No, I’m not. I’m something else, and Joe speaks to that

John Lewis

Having made all sorts of virtual connections as James Smith’s director of communications last year (no, wait — it’s now the year before last!), I’ve grown used to emails such as this one, ostensibly from John Lewis, who as you know is very ill:


My team flagged you as a Top Democrat, so I need to you to take my most important survey yet. Will you give your Democratic input in this personalized survey?

Your team is wrong. Their database is wrong. I’m not a top Democrat. I’m not a bottom Democrat. I’m not an in-between Democrat. And Lord knows that in this era, I’m no Republican.

I’m just this guy, you know. A voter. One who looks at teach candidate in each race and does his best to discern whether he or she would do the best — or the least-bad — job in the office in question. I’m a thing undreamt of in your philosophy.

But I’m not unusual, even though so many people involved in politics (and so many who cover politics) act as though I were. There are a lot out here like me. That’s something Joe Biden understands, which is why he says sure, he’d consider a Republican running mate.

Which is an indication of why he’s the one guy running who speaks my language. Just as James Smith was in 2018. James ticked off some Democrats when he picked me to be his spokesman. I hear some Democrats are ticked off now at Joe’s openness to running with a Republican — and by the way, that’s all he said: that he’d be open to it.

James’ openness was an invitation that not enough independents or Republicans took him up on — which was their, and our, loss.

But some of us yearn for that openness, because framing everything as us against them is a dead end for the country. If any of you Democrats doubt that, reflect on the fact that that way of thinking is the main reason Republicans have thrown principle to the winds in their defense of Trump.

What this country desperately needs right now is some open-mindedness among Republicans. That may be too much to hope for right now, but at least there’s a Democrat willing to show them how that’s done…

27 thoughts on “No, I’m not. I’m something else, and Joe speaks to that

  1. Pat

    These people don’t seriously want anyone’s input; they just want money. I’ve received enough of these emails that I can’t believe they even read or tally the responses, not to mention that you can’t even submit a response without first completing the donation form.

  2. bud

    some of us yearn for that openness, because framing everything as us against them is a dead end for the country.

    I just have to laugh every time you say something like this. Of course you’re not in favor of openness. You prove that time and time again. You would be horrified if Biden picked a Libertarian, a Socialist or a Green Party member as a running mate. Let alone a Communist, Nazi or a member of the KKK. Personally I’d be open to a Green, Libertarian or Socialist. I would not be open to a member of the Communist, Nazi Party, KKK or current GOP as VP. Do the math, I’m 3 times more open than Brad.

    IF a Republican denounces that party then I would be open to that. But if someone like John Kasich, a man who by all accounts is STILL a Republican, is Biden’s choice then I would be very much opposed to that. If Kasich renounces his affiliation with the GOP soon then perhaps I could tolerate that. But absolutely not a member as of convention time. That would be an insult to 10s of millions of Democrats who have toiled for decades for progressive policies to make this country better. The current GOP is nothing but a millstone around any hope for a civil, progressive, tolerant, healthy, clean America. Isn’t that crystal clear? So Brad if you can’t state unequivocally you’d be open to a Libertarian or Green then don’t embarrass yourself claiming to be open.

    1. Brad Warthen

      You do me an injustice. I’d be thrilled with a Federalist… I could live with a Tory (or one of Tony Blair’s New Labour types, if you can find one). One of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats would be fine.

      But no, I wouldn’t be OK with any of the marginal parties you cite. The reason’s obvious. They’re too far from the center…

      1. Brad Warthen

        If we had a Communitarian party, I’d go with that. But we don’t. Which, as I’ve said before, is bizarre. The Libertarians, who are all about radical individualism and your neighbor be damned, have banded together into a party. Communitarians, who are about how “we’re all in this together,” have not. It should be the other way around.

        The closest to a communitarian message out there is Joe’s. He cares about all Americans, regardless of party or ideology…

        1. Harry Harris

          Apparently you haven’t heard Cory Booker at all. He and Biden are still my 1 and 2, and I would welcome a ticket with the two of them. Both are bridge builders, not just marriage of convenience guys. Though Biden and Booker are good at alliances across party lines to pass bills, they both are make friendships which diminish rancor and come in handy against future problems that can easily divide us. Both have resisted negative campaigning, and refused to engage in smear tactics. It’s too bad so many campaign advisors scattered among the candidates don’t have their scruples.
          On the Republican side , however, …

  3. bud

    I wouldn’t be OK with any of the marginal parties you cite.

    This is where our world view departs. To me TODAYS’s GOP is far more marginal than the Democratic Socialists, the Greens or even the Libertarians. It’s not just because of Trump, but clearly it has morphed into a cult of personality. Did you not watch the impeachment hearings? The Republicans, virtually all of them, were defending actions that they would have decried as treason if one of the Clintons or Obama had done them. It wasn’t that they just didn’t find Trump’s actions sufficient to rise to the level of impeachment. No. They actually said he did nothing wrong! It’s indistinguishable from something like the Moonies. I’m not sure why that’s so hard to see. I guess you are just longing for the days when the GOP actually wasn’t marginal. But that ship sailed, even before Trump. You can pine away over the loss of a great American party but don’t pretend that it hasn’t been lost. It is an artifact of history.

  4. bud

    Here’s an excellent article in The Guardian why the Democrats absolutely must NOT nominate Joe Biden. In short, he would lose. With each passing day it becomes more and more clear what an awful candidate Biden is. Democrats believe, for some mysterious reason, that he has the best chance against Trump. He doesn’t. This ridiculous idea that he is open to a Republican nominee just shows how out of touch this near, octogenarian is.

    1. Pat

      Are there any candidates out there who look good to you? I’m concerned we don’t have any truly viable candidate rising to the top. The Democratic Party really needs to get back to its roots providing a good economy for the working man and woman. Bloomberg, Steyer? And what is Kasich doing on the Republican side? He keeps raising money, but for what?

      1. bud

        Not sure why Corey Booker hasn’t caught on. I like Amy Klobuchar and Mayor Pete. I did like Elizabeth Warren but she seems stubbornly fixated on eliminating ALL private health insurance. I still prefer her over Biden. I may take a look at Tom Steyer or even Bernie.

        The thing about Biden is that early in the campaign I thought he was ok but just too old. But with each passing day he says things that are just disturbing. And more keeps coming out. This Ukraine brouhaha is slowly simmering to his detriment. I never dreamed I’d come to actually dislike him. But here we are. I’d probably still vote for him in November, but damn, he’s just awful. If he actually does pick someone like John Kasich I may just sit the election out. Even if I don’t lots of liberals will. I’m afraid most of the Obama/Trump voters are now just Trump voters so we can’t afford to lose the left wing of the party.

        1. Bill

          Sanders has a heart attack but Biden’s too old? You don’t seem convinced by anyone but the media or latest poll…
          If liberals sit this one out,we can blame them for the death of the USA…

        2. Brad Warthen Post author

          Whereas I’d be pleased to vote for a ticket with Kasich on it. After all, I voted for him in the primary in 2016.

          We agree on this: ” I like Amy Klobuchar and Mayor Pete.”

          I like them both. Just not for president. I’ve mentioned before that I sort of like Amy for veep. Pete will have to gain a few more years of experience before I have that kind of confidence in him. He’s just too young, and his resume is too thin…

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      I enjoy reading The Guardian, except when it presumes to opine on American politics. Let’s just say that by Guardian standards, Glenn Greenwald is a mainstream journalist.

      “It is a myth just as it was a myth that Hillary Clinton was a good candidate against Trump.”

      Um… who thought Hillary was a “good candidate” against Trump, or anyone? She’s the second most disliked candidate ever to win a major party nomination. The only reason people expected her to beat Trump was that he was the MOST disliked ever.

      Whereas, say whatever else you like about him, people like Joe. Which makes me like people a little more than I otherwise would…

  5. Pat

    I won’t sit out on any account. I’ve watched Cory Booker since he was mayor and I think he’s a committed public servant. I really liked Warren the last go round but she wouldn’t throw her hat in against Clinton. Now, not as much, but she’s done some good things economically speaking (which are unraveled by the current administration). Bernie Sanders is as sincere as they come but he would have to pick someone young to run with him, and I think he would have a hard time building a coalition in Congress unless the makeup changes.
    I try to remember that some of their campaign rhetoric is designed to win the democratic nomination , much like the Republicans did, and then move toward the middle to win the general election. For me, it’s going to be who is middle enough, who’s going to have the courage to address the debt, and who can repair our foreign policy.
    Btw, Are all the Republicans going to vote in the Democratic primary since they aren’t having one of their own?

    1. Harry Harris

      I strongly believe Cory Booker is the President this country needs. His theme is “civic grace.” which our country sorely needs. He takes a strong anti-guns-on- the-street stance, but protects the rights of those willing to responsibly own them. He supports a single-payer healthcare system, medicare for all style, but proposes getting there thoughtfully and carefully. He promotes bold solutions that do not discount the concerns of stakeholders who opposes his positions. He is strongly religious, but respects state-church separation and the conscience of non-religious persons. He admits not knowing the answers to all problems, but believes we can find them if we stop fighting and work together respectfully.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        This is totally unfair to him, but as you may have observed, life is unfair.

        Some people, women particularly, are disadvantaged by having RBF. Cory has Crazy Eyes Syndrome. Every time his eyes go wide, people who don’t know him think, “Whoa! What’s this guy about to do?”

        It’s like when the pitch rises in Elizabeth Warren’s voice, giving the impression that she’s Just About to Lose It.

        They can’t help it, but little things like that count for a lot in a big field when so few people know anything about you.

        And again, it’s not fair. But look who the president is. So who thinks politics is fair?

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Ah, but Joe doesn’t fit into that “so few people know anything about you” group. People know a lot about Joe, and most people have decided they’re not all that concerned about that “tactile politics” stuff.

            That’s why he leads in polls, whatever else happens.

            Something as small as a slip in a debate is very damaging to people about whom the public knows relatively little, those who have been in the national public eye for only a few years, or even less. Not so with Joe…

  6. Michael Dey

    I edited your last graph:

    What this country desperately needs right now is some open-mindedness among Republicans and Democrats. That may be too much to hope for right now, but at least there’s a Democrat willing to show them how that’s done…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yeah, sure. Democrats, too. After all, they’re the ones having a cow at the idea of a Republican running mate.

      But bear with me. After my experience last year representing a clearly superior candidate and running into the brick wall of white South Carolinians’ physical inability to pull the lever for a Democrat, I’m particularly concerned about the Republicans’ problem in this area….

      1. bud

        Yeah, sure. Democrats, too. After all, they’re the ones having a cow at the idea of a Republican running mate.

        Sometimes analogies can be used as learning tool. Sure Democrats don’t like the idea of a Republican running mate. Absolutely. It’s completely logical to serve up a little bovine contempt over that. Here’s an example that I’m sure Brad would likely have a cow over – an Elizabeth Warren/Jill Stein ticket. Brad will of course roll his eyes and come up with some reason why that’s just not the same but of course it is. I’m sure Brad sits the election out with absolutely no sense of irony. Once you accept the fact that the GOP is the party of Trump then no, a Republican just is not acceptable.

  7. bud

    Interesting that Brad hasn’t posted about the impending war with Iran. Seems like the biggest story in months.

  8. Phillip

    Brad, on the topic of Biden, I thought you might be interested to read this piece by Fintan O’Toole in the current NY Review of Books (this article for now is not behind the paywall). Sympathetic in many ways to Biden, an interesting analysis of his personality, though in the end agrees with me that he is not really the man for the time. Even though you may disagree with that conclusion, you still might find this an intriguing piece.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      It’s an interesting piece. I’m glad you brought it to my attention. For me, the ultimate takeaway from it is this:

      This is not to deny the power or the sincerity of Biden’s empathy. It is real and rooted and fundamentally decent.

      That decency is Joe’s core virtue, and precisely what the nation needs right now.

      Of course, as you say, the writer at the end suggests that “he is not really the man for the time.”

      But it seems to me that he does so in a particularly jarring, whiplash-inducing way. Nothing in the piece prepares you for this sudden paragraph, which seems appended after the writing was done:

      But the Master Clock has moved too far forward. The Kennedys are too long dead. “Irish Catholic” no longer carries that old underdog voltage of resistance to oppression. The center of gravity of Irish-American politics now gathers around Trump: Mick Mulvaney, Kellyanne Conway, Brett Kavanaugh. A politics of white resentment has drowned out the plaintive wail of common sorrow. The valley of tears has been annexed as a bastion of privileged white, male suffering. Biden, who once promised to turn back time, is an increasingly poignant embodiment of its pitilessness….

      It leaves me thinking, Really? That’s it? The incidental ethnicity of Mulvaney, Conway and Kavanaugh just suddenly and magically erases the tragedy of centuries of Irish-Catholic experience?

      How do you figure, Mr. O’Toole?

      Seriously… was there ever a time when you couldn’t have dredged up three Irish names and asserted, “the existence of these three people proves there is nothing tragic about the Irish-American story.” You could have done it in Dublin in 1798, or 1916.

      Anyway… as the author notes, Joe’s connection to the Irish-American experience is itself at best tenuous. What you have is less a person who has a specific experience to offer (other than his own close acquaintance with personal tragedy), and more a person who CHOOSES to identify with other people’s suffering.

      And that brings us back to the decency that is Joe’s core virtue. And again, precisely what the nation needs right now…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        … and yes, I realize the Irish rebellion in 1798 was led by Protestants. I wasn’t saying that event was core to Irish Catholicity. I was just picking a couple of dates in history way before this period in which O’Toole is suggesting that Trump’s followers have delegitimized Irish authenticity.

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