The central point of Michael Tracey’s recent Spectator article is that Biden’s commanding lead in the polls is an accurate indication of widespread support among Democratic primary voters. The Democrats remain the party of Obama who is by far the most influential, revered and politically powerful figure within it.
Obama’s de facto endorsement of Biden, his help in lining up institutional support in key states such as South Carolina not to mention access to Obama’s donor base and favorable media coverage will be highly significant if not decisive much as early endorsements obtained by Clinton were. And here the comparison is slightly misleading in that, as Tracey points out, Clinton was a weaker candidate, paling in comparison to the then incumbent Democrat, widely disliked by Obama partisans who harbored bitter memories of Clinton’s racially tinged attacks and her support of the Iraq invasion.
Biden Wins in a Brokered Convention
To this I’d add an additional factor not mentioned by Tracey in Biden’s favor and to his main competitor Sanders’s extreme detriment: as I previously suggested, Biden is not required to win a majority of delegates in order to receive the nomination. All that is necessary is to keep Sanders from winning a majority. This will lead to a brokered convention where a decision will be made by party insiders whose hatred for Sanders is a matter of record.
The likely choice will be a familiar neoliberal in the Clinton/Obama mold: a candidate like Biden if not Biden himself.
The Warren Factor
Biden’s ally in this scenario is an unlikely one namely Elizabeth Warren. While few of her supporters recognize it, Warren has the potential to draw enough support away from Sanders in key progressive states denying Sanders the margin he will need for a first ballot victory. The pledged delegates not attached to Sanders will be mostly from the Democratic establishment. They will be released at that point and are a safe bet to help achieve the establishment’s key goal of defeating Sanders. It is according to this possible scenario that rather than being allies to the left/progressive agenda, Warren supporters are objectively undermining it.
These intra-party dynamics make it necessary to have a better understanding of why the influence of Obama and the Obama wing of the party is as profound as it appears to be.
The main reason has to do with the almost insane adulation which was heaped on Obama. That included most conspicuously significant elements of the left which should have recognized from Obama’s right wing cabinet appointments that he was far from an ally.
I’ll mention here that I and a few others having recognized the danger which Obamamania posed made a modest effort to puncture it via this petition which called for “active support of protests” against the Obama administration
5000 of us signed, including Chomsky, Cornel West, two former U.S. Senators Mike Gravel and James Abourezk and other prominent leftists including Leonard Weinglas, Francis Fox Piven and Nell Irvin Painter.
But not enough did and the actions of the Obama administration remained largely unprotested, the lack of left opposition emboldening Obama to move forward on policies which served elites.
The legacy of our failure to protest or even recognize what Adolph Reed accurately characterized as the “vacuous to repressive neoliberal politics” of a “smooth talking Harvard lawyer” then is still with us now. Biden’s poll numbers show that he is the major beneficiary of Obama and Obamania’s continuing influence.
We should have recognized the dangers of Obamamania then and we mostly did not.
If Sanders candidacy goes down to defeat at the hands of Biden, our failure to confront Obama when it mattered will have a lot to do with it.
We only have ourselves to blame.