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Donkey Dow: is it actually going to be Buttigieg?

The Indiana upstart is a force: evocative of Barack Obama in 2007

April 10, 2019

6:11 PM

10 April 2019

6:11 PM

Cockburn is introducing the Donkey Dow: a round-up of the movers and shakers in the race to face up against Donald Trump. Here’s how the candidates and contenders fared over the last few days.

donkey dow buttigieg


It’s a maddening cliché – commonplace – in political journalism to compare new political stars to old ones. Peter Paul Montgomery Buttigieg is not Barack Husein Obama – different men, for startlingly different times. But Buttigieg’s explosion onto the American political scene has been a supernova.

Important to remember, especially for a mainliner of politics like Cockburn, that many Americans are not even glancing at 2020 yet; then again, many Americans never vote.

The table, however, is being set. The great, early surprise of the 2020 campaign – all due respect to Genghis Yang – has been Mayor Pete, who has vaulted from nobody to not-messing-around in the first hundred days of 2019. As Andrew Sullivan writes: ‘It’s telling to me that Rush Limbaugh’s first response was positive, before he decided Buttigieg was a commie like his father.’

American have elected successively less experienced presidents – from George H.W. Bush’s magisterial CV, to Bill Clinton’s decade as a Arkansas governor, to George W. Bush’s six years as Texas governor, to Barack Obama’s three years in the US Senate, to Donald Trump’s seven decades as Donald Trump. It’s unclear experience makes a good candidate or president. If you were the supreme allied commander of Allied Forces at the Normandy landing, perhaps you should be given the full benefit of the doubt. But railroad lawyers from Illinois who lost their last race have proven just as able.

Buttigieg has it. A towering intelligence and – for the cameras, anyways – a superhuman chill: Obamaesque. He’s gambling that Americans – with faith in the meritocracy reaching a nadir – will reward him as a product: a clearly able young man in a hurry, not a small-town mayor with a paper-thin political resume. Furthermore, he’s started to earn the ire of the more pathetic reaches of the New York media left, who effectively accuse him of not being gay enough. Anyone who irritates the irritable is worth watching.


Bernie Sanders took the first risk of his campaign – reiterating his long-held, cats-completely-out-of-the-bag-now position on immigration: he’s for limits. This may be great politics to reclaim the Ohio River valley for Team Blue, but does it sink him in a party that’s increasingly striving to be the president’s direct opposite on this matter?

Cory Booker: do something else.

Kamala Harris is the Jeb! of the early primary – winning endorsements left and right, and lapping it up as the formidable insiders’ favorite. The trick for the junior senator from California will be to avoid being the Jeb! of this whole election.

Beto O’Rourke…who? Sorry, Cockburn can’t see straight. If you hadn’t noticed, he’s got Buttigieg on the brain. Politics is a contact sport: O’Rourke’s constituency has seemingly been stolen from underneath him, overnight. He also suffered a wince-inducing bout of ‘youth pastor energy’ when an Iowa girl asked him to go to prom with her.

Elizabeth Warren: No money, no honey. She could very well be the Chris Christie of the cycle: a household name, and if she was going to do it, she should have run four years ago.

Andrew Yang…reaching across the aisle is one thing. Appearing on the Ben Shapiro show is quite another. Is the businessman playing for the Yang gang or the Democratic base?


Neither here nor there

Tulsi Gabbard is stable. Her cons: the establishment continues their blacklisting of the rambunctious young Congresswoman from Hawaii. Her pros: She’s the only candidate sounding the alarm on the inevitable war with Iran!

Cockburn is serious about the Dems’ women problems. Its female frontwomen aren’t finding any luck in the early going. Amy Klobuchar attempted to claw back some attention with a BuzzFeed-esque cutesy video starring her daughter Abigail.

Presumably this was part of her plan to ‘deploy humor’.

As for Kirsten Gillibrand…well, the revelation that a candidate’s father worked for a sex cult would usually cause a dip in the polls. But not for Kirsten Gillibrand…because you can’t go further down than zero. Apparently she had a CNN Town Hall this week too…if anyone watched it, tweet us and let us know.

New faces

Enter Rep. Tim Ryan. The centrist, Midwestern congressman is betting on one thing: Joe Biden won’t run. Cockburn didn’t know a lot about Ryan, so he texted a friend in Ohio to ask what she thought about him. Her response: ‘I don’t really think about him at all.’

A much more entertaining prospect is the campaign of California’s Rep. Eric Swalwell. Where to start? His high school haircut? His panting over Russiagate? His New Hampshire livestream that was watched by one person? No, better to focus on the cornerstone of Swalwell’s campaign: gun control. You probably know Swalwell as the congressman who suggested that the government’s nuclear arsenal could be the key to common sense gun law. Cockburn can’t wait to hear more from him.

Still waiting

Putative favorite Joe Biden secured another soft landing this week – the resumption of his SNL character as played by Jason Sudekis. You could do a lot worse than the husband of Olivia Wilde; the portrayal of the former vice president’s peccadillos was unkind but restrained. He’s not a sex monster. And he appears now to be a on glide path to a candidacy, no matter what Peggy Noonan says.

The party of the American Left is currently the party of white, male front-runners. There’s an opening for an alternative. Cockburn could see Stacey Abrams, in her Dow debut, taking it.

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