I’d back Bernie

There’s a lot to unpack with all the things going on around the world at the moment. COVID-19 is the headline act, and that’s a situation that’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better, even if there’re elements of the absurd in the case. Then there’s the significant drop in the oil price, and what potentially means across the world. Then there’s the good news story from the ‘G last night where over 86,000 attended the final of the Women’s World T20 comp – and saw Oz smash India. Finally, there are the Democratic primaries, which is what I want to touch on today.

Last time I wrote on this I was hoping for a Warren/Klobuchar one-two. I was distrustful of Buttigieg, sympathetic towards Sanders, and thought Joe Biden wasn’t up to it. Since then it’s come down to a two-horse race – Sanders versus Biden.

All but Warren of the failed candidates have come out in support of Biden, and on the back of that a lurching campaign got back on track, and he took the lead on Super Tuesday.

Joe is seen as the safe option, unlikely to spook the voters. He’s a nice seeming bloke who was Barack’s 2IC and has a moderate agenda – shifting the status quo, rather than drastically altering it.

I have general, and more specific reservations about him as the Democratic nominee. For a start, I think he’s past his best. Even in his prime, I don’t know if he was ever foreman material. Joe wouldn’t like me saying this, but I think he was born to be the amiable and reliable sidekick than leading man.

He’s not as sharp as he used to be and stumbles very obviously on occasion. You might think against an opponent like Trump – basically, an idiot – that something like that wouldn’t be so damaging. The problem is that Trump has the blithe confidence of the truly stupid, combined with an utter lack of moral rectitude. You can bet he’d launch some blistering attacks on Biden, and I don’t know that Joe has the tools anymore to retaliate.

So much of politics these days is perception. About 40% of the American people think Trump is a genius, and most of the rest think he’s a moron. Those opinions are pretty well set, now. In between perhaps, there’s about 15% who’ll make up their mind along the way. Right or wrong, many of them will be persuaded by the more forceful personality. It’s a ruthless game, but any sign of weakness or defensiveness or uncertainty will be punished at the ballot box. You have to be full-on to win.

No two ways Biden is the much better man than Trump and would be a better leader because of it, but he has to win the contest to get there. Trump is a pig; Biden is courtly. Trump will throw the kitchen sink, but I’m not sure Joe has the wherewithal to combat that. Once maybe, but I think there’s doubt in him now, and he hasn’t the same wit and agility he had when Obama named him as running mate. In the face of withering attacks on his competence by Trump, who we know has no shame, how will he react?

I’m looking in from the outside, desperately hoping that the Democrats put up someone who can knock Trump off. Push comes to shove, I’m not sure Joe Biden is up to it.

I’m not sure if he’s the candidate America needs, either. The country is damaged and hurting, the political system is near broken. I think it needs more than an amiable but doddery leader playing nice taking them forward. It needs healing. And the many broken parts of it broken need to be fixed.

Sanders is the outsider even within the Democratic party. He scares them. They think he’s too much of a wildcard. He’s too progressive, and they’re too careful trying not to scare the voters by keeping to the middle of the road, but it’s this kind of thinking that led to Trump being elected in the first place.

Voters flocked to Trump because he was different and because he wasn’t a part of the system. They were sick of being played for mugs by the political establishment trying to set an agenda without any regard for what the people want. The election of Trump was a vote of no confidence in the system. You might think 4 years of Trump would have cured voters of that, but support for him has been surprisingly resilient. Now the ‘system’ is trying to shoehorn in another candidate to battle Trump – someone moderate and inoffensive.

The big part of Sanders’ problem is that his policies are deemed too radical by American standards and, of course because he is constantly branded as Socialist (he’s not), in a country where socialism equates to communism (which it shouldn’t).

In many parts of the world, the seemingly radical policies of Sanders are the norm. I don’t think there’s a civilised nation that doesn’t have universal health care. Once, in Oz, we had free university tuition, but it’s free still in the Scandinavian countries. And his ideas around tax are human-centric, rather than big business focussed. That’s long overdue.

I actually think that Sanders might be what America needs – someone who changes the conversation utterly. I think it’s beyond the point of patching things up, it needs to be re-made. It needs a dynamic and egalitarian mindset, which I think is at the heart of social democracy (which is where Sanders really belongs). There’s a lot that ails America, and much of it that trails the world in policy and philosophy.

Can Sanders win the presidency? You can bet that Trump would come out against him and paint him as a communist. That’ll work with some, but mostly rusted on Trump supporters, I would think. What Sanders has is the passion and fire that Biden so clearly lacks. He is motivated by belief. I’ve no doubt that he has it in him to bite back at Trump much more vigorously than Biden.

I like Joe Biden, but in my view, I think just about any of the other candidates would be a better match-up against Trump than he is. I’d have backed Warren – clever, industrious, progressive, but in her absence, it should be Sanders.

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