Culture

Who Should Take On Donald Trump In 2020?

As the Democratic primary narrows to a two-horse race, Phoebe McDowell and Murray Clark make their case for the progressive and moderate lanes

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A CASE FOR BERNIE

BY PHOEBE MCDOWELL

If I hear the question "who can beat Donald Trump?" one more time, I’m going to burn a MAGA cap faster than you can say Bernie Sanders. Super Tuesday may not have gone to plan, but what came before in New Hampshire (and Iowa) was sterling. And before that still in 2016, though the cheers were drowned out by the rigging of political cogs.

The enduring, quite frankly boring question of the Vermont senator’s eligibility have been around as long as he has. Can a [enter red-baiting moniker here] ever be [a democrat/ the president]? Ad infinitum. Ok so he’s a small-d democrat, and “if you write a best-selling book, you can be a millionaire, too.” But we needn’t get bogged down in the semantics because the hardy values of both Bernie and the party he seeks to lead, have a reassuring overlap in the Venn diagram of progressive compatibility. (And a May 2019 Gallup poll found that 43% of Americans see some form of socialism as a good thing for the United States, thank you very much.)

Policies that were deemed radical - dangerous even - in 2016 were this time around, co-opted by his opponents. Ersatz renderings, anyway. From housing programmes and $15 minimum wage, to tuition-free public colleges and free healthcare for all. An old- new-gen New Deal, the federally provided jobs from which, were even endorsed by moderate Kamala Harris. Yes, Bernie has successfully shunted the party to the left, getting it closer to what a social Democratic Party in Europe looks like. 

Romantic, runaway foreign policy haemorrhages money, which can better be spent on the problem he deems paramount: economic inequality, and the race and class issues it breeds. Although keen on weaning the US off military dependence in Middle Eastern quagmires, Bern would recommit to the Iran nuclear deal and Paris Climate Agreement. 

The veteran legislator may seethe with angst at billionaires, but it’s the plight of the dirt poor that makes him viscerally rage. “Bernie is the only person as angry as I am,” one tweeter opined in pledge of their support. Never ideologically unmoored, if we are to subscribe to the maxim that consistency is key, Sanders is a paragon. Indeed, 53% of supporters have said if it’s not him, they’re not interested, flouting Buttigieg’s plea to “vote blue no matter who”.

Sure, he can be a bit cranky, but you would be too if your surprisingly good polls kept attractive unsurprisingly bad coverage. Despite having asked for Warren's endorsement, she’s leaving him on read. In the unofficial meantime, there's AOC. Oh and Emily Ratajkowski, because behind every 78-year-old progressive, is a placard-wielding, underboob-flaunting feminist.

I’m not worried he’ll win, but terrified he won’t.

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A CASE FOR BIDEN 

BY MURRAY CLARK

This brings me little joy. As a former supporter of the once-in-a-lifetime professorial might of Elizabeth Warren – the sort of woman who sensibly and kindly packs spare travel adapters for her wider holiday party – making the case for Joe Biden is a tough pill to swallow. What’s more, he’s the sort of monster the Warren relished to slay: a dyed-in-the-wool Washington insider that sided with credit card companies over regular working people, and one with an oft-forgotten (and oft-troubling) record with women.

And people are voting for him.

Grievances and allegiances aside, the statistics sing to the unexpected tune of Biden: a three-time would-be presidential candidate that is finally seeing a return on the back of a 48 year political career. For as results of Super Tuesday trickled in (a very American sounding event in which several big states vote for their favoured Democratic nominee), the former vice president had not only cauterised a bleeding campaign, he’d reversed the tide with ten wins to Bernie Sanders’ four. His starkest (and, for me, the most crushing) contest: scoring an upset in Massachusetts, pushing Sanders to silver, and Warren to a humiliating third place in her own home state.

It was a veritable landslide. The African American voters that stayed home in 2016 returned en masse. Self-identified moderates, liberals and independents broke for Biden in multiple states. And Sanders proved that despite a high floor of ardent, rock solid support, the ceiling remained low: his coalition has not increased in size or number since his ill-fated contest against Hillary Clinton. That doesn’t bode well for a general election.

The numbers still swell for Biden. In Virginia alone, the 77-year-old amassed more votes than Hillary and Sanders combined in 2016’s primary. That is huge. Such an increase points to some form of excitement, even if I can’t feel it myself.

And I’m certainly not feeling the Bern either. Despite intentions that are goodly and pure and similar to your granddad’s best mate who vehemently disagrees with his opinion of young people, Sanders’ online army are the antithesis of such virtue. Warren, and anyone who posed a competition to Bernie, were torched with near-constant vitriol and sexist statements in the belief that there can only be One True Leader. That’s not a movement. It’s a cult. And, after lampooning Warren supporters for the best part of a year, the invitation to join Bernie’s ‘inclusive, welcoming’ coalition is not enjoying many RSVPs. Imagine that.

Which leaves Biden: imperfect, imbalanced and immutable in his faux pas. But he is uniting the Democrats, and he is not gut punching the supporters of other presidential contenders. In fact, they’re lining up to endorse him as Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, Corey Booker, Michael Bloomberg and Kamala Harris have all rushed to fall into Biden’s column.

In the race for leader of the free world, my heels still drag. However, it seems that the rest of the world isn’t quite so reluctant.

Images | shutterstock

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