Why not Bernie? Why not Bloomberg? Why not…?

We seem to be entering the final stage of this season of discontents.

The noise of news and candidate debates grows apace, often furiously.

I just got my mail-in ballot for the Denver Dem. presidential primary, due back soon.

Several days ago, I had a surprising discussion with two old friends about the Democratic race.  Surprising because all of us were at least willing to consider the possibility of Bloomberg’s candidacy.  It was a good discussion that I hope here to share with more friends.

And I really hope that some of you will join this conversation by posting comments below.

Most of my friends and family support Sanders or Warren.  Indeed, just before sitting to write this post I received a very strong anti-Bloomberg posting from Rob Prince, a good lefty friend here in Denver.

The over-riding concern among my friends is that we must beat Trump.  Find the candidate who can beat Trump, one whose policies we like or at least can live with.

I agree, that’s a crucial goal, but only one of two.  The second crucial goal must be to work against the polarizations which grow increasingly worse and stymie efforts for much needed change.

Here’s my take on that second goal:

  • If Bernie is the candidate there will be a huge (and for many a frightening) up-swell of often very angry groups on the left. If he then loses to Trump, that up-swell from  will be confronted by an again empowered angry and fear-filled up-swell on the right.  And much the same if Bernie beats Trump.  In either case, our very dangerous polarizations will be exacerbated, deepened, worsened. Or so I fear.
  • Now play the same guessing game with other candidates, asking the same set of questions about how they might either worsen or begin to heal deep divisions. Might Bloomberg, for instance, actually satisfy the hope many of us have for pragmatic solutions and social stability?  Or will he so enrage Trumpers and radicals of all kinds, right as much as left, that “this rich Jew from New York” will only foment deeper hatreds among us.
  • And so on with Buttigieg, Warren, Biden, Klobuchar… Which can beat Trump with the least polarizing uproar from angry and fear filled groups, with some hope of beginning to heal deep divisions and thus some hope of actually bringing important policies to fruition?

My point is pretty simple.  Not only must we defeat Trump and his congressional minions, but we have to think hard about who can then better address all of our people in at least some movement against polarized fear.

David Brooks recently posted an opinion piece much related to my point.   He argues that both Trump and Sanders have been successful because they sell simplistic myths about the way forward – simplistic and deeply polarizing.  He then contrasts such polarizing myths with a serious alternative – what he calls “the gathering myth.” His remarks on that alternative are worth quoting at length:

Everywhere I go I see systems that are struggling — school systems, housing systems, family structures, neighborhoods trying to bridge diversity. These problems aren’t caused by some group of intentionally evil people. They exist because living through a time of economic, technological, demographic and cultural transition is hard. Creating social trust across diversity is hard.

Everywhere I go I see a process that is the opposite of group vs. group war. It is gathering. It is people becoming extra active on the local level to repair the systems in their lives. I see a great yearning for solidarity, an eagerness to come together and make practical change.

These gathering efforts are hampered by rippers at the national level who stoke rage and fear and tell friend/enemy stories. These efforts are hampered by men like Sanders and Trump who have never worked within a party or subordinated themselves to a team — men who are one trick ponies. All they do is stand on a podium and bellow.

In the gathering myth, the heroes have traits Trump and Sanders lack: open-mindedness, flexibility, listening skills, team-building skills and basic human warmth. In this saga, leaders are measured by their ability to expand relationships, not wall them off.

The gathering myth is an alternative myth — one that has the advantage of being true.

I don’t agree with his simplistic description of Sanders whom I will in the end probably support.  But there is an important truth in that description.

Far more important is his call for attention to “the gathering myth,” though I fear he exaggerates its pervasiveness.  What he has to say about that myth is very much in line with what I wrote in my preceding post about “our better angels.” 






11 thoughts on “Why not Bernie? Why not Bloomberg? Why not…?

  1. Disappointed in this. Sanders addresses all our Catholic Social Teaching and finally implements the economic bill of rights that FDR proposed 80 or so years ago now. So many people in the US need this now more than ever, after the income consolidation and inequality of the last 50 years. Listen to these center-right Dems and you hear a lot of divisiveness and lack of love (of the other). It’s up to us to overcome this. I have a lot of respect for Bernie’s consistency in love, action, and inclusiveness from the civil rights movement through now.


  2. An agenda moving forward.
    Not knowing about which I speak never has kept me from having an opinion, some of which have been particularly strong. This one is strong for being grounded in my study of written constitutions, among them my own denomination of Presbyterian Church (USA). In my view the presidency was not intended to be so dominant in our federal system. George Washington walked the streets of the capitol city unaccompanied by secret service. The electoral system itself, which indeed benefited male voters who thought they were white, was a way also of diminishing the importance of the Presidency. Our democracy was designed to be strongest in voting for Representatives from our local district whom we could know personally and who could know us (with expanding population we should be expanding our House of Reps so this can happen on home front avoiding Gerrymanding). The congress originally selected the President who would preside over the executive branch, under the legislation of the People’s congress. Like a very sophisticated committee choosing its own chairperson. My opinion is that the strengthening of the Presidency since FDR has resulted in a corresponding weakening of our Congress. Power has been given to the Presidency which paved the way for this present maniacal monarch. Had he ruled in such a way as to preserve the environment, control the banks, make medicare for all, welcomed the immigrant, and stop funding of Israel, I would have supported Trump’s presidency. However it would still have been that unintended monarchy I despise. In my opinion, the way forward is to strengthen the Congress, wind of which is blowing in the House with the four women bonded together. Trump has given opportunity to revive our democracy in the House. We need the same movement in the Senate now, unseating McConnell and electing an Aristocracy from our states who understand the global role of the Senate (it protects our US Borders). With a stronger, more systemically responsible Congress, the corresponding power of the monarchical Presidency will diminish. That’s the reversal I seek.


  3. In the last month or so, most likely fueled by the self-imposed blindness, lack of decency and failed integrity of the Republican Senate to turn away in all their righteousness to remove Trump from office. I have found myself moved into a sense of deeper fear and despair regarding the direction this country is taking in so many realms. No longer am I caring about who of our Democratic nominees has the best health care, climate, taxation, education, women’s choice, gun, etc., etc. “I have a plan for that.” None of these “plans” matter if this most corrosive, immoral, depraved person in the Whitehouse is reelected. All of our possible nominees are basically on the right side of these issues — to varying degrees. My one and only perspective today is who can win the presidency and bring along a win in the Senate. Who can appeal to more, especially in those shaky electoral states, that will vote for the Democratic candidate. Because if the Dems don’t win, we are not moving forward with any of the important issues.

    I am not happy regarding my change of choice order. People say vote in the primary with your heart… who you think would be the best President. Nope, I am voting with my head, as much as I can know, with who has the best chance to beat Trump. PERIOD> And I don’t know who that can be … I need more information, more time. I may be voting for someone I don’t necessary like a whole lot.

    Who do you think can beat Trump — realistically…? Give me some good information on that? Who now has the minority backing… who can go up against him and not just be snide, also be smart. Meet him toe-to-toe.
    There are a number of candidates I really like, and I don’t believe they have a chance in hell to beat Trump.

    I so get the issue of divisiveness… Bernie and his team were divisive in 2014, 15, 16 — and many of his people, including Bernie, himself, were unwilling to support the Democratic Candidate. And again we hear the same thing coming out of his people in this election cycle. I believe it was David Brooks (?) who wrote a piece that stated 43% of “feel the Bern” followers said that would not support anyone else but Bernie… not good. Regarding divisiveness, just within the Dem Party… Bernie has led that before and I believe he is doing the same now. I am tired of his and his surrogates yelling, nastiness, and negativity… their divisiveness.

    One more thing…these debates are not helpful. We should not have TV personalities running these… we should have people who have substance on various issues. Not those who want the numbers of people watching go up and have us be entertained, and “see the fight.” There should be 7-10 debates, each on an important issue: gun violence, climate change, women rights, etc. run by and questions asked by scholars in that field… were the candidates, site around a table, not snipe at each other… but discuss what they think are the best practices, policies, possibilities, costs, etc.

    I agree… Trump won that last Democratic Debate.


    1. Bernie is strong, on electability and is pulling together one of the biggest coalitions seen to date.

      The RealClearPolitics average of national polls shows Bernie with the widest lead of any Democratic candidate in a head-to-head general election matchup with Trump. Here are the new data points:

      • BERNIE IS STRONGEST AGAINST TRUMP IN WI, MI & PA: A new Wisconsin State Journal poll finds Bernie leading in the Democratic primaries and in the general election in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — the three previously Democratic states that helped deliver the election to Donald Trump. Bernie is leading Trump by the largest margins of any Democratic candidate in Michigan (+7) and Pennsylvania (+2), and also gets the largest amount of total support in Wisconsin (46%).

      • BERNIE IS THE STRONGEST AGAINST TRUMP IN VIRGINIA: A new Roanoke College poll shows Bernie leading Trump by nine points in the swing state of Virginia — the largest margin of any Democratic candidate.

      • BERNIE IS STRONGEST AGAINST TRUMP IN TEXAS: Vanity Fair reports “A Texas Lyceum poll just this week showed Sanders performing better against Trump in Texas than any Democrat, losing by just three points. That’s on top of a raft of polls showing Sanders beating Trump back those precious Upper Midwest states of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. These polls aren’t totally hypothetical, either: Sanders boasts near universal Name ID. Most voters know who Sanders is and what he stands for—and they’re still choosing him.”

      • BERNIE SURGING AHEAD OF BLOOMBERG IN NEW YORK: NY 1 reports that “A new Siena College poll finds that New Yorkers are backing Bernie Sanders over Mike Bloomberg.” Bernie leads the entire field, and has a four point lead over the billionaire former New York mayor in the major Democratic primary state.

      Axios editor Jim Vandehei today wrote that “the evidence, particularly the polling, doesn’t back those doomsday warnings;” Bernie can win and is pulling together one of the biggest coalitions seen to date.


    John, I think the question itself is polarizing because 62,979,879 voted for Trump in 2016. They accepted the man and his wrong doings as the one they want to be President. We must assume there are good, intelligent citizens in that number who want the common good. To assume otherwise is polarizing.

    How is polarizing healed? Responsible people from both sides must assume the task of reconciliation. How is that done? The Berrigan anti-war protesters set the example. As I understand it, before any civil action they would take time in prayer and fasting, For what purpose? Not to plead with the Lord to change the heart of their adversaries. No, it was to purify their own hearts of bitterness and hatred towards their adversaries. Thus, they would not retaliate in kind to violence. This has its application in the present situation particularly regarding speech. Isaiah said it precisely: “Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; You will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you remove the yoke from your midst, The pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness,Isaiah 58: 9

    The specific task of healing polarization demands responsible Christian action from both sides. it’s a formidable challenge the Spirit sets for us.


    1. Rhett, as always thanks. I agree about prayer and fasting. As to practical movement towards bridging our divides, I tried to address that in my immediately preceding posting. and believe there are many movements in that direction these days. Not sure I agree that the question itself is polarizing. It recognizes that many folks voted for trump for all sorts of reasons and that most of them support him because in one way of another they fear and are very angry at their opposition — thus it recognizes that polarization is contributed to by many on most sides. John


    2. I heard a great podcast by someone on the right about this, being interviewed on Ezra Klein’s show. What Donald Trump got right about white America: AEI’s Tim Carney on how social breakdown killed the American Dream. I haven’t gotten to the end yet but he makes the point that answers the “why above” — about people and communities hurting so extremely about how the loss of jobs and manufacturing led to the closure of so much else in communities. This is why health care, a living minimum wage, a federal jobs guarantee/backstop, worker ownership, greater social security overall enable a sort of backstop that makes subsidiarity and democracy are necessary (rather than oligarchy, plutocracy, kleptocracy and the centralization of control by the biggest corporations and most wealthy that has delivered the opposite).


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