I am not going to comment at great length on the Republican candidates' debate, but I found it highly significant. Whether or not Donald Trump wins the nomination--and it certainly seems mostly likely that he will--he has irrevocably transformed the Republican Party. On three major issues--climate change, immigration, and the drive to eviscerate the federal government--nearly everyone seemed to be trying to out-Trump Trump. They competed to find reasons to avoid doing anything about emissions, they agreed on the need to destroy the administrative state, and they want more drastic measures to stop immigration and, in at least one case, to remove immigrants already here. And the scariest candidate is also the one whose popularity is rising the most quickly, Vivek Ramaswamy. I urge everyone to read his Wikipedia entry to find out how he made his money--without doing any good for anyone but himself.
Meanwhile, I am equally concerned about the future of the Democratic Party--whose establishment seems set on a losing strategy.
One poll after another shows that a majority of Americans, Republicans and Democrats, think that Joe Biden is too old to run for president again. Biden's public appearances, such as they are, are doing nothing to dispel that impression. This weekend a Boston Globe story detailed how a big administration-encouraged industrial project, a nest of chip factories near Columbus, Ohio, isn't winning local voters over to him, partly because he described the site--where some homes have been bulldozed to make room--as "an empty field of dreams." Kevin McCarthy made it clear over the weekend that the Republicans are quite likely to impeach Biden. Unlike every really successful president, Biden has failed to design and communicate an effective message to the American people. And his weakness is not all that we have to worry about.
In 2019-20 Kamala Harris opened her own presidential campaign attacking Biden for is opposition to school busing for integration back in the 1970s. Her campaign did not catch on and she dropped out before the New Hampshire primary, which Biden also lost. Biden revived his campaign in South Carolina thanks to Harris's withdrawal and James Clyburn's announcement--and he has foolishly rewarded South Carolina by making it the first Democratic primary state. (The Democrats should not begin the campaign with a primary in a state they cannot possibly win.) I think we will eventually find that Biden's campaign had promised Harris the vice presidential spot in return for dropping out.
In the Democratic Party, the Vice President immediately becomes the next front-runner for the nomination--see Mondale, Walter; Gore, Al; and Biden, Joe (who initially yielded the spot to Hillary Clinton, perhaps the most establishment candidate of all.) I am now seriously concerned that Biden actually knows that he cannot run again, but that he is holding off the announcement until it is too late for anyone but Harris to mount a campaign. As some of you may have seen, Governor Gavin Newsom of California--the most prominent Democratic governor in the country by far now--is negotiating to debate with Ron DeSantis. NBC news reports that this plan is making some people close to Harris very unhappy, although some Biden advisers welcome Newsom's contributions as a surrogate.
Kamala Harris has conspicuously failed to connect with the American people either as a presidential candidate or as vice president. Her demographics appeal to many Democrats but would not be an asset in a general election. I think there is an excellent chance that she would lose any Republican candidate if she replaces Biden on the ticket--and polls show a real chance that Biden could lose to Trump, too. And thanks to the Republican debate, we know that a new Republican administration would start just where the last one left off.