As the next Democratic debates approach, Joe Biden’s advisers are probably giving him a crash course on Spotify; Elizabeth Warren’s are likely polishing a zinger about being pregnant in the workplace. But the real contest looms, one in which the conventional politician’s tools—a firm grasp of policy, a poignant anecdote from the campaign trail—will be of little use. How, exactly, do you handle a competitor who recently called Mitt Romney a “pompous ‘ass’ ” on Twitter, and wrote, of Fox News, “Whoever their Pollster is, they suck”? President Trump’s attack lines ring more of the middle-school lunchroom than of the Presidential-debate stage. Perhaps the Democrats should start recruiting a different set of advisers.
To help the eventual candidate, I put in some calls to experts on middle-school bullies. Why middle school? It has to do with human social development. For most people, bullying peaks between the ages of twelve and fourteen—that tender period when hormones are surging and people aren’t always their best selves.
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