“It’s never good when Steve Kornacki has to scroll down to find you, down near Tulsi Gabbard,” MSNBC’s Brian Williams said Tuesday, looking at the “big board” 45 minutes before the polls closed in New Hampshire, at 7:15. “That’s where Joe Biden is right now.” At that moment, Bernie Sanders was cruising, Amy Klobuchar seemed to be taking a big bite out of Pete Buttigieg’s bubble, and Elizabeth Warren was puttering along as a disappointing fourth, which is where she would stay.
Settling in for the long night that all elections seem to have become now, we recalled, as if it had occurred in another country, the 2016 New Hampshire Primary that changed everything. Sanders drubbed Hillary Clinton by 22 points, something that had not seemed possible. Donald Trump beat John Kasich, which seemed just — ridiculous.
But with this many candidates, our nights are longer. We made a robust dinner, and settled in for an evening of infotainment as others in the house begged to be allowed to watch a real television show. We ignored them. We began writing this post, and reflecting on the political situation.
This week, we are wondering whether the United States is truly entering a new era of left politics – and what that could mean if that is true. Our Politics section leads the issue, and we begin with an essay from political scientist Nancy Fraser and journalist Liza Featherstone. These two feminists explain – despite the two women still in the race – “Why Bernie is the True Feminist Choice.” Co-executive Editor Jim Miller notes that the United States is in its Weimar moment, and that voting for a socialist is voting for democracy; Jeff Isaac games out the potential consequences of a Sanders nomination for the Democratic Party’s moderates; and journalist Simon Jones explores the meltdown of Corbynism, and the crisis of the United Kingdom’s Labour Party.
This week we also introduce a new seminar: Fashion, Emotion and the Self. Editors Otto von Busch, of the School of Design Strategies, and The New School’s Lisa Rubin introduce this exciting new series by reminding us that “Fashion is like sex.” You can read the rest of their introductory post here. Busch follows with a second post explores why we lie to downplay the care and thought that goes into our appearance.
We close with essays that explore the terrain of contemporary feminism. Marking the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment by the Virginia legislature two weeks ago, Katherine Turk tells us “Why We Still Need the ERA,” and reminds us why we don’t haven’t amended the Constitution to guarantee gender equality — yet. Finally, in a two-part post, Andrea Singer reviews three years of #MeToo, and the so-called “cancel culture” that it produced.
Waiting for all the precincts to come in, as we watched Sanders cruise at a comfortable altitude, we remembered a citizen we met last weekend while canvassing in southern New Hampshire. It was a neighborhood full of elderly people, all of whom seemed to have a thick layer of ice on their front steps – which we found worrisome as a matter of principle, but very worrisome in a nation with legendarily poor health insurance coverage.
When we knocked on the citizen’s door, dogs snarled menacingly. As the door cracked open, the citizen, who didn’t seem to have shaved yet in the New Year and was wearing multiple layers of flannel, snapped: “No point talking to me. I don’t vote. I’m eighty years old, and I have never cast a vote.”
“Seriously?” We asked.
“Yup,” he said, squeezing out onto the icy front step, and giving the dogs a good kick with his socked foot to keep them inside. “My wife – she votes,” he said. “You should talk to her.” He stuck his head back in the door, yelled for his wife, and soon she sidled up behind him. She was undecided, she said, and thought she might vote for Andrew Yang. Or Amy Klobuchar. Or Joe Biden. Meanwhile, we eyed the dogs, in case they decided to make a break for it. The dogs eyed us.
Electoral politics is not for wimps, and we stayed to do our job. We talked to them about Elizabeth Warren, urging our new friend to give voting a try, and reminding him that he could register on voting day. He could go with his wife. “It would be romantic,” we said. “Like date night. Except with votes.”
Eventually, he agreed to give voting a try. We told him where his polling place was, and to bring his driver’s license. We said goodbye, and we turned to walk carefully across the sheet ice on our way back to headquarters. feeling as though our work was important.
We remembered that citizen tonight, as we watched our candidate – the senator from a neighboring state –struggling to get out of single digits, positioning herself as the unity candidate in a gracious concession speech. We watched Joe Biden get on a plane to South Carolina before the vote was counted. We watched an ecstatic Amy Klobuchar inspire the campaign workers who have given her campaign new life. And we watched Andrew Yang and Michael Bennet say goodbye to their campaign workers.
As MSNBC called the primary for Sanders at 11:00, we turned our eyes to South Carolina, Nevada, Super Tuesday and beyond, we thought of our citizen, who had promised us that he would cast his first vote at 80 years old. We wondered if he did.
Claire Potter is co-executive editor of Public Seminar and Professor of History at The New School for Social Research. You can tweet with her @TenuredRadical. Subscribe to her new Substack, Political Junkie, here.