It even happens to men: We liberals! For decades now, our floundering tribe's "intellectual leaders" have been saying the darnedest things!
These leaders have shown great skill at seeing no evil within their own guilds. They've proceeded to give awful advice to the rank-and file—to make crazy statements like this:
MADDOW (3/5/20): I think that a lot of women around the country right now feel differently about you dropping out. Whether or not they were supporting you specifically for president, you leaving the race feels different.If the channel ever posts a transcript, the transcript will appear here.
If Hillary Clinton can't win when she gets the nomination, and then you can't get the nomination, and neither can Kamala Harris and neither can Amy Klobuchar and neither can Kirsten Gillibrand, I mean, I think part of what's going on today is that women around the country are like, "OK, honestly, you know? If it's not, if it's not going to be any of them, let's get real."
Is it just, is it just that it can't be any woman ever? Are we just going to run, you know, white men in their late 70s against each other, both parties, and that's all we can agree to do?
At any rate, thus spake Rhodes scholar Maddow, speaking to Elizabeth Warren, the most brilliant candidate ever. Like so much of the intellectual leadership with which our floundering tribe has been saddled, the statement made no earthly sense.
Let's summarize what this thought leader said:
Four conventionally qualified women had pursued the Democratic nomination for president. With Warren's suspension of her campaign, it was clear that none of the four was going to win.
According to Maddow, this seemed to suggest that no woman will ever get nominated, in either of the two major parties, at any time ever again. If none of those four women got nominated, that means that no woman ever will!
It's possible to come up with a dumber assessment, but it wouldn't be easy. Just four years ago, a woman did get nominated by the Democratic Party, and she went on to win the popular vote in the general election.
Meanwhile, a politically talented woman is widely believed to be positioning herself for the Republican nomination in 2024. Why would Warren's failure to win the Democratic nomination mean that Nikki Haley can't get to the White House that year?
Why would anyone react to Warren's defeat in the crazy way Maddow did? We can't answer your sensible question, but we liberals have been saddled with this type of "intellectual leadership" for a good many years.
Late last week, Warren's decision to throw in the towel brought out the progressive Big Crazy. All across the liberal and mainstream landscapes, people stepped forward to insist that The Most Brilliant Candidate of All Time had lost because of sexism and misogyny, full stop.
We'll give more examples of this Scripted Tribal Reaction in the next few days; The Crazy gets rather intense. For today, though, we'll only note this:
Our tribal thought leaders were now eating our own. In 2016, Candidate Clinton had aimed her unfortunate denunciation of the "irredeemable" "deplorables" at the other team's voters.
The condemnations were now on the other foot! When Warren finished third in Iowa; when she then finished fourth in New Hampshire (one of her neighbor states); when she finished third in her own state's primary; when she registered very poorly among her party's black voters;
When Warren delivered these results, it had to be, by rule of law, because of sexism and misogyny. But the misogyny now belonged to us—to us Democratic voters, more than half of whom are women.
The sexism came from the black church ladies who voted in South Carolina. Our thought leaders had already come for Republican voters. Now they were coming for us.
Reactions like Maddow's often seemed to stem from a belief that Candidate Warren was The Greatest and Most Brilliant Candidate Who Ever Sought Nomination. While such assessments are always a matter of judgment, that particular judgment strikes us as nearly insane.
In our view, Warren was a terrible candidate, not unlike the rest of this year's classically beatable Democratic field. But we'll put that discussion on hold till tomorrow. For today, let's consider a truth universally acknowledged by people familiar with politics:
The vast majority of White House contenders lose. They don't win their party's nomination—and this even happens to men!
Most White House candidates lose, men as well as women. With that in mind, the fact that four women chose to run this year didn't mean that one of them somehow "deserved" to win.
Most qualified men who ran this year also failed to get nominated. And good lord! Down through the many long years, before women began to run for the White House, long lists of qualified male candidates crashed and burned in the nomination fight.
Most men don't win nomination! Consider some of the major stars whose candidacies didn't take off:
Bill Bradley, 2000: Bill Bradley had been a national figure since he was a Princeton basketball star.
All the way back in 1965, the New Yorker's John McPhee wrote a hagiographic profile of the college senior. In the fall of 99, the Washington Post remembered the famous piece:
VON DREHLE (9/12/99): At the tender age of 21, William Warren Bradley became the symbol, for America's elite, of virtue. In 1965, he was profiled at nearly book length in the New Yorker magazine by a fledgling writer named John McPhee. The New Yorker in that period was the most admired magazine in the world.Bradley was announced as a future president when he was still in college. He proceeded to spend a year as a Rhodes scholar; to play on a championship NBA team; and to serve eighteen years in the Senate.
In those pages, America's opinion makers met Bill Bradley, rendered by the dazzled McPhee as an almost unimaginably good and gifted young man—not only the finest basketball player in college at the time, but perhaps "the most exemplary youth since Lochinvar," an outstanding student, a religious leader, a model of self-discipline, a physical marvel, a philosopher-prince.
Throughout the article (which later became a book, "A Sense of Where You Are") it was clear that basketball was just the beginning. Bill Bradley was so good, so able, and so inspiring that—as the author noted more than once—he would probably be president someday.
He was highly qualified, and revered by the press, until they finally turned against him. (Too "aloof," they finally said, in January 2000.) But when Bradley finally ran for the White House, he lost every single caucus and primary to his lone opponent, Candidate Gore.
Highly qualified male candidates crash and burn all the time. Consider some of the others:
Bob Kerrey, 1992: Kerrey had won the Medal of Honor as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam. He served one term as governor of Nebraska, then was elected to the Senate in 1988.
Meanwhile, how handsome and charismatic was Kerrey? So handsome and charismatic that he had persuaded Deborah Winger to move to Nebraska!
But when he sought his party's White House nomination, he finished third in New Hampshire, then dropped out of the race after doing very poorly, early in March, on that year's version of Super Tuesday.
Jack Kemp, 1988: Before its merger with the NFL, Jack Kemp had been an AFL football star. In 1971, he entered Congress as a self-described "bleeding-heart conservative," though one with moderate views on most social issues.
He was the Paul Ryan of his day, although he was almost surely less phony. Granted, he was the only candidate who had ever abandoned a prior profession because he'd taken too many blows to the head. But he had served in the House as a respected Republican right on through his White House bid in 1988.
The handsome football star went nowhere. After a miserable Super Tuesday, he was forced to quit.
Ted Kennedy, 1980: Ted Kennedy's last name was Kennedy. He failed to win the Democratic nomination in 1980.
Ronald Reagan, 1976: Ronald Reagan was Ronald Reagan. He only won his party's nomination the second time around.
George Bush the elder and John McCain also failed the first time around. Also, Bob Dole and Al Gore—and Hillary Clinton! Sometimes, you have to suck it up and try again before you start bellyaching.
We've listed some higher-profile male candidates who lost. There's a long list of lower-profile though thoroughly qualified male candidates who didn't get a sniff.
In 1988, Senator Paul Simon went nowhere in the Democratic race. Within the mainstream press, "professorial" became his middle name.
(In 2003, Simon's obituary in the Los Angeles Times started off like this: "Former Sen. Paul Simon, a Democrat with a professorial bow tie who ran for president in 1988 as a budget-balancing liberal, died Tuesday of complications after heart surgery.")
In 1992, Richard Lugar sought the Republican nomination. He had served two terms as mayor of Indianapolis, including a stint as president of the National League of Cities. As of 1992, he was serving his third term in the United States Senate, where he had served as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.
Lugar was generally believed to be on the brighter, saner end among national political figures, but he was also dull as dishwater. He went nowhere in the nomination fight. Fully-qualified male candidates lose pretty much all the time.
It's very hard to get nominated for president. Many try; almost everyone fails. But how odd!
When four qualified women took the leap in the current campaign, our hapless thought leaders apparently thought that one of them was somehow required to win. When it didn't turn out that way, our thought leaders came for us. We were now the terrible people, including those women down South.
Our tribe's thought leaders are stunningly dumb. Can a major tribe prosper this way?
Anthropologists tell us it can't be done. Our tribe seems eager to try.
Tomorrow: The most brilliant candidate ever