THE CAMPAIGN AS OF AUGUST 2019

Donald Trump may be an idiot, but even an idiot can accidentally hit on the right strategy. He knows that his so-called base, about 40%, isn’t enough to get him re-elected. And there’s nothing he can do to add to it. So his only hope is to discourage enough of the other 60% from voting so that his 40% will take him to the requisite 50% plus one. And how does he do that? By saddling his opposition with the moniker ‘socialist’.

If the measure of a polity being socialist is the percentage of the means of production and distribution in the hands of the state, then America is one of the most socialist countries in the world. But since Americans don’t know that’s what the word means, they don’t know that. What they do know is that they hate the word. Call the Democrats socialists, say it and keep saying it over and over and over again, and not unlike “Islamic” and “terrorist”, the two words can’t come apart. And the more the Democrats say they’re not socialists, the more “me thinks thou doth protest too much.” After all, why would anyone bother denying he’s a pedophile unless he was one?!

So what kind of counter-play does that leave the Democrats? Biden’s is to do what he can to disassociate himself from those, like Sanders and Warren and the so-called Squad, who’ve given up disassociating themselves from the moniker. But that leaves Biden with nothing to be, other than someone who’s other than Trump. But being other-than-Trump won’t get enough voters out to the polls. So the only alternative – the one adopted by Sanders and Warren and the Squad – is to “Go big or go home!” It’s to offer the American people the alternative that’s long since been mainstream in every other polity in the First World: single-payer health care, gun control, and all the other things that clearly wouldn’t “make America great again.”

I’m pinning my hopes on Mrs. Beasley look-alike, Elizabeth Warren, and on the American people having finally matured enough to opt for something the rest of us would recognize as civil society. I’m not holding my breath. But in a sense I am. In all the time I’ve been a student of American politics, never has there been such a stark, and evenly divided, contrast between two ways the country could go.

And it’s precisely because of this nigh-equal division that some pundits are privately interpreting the recent spate of gun violence in America as the precursor to a low-grade civil war. I think that worry – or hope, if one’s of such a mind – is a tad premature at this point. I live in Canada. Things often look a lot uglier from the outside. On the other hand, “Objects in mirror [may be] closer than they appear.”

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