If my guy loses, I know exactly what I’ll do: Prepare for four more years of Trump


In his daily enewsletter, David Leonhardt poses this question:

Many Democrats haven’t enjoyed the past week. It started with the Iowa chaos, and went on to include President Trump’s State of the Union address, his acquittal, his vindictive celebration of that acquittal and a few polls that showed his approval rating rising.

How should Democrats respond? My column today tries to answer that question, by arguing that Democrats will be hurting themselves, and the country, by exaggerating the differences between progressives and moderates.

The current moment, when nobody knows how the primaries will end, is a good time for both sides of the Democratic Party — left and center — to ask themselves how they’ll respond if their side loses the nomination. Reacting negatively would be a big favor to Trump. I instead ask both moderates and progressives to think about the strengths of the other side of their party.

Hey, I’ve thought about it, and my answer is this: If Joe Biden loses, I’ll prepare for four more years of Donald Trump as president of my country. Or what used to be my country, perhaps I should say.

Of course, Leonhardt isn’t talking to me. He’s addressing Democrats. His column’s headline is, “The Question All Democrats Need to Ask Themselves.” But I get used to that. I long ago grew accustomed to too many people, and definitely too many journalists, assuming that the world only consists of two kinds of people, and that therefore the only people concerned about Donald Trump dragging our country through the gutter are Democrats. (This is particularly strange because he talks so often with Ross Douthat — they do a podcast together every week. You’d think he’d realize, “Hey, maybe there are more people like Ross?”)

It’s a thoughtful column, inspired in part by my friend E.J. Dionne’s latest book, Code Red. And he makes a good point when he writes:

A Sanders or Warren presidency would have more in common with Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency than a second Trump term would have with either of them….

Good point, as I say, but not very comforting. But it does make me think: Why can’t one of our two political parties come up with an option as attractive as Ike? Or Adlai Stevenson, for that matter?

The closest we can come to the kind of sanity Eisenhower and Stevenson offered is Joe Biden.

Yeah, I know, there are other “moderate” choices: Buttigieg and Klobuchar. But I don’t see either of them winning the general election. I just don’t. I also think it’s kind of nuts to nominate either of them when you have Joe Biden available, whose experience is light years beyond Mayor Pete’s. The experience gap is not quite as great with Sen. Klobuchar, but I don’t see her as being as likely to get the nomination, either.

And if it’s Warren or Sanders, Trump wins in a walk.

Donald Trump is an idiot, but again and again he demonstrates a sort of animal cunning with regard to what it takes to win — or at least, what it takes to keep his base behind him and motivated.

And that low, Hobbesian instinct caused him to betray our country’s interests in an effort to bring down Joe Biden. That’s the guy he doesn’t want to run against. And he’s right to see it that way.

After the farce of Iowa, everyone’s trying to write Joe off. Not the sensible people, of course, but a large coalition of others, from ideologues to journalists, who’ve been itching to write Joe’s political obit from the start.

Listen, folks. Here’s the way I’ve looked at it from the start: I didn’t really expect Joe to win Iowa, and wasn’t particularly optimistic about New Hampshire. I’ve been holding my breath waiting to get through those ridiculous, unrepresentative contests, hoping we could get to the point that the rest of us, most of the country, could have a say in the matter.

And what’s happening? The wave of negativity out of Iowa, and increasingly out of New Hampshire, is reportedly causing cracks in Joe’s South Carolina firewall. Although I’m not seeing it yet.

But folks, if he doesn’t succeed here and beyond… well, I’m telling you, and no malarkey: Get ready for four more years of Trump…,


45 thoughts on “If my guy loses, I know exactly what I’ll do: Prepare for four more years of Trump

  1. Brad Warthen Post author


    By the way, y’all… I mentioned Ross Douthat above, and that reminds me…

    I was supposed to be on a panel with him last week at USC, but it got canceled because of weather. (USC folks were canceling things left and right last week, anticipating some sort of weather apocalypse or something.)

    Being a fan of his columns — and of that podcast he does with Leonhardt — I had been looking forward to it.

    This was the flyer for the event.

    They tried to reschedule it for later this spring, but without success. So they’re going to try to do it in the fall.

    Once I know when, I’ll let y’all know, too.

  2. Mr. Smith

    Biden’s problems are mostly of his own making. As the WaPost’s long-time observer of American politics, Dan Balz, recently observed:

    “Biden has been a lackluster advocate for his own candidacy, and the weakness of that advocacy was an unwelcome element of his campaign. In Iowa, it came crashing in on him. If he truly wants to be president, he doesn’t have to look far for answers as to what happened. His organization certainly failed him, but he contributed significantly to what happened there.

    Biden was vice president to Barack Obama, the most popular Democrat in the party. He is a veteran of four decades in the United States Senate. He is liked — even loved — and respected by many people in the party. But Iowa suggests that that’s not enough. His candidacy has lacked a spark of enthusiasm, whether that’s defined as vision or energy or fight.”

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Three points:

      1. I disagree that anything here is Biden’s fault. He’s not making miscalculations. He’s just being Biden.
      2. Even if it were, I wouldn’t care. It wouldn’t change the fact that if he’s not the nominee — and I strongly believe he should be — we’re going to have four more years of Trump. Everyone’s notion of how Biden should run and who he should be is WAY down the list of importance from that consideration.
      3. This is the biggie: To a certain extent, the things that cause Balz and other folks to criticize Biden are the very things I like about him.

      I don’t WANT a candidate who gets me — or anyone else on the planet — excited. We’ve had quite enough of people getting excited, and it’s gotten us into the fix we’re in. We need the antidote to all this fervor out there. Joe is the antidote.

      “Let’s return to sanity and decency” isn’t a battle cry to stir most people’s blood. But it’s exactly what we need. And only Joe Biden can deliver it.

  3. Brad Warthen Post author

    Oh, by the way, a few days ago Leonhardt had this to say in his eblast:

    Joe Biden has a big lead among African-American Democrats — and African-Americans make up about 25 percent of the party’s voters. Among Latinos, who make up almost 10 percent, Biden is neck-and-neck with Bernie Sanders for the lead.

    Biden’s strength with minority voters is an enormous advantage in the highly diverse Democratic Party. And yet this morning some pundits are wondering whether Biden is finished — because he appears to have come a disappointing fourth in Iowa.

    That’s nuts.

    Readers of this newsletter know that I think Biden has weaknesses as a presidential candidate. But he also has major strengths, including his experience, his political skills, his middle-class image and his evident humanity. Democratic voters (and political journalists) would be making a mistake to disqualify him based on a disappointing finish in one fairly small, overwhelmingly white, highly unrepresentative state.

    For that matter, they’d be making a mistake to disqualify him if he also struggles in New Hampshire — which is likewise small, overwhelmingly white and highly unrepresentative….

    … and he was completely right…

  4. Holly Gatling

    Abortion was not legal under Eisenhower. So there cannot possibly be a valid comparison between Biden or Warren (or any pro-abortion Dem) and Eisenhower. The Dems are the party of killbaby killbaby killbaby and the Dems are killing their future. That’s the real problem.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Yeah, well…

        Genesis 4:8 — First record of fratricide. (There may be some earlier written records; that’s just one I’m familiar with.

        Just because it’s old doesn’t make it right.

    1. Barry

      Abortions were rampant in the 1950s. Estimates say anywhere from 200,000 to 1.2 million occurred.

      They just were not done in safe places for women.

      Abortion will always be around. It’s just a matter of will it be done in a medical environment or in the back of the local garage.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      Well, Holly, I don’t expect I can get you to agree with me any more than I’ll ever get all the pro-choice people to agree with me.

      But I’m not a single-issue voter, not even with an issue that’s as important to me as this one.

      A president deals with a lot of life-and-death issues. That’s not the only one, as gut-wrenching as it is. And I’m not going to vote for an impulsive, vindictive, abusive, hateful, dangerously unhinged man for president just so he’ll nominate judges who agree with me on this or any other issue. I’m not going to put the finger of someone like that on the nuclear button…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Well, that’s not me, Barry. Nor am I one of those people “who only care about kids before they’re born,” which is another accusation that gets flung at people who care about the unborn.

          But you said “in politics,” so maybe I shouldn’t get my back up. There are a LOT of politicians who say they’re pro-life to con pro-life people into voting for them. That had been going on in the Republican party for a generation or two before Trump took it to the present extreme…

  5. Phillip

    I don’t know, Brad…I think at this point four years ago, a lot of Republicans were saying “if we don’t nominate _______, and pick Trump instead, we can expect Hillary to win.” In a nation where only about half the people bother to vote, anything can happen, as we learned last time around. I’m not so sure that nominating someone other than Joe will automatically mean 4 more years of Trump.

    For one thing, there’s a lot of time till November. The economy could take a turn for the worse, crises could erupt, Trump could do something genuinely crazy and cause some (not his base, but those who are willing to look the other way because their stock portfolio’s doing well) to sit out the election.

    1. Barry


      It’s a matter of turnout. If black voter turnout increases to near 2012 levels, trump might not win. (He wouldn’t have won in 2016 either.)

      The black voter turnout rate declined for the first time in 20 years in a presidential election falling to 59.6% in 2016 after reaching a record-high 66.6% in 2012

  6. Doug T

    What are these people thinking? None of the others will beat Trump. Steyer and Bloomberg are buying votes at this point. Wait until Bloomberg faces his stop and frisk past…and his attitude toward women. All this is playing out too fast for people to realize they are handing Trump 4 more years.

      1. Barry

        I feel certain everyone has an “attitude toward women.”

        Trump certainly has one- it revolves around wanting them in bed.

        Rudy G (Trump’s buddy and right wing hit man) has one as well. His involves dating his cousin and not being able to stay married for very long. Seems to be a theme in right wing conservative circles these days- those right wingers love politicians that take their marriage vows as seriously as they do the fortune on a fortune cookie.


        Those good ole family values……….

  7. bud

    Some really nonsensical statement from Brad:
    If Joe Biden loses, I’ll prepare for four more years of Donald Trump as president of my country.
    if it’s Warren or Sanders, Trump wins in a walk.

    I really don’t like Joe Biden. But I’m first and foremost a man of science and math. So I try to set my personal opinion aside and just look at facts. Brad continues to regurgitate this unsupported narrative that Biden and only Biden can beat Trump. That is a very different assertion than simply stating an opinion about how well he will he would do as president. Frankly the above statements are Trumpesk in how nonsensical and removed from actual fact they are. The 538 website posts general election matchups so we can actually do more than blindly make assertions. Biden is the 3rd best choice based on actual evidence. Both Bloomberg and Sanders do better than Biden in an Ipso poll. Quinnipiac likewise shows Biden trailing those 2 and only a point better than Klobuchar. ALL the Dems are tied or better in both polls. Throw in the fact that Biden has NEVER demonstrated an ability to win outside Delaware it’s clear that by actual metrics, rather than voodoo intuition, Biden would be a poor choice for Democrats to make.


    1. Bill

      I’ll take Leonhardt’s advice:

      “Take a deep breath, and don’t make your job harder. Neither side of the party can ensure that its preferred candidate will win the nomination. But both can help avoid the outcome they fear most — Trump’s re-election.”

      1. bud

        Brad should listen to Leonhardt and stop all this preposterous Sanders and Warren bashing. Right now 538 has Bernie favorite to be the Dem nominee. Biden only has a 1 in 6 chance, down from 1 in 2 a month ago.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      Bud, I want you to remember something.

      Remember that you’re the guy who WANTED Trump to win the GOP nomination in 2016, because you thought Hillary would wipe the floor with him.

      And I told you to never, EVER hope that the candidate you like the least wins either party’s nomination, because once a candidate wins one of the two major parties’ nominations, he or she is just a small nudge away from winning. This country is so evenly split between the parties that no matter how awful the nominee, he or she just needs a modest break or two to get there.

      Guess who was right?

      Sometimes, you should listen to the intuitive guy who can see patterns and foresee likelihoods, things that you can’t prove or disprove with the numbers available to you at a given moment.

      I know voters in this country (I may not understand why even one single person would ever consider for an instant voting for Trump, but as a guy who has voted for candidates spread across most of the rest of the spectrum, I have some understanding of how people outside that Trump cadre — people who are persuadable — think), and I know that outside an esoteric and passionate corner of the Democratic Party, people are NOT going to elected Bernie Sanders president.

      He’s almost certainly going to win New Hampshire. (If he doesn’t, he should quit. It’s a home game for him.) But let’s hope that’s it. If that gives him momentum to win the election, we’re sunk…

      1. bud

        I know voters in this country (I may not understand why even one single person would ever consider for an instant voting for Trump, but as a guy who has voted for candidates spread across most of the rest of the spectrum, I have some understanding of how people outside that Trump cadre

        This is just too funny. You just totally contradicted yourself IN THE SAME SENTENCE. Again, Trumpesk. You say you know voters then acknowledge you DON’T know voters. You offer not one scintilla of evidence that Biden is the most electable. Nothing. Yet you expect me to accept your Tarot card reading genius that nonetheless that is true. What a condescending pile of elitist crap.

        I get it, you like Biden. Great, vote for him. But don’t do so on the basis of electability. There is zero evidence to support that argument.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Um… what I said was completely logical, and entirely internally consistent. I said that, OUTSIDE THE TRUMP BASE, I understand people across the spectrum, and that includes all of the potentially persuadable (a subset that doesn’t include the Trump base).

          And I’m telling you that almost no one other than Bernie’s equally fervid base is going to want to vote for him.

          He sorta kinda won Iowa — again. He’ll certainly win New Hampshire. But he’s not winning the general election.

          If he were the nominee, we might as well close the shutters on this representative democracy, because we’d be forced to choose between two populists who want to blow up the system — one just to blow it up for the hell of it (I see no vision for the future on that side), and the other to replace it with his vision of a Marxist paradise….

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            I almost wrote, “the other to replace it with his projet…” but I figure everybody would just assume Brad, his brain weakened by pain-killers, didn’t know how to spell “project.”

            I was tempted because it was a very, very inside joke in The State‘s newsroom 30 years ago. During the months I was hatching the Power Failure project, which anticipated fundamental restructuring of South Carolina government, and before we came up with the name, I just referred to it as “the projet,” among the few editors who were initially involved.

            It was my way of sort of making fun of myself for having revolutionary dreams. (And for not being able to speak French, for that matter.) While at the same time believing in them quite fervently.

            It was, of course, the end of my news career. After the projet, I was ruined for everything but editorial work. After that, I was committed — or at least, some would say, I should have been… 🙂

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              I’ve utterly failed to find a definition of the term that explains the term as I understood it. I remembered it from my study of late 18th-century politics, particularly with regard to the French Revolution and its fans in this country (Jefferson, et al.). I remembered it as a grandiose, ambitious plan for a new governmental system. I find some references that ALMOST say that, but not quite.

              Anyway, as I said, I was being ironic, as a way of helping myself keep an even keel while pushing my own disruptive scheme. I assure you, I’m no fan of the French Revolution. Quite the opposite. I’m a John Adams guy, not a Jefferson guy…

          2. Mr. Smith

            “his vision of a Marxist paradise”

            Yes, just like all those failed “Marxist paradises” in Scandinavia and elsewhere in Europe.

              1. Mr. Smith

                Maybe you SHOULD realize that the real threat to Biden winning the nomination isn’t Sanders. It’s Bloomberg, Steyer, Buttigieg and Klobuchar.

  8. Realist

    Sometimes the charts, graphs, polls, opinions, etc., etc., need to be put aside and a dose of reality taken without it being sweetened with political and social jargon meant to excite the diverse and divided tribal reality of the Democratic Party. There is no such thing as a candidate who can check all of the boxes and bring the majority of voters to the polls to cast their votes for said candidate.

    At some point the reality is that Trump can only be defeated by fielding a candidate the people “like” and is the least threatening. He or she doesn’t need to be a dynamic public speaker, the most informed on all of the issues at hand, the most experienced in politics, or any of the other measuring sticks pundits and political junkies like to use.

    Common sense and history reflect for the most part that in an election, likeability is perhaps the critical element in securing a victory. The reason Trump won in 2016 is because he was slightly better liked than Hillary while both were burdened with overwhelming negatives, real or perceived.

    Public perception will win out over policy and other positives if the most qualified is the least liked. Al Gore should have been elected over GWB by a landslide in popular and electoral college votes, but he wasn’t. GWB came across as a genuine and likeable candidate and he had the least amount of experience other than being governor of Texas. Kerry in the following election had more experience and policy knowledge than Bush but the likeability factor was key, Kerry was not likeable then and still isn’t. Plus, it is advisable to consider the fact that post impeachment polls have Trump gaining a higher rating than ever before. Ask yourself the question “why?” and then consider what has been the central theme of Democrats since November 2016 when Trump was elected. The answer is in front of you if you care to open your eyes. The public is weary of the constant drumbeat of anti-Trump 24/7/365 and the last few months has only added to the disillusionment of the voters who will remember come November 2020.

    If Democrats want to win the White House, the only candidate who can achieve that goal at this point is Biden whether you like him or not. He stands the best chance to defeat Trump and even then, it will be an uphill climb to win in November. All of the “pundits” posting here are convinced they are right and to hell with the landmines awaiting their chosen candidates other than Biden. When their candidate, if nominated, is blown out of the water in November, remember the cautioning advice Brad has repeated time and time again. Biden is the best choice to defeat Trump – period!

    The only one who may stand a chance other than Biden is Klobuchar. If you prefer to stand with your personal ideological meme candidate(s) and not look at the big picture, then prepare yourself for four more years of Trump. If you don’t know who makes up the majority of the national audience, whatever you try to do will not “play in Peoria” and it is for damn sure it is not what Warren, Sanders or Mayor Pete are offering. The citizens of this country as a whole are not ready for the degree of drastic changes and a dramatic shift to the left yet. They will respond by voting for Trump.

    Off my soapbox now.

    1. bud

      Sometimes the charts, graphs, polls, opinions, etc., etc., need to be put aside and a dose of reality taken without it being sweetened with political and social jargon meant to excite the diverse and divided tribal reality of the Democratic Party.

      I guess this is the day for people to contradict themselves in the same sentence. The whole point of charts, graphs and polls is to evaluate evidence WITHOUT sweetened political jargon. The goal of any good statistician is to remove personal bias and make an evaluation ONLY on REAL evidence. Clearly both Brad and Realist are saying this stuff because the like Biden. Hey I like Elizabeth Warren but she doesn’t poll as well as Bernie against Trump.

    2. bud

      At some point the reality is that Trump can only be defeated by fielding a candidate the people “like” and is the least threatening.

      Maybe, but that is just a statement of conjecture. Besides, likeability is in the eye of the beholder. Many people don’t “like” Joe Biden because he comes across as a creepy old, hair sniffing boor. Others don’t like him because he’s a long time Washington insider. Still others find his son’s affiliation with the Ukrainians proof that Joe Biden cannot be trusted and is therefore unlikeable. Frankly if likeability is your metric then we should by all means choose Bernie. He’s authentic, principled, consistence and sincere – all very likeable qualities. I would suggest we continue to look at evidence and discard this ridiculous intuition based approach.

      1. Realist

        “Frankly if likeability is your metric then we should by all means choose Bernie. He’s authentic, principled, consistence and sincere – all very likeable qualities. I would suggest we continue to look at evidence and discard this ridiculous intuition based approach.”

        I will disagree with you on your points about Bernie. Frankly, he is not very likeable at all. I find him to be exactly what he is, a politician. Someone who made the choice early in life to become a politician. Check an article in Snopes about him and what his ambitions were and how he has fulfilled them. He is a career “politician”.

        He is a bony fingered pointer to everyone because he believes he knows what is best for everyone else.

        As for Biden, I do not care for him at all but in the end, he is the candidate with the highest likeability factor in the race at this point. In the present political atmosphere, unless Trump actually does shoot someone, he will most likely defeat any of the other candidates with perhaps the exception of Klobuchar who is leading in NH for now.

        The other position you took I don’t agree with is the one about charts, graphs, polls, etc., being the way to evaluate the current roster of candidates. If the candidates all had the same likeability factor, then you would be accurate in your statement. The truth is, they don’t and it will be the tell when the polls close in November. There are two candidates running in the Democratic primaries who stand a chance against Trump, Biden and Klobuchar. You can disagree with me but disagreement won’t change the dynamics of who presents the best opportunity to defeat Trump that is based on that totally human emotional factor, likeability. Thinking for one moment it does not and will not play a major if not the most important factor in this election is just ridiculous and dismissive of the facts in front of you that cannot be shown on a chart or other polling data.

        1. Mr. Smith

          ” Frankly, [Sanders] is not very likeable at all. I find him to be exactly what he is, a politician. Someone who made the choice early in life to become a politician.”

          Like … um … Biden?

          Frankly, anyone who calls themselves a “Realist” departs from democratic reality when they complain about politicians choosing to be politicians. Because, like it or not, politics is how things get done in a democracy.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Nothing wrong with politics. It certainly beats the alternatives. Or at least, it always did in the past.

            Joe’s a politician, with every fiber of his being. The best kind…

          2. Realist

            Like…um…yeah, I know Biden was the sixth youngest Senator elected in the history of this country at the ripe old age of 30. And he has been in politics since then one way or the other.

            I never implied anything other than the fact that he chose to become a politician early in life and fulfilled his ambitions, he is a career politician like so many others serving in Washington, DC. Plus he, Warren and Biden have become multimillionaires by cashing in on their political careers.

            My personal dislike of Sanders is based on his demeanor and strong socialist core based on his record. He has had some good ideas I agree with but overall, not. If anything, he opposed NAFTA, CAFTA, TPP, and other trade agreements Trump opposes. He opposed the trade agreements with China because it would take away jobs for Americans. Odd, Trump is trying to do the same thing by challenging tariff discrepancies between the nations. Sanders also opposed the repeal of Glass-Steagall and the passage of Graham-Leach-Bliley which I opposed as well.

            I am a “Realist” about the political profession and I understand the necessity of politicians. I have a problem with the ones who forget who they are actually representing and end up being more self-serving rather than serving their constituents.

    3. Brad Warthen Post author

      Oh, and Realist, I’m also with you when you say, “The only one who may stand a chance other than Biden is Klobuchar.”

      And that’s it. Beyond that, we have a crap shoot at the very least — and a disaster if the nominee is Sanders or Warren.

  9. Brad Warthen Post author

    Now, I’m cutting out, but then coming back downtown this evening.

    Joe, who has already left New Hampshire, will be at 701 Whaley at 8 tonight. I plan to be there to welcome him…


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