I think I understand what’s happening. On a retail level, none of the candidates seems inevitable or, polls notwithstanding, tactically, financially, and temperamentally equipped to crush Trump. The ideological and racial divisions within the Democratic party are real, if not as yawning as those between the Democrats and the Republicans. The only thing that unites us is Trump hatred, and we aren’t united in the belief that any of the candidates can beat him. That was what Biden was on paper–a champion–but clearly isn’t on the hustings. His own weakness and his son’s seeming corruption undid him. And that’s why Bloomberg is starting to surge and Buttigieg is the media darling that he is. Because it’s possible to imagine white but less-true-believing Trump voters switching their votes to them.
Bernie and Warren supporters like me would like to believe that progressive enthusiasm can save the day, but we all have PTSD from 2016. Deep down, we know that Trump’s people are more fanatical than we are and completely prepared to cheat. Even deeper down, we despair that this country is structurally so racist, patriarchal, and deferential to wealth that no black, female, or socialist candidate can ever be elected. We are so crushed that we look to the imaginary Trump voters that would switch to Bloomberg or Buttigieg to save us. It’s almost like a form of Stockholm syndrome.
Trump is weak and stupid and historically unpopular, but as they say in sports, he has really gotten into our heads. Whoever wins the nomination has to get him out of there–they have to make us believe that he is as weak as he really is.