Monday, July 1, 2019

Finger Pointing

I saw a "sponsored link" from Taboola titled: "Dear Sen. Harris, here's why Biden worked with segregationists in Senate." I didn't bother with it, for a few different reasons. One, Taboola = clickbait. The World Wide Web already suffers from a fairly low signal-to-noise ratio (even without random blogs like this one cluttering up the place) and, in my experience, Taboola links are pretty much all noise. Secondly, I already understand why Senator Biden worked with segregationist Senators in the past. Back in 1973, when he joined the Senate, there were still enough segregationists in it that one couldn't simply ignore them or oppose everything they did. And finally, I already understand why Senator Harris picked this particular fight. She's angling for a demographic that considers the compromises that were made in the past to be morally reprehensible, and is seeking to differentiate herself from the former Vice President, and the policies (not to mention the constituency) that he represents.

There is a strain of idealism that understands that the way to bring about change is to be both critical and unforgiving of people for not having been the change; either in the present or in the past. This mode of thinking has always had adherents, but it does seem to be more common among younger people than Generation X or Baby Boomers (although I may be wrong about this). Given the importance that is being placed on the Millennial (and perhaps post-Millennial) vote, it makes sense to appeal to them, and even though Senator Harris is herself a member of Generation X, she seems to be angling for the "young person" vote.

And this is just the way the electoral game is played. Senator Harris is a longshot candidate, at least at this stage of the game. To be sure, there are a LOT of longshots in this race, given that about a quarter of registered Democrats (and some people who aren't registered) are running for the party's nomination. Former Vice-President Biden is currently the front-runner, and so he may as well have a bull's-eye embroidered on the back of his suit for the other candidates to throw knives at. American campaigning is not a process in which candidates explain that while the other candidates might be good, they themselves are better. Rather, they state reasons why the other candidates are bad - given that the only votes that matter are the ones that are actually cast, sowing Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt in a bid to make the less-committed take a pass is just as effective as turning out ardent supporters to vote, and likely vastly easier than minting new ardent supporters.

And this brings us back to idealism. Senator Harris has come in for quite a bit of criticism herself for criticizing the former Vice President. But this is how the game is played. Whether Senator Harris is angling for a Cabinet office, the Vice Presidential position or to genuinely be the United States' first woman and second non-White President, seeking to undermine the front-runner for her own advantage is simply politics as usual. It's fair to criticize the Senator for not changing the game that she's playing, but, at least for the time being, that has to also come with a realization that she's unlikely to win if she does so, unless the public themselves change their voting habits. Given that, I think that the Senator made the right bet.

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