Bob Franken


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I want a show of hands here: How many of you have an idea as to what we should call a group of Democratic debaters? Should it be a herd? A flock? A gaggle? How about something unique? Before the demeaning candidate hand-raise is a thing of the past, raise yours if you like “squabble,” as in a squabble of Democrats, because that’s what they’re doing, squabbling a lot. (And that’s the entire hand, people — a single finger will not count.)
Now that the huge, 20-person squabble has spent two debates looking for the killer sound bite — in many cases to lift low-performing candidates from the depths so they can make the cut for the more stringent next level — some of them have stood out. They’ve been roughly divided into two camps: There are moderates, led by Joe Biden, and the “immoderates,” represented by the likes of Elizabeth Warren and her male clone, Bernie Sanders. Oh, and there are the straddlers, like Kamala Harris and Cory Booker and child prodigy Pete Buttigieg, but it’s really a battle between centrists and leftists.
Biden says stuff like “malarkey,” which, roughly translated, means “bulls**t.” He’s made a career of winning Mr. Congeniality contests. Warren and Sanders definitely have not. Instead, they put forth policies like “Medicare for All.” She might have won the ongoing sound bite competition so far with her “I don’t understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn’t fight for.” She was defending against those who argue that a full-blown, single-payer health plan in the United Plutocracy of America is not doable.

The rules will mean that the party is about to cull the squabble of participants. Thus far, the debates have been seemingly open to any Democrat who wandered in off the street. But now it could be thinned by about half. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden will definitely survive. Biden lost the first round by looking like Bob Mueller testifying, but by the second set, he managed not to embarrass himself much, thereby beating the Expectations Game. There is a long way to go.
And what should we call the Republicans these days? How about a Klan of Republicans? Their leader, Donald Trump, has obviously decided to run as a racist demagogue, the Imperial Wizard in Chief. He rages against any politician of color who has the nerve to defy him (back in the MAGA Jim Crow era, they were called “uppity”). These days, he encourages his base to shout “send her back” or talks about enemies’ hometown districts as “infested.”
Elijah Cummings, who is African American and who has been leading the investigations of the Trump administration, in his role as chairman of the House Oversight Committee, represents a slice of Baltimore in Congress. The Trumpster finds any aggressive scrutiny of his activities unacceptable, so he’s resorting to his tried-and-true, rile-up-the-base prejudice tactics. His most telling tweet about Baltimore was “no human being would want to live there.”
Given that the Cummings district is majority minority, that must mean that the president — excuse me, Imperial Wizard in Chief — is saying minorities are subhuman. His party’s leadership, by not calling him out, is enabling him. As for his so-called base, by zealously backing him, the members of that large group are, at least by implication, racist themselves.
Unfortunately, thus far Trump’s tactics are working. His support is unified in hate. The Democrats are chaotic as usual, bickering about finer points of returning this country to a molecule of fairness. That doesn’t look promising right now. Any show of their hands reveals the squabble of Democrats is divided, even about the best way to remove Donald Trump from the presidency. That would probably be an election, folks, although so far that doesn’t look promising for them.

© 2019 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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