• Arnold Schroder

Law and Order Citizens for Biden: "Dirty Politics" is the Only Path to a Sanders Nomination

After Biden's Super Tuesday gains, it is fairly easy to infer a default trajectory for the rest of the election. The many voters who make up their minds about who to vote for days or moments before casting a ballot, who are almost exclusively judging candidates in terms of the viability of their opposition to Trump, will coalesce. A feedback loop will occur in which Biden is perceived as the consensus, and this perception shapes the consensus. Biden will be nominated, and his race against Trump will be one of an incoherently babbling conservative versus an incoherently babbling conservative. The differences between the two candidates will largely be reducible to rhetorical style. While meaningless, this difference will exacerbate existing cultural divisions and further diminish people's sense of common interest against the power structure. Whoever wins—and Trump seems awfully likely—the world will continue burning.

I submit that the path to a Sanders nomination still exists. His campaign has organized people into a movement with very unusual levels of coherence, conviction, and momentum, and within it lives the solid foundations for a parallel effort. Simply put, this parallel effort is one of targeted attack ads on social media.

The corporate faction of the Democratic party is coalescing, and while this strategy has the putative advantage of projecting a perception of consensus, it also has the very notable disadvantage of relying on Joe Biden. The field is no longer particularly crowded. Warren has indicated she will stay in the race until the convention, but to the huge number of voters who are primarily concerned with a sense of electability and convergence of opinion, she is largely irrelevant after Super Tuesday. The race is essentially between Sanders and Biden, with the admittedly significant caveat that Sanders must win more delegates than all of the other candidates combined, lest the DNC thwart his nomination. It's not fair, but life usually isn't.

Another catastrophic decline for Biden seems plausible, and this time around, there's really no one left for voters to project the vague identity of Consensus Candidate onto except for Sanders. The corporate faction of the Democratic party has placed its bet. The question then becomes how to make a candidate for president look bad who is consistently bewildered by the act of public speaking to the point of not appearing to know who or where he is, has a litany of claims of inappropriate behavior with women against him, and whose plan for climate change consists of bleeding from his eye.

Of course, there is already a vast, hyper-elaborated universe of internet culture devoted to making Joe Biden look bad, to editing the many instances of him saying he's running for the wrong office or is in the wrong state into one hilarious montage. There are plenty of memes which chronicle his votes for war, corporate giveaways, and locking people up. But this culture is a fairly self-referential entity, bound by the network structure of those who self-select into it.

Reaching people who are avidly engaged in online political discourse is not the question. The question is reaching people like the ~30% of Super Tuesday voters who decided on a candidate within a few days of voting, the people who are just looking for a consensus choice. These people don't follow politics closely and will thus never encounter our scathing wits and our incisive analyses in the information ecosystems we inhabit. They must be advertised to.

The question, essentially, is how to connect the culture that is already good at making Biden look bad with a few million dollars and a communications strategy. Last summer, I started kicking around video ideas with some friends for a group called Law and Order Citizens for Biden. The notion was sort of a Blue Lives Matter pro-Biden group which would say incendiary things about police shootings and praise Biden's continuing defense of his 1994 crime bill, show clips of him saying things like “I don't care if they're victims of society—they need to be taken off the street” while arguing for its passage in the Senate. We never went anywhere with it because I read up on Cambridge Analytica and realized that the one thing they had in 2016 that we didn't was a million dollars.

I think an effort like this could have impacted Biden's support among black voters in the south, which was a crucial catalyst for his perception of viability and thus broader support. And I think generally similar efforts could still hugely impact the electoral outcome. A video simply showing various instances of Biden losing his train of thought in public—circulated outside of the internet spheres where such things circulate—would seem likely to have an impact. Certainly, huge amounts of money have been spent on far more quixotic political calculations. But the point is that for efforts such as this, money is never available. One of the tragic asymmetries between the right and the left is that the right is happy to fund its extremists, while those on the left starve (or get jobs at nonprofits).

It is not the job of Bernie Sanders to run aggressive attack ads. It is his job to employ affirmative framing, to unite people beyond their differences, and to gently reproach his supporters for being mean on the internet before reorienting the discussion to more salient matters. It is our job to run aggressive attack ads. But that will take money that has to come from somewhere.

Therefore, I implore you, the internet: connect that person with all the tech stocks in Seattle who loves Bernie Sanders, or the longtime nonprofit funder who feels that these are the last moments we might thwart the apocalypse, or some other quasi-mythical entity who both has resources and doesn't want the world to end, connect that person or persons with the culture of mocking Joe Biden. Let's take the scathing wit found in Bernie Sanders' Dank Meme Stash, and in Malarkey Joe's Establishment Doo-Wop Ice Cream Shoppe & You Know the Thing, and for that matter in Elizabeth Warren's Comprehensive Half-Measured Meme Access, into the living rooms of America.

After the exultation of the last few weeks of strong polling and electoral victories, March 3 was disappointing. But this is no time to be weak, or to focus excessively on the profound barriers to fundamental change we face. Those barriers always existed, and they have repeatedly been overcome, in fairly miraculous ways, to get this far. It is time to be smart, focused, and relentless. If you think you might know someone who this text would be relevant to, please reach out to them. If you feel I am a relevant party to a discussion you are having, please reach out to me.

Arnold Schroder