We’re in that political silly season when too many Democrats bemoan their looming doom, nervous that their current standard-bearer (in this case President Joe Biden) is too damaged by unfair attacks—and the regular fusillade of GOP ratf*ckery—to perform the way an incumbent really should in the upcoming election.
And that’s fair. I get it. I’m as nervous as they come—and I worry constantly. About everything. I worry about killer asteroids wiping out civilization as we know it. I worry that humanity fled the planet on a giant space ark during Y2K, left behind 6 billion silicone dopplegängers, and no one bothered to tell me. When I eat nachos, I worry that the cheese and the chips won’t come out evenly. But most of all, I worry that we’ll see the mother of all October surprises and end up with four more years of Donald Trump. To get me to stop worrying about that, you’d pretty much have to boil my brain in bath salts, punt it into a flaming lard lagoon, and hook it back up with jumper cables and half a pack of poster putty.
But enough about Ben Carson’s proprietary surgical techniques. We have an election to win next year, and while it’s human (and especially Democratic) nature to worry, the best approach is to put our heads down, work hard, donate whatever crumbs we can, and understand that we have the inside track. Really.
Yes, some recent polls show Biden in a dead heat with the four-times indicted guy, but good God, the election is roughly 14 months away, campaigning hasn’t yet started in earnest (nor have Trump’s numerous criminal trials), the post-pandemic economy finally appears to be getting its sea legs, the abortion issue is still galvanizing pro-choice voters like never before, and, oh, did I mention that the election is 14 months away?
So it’s a good idea to keep things in perspective while also taking a quick peek in the rearview mirror from time to time as we plan for coming election season. To that end, I want to share some excerpts from a recent column by Salon columnist Heather Digby Parton, who’s telling us nervous Nellies in no uncertain terms to chill the fuck out already. Panic time is for when four hours of grainy Super 8 video of Biden doing coke lines off Strom Thurmond’s Anita Bryant ass tattoo at Studio 54 is discovered on Anthony Weiner’s laptop three days before the election. Which, given my almost preternatural talent for projecting worst-case scenarios, is clearly not out of the question.
I'm reminded of Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, who wrote in September of 1995, "There is little unity among Democrats or on the center-left on the desirability of reelecting President Clinton." He was right. At the time there were pitched battles going on among the centrists and the progressives which made the prospect of solidarity in the party a distant dream. The huge Republican win in the midterm election of 1994 as well as the non-stop scandal-mongering and investigations by the congressional Republicans had Democrats everywhere wondering how Clinton could possibly win re-election. The only thing that seemed to unite the party at the time was a mutual loathing of Newt Gingrich. 14 months later, Clinton won a decisive victory.
Similarly, at the same point in the 2012 election, there were rumblings from certain quarters that it might be wise to run a primary challenge against President Barack Obama after his approval numbers fell to the 30s in some polls. It had been a very rough three years trying to recover from the financial crisis, not to mention the rise of the Tea Party and a political massacre in the 2010 midterms. The New York Times reported in September of 2011, "Democrats Fret Aloud Over Obama's Chances" …
Just two years ago there were endless stories about Democratic hand-wringing in advance of the 2022 midterms, mostly due to the off-year win by Glenn Youngkin in the Virginia gubernatorial race that supposedly portended a red wave like no other. In December of 2021, Thomas Edsall of the New York Times wrote a story headlined, "Democrats Shouldn't Panic. They Should Go Into Shock."
You get the point. Despite all our fear and loathing, everything turned out okay. Not that we shouldn’t have a healthy fear of Republican ratfuckery—and a vigorous loathing for those increasingly fascist fuckwits—but running around screaming like our hair’s on fire, when at worst it’s a bit dry and fraying, simply won’t help.
As Jim Messina, President Obama’s 2012 campaign manager, recently told Politico’s Playbook, Donald Trump remains a real threat—to Democrats, the country, and the world—but things are not nearly as dire as they often seem.
“I thought it was important to say to my friends and clients and other people, let’s just take a step back and try to be really number-specific and really sort of who has what cards in their poker hand,” said Messina. “And you would just rather be Joe Biden than Donald Trump. … Historically, we’re fucking bedwetters. We grew up in the ’80s and ’90s when Republicans won elections all the time. Democrats had their hearts deeply broken when Hillary lost and people didn’t see that coming. And so, you know, we continually believe every bad thing people say.”
So as folks like California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Vice President Kamala Harris show up on the Sunday shows—along with young-ish Republican candidates who can occasionally manage to put a sentence together without complaining about low-flow toilets or endemic windmill cancer—it seems natural to wish for a younger leader who can ride in on a white, or even beige or ecru, horse to save us and finally allow me to soften my resting existential terror face.
But you simply don’t give up the advantage of incumbency, and another candidate would have their own baggage to deal with.
So we’re ridin’ with Biden into yet another most important election ever. Luckily, we’re still in pretty good shape. Let’s campaign like we’re supremely confident of victory, but vote like we’re scared shitless.
And now, on to the usual nonsense …
RELATED: Sunday Four-Play: Actual Black people react to Trump's 'gangsta' street cred, and Tim Kaine returns
Speak of the devil who was once married to Satan. Gov. Newsom was on “Meet the Press” because … he likes TV cameras? Who knows? He seems to be making himself available to the media a lot these days. Perhaps he’s laying the groundwork for 2028, or maybe he’s just a Democratic thirst trap being recklessly tossed in our path to distract us.
I’ll admit, he’s a handsome, suave, well-spoken man who could be a formidable campaigner. And as the steward of one of the world’s largest economies, he has the governing chops to go the distance. He also has a bead on the foul winds currently blowing across our country, both generally and 20 minutes after Donald Trump visits Arby’s.
In short, the guy is pretty appealing at first blush. Just get a load of this:
TODD: “Do you think another four years of Donald Trump will break us?”
NEWSOM: “I hope we don’t have to experience that. But I worry about democracy. I worry about the fetishness for autocracy that we’re seeing, not just from Trump, but around the world, and notably across this country. I made the point about [Ron] DeSantis. I think he’s functionally authoritarian. I’m worried more, in many respects, about Trumpism, which transcends well beyond his term and time and tenure ...”
TODD: “Do you think Trump or DeSantis would be a greater threat to democracy?”
NEWSOM: “I’ll leave that to more objective minds; I’m concerned about democracy fundamentally.”
TODD: “I understand you say for more objective minds … but tell me what’s in your mind.”
NEWSOM: “I think the vengeance in Donald Trump’s heart right now is more of a threat.”
Hey, I agree. Newsom gets it. I can’t say that four more years of Donald Trump will break us—though I suspect it will. But I do know it would break me, and Newsom is speaking to both my hopes and fears.
But tap the brakes a sec, because the guy is also good friends with Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and while he’s clearly disappointed in his pal, you’d hope for a stronger condemnation than this:
I won’t transcribe the entire thing, because I feel a case of the mumps coming on and my mom had me vaccinated with a shot of Jäger and half a Snickers, but here’s the takeaway:
TODD: “Did you try to encourage him not to run?”
NEWSOM: “No, I would never do that.”
I know what you're thinking: “Aldous, two umlauts in one story? Du bist der Mensch!”
But also, he’s saying Trump is a grave, existential threat to the nation, but RFK Jr.’s barmy anti-vax bullshit is just a trifling concern? And RFK Jr. is clearly a MAGA plant meant to weaken President Biden. What was Newsom just saying about the threat Trump poses?
And if you’re worried about Biden’s age, how much more worried should you be about Newsom’s judgment?
Seriously, he was once married to her:
Good Lord. It’s like Chuck E. Cheese hired Hieronymus Bosch to design its latest lineup of animatronic jug band characters.
Moving on ...
Sticking with the theme of “everyone sounds better than the incumbent until you really start listening to them,” I give you former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. Haley would likely be Biden’s biggest general election threat if she could somehow manage to break MAGA’s stranglehold on the Republican Party. It’s not that she’s an extraordinarily talented politician or anything. But it’s marginally more difficult to imagine locusts swarming out of her mouth the moment she begins her inaugural address than it is with the rest of the GOP field.
She was on CNN’s “State of the Union” with Jake Tapper, and Tapper asked her a pretty straightforward question that she nevertheless declined to answer.
TAPPER: “One of President Biden’s biggest achievements he’s touting on the campaign trail is a $35 price cap on insulin for American seniors on Medicare. Some companies have extended that price, $35, to all their patients. As president, would you keep that $35 price cap on insulin, or would you try to reverse it?”
HALEY: “I think what Biden did was a Band-Aid. Do we need to do something about health care? Absolutely. My dad just got out of the hospital. I know the cost, but the way we deal with it is we need to start exposing the insurance companies, the hospitals, the doctors, the PBMs [pharmacy benefit managers], the pharmaceutical companies, make them all transparent. Why should anyone go to the hospital and have an insurance company and the hospital negotiate the cost for the patient with the patient not having anything involved? Why are drugs so expensive? Why do pharmaceutical companies get to decide this with government and not have patients at the table? Why don't we have more competition and transparency in this? When I’m president, we will go through and expose all of that. If we just dealt with the insurance companies alone, we would cut health care in half. So, yes, it’s great when you can say we’re going to lower the cost of these drugs because people cannot afford them, but it’s a Band-Aid. It’s not fixing the real problem. Let’s do the hard work and fix the fact that we are the best country in the world with the most expensive health care, and regular, normal Americans can’t afford it.”
There’s more, but you get the point. Expect to see insulin costs go back up if Nikki Haley ever becomes president.
Yes, those were a lot of words, and they were somehow unencumbered by stories about big, burly men from central casting coming up to her with tears in their eyes saying, “Thank you, Gov. Haley, for making my mother-in-law’s insulin more expensive. She’s in an irreversible coma now.” But it’s worth stopping for a moment and asking how she’s going to do any of this.
Establishing those price caps on insulin was hard. Why? Republicans. And here’s what’s frustrating. Yes, Haley is right about the high cost of health care in America compared to the rest of the world. Why is it so high? Because we have the most conservative health care system in the developed world.
Other countries that guarantee health care to all their citizens not only pay less per capita, they tend to get better results. In fact, a recent Yale study found that more than 335,000 lives could have been saved during the pandemic if we’d had the kind of universal health care plan progressives have been advocating for years now.
But just as Republicans had no viable replacement for Obamacare when they took control of the federal government in 2016, despite having relentlessly whined about it for the better part of a decade, Haley has nothing but words. Whereas Biden can clearly point to results.
RELATED: Sunday Four-Play: Trump's lawyers try to spin their incorrigible client's latest indictment
Yes, Biden is old. But so is Donald Trump. And while Biden regularly exercises and does his best to stay fit and trim, Trump would have trouble winning a footrace with a blotch of shower mildew. Also, Biden doesn’t brag about passing kindergarten-level dementia tests they tend to give to patients who are suspected of suffering from dementia.
But we can also rest easy knowing that Biden’s top lieutenant, Kamala Harris, is ready to step in at a moment’s notice—whereas Trump’s VP (Marjorie Taylor Greene, Kari Lake, or someone equally as absurd) would need to be dislodged from his sphincter with a Jaws of Life, hydraulic pulley, and team of Bud-besotted Clydesdales before they could even take the oath of office.
Vice President Harris appeared on “Face the Nation” with host Margaret Brennan.
BRENNAN: “Even Democrats are worried about the president’s age. The Wall Street Journal had a poll showing two-thirds of Democrats say Joe Biden is too old to run again. Are you prepared to be commander in chief?”
HARRIS: “Yes, I am, if necessary. But Joe Biden is going to be fine. Let me tell you something. I work with Joe Biden every day. Under Joe Biden’s leadership, we have transformed, and are in the process of transforming, America’s infrastructure, with a historic investment in not only roads and bridges, but high-speed internet, what we’re doing around issues like lead pipes, and I could go on and on.”
Oh, yeah, did I forget to mention how much Biden has accomplished in less than three years, particularly with regard to infrastructure? Guess he wasn’t too “distracted” to do his job. Unlike the last guy, who turned “infrastructure week” into a running (or, to be more precise, sedentary) joke.
Hey, it’s longtime “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd’s last day!
My mom used to say if you can’t say anything nice about someone, don’t say anything at all. So here are some random clips of Chuck’s long-anticipated finale:
In honor of Chuck and his storied career, there will be no followup.
The supremely capable Kristen Welker will replace Todd, and he graciously passed the baton to her on Sunday.
Good luck, Kristen. You’ve got some big, squishy shower sandals to fill. Something tells me you’re more than up to the challenge.
But wait! There’s more!
That’s all for now! See you next week—if I don’t see you sooner.
RELATED: Sunday Four-Play: Kos was on 'Meet the Press'! Also, debate fallout and mug shot mania
Check out Aldous J. Pennyfarthing’s four-volume Trump-trashing compendium, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link.