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Donald, Joe and Yogi
In 1973, when Yogi Berra was the manager of the New York Mets and his team was a long way out of first place, he uttered six of the most memorable words in the English language: “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
Yogi was right. The Mets eventually rallied and went on the play in the Word Series. (The Mets lost to the Oakland Athletics in 7 games. At that point it really was over.)
But while Yogi had only baseball in mind, his sage observation applies to the world of politics too.
At the moment, things are not looking good for Donald Trump. Virtually every poll has him losing to Joe Biden. But November – the political equivalent of the ninth inning – is still a ways off.
So far, Joe Biden’s strategy has worked: Keep a low profile, say as little as possible, keep off the cuff remarks to a minimum. And he’s got something else going for him: Donald Trump, whose foot often winds up in his mouth.
Yet, sooner or later, if he can discipline himself, Mr. Trump will remind voters that Joe Biden ran as a traditional Democrat; that he ran as a moderate. And that that’s why the former vice president beat Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Cory Booker, former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and a few other progressive contenders in the primaries.
Democratic voters sent a clear message during the primaries: They didn’t want radical change; they rejected progressive promises to fundamentally alter the landscape of America.
But now it looks like Joe Biden somehow missed all that. He recently tweeted that, “We won’t just rebuild this nation – we’ll transform it.”
Transform it? Really? To what?
Running as a moderate won him support not only of Democrats who opted for modest reform, but also from independents and even some Republicans who are unhappy with President Trump. Telling voters that he now wants to “transform” America may not be the message moderate Democrats and swing voters were hoping to hear from Mr. Biden.
And it may even hit them that “transformation” is part of the vocabulary of people like Senator Sanders and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, two pols no one has accused of being moderate.
Then there’s a possible Biden running mate. Senator Tammy Duckworth, who's been on a VP short list, was asked by Dana Bash on CNN if statues of George Washington should be taken down.
Bash never got a straight answer to her direct question. Instead, Senator Duckworth claimed – incorrectly – that President Trump “spent all his time talking about dead traitors” in his speech at Mount Rushmore on July 3.
The president didn’t mention even one Confederate general in that speech, so Dana Bash said, “but George Washington, I don’t think anybody would call him a traitor. And there are moves by some to remove statues of him. Is that a good idea?”
Another direct question from the journalist that drew another wobbly response from the politician: All Ms. Duckworth could muster was, “I think we should listen to everybody. I think we should listen to the arguments there.”
Again, Senator Duckworth is being mentioned as a possible Biden running mate. And if she believes Americans should even consider removing statues of George Washington, then it’s not unreasonable to conclude that so-called mainstream Democrats are so timid, so frightened, that they’re prepared to surrender to the hard left wing of the party.
As for Mr. Biden himself: He already has moved to the left – and he’ll probably need to move even further in that direction in order to make peace with Bernie’s "Bros" – if he doesn’t want them to sit at home on Election Day. (Just to make sure his supporters understand that Mr. Biden isn’t really the moderate he claimed to be, Sen. Sanders told them that with all the compromises Biden is making, he would be “the most progressive president since FDR.”)
Something else voters will take into account between now and November 3 is that it isn’t Trump supporters who want to defund the police – or eliminate police departments all together. It’s the progressives who want to do that.
And it’s not right wing goons who are toppling statues they don’t like while Democrat mayors pretty much just let it happen. Nor is it Trump supporters who took over a downtown section of Seattle while the city's progressive mayor said the takeover might turn into a "summer of love." Instead it turned into murder and mayhem. And it's not conservatives who are rioting in Portland while the left wing mayor bristles at federal agents who were sent in to protect the federal courthouse.
If Joe Biden is outraged by the mayhem we're watching on TV every night, he's done a good job hiding his feelings.
If Donald Trump can control his combative instincts and make a reasonable case that if voters choose Biden they’ll get the whole left wing package along with him, if the president can make the case that Biden is his party’s presumptive nominee because he sold himself to them as a middle of the road politician but really isn’t – then Donald Trump will have a chance to turn things around by November.
With every statue that is toppled, with every call to “transform” America, with every demand that some poor soul be fired for having an unacceptable opinion, Joe Biden runs the risk of looking like a hostage, trapped inside a party that’s defined not by a moderate political philosophy, but by the vision of the revolutionaries in the streets.
There still are the debates to come where Joe Biden won’t be able to keep a low profile, say as little as possible, and keep off the cuff remarks to minimum.
There’s still the much-anticipated Durham report, which may put Democrats in a bad (and possibly criminal) light, and may get voters to re-think who they want to run the country for the next four years.
There are still hot summer nights to come that will entice more revolutionaries to hit the streets with their ropes and chains and a mission to rid America of its history – both good and bad.
At the moment, the polls are telling us that voters don’t like Donald Trump. But that doesn’t mean they’ve fallen head over hells for Joe Biden, who I think it’s fair to say is not an impressive figure.
These are not normal times. In just a few short months we’ve witnessed a worldwide pandemic and an American cultural revolution, which came to life as George Floyd lay on the street in Minneapolis dying.
The political landscape is no longer on terra firma; it’s shifting by the minute.
The ninth inning is looming but it’s not here yet. And so, it ain’t over till it’s over.