There’s an article in the current New Yorker on the contest between Biden and Sanders for working class Democrats. It’s pretty good overall.
The author, Benjamin Wallace-Wells, isn’t necessarily discounting other figures in the race, but in this piece, he focuses on the two old codgers battling it out as the most “elemental” struggle. Refreshingly, he doesn’t use “working class” as a euphemism for downscale whites.
Here’s his assessment of how each campaign tries to appeal to voters:
The demands that each candidate is making of working-class Democrats are different but weighty. Biden is asking that they place their trust in him personally, above any political program—in his judgment, in his good faith, in the significance of his history with Barack Obama. But Sanders is in some ways making an even more ambitious demand: that they believe in the transformative power of politics itself.
Wallace-Wells notes that Biden’s crowds are typically smaller and more subdued and that the candidate often travels with pols like John Kerry and Chris Dodd. Biden seeks to connect with voters on an emotional level. Sanders has larger, more fired-up events and travels with Vampire Weekend and AOC. And of course, Sanders’ pitch is to join his revolution, which BWW implies is political rather than emotional.
That juxtaposition — emotional vs. political — might work for the candidates, but it doesn’t describe the campaigns, not if supporter reaction is an element to consider. If a bird landed on Biden’s lectern, I suspect fewer people would take it as a sign that Biden is The One, which is kind of an emotional response to a random avian encounter, at least in my book.
I’ve run into a handful of Biden Bros online, but the encounters stand out mostly because they’re so rare. Bernie Bros online are as ubiquitous as pigeons in a city park; you don’t even notice them unless they start swooping aggressively.
Anyhoo, BWW talks to working class Democrats in South Carolina about their rationale for choosing a nominee, and it sounds familiar:
…[T]here are plenty of working-class Democrats—many of them African-American or Latino, and many of them living in conservative places—who have been made especially vulnerable by the Trump Administration, and they might want to turn the temperature down.
As a Democrat in a ruby-red community, I get that. But part of me rebels against the idea of turning the temperature down.
I’ve spent more than three years seething with rage as the leering misogynist crook in the White House bellows slander against the woman he robbed of the presidency with the help of an authoritarian kleptocrat. I’m in a flame-thrower mood. But I recognize I have less to lose than many. BWW again:
One vision expands politics until it encompasses the culture; the other aims to shrink it until it fits once again in the Senate chamber, in a trusted figure in the Oval Office, in imperfect deals cut in good faith. Biden moved slowly and elegantly around the room in Indianola, with his shoulders relaxed and microphone down. He was shrinking the distance between himself and his audience, diverting them away from first principles and talking about emotions—a pol in a time of ideologues, still somehow leading in the polls. How strange it would be if this era of unrest and self-discovery—the mass progressive uprising of the Trump era—ended with Democrats choosing him.
Maybe, but I think Wallace-Wells might overestimate the role of progressivism in the uprising. There’s some of that, yes, but the reaction to Trump has also been a massive recoil against his fundamental lack of decency. Some folks see Biden as an antidote to that.
We’ll have to see how it shakes out. Open thread.