It’s time for the Dems’ monthly mu­tual flog­ging

The Saline Courier - - OPINION -

An­other month, an­other Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial de­bate. It’s get­ting to where one an­tic­i­pates these dreary, made-fortv spectacles as one looks for­ward to a root canal.

Can’t they just cut the cards, or play Spin the Bot­tle?

But wait, is that a sex­ist or a racist joke? Is there an eth­nic or gen­der cat­e­gory that finds gam­bling jokes or kiss­ing games of­fen­sive?

It’s at roughly this point in the qua­dren­nial pro­ceed­ings that pun­dit law re­quires quot­ing the late Will Rogers. “I am not a mem­ber of any or­ga­nized po­lit­i­cal party,” the Ok­la­homa sage quipped. “I am a Demo­crat.”

Rogers was also a cit­i­zen of the Chero­kee Na­tion, and per­haps the most pop­u­lar pub­lic fig­ure of his time. He staged a mock pres­i­den­tial cam­paign in 1928 as the can­di­date of the Anti-bunk Party. Rogers pro­posed a joint de­bate “in any joint you name.”

Had he not died in a 1935 air­plane crash, Will Rogers would be 140 today: even older than sev­eral lead­ing Demo­cratic can­di­dates.

So yes, Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial cam­paigns have al­ways seemed chaotic, maybe even more so back then, when “Solid South” seg­re­ga­tion­ists shared power with north­ern big-city po­lit­i­cal ma­chines. Some­how, things worked out. The 1932 can­di­date was Franklin De­lano Roo­sevelt.

That said, re­cent bick­er­ing among lead­ing Democrats threat­ens to de­volve into a com­pe­ti­tion be­tween small, smaller and small­est. Prob­a­bly that’s why for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama spoke up, warn­ing that bit­ter ar­gu­ments over ide­ol­ogy were turn­ing off po­ten­tial Demo­cratic vot­ers.

“This is still a coun­try that is less rev­o­lu­tion­ary than it is in­ter­ested in im­prove­ment. They like see­ing things im­proved, but the av­er­age Amer­i­can doesn’t think we have to com­pletely tear down the sys­tem and re­make it,” Obama said. “And I think it’s im­por­tant for us not to lose sight of that.”

He spoke of a “cir­cu­lar fir­ing squad.”

Obama didn’t need to name any­body. To me, his was an over­due re­join­der to Sen. El­iz­a­beth War­ren’s put­down of Mary­land Rep. John Delaney’s reser­va­tions about her sweep­ing “Medi­care for All” pro­posal, which has about as much chance of be­ing en­acted into law as I have of win­ning the Amer­i­can League Cy Young Award.

War­ren asked why a trim­mer like Delaney was even on the stage. “I don’t un­der­stand why any­body goes to all the trou­ble of run­ning for pres­i­dent of the United States just to talk about what we re­ally can’t do and shouldn’t fight for,” she said. “I don’t get it.”

Granted, Delaney was a no-hope can­di­date who soon with­drew. Even so, I found War­ren’s jibe wor­thy of a high school stu­dent coun­cil elec­tion. Bring­ing real-world pol­i­tics into the de­bate showed a lack of school spirit.

What War­ren sup­port­ers don’t get -- cau­tion, se­cond baseball anal­ogy com­ing -- is that there’s no such thing as a seven-run home run. The thing is to keep putting run­ners on base and not make outs.

That’s one thing I like about Sen. Amy Klobuchar: She talks goals and strate­gies, not ab­stract ide­ol­ogy.

I thought Steve Wald­man got

Sen. War­ren ex­actly right in the Washington Monthly. What tempts ri­vals to de­scribe her as “an­gry” isn’t gen­der, but her habit of “ques­tion­ing the MO­TI­VA­TIONS of those who dis­agree with her.”

“If you dis­agree with her,”

Wald­man writes, “it’s be­cause you don’t have the courage to fight off the pow­er­ful in­ter­ests. Or you’re not a good Demo­crat . ... I’m think­ing of that joke she made about how a male op­po­nent of gay mar­riage couldn’t get a wife or girl­friend.”

War­ren wouldn’t have liked my re­join­der to that crack. But I’m not a can­di­date, so let’s move on. Enough to say that a male politi­cian who lobbed a sex­ual in­sult at a woman voter on na­tional TV wouldn’t be long for the Demo­cratic Party.

Leave that stuff to Trump, the GOP Ado­nis.

War­ren was soon at it again, sug­gest­ing that Joe Bi­den’s reser­va­tions about her Medi­care for All plan shows he’s “run­ning in the wrong pres­i­den­tial pri­mary.”

In­sulted, reg­u­lar old Joe got a bit petu­lant, say­ing War­ren ex­hib­ited an “an­gry un­yield­ing view­point” and rep­re­sented “an elitism that workingand mid­dle-class peo­ple do not share.” In­deed, polls do show that 62% of Midwest swing state vot­ers don’t trust a manda­tory, one-size-fits-all gov­ern­ment health care plan. Speaker Nancy Pelosi thinks it’s a po­lit­i­cal time-bomb.

But you can’t call a Demo­cratic woman “an­gry” un­less she’s ac­tu­ally bit­ing your leg. War­ren ob­jected that “we are told that women are not al­lowed to be an­gry. It makes us unattrac­tive to pow­er­ful men who want us to be quiet.”

So is this a pres­i­den­tial cam­paign or a geri­atric sin­gles bar?

Oddly, War­ren next sent out an email ac­knowl­edg­ing that “I am an­gry and I own it.” An­gry at Trump’s Amer­ica, that is, not Bi­den. Next her cam­paign rolled out a new grad­ual “tran­si­tion” health care plan scarcely dis­tin­guish­able from the “pub­lic op­tion” pro­pos­als fa­vored by Bi­den, Klobuchar, Pete But­tigieg and other Demo­cratic mod­er­ates. A scheme that might imag­in­ably pass.

Me, I just don’t get it.


Arkansas Times colum­nist Gene Lyons is a Na­tional Mag­a­zine Award win­ner and co-au­thor of “The Hunt­ing of the Pres­i­dent” (St. Martin’s Press, 2000). You can email Lyons at eu­gene­[email protected]



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