It felt like the Dirtbag Left got it wrong when they cheered the Chapo Trap House star Virgil Texas‘s triumphant tweet, “RAT MODE: TERMINATED” on Sunday, didn’t it?
That assumes you understand any of what you just read — but that’s what it’s come to, and it’s important because U.S. politics changed a lot after Sunday.
The Dirtbag Left is how many of the most cleverly vulgar political activists on the left are proud to describe themselves—just as Trump supporters embraced the “deplorables” epithet in 2016.
Chapo Trap House is a podcast popular with social democrats,and Virgil Texas is among its hosts. They are fierce supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders in the race for the Democratic Party nomination for U.S. president, and they dreamed up the term Dirtbag Left.
The “RAT” in Texas’s tweet is how they like to refer to former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg who, on Sunday, announced his exit (hence “RAT MODE: TERMINATED”) from the race.
That followed the collapse of billionaire Tom Steyer’s campaign and preceded the withdrawal of Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
The Dirtbag Left are among the most hardened of the hardcore Sanders supporters and, naturally, fierce opponents of all Sanders’s rivals. In that pursuit they have particularly enjoyed excoriating the whiz-kid-out-of-nowhere candidate, “Mayor Pete” and belittling him as a corporatist stooge and a folksy phony — a.k.a. a RAT.
Apparently Texas didn’t see that the end of the Buttigieg campaign could spell immediate trouble for the Dirtbag Left’s project of electing Sanders — or that more bad news might arrive just ahead of Super Tuesday: Klobuchar and Buttigieg endorsed former vice-president Joe Biden for the nomination. More states hold primaries on Super Tuesday than on any other day in this election cycle.
But all those campaigns — by Steyer, Buttigieg and Klobuchar — were important parts of the Dirtbag Left’s divide-and-conquer strategy for electing Sanders. That’s why the cheeky all-caps excitement of “RAT MODE: TERMINATED” about Buttigieg seems at best premature, if not a blunder.
While his @VirgilTexas Twitter account immediately filled up with amusing memes, GIFs and poll data that showed Sanders as the No. 1 second choice for many Buttigieg supporters, one follower asked the most important question: How does this help the separate campaigns of Biden and former New York mayor and multibillionaire Mike Bloomberg?
We’re about to see. There will be 1,357 delegates to divide up today, Super Tuesday; it takes 1,991 to win a majority at the July convention. What we know is that how the candidates divvy up the delegates looks different now than it did a couple of days ago because there are now fewer candidates.
In fact, because each candidate must meet a minimum threshold of 15 per cent support in a state — or in a district in the state — to win any delegates, the Steyer, Buttigieg and Klobuchar withdrawals might mean Biden and Bloomberg qualify for delegates where they previously wouldn’t have.
In any event, much has changed in just a few days.
Last Wednesday Bloomberg made his second unspectacular appearance in the debate portion of the nominating pageant, deepening doubts about whether he has enough game to beat Sanders, let alone thump President Donald Trump in the November election.
On Saturday, Biden finally scored the first primary win of his whole life — this is his third presidential campaign — earning a high-voltage jumper-cable shock that got his campaign breathing again. The victory, in racially diverse South Carolina, was convincing enough that it’s tempting Democrats to take another look at whether Biden might be “the one,” after all.
Both those events had to have factored into the decisions of Steyer, Buttigieg and Klobuchar to drop out and clear the zone for Biden and Bloomberg. Whether it was co-ordinated is not at the moment publicly known. But there also incendiary reports of a conversation between former president Barack Obama and Buttigieg — and maybe others.
It all seems to add up to Democrats finally accepting that what it will take to have any chance of stopping Sanders is a gang-up — one for all and all for one — against the Sanders machine.
So the field is winnowing at a crucial moment, maybe the last crucial moment. How the race unfolds could be decided now.
The winnowing is exactly what didn’t happen when Republicans were trying to figure out how to stop Trump’s march to their nomination in 2016. Republican Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, Gov. John Kasich and never-elected Ben Carson all hung on to their hopes for Super Tuesday instead of uniting behind one of them against Trump.
Which is not to say such a plan will succeed in stopping Sanders now. But if it does, that would likely have its own set of thunderously divisive consequences.
Biden has momentum, but Bloomberg is said to have bought himself a strong ground game in some states — plus, early voters who went to the polls weeks ago missed seeing him fall flat again in the last debate.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren is apparently struggling everywhere, including her home state of Massachusetts.
Still there is something about Sanders, the 78-year-old “give Fidel Castro his due” senator from Vermont with two stents and a heart attack that, nevertheless, makes him formidable. He has the advantage in public opinion polls and a strong ground team in big delegate states, notably California.
Plus, he is offering something the remaining field except Warren is not: fundamental change, not just a return to life before Trump.
His chances of winning are suddenly slimmer but still not slim. He continues to have the best chance of winning the most delegates, especially since more than a million votes were cast in the early voting before the winnowing of the field.
So don’t give up yet on the possibility that the fall months will usher in an election showdown nasty enough to be worthy of the WWE: Dirtbag Left versus deplorables.