Revisiting the 2020 Primaries

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

It’s easy to abhor this year’s GOP Presidential candidates for the simple reason that they are thoroughly and universally abhorrent. To recall a time when a major political party tried to foist such an uninspiring assemblage of right-wing mediocrities onto the voting public you’d have to go all the way back to… the Democrats in 2020.

Unless you are BlueNoMatterWho what I’m about to discuss will surely, as the kids say, yuck your yum. Yet it’s instructive to revisit that 2020 primary season as a guide to what Democratic leadership will present to the electorate should Biden transition from being the new FDR to being as dead.

What follows is factual.

The 2020 Democratic primary field included Michael Bloomberg. A billionaire small in physical stature and microbial in reputational, whose slogan “More Money Than God, Less Empathy Than Satan” failed to catch on with anyone other than portions of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Vivek RamaSMARMY’s repellent level of self-admiration was exceeded that year by a calculating corporate appliance answering to the name of Pete Buttigieg.

Former federal prosecutors littered the dais. One ate salad with a comb and articulated policy positions seemingly designed to place her on the running mate shortlist… for Bob Dole in ‘92. Another demanded to be heard for her self-described perspective as a brave black woman, then got the floor and had nothing coherent let alone courageous to say.

And while Mike Pence, with his aura of constipated fortitude, is the most unintentionally funny candidate today, in ‘20 that was Joe Biden. He spoke of leaving the record player on at night and mythical healthcare Gold Plans and his arrest for trying to see Nelson Mandela in prison – which may have meant he’d once seen Charles Nelson Reilly on Match Game.

Yet an even less remembered aspect of that cycle was the universal freakout among the liberal media because Bernie Sanders’ views were being embraced by actual humans.

Brian Williams, listing visibly and literally to starboard from his perch at MSNBC, used the terms “kill” and “killing” to refer to Bernie five times in an hour. Thomas suck-on-this Friedman demanded a “gathering of the elders” to stop the frontrunner. He urged the “adults in the room” to generate “grassroots enthusiasm” for a more centrist position. As if Charles Schumer knocking on doors to chat up the importance of maintaining the carried interest loophole would carry the day.

And looking back at 2020, no Democrat with a functioning cortex should have the duplicity to mock the charade Republicans are currently conducting. Iowa forgot how to tally a caucus. Sanders’ victories in New Hampshire and Nevada were deemed less consequential than Jim Clyburn, the most corruptly compensated overseer in the Confederacy, delivering the vital swing state of South Carolina for Biden.

The fix was well and truly in. Candidates abandoned their candidacies like worms fleeing groundwater. And the remainder of the primaries were conducted with all the sincerity of a community theater’s opening night after-party.

In the end, it was left to the Great Sayer of Words, Barack Obama, to put things in perspective: “If you look at Joe Biden’s goals and Bernie Sanders’s goals, they are not that different, from a forty-thousand-foot level”.

And therein lies the metastatic cancer at the core of the Democratic Party. Biden and Bernie may not be different at 40 thousand feet but it’s the impact at GROUND LEVEL which kills people. It’s the difference between Medicare For All or maintaining profit margins for private insurance which leaves bodies strewn across the crash site. The difference between Free College and a lifetime of indebtedness to Wall Street which leaves investigators sifting the wreckage in search of the black box.

So should Biden, as the Pythons used to say, join the bleedin choir invisible, don’t expect self-examination. Expect friend of Sean Hannity and foe of unemployment insurance Gavin Newsom. Possibly Bernie will be allowed to appear in the far left corner of Newsom’s speeches. Endlessly gesturing toward eyes, ears, and teeth, like a mute Garrett Morris to illustrate the ways Obamacare might be built upon with just a few more neoliberal votes.

I leave you with a quote on the 2020 election from that Obama-endorsed Independent Senator from Connecticut and single-handed exterminator of the Medicare Buy In, Joe Lieberman. Joe had this to say to MSNBC when Lindsay Graham won re-election in Clyburn uncontrolled South Carolina: “I had a vision of John McCain up in heaven smiling down at these results”.

My vision of 2020 remains forever dissimilar: It’s of Joe Lieberman getting shot in the mouth like Robespierre and having his bandage ripped off while dismounting the tumbril to inflict gratuitous pain as he bent beneath the guillotine.

Did I mention I’m still pissed off?

Jerry Long is a writer, actor, podcaster and political satirist who, with his brother Joe, has worked with Adam McKay on numerous projects. He can also be reached at