Biden's 2020 goals are bigger than Trump. Democrats must channel pirates, not politicians.

The Biden campaign needs to start launching broadsides against a badly weakened Republican Party, not sit back and wait for the winds of fate.
Image: Joe Biden
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden takes a selfie with supporters after addressing a Super Tuesday event in Los Angeles on March 3, 2020.Frederic J. Brown / AFP - Getty Images file
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By James Carville

If you read my piece a few weeks ago, you probably got an inkling of how confident I am that former Vice President Joe Biden will take President Donald Trump's place behind the carved wood of the Resolute Desk come January. Today, I feel his victory in my bones even more.

Even if Republicans cheat to the best of their profound capabilities, Trump has become an anvil — look at his approval across the board in a time of national crisis. But November is not about sinking the anvil; Trump has already thrown it as far as he can off the Mar-a-Lago beach. No, this November is Democrats’ first chance in generations to chop down the rotted timbers of the Republican Party and sink the whole ship.

This November is Democrats’ first chance in generations to chop down the rotted timbers of the Republican Party and sink the whole ship.

But instead of a pirate mentality, right now Biden’s campaign has been distracted by a series of leaks and spatting over which digital firm is going to get their campaign cash and which Super PAC to ink check to. Not that these aren’t things that, at some point, must be done. But that shouldn’t be the focus right now, a point made by Rep. James Clyburn, the very man who rallied the cavalry in the South Carolina Democratic primary. To take down the Republican Party, the campaign must be focusing on a bigger picture imperative. What defines the culture of this campaign could define its success — and the success of American democracy and government for years to come — and that means thinking about how best to build an operation with a grisly motive to seize, burn and loot every last ounce of gold from the enemy.

Informed readers see clearly that the Republican Party in its entirety has gone strategically insane — see GOP Republicans’ 57-page strategy memo pushing an anti-China scapegoating plan. Democrats have a chance to use a coherent strategy to crush the entirety of this senseless party into the dirt. How about three things on a whiteboard?

For over half a century, the Republican Party has been on the offensive. They’ve ripped open the wounds of racism time and time again to seize control in the South; they’ve cheated and stenciled the boundaries of congressional districts to ensure lasting power; they’ve packed judiciaries full of sycophants all the way from county courthouses to the Supreme Court; and constructed a propaganda media machine to shroud their corruption in a continuous feedback loop of falsehoods, distortions and conspiracy theories. But when Republicans decided to take the unbreakable vow of matrimony with Trump, they made their fatal mistake. Here’s what I say to Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell: Unlike with his three wives, Trump did not sign a prenup with the GOP.

Now, it is the job of the Biden campaign to launch broadsides against this badly weakened party. This pirate ship must channel the nature of legendary Louisiana pirate Jean Lafitte: Ruthless and proactive, a telescope from the bow scanning the horizon, calculating every opportunity, wind speed and direction, every day to destroy the enemy.

When the president decides to say publicly that injecting disinfectant will save us from the coronavirus, the pirate crew should deploy to the soiled precincts of Fox News to do interviews in Lysol T-shirts and Clorox hats. When McConnell declares he will let our cities and states go bankrupt to try to force richer blue states to bend to GOP control, the crew must align themselves with the messaging of allies like New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and obtain every last vulnerable electoral region. The ship operates without ambivalence — it’s not a think tank — and embarrasses Republicans at every chance for the shame they have brought upon our country. Trump is sheer walking ignorance — use his words and actions to make ‘em pay.

Pirates don't hang back and hope the winds of fate will guide them. It is time we immolate this baseless notion that partisanship has made the electorate immovable; that there is no such thing as a persuadable swing voter. In 2018, taking back some of the president's core support is how Democrats won districts and Midwestern states that, coincidentally, Trump also won in 2016. Since then, the president and the Republican Party, by their colossal bungling of the current crisis, have set America on a path toward the next recession and yet are still attempting to protect their donors’ stock buybacks. Swing voters are unlikely to be on board with this kind of overt greed.

To push this swashbuckling metaphor just a bit further, what do pirates care the most about, besides salt pork and grog?

To push this swashbuckling metaphor just a bit further, what do pirates care the most about, besides salt pork and grog? Gold. As journalist Finley Peter Dunne’s fictional barkeep Mr. Dooley once said, “The Supreme Court follows the election results.” A blue sweep of the Electoral College would be the kind of knockout punch to Chief Justice John Roberts — as well as Justice Brett Kavanaugh or Justice Clarence Thomas — that would ensure the court couldn’t pull a Justice Antonin Scalia special circa 2000. A kind of punch that just might force balance back into a judiciary stacked with conservatives.

The current political winds of the COVID-19 crisis, intertwined with the hurricane that has been brewing since Trump was elected, is an unparalleled political opportunity. It must be harnessed to its fullest potential if we are to usher in a new era of American government come January 2021.

But I’m a political hack — and as I’m writing this, I’m leaping through time to read a historical footnote of a different moment, not too far ahead in the future. It’s election night 2020, and on MSNBC the chyrons flash: Texas is on the line, Arizona is blue, Sen. Susan Collins is a boiled lobster in Maine, and Trump is being routed in North Carolina. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy cannot be reached for comment, and neither can Rep. Devin Nunes or Rep. Louie Gohmert. (Nancy Pelosi’s roaring laughter is echoing from the speaker’s office.) The camera flips to Moscow Mitch McConnell, offering up dour remarks as he waits out the longest night of his life — the tallies are coming in from the suburbs around Cincinnati and it’s looking grim for Kentucky's "Grim Reaper." Host Brian Williams cues me in and I say: “Brian, Mitch always looks like he sucked a couple lemons — tonight, looks like he’s tasted 20.”

The sweetest taste it will be.