by Russell Dobular
When this latest edition of the quadrennial shit show we call an American election first started, I was pulling for undiagnosed-sociopath Kamala Harris. Not to win, but to siphon off enough votes from Biden to allow either Sanders or Warren to emerge as the nominee. But sociopaths are innately creepy and even though Harris’ record is certainly no worse than Biden’s, (and in many ways considerably better in a leper-with-the-most-fingers-contest kind of a way), the voters, in a rare moment of perceptiveness, picked up on her weird vibes pretty quickly. The only person who doesn’t seem to know her campaign is over is Harris herself, which is pretty much what you’d expect, given the tendency towards grandiosity of people with her condition, along with an inability to take responsibility for one’s own failings (Russia is apparently to blame for her collapse, rather than her own miscalculations. Hmmm, where have we heard that before?)
While I can’t deny a certain satisfaction in seeing the arc of the universe bend towards justice for a change with the abject failure of a woman who once argued against freeing prisoners because California needed their labor, it has created a conundrum for progressives. ‘Cause the truth is it will probably be one more election cycle before enough boomers have departed this planet they’ve spent their lifetimes helping to destroy, for a progressive to win the Democratic nomination outright in a one-on-one contest against a centrist. These folks already got theirs and they could give a flying fuck about what they leave behind for the grandkids. Free college, universal health care, and a living wage don’t register on their list of priorities, much less motivate their voting habits, except in a negative sense. They’re going to go all in on making shit worse one last time by nominating yet another neoliberal douchebag, before riding off into the sunset with the lost wealth of the once prosperous nation they inherited pouring out of their saddlebags. Our last, best hope for preventing that outcome could lie in the centrist vote-splitting abilities of Mayor Pete.
In a lot of ways, Buttigieg is a better spoiler than Harris ever was, because unlike Buttigieg, Harris could actually have won the nomination if she didn’t suck so hard. With a strong showing in Iowa and New Hampshire, she could have gone into South Carolina with momentum, and with a 1st or 2nd place finish there, have taken the big prize of California on Super Tuesday. None of that is in the cards for Mayor Pete, as he’s polling between 1-3% among black voters. But he could do well enough in Iowa and New Hampshire to keep the money train rolling for just long enough to do some real damage to Biden.
But what’s going to keep Mayor Pete in the race, even as he loses in state after state, including the early, predominantly white states where he’ll probably have his best showings? Well, for younger neoliberals who are particularly attached to their virtue signaling, Buttigieg represents the ideal. An old, straight white man like Biden, with a long history of off-handedly racist remarks and casually sexist behavior, was never an easy fit for these people. When you’re essentially a pro-choice Republican, whose entire “left” identity is built around not eating at Chick-Fil-A, the prospect of making Joe Biden the leader of the party is just kind of a downer. A young, gay, married, veteran is a lot closer to the sweet spot. Just think of all the opportunities to feel good about themselves running a gay candidate against Donald Trump in the South would present. The inevitable protests from the Westboro Baptist Church alone would generate about 7 million chances to gawk at the deplorables.
That’s why, even though it should be obvious to anyone with two eyes and a pulse that Mayor Pete has about the same shot at the nomination that Lyndon LaRouche has (and he died in February), Wall Street and Silicon Valley will keep on bankrolling his campaign, while the media continues to churn out enough absurdly optimistic puff pieces to keep him in the race for a good, long time. That will not only siphon votes from Biden now (note how Biden’s numbers have plummeted in tandem with Buttigieg’s recent sort of rise), it will also give the supporters of Klobuchar, Bennett, Bullock, and all the rest of the centrist wrecking crew, someplace to go besides Biden as their candidates come to terms with reality and drop out over the next few months. That will provide a much needed counter to the progressive vote splitting that’s already happening between Warren and Sanders. While they may be drawing from different pools of voters on the whole, Sanders is the most popular second choice for Warren supporters at 36%, so clearly there’s a fair amount of overlap. Progressives need equivalent vote splitting on the other side to overcome the literal death grip that the old and the rich continue to have over the nominating process.
In light of these electoral realities, progressives should probably lay off Mayor Pete, at least until after Super Tuesday. Hell, if you really want to throw a wrench in the gears, say nice things about him. Chris Cilizza will be all over the Sanders/Warren to Buttigieg voter narrative after only, like, ten #gomayorpete tweets from progressive accounts and the rest of the groupthink pundits will follow along immediately, like they do. I know it’s gonna be hard to resist the bait as he continues his attacks on every progressive policy proposal anyone, anywhere has ever thought of, and the press continues to give him a pass on his shitty record as Mayor of a city with about eight people in it, two of whom are African-American and by no means thrilled with his leadership, but we need to think about the long game here. Mayor Pete is the perfect centrist spoiler; the kind that can’t win but has enough wealthy corporate donors to keep him in the race, and a big enough ego to stick around long after any rational prospect of clinching the nomination has evaporated.
So, for all those reasons, from now through Super Tuesday, I ask you to join me in my rallying cry: Go Mayor Pete!
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