Political Purell

Dear All, “It’s the first time in three years I’ve woken up happy,” said a NeverTrumper friend who drinks her morning coffee from a cup emblazoned with the words “Is he dead yet?" Even if you didn’t say it out loud, on the day after Super Tuesday, the odds are you thought it. Literally overnight, the omnipresent sense of dread receded and gave way to a lightness of being. Not since Harry Truman’s iconic 1948 upset over Thomas Dewey, had the nation witnessed anything like Joe Biden's stunning electoral tour de force. Thanks to the record turnout of African Americans and suburban women who hoisted Biden to victory on their shoulders, the former Vice President enjoyed an electoral resurrection that no one — not even the candidate himself -- saw coming. “If you’ve ever been down and out, this is the campaign for you,” said the born again frontrunner turning his personal victory into a campaign meme. Never had the cliche -- “A week in politics is a lifetime” -- seemed truer. And, never had the roiling collective angst about how the divided Democrats would implode seemed so unfounded. Thanks to the tag team of Congressman James Clyburn, whose endorsement kicked off the Biden wave, followed by the noble departures of Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar (and subsequently Mike Bloomberg,) the traffic jam in the moderate lane of the Democratic primary vanished virtually overnight. Granted, Biden’s South Carolina rout shut out the progressive wing of the party. One elderly African-American voter from Okatie, S. C., had her own theory about why Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren failed to gain traction in the Palmetto State. As she quipped to a CNN reporter, “Those liberals are so heavenly bound, they’re up to no earthly good.” That said, the Super Tuesday results, in which Sanders won California while winning Colorado, Utah and Vermont, offered a potent reminder that he remains a force in the party with support from a quarter to a third of all Democrats. Meanwhile, historian Jon Meacham couched Biden’s juggernaut as pushback by voters exhausted by the debilitating Trump drama. “Americans voted for normalcy,” Meacham said, “By voting for Joe Biden they showed they’re willing to postpone radical change just so we can get our bearings again.” Before we move on to where we go from here, let's celebrate the character and class of those who opted for unity to defeat Trump over their own self-interest. In her twin tributes to Buttigieg and Klobuchar, WaPo columnist Jennifer Rubin captured the gestalt of their appeal. On Mayor Pete: "His goal had been to unify a divided nation and win up and down the ticket. That, he determined, was now served by leaving the race. In his emotional farewell speech, he conceded politics can be ugly, but assured his supporters that at its best 'it is moral; it is soul craft.’” Rubin wrapped up her homage with an upbeat sign-off, "Of all the 2020 contenders who fell short, Buttigieg will be, I predict, the most memorable; certainly no one has a brighter future.” Klobuchar also scored high praise for her exit strategy that teed up Biden’s primary victory in her home state of Minnesota. Rubin summed it up this way: "Klobuchar was a breath of fresh air in this campaign. She kept the campaign and her party tethered to reality, criticizing “free everything for everyone,” ably defending a responsible internationalist approach and deriding the notion that Medicare-for-all was even a remote possibility. She reminded us that passing bills that help people is what legislators should do, not simply stick their fingers in the eyes of those who are willing to compromise.” Bloomberg’s final bow as a candidate came next. True to his word — that he had entered the race to beat back the existential threat Trump represents to American democracy — the pragmatic billionaire “data guy” bailed when the stunning consolidation around Biden undercut the odds of Bloomberg’s only remaining path to the nomination —a contested Democratic convention. Without missing a beat, Bloomberg endorsed Biden, renewed his commitment to pump millions into his “Dump Trump” campaign and released this new ad carrying the tagline #GoJoe. In his Friday night closing commentary “New Rule: Take the Money and Run," “Real Time” host Bill Maher mocked Democrats like Sanders who say they won’t take Bloomberg's “blood money.” “The only fair solution is complete public financing of campaigns,” said Maher, “but, until that happens, get off your high horse about billionaires who want to help. Bloomberg’s money wasn’t dirty when he was changing gun politics or taking on climate change. He spent $40 million on 24 races in 2018 and Democrats won 21 of them so maybe stop badgering the guy because he told a dirty joke back in 1980.” Watch the Maher video here. Then it was Elizabeth Warren’s turn. After an abysmal Super Tuesday showing, Warren ended her presidential bid acknowledging the crushing disappointment of "all those little girls who are gonna have to wait four more years.” Not to mention their mothers and grandmothers whose faith that Americans will ever elect a woman as president took another huge hit. It was a schitzy week where political shockwaves commingled with growing fear about the COVID-19 pandemic and occasionally produced an irreverent attempt at comic relief like the New Yorker parody, “Susan Collins unable to decide whether to wash her hands.” Now, as it becomes increasingly apparent that Trump’s reckless response to the coronavirus “hoax” has perpetuated misinformation and confusion that will likely cost lives, the case can be made that the crisis will redound to Biden’s benefit. How? As Jonathan Freedland wrote in The Guardian, “Coronavirus could turn Joe Biden’s Defining Weakness into a Strength.” When people are trembling at the prospect of a pandemic, “…they don’t turn against government, they turn to it. Suddenly, Biden’s 50 years as a Washington insider can be presented less as a liability than an asset, because that’s half a century of valuable experience. At any other time, Biden’s age, manner and CV could have doomed his candidacy. But with a plague looming, Americans might just view a flawed man of undoubted empathy and with an intimate knowledge of loss, a man who’s spent a lifetime inside the US government, as something like a remedy.” That thesis — that Americans yearn for stability, competence and decency —  dovetails with a Republican strategist’s recent take on “Why Trump Fears Biden Most.” Rob Stutzman makes the case that even though Trump and Sanders may be the emblems of the populist surge, Biden has edge at the ballot box this year because he represents the establishment. “Biden hails from the land of normalcy,” says Stutzman. And, when the nation is being led by a pathological liar who’s logged nearly 17,000 lies and sews chaos, conspiracy and incompetence, “voters are likely to go from outsider to insider.” Which brings us to tomorrow, dubbed "Super Tuesday II." Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders will go head-to head vying for a trove of delegates from Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Washington and the battleground state of Michigan. Flush with a $22 million haul in the giddy wake of last week’s comeback, Biden leads the latest polls in Michigan by 11 points over Sanders. For Sanders and his passionate army, Michigan carries heavy emotional weight. In 2016, Sanders came from behind and upset Hillary Clinton there for a primary victory that renewed his campaign after a drubbing in that year’s Super Tuesday contests. If Sanders loses in Michigan, it will underscore the fact that, so far in this primary season, he hasn’t expanded his base into a more diversified coalition capable of carrying a general election. Instead, it’s clear that the Sanders cohort is shrinking as young voters are not turning out in the numbers the campaign had predicted. In Missouri, where one recent poll has him at a 22 point lead, Biden is expected to win the bulk of the state's 68 delegates. Meanwhile, Sanders is pinning his hopes on the race in Washington, where he beat Clinton by 46 points in the 2016 caucuses. But Washington’s switch a to mail-in ballot should significantly cut into Sanders’ share of the state’s 89 delegates. Spoiler alert: Even if Biden crushes it on Tuesday, don’t expect Sanders to step aside. After raking in $46 million in February alone, Sanders is in this race until someone hits the 1991-delegate threshold needed to clinch the nomination on the first ballot at the Democratic convention in July. But it may change the tenor of his campaign, leading him to focus on issues rather than criticizing Biden leaving the former Veep in better shape for the upcoming general election. So stay positive. So far, the consolidation of the Democratic field has been astonishingly quick — and clean. If lapsed Republican conservative columnists like the WaPo’s Max Boot or Ross Douthat and Bret Stephens from the New York Times can express their gratitude to Democrats for, as Boot said, restoring hope in our democracy, why can’t we? To wit, Stephens wrapped up his most recent column with a series of predictions about a Biden presidency including this final one: "If Biden wins, it will not mean a great American presidency. It will mean a decent one. That will be more than enough for me.” Sorry, Bret, but I disagree. Sometimes decency is greatness — just restoring civility to the Oval Office will make him a great American president. And that will be more than enough for me. Onward, Jane P.S. About this newsletter’s new look: After three years of clinging to my comfortably byzantine system of sending out my commentaries, I was badgered into converting to Mail Chimp. But don’t look for me on Facebook. This is about as far as I’ll lean in.

Welcome. This “Don’t Tread On Us” newsletter was named after the group I organized for the first Women’s March back in 2017. To quell my own angst, I started writing episodic commentaries designed to inform, engage and motivate and to focus on the silver linings within this cataclysmic chapter of our nation’s history. The essays reflect that, as President Obama said, “we are the change that we seek.” So I also frequently integrate “action ops” — things we can all do to strength the fabric of our democracy even as it’s under siege.

I came to the political arena after a lifetime of observing it — including 25 years on air as an NBC-TV News correspondent and a Warner Bros. nationally syndicated talk show host. My activism is laser focused on one goal: electing Democrats. Lobbying others to sign on to Nancy Pelosi’s advice, “Don’t agonize, organize,” via this newsletter is key to that mission. How to subscribe. If you want to receive this newsletter directly, please send me a personal email address — not a workplace address. I can be reached at The fine print. I’m flattered that many choose to forward my emails to friends, family and others who are out on the ledge because of our current toxic political landscape. You may also post excerpts on social media or a public blog —  but please don’t cut & paste any email in its entirety. Finally. Since I also juggle several other jobs, my production schedule is simple: I write when I have something to say and the time to say it. Heartfelt thanks for being part of the silver lining in this challenging era.

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