Mar 11, 2020

Joe Biden will be the Democratic nominee.

Joe Biden will be the Democratic nominee.

Plus, a question about why people loathe him.

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Today’s read: 7 minutes.

Joe Biden locks up the nomination, a question about why people dislike him, and an important coronavirus story.

Vice President Joe Biden holds an event with voters in the gymnasium at McKinley Elementary School in Des Moines, where he addressed a number of issues including the recent escalation with Iran. Iowa member of Congress Abby Finkenauer was also on hand to announce her endorsement of Biden. Photo: Phil Roeder / Flickr

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What D.C. is talking about.

Joe Biden. Last night, the former vice president took another huge step forward toward becoming the actual president. Biden won Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, and Idaho decisively while nearly tying Sanders in Washington state. Bernie held a decisive lead in North Dakota but otherwise struck out on Super Tuesday II. In Michigan, the most prized state on the map and a crucial swing state in November, Biden dominated. He took home 66% of the black vote, split the white non-college educated male vote, and swept every single county in the state. That’s a major turnaround from 2016 when Sanders won Michigan in a shocking upset over Hillary Clinton. In the meantime, Sanders’ 7.1% vote lead over Biden in California fell to 6.7% as votes continued to be counted. “This race is effectively over,” Dave Wasserman tweeted. “As hard as it is,” pollster Rachel Bitecofer added on Twitter, “if Bernie Sanders genuinely believes Trump is an existential threat to the country — outside the normal confines of politics and policy — he should concede after tonight and make a full-throated effort to unify the anti-Trump effort. Because he will not be the nominee.” FiveThirtyEight’s updated odds have Joe Biden at a 99% likelihood to win the Democratic nomination.

What the left is saying.

Bernie supporters are pointing fingers at Elizabeth Warren. Many wish she had endorsed and campaigned for Sanders earlier, before South Carolina or Super Tuesday, when it was clear that she wasn’t a viable candidate. “The numbers in MI make it clear that Warren endorsing and campaigning for Bernie might well have made a huge difference,” Current Affairs editor Nathan Robinson said. “She bears some responsibility for the catastrophic harm to the planet that is going to come from the dems running an ailing Biden only to have him be trounced.” Krystal Ball, a Sanders surrogate, seemed to imply progressives were getting rolled because the party knows they’ll vote for whoever the nominee is. “The reason everyone obsesses over the wants and needs of moderates is because they are constantly threatening to vote for the other team/stay home,” she tweeted. “The party thinks the left will vote for them no matter what so we have zero power and get treated like crap.” In Biden’s camp, and amongst many seasoned strategists on the left, a different narrative was forming: that Bernie’s strong showing in 2016 was more a product of anti-Hillary sentiment than anything else. These folks are seeing huge turnout in states like Michigan that is favoring Biden, which certainly makes it seem Bernie’s 2016 win there was more about giving the “F U” to Clinton than about huge enthusiasm for Bernie.

What the right is saying.

Fox News said “Biden trounces Bernie” and “Sanders’ magic fades.” Donald Trump blamed Elizabeth Warren, saying if she “would have just quit 3 days earlier, Sanders would have beaten Biden in a route, it wouldn’t even have been close.” New York Post columnist Karol Markowicz said she was “legitimately proud of Democrats for destroying the Bernie Sanders movement.” Fox News host Brit Hume suggested Biden’s gaffes were a product of him “losing his memory” and “getting senile.” Others used the night to dunk on their favorite foe: Hillary Clinton. “Turns out there’s nothing that Hillary Clinton can’t do,” Richard Lowry tweeted. “She made an otherwise electorally limited socialist a plausible candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination and then followed up that feat by making Donald Trump president of the United States.” David French called it “stunning” and said “Biden’s comeback is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.” Some on the right seemed to key into what has quietly made Biden so threatening to Trump: “It’s not just that the establishment has quickly rallied behind him,” Freddy Gray wrote in Spectator USA. “It’s not just that the African-American vote seems to be solidly in his favour — although his numbers tonight suggest his appeal to black voters is extraordinary. Biden also speaks to poor whites, to suburban middle-classes and even to students who just hate Trump. He has a coalition that can challenge Trump in a way Clinton couldn’t.”

My take.

Bernie has nobody to blame but himself. His campaign had an army of volunteers, it had historic funding, it had two early-state wins, and it had unbelievable enthusiasm across the country. But it failed to translate all of that into votes. He lost. Blaming it on Elizabeth Warren’s lack of endorsement is absurd. Bloomberg alone received nearly three times the vote Warren got in Michigan from early votes and write-ins; if anything, there was more left on the table for Biden to take. Not only that, but Warren kept the kid gloves on with Sanders for the entirety of the race — the two hardly ever went after each other. Biden dominated Michigan voters earning between $50,000 and $100,000 a year by 12 points. He dominated with suburban voters. He dominated with rural voters. He dominated with black voters. The only place he didn’t dominate was young voters, who went overwhelmingly for Sanders (no, Biden does not have the “Obama coalition”). It wasn’t the “establishment” or “delegate math” either; that’s just petty crap. Joe Biden did what he needed to do to win — he coalesced his rivals around him, he turned out the black vote, he turned out the suburban vote — and now it looks like he’s going to romp to the nomination. That’s all part of “organizing” in politics and it’s not cheap, rigged or unfair. The race may not even be close.

As for what’s next? It’s hard to say. Even though Biden is just halfway to the delegate count needed to win, he’s over-performed in all the places Sanders was supposed to control. I can’t imagine Sanders dropping out, but I also don’t see any feasible path to the nomination short of a major health event for Biden or some kind of catastrophic event that changes the very contours of the framework we’re working in. Sanders would need a miracle. Arizona, Ohio, Florida and Illinois vote next week. All look like Biden victories. Georgia comes after that — almost certainly a Biden win. Then Sanders gets Wisconsin, a state he’s campaigned a lot in, but again: we thought Michigan was Bernie-friendly. It was quite the opposite. It may be time for Sanders to pack it in and throw his weight behind Biden, perhaps even working behind closed doors to pressure Biden into selecting a young progressive as his VP. Whatever it is, this race looks over to me. And I think it’s starting to look over to Sanders’ team, too.


There’s supposed to be a Democratic debate on Sunday, March 15th, in Arizona. The DNC announced last night that the debate would be held without a live audience, due to the threat of coronavirus.

An interesting infographic.

This infographic shows how third-party votes impacted the 2016 election. The red states are all the places where Trump won by fewer votes than there were 3rd party votes, and the blue states are where Clinton won by fewer votes than there were 3rd party votes.
Infographic: Jonah Adams

Your questions, answered.

Reminder: Tangle is all about reader questions. To ask something, all you have to do is reply to this email and write in.

Q: You laid out the case against Bernie Sanders and why people are anti-Bernie in a previous newsletter. I would love to see a similar breakdown of Joe Biden and why people are anti-Joe.

- Colin, Madison, Wisconsin

Tangle: There seem to be two general camps for anti-Joe Americans. In one camp, there are the progressive lefties who view Biden as the “old guard” of the “establishment” that will continue to bend over backward to please the corporate overlords and Wall Street. The other camp is the people who look at Biden and see an old, bumbling, rapidly declining unfit candidate who is going to get slaughtered by Trump in a general election. There’s quite a bit of overlap in these two camps, but they constitute the general thrust of the anti-Biden movement.

For the former, the case is easy to make — especially on race and crime issues. Biden fails to pass a number of litmus tests that are must-haves for progressives in America today. He also has a record that is ripe for bulldozing. Biden was one of the prominent forces behind the crime bills of the 1990s that led to exploding incarceration rates and helped ruin the lives of millions of low-income minorities in America. He helped architect the bills that gave draconian sentences for drug use and helped push cops to police the streets much more aggressively. Instead of apologizing or folding over that history, Biden has mostly defended it. He insists the 1994 crime bill “restored American cities” in an era of unprecedented crime and argued that it didn’t do much to incarceration levels given that states (not the feds) are mostly responsible for booming imprisonment (the truth, as is typical, is somewhere between those two sides).

Then there’s Biden’s history of working with segregationists and outright racists in Congress. While others, like Bernie Sanders, may have been rejecting the legitimacy of their colleagues, Biden was negotiating with them and cutting deals. Again, Biden defends these actions as being a necessary evil to get things done — he even joked about it. “We didn't agree on much of anything. We got things done,” Biden said, joking that Mississippi Sen. James Eastland "never called me 'boy'; he always called me 'son.’” Sen. Cory Booker, who recently endorsed Biden, responded to those remarks: "you don't joke about calling black men ‘boys,’” adding that collaborating with “proud segregationists” was not a way to bring the country together.

There are all sorts of other things, too. Biden has had more billionaire donors than any other candidate in the Democratic primary (66). He promised those extremely rich donors that “nothing will fundamentally change” and assured them he won’t demonize them. During his time as Obama’s VP, he helped orchestrate the deportation of 1.18 million undocumented immigrants in the first three years — more than Trump deported in his first three years. He ties his legacy closely to Obama when its convenient and abandons Obama when it isn’t. He’s been labeled as having a “sketchy record” on climate change and his promises to address it have fallen well short of his progressive competitors in the primary. He’s proposing a drastically different course on trade than many progressives want, an area where Trump was able to rally low-wage, working-class voters by convincing them the establishment has been screwing them for years (by outsourcing jobs to immigrants or foreign countries).

In almost every conceivable way, aside from maybe gun legislation, Biden is inching toward the left — or maybe even taking a step toward the center — when progressives are looking for a leftward bound. All this is to say nothing of his sometimes uncomfortable interactions with women or years of reports that he treats his staff poorly behind closed doors.

Then, there’s the “electability argument.” For so many progressives who saw Hillary Clinton get beat by Donald Trump, this argument is infuriating. The argument then, as it is now, is that Biden is a sure thing to win over suburban Democrats, women and black voters who will propel him to victory over Trump. But on stage, all these people see is an absolute gaffe machine who can’t seem to put together a coherent sentence. Fox News is already calling him “senile” and Trump supporters will be easily convinced he is as far left as Bernie anyway, so why try to pick a moderating force? On top of that, Biden has seemed prone to bizarre outbursts on the campaign trail. A great example came yesterday, when Biden had the interaction below with a Detroit autoworker. He told him was “full of shit,” shushed a female aide, and — it sounded like — may have even said something about slapping him:

This moment was a great look into the anti-Biden crowd that mostly views his electability argument as a joke. They saw an angry, uncontrolled, rude candidate who was giving up the obvious moral high-ground to Trump. But Biden supporters, and even some on the right, saw this moment differently. They saw a candidate who wasn’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with a voter, who was rightly calling “bullshit” when he saw it, and who refused to cop out and walk away when he easily could have. It’s all illustrative of the different lenses Biden is seen through (personally, I thought this moment had the potential to play well with average Democratic voters).

I’m not sure how this anti-Joe movement acts when the general election comes. It looks like he’s got the nomination secured, and I imagine plenty of Bernie voters are going to protest vote or sit out because they view Biden as a continuation of the D.C. politics that destroyed the middle class. But I also think that, more likely than not, a huge majority of them will hold their noses and vote for him when it counts. Ultimately, the platform Biden is running on is one of the most progressive ever in American history — it’s just that Biden the politician has a record that’s easy to loathe for today’s liberals.

A story that matters.

One of the first patients to contract the coronavirus in the U.S. is speaking out. Mark Thibault was infected during a trip to Italy and said, despite being an otherwise healthy adult, he nearly died. The Rhode Island man did have asthma, but he had no underlying immunodeficiency conditions that threaten many people who have died from the virus. He was also young (just 48 years old) and said he exercised daily and was a “germaphobe.” Thibault struggled to convince doctors to test him for coronavirus until it was too late. He described a harrowing experience of being hit “like a hurricane” by the virus and going from fatigue and dry cough to asphyxiation and hospitalization, with the threat of pneumonia. Thibault said his condition got so bad that he was actually read his last rites. During the entire ordeal, he couldn’t even get a visit from his wife and children, who were not allowed near him for risk of being infected. He’s one of the few survivors to share his experience. You can read The Wall Street Journal story here.


  • 59%-30%. Joe Biden’s current leader over Donald Trump amongst 18 to 34-year-old voters.
  • 57-39. The ratio of Michigan voters who support-oppose “replacing all private health insurance with a government plan,” according to exit polls.
  • 846. Joe Biden’s number of earned delegates, as of Wednesday morning.
  • 684. Bernie Sanders number of earned delegates, as of Wednesday morning.
  • 1,991. The number of earned delegates necessary to win the Democratic primary.
  • 86%. The percentage of black voters in Mississippi who cast a ballot for Joe Biden yesterday.
  • 11%. The percentage of black voters in Mississippi who cast a ballot for Bernie Sanders yesterday.
  • This tweet on the declining rates of young voters in the primary so far:

Have a nice day.

While the response to coronavirus in America has been widely criticized, there has actually been plenty of good news. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo acted decisively to quarantine the town of New Rochelle, where there was a concentration of infections. Mike Pence announced a deal with insurance companies to waive copays for coronavirus testing and treatment. Vice President Pence also says there will be millions of test kits soon and promised Americans won’t get “surprise” medical bills for coronavirus going forward (that has already happened). In the meantime, effective containment has happened abroad. South Korea’s infection rates fell without citywide lockdowns like China or Italy — it just executed mass testing. And over 1,000 people recovered from the coronavirus in Italy already. While things may get worse before they get better, we should all find some encouragement that things are moving positively abroad — people are responding with appropriate caution and our global neighbors are successfully slowing the spread (right now). Count me as hopeful. And keep washing your hands.

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