Well, at least that’s over with. By “that,” of course, we mean the 2024 First in the Nation™ Presidential Primary Election®*—the least satisfying iteration to date of our state’s raison d’être. The nightmare, no doubt, will continue.
How weird was this go-’round? Let us count the ways.
On the Democratic side, the incumbent President won. So far, so normal—except he wasn’t on the ballot.
Four years ago, New Hampshire Democrats picked Bernie Sanders and put Joe Biden in fifth place, just ahead of the long-forgotten Tom Steyer. A big win in South Carolina rescued his candidacy and put him on the path to the White House.
In recognition of that favor—and that humiliation—Biden has elevated South Carolina and snubbed New Hampshire. Rather than risking a tarring and feathering from outraged political junkies, state Democrats went ahead and held an unsanctioned primary.
Thus the state party, while defying its national leadership, hoped nonetheless—considering the existential threat to democracy posed by the openly traitorous opposition—that their temporary intramural antagonist would be rewarded with a win in the form of a write-in campaign.
That hope met with success. On Wednesday morning, with 94 percent of the votes counted, Biden had reaped an unassailable 54.2 percent of the votes cast. It’s hard to imagine any future write-in candidate ever challenging that record.
Biden had a score of challengers, including, of course, the inimitable Vermin Supreme. His platform of mandatory dental hygiene and free ponies is more popular than ever. This year’s vote count of 717 is 2.6 times higher than his last run as a Democrat in 2016. Rubber boots have yet to get traction as headgear, though.
Most other notable candidates had less-idiosyncratic platforms. Marianne Williamson, for example, did poorly. She drew less than five percent of the vote, despite having a platform that largely made good sense. Indeed, her only aberrational position of which we’re aware is thinking that she had any kind of a chance.
Sharing that delusion is Minnesota Representative Dean Phillips.† Despite enjoying the marked advantage of actually being on the ballot, Phillips’ share of the vote came in under 20 percent.
Phillips brought another significant advantage to the race: something like $80 million in inherited booze wealth. At the rate he’s been spending on offices and staff, though, that figure must now be but a fond memory.
A good chunk of that apparently went to formerly-Republican political consultant Steve Schmidt—the man to whom we largely owe our familiarity with Wasilla, Alaska’s half-term, half-wit Mayor Sarah Palin.
Schmidt founded Pass the Torch, a Super PAC, for Phillips, which promply drew a complaint from a non-profit watchdog to the SEC, accusing the PAC of coordinating with the Phillips campaign.
Making sure to tag all the bases in his gratuitous annoyance run, Phillips has also said he might run as an independent under the “No Labels” label, if, in his infinite wisdom, he finds Joe Biden unlikely to win against the Republican Candidate for Life. Then, to wring the last drop of exasperation out of journalists everywhere, he said the next day that he would not.
If this country used a less-idiotic process of selecting political leaders, these vanity candidates might not be a problem. As things stand, though, we let billionaires spend as much money as they want so that their hand-picked lunatics can grease their way through the gates in a handful of battleground states in order to gain the nation’s highest office.
As Amurricans, of course, we generally fail to appreciate just how weird this suicidal method is. And that’s for good reason. If we were to come up with a better way, we’d be unable to implement it anyway.
Compounding the problem this time around—given the blatantly fascistic character of the aforesaid Republican Candidate for Life [RCfL]—is the broad and deep lack of enthusiasm for the inevitable Democratic nominee.
Perhaps Biden believes that his intransigence on student debt forgiveness, and his largess in dispensing lethal munitions to Israel, will strengthen support among his base. That may be so, and geriatrics do vote reliably—as long as they are able. Pissing off “the youths” though, does seem shortsighted.
Turning ever so reluctantly to the Republican primary, we find nothing that deserves being categorized as “news.”
The RCfL, having yet to be felled by a myocardial infarction, a burst cerebral artery, or any of the myriad other maladies so common among gluttonous men his age, won in New Hampshire.
His last opponent left standing, Nikki Haley, is making much of her second place finish. So much so that she closed out the evening by delivering what amounted to a victory speech. To be clear, in this age when the most ludicrous and outlandish claims are frequently accepted as gospel, she did not win. She lost.
In fact, her loss was a good deal worse than it appeared. Because Independents—and Democrats canny enough to register as Undeclared—could have a Republican ballot for the asking, Haley’s total was undoubtedly inflated by strategic votes from outside the party.
Because this all sounds so catastrophic, we offer this cheerful observation from Andrew Lawrence, of Media Matters for America: “Democrats biggest advantage going into ’24 continues to be that Republicans are a bunch of weird freaks pushing policy that everyone hates.”
The question remains: how to convert that truth into results at the ballot box?
* This year’s Primary was so bizarre that all future references to it in this newspaper will include an asterisk.
† We explored Phillips’ improbable background in our Volume 268, No. 3, published October 20, 2023.