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The Triad by JVL

How Biden and Bernie Are Monopolists

May 1, 2019
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1. Biden -Bernie

This is going to be a change election.

Ordinarily you might not think that because the economic data is so good. But people are not happy. Just look at the numbers:

  • On the right track/wrong track polling, most Americans say we’re on the wrong track (wrong track is +20).
  • Trump’s job approval numbers are still upside down, at -10 net approval.
  • Even Rasmussen has Trump at 49-49.
  • General election matchup polling shows Trump trailing nearly every potential Democrat.
  • How bad are those general election numbers? Biden beats Trump by anywhere from 6 to 13 points. But Sanders ranges from +3 to +8. There are polls showing O’Rourke, Booker, and even Warren beating Trump.
  • The kicker: Rasmussen polled Trump vs. Mayor Pete and only had Trump at +4. That’s right: The friendliest pollster put the sitting president against the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend and Trump only wins by 4 points.

So the question Democrats are going to be sorting out over the next year is, What kind of change?

There are three possibilities.

(1) Generational change. That’s the pitch from Mayor Pete, Beto, and, to a lesser degree, Harris. The nub of their message is that it’s time for the Baby Boomers to move on and to leave that generation’s fights and conflicts behind.

(2) Ideological change. This is the Sanders argument. Bernie isn’t really running against Trump. Not yet, anyway. He’s running against the Democratic party as it has been constituted for the last 40 years. In the same way that Trump spent the primaries campaigning more against George W. Bush and past and current Republicans than he did against Barack Obama, that’s what Bernie will be doing.

(3) Restoration. This is the Biden candidacy. The idea of political restoration—going back to an idyllic recent past—is pretty hard to pull off. It’s change—but change back to something everyone who’s voting remembers. To nearest examples I can think of are Jerry Brown’s post-Arnold gubernatorial bid and Jimmy Carter’s 1976 campaign. Restoration is a cousin of the “reform,” but it’s different.

One of Peter Thiel’s maxims is that you always want to be a monopolist. And that’s one of the reasons I view Bernie and Biden as so strong. Where there are multiple candidates making the generational change argument, Biden and Bernie are the only real messengers for their respective change propositions.

Sarah Longwell and Tim Miller on if Principled Conservatism Has a Future

2. Anti-anti-Bernie

Robert Tracinski has a very clever piece about what will 100 percent happen to Democrats if Biden et al don’t derail his candidacy:

I’ve been seeing a lot of chatter recently about Democrats being uncomfortable with Bernie Sanders now that he is emerging as the front-runner early in the campaign. In the New York Times, Thomas Edsall quotes one center-left economist declaring that Sanders’ “economists don’t understand basic economics. They are not just dangerous, they are clueless.” . . . They are worried that he is too radical and too crazy, that he might not be electable, and worse, that they themselves might not want him to be elected.Ah, how familiar this all sound, though it’s all in reverse this time. . . .