Lot of buzz about this clip on political Twitter this afternoon, mainly because of the ambiguity in what Clyburn says.
Did Dubya tell him he was the savior of his party for propelling Biden to victory?
Or did he tell him that he was the savior of the country? Watch, then read on.
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) says President George W. Bush told him he's "the savior" for his help in getting Joe Biden the nomination.
Clyburn says Bush told him Biden was "the only one who could have defeated" Trump. pic.twitter.com/lXeRGLGCLu
— The Recount (@therecount) January 20, 2021
The case for Jim Clyburn as the savior of the Democratic Party is straightforward. Heading into the South Carolina primary, Biden had finished dismally in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada and seemed poised to be washed away by Berniemania. South Carolina was cracked up to be his stronghold because of the heavy African-American vote there, but things seemed fluid thanks to Sanders’s surge. Then Clyburn, the most prominent Democrat in the state, threw his weight behind Sleepy Joe. Biden went on to crush Sanders in the primary and surfed the momentum to a stunningly strong showing on Super Tuesday a few days later. Literally in the span of a week, he went from washed-up also-ran to presumptive nominee.
Bush’s claim that only Biden could have beaten Trump seems correct as well. If the secret to beating Trump was to make the election all about him, turning it into a referendum on the pandemic and his personal behavior, then no one was better positioned to do that than Biden. He was a universally known political quantity, a Democrat so blandly generic that Team Trump often struggled to find attack lines against him. Nominate anyone else and swing voters who disliked Trump would have been forced to gamble on someone whose ideology was either extreme to them or uncertain. You want to make a socialist like Bernie Sanders president? How about “soft socialist” Elizabeth Warren? How about Amy Klobuchar or Pete Buttigieg, whom most Americans couldn’t pick out of a line-up? Only Biden could tell voters, “Come on, you know what I’m about. I’ve been in politics for 50 years.” He offered the requisite comfort level for voters to ditch an incumbent for a challenger, mainly because Biden’s loooooong career made him feel like an incumbent too.
And even with everything working in his favor, he still easily could have lost. He scraped by in Georgia, Wisconsin, and Arizona, which was the difference between a comfortable 306-232 win and a 269-269 nightmare tie. You think Kamala Harris would have won those states against Trump?
So, Dubya’s analysis is highly plausible. The question is: Did he mean that Clyburn saved Democrats by backing Biden or that he saved America? Because, uh, Bush’s inner circle let it be known this year that he wouldn’t be supporting the nominee of his own party. Ever since Trump turned on Pence a few weeks ago, the GOP’s been consumed with harbingers of a coming party civil war between Trumpist and centrist factions. It’s hard to think of a better example of that than the last two Republican presidents being at odds with each other, to the point where one is suggesting to Democrats that they saved the country by beating the other.
And it’s not just the establishment that’s turned on Trump. Ed already wrote about the Great Disappointment being experienced by QAnoners today when their fascist fantasies of martial law and mass arrests and Trump being president forever didn’t pan out. But the Times noticed some upset in another famously pro-Trump group — the Proud Boys, whom Trump once famously told to “stand back and stand by.” In the end, they seem to have concluded, he cucked out:
In dozens of conversations on social media sites like Gab and Telegram, members of the group have begun calling Mr. Trump a “shill” and “extraordinarily weak,” according to messages reviewed by The New York Times. They have also urged supporters to stop attending rallies and protests held for Mr. Trump or the Republican Party…
“They wanted to arm themselves and start a second civil war and take down the government on Trump’s behalf,” said Marc-André Argentino, a researcher who studies the far right and a Ph.D. candidate at Concordia University. “But ultimately, he couldn’t be the authoritarian they wanted him to be.”…
The group expected Mr. Trump to champion the mob, according to their social media messages. Instead, Mr. Trump released a video on Jan. 8 denouncing the violence.
The disappointment was immediately palpable. One Proud Boys Telegram channel posted: “It really is important for us all to see how much Trump betrayed his supporters this week. We are nationalists 1st and always. Trump was just a man and as it turns out an extraordinarily weak one at the end.”
Groups like the Proud Boys are a small niche within the MAGA base but I do wonder what the sense of disappointment among millions of “stop the steal” believers will do to his mystique going forward. He did “fight” the election results all the way to January 6, but he was quiet once Twitter booted him. And, mercifully, he didn’t try using his official power in some outlandish way, like invoking the Insurrection Act, to try to disrupt Biden’s inauguration. He could have gone further than he did. It must be baffling for someone who believed his claims that the election had been stolen that he never managed to put together a compelling court case on the subject, never managed to make an effective TV presentation of the evidence, and ultimately just sort of acquiesced in Biden being sworn in (after resisting for two months, of course). How do you process that if you’re a true believer? Presumably by telling yourself “something something deep state,” but even then, that means that Trump fought the deep state — and lost. Once he went all-in on claiming vote-rigging, he left himself with no satisfying outcome for his base short of actually overturning the election. We’ll see what that does to public interest in him on the right.