I didn’t attend Saint Anselm College in Goffstown, New Hampshire. I never even thought to apply for enrollment, not at an institution charging every student more than $42,000 in annual tuition. I went to the University of New Hampshire-Manchester instead, where I paid one-fourth the price to receive one-fourth the strength of education. Or so I was told: while only the helpless would fail at a school as undemanding as UNH-M, the academic standards of Saint Anselm’s are rumored to be so rigorous as to earn it the nickname Saint Cs.
However, my one visit to the campus suggested a decidedly different culture. I was in the library, drilling through a couple of essays until I rose in search of the bathroom. The light in the bathroom was activated by a motion senor, so when I entered, it was dark as night . . . and yet, a student was sitting in one of the stalls. He cleared his throat as soon as the fluorescence flooded the room, but it was too late: I knew he had been masturbating in the comforting privacy of darkness, only to be thrown most rudely out of rhythm by my sudden entrance.
Unwilling to be the churl, I left as soon as I could, though not before reading the following, written in pen just outside the aforementioned stall: “All I think about is suicide and sex.” Well, there are probably a lot of millennials who feel similarly, and at the time, I probably had the same fixations. There is no moral wisdom to be gleaned from this story, not from my analysis of it, at least. But I remember it every time the media reports on the latest political poll conducted by the Saint Anselm College Survey Center.
This institution released the latest such poll earlier today, and it places Pete Buttigieg at the top of the Democratic Party’s pecking order—in New Hampshire, at least, where twenty-five percent of “likely primary voters” have named him as their first choice. Meanwhile, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren are registering only fifteen percent apiece, and Bernie Sanders, four years after annihilating Hillary Clinton in this state, is stumbling along at a mere nine percent. While the chasms between Buttigieg and the others may shock you, bear in mind that only two hundred and fifty-five people were polled, meaning that only sixty-five New Hampshirites gave Buttigieg this astonishing lead.
Predictably, the corporate media is more than satisfied with this microscopic sample size. Buttigieg is the candidate preferred by the oligarchy: he is young, articulate, and charmingly inexperienced. More than one anti-journalist has already compared him to Obama, though Buttigieg is even more committed in his loyalty to the military-industrial complex. What’s more, cynical perception does not pose a challenge, as there is no way Buttigieg could betray his constituents as cruelly as Obama did eleven years ago. You could see the establishment turning to Buttigieg in the two most recent debates, and although there is still time for Clinton to enter the race, almost every New Hampshirite polled said that her presence would be insufferable.
It makes no difference to me whether Buttigieg, Biden, or Warren wins the nomination, but I have taken an interest in the seemingly hopeless candidacies of other contestants. According to the folks at Saint Anselm, Tulsi Gabbard, Cory Booker, Andrew Yang, and Kamala Harris are all clocking in a less than five percent apiece. The only surprise is Harris, who recently abandoned the Granite State when it became clear she stood no chance of winning. Needless to say, her swift and painful demise on the campaign trail has been a point of celebration to the fans of Tulsi Gabbard, but they fail to understand how Harris’s loss is Buttigieg’s gain, as well as Biden’s gain and Warren’s gain, and every neoliberal candidate’s gain—which means, Harris’s loss is Gabbard’s loss, as well.
At the risk of stating the bloody obvious, not a single one of Harris’s fans has taken up refuge in Gabbard’s camp. All of Harris’s erstwhile supporters have steered clear of Gabbard, not because of that beatdown that occurred in the second debate, but because Harris’s policies are the opposite of Gabbard’s. Harris is an imperialist, and her bloodthirsty approach to world conquest permeates her entire political philosophy. She is relentlessly, comprehensively bilious, just like her brethren in the prestigious echelons of the Democratic Party. Why would people who believe in the virtue of such decadence, in abandoning Harris, turn away from a similarly repulsive person like Biden or Warren . . . or Buttigieg? Why would they ever think of turning towards Gabbard?
They wouldn’t, of course, which is why Gabbard’s polling numbers haven’t flooded even as Harris has drowned. Only the corporatist candidates have been buoyed, and when their boats inevitably capsize, their disasters will not redound to Gabbard: they will only limit the number of alternatives to Establishment Candidate X, and thereby focus the attentive energies of gullible voters who are enamored with the establishment. If you are a neoliberal voter, even one who has been hoodwinked by the calls for faux progressivism, then Gabbard is not an option for you, but there are at least ten candidates who are. If Harris drops out, then your choices have been thinned by ten percent, but now you can spend ten percent more time contemplating the remaining nine.
Now, would someone care to explain to me how this benefits Gabbard? Obviously, it doesn’t: it merely concentrates the political firepower of the masses in the direction of a candidate approved by the elite. Gabbard would stand to benefit only from the collapse of Sanders or Yang, but she is unaffected by the elimination of anyone and everyone else. If she is to thrive in their misery, then she must do so indirectly, perhaps through an increase in the amount of time that she is given to speak at the debates. But this doesn’t justify any celebration of the fall of her neoliberal rivals; if anything, their departure makes it that much harder for her to put the numbers together. So, let us not congratulate Gabbard prematurely: in dreaming of the day her competitors drop out, we may find we are getting more than we bargained for.