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“He’d Do Well To Stay There”: Bernie Sanders Should Stick To The High Road

Bernie Sanders started his campaign stumping for his ideals without savaging the likely Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton. That was an attractive combination.

Now that he’s done a lot better than anticipated (though way down in delegates), his people are wondering whether he has made a mistake by not lunging for Clinton’s throat.

The answer is no. He’d be even further down, because virtuous politicking has been the source of his charm.

Sanders has never been much of a team player. He is an independent, not a Democrat, but Team Democrat has respected his candidacy. And it has given him a platform he’d never have gotten on his own.

But the welcome mat shows holes. The impressive sums Sanders raises go to his campaign only. Clinton raises money for her campaign and for other Democrats down the ticket. Adding to an unpleasantness, the Sanders camp lashes out at Clinton’s fundraising as somehow sordid.

Exactly how are you going to get your liberal priorities passed without a friendlier House and Senate?

Not Sanders’ problem. Never has been. And that accounts for his modest accomplishments in Washington.

The Sanders campaign prides itself in speaking “the truth,” so here’s some:

Sanders did not fight alone for single-payer health care. He failed to attract a single co-sponsor for his recent single-payer bill, his fans explain, because the health care industry intimidated lesser liberals in the Senate.

But John Conyers proposed single-payer in the House and gathered more than 90 co-sponsors. (Conyers endorsed Clinton in the Michigan primary.)

Sanders recently accused Clinton of taking “significant money from the fossil fuel industry” — a claim for which The Washington Post awarded him three “Pinocchios.”

Oil and gas doesn’t even make the list of the top 20 industries contributing to the Clinton campaign. Fossil fuel money accounts for only 0.15 percent of her campaign and outside PAC sum. But Sanders gooses the numbers by dishonestly labeling donations from lobbyists who also work for other industries as fossil fuel money.

Sanders portrays himself as a one-man army fighting Wall Street abuses in the Senate. Actually, the one-man army has been one woman, named Elizabeth Warren.

Before joining the Senate, Warren championed the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — detested by predatory lenders for shielding the little guys. Clinton was among the bureau’s most enthusiastic boosters and pushed other Democrats to sign on.

Sanders would have certainly won the financial industry’s enmity if it took him seriously. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page virtually ignores him, turning its wrath on the far more dangerous Warren.

Now, Clinton’s $225,000-per-speech fees from Goldman Sachs are fair game for the political opposition. But then the opposition has to show what Wall Street got in return other than her insights and her company.

A quid pro quo is hard to pin down. For example, the head of the D.E. Shaw group has given more than $800,000 to the Clinton effort. His company holds much distressed Puerto Rican debt and opposes letting the island file for bankruptcy. Clinton is for it.

Do note that the financial services industry is among New York state’s largest employers and is No. 1 for payroll. Clinton represented the state, and senators do confer with large hometown employers.

Speaking of which, Sanders waves his fist against wasteful military spending but voted to fund the $1.2 trillion F-35 fighter — one of the most expensive, most cost-overrun and most plagued weapons systems in U.S. history. Seems the maker, Lockheed Martin, employs a bunch of Vermonters.

Sanders looks best when he conducts politics from the high road. He’d do well to stay there for the sake of his legacy.

 

By: Froma Harrop, The National Memo, April 5, 2016

April 6, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What Have You Done To Help The Party?”: Clinton, Sanders Differ On Down-Ballot Democrats

Late last week, Bernie Sanders’ campaign announced that it raised $44 million in March, which represents an extraordinary success story. The Vermont independent raised a jaw-dropping $109 million in the first quarter, which in practical terms, may actually be more money than the campaign knows what to do with. For any national political endeavor, it’s a fantastic “problem” to have.

In his statement announcing his latest financial triumph, Sanders emphasized details he has every reason to be proud of: his campaign has now received over 6.5 million contributions from 1.7 million individual Americans, with an average contribution of just $27. The senator’s email to supporters referenced the potency of his “revolution” – three times.

Yesterday afternoon, meanwhile, Hillary Clinton’s campaign announced its fundraising tally over the same period, and though Sanders hasn’t matched his rival in votes or wins, we were reminded once more that he’s easily defeating her when it comes to dollars in the bank. But the Clinton campaign’s press release added something Sanders’ did not:

Hillary Clinton raised about $29.5 million for her primary campaign during March. That amount brings the first quarter total to nearly $75 million raised for the primary, beating the campaign’s goal of $50 million by about 50 percent. [Hillary For America] begins April with nearly $29 million on hand.

Clinton raised an additional $6.1 million for the DNC and state parties during the month of March, bringing the total for the quarter to about $15 million [emphasis added].

The first part matters, of course, to the extent that Sanders’ fundraising juggernaut is eclipsing Clinton’s operation, but it’s the second part that stands out. How much money did Sanders raise for the DNC and state parties in March? Actually, zero. For the quarter, the total was also zero.

And while the typical voter probably doesn’t know or care about candidates’ work on behalf of down-ballot allies, this speaks to a key difference between Sanders and Clinton: the former is positioning himself as the leader of a revolution; the latter is positioning herself as the leader of the Democratic Party. For Sanders, it means raising amazing amounts of money to advance his ambitions; for Clinton, it means also raising money to help other Democratic candidates.

As Rachel noted on the show last night, the former Secretary of State has begun emphasizing this angle while speaking to voters on the campaign trail. Here, for example, is Clinton addressing a Wisconsin audience over the weekend:

“I’m also a Democrat and have been a proud Democrat all my adult life. I think that’s kind of important if we’re selecting somebody to be the Democratic nominee of the Democratic Party.

“But what it also means is that I know how important to elect state legislatures, to elect Democratic governors, to elect a Democratic Senate and House of Representatives.”

The message wasn’t subtle: Clinton is a Democrat and Sanders isn’t; Clinton is working to help Democrats up and down the ballot and Sanders isn’t.

It’s worth emphasizing that this dynamic may yet change. When Rachel asked Sanders directly last week if he foresees a point in which he’ll start trying to raise funds to help candidates other than himself, the senator replied, “Well, we’ll see.”

In other words, maybe Sanders’ approach will change, maybe not. Time will tell.

I honestly have no idea whether, and to what extent, rank-and-file voters are going to be moved by any of this – as a rule, fundraising tallies and strategies are seen as a small detail of interest to those who follow campaigns at a granular level – but it’s probably safe to say Democratic officials who serve as superdelegates are taking note of these developments. If pressed in the coming months to influence the outcome of the nominating race, it’s easy to imagine some of these officials asking the candidates, “What have you done to help the party?”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 5, 2016

April 6, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic National Committee, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Donald Trump’s Ignorant Honesty”: The Donald Never Learned What He Is And Isn’t Supposed To Say

For a guy so eager to tell you about the majestic size and quality of his brain, Donald Trump has a way of displaying his ignorance and getting into trouble whenever he gets asked detailed questions about a policy issue. And something has changed: Now it’s actually doing him some harm. The latest controversy, on abortion, shows us how some of what has served Trump so well in the primaries is coming back to bite him as he moves toward the general election.

For months, we all marvelled at how Trump could say almost anything, no matter how offensive or stupid, without suffering any damage in the polls. But that was possible because of the particular polls that mattered at the time: polls of Republican primary voters. And for Trump voters told for years that “political correctness” was oppressing them and ruining the country, the spectacle of someone so willing to offend and insult the people they never liked was intoxicating.

Today, with the nomination within his grasp, those primary polls don’t matter so much, and everyone is finally realizing that the things that so cheered his supporters were indications not just of how different a candidate he is, but of how the things about ordinary politicians that he rejects—the caution, the care taken not to offend, the carefully crafted talking points—serve an important purpose.

We’ll be seeing this cycle again: Trump gets pressed for details about an issue by an interviewer, he says something outside the expected or acceptable (or sane) range of opinions, without even realizing which norms and beliefs he has violated, and then he tries multiple times to refine and revise his comments after the unsurprising freak-out. In the abortion case, it took Trump a few tries—no doubt after huddled conferences with his advisers—to circle around the issue enough times that he could anger almost everyone. He was asked whether, if abortion becomes illegal as he and most Republicans support, women should be prosecuted for getting abortions. He responded that there should be “some form of punishment” for women, then said there shouldn’t be any punishment for them, then said we should leave the laws the way they are now, then said through a campaign aide that he’ll change the laws to outlaw abortion (here’s a wrap-up).

If Trump had come up through the Republican ranks like other candidates, none of this would be necessary, because he’d have learned what he is and isn’t supposed to say. On longstanding, contentious issues, each party has an entire structure of positions, ideas, and rhetoric that has been refined over years of thinking and arguing. That structure reflects their shared values and the policies they would like to implement. On an issue like abortion, which has moral, legal, and policy components, the structure is rather intricate. If you haven’t spent a long time within the places and among the people who use that structure to guide the way they think and talk about the issue, then you’re bound to make mistakes when you weigh in.

This incident is also a reminder that for all the time we spend on candidates’ “gaffes,” most of the time the people who run for president are executing a complex, demanding, and delicate rhetorical performance. They have to talk every day in public, covering a wide variety of complicated issues, and do it in a way that not only might persuade the undecided, but that won’t alienate large numbers of people at the same time. Except in the most unusual circumstances, you don’t get to the major leagues of a presidential run without spending years developing the knowledge and skill to pull it off.

But of course, there have seldom been more unusual circumstances than the one we’re witnessing right now, in the person of Donald Trump. And the irony in this incident is that Trump, unlike the rest of his party, kicked off the controversy by expressing a logically coherent opinion. If you believe that a day-old zygote is a fully human person and that abortion is murder, then how can you think that the person who planned that person’s murder shouldn’t be held legally culpable once you’ve outlawed abortion completely? After all, if a woman hired a hit man to murder her five-year-old she’d go to jail, and as far as conservatives are concerned there should be no moral or legal difference between a fetus and a child. Their answer to this problem is that “she’s a victim too,” because when it comes to anything involving the operation of their ladyparts, women must themselves be treated like children, or at the very least as though they were so mentally incapacitated that someone else has to make decisions for them.

It’s obvious that Trump was not sufficiently schooled in this intricate rhetorical dance, for the simple reason that he’s not a politician. But these kind of complicated positions aren’t constructed at random. They’re built to serve a set of sometimes contradictory purposes: allow us to pursue the outcome we prefer, give us a way to justify it in public, provide a rationale judges can build rulings on, and do it all while minimizing the number of voters it pisses off.

It doesn’t really work—the “gender gap,” where more women vote Democratic, is no accident. But Republican rhetoric is designed to, at the very least, minimize the damage by assuring women that the GOP really has their best interests at heart. If Donald Trump is the nominee, however, that’s going to be impossible. If nothing else, there’s something more honest about his fumbling around on issues like this. He may have no idea what he’s talking about, but that means he hasn’t learned how to skillfully wield the apparatus of deception Republicans have spent so much time crafting.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, April 4, 2016

April 6, 2016 Posted by | Abortion, Donald Trump, General Election 2016, GOP Voters | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Republicans Are Plotting Economic Disaster For 2016: The American People Will Be The Collateral Damage

Since George W. Bush’s presidency, Republican economic ideas have become drastically more conservative. Instead of massive tax cuts for the rich coupled with a general tolerance of the rest of government (or even new welfare programs), the party is now committed to much larger tax cuts coupled with eye-watering cuts to government.

Every Republican presidential candidate proposes staggering tax cuts heavily weighted toward the rich. Donald Trump would give the top one-thousandth of taxpayers $1.3 million apiece per year, while Ted Cruz would give them an even $2 million. Trump does favor preserving the welfare state, but he is a marked outsider in this respect. The entire rest of the party is committed to gigantic cuts to welfare, as shown by the budget formulated by House Republicans. Their most recent plan would slash $5.3 trillion in spending over a decade, 69 percent of which would come from programs for the needy.

The party’s intellectual apparatus (distinct from the Trumpist insurgency) has more-or-less fully regressed to an economic libertarianism straight out of the 1920s. They view basically all government programs outside of the military and the courts as illegitimate, to be slashed or eliminated wherever possible. The only problem with this is that when you try it, the results are immediate disaster.

Republicans haven’t been able to fully implement their plan of tax and service cuts on the federal level, but they have tried it in a few places on the state level. Louisiana under Gov. Bobby Jindal has had it the worst. Jindal’s massive cuts to education and services were not nearly enough to cover his gigantic tax cuts, and draining every rainy day fund in the state only delayed the day of reckoning. Eventually the results were so disastrous that the unthinkable happened — a Democrat replaced Jindal. Now Gov. John Bel Edwards is scrambling to deal with the most extreme budgetary emergency of any state government in decades, working feverishly just to keep the state from literal financial collapse.

Kansas is also suffering from Republican quack economics. Gov. Sam Brownback (who barely scraped through re-election in 2014 and now sits at a 21-percent approval rating) tried the same tricks as Jindal, though to a somewhat lesser degree, and the results were similar: a huge budget deficit with none of the promised explosive growth or job gains. Now Kansas conservatives are running into problems with the state’s Supreme Court, which found legal problems with the distribution of education cuts. Their solution: Attack the justices politically, by drawing up a new impeachment law and trying to get them thrown out in an upcoming confirmation election.

It’s the same story in Wisconsin with both deficits and lousy economic performance. Gov. Scott Walker’s major innovation has been an effort to basically destroy the Wisconsin state university system with drastic cuts and the abolishment of tenure, which is already leading to serious problems at the flagship school in Madison.

However, it could have been worse for all these states. The federal government, with its grants, its spending on social programs, and its employment of in-state government workers and contractors, provides a buffer of spending state governments cannot cut. For example, Louisiana gets over 40 percent of its state budget from the feds, as well as $5,917 per person in social spending, $3.5 billion in federal contracts, and $5.3 billion in compensation paid to almost 68,000 federal workers (as of the most recent data). That’s $48 billion in income against $39 billion paid in federal taxes (other states don’t make out so well).

This means that the results would be far more disastrous should Republicans get to implement their ideas on a federal level. Great chunks of the federal programs — food stamps, federal health programs, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and so on — that have provided inadequate but vital economic stabilization would be cut or eliminated altogether.

The results would be just as what happened on the state level, only worse.

It took many years for Republicans to talk themselves out of the fact that Herbert Hoover’s presidency was a disastrous failure, but with the exception of Trump, Hooverism is where they stand. It’s an ideology that can gain wide popularity only insofar as it is not actually tried on a wide scale. It turns out that a vision of government that was already outdated a century ago (when farmers were over a quarter of the workforce) is not very well-suited to a modern economy. It’s just too bad the American people might have to be the collateral damage in re-learning that lesson.

 

By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, April 4, 2016

April 6, 2016 Posted by | Economic Policy, Republicans, Spending Cuts, Tax Cuts | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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