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Thursday, June 28, 2018
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In my last post, I reviewed the 2020 Presidential primary situation for the Democrats, and concluded that Senator Kamala Harris is starting to emerge from the fog as an early favorite for the nomination. I considered some of the pros and cons for Harris, including her strategic positioning amidst potential Democratic voting blocks in November, and concluded that she would have a fighting chance of beating Donald Trump, especially if Trump continues to alienate Hispanics. However, I opined that Senator Harris still needs to “up her game” a bit to achieve the stature of a national leader (and towards achieving nation-wide name recognition — in that vein, I have noticed that CNN and MSNBC are giving Senator Harris a lot more air-time these days).

Although I respect Senator Harris and I would sincerely consider supporting and voting for her in 2020, my personal favorite potential candidate remains Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. Interestingly, both Harris and Klobuchar are former prosecutors and former Attorneys General. In a previous blog post, I explained why I believed that Klobuchar could win and would be a good President. And I stand by that opinion one year later.

However, being a political realist, I understand that Harris is closer to “where the Party is” today, with its continuing leftward shift. And I will admit that Harris, as an African American (actually, the child of a Tamil Indian mother and a Nigerian father – or roughly akin to Barack Obama with his American Caucasian mother and his Kenyan father), can probably inspire higher levels of black turnout, which could make the difference in several of the midwestern swing states that Clinton lost in 2016. I believe that Senator Klobuchar would also have the chance of taking those states, but for a different reason. I e., Klobuchar could be a younger version of Joe Biden, with her moderate-liberal stands and doctrinal flexibility (as needed to win a statewide election in Minnesota, a state where Republican political strength has grown in recent years).

As with Joe Biden, I believe that Klobuchar would be well poised to regain enough of the former Democratic votes from the white working class in the Midwest so as to to put those states back in the blue column, especially Michigan and Wisconsin (and arguably Pennsylvania too, maybe even Ohio). But in reviewing what the pundits are saying so far, and looking at the early polls and political betting sites, I don’t see any signs that Klobuchar is gaining momentum towards the White House. She hardly seems to register on the polls to date, she didn’t make the Washington Post’s top 15 candidates list in March; furthermore, her betting odds are quite remote – on PredictIt, her “stock” is listed at 5 cents on the dollar, or 1 to 20 betting odds (whereas Harris and Bernie Sanders come in at 17 cents, or 1 to 5.9 odds). On the Euro betting sites for Democratic nominee, Klobuchar’s odds are likewise between 1 to 20 and 1 to 25.

To be honest, it seems as though the remaining Democrats with centralist leanings would pick the older but more experienced Joe Biden (although Klobuchar would make a good VP pick for Biden, given the geographic balance between Biden’s Delaware and Minnesota). And furthermore, the national Democrats seem headed leftward, away from both Biden and Klobuchar.

Even though Kamala Harris takes some centrist positions, she seems better poised than Klobuchar to move leftward (having her base in deep blue California versus purple Minnesota). For now, positions her a bit to the left of the mid-way point in the ideology range of Senate Democrats; she would be roughly on the 65 yard line between Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Bernie Sanders. (Klobuchar would be slightly to the right of Harris, at the 57 yard line).

My question, however, is who is better poised to help heal the wounds that our nation is suffering from increasing political divisiveness. Sometimes I wonder if America is heading for some sort of civil war – not quite a geographic war of the states, as happened in 1861, something more of a crazy-quilt, region by region set of alliances mediated on-line, in the digital “cloud”. Civil War 2 might not involve invading armies, but instead be based on legal, racial and economic alliances enforced through trading blocks and tariffs, preferential and punitive taxes, bureaucratic biases, social and legal harassment against “visitors” or traders from opposing areas, etc. (Recall the recent Red Hen Restaurant incident with Trump spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders — a sign of things to come?) Well, we are not there yet. But who can best help us to avoid getting there?

The Republican Party has never been famous for garnering broad coalitions of voters from a wide variety of regions, classes, income levels, education levels, etc. Despite its “big tent” motto, the GOP usually appeals to some mix of economic privilege, business ownership or management, and also to those favoring social conservatism and small government. An occasional national candidate, such as Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and the Bushes, manages to convince a wider range of working people that the GOP is the guardian of low taxes and old-school values. Donald Trump added a strong nationalist populism and garnered Christian fundamentalist support, in order to sway enough of those voters into his fold.

It was typically the Democrats who “appealed to the masses”, i.e. to workers and the elderly and others who benefited from government assistance. As America became more educated and college degrees were no longer a rarity, the Democrats were able to attract the “new educational elite”, and thus managed to build a fairly comprehensive coalition. Unfortunately, in recent years, the Democrats have been themselves depending more and more upon coalitions of narrowly prescribed interest groups, including college educated whites and Asians, atheists and agnostics, racial minorities, feminists and LGBTQ.

If the Democrats decide to give up on the white working class and double down on minorities, they might win the White House. But they will further alienate themselves from many regions throughout the nation, especially farm and rural areas, including the “central west” states such as Wyoming and the Dakotas, and the “rust belt” of the midwest. I’m not sure how well Kamala Harris is going to play in Dubuque (but yes, it’s also a good question how well Amy Klobuchar would play in Watts or Detroit or South Boston; although right now, she probably plays well enough in riverside North Minneapolis, a largely minority neighborhood that is a traditional Democratic stronghold).

Going back to the possibility of a “soft civil war”, a recent political analysis article on Bloomberg recently discussed this very point in the context of the present — i.e., the deep political divisions and divisiveness that Donald Trump has triggered —

“I think we’re at the beginning of a soft civil war,” political scientist Thomas Schaller said in a telephone interview. “I don’t know if the country gets out of it whole.”

I don’t know exactly what that would look like. But liberals have a great deal of cultural, academic and economic heft, stretching from Hollywood to Harvard. Just this week, some Hollywood powerhouses flirted with leveraging their clout against the Trumpist Fox News. There are endless variations on such a power play. If Democrats opt to use their power more aggressively — breaking rules —Schaller’s soft civil war hardly seems unlikely.

Democrats won’t give up on democracy. It’s too central to their identity, and their commitment to democratic norms and processes is also their point of greatest contrast with Trumpism . . . [but] Democrats will give up on conservatives. They will give up on Alabama and Mississippi, on Kansas and Nebraska. They will explore ways to divorce their culture, politics and economy from Trumpism and from their fellow Americans who support it.

Would Kamala Harris or Amy Klobuchar be able to prevent a “soft civil war”? I have the gut feeling that an older, less fiery figure like Joe Biden, would have a better chance with that. But who knows — Abraham Lincoln wasn’t all that old when he became President (he was 51; Kamala Harris will be 56 in November, 2020).

And a final thought — Democrats don’t like the Electoral College right now — but, there is one advantage of the College system. I.e., it helps to prevent a true regional civil war (although this didn’t work in 1860, as the north’s population advantage over the South drowned out the regional effect of the Electoral College voting formula, i.e. equaling the number of Senators plus the number of House districts). However, regional weighting will not help to prevent a “soft” civil war. I will admit that Donald Trump has done a lot over the past 2 years to fan the flames inspiring such a “war”. But many Democrats seem poised to respond with gasoline. I hope that the whole nation will somehow see that we may be headed towards a cliff, and that somehow, cooler heads will prevail. I hope that Senator Harris, or whoever the Democrats finally settle on as their 2020 Presidential candidate, will be among those cooler heads.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:11 pm      

  1. Jim, I still have little to say about the 2020 election, because as I said (yesterday was it?) that I think it’s way too early to even think about the 2020 election; we must first see if Trump’s campaigning can bring in to office the people he recommends.

    I still do not know much about Kamala Harris nor Amy Klobuchar, tho I think I’ve at least heard of Klobuchar, being in closer proximity to me than Harris.

    I do most certainly agree with the concept of a “soft civil war”. I not only think one is possible, I think one’s already started with the whole Trump concept of having to have some kind of fight that ends not only in a loss for the loser but in humiliation for the loser or there’s no “fun” in it. (Two things wrong there, as I see it: There MUST be a loser and humiliation must be a part of the ending [unless of course, it is Trump who loses.]) Trump seems to be very good at the lose/humiliate kind of thing and then managing to walk away from the whole situation saying something like, “I don’t know what’s going on there” or “it’s the other guy’s fault”.

    There’s a second part you mention here of a “soft civil war” already going on with people being killed­­the shooting at “The Capital” newspaper yesterday, the many shootings that we’ve sadly and unfortunately become used to and tend to give a short interest in and then forget until the next one happens; when someone does mention a shooting that happened a year or two (or three) ago, a person has to stop and think before saying to him/herself, “Oh, yeah, that one”.

    If that’s not some kind of “war” I don’t know what would be. And it certainly is a “civil war” as it’s the people in our country against other people in our country. There seems to be little to distinguish who gets killed, except too often its children in schools. There’s something of the “pick on those least able to take care of themselves” (children, people unarmed and occupied with some other totally different thing than having to be watchful of being shot, a “get them while they aren’t looking type of thing”). Sadly, this makes one thing of DJT’s approach to anything at all.

    I have not done any record keeping on this, but it seems to me that the ones doing the killings and shootings somehow seem white and male, much like the pictures we currently see of the government. However, many of those who are doing the shooting are young and not old.

    The writer of the Bloomberg article certainly hit the nail on the head in linking Trump’s “he [rump] must win” AND “humiliate the loser” policy with the concept of a “soft civil war” except he doesn’t see the connection between what is already going on and the fact that it is already the beginning of a “soft civil war”, if the word “soft” can be used together with “civil war”.

    I might also say that we need to get rid of the electoral college and let the popular vote determine who the president will be. There’s no need for an electoral college these days when almost everyone is literate, people have degrees as a kind of matter of course, and thus have little or no need for someone more educated than they are to figure out who would be the best to run the country. IMO, the electoral college simply must go. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — June 29, 2018 @ 3:01 pm

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