Why is the Democratic Party fetishizing losers?
About a month ago, the party chose failed Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams to deliver its response to president Donald Trump’s State of the Union address. Abrams performed creditably (“Good evening my fellow Americans and happy Lunar New Year”), but why showcase a politician who lost an election?
There are 46 Democratic women of color in the House and Senate, some of whom, such as Boston’s Ayanna Pressley, won dramatic victories over entrenched incumbents. It’s true, as Bob Dylan observed, that there is no success like failure. But failure is no success at all.
Another Democratic loser of the moment: Beto O’ Rourke. “Here’s What Beto Could Unleash on Trump” was the headline on a recent Politico analysis of congressman O’Rourke’s recent Senate campaign against incumbent Ted Cruz. Huh? In an article that never seems to end, veteran campaign analyst Sasha Issenberg samples the secret sauce that propelled O’Rourke to . . . one of the more spectacular defeats of the 2018 election cycle.
O’Rourke outspent Cruz, deemed to be one of the least liked politicians in Texas or anywhere, by $30 million and still lost. O’Rourke’s loss was so egregious that Politico itself published a post-mortem of his failed race two days before the election occurred: “Did Beto Blow It?” Writer Tim Alberta reported that even Texas Republicans who hoped Cruz would lose were “baffled by . . . the tactical malpractice of [O’Rourke’s] campaign.”
There are more losers where those came from. Look who is the leading fund-raiser among current Democratic presidential candidates — Vermont’s Democratic Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders. Sanders, fresh off his 2016 primaries thumping at the hands of failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, represents a state so far off the charts politically and demographically that it was a recent punch line on “Saturday Night Live.”
In the now-famous SNL skit, neo-Confederates and “BlacKkKlansman ” star Adam Driver decide to move to Vermont, a state with “no immigrants, no minorities, an agrarian community where everyone lives in harmony because every single person is white.”
Democratic Socialism tests well in Putney; less so in Peoria, I suspect.
Now Democratic Party whisperers are preparing the way for the biggest loser of them all, former vice president Joe Biden. For younger voters, Biden is the avuncular, do-nothing vice president of the halcyon Barack Obama years. But people like me remember how Biden got to be vice president in the first place: with two botched runs at the presidency, in 1988 and in 2008.
Biden quit the 1988 campaign in the wake of plagiarism charges, and exited the brutal 2008 contest after placing fifth in the gateway Iowa caucuses. He may be a nice guy, but to paraphrase longtime baseball manager Leo Durocher: Nice guys poll poorly in Democratic primaries.
Why trot out this rogues’ gallery of fossils and losers? While it may be true that Senators Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris are not exactly “my cup of tea” (Spike Lee’s hilarious characterization of the movie “Green Book,” speaking to two British journalists at the Oscars), I certainly respect their militant spirit and political acuity. “And yet she persisted” – right on.
It’s going to take a lot of persistence, and a track record of impressive victories, to unseat Trump. Forget the losers and the also-rans. Let’s put in the A team, and hope for a win.
Alex Beam’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @imalexbeamyrnot.