Like everyone else in the country, I’ve had the presidential election on my mind so that will be the focus of this edition of the 13th Ward Rambler.
As seen from New Orleans, the Gret Stet election results have been neither interesting nor surprising. Double Bill Cassidy won in the first round. Yawn, we expected that. The awful anti-choice ballot measure won. Horrible but no surprise given Louisiana’s toxic combination of conservative Catholics and Protestant bible bangers.
In Orleans Parish, Joe Biden got 83% of the vote, there will be a runoff for DA, and Sidney Torres’ candidate won her judicial race. The Trashanova’s hat size has increased but he needed space for his man-bun in there anyway.
Taking the bitter with the sweet was one of the themes of the 2020 election. I was among those hoping for a national Democratic wave that did not materialize. I’m inclined to believe that COVID denialism was one of the main factors in the GOP’s down ballot successes. People are tired of the pandemic. I don’t blame them but pretending a problem doesn’t exist never helped anything.
Another factor was white Republican nostalgia for a time that never really existed. Life in the 1950’s was not like Leave It To Beaver, Father Knows Best or Happy Days. Neither Eddie Haskell nor the Fonz was real. In his great book The Fifties, the late David Halberstam argued that it was a time of ferment, upheaval, and social change. But Halberstam also acknowledged that white men were in the saddle. That’s why Trumpers dig the Fifties.
Let’s turn to the main event, Joe Biden’s defeat of Donald Trump. It was a long week of waiting, watching, and worrying. I knew Biden would eventually win the arcane and outmoded electoral college but I still awaited every swing state vote update from Steve Kornacki with bated breath. I realize that some folks don’t care for his somewhat frantic style, but I’ve been a Kornacki fan since his time hosting UP on MSNBC from 2013-2015. He even had his own game show within the news show, Up Against The Clock. I am not making this up.
Kornacki is something of a toon but he’s a damn smart toon. I even created a meme in his honor:
The meme is a variation on the venerable saying: “Cut off my legs and call me Shorty.” I saw that in an old Jimmy Cagney movie. I clearly watch too much TCM.
You’re probably wondering about the column title. It’s a baseball history reference. In 1946, then Brooklyn Dodgers manager Leo Durocher mused about arch-rival New York Giants and their manager Mel Ott who was from Gretna, Louisiana. Durocher, who was not a particularly nice guy, said, “the nice guys are all over there in seventh place.”
Over the years the phrase has been condensed to “nice guys finish last.” Durocher’s 1975 memoirs were titled Nice Guys Finish Last because it had become one of the most famous lines in baseball history. In other words, Leo misquoted himself. I am, in turn, paraphrasing the misquote. So it goes.
In this instance, the Mel Ott-type nice guy is Joe Biden who defeated the Durocher-type jerk, Donald Trump. The noted baseball writer and historian Bill James wrote something about Leo the Lip that also applies to the Impeached Insult Comedian:
“Durocher didn’t give a shit what you thought about him. He didn’t make any pretense to being a nice person. Until the 1950’s, he didn’t make any pretense to being a family man. He was a rogue. He dressed in flashy clothes, drove flashy cars, drove too fast, took a punch at anybody who crossed him, made a pass at every woman he took a liking to, and bragged when he scored.”
That quote comes from The Bill James Guide To Baseball Managers. There’s no link because I typed it out old school style from the book itself. I guess one could call it throwback quoting.
I should briefly expand upon this baseball analogy. Mel Ott was a great player but a mediocre manager who treated his players well. Leo Durocher was a mediocre player but an excellent manager. As a manager Durocher was a theatrical dictator who screamed at his players. Leo was, however, a smart albeit uneducated man. Trump is a screamer and an idiot.
A final baseball history note. Mel Ott is, hands down, the greatest baseball player to hail from the Gret Stet of Louisiana. Leo Durocher succeeded Ott as Giants manager in 1948 and joined him in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994. So it goes.
One thing Ott and Durocher have in common with Joe Biden is that they’ve all been on the cover of Time Magazine:
Back to the Biden-Trump race.
This was Joe Biden’s third run for the presidency. His 1988 campaign crashed and burned over accusations that he plagiarized a speech from then British Labour party leader Neil Kinnock. It was less plagiarism than forgetfulness: Biden usually attributed the quote to Kinnock but forgot to do so once when the cameras were on. So it goes.
Biden’s 2008 run collided with the Obama phenomenon and he departed the race early. Biden became Obama’s running mate and was one of the few Veeps in history to have his stature enhanced by the office. In a brief history of the Vice Presidency I wrote for First Draft I quoted FDR’s first Veep: “Most past Veeps agree with Cactus Jack Garner who said, “This job isn’t worth a bucket of warm piss.” The quote was cleaned up for many years with spit replacing piss. It was still an apt analogy.”
Joe Biden has been counted out more times than a piss-poor pugilist, but he always gets up and keeps fighting. It happened again in 2020.
Biden fared poorly in the early debates, primaries, and caucuses. Then came South Carolina where he received one of the most important endorsements in American political history. It came from House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn. It ignited the Biden candidacy, especially among Black voters.
There *is* a Louisiana connection to this part of the story. Clyburn is New Orleans Congressman Cedric Richmond’s rabbi; figuratively, not literally as Joe Biden would say. There are conflicting stories about Richmond’s future: some say Clyburn wants Richmond to be the first black Speaker while others say he’s promoting Richmond for a cabinet position. I hope it’s the latter. I’m not a Cedric fan.
There’s a baseball connection to this part of the story too. Richmond pitches for House Democrats in their annual game against House Republicans.
Neither 1988 nor 2008 was Joe Biden’s time. 2020 most emphatically was. Joe Biden’s human qualities offered a perfect contrast to the monstrous behavior of the man I call President* Pennywise. Trump is erratic, irascible, impatient, and angry. Joe Biden is steady, kindly, patient, and calm. Trump is Durocher, Biden is Ott.
The 2020 election is confirmation of what I’ve always believed: In a presidential contest, the character and personality of the candidates is what matters most. Should people vote based on the issues? Yes, but they don’t. In this election, that contrast favored the Democrats. I look forward to removing the asterisk from president when Joe Biden is inaugurated as the 46th POTUS. Thank you, sir.
I’d also like to thank Joe Biden for selecting Kamala Harris as his Veep. She’s brilliant, charismatic, and eminently qualified. Senator Harris will make history as the first Black, Asian-Pacific woman Vice President. Thanks again, Mr. President-elect. I like the sound of that.
Leo Durocher was wrong. Nice guys don’t always finish last. In 2020, Joe Biden was elected because he’s a nice guy whereas his opponent is an asshole. There’s no subtle way of putting it. Ain’t nothing subtle about the Kaiser Of Chaos.
Finally, it’s been a long hard year for the Bayou Brief and our readership. I believe in Lamar’s vision for the Bayou Brief. We need your support to keep doing what we do. If you enjoy my column, please consider making a donation. Thanks in advance.
Let’s close on a celebratory note. The last word goes to Philadelphia native Todd Rundgren: