Let’s face it: we’re fascinated by the United States. Partly, no doubt, because millions of Irish people have travelled there in search of a life, partly because the US exerts soft power throughout the world, teaching us to look to it as the model of Western democracy.
At the moment it’s certainly not the model of dignity and truth. Donald Trump has been in the White House for over three years and he is if anything more repulsive than when he was egging on his 2016 crowds to chant “Lock her up!” and “Build that wall!” The fact that neither happened doesn’t seem to have disillusioned the sad people who are his core support.
So what about last night – Super Tuesday in the US? The progressive candidate Bernie Sanders was expected to win an awful lot of votes and the floundering former vice-president Joe Biden wasn’t really tipped to do much of anything, at least not until he had a decisive win last Saturday. His bandwagon, still creaking, had begun to roll.
Even though Biden supported the war in Iraq, even though he talks in generalities, even though his so-white smile makes a $21 bill look authentic, last night he did much better than expected and Sanders did much worse than expected.
Why? Because the Democratic establishment were in heart-attack territory at the thought of a socialist like Sanders running on sure-loser policies like Medicare for all and free college tuition. That’s socialism, you see. Trump would be doing a reds-under-the-bed thing and the Democrats would be slaughtered next November. That’s why Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg dropped out a couple of days ago and announced that they were 100% behind Biden. Which probably made all the difference on Super Tuesday.
There are two things the Democrats want: Donald Trump out of the White House, and a Democratic president who won’t rock the establishment. They’re convinced Sanders would fail with the first and would, if elected, change things like health and education in the US. In short, he’d rock the boat massively.
Anyway, after yesterday, the debate is academic. Biden will get the Democratic nomination in July, despite the fact that he’s as articulate and inspiring as an ad for 1950s toothpaste. Put bluntly, Americans in November will be asked to choose between a store dummy and a swaggering clown.
Back a year or so ago, Biden said he’d like to beat Trump, preferably round the back of the gym. If he’s the Democratic Party’s candidate in November, that’s about the only way he’ll beat Trump.