“Nobody knows anything. Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what's going to work. Every time out it's a guess and, if you're lucky, an educated one.”
This quote by William Goldman, arguably the greatest screenwriter in American history (among his Academy Award/winning screenplays are “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “All the President’s Men”), is also apropos to the world of political commentary.
Political commentators are generally opining on things about which they have no direct knowledge. The only people who really know why something happened are the people in the room when it happened. The reason we have so much commentary is not because we have so many people with something to say, but because we have so many platforms where something can be said. The business model of these platforms depend upon viewers, and you can’t have viewers without content — not quality content, necessarily, just content.
There is something political commentators share with their sports counterparts. Both usually fall into two categories: people who have spent their entire careers reporting on the game, and people who used to play the game and now comment on it. The reporter type can tell you what you just saw or, if you missed the game, what literally happened. The ex-player analyst will usually focus on why the play or game evolved in a certain way and will often discuss what options a player or team has in certain situations. The reporter understands the game from the outside in; the ex-player understands the game from the inside out. This is as true in politics as it is in sports.
In June I wrote that I wouldn’t comment on the presidential primary until October or November because before then it was like preseason football. It had nothing to do with who will play in the Super Bowl. However, like the end of preseason we’re now entering the period when teams finalize their rosters for the regular season, which in presidential politics begins with the Iowa Caucuses on February 4.
With William Goldman’s warning about who knows what being top of mind, this former player will give you his educated guess about what the beginning of the presidential primary season will look like and what’s the takeaway for African American fans — or owners, since presidents work for us.
There will be four solid contenders going into the Iowa Caucuses: U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden. Warren, Sanders and Buttigieg will finish 1, 2 and 3 (not predicting the order), and Biden will be fourth. All four will get a ticket out of Iowa for the New Hampshire Primary the following week, because they all have organization and a bankroll.
There is a possibility of a fifth ticket out of Iowa, depending on the strength or weakness of Biden’s performance. I think it will be U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar because the Democratic establishment needs a lifeboat for a sinking Biden candidacy.
What does this have to do with the decisions African-American voters will make in the forthcoming Democratic Presidential Primary?
There are two immutable facts in Democratic presidential politics: the path to the White House runs through the black community, and the majority of white people will not vote for a Democrat — Lyndon B. Johnson was the last Democrat to win a majority of white voters.
In normal political calculus, you consolidate the support you can’t win without first and worry about the people least likely to support you last. But we’re black and this is America, so that logic is turned upside down. The leadership of the Democratic Party is obsessed with white voters and takes for granted the support of black voters, as well as other people of color and younger voters. So the Democratic Party pick its white candidate, and the rest of us have no choice but to go along with it, given the neo-fascist, white supremacist makeup of the Republican Party.
Despite our dominant position inside the Democratic Party, we don’t get to express our preferred option and have the party respond to us. Instead, we have to wait until preferred white frontrunners emerge and then we pick from what we think is the best of their liter.
What does this mean? It means we lose even when we win. Because we are always picking a Democratic nominee who must first reconcile with and accommodate white voters. For this reason, our preferred policy solutions are never the party’s first priority.
As we get ready for the season opener, it’s clear that the Democratic nominee will be white. The outstanding questions are gender, age, sexual identity and political philosophy. So, the question for black voters is: Do you want their white candidate or yours?