Skip to content

The Fox and Hedgehog Primary

March 6, 2020

fox and hedgehog

“The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”

That aphorism, attributed to the ancient Greek poet Archilochus, has been cited by scholars since Erasmus to classify people according to how they think. It’s an amusing exercise, but the problem is that no one can agree on what it actually means, and when applied to specifics it dissolves into ambiguity. Sort of like this Democratic primary.

Democratic voters are hedgehogs* when it comes to the Big Thing for this election: We want to get rid of Trump. But when it comes to how to do that, we become foxes, scurrying after a hundred different theories on who can win.

As for the remaining candidates, presentationally Bernie is more hedgehog–prickly and, to some, oddly adorable–while Joe is definitely more foxy. But strategically, it’s the opposite. Bernie doesn’t just want to get rid of Trump, he wants to start a revolution in American political and economic life, while Joe really only wants a restoration of the Obama regime. No wonder people are conflicted and confused.

Count me among them. Now that my preferred candidate, Elizabeth Warren, has dropped out, I’m trying to decide who to vote for in the Florida primary and am not really happy with either of the choices. I realize that my vote is almost totally symbolic and is likely to matter to no one but me, but the decision still feels morally important.

My problem is that I believe the country desperately needs the kind of progressive reforms that Warren articulated so clearly, but I don’t believe that Bernie will be able to make them happen. Give Bernie full credit for bringing these issues to the forefront of the campaign, but I see him primarily as an effective critic and movement leader, rather than an effective politician who can get his program enacted if he gets elected.

Conversely, Biden seems to have no program at all, other than restoring what Obama did and Trump destroyed. There are worse things than that, of course. Joe is running on a smile and a shoeshine and Obama’s reflected charisma. He’s likable, and that counts for a lot in politics, but I find him uninspiring and often cringe-worthy. Then there’s the fake Ukraine scandal, which the Party of Trump is clearly gearing up to deploy again, which indicates that they think it will have an impact. Who knows?

So who can get elected in November? No one really knows. As far as the polls go, for what they’re worth, it seems pretty much a toss-up on who could beat Trump. Bernie’s vaunted army of enthusiastic younger voters hasn’t really turned up at the polls, which seriously weakens his theory of how to win. A lot of down-ballot Democrats are afraid of having him on the ballot. On the other hand, African-American voters turned out in big numbers for Biden, and their support and turnout is absolutely critical for Democrats to win. That looks like a point for Biden.

Ultimately it comes down to who, overall, do you think would be the better president, given the cards that we have dealt ourselves. Unless something major happens in the next eleven days, that means I’m probably going to mark my ballot for Biden.

I guess that makes me a hedgehog.

* For Americans unfamiliar with hedgehogs, they are supercute European relatives of the porcupine. 

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: