Candidates come, candidates go. Just when you lose a few, another one shows up. A few weeks ago, as various congressmen, senators and a self-help guru were falling by the wayside, the new guy was Deval Patrick, the former governor of Massachusetts and lately of Bain Capital who (it was said, at Barack Obama’s urging) became the unwanted fifth wheel in the New Hampshire primary. After New Hampshire, we lost entrepreneur Andrew Yang and another senator, Michael Bennet of Colorado, neither of whom had been able to raise much money or ever rise beyond a few percentage points in the polls. This may, of course, have been a consequence of not having much money – or the lack of money may have been due to the limited nature of their appeal. It’s hard to know. Yang seemed to be the favorite of young, libertarian men who liked math and the idea of having $1000 a month, while the moderate Bennet – well, whatever Bennet was doing, it seems that Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg did it better. (Can anyone tell us why is Tom Steyer still here? Or what he stands for?)
Of course, New Hampshire, and the Nevada caucuses that are coming up on Saturday, February 22 have been overshadowed by an elephant that has been lurking in the room for weeks. Former Republican New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has, to date, spent over $300 million in advertising, has finally entered the race for the Democratic nomination.
And that, friends, throws the whole damn fruit bowl up in the air. Candidates who have been building organizations and raising money in small donations (or in Pete Buttigieg’s case, wine cellar by wine cellar) are about to be swallowed in what appears to be a mountain of greenbacks and chutzpah.
Bloomberg’s official entry into the 2020 presidential race, and the hope that a man who is richer than Trump can knock him out of the White House, is the political story of the week — and so, kicks off this issue’s Politics section. Senior editor Jeffrey Isaac explores the devastating effect that a potential Bloomberg victory might have on a party that after a sound drubbing in 2016, has rebuilt itself at the grassroots on the promise of restoring decency and fairness in government. Jeffrey Tulis looks at the way forward after impeachment: while both Democrats and Republicans have reasons to not dwell on President Trump’s trial, it is essential, Tulis argues, that the White House’s false narrative not be allowed to dominate the campaign season. Finally, Antti Tarvainen looks at Trump’s Middle East peace plan, revealed in a bizarre White House ceremony on January 28 2020, a cynical deal that is neither a real plan or a roadmap for peace.
Next, in our continuing series on Disinformation, a cooperative project with the Eurozine network, we explore the circulation of fake news, its impact on democracy, and what we can do about it. Adam Ramsay leads us off with an examination of the recent Conservative victory in the United Kingdom. Independent fact-checkers have ascertained that while 7% of Labour’s Facebook ads contained falsehoods, a whopping 88% of ads on the platform run by the Conservative party contained lies. But social media isn’t the only problem: as co-executive editor Claire Potter points out, an unfactual assertion that Michael Bloomberg was considering Hillary Clinton as his running mate, intended to roil partisans in both parties, originated on The Drudge Report, an alternative news platform, but went viral on mainstream news outlets. Finally, internet intellectual Howard Rheingold explains that, while democracy is losing the online arms race, it is in our power as citizens to protect the digital public sphere.
Finally, we take a break from politics to dig deeply into the meaning of bodies – in space, in history, on a journey to somewhere else – how we know them, and what they tell us. in our Culture section, scholar Aleema Gray explores what it means to write the history of the Rastafari community in the United Kingdom into English history. “[T]he only way for me to find something meaningful,” she writes, “was to completely reprogram my mind.” We close with two offerings from trans poet Isa Guzman. In the first, a lyric essay, Guzman grapples with the trauma attached to and emerging from, a body fully engaged in gender confirmation. A second, an excerpt from the project “I Think Body” that examines the meaning of a gender journey, is accompanied by a recording of Guzman reading their own work.
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.