The news popped up on my cellphone screen quite quickly: Joe Biden was projected to have won the South Carolina Democratic Primary. I reading FiveThirtyEight on the Amtrak Coast Starlight, somewhere around Eugene, Oregon. I was actually expecting a slower scroll of news, early results in key precincts giving way to wholesale returns, like a single Hot Wheels car delicately taken from its wrapping while the boxy figure covered in green and gold paper, suspected of being Omega Supreme, hides under the far side of the Christmas Tree. Perhaps it was due to the problem with loading the page among the hordes of scripting: I was using a Mexican SIM card on my phone, in foreign roaming mode, on an Amtrak train. This election has given me a newfound appreciation for the diverse nature of American IT networks, along with a continued appreciation for the diverse nature of American politics.
Joe Biden, through the first three contests, had underperformed. For the former Vice President of the United States, getting soundly trounced by the mayor of Indiana's fourth largest city was quite a bad sign. But going into South Carolina, a narrative started to form: African-American voters, more interested in protecting existing civil rights than expanding social programs, would support the most "electable" candidate, in this case, Joe Biden. And indeed, the results turned out to show this, with Joe Biden getting 48 percent of the vote. 48 percent of the vote hardly qualifies as overwhelming assent, but in primary season, it is enough to change the currents.
And it did so: within a day of Biden's plurality victory, Tom Steyer, a billionaire businessman, and Pete Buttigieg, both announced they were dropping out. Since Buttigieg had won first place in Iowa and second place in New Hampshire, his exit seems to be a little premature. However, as I have mentioned, the idea of the mayor of America's 300th largest city becoming president seemed a bit far-fetched. But the problem here is that none of this seems to have been arisen at by a process of decision. In my last update, I said that the race was now Bernie Sanders and everyone else, and now the race is Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, a virtual rerace of the 2016 Democratic Primary, and we have arrived at this point more through a kabuki dance of measuring expectations, rather than by considering ideas and competencies. And so we go into Super Tuesday, with a race that has shaped up to be between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, with a small chance of some upsets by Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar.