March 8, the two-man race

Now things pivot to it being a two-man race –two old white men. Bernie has to make a different kind of speech — not his regular stump speech that covers all his issues. Now he’s got to differentiate himself from Biden. Here he is in Arizona on March 6, before going to Detroit for the Michigan Primary on Tuesday the 10th:

He begins by acknowledging that it’s a two-man race, the winner has to take on Trump. Trump will use anything, true or false, to attack — you can see it already in what he’s doing to attack Biden. Bernie does not list what Trump has done or might do to attack him. He doesn’t mention it — it would just give Trump more weapons. Let Trump figure it out. Bernie also says that he will support the nominee and has said so all along; he and Biden are friends, and Biden has “indicated” that he would support Bernie. Then Bernie moves into comparing their records: Bernie was on the right side in NAFTA, TPPR, the Hyde Amendment, the Defense of Marriage Act, the Iraq War, and Don’t Ask-Don’t tell. “These were difficult votes. Which candidate has the guts to cast the right vote at a difficult time? ….I was on the right side.”

Most of the questions are about turnout and demographics of the horse race: seniors (who are more conservative); African Americans, youth. Someone asks about a swastika that was apparently displayed at a rally last night (that would have been March 5) and Bernie doesn’t dwell on it; he thanks the police for handling it and turns the topic to the horrors of fascism.

Although sometimes he seems to be referring to notes, he is calm, steady, competent, informed, and fully in control of the way his personal story ands record has to be publicly compared to Biden’s. Joe points out that he’s using the pronoun “I” more often now — yes, because it’s now him vs Biden.

Bernie Surrogate Linda Sansour

On Al Jazeera the moderator is interviewing “national Bernie surrogate” Linda Sansour and Lindy Li from the Biden campaign. Both women. Linda Sansour is dressed in full Muslim women’s clothes, head scarf,etc. She is way ahead of the Biden surrogate (not called a surrogate — she’s called a spokesperson, I think). Sansour is strong, confident, informed, articulate, adult — a very good example!! The two women actually get into an argument and the moderator allows Sansour to go ahead; the Biden spokesperson, Lindy, seems to scramble for ways to make points. She (Linda) references her family’s experience in Communist China when the question of socialism comes up.

What about Elizabeth Warren?

So far, no word from her. Jesse Jackson has endorsed Bernie. Kamala has endorsed Biden.

It’s International Women’s Day, too. From The Nation, part of an article describing the role of sexism in Elizabeth Warren’s failed campaign:

Kamala Harris was held to devastating account for her record that genuinely troubled criminal justice reformers, while Biden gets a pass for actually writing the laws people are now desperate to reform. Kirsten Gillibrand’s campaign didn’t even get off the ground because people resented her for holding Al Franken to account. (Yes, I’m aware that Tulsi Gabbard is technically still in this race. No, I have no idea why.)

Well, yes, plenty of sexism at work in this campaign. For an experiment, I tried imagining Elizabeth in men’s clothing and with a man’s self-presentation. (I really like the way she chose to dress, by the way; narrow black pants, black top, and then these loose but shaped smocks of different colors. Eileen Fisher? Comfortable, not like the pantsuits of the Hillary campaign period.) Anyway, sorry for the digression. I would say that if Elizabeth had been a man but was otherwise exactly the same, she would be the undoubted candidate.

A day later: I’ve been criticized now both for mentioning Elizabeth’s clothes and for calling Biden “limp,” in each case because they show sexism but especially because using the word “limp” is a lot rougher than mentioning clothes. I let my remarks stay in because my impulse to say them was so strong that I wanted to put it out there and see why. So later I got another glimpse. I have a friend back East who told me she just voted for Elizabeth. “I voted for her because she is a woman,” she said proudly, but added, “You probably think I should have voted for Bernie.” Well, yes, I said, and the conversation went on, covering a lot of topics including her recent job searches, which have turned up nothing but short-term barista gigs. She has also experienced extended homelessness and struggled to get on various kinds of public assistance. She is, in fact, an academic, but one who never got one of those jobs. I knew most of this already but the penny suddenly dropped: a vote for Elizabeth is a vote for what she herself could have been. I said, “You know, in the country that Bernie’s agenda would give us, with Medicare for All, free college tuition, higher minimum wage, forgiveness of student debt — you would have a social safety net under you that would make your life a lot less dangerous and scary.” Sudden silence on the end of the line.

So identifying with the candidate is a big deal. Who is going to identify with Biden, though?

Published by helenaworthen

Labor educator, retired from University of Illinois, taught at TDT University in Ho Chi Minh City in the Faculty of Trade Unions and Labor Relations. Co-author with Joe Berry of Power Despite Precarity: Strategies for the contingent faculty movement in higher education, forthcoming (August 2021) from Pluto Press.

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