In today’s Times, pointing to Israel’s so-far-still-standing left/right parliamentary coalition, Tom Friedman advocates for a Biden/Cheney ticket in 2024, an idea so staggeringly stupid one wonders if one of Friedman’s grandkids got hold of his password and decided to prank him.
After proposing his provocative idea, Friedman notes correctly that “America does not have the flexibility of a parliamentary, proportional-representation system,” which is why his idea doesn’t work, of course.
At this point, he should have deleted his column and written an essay about how apples and oranges are basically the same fruit.
Different political systems
“Sound familiar?” Friedman asks, in describing Israel’s politics.
Um … no.
Our political systems are different. Apples and oranges have more in common. A multi-multi-party parliamentary system requires coalition building to form a government, which is why Israeli political parties do it after every single election. In American-style democracy, parliamentary coalition building is of no value, which is why American political parties never do it.
Pointing to Israel’s totally usual coalition and proposing it as an unprecedented model for the Democrats’ 2024 ticket is like saying that Americans can get into outer space really quickly and efficiently, so why not use rocket technology on New York City buses to solve our public transportation schedule problems? Or, since Lysol is so good at killing germs, why not drink it, to kill Covid in our bodies?
Because it’s a stupid idea.
A forced analogy
Using Israel as his model, Friedman proposes that before the election, Joe Biden fire Kamala Harris as veep, convince the Dem convention to nominate Liz Cheney and then campaign together for the election.
But this isn’t what happens in Israel at all.
In Israel, the rightist candidate Naftali Bennett and left-of-center candidate Yair Lapid did not campaign together on a combined platform. Indeed, during the election campaign, they both professed no interest in a post-election coalition.
They campaigned against each other.
They were then forced by circumstance, after the election occurred, to combine votes in order to reach a majority and take power, and then, once in power, to use their majority to pass legislation.
Israel always rules by coalition; America does not
Israel’s current coalition government is not the revolutionary development that Friedman seems to imagine it is.
As Friedman must surely know, there have been numerous left/right governing coalitions in Israel. For a while, it was something of a tradition. Labor and Likud would campaign against each other, but after the election was over, neither would win a majority of the vote. Then, because anything other than a Likud/Labor coalition would mean allowing some awful fanatical small party into government, Labor and Likud would form a coalition for the good of the nation.
This has happened over and over again in Israel. Not in America.
Having Liz Cheney as veep also would not provide Biden with a majority to pass legislation, which is another way our system of government differs from Israel’s.
Indeed, the best way to achieve a governing majority for the Dems is to keep anti-Trump Republicans in the Congress.
Cheney would be more effective endorsing Biden from the House, then as a Representative voting for Biden’s agenda and for a Democratic speaker.
Liz Cheney would lose the election for Biden
Furthermore, in a general election, Cheney would bring no votes.
As I noted, unlike Israel’s current government coalition, she would not and could not give Biden her voters to form a governing majority. That’s the way Israel’s parliamentary system works, but not ours.
Her name on the ticket would lure not a single Republican voter to the Dems. Run of the mill Republicans hate her more than they hate Biden, and so her presence on a Biden ticket would make them less likely to vote for Biden.
Friedman states that a Biden/Cheney coalition would need to jettison legislative priorities in favor of a platform dedicated solely to opposing Trump. He compares this to Israel, where he praises the coalition as one that will never make peace with the Palestinians, as though that were some kind of terrific development.
But in Israel, most voters don’t really care anymore about seeking peace with the Palestinians. In America, voters do care about electing a government that can get things done.
Government needs to promise to improve people’s lives
Outside of never-Trumpers, only less-partisan, bread-and-butter Republicans would ever vote for Biden, and they would vote for him for bread-and-butter reasons, not partisan concerns. Never-Trump Republicans like the Lincoln Project and David Frum would be happy with a Biden-Cheney ticket that promised to do not much of anything, but they would have voted for Biden anyway, and otherwise convincible, bread-and-butter Republicans would not be thrilled by a government whose platform would consist of setting aside legislative priorities in favor of condemning the candidate that they voted for last time.
These convincible Republicans would see such a ticket as a Trump-bashing orgy, dedicated not to getting things done for the American people but, instead, to condemnation of Trump and everyone who ever voted for him.
Voters prefer a government that actually improves their lives. Which Trump would promise to do.
Cheney on the ticket would drive away progressive voters
Cheney on the ticket would also tamp down enthusiasm on the left.
Friedman mentions in passing that an alternate ticket could be Harris-Romney, but he doesn’t mention that a Biden-Cheney ticket would meaning firing America’s first Black female veep in favor of a rightwing white person, a decision guaranteed to create outrage. Dropping Democratic priorities to lure that rightwing white person to the ticket would be the final nail in the national Dem Party’s coffin, maybe one from which we would never recover.
So this decision would please never-Trumpers and drive away progressives and less-partisan Republicans, a recipe for Trump’s victory in 2024. This decision might help the American Communist Part rebuild its base back to its 1950s 2% heyday, as progressives radicalize. As a Trotskyite, I would not be unhappy to see the Communists return to our glory days, but it’s not the result Friedman has in mind.
This is an awful idea.
Illustration by Steven S. Drachman