Texas is in play this year ... but maybe that won’t be true if Sanders can’t shut up.

  • The next day, on "60 Minutes", Sanders praised Fidel Castro’s literacy programs — and he’s right! Castro’s programs vastly increased Cuban literacy in all sectors of its population. But much of South Florida is home to people my age who had to flee Cuba, and South Florida is home to their children and their grandchildren. That clip will supply attack commercials in South Florida no matter who gets the nomination. Florida has been considered in play this year. Maybe not anymore, especially if Sanders is the nominee.

  • Sanders suffers from being too much adored. Uncritical enthusiasm is making him careless; he seems to feel that whatever comes out of his mouth is golden. Two dumb moments of that magnitude on two consecutive days. A presidential campaign like that shall probably fail.

Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer — Donald Trump’s presidency has shattered so many sane cultural norms that in 2020 it is no longer obvious that it is WRONG to run for the presidency of the United States just because you can afford to; it is WRONG for a Republican like Bloomberg to run for the Democrats’ nomination; it is WRONG to buy, rather than earn, a political following; it is WRONG to elbow aside, ONLY because you’re rich, proven leaders of the people like Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, and Amy Klobuchar. And Steyer — Steyer doesn’t have a chance, but his money has dumbed him down so much he can’t see it. He’s not just wasting our time. He’s eroding and wasting the chances of the people who deserve to be there.

As for Bloomberg — look, the Democratic Party has tried to break my heart all my life, and it will finally break my battered heart to see the party of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act, and the legalization of gay marriage, bow, as Republicans have bowed, to a billionaire who stokes our fears. But a vow is a vow, and he may be the three-legged one-eyed yellow dog I’ll have to vote for. Should that day come, I’ll need a ride to the polls — because I don’t intend to cast such a vote sober.

Pete Buttigieg — He said something important in the debate: that the crucial year regarding Climate Change isn’t 2050 or 2035, as some have said; the crucial year is 2020. If the United States doesn’t take substantial action right away, our species invites catastrophe. Having said that, however, Buttigieg didn’t put any meat on WHAT to do and HOW, and HOW MUCH — because the details (where, remember, the Devil lives) are scary, and risky, and there’s no assurance they’ll work. The Big Money that’s juicing Buttigieg’s campaign will certainly rein him in if he takes the word “change” seriously. I suspect Buttigieg is tough, in the right ways, but that’s no substitute for experience. Run for the House, kid. (Not the Senate, which you’d probably lose, Indiana being Indiana.) Get some hard-knocks politics under your belt in the Big Leagues. Then maybe someday….

Amy Klobuchar — Let’s say it again: She’s the savviest legislative politician of her generation. She could be a 21st century Harry Truman — and we need one of those. (Remember Truman? The GI Bill, the Berlin Air Lift, the executive order to integrate our armed forces?) Klobuchar is 59; she’s still got time. But this year’s done. You can’t continue to say “I’ve never lost” while you’re losing. She doesn’t show up strongly in state polls. But there are other possibilities for Amy Klobuchar: for instance, Majority or Minority Leader of the Senate. Charles Schumer has gotten too used to losing; he’s played all his chips. A new Democratic president should back Klobuchar for that role.

Joe Biden — Circa 1920-1945, working men in this country might greet each other with the usage “Hey, Joe, whataya know?” Biden’s very presence reminds me of the workers who survived those tough times. Joe Biden is a true son of that epoch — which was more dire than ours, and far more deadly. Of the septuagenarians seeking to be inaugurated next January (Biden, Sanders, Warren, Bloomberg and Trump!) Joe Biden’s political experience, foreign and domestic, is broader than the other four put together. Biden shares with Elizabeth Warren the life-arch of rising from difficult circumstances to an effective and dedicated life of service. (“Effective” is what separates their life-arch from Sanders’.) Unlike Sanders, Biden has released his medical records and he’s in good shape for age 77.

Yes, he’s a faded man, but my reservation about Biden is that he’s too nice! I don’t want to see the Trump administration’s law-breakers go scot-free; at the very least, every person who ignored a lawful subpoena needs to answer for that in court. That said, I’m more than OK with Joe, if he’s the nominee. And if Biden chooses as his Vice President either Stacey Abrams, Susan Rice, or Kamala Harris, he can win without the votes of Sanders’ die-hards . . . provided Biden does well in South Carolina and on Super Tuesday.

Elizabeth Warren — Breathless, seemingly in a 24-hour state of excitement (or agitation?); direct; intimidated by no one; not a phony bone in her body. She doesn’t show up to please … she shows up to work and to fight. Integrity personified, but she’s not an extremist. For Warren, like Biden and Klobuchar, the solution doesn’t have to be perfect so long as it’s useful to as many as possible — then fight again for more. When she declared for the presidency, many (like me) didn’t take her seriously; and, as every candidate does, she’s stumbled some, but never with a compromise of her integrity (unlike Sanders’ broken medical promise). In the recent South Carolina debate, she lost what cool she has and dived into the slam-for-all.

Then came the final question, addressed to each candidate: “What is your motto?” It surprised the stage into quietude. Others groped or kidded. Not Warren. She said, “Matthew 25.” That Gospel passage makes liars of most Christians, be they Baptists, Catholics, or Unitarians; Lutheran, Episcopal, or Church of Christ; Gospel African-Americans or white evangelicals. Christians crowd the exits when it comes to Matthew 25! Not Warren. Without embellishment she recited, "Inasmuch as ye have done it to one of these the least of thy brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

That got me. Because she lives it.

. . . oh, and hey: If you say you’ll vote for [X] and no one else; or you’ll vote only for a [woman, man, skin-tint]; or you won’t vote for a [Jew, Catholic, Protestant, atheist] — if there’s any qualification that might stop you from voting for the Democrat or that might inspire you to piss away your power on a write-in, or the Greens, or the Libertarians, then I ask:

What about Climate Change?

I may not like it, but only the Democratic Party can effectively oppose the Trump administration. No other group has the numbers. If Trump is re-elected, not only will nothing be done to deal with Climate Change, everything will be done to make it worse. If a Democrat is in the Oval Office, Climate Change will be addressed. So it’s your private beef vs. Climate Change.

Good luck justifying that.


Michael Ventura © 2020. All rights reserved.

Michael Ventura is a writer who lives in the mountains of Northern California.


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