Revenge of the Quiet Moderates

Yesterday afternoon, I scrolled through my Facebook feed and smiled at a full wall of pictures of Elizabeth Warren with her sensible gold stud earrings and preppy hair. Friend after friend posted articles about the greatness of Warren and projected a clear win for her. There were a couple of plucky supporters for Biden in the. mix, but it was mostly Warren.

Today, the mood is funerarial. Because Warren was demolished last night in Super Tuesday’s primaries, and everybody’s second choice, Sanders, is behind Biden, who nobody in my world wanted.

Nobody was rooting for Biden among my Facebook crowd. Why is that? Because I’m a former college professor and am currently a journalist. I’m not average. Always important to keep in mind.

Matt Ygelsias has an excellent post at Vox, “Why Elizabeth Warren in losing even if all your friends love her: White college grads are living in the Warren bubble.”

Yes.

He points out that the US is a working class country and all her talk about student loan forgiveness and free college didn’t resonate with them.

Validated data from the 2016 election, for example, suggests that only about one-third of 2016 voters had college degrees. The share among Hillary Clinton voters was higher, at 43 percent, but even among the more educated in the party, most people haven’t graduated college. And among college graduates, about 75 percent attend schools that accept more than half of applicants, rather than the kind of state university flagships or elite private universities whose graduates dominate the media. In my friend group, it’s not unusual for someone to be a lawyer or a doctor or to have a master’s degree in something or other. As a policy journalist, I speak to a lot of experts in academia or the think tank world who have advanced degrees. 

But in the actual American population distribution, there are more high school dropouts than people with master’s degrees. The median American under the age of 30 has $0 in student loan debt, not because the median young person is superrich but because most people didn’t attend expensive higher education institutions in the first place.

Her loss is a big loss for student loan reforms. Also for the teachers unions, who supported her. It was a loss for pundits, who make a living by explaining American political behavior; clearly they are clueless. All that talk about the youth vote — topics that appeal to the 20-something editors who dominate our media climate — was just that. Talk.

Not only was Warren a big loser last night, so was Sanders. He didn’t do as well as projected. He lost in Texas and didn’t win enough in CA. Biden has more delegates and is getting set for states where he’s expected to do extremely well, like Florida. At this point, the race is Biden’s to lose.

Scholars who write about American exceptionalism try to find reasons why the United States never had the extreme political movements — right wing nationalism, fascist parties, social democrats, communism — that are commonplace in Europe. One explanation is that certain political institutions — our two party system, federalism, electoral college — naturally filters out groups that can’t attract the attention of the majority of people. Another explanation is that there is something about American culture that naturally veers from big changes.

I think last night clearly shows that most Americans want a moderate political climate. They are not ready for Sanders and his major changes in the status quo. They worry about changes to their healthcare plans. Things may not be great right now, but they worry that things could be a lot worse. The guys lining up in the local deli for egg sandwiches on Saturday morning don’t think Sanders is talking to them.

Me? I’m not upset. As I’ve said over and over, all I care about is that we see somebody else in the White House in January. If Biden has the best chance to accomplish that task, he’ll get my vote.

Bernie Nerves

February 18, 2020, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA: Democratic presidential candidate BERNIE SANDERS, I-Vt., speaks at a rally at University of Nevada, on Tuesday. (Credit Image: � Caroline Brehman/Congressional Quarterly via ZUMA Press)

My choice in the Democratic Primary has always been “Anyone.” I didn’t allow myself to fall in love with any one candidate, because I didn’t want to have my heart broken, and I really wasn’t very picky this time around. I want to replace Donald Trump as president, and I was going to support any candidate who had the clearest path towards victory.

If I had let myself fall in love, I might have gone with Warren. She’s been a favorite of Apt. 11D for a long time, since we are interested in many of the same topics.

Now, it looks like it’s going to be Bernie. The centrists are destroying each other. And a few minutes on a debate stage in Vegas negated billions of dollars of paid ads from the Bloomberg campaign.

Is Bloomberg totally done? The pundits seem to think so, but the ads keep coming and coming on the radio and tv around here. Maybe they’ll make some headway, even though the primary in Jersey isn’t until June, and things will be settled by that time. March 3rd will be the big day. Can’t wait.

The pundits are now getting worried about Bernie’s electability and what kinds of policies he’ll put in place, if he wins. A sample of columns in the New York Times: “Bernie Sanders is Making a Big Mistake,” “Would Bernie Sanders Be a Drag on Vulnerable Democrats, ” and “The Democrats Are in Trouble.”

I’m not too worried about Bernie should he become president. I think he’s more of a realist than an ideologue; just look at his position on gun control — he’s probably to the right of Bloomberg on this issue, because he comes from a state with a lot of recreational hunters. I do worry about him getting the suburban vote, because he isn’t offering them anything.

I’m also worried about the fact that the Russian bots have been promoting his candidacy. Steve thinks that they’re doing it just to stir up chaos. I’m worried that they’re promoting him, because they believe that Trump can beat him more easily than the other candidates.

Let’s talk about the Russian election wranglers for a minute. I find it fascinating that how Putin’s Geeky Minions are getting involved in our elections. It not just virus-building and coding. They’re doing it by manipulating people through social media. They figure out what kinds of conspiracy stories will take off among certain groups of people. They play into basic fears and prejudices. They are the ultimate social scientists, who seem to have a better handle on the American electorate than the best campaign managers and political scientists in our country. It’s dark, cynical understanding, but it is probably correct and is probably effective. If so, democracy is dead.

But back to Bernie. I have to say that this is the best drama on tv right now.

Do you think Bernie can beat Trump? Place your predictions here, folks.

Debate Number Nine

Last night’s debate was a good one.

Bloomberg was on the stage for the first time, so we got the fun of watching the seasoned candidates tear him apart. We got a glimpse of the hatred between Mayor Pete and Amy Klobuchar. People addressed the question of whether Bernie can win a general election.

Keep in mind that all the literature says that debates don’t matter. Most voters don’t watch them, and won’t make their decisions based on those performances. Ads, particularly negative ones, matter more.

I’m not sure what last night’s viewership numbers were, but the one in December brought in 6 million viewers, compared to 102 million for the SuperBowl. Since I’m the person who didn’t watch the Super Bowl, but has watched every debate, I have to keep in mind that I’m not your typical voter. And none of you are.

With Elizabeth Warren trailing in fourth place, this was a chance for her to make a last stand. She was fiery and aggressive with her hand up all the time. I liked that, but others might put her in the Hermione Granger box.

Biden loved that someone else was the target of attacks and that Klobuchar admitted forgetting the name of the President of Mexico (definitely not a strike against her in my book).

I thought Mayor Pete didn’t have a great night. He came off as smug and young.

Bernie is always consistent. Always stays on message. He won’t change his politics, if he makes it to the general election.

Bloomberg didn’t have a good night, but I’m not ready to discount him. He’s a really smart guy, who has a team of really smart people around him. They’ve done the math and run all the RISK strategies. They’ve gambled on him coming in at the last minute and missing the earlier fights. It means that he’s the flavor of the month in the media, but it also means that he hasn’t had enough practice on the debate stage or shaking hands. I’m super curious how this is going to work out for him. (I’m not endorsing his candidacy, just to clarify. I’m geeking out over strategies, that’s all.)

BTW, if you google “democratic debate” right now. The first item that comes up is a Mike Bloomberg ad.

When People Stop Caring

For the past couple of days, we’ve had some serious health issues to contend with here at Apt. 11D. It would be in bad taste to talk publicly about those issues, beyond some notices in the comment section for regulars, but let’s just say that those problems have been all consuming.

Iowa, the State of the Union, and the impeachment verdict have gotten only cursory attention from myself. When I haven’t been busy with doctors, I’ve been anesthesizing my brain with romance novels, gossip blogs, and dark chocolate. If someone like me — an over-educated news junkie — isn’t paying attention, that’s bad news. It means that nobody else is paying attention.

Part of the hubris of any blogger or political pundit or hyper-tweeter is that they feel that they can make a difference through their words, no matter how small and insignificant their blog may be. We all think we can change the world, and that’s why we do it. If I’m feeling powerless, that’s bad news. It means that the ordinary people don’t feel like they matter.

Only 172,000 people showed up to vote in Iowa, after a year of hard work and money by over a dozen candidates. And that was before the counting fiasco. How many people will bother to vote next time?

Compared to other political moments, like the Kavanaugh hearings, the impeachment hearings didn’t attract many viewers. Maybe because the outcome was obvious. There was no drama.

Random thought: Would John McCain have made a difference?

All this is important. We have an unhinged president who is running our country like he’s at the wheel of the white SUV with OJ Simpson along an LA highway. He’s reckless, stupid, and selfish. He doesn’t obey the unwritten laws that have kept politicians in check in our country for two centuries, never mind the written laws. I fear that our nation will never recover.

The worst tragedy is what happens when people stop paying attention. When people like me get caught up in our personal lives — no matter how serious and real — and don’t turn on the television, stop tweeting, stop writing, then that’s when democracy dies. Yes, the world keeps spinning. Yes, our problems are real. But those problems will only get worse, if our political system goes to hell and stops doing the little that it already does for our most vulnerable.

So, I’m shaking myself out of my personal crisis and getting back to business.

Bernie Bros, The Moderate Vote, and A Waiter in the West Village

I don’t care about football.

I usually watch the Super Bowl every year, because of the parties, the fun munchies, and the commercials. Everything else is a big snore for me. So, last night, I skipped the whole thing and went out with a couple of girlfriends to grab drinks and dinner in the New York City.

We were ensconced in a bar in the West Village eating super salty fries and drinking pitchers of beer along with the 20-year olds, when the conversation turned to the election. Who were we going to vote for in the primary?

One friend said her vote was for Warren or Bernie. The other friend said, anybody but Bernie. I said, anybody who has the best chance of beating Trump. I said that if the polls tell me that Biden has the best chance, I’ll vote for him. I’m, in a sense, a single issue voter right.

So, we were fighting it out about who had the best chance, who would carry the youth vote, and did the youth vote matter (no), when our waiter demanded to know what we were fighting about. I said, “politics”. He said, “move over. I want to hear this.” So, I pushed our coats away and gave him a seat.

He was a 30-something, probably gay, mixed race guy. He said that he didn’t like Bernie. While he was very in favor of gay rights, he was a libertarian about a lot of things. He thought that people should be able to carry guns, as long as they followed certain rules. He also said that 70 percent of his friends weren’t going to vote at all.

When he got up, I didn’t say, “I told you so.” But I was thinking it.

At this point, I think people are either going to vote for Trump or they won’t. I can’t imagine there is a single person in the country, who hasn’t made that decision. There are a whole lot of people, who may or may not show up to vote. And that’s the real election now.

The Democrats have to put someone forward who will get their people to the polls, but won’t annoy weak Republicans so much so that they decide to show up and vote for Trump.

There is definitely a “silly season” in every primary, where the media doesn’t feel that it’s totally necessary to back the serious candidate. That’s why Trump got as far as he did. The media let him go unchecked through silly season, until it was too late.

Is the same thing happening now? Mayor Pete is really too young to be a serious candidate. Bernie may actually be a terrible candidate, as Hillary hinted last week. (I think her comment wasn’t off-the-cuff, but was a calculated attempt by Democrat leaders to take Bernie out.) Biden is doing really well with minority voters.

Then the waiter came back again and told me that I looked just like the landlady on the Kimmie Schmidt show. After a little googling on our phones, we realized that he meant Carol Kane. Apparently, I look like a crazy old lady, with big eyes and wild hair, so take this waiter’s comments with a grain of salt.

Trump, Biden, and Warren

I’m increasingly stressed out about the presidential election next year.

Polls show that Trump has an edge in the battleground states — MI, PA, AZ, FL, WI, and NC — when matched up against Sanders and Warren. Against, Biden, Trump loses.

I don’t think anybody is excited about Biden, but those numbers are very concerning.

The rest of the Democratic candidates are looking at those numbers and regretting setting themselves up to be the next AOC. Watch them all move a step to the right during this week’s debates. The Twitter Democrats may have sunk the next election.

I do like Warren. I’ve been talking about here on this blog, since 2004. But she makes a lot of people nervous. Her healthcare plan got very mixed reviews this weekend.

Free College and Student Loan Forgiveness in the Democratic Debate

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., talk during in the first of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN Tuesday, July 30, 2019, in the Fox Theatre in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Last night, education policy was front and center. But only higher education. Both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have various proposals that aim at reducing the burden of college students and recent graduates. On the table are free college and student loan forgiveness.

Now, college tuition rates are insane. Some colleges are $73,000 for full cost of attendance. Yes, there are tuition discounts for merit and need, but lots of students pay full freight. That’s their sticker price. And some students do rack up significant amounts of debt, particularly if they tack on masters degrees, take a long time to graduate, and just make bad decisions.

You know that I’m highly sympathetic and have ranted about those issues for a while. But I’m worried about blank checks for college for a number of reasons.

It penalizes people who made hard choices to avoid debt: A school teacher who doesn’t take vacations but puts money in 529 accounts for her kids since birth. A college graduate who takes a boring job, rather than the dream job, to pay off the loans. A student who attends a community college for two years, before transferring to a four year college. The kid who goes to an in-state public college, solely because of cost.

It does nothing for students who can’t finish college, which may be even more of a serious crisis than debt.

It does nothing for students who need a degree from a trade school. Or don’t attend college at all, but still need training and employment support.

It does nothing to stop the cause of the problem – colleges. They are allowed to keep raising tuition, even at in-state public colleges, without any checks. Even, as they do in my state, waste buckets of cash on losing sports teams. And there is no pressure on them to improve quality. They keep replacing full time faculty with adjuncts.

There is no distinction between public and private colleges in their plans. A public college is a right, a private college is not.

As many have pointed out, it benefits the middle class without much trickle down help for working and lower class citizens.

Steve and I attended a grad school program that didn’t provide any funding for its grad students. Not even tuition. (Yes, majorly stupid, but let’s move on.)

I kept my loans manageable by working part-time, sometimes full time, at a policy institute at the same time as taking classes and writing a dissertation. I also taught a few classes. Steve taught a great deal, while doing his classwork. While students at other universities were building their CVs, we were ghost writing papers and teaching 50+ students at the Bronx Community College.

Even with all that, our combined student loan debt when we got married was over $75,000. We paid it off around my 50th birthday. We’re better off than most of our classmates, who were looking at bigger numbers. That debt was awful. It had a big impact on our careers and other life choices (children, homes). Grad school was a MAJOR financial train wreck. (I’m not even going to talk about the impact of beginning to save for retirement in your mid 30’s, rather than your 20’s.)

So, I am highly, HIGHLY sympathetic to anybody who wants to ease that burden on others. Yet, I’m not entirely happy with the current proposals, because they don’t check the colleges themselves, don’t distinguish between public and private colleges, penalize good behavior, and don’t help people who choose alternatives to college.