Is Biden As Inevitable As He Seems? The State of the Democratic Civil War, Post-Biden

Ryan Bohl
Ryan Bohl
Apr 30 · 6 min read

He’s gone and done it. After so much rumor-mongering and early mud-slinging, former senator and vice president Joe Biden has finally thrown his hat into the ring.

So is it his to lose? Short answer is yes. The long answer is he’s in a three-way tie, and might just have a ceiling of support that is fatal.

The New York Times did a great dive on the numbers of individual donors, amount raised, and polling numbers to try to numerically quantify the current leader. That’s one solid way to do it: I also fundamentally disagree that using that kind of hard data this far out will predict much of anything. Because this is a cultural-political experience, and not a rational, data-driven one, using numbers of donors and dollars to quantify political power is almost certain to be flawed.

But we can use that list to cull some of the candidates from the cloth — and rank our candidates according to the working notions of the still-developing Cultural-Political Theory framework.

First, if you’re a new reader, take a quick review of the outlines of the Democratic Civil War and the underlying rules of Cultural-Political Theory. And remember, this theory in this piece is being developed to predict the winner of the Democratic primary, not the 2020 election. In that, I remain convinced that a candidate labeled “Worker” has the best chance to beat Trump — and a candidate labeled “Dogmatic” is almost certain to lose.

At this moment, I see a three-way tie: Sanders, Biden, and Harris. Here’s why.

#1: Bernie Sanders: The Firm Workers Candidate

What I said: “Already the Dogmatists are sharpening their knives for Sanders, making his survival in the primaries unlikely.”

What I’m saying: Here the NYT and myself agree: Sanders is right now a #1 candidate. But while the NYT implies he’s the #1 based on their metrics, I’ll argue he’s one of three front-runners. That main reason remains the same as before: Sanders must survive a party whose Dogmatic wings hates him even as he has a well-organized and passionate fanbase. Democrats are also steadily becoming cognizant that Trump is not as strong on the economy as he appears: Americans continue to slam the tax cuts and a global slowdown that might just morph into a recession whose strongest political effects would hit the country in 2020 could completely demolish his record.

#1: Joe Biden: The Firm Spiritualist with plenty of baggage

What I said: “Biden is more a Spiritualist, like his boss Barack Obama was, which makes him weak in this primary. That may just scare him off from entering.”

What I’m saying: Biden has gotten a fair bit of support from the Spiritualist camp and name recognition, but let’s caveat that with the possibility that he has a ceiling of support — that is, his true believer camper grows no further than it is. Should another candidate become more inevitable, that could beat Joe entirely.

#1: Kamala Harris: The Soft Worker pivoted away from the weaknesses of Spiritualism

What I said: “If she hews to the Dogmatists, she may get through to the nomination, but then probably lose to Trump. But if she can find a way to discover a Workers-friendly message, she may yet find a path to the presidency. Time will tell how she evolves.”

What I’m saying: Harris has done a shift, most notably on the way she’s assembling her platform, to move her towards a ‘soft Worker’ categorization instead. I think this ties her up with Biden and Sanders for two reasons. First, the Dogmatic camps who are trying to lure her towards their ideologies will be spending less energy opposing her, and will rally to her once their more favored candidates get wiped out. Second, that Worker platform is potent: if Sanders begins to founder, the Worker voters may yet see in Harris an acceptable second choice.

But that must be caveated with the political reality that Harris may yet be tempted back to the Dogmatic platforms.

#2: Elizabeth Warren — the firm Worker who still needs Bernie to burn

What I said: “Warren must defeat Sanders and his loyalists to secure the Worker wing of the party, and then face down the attacks by the Dogmatists who will go after her for the Native American ancestry scandal.”

What I’m saying: Warren is having trouble competing with the Bernie Burn, but she’s still a pretty good back-up should Bernie flame out and

#3: Beto O’Rourke — the firm Spiritualist who can’t compete with Biden

What I said: Not a word. He wasn’t running yet.

What I’m saying: He’s fighting for the very same air as Biden — acting like a great unifier through American cultural spiritualism, but without Biden’s record of political victory. That’s not a totally fatal set up: Biden could still be torpedoed by debates by Dogmatic-friendly questions. If so, Beto becomes the default Spiritualist candidate.

#4: Pete Buttigieg — the soft Worker nobody is now a somebody

What I said: “Buttigieg (yes, I know, who?) will struggle to be heard in a crowded field, so he’s weak from the get-go. But that being said, he’s posturing himself to be a Worker candidate, focusing on economic messaging first.”

What I’m saying: Well, he’s sure fixed that name-recognition problem — or at least seriously begun to fix it. His lack of Sanders/Warren-like political baggage and his increasing name recognition is why I’m bumping him up and he competes for the same types of voters as those two.

#5: Amy Klobuchar — the firm Worker who (still) has to somehow find a way past Elizabeth Warren

What I said: “She also has to prove she’s better than Warren, who has improved name recognition — in part because she’s so hated by Trump.”

What I’m saying: And still does. Good lucy, Amy, I guess.

#6: Andrew Yang

What I said: “Yang needs to find an edge and fast if he’s going to get anyone to notice him in Iowa.”

What I’m saying:

#7: Cory Booker — a soft spiritualist who Biden just torpedoed

What I said: “Senator Booker wants to be Barack Obama, and is appealing, for now at least, for ‘a unity and better angels” approach to the culture wars, while his economic message’remains just underneath.”

What I’m saying: That assessment still pretty much stands. Booker has yet to change the strategy substantially; what’s becoming clearer is that it’s not working, and with Biden in the room, there’s less Spiritualist air to breathe.

#8: Julian Castro — the soft Dogmatic the Dogmatic camp really wishes was Kamala Harris

What I said: His dogmatic qualities “put him into a good position to take advantage of the Dogmatic activists in the primary.”

What I’m saying: He’s still in that same position, except he’s yet to take advantage of it. He could well pick up the Dogmatic camp if most of the activists give up on tempting Harris.

#9: Tulsi Gabbard — the hard Dogmatic with a passionate, politically toxic fan base

What I said: “The anti-war Left often invites cannibals into their midst; Gabbard is surely the next victim.”

What I’m saying: The anti-war Left has settled on Gabbard as their standard bearer. She’s going to be in a position to smear the other candidates as warmongerers, but since there’s no Benghazi scandal-type event to slam the other candidates, she’ll probably just smear the party specifically and the United States in general. That’s a trope in the Democratic Party going back to 1968, and Gabbard will happily reuse it.

Increasingly irrelevant: Gillibrand, Hickenlooper, Delaney, Ryan, Swalwell, Messam, Williamson, Moulton

Notably, I said Gillibrand had a real shot to lose 2020; increasingly, that kind of assessment is what other voters are thinking too, tanking her candidacy as of now.

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Ryan Bohl

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Ryan Bohl

Not hot takes on history, culture, geopolitics, politics, and occasional ghost stories. Please love me. (See also

Dialogue & Discourse

News and ideas worth talking about. Fundamentally informative and intelligently analytical. Clarity and truth working against tribalism.