"Human nature" all the way down, leading top star experts say: For our money, Jordan Weissmann nailed the key takeaway from Thursday night's TV debacle.
He presented his key takeaway at Slate. Beneath a pithy headline, Weissman started with this:
WEISSMAN (6/28/19): Joe Biden Is OldJust to be clear, Biden is 76 years old today. If he enters the White House in January 2021, he will be 78!
Early on in Thursday’s Democratic presidential debate, Eric Swalwell, the 38-year-old U.S. congressman from California, decided to take his shot at Joe Biden. He recalled how, when he was just 6 years old, a politician had come to the California Democratic Convention and said it was time to “pass the torch to a new generation of Americans.”
“That candidate was then-Sen. Joe Biden,” Swalwell said, delivering the punchline to a mix of groans and applause. “Biden was right when he said it was time to pass the torch to a new generation of Americans 32 years ago. He’s still right today.” Biden, the front-runner heading into the debate, smiled broadly, taking the dig in stride. “I’m still holding onto that torch. I want to make that clear to you,” he said in response. Then [Biden] started reciting a dry, stumbly bit about education policy. It was hard to follow.
In that moment, the whole depressing subtext of the former vice president’s campaign temporarily became text. Biden is old. At 76, he would be the most-senior first-term president in history. But unlike his fellow septuagenarian, Sen. Bernie Sanders, it was impossible to watch Biden debate without noticing just how many steps he seems to have lost.
Weissmann continued from where we left off. We think he'd already recorded the one key point from Thursday's food fight, much of which was rather dim-witted, some of which was perhaps conducted in something resembling bad faith.
According to Weissmann, "It was impossible to watch Biden debate without noticing just how many steps he seems to have lost." In truth, that has been our own impression ever since the former veep began campaigning this year.
Entering the White House at 78 seems a bit risky to start with. That said, Biden right now, at 76, seems to have lost several steps from the pol he used to be—and even then, at his best, he was always a "gaffe machine."
A few weeks ago, we said we found it hard to believe that Biden was going to make it. We said that because it seemed to us that he no longer had all his skills and capacities—and even back when he did, he tended to make the incommodious statements on which our press corps likes to feed, with which it likes to play.
We think Weissmann nailed Thursday's key takeaway. In our view, it seems unwise for Biden to be in this race at all. That leaves us looking at the others—at the people who decided to "take their shot" at Biden, whether on Thursday night itself or in its aftermath.
We're speaking here about Candidate Harris, whose ability to win praise for bogus statements and presentations constitutes a giant political asset. At present, she'd be our choice for the nomination, though we're somewhat disinclined to believe a word she says.
(At present, why would we pass over Candidate Warren? We'll visit that point next week, with reference to Kristof's logic.)
We're also speaking here about our mainstream journalists and pundits. They've tended to perform their usual unhelpful role in assessing what happened Thursday night.
Before we continue, we want to thank a set of major anthropologists for helping us see what actually happened that night. "What happened was typical 'human' behavior," these verklempt future experts have told us.
In our view, Weissmann nailed Thursday's key point. Everything else has followed from there.
We expect to discuss these events for several days to come. For today, here are two more possible takeaways to ponder:
Views of mandated busing back then:
Candidate Biden stands accused of opposing mandated busing way back when, in the 1970s. Along the way, he has somehow brought hurt to "a little girl" and to Candidate Swalwell, who was once only 6.
This is supposed to tell us something, though it doesn't mean Biden's a racist!
Biden opposed mandated busing back in the 1970s! In our view, it's fortunate that this doesn't make him a racist, because according to the Washington Post, the vast majority of black Americans were underwhelmed with the practice then too!
Isaac Stanley-Becker did the reporting for the Washington Post. We can't vouch for his survey numbers, but we also don't find them shocking:
STANLEY-BECKER (6/28/19): The year that Joe Biden entered the Senate, in 1973, Gallup asked Americans whether they thought busing children from one neighborhood to another was the best means of integrating the nation’s public schools.According to Stanley-Becker, 9 percent of black respondents supported mandated busing as the best route to integration! As for the other 91 percent of black respondents, they presumably weren't racists either, though we'd want to double-check with Harris before settling on any such view.
Five percent of those surveyed said they favored that approach; broken into racial groups, 4 percent of whites and 9 percent of blacks said they supported busing.
Integration? Yes, a majority said. In principle.
But not if it meant compulsory busing.
For details on that 1973 Gallup poll, you can just click here.
We'll note that Stanley-Becker has his thumb on the scale just a tad as he describes what those numbers mean. Given the thrashing Biden is taking, we think those numbers provide a bit of context, the enemy of human stampedes.
Strange absence of busing proposals today:
We're grateful to our major anthropological sources for articulating a key point. According to these disconsolate experts, any discussion of this type will reflect the unimpressive "wiring" of our deeply flawed human brains.
For that reason, such discussions may sometimes tilt toward dumbness. They may even seem to exhibit the occasional act of bad faith.
With those caveats in place, let's proceed with our discussion. Our experts have said that the current public "discussion" has taken this typical form:
Biden should have supported it then—but we don't support it today!
These experts note that the Reverend Sharpton is based in the state of New York, which has "the most segregated schools in the country." They ask when he last proposed mandated busing. We don't quite know what to say.
They note that Candidate Booker, when he was mayor of Newark, joined hands with Governor Christie and billionaire mogul Mark Zuckerberg to "transform" that city's schools, largely by reining in its teachers' fiendish unions. Hundreds of millions of dollars changed hands, but no one ever suggested busing, these rueful experts allege.
As for Candidate Harris, these experts note the current academic profile of the schools she once set out to fix. The profile was compiled a few years ago by Stanford's Professor Reardon:
Average student, in relation to grade levelAccording to Professor Reardon, there was a 4.6 year achievement gap between Berkeley's average black and white kids just in grades 3-8!
Berkeley Public Schools, Grades 3-8
White kids: 2.7 years ahead
Black kids: 1.9 years behind
Hispanic kids: 1.1 years behind
These experts ask what Candidate Harris has ever suggested doing about that. Also, as a candidate with strong feelings about such matters, what sorts of busing proposals has she brought forward today?
Nicolle Wallace's home town of Orinda is right next door to Berkeley, thee experts further note. Have Wallace and Harris ever joined forces to roll the buses between these two districts? Why not, these scholars ask, rolling their eyes as they do.
At any rate, these fiery pundits and pols today! They say Biden should have supported it then, but they don't propose it today!
For our money, Candidate Biden's missing steps constitute the key takeaway from Thursday night's excitement.
Top anthropologists differ. It was all the "gossip" and all the heavily tribal group "fictions," these rueful scholars have said, citing Professor Harari's account of where our species came from.
Behavior which may exhibit bad faith is quite common, these heralded experts keep saying. They also point to the mandated dumbness which has ruled our public discourse for at least the past forty years.
Eventually, this ubiquitous upper-end dumbness put Donald J. Trump where he is. Scholars say this is "human nature" at work—and these heralded anthropologists don't offer that as high praise!
What's new in Orinda: Wallace grew up and attended public schools right next door to Berkeley. According to the leading authority on Orinda, the town was 0.8% black in 2010 and was, in that sense, approaching a "tipping point."
At any rate, black kids would have a lot of gain from being bused to Orinda. The leading authority describes this recent cultural struggle:
While Orinda is marketed as a quaint and quiet ‘semi-rural’ city just outside of Oakland and Berkeley, there are significant issues with noise and exhaust pollution from leaf blowing. With the "semi-rural" topography of rolling hills, the sound is inescapable as it echoes throughout the neighborhoods. There was an attempt made to ban leaf blowing beginning in 2010 with ”Quiet Orinda”, which was covered in a feature article entitled "Blowback" in The New Yorker magazine. A group of residents sought to ban the use of leaf blowers citing the terrible noise and harmful effects to the environment from the exhaust.If Berkeley kids could be bused to Orinda, they'd finally have a chance to see our American democracy in action!
Despite strong citizen support, the Orinda City Council refused to enact a ban on leaf blowers in 2010. The "Quiet Orinda" group attempted to seek a compromise in 2011 but the Council refused to make changes with the Councilwoman Amy Worth telling the San Jose Mercury News, “We spent a significant amount of time reviewing (the leaf blower issue), hearing testimony last year, and I guess my position remains the same...I think we worked very hard several years ago to craft a noise ordinance that sought to seek a compromise between the various perspectives.”
We'll guess that Wallace and Harris have tried to arrange for mandated busing, given how strongly they feel about it. But when all the leaf blowers get going at once, it's hard to break through all the noise!