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5/16/19

Mike Gravel is running a more credible campaign than most Democrats

For one simple reason: if you want to win, you have to be willing to attack Joe Biden.

Right now, this is how the polls look:


I guess one can imagine a bizarre universe where more than 70% of the candidates who don't already support Biden rally around a single opponent, but this defies both common sense and about five seconds of looking at the polls. If you want to win, Biden's numbers have to come down. This means attacking him. If you aren't attacking him, you are not actually trying to win.

Senator Mike Gravel, of course, is not actually trying to win the Democratic nomination. He's said so himself. But there really is no reason why we should take a candidate who is being open and honest about his agenda less seriously than candidates like Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, and, Beto O'Rourke - candidates who also have no intention to win.

How do we know this? Because they aren't attacking Biden. They don't have a distinct version of America that they are willing to fight for, even if that means standing up to the frontrunner. Say what you will about Gravel, but it is beyond dispute that he has a clear platform and politics. That's precisely why his campaign has launched repeated, ferocious attacks on Biden's vote for Iraq, his opposition to busing, his defense of the big banks, his criminal justice record, and so on.

At this point, there's no real question as to why Gravel is running - the only real question is why his opponents are. Certainly it is convenient, for a certain variety of embarrassed centrist, to have a selection of vaguely progressive stand-ins to "support" until it's time to fall in line behind Biden, but it's hard to imagine that being a deliberate objective for their campaigns. More likely, they're just getting in on the standard also-ran grift that's become a staple of every major party primary, where candidates try to leverage novelty campaigns into book sales, pundit gigs, a boosted national profile, and perhaps even a VP nomination. Here, again, Gravel has distinguished himself from his opponents. He hasn't shown any interest in any of that so far; his fundraising, for example, has explicitly called for the smallest donation possible, simply in an effort to get him into the presidential debates.

Say what you will about Mike Gravel, but you cannot dismiss him as a fringe novelty candidate: he is a former United States Senator who played, among other things, a historic role in ending the Vietnam War. You cannot dismiss him as a third party candidate, as so many dismissed Ralph Nader; you cannot dismiss him as not-a-Democrat, as so many have dismissed Bernie Sanders. You cannot dismiss him as marginal in the polls: he continues to outperform multiple candidates who everyone agrees are legitimate candidates. And you cannot dismiss him as irrelevant: Gravel is fighting the frontrunner, which makes him infinitely more relevant than the dozen or so also-rans who won't.