"Sometimes a book is so eager to take readers behind the scenes that it neglects to spend enough time on the scenes themselves" https://t.co/ZIRQeHNXqT
— Scott Lemieux (@LemieuxLGM) February 28, 2021
Louis Pasteur, as per the quip in the title, knew a thing or two about succeeding against the odds. Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes are media mudlarks; they make a living rooting through the sewage outflow of politics, looking for nuggets they can resell. Hey, it’s a living!
Lemieux quotes at length from Washington Post book critic Carlos Lozada’s review, “Joe Biden won the presidency by making the most of his lucky breaks”:
… Four years ago, Allen and Parnes co-authored the best-selling “Shattered,” an examination of Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 campaign, in which they placed the blame largely on the ineptitude of the losing side. In this sequel, they are only slightly more generous with the Democratic nominee. Joe Biden won, of course, but mainly because he “caught every imaginable break.” He was the “process-of-elimination candidate,” emerging from a crowded set of more exciting Democratic contenders. He was “lousy in debates and lackluster on the trail,” prevailing despite “a bland message and a blank agenda.” Biden, they argue, got lucky.
The fiasco of the Iowa caucuses, where the app designed to report the results failed miserably, temporarily obscured Biden’s fourth-place showing. “This was a gift,” a campaign aide later explained. Luck returned when rival Democrats such as Pete Buttigieg (who ended up winning Iowa) and Mike Bloomberg (who won American Samoa) suffered debate night takedowns by Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren — and when Biden survived his own hit from Kamala Harris over his past positions on school busing and desegregation. (That almost cost Harris the subsequent veep nod, Allen and Parnes report.) Fortune smiled again when the entire Democratic Party establishment rushed to Biden’s side after his victory in the South Carolina primary, even if it was less about devotion to him than panic that Bernie Sanders might secure the nomination. “On Super Tuesday, you got very lucky,” President Donald Trump told Biden at their first debate. The Democrat did not disagree…
A simplistic focus on identity is evident throughout the Democratic field, with new aides often hired to make staffs look young and more diverse — only to complicate things by, you know, having ideas of their own that diverged from those of entrenched advisers. Allen and Parnes portray a Biden campaign split along “deep fault lines mostly based on generation, race, ideology, and time in Bidenworld.” Biden was in the middle of it, in every sense, hewing to centrist positions on health care, racial justice and law enforcement, no matter the pressures from his campaign team and his party. He may not have been “Sleepy Joe,” but he remained “Unwoke Joe,” Allen and Parnes quip. “That was the ugly truth many Democrats had to face in the aftermath of the 2020 election: To beat Trump, they had to swallow their progressive values and push forward an old white man who simply promised to restore calm.”