You say you want a revolution… Then again, maybe not

Joe Biden
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 by Phil Roeder)

I worked an information desk yesterday for the local Democratic Party in my neck of the woods in Virginia. During the three hours at my post, I talked with voters, thanked them for voting and encouraged them to take information that detailed ways to assist the campaign in November. I was deeply struck by how many people commented to me they were worried that the future of the country was at stake.

It wasn’t just older people who made this comment. One younger woman, probably in her early 20s, was extremely passionate about how worried she was. I have no idea who she voted for, but she signed up immediately to work on the campaign in the fall.

The depth of Biden’s victory in Virginia surprised me. A closer contest between Biden and Sanders seemed in the cards. But Biden’s victory yesterday reflected what I personally saw at the polls. People were not so interested in a revolution as they were in getting rid of Donald Trump. People spoke of it with an almost religious fervor. They hate Donald Trump and the most important thing is to remove him from office.

If the results of yesterday’s Democratic primaries across the country indicate anything, they indicate that most Democrats believe that Joe Biden has a better chance of doing that than Bernie Sanders.

This leads to two observations:

1. If Sanders fails to win the nomination after such a promising start, he should not blame the Democratic establishment for his failure, but Trump himself.

If the Republicans had offered any other candidate but Donald Trump as the Republican nominee in 2020, center-left Democrats might have been more open to the kind of revolution that Sanders is promoting.

After 3 ½ years of a Trump presidency, however, Democrats are more interested in a return to normalcy (in the words of Jon Meacham) then a Sanders’ administration that might bring four more years of “revolutionary” discombobulation caused by a lurch to the left.

Not that Sanders’ ideas are unattractive. Healthcare for all is a great idea. I come from Canada. I lived in a system with universal healthcare. I know the benefits it bestows upon country. Canadians long ago stopped worrying about the government “controlling” healthcare. Universal healthcare means Canadians live several years longer than Americans and because they are healthier, this spins into other areas. Canadians enjoy a higher standard of living and a greater per capita income than Americans.

But the United States is not Canada.

Contemplating the kind of struggles that an implementation of Sanders’ policies would mean for politics in Washington and for the country looks to be too much for many Democratic voters.

The idea of Medicare for all needs to be introduced to the public as an option at first. I truly believe that once people have the option, they will choose it and the country will move towards Medicare for all.

2. Biden needs to seal the deal with Democratic voters.

People have spoken about “buyers’ remorse” becoming Biden’s next hurdle. Democrats, swept up with enthusiasm after Biden’s victory in South Carolina who then voted overwhelmingly for him on Tuesday, wonder if they made the right choice.

The withdrawal of Michael Bloomberg from the primaries and his endorsement of Joe Biden as the best candidate helps Biden. The many billions of Bloomberg will now go towards electing the former vice president.

This must scare Donald Trump. He worried about Biden in the past. Now dealing with a Biden who has a billionaire behind him – a billionaire who said he’s not afraid to spend a billion dollars to defeat Trump – will no doubt generate many tweets indicating how insecure our dear leader is feeling.

So prepare for a tsunami of social media claiming that the nomination was stolen from Bernie once again and criticizing Biden for doing the same things that Trump himself does.

Still, the campaign is far from over. We’ve seen one come back, maybe we’ll see another. Perhaps Sanders will discover some magic sauce that will refocus his campaign and regenerate his image in the eyes of Democratic voters.

Hmmm. Probably not.

Progressive Democratic voters will probably need to wait until Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is old enough to run for president before they score a decisive victory over the Democratic establishment. She already has my vote.

Team of Rubber Stamps

In her brilliant book about the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, “Team of Rivals,” historian Doris Kearns Goodwin showed how Lincoln intentionally built a cabinet filled with people who disagreed with him.

Not that Lincoln was a feather in the wind, blown this way and that depending upon the last person he whose advice he sought. He listened to what his cabinet had to say, weighed their opinions, and then made his decision. Sometimes that decision was based on the cabinet’s advice and sometimes it was a decision that went against all advice.

Lincoln had enough humility to know that he was not the font of all wisdom but also enough genuine self-confidence to make decisions he felt were in the best interest of the country even when those decisions went against the advice of all his cabinet members.

Definitely not Lincoln

Which brings us to the man who thinks he’s the greatest president the United States ever had. Donald J. Trump. Humility is a word that will never be associated with Donald Trump. No historian in the future will ever write a book one day about Trump being wise and full of genuine self-confidence. His actions in the past two weeks illustrate that he is an ignorant, insecure man, full of bluster and lies who cares little about doing the right thing.

Instead of being open to the opinions of others and unafraid to take counsel that may question his own beliefs, Trump has decided to surround himself with fawning lackeys, yes men and women who will only shower him with accolades and praise every decision, no matter how wrongheaded it is for the country.

You could say that instead of a “Team of Rivals,” Trump is constructing a “Team of Rubber Stamps.” Imagine a large group of Lindsay Grahams who support every decision Trump makes regardless how ridiculous it is. For like Graham, who once was so opposed to Trump, these people are more afraid for their jobs and for their standing among Trump supporters than they are for the safety and well-being of the United States.

The great danger in surrounding yourself with people who are afraid to question bad decisions, even when they know better, can best be seen in the Challenger shuttle disaster. In the now well-known story, scientists and engineers who worked on the Challenger knew about problems with the O-Ring caused by cold temperatures but Group Think prevented them from speaking out. The end result? The entire Challenger shuttle crew perished.

Now take that dynamic and transpose that reluctance to challenge the group on the opinions of one person, the most powerful individual in the world, the president of the United States. It is a recipe for disaster.

You can see the danger in the decision to replace the Director of National intelligence Joseph Maguire, a respected and decorated military professional who knew his job well, with a man who is basically a toady of Donald Trump, Richard Grenell.

McGuire was fired because he did his job. He gave permission for a subordinate to testify to Congress, as he was required to do. When the subordinate told the truth to Congress, Trump fired Maguire. Like humility, truth is also a word that will never be associated with Trump.

The result of being surrounded by minions

Think about how this will affect the economy, the intelligence that we need to protect ourselves against enemies foreign and domestic, the response to the coronavirus, the 2020 federal elections and the list goes on and on. With the act of rooting out “disloyal” political appointees who have failed to kiss Trump’s behind properly (and let us not forget that these were all people appointed by Trump) with every decision he makes, Trump is placing every American in danger.

Without those voices in the room who can tell this man bloated with his own self-importance that he’s making the wrong decision or that he needs to at least temper that decision, there’s no telling what damage he will do to the Constitution, to the courts, to the media and to the country at large.

Trump’s “Team of Rubber Stamps” is another indication that he is not be the best president America has ever had, but the worst.