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Books & Culture

Democrats and the Tuxedo Test

If Democrats are to retake the White House, they had better pin more than their hopes on the only candidate who looks somewhat presidential in black tie and tails.


- January 2nd, 2020
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FDR refined it, JFK romanticized it, LBJ relaxed it, Richard Nixon restored it, Ronald Reagan revered it, and Donald Trump continues to respect it—the tuxedo jacket.

If Democrats are to retake the White House, they had better pin more than their hopes on the only candidate who looks somewhat presidential in black tie and tails. That man is Joe Biden, who speaks the way Bernie Sanders looks: dazed and confused.

Put Sanders in a tuxedo—dress a socialist like a capitalist—and the candidate may as well be the emcee or guest of honor at a retirement dinner on behalf of the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA).

Put Pete Buttigieg in a tuxedo—dress a boy like a man—and the candidate may as well be a child magician; a quick-draw artist with flowers up his sleeve in lieu of a sleeve gun, brandishing a bouquet of paper tulips and polyester roses, while his clip-on bow tie points to the 4 o’clock position and parents check their watches.

Put Elizabeth Warren in a tuxedo—dress Sacheen Littlefeather like Marlon Brando—and the candidate may as well return to her reservation with neither a golden statuette nor a treaty to mine gold on her own land.

Given this absence of glitz, given the fact that Buttigieg campaigns without a suit jacket and Sanders looks like the spokesman for a campaign to outlaw combs; given the absence of stamina, too, as Biden’s most staged appearances are like Jerry Lewis’s worst appearances onstage—an embarrassment of gaffes—in which the star assumes a permanent smile, waving to anyone he sees and saying hello to no one he knows; given the sense that any hour may be the final hour, when Joe (or Jerry) loosens his tie and loses his inhibitions, nibbling on his wife’s finger or chewing the microphone before breaking into song, Democrats need more than a new wardrobe.

They need a new candidate, and a lot more.

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