Assessing the Democratic stable of candidates based largely on debate performances is fodder for all manner of analogy and descriptors.
Comparing the debates to a reality game show is popular. Few if any of the candidates display any retail political savvy or charm. That they are a circular firing squad, a pack of hyenas devouring each other, and/or coffee klatch of resentful scare-mongers are all apt observations in one way or another.
Let me propose yet another: that they are mostly a bunch of little wannabe Stalins.
That applies especially to the two avowed socialists of the group, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. But while not all of the candidates evidently share Sanders's affection for the old USSR — he spent his honeymoon there, after all — they do share a kind of authoritarian stridency that reminds of the great mustachioed one.
Here Warren is the worst. Warren makes you search for a word stronger than humorless. Is it the 1/1000 Cherokee in her? Are all American Indians so resolutely grim?
Even Stalin managed a genuine smile and a laugh now and then, after a good purge or government induced famine. Google "Stalin smiles" and "Warren smiles." Stalin actually looks a somewhat human. Warren looks like somebody told her to bare her teeth and bite.
Warren castigated the semi-rational John Delaney for raising objections to her ludicrous health care proposals with this demagogic applause line:
"I don't understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States just to talk about what we really can't do and shouldn't fight for..."
Since when is the president supposed to "fight for" stuff? In a republic, the president is supposed to reflect the will of the people, not battle to impose her will on the nation. Later, Warren-supporters joked that she'd murdered Delaney, perhaps inadvertently reflecting the hostility to much of the U.S. that seems seethe within her.
Now, so far as I know, Warren's never actually killed anybody and probably won't get the chance. But she's clearly anxious to scramble America and make it into the omelet she thinks it should be.
Warren supposedly has a proposal for everything, a know-it-all who will tell us how to live our lives, what doctors to see, what we can do with our money, who will be our neighbors, how or whether we will get the energy we need. That's what she's "fighting for."
Sanders is almost as bad, though perhaps a bit more Trotsky than Stalin. Like Trotsky, the party doesn't really like him, and he was deliberately marginalized last election, though the DNC hasn't yet put an axe in his skull. And yes, part of that is that like Trotsky, Sanders is a Jew. Trotsky's party turned on its Jews just as the Democrats have. Yet Sanders and the other Jewish Democrats remain so addled by ideas of universalism and generational groupthink that they can't tell their friends from enemies.
Sander's own Stalin moment in the debate came when, like Warren, he angrily attacked another debater who questioned the consequences of a complete government takeover of national health care. Ohio representative Tim Ryan suggested that Sanders could not know for sure that Medicare for All would provide mostly Democrat union members with better health care than their already very good plans.
"I do know it! I wrote the damn bill!" Sanders shouted, as if he was berating a wayward apparatchik. Another applause line, another minor victory for a would-be little Stalin. As if authoring a bill suddenly makes things true on the ground. Bernie shall write it, and it will be so! Just as Obamacare let you keep your doctor.
Sanders gets a partial pass, though — not only for the Trotsky stuff, but for his shocking resemblance to Larry David. He's a bit funny, even if he doesn't mean to be.
And that's the last part. Whether Warren or Sanders, Harris or Biden, Buttigieg or Booker, there is not a shred of humor among them. A smiling Stalin doesn't equate to a man with a sense of humor as opposed to someone pleased with his own power. Similarly, these sometimes smiling candidates seem to be happy only with themselves and the idea that one day, they'll be powerful like the current president they so loathe.
At least that guy's got a sense of humor. You might not like Trump, agree with him, or approve of his style. But he's pretty funny. Stalin wasn't, nor are the little Stalins who would replace him. That will be hard for them to do unless they can make some more voters crack a smile or two. So far, none of them are doing that.