Photo: JD Lasica, Creative Commons license 2.0

Before the votes were in on Super Tuesday, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman was hard at work on a column about the need for Democrats to unify behind a center-left moderate that Thomas Friedman could approve of. Ideally, that would be Michael Bloomberg, about whom Friedman wrote some laughably fawning fanfiction in early February. Friedman was especially worried that Bernie Sanders would do far better than he actually did, which resulted in this dramatic lede:

I'm writing this column well before Super Tuesday is over, but that's OK because, in my view, all that matters now is what happens on Super Wednesday.

Our guess is that he wrote the column well before Super Tuesday even started, since what actually happened was that Michael Bloomberg dropped out today and endorsed Joe Biden, rendering much of Friedman's hand-wringing about stopping Sanders at least partly moot. But wow, it was some glorious hand-wringing!


Friedman explains that since nobody remaining in the Democratic field is awesome enough to take on Trump mano-a-mano, Democrats will need to build a great big coalition that can appeal not only to the Democratic base, but to errebody like Thomas Friedman. The Republican machine is simply too "vicious, united and well-funded" to go up against without a lot of popular support, and Friedman loves what's left of America too much to risk it on Sanders, who he says wouldn't be able to govern even if he were elected. That's not an altogether untenable argument, but Friedman insists on moving well beyond it into weirdness.

Friedman conjures what a horror a second Trump term would be, with the elected autocrat unrestrained even by the need to face voters again. Especially if, in reaction to Sanders, down-ballot races gave Trump majorities in the House and Senate again. Then, having noted that rightwing populists are hard to squish, Friedman veers off into one of his trademark bits of international pattern recognition, with this parenthetical observation that may well be a pitch for his next book:

(Pay attention to what just happened in Israel, with Bibi Netanyahu's surprise last-minute right-wing surge. Israeli politics is to American politics what off Broadway is to Broadway. Trends start there in miniature and then often come here. Be careful.)

That's a heck of a generalization, and it must be true, since it's asserted so confidently.

That digression out of the way, Friedman gets to the real batshittery: To stop Sanders, Democrats will need to make some tough choices and unite behind a single candidate, only for that candidate to have legitimacy, it has to be a fair fight, got it?

Bernie has to lose the nomination to a moderate Democrat, but he has to lose fair and square. The nomination can't be stolen from him. He and his supporters are too important to a winning Democratic coalition in November. They need to be on the team.

So here's Friedman's speculative fiction about how to pick a consensus anti-Sanders without that choice looking rigged:

That's why on the morning after Super Tuesday, i.e., Super Wednesday, my fantasy is that Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton invite Joe Biden, Mike Bloomberg and Elizabeth Warren into the Capitol, lock the door and tell them that no one gets out until they agree on a single candidate to represent what is clearly a majority of the Democratic Party — the moderate center-left — so that that person can run head-to-head against Bernie the rest of the way, and beat him fair and square.

Um. I guess the only reason Friedman thinks that would count as "not rigged" is that the fantasy meeting takes place at the Capitol, not in the DNC headquarters, and this being a more enlightened era, the room is not smoke-filled. But at least it would avoid an ugly brokered convention, so how's that for "fair and square"?

For a guy who's supposed to be a sharp political thinker, Thomas Friedman sure ignores the reality of how actual politics has been working this year. As Super Tuesday actually shook out, Joe Biden took the lead in the delegate count without the need for Friedman's fantasy being necessary, and even that is being treated like a DNC conspiracy by some Berners, because how would Buttigieg, Klobuchar, and O'Rourke have endorsed Biden without the fix being in?

After that Bizarro Super Wednesday fantasy (Goodbye! Hello!), Friedman moves on to an observation that at least partly redeems the column, though here again he probably has far too much faith in the muddy middle. He notes that the public health crisis that seems likely to last through a large chunk of the campaign season may work to remind people that government does some things pretty darn well, or at least it used to before the current wrecking crew swept into power:

So many people voted for Trump the last time because they wanted a disrupter who would shake things up. Well, he's sure done that [...]

This epidemic is going to remind people how dangerous it is to have a disrupter with no ethics and no discipline. It is going to remind people that the G.O.P. laugh line — "I'm from the government and I'm here to help" — and other efforts to trash and weaken the federal state are not at all funny. It is going to remind people how important it is to have a president who appoints and values qualified people, not just loyalist hacks.

Whether that will necessarily reawaken Americans' yearning for broad bipartisan coalitions, as Friedman fantasizes, seems a bit unlikely, but if people at least decide it would be nice to have a public health system that works, and that people can trust, that would be a very nice start.

And since the whole column is a fantasia, Friedman spins out another bit of wishful thinking, which involves Donald Trump recognizing any limit at all to what he can lie about:

[The] overarching message has to be unity — unity in the party and unity for the country.

It is Trump's biggest vulnerability. Because there is actually one lie even Donald Trump can't utter: "I tried to unify the country."

After three years of Trump WrestleMania rallies across America [...] Trump simply cannot run as a unifier. Trump chose a strategy of divide-and-rule and trying to win with his base alone. The Democratic candidate has to choose unite-and-govern.

That's pretty amusing, since Trump has been insisting all along that he is a unifier, and that the only reason he doesn't have 100 percent support is that some people — not even real Americans — stubbornly refuse to be unified, so they must be ignored. Trump is absolutely a unifier, and anyone who says otherwise is a socialist. Remember the Trump campaign "poll" emailed on Super Tuesday?

If absolute love and support for the Great Leader isn't unity, then what is?

[NYT / Photo by JD Lasica, Creative Commons license 2.0]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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