Sunday, May 5, 2019


By Dominique Paul Noth

Nancy Pelosi has been displaying her limp handshake diplomacy against
 Donald Trump  for years.
Leaving aside the younger Bernie Sanders fans, most progressive Democrats are activating for a new generation to take charge of the party in 2020.  In the last weeks, however, they have been forced to concede that the vim, savvy and experience most confounding Donald Trump stem from two septuagenarians. 

The main one, Nancy Pelosi, has emerged as the party’s strategic leader. The Republicans hoped to paint her as the evil shrew leading the impeachment stampede. They have been outwitted. She has convinced her colleagues that sharp investigation of Trump’s behavior will create the grounds for impeachment that even Republican senators can’t ignore.  It is a strategy that appeals after two years of doom and gloom rhetoric. “Own the center left,” she preaches, and bury Trump with a big victory.

The Speaker of the House at age 79 is not just pounding away on Trump’s behavior -- and the criminal means used to protect him – she is also backing a flood of progressive bills moving from the House to the Senate.  The cliché of   “walking and chewing gum at the same time” now only applies to one party – the Democrats.  Her open embrace of that cliché confounds Republicans.

She just produces wave after wave of responsible bills on election reform, background checks on firearms, paycheck fairness, net neutrality, health care and the environment, while showing the White House her willingness to work on infrastructure.  The delicious irony for Pelosi was that Republicans, led by McConnell, are opposing the infrastructure initiative.

That makes Mitch McConnell looks like the Grim Reaper (his own term that she has cunningly played offense with) blocking all these sensible advances. It hasn’t taken voters long to notice that the Senate, under Republican control, is where good ideas go to die.

The traditional voter preference for split government – denying one party both the Congress and the White House -- is fast disappearing thanks to this obstinacy of Mitch and Donald. Their new breed of Republicans has no philosophical rationale and looks weaker on ideas than the Democrats. Half the talking heads on TV agreeing with the Democrats are Republicans who have fallen away from Trump! Can the voters be far behind?

The fighting spirit of Joe Biden almost leaps past
primary niceties to tackle Trump.
The other vigorous septuagenarian is Joe Biden, younger by three years.  His mere presence at the top of the Democrat field of over 20 presidential hopefuls drives Trump zany on Twitter. Biden is leaping directly into the general election, bypassing the primary to go after Trump full bore and letting the chips of his 40 year record fall where they may. 

In simply not having to prove who he is, he is ahead of most of the field who have to introduce themselves to the public. The attacks from right and left on who he is are preaching to the choir – the voters know him. His plans for the future will unfold slowly while other Democratic candidates are pressed to explain who they are. He’s openly appealing to fallen away Republicans.

The presidential field is generally quite impressive and thankfully diverse. Many are making a strong impact.  But Joe just being Joe, and the reaction from the White House, demonstrate how much Trump hates dealing with known quantities like Joe and Nancy. They simply laugh off his sneering attacks. 

Biden’s age is assuredly a negative factor for new generation enthusiasts. Many eagerly want a younger generation to take hold of the future (and even Biden supporters regard him as  a place holder in the White House).

But age may not be as big a factor with traditional Democratic voters.  Many say medical advances are making 80 the new 60! Trump who is also in his seventies tries to pass himself off as young and healthy compared to Biden.  But the public sees who has to waddle onto the greens and needs a golf cart to carry him through foreign meetings.

Those over 50 are still more reliable as voters than those under 40, and even black women in recent polls show a preference for Biden, which could be another aspect of the Obama factor that is driving Trump nuts.

For two years, the Donald has tried to destroy Obama’s legacy – the health care plan, the Iran nuclear deal, the environmental regulations, pretending he didn’t inherit a good economy.  Maddening for Trump, longing for Obama grows and Biden represents that wished-for competence.   

So his only success has been elevating Biden, to many Americans a key part of an era where progress was made, in increments of inches perhaps but progress nevertheless. It was also a time when the world looked to America for moral and intelligent leadership, something that has vanished. Trump has done more than any other president to elevate Russia, China, Iran and even North Korea and Venezuela. What a horrible legacy!

America’s decline in reputation over two years lends credence to the progressive left’s call for robust correction, no half measures.  Trump has cost us a great deal of lost time at a crucial moment in history.

The US was once regarded as the essential fair broker in international disputes – no longer.   The window on dealing with climate change is almost closed.   The economy cannot long survive the growth of the top 1% against the middle class. 

Thus there is understandable pressure for “Medicare for All,” as some term it, or automatic voter registration, or the Green New Deal as a direction for the future, and many other pleas for immediate action on the left that Trump falsely decries as socialism. The US democracy has actually embraced socialism to deal with the common good – and the "common good" seems to have fewer tools at its disposal under Trump.

The majority of voters may internally agree with the left that something important must be done in 2020. But they may prove in their voting more cautious and hence more susceptible to GOP claims that the Democrats are throwing money around.  

The voters who have the final say have some historic pressures on being cautious.  In America, our traditional icons of heroic patriotism are white males -- mainly icons from the movies and from politics. While many female organizations are now demanding deeper appreciation of female power, even recognition of how the “weaker sex” is often the stronger sex in intellectual maneuvering, there is a tide of history that has diminished women and continues to do so in presidential polling. Is there a new tide in history strong enough to overcome that?

Many expect the electorate to jump in horror away from Trump, but not as far as some on the left hope. It recalls to mind the Aaron Sorkin inspired observation on the “West Wing” Season 7 when Matt Santos was campaigning to replace Josiah Bartlett as president. 

Santos was proudly a liberal but his campaign in Sorkin’s language was dealing with “a nation of centrists” while liberal Democrats were trying to push him even further to the left and conservatives were hawking on the right. That description of a fictional American electorate rings dangerously true to reality 13 years later.  

Biden may represent that solidarity from the Obama past to many voters. I’ve long been one who thinks he missed his natural time, but I also admit that his tenure as VP for eight years has demonstrated a capability that I did not see in 2007.  Election choices are often about the personal story a candidate brings to the office, and Biden has a good one.

His gains, however, have produced a disquieting level of infighting among the Democrats, some of it understandable, some of it petty. 

If the past is any measure, and that is questionable these days, the emerging Democratic candidate has to be a mixture of personality and ideas.  There’s plenty of time to decide -- and maybe to ponder why two septuagenarians, Pelosi and Biden, have made the deepest inroads against Trump.

About the author: Noth has been  a professional journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as an editor for its original Green Sheet, also  for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He became the newspaper’s senior feature editor. He was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs and Internet and consumer news. From 2002 to 2013 he ran the Milwaukee Labor Press as editor. It served as the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, with archives at  In that role he won top awards yearly until the paper stopped publishing in 2013. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as his DomsDomain dual culture and politics outlets.  He also reviews theater for Urban Milwaukee.

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