By all means, let’s indulge in outright political fantasy in order to fill column inches. But we pundits really should be careful to ground our pipe dreams just the tiniest bit in political reality. Otherwise, we run the considerable risk of looking ridiculous.
Did some kind of memo go out to all longtime residents of Happy Centrist Pundit Gumdrop Land? All of a sudden, we are inundated with suggestions that, in the interest of both his re-election and of national unity, the president should pick a prominent member of the fascist-adjacent, half-mad opposition party. In the New York Times, Thomas Friedman proposed a Biden-Liz Cheney ticket. In those same pages, Ross Douthat pitched a Biden-Romney extravaganza. Meanwhile, in the pages of The Week, Damon Linker may well be funnin’ us with the idea of pairing the president with Larry Hogan, the charisma-parched Republican governor of Maryland. Linker concludes:
I hope Linker is kidding, but there certainly are a lot of people on the electric Twitter machine taking the idea seriously.
(And this is not even to get into that preposterous Wall Street Journal column proposing that Hillary Rodham Clinton suit up for another try. Anybody mind if we work on saving democracy first? To the surprise of absolutely nobody, Chris Cillizza took this bad acid trip and ran with it, debunking it but tossing the occasional elbow at HRC while doing so. Can we never be rid of the 1990s?)
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Few pundits enjoy Gumdrop Land quite so much as Thomas Friedman.
Friedman’s proposal is by far the most hallucinogenic. As I never tire of pointing out, Liz Cheney is the attack-dog spalpeen of the worst man alive in American politics. She has defended torture. She has sneered at the origins of President Biden’s old boss. Friedman tries to make his case by drawing parallels to the recent Israeli elections, which is where things first begin to go off the rails. A multi-party election in a parliamentary form of government is a whole ‘nother thing from the creaky, archaic method by which we choose a president. Of course, Friedman has found an expert to guide him through his trip.
So Biden-Cheney is not such a crazy idea? I asked. “Not at all,” said [Stephen] Levitsky. “We should be ready to talk about Liz Cheney as part of a blow-your-mind Israeli-style fusion coalition with Democrats. It is a coalition that says: ‘There is only one overriding goal right now — that is saving our democratic system.’”
There is nothing in Liz Cheney’s entire public career that indicates she is interested in saving the democratic system except her distaste for the former president*. She might want to save the democratic system from Democrats, but that is as far as I expect she’ll go. That brings us to the second point. Saving a democratic system requires huge political sacrifice, added Levitsky. “It means A.O.C. campaigning for Liz Cheney” and it means Liz Cheney “putting on the shelf” many policy goals she and other Republicans cherish. “But that is what it takes, and if you don’t do it, just look back and see why democracy collapsed in countries like Germany, Spain and Chile. The democratic forces there should have done it, but they didn’t.”
And there it is, the joker in the deck. The Democrats have to “put on the shelf” their policy goals? How about asking the Republicans to “put on the shelf” their policy accomplishments in the areas of reproductive freedom and voter suppression? How about abandoning their crackpot economic theories that don’t work? Throughout her recent turn in the spotlight, Rep. Cheney has shown no sign of wanting to put any of these things on any shelf. This idea—and all the other cross-party dreamsicles—are perfectly consonant with floating the notion of another run by HRC. A lot of our current elite political press cut their teeth during the Clinton era. Certainly, that was the period where Friedman’s popularity skyrocketed. It was a time when well-to-do pundits didn’t have to think too much about poor people, and race, and income inequality, and predatory wealth, because everybody was a New Democrat and we’d moved past caring about all those things. There is a great, warm nostalgia among our pundit class for those days. I would point out, however, that the subtext of all of this is the defenestration of Vice President Kamala Harris, the first woman of color to get this close to the presidency. The good old boys’ visions of the good old days don’t include her.
Charles P. Pierce
Charles P Pierce is the author of four books, most recently Idiot America, and has been a working journalist since 1976.
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