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“A Tale Of Two Parties”: Only One Party’s Establishment Was Already Dead Inside

Do you remember what happened when the Berlin Wall fell? Until that moment, nobody realized just how decadent Communism had become. It had tanks, guns, and nukes, but nobody really believed in its ideology anymore; its officials and enforcers were mere careerists, who folded at the first shock.

It seems to me that you need to think about what happened to the G.O.P. this election cycle the same way.

The Republican establishment was easily overthrown because it was already hollow at the core. Donald Trump’s taunts about “low-energy” Jeb Bush and “little Marco” Rubio worked because they contained a large element of truth. When Mr. Bush and Mr. Rubio dutifully repeated the usual conservative clichés, you could see that there was no sense of conviction behind their recitations. All it took was the huffing and puffing of a loud-mouthed showman to blow their houses down.

But as Mr. Trump is finding out, the Democratic establishment is different.

As some political scientists are now acknowledging, America’s two major parties are not at all symmetric. The G.O.P. is, or was until Mr. Trump arrived, a top-down hierarchical structure enforcing a strict, ideologically pure party line. The Democrats, by contrast, are a “coalition of social groups,” from teachers’ unions to Planned Parenthood, seeking specific benefits from government action.

This diversity of interests sometimes reduces Democrats’ effectiveness: the old Will Rogers joke, “I am not a member of any organized political party — I’m a Democrat” still rings true. But it also means that the Democratic establishment, such as it is, is resilient against Trump-style coups.

But wait: Didn’t Hillary Clinton face her own insurgency in the person of Bernie Sanders, which she barely turned back? Actually, no.

For one thing, it wasn’t all that close. Mrs. Clinton won pledged delegates by almost four times Barack Obama’s margin in 2008; she won the popular vote by double digits.

Nor did she win by burying her rival in cash. In fact, Mr. Sanders outspent her all the way, spending twice on much as she did on ads in New York, which she won by 16 percentage points.

Also, Mrs. Clinton faced immense, bizarre hostility from the news media. Last week Harvard’s Shorenstein Center released a report on media treatment of the candidates during 2015, showing that Mrs. Clinton received by far the most unfavorable coverage. Even when reports focused on issues rather than alleged scandals, 84 percent of her coverage was negative — twice as high as for Mr. Trump. As the report notes, “Clinton’s negative coverage can be equated to millions of dollars in attack ads, with her on the receiving end.”

And yet she won, fairly easily, because she had the solid support of key elements of the Democratic coalition, especially nonwhite voters.

But will this resilience persist in the general election? Early indications are that it will. Mr. Trump briefly pulled close in the polls after he clinched the Republican nomination, but he has been plunging ever since. And that’s despite the refusal of Mr. Sanders to concede or endorse the presumptive nominee, with at least some Bernie or Busters still telling pollsters that they won’t back her.

Meanwhile, Mr. Trump is flailing. He’s tried all the tactics that worked for him in the Republican contest — insults, derisive nicknames, boasts — but none of it is sticking. Conventional wisdom said that he would be helped by a terrorist attack, but the atrocity in Orlando seems to have hurt him instead: Mrs. Clinton’s response looked presidential, his didn’t.

Worse yet from his point of view, there’s a concerted effort by Democrats — Mrs. Clinton herself, Elizabeth Warren, President Obama, and more — to make the great ridiculer look ridiculous (which he is). And it seems to be working.

Why is Mrs. Clinton holding up so well against Mr. Trump, when establishment Republicans were so hapless? Partly it’s because America as a whole, unlike the Republican base, isn’t dominated by angry white men; partly it’s because, as anyone watching the Benghazi hearing realized, Mrs. Clinton herself is a lot tougher than anyone on the other side.

But a big factor, I’d argue, is that the Democratic establishment in general is fairly robust. I’m not saying that its members are angels, which they aren’t. Some, no doubt, are personally corrupt. But the various groups making up the party’s coalition really care about and believe in their positions — they’re not just saying what the Koch brothers pay them to say.

So pay no attention to anyone claiming that Trumpism reflects either the magical powers of the candidate or some broad, bipartisan upsurge of rage against the establishment. What worked in the primary won’t work in the general election, because only one party’s establishment was already dead inside.


By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, June 20, 2016

June 26, 2016 Posted by | Democratic Establishment, Donald Trump, GOP Establishment, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Bernie Sanders’s New Plans To Win The Nomination”: Convince The Corrupt Establishment That He’s Their Man

After a less-than-super Tuesday, Bernie Sanders’s campaign faces a virtually insurmountable deficit in pledged delegates. With her blowout wins in Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio — and narrow victories in Illinois and Missouri — Clinton could lose the vast majority of remaining states and still earn the nomination. But to keep his political revolution churning as the primary shifts to friendlier pastures, Sanders needs to offer his supporters and donors some vision for how a come-from-behind win could come about.

The best one his campaign has come up with is … not great. According to Politico, Sanders’s plan is to get as close in the race for pledged delegates as possible, and then convince the very Establishment that he’s been disparaging for months to override the consensus of voters and throw the primary to a socialist insurgent.

“The arguments that we’re going to muster are going to be based on a series of facts,” Sanders campaign manager Tad Devine told Politico (emphasis ours). “People will look at different measures: How many votes did you get? How many delegates did you win? How many states did you win? But it’s really about momentum.”

The Sanders campaign is not explicitly calling for superdelegates to negate the democratic will — a notion that it recently condemned. But Devine’s emphasis on momentum implies as much. Sanders has little chance of overcoming the delegate advantage that Clinton wracked up in her southern landslides, but he has a decent shot of winning more states than the front-runner between now and the nomination. Which is why, in Devine’s view, “it’s really about momentum.”

It seems doubtful that Sanders has genuine faith in this cockamamie scheme. The superdelegate system pretty much exists to prevent the nomination of someone like Sanders, a socialist insurgent looking to chase the money lenders from the Democratic temple.

Most likely, his campaign is merely looking for any narrative that can keep its supporters mobilized from here to the convention. Even if Sanders isn’t going to be the Democratic nominee, his political revolution has plenty to gain in collecting as many delegates as it possibly can. Sanders’s surprising strength in the race thus far — and, in particular, his dominance among millennial voters — has led many pundits to predict that his social-democratic vision represents the future of the Democratic Party. The next month of primary contests looks like the most Sanders-friendly stretch of the race thus far. According to FiveThirtyEight’s demographic projections, Sanders is favored to win seven of the next eight primaries or caucuses. If Sanders wishes to demonstrate the broad appeal of his ideology, there’s little sense in dropping out with those potential victories still on the table. Thanks to his campaign’s incredible fund-raising apparatus, the democratic socialist should have plenty of cash to keep fighting, even if donations slow down in the wake of last night’s losses.

Sanders is not going to convince the Democratic Party’s elders to back the candidate with fewer pledged delegates and Establishment connections. But suggesting that such a thing might be possible will allow him to send a louder message to the party’s younger politicians and operatives: Economic populism works. Clinton, for one, seems to have heard that message quite clearly.


By: Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, March 16, 2016

March 20, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Establishment, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Misreading The Nature Of His Revolution”: Bernie Sanders Is Attacking The ‘Establishment.’ He’s Only Half Right

In the Republican race for president, there are few slurs more cutting than when one candidate says another is too close to “the establishment.” But we hadn’t heard that from the Democrats until yesterday, when Bernie Sanders tarred Hillary Clinton with the dreaded “E” word. The problem is that it isn’t so dreaded among Democrats, and if Sanders thinks it is, then he may be misreading the nature of his revolution and the voters who are rallying behind it.

This started last night on Rachel Maddow’s show on MSNBC, when Maddow asked Sanders about Clinton’s endorsements from Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign. Here’s what Sanders said:

“I would love to have the endorsement of every progressive organization in America. We’re very proud to have received recently the endorsement of We’ve received the endorsement Democracy for America. These are grassroots organizations representing millions of workers.

“What we are doing in this campaign, it just blows my mind every day because I see it clearly, we’re taking on not only Wall Street and economic establishment, we’re taking on the political establishment.

“So, I have friends and supporters in the Human Rights [Campaign] and Planned Parenthood. But, you know what? Hillary Clinton has been around there for a very, very long time. Some of these groups are, in fact, part of the establishment.”

This argument would be unworthy of note if it came from a Republican, but Clinton quickly criticized Sanders, tweeting, “Really Senator Sanders? How can you say that groups like @PPact and @HRC are part of the ‘establishment’ you’re taking on?”

On one level, Sanders is absolutely right: Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign are indeed part of the Democratic establishment. They’ve been around for a long time, they have deep ties with other left-leaning advocacy groups and Democratic politicians (not least the Clintons), and they’re the kind of place where you’ll find former and future members of Democratic administrations. They endorsed Clinton for a lot of reasons — because she has a history of supporting their issues and interests, because people within the organizations have personal ties with her and the people around her, and almost certainly because they see her as the most likely nominee, and they want as much access and influence in the next Democratic administration as they can get. That’s what advocacy groups do.

But Sanders is wrong if he thinks that significant numbers of Democratic voters look at groups like those and say, “Yuck, the establishment.” Or even that the dissatisfaction that is driving voters to him is directed at the Democratic establishment itself.

(A brief aside: There are some gay activists and intelligentsia who do indeed believe that the Human Rights Campaign is a bunch of sellouts. Without wading into the substance of that question, it’s safe to say that the proportion of Democratic voters who have any idea what that might be about is tiny).

This is where the difference with the Republican side is so stark, and where Sanders’s success is a product of a fundamentally different phenomenon than what’s fueling the campaigns of Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. On the Republican side, anger at their elected officials, their party leaders, and the broader network of Washington-based organizations and individuals that make up that thing we call the establishment is intense. That anger almost constitutes its own ideology, even though it’s barely about issues at all, but is more concerned with tactics. It has been nurtured by “outsider” candidates, and by conservative media figures like Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham who fancy themselves a kind of counter-establishment. It vilifies people like Mitch McConnell and the departed John Boehner who are supposedly too willing to knuckle under to Barack Obama without forcing dramatic and quixotic confrontations. It promotes intra-party revolts and primary challenges to Republicans, and promulgates a narrative in which everything that has gone wrong for them in the last seven years is because of that establishment’s weakness and betrayal.

There’s nothing like that on the Democratic side. Yes, Sanders voters are dissatisfied. But they’re drawn to Sanders because of his ideological purity, his frank discussion of fundamental progressive values, his big ideas unencumbered by any buzz-crunching pragmatism about the mundane realities of governing, and his focus on the pathologies of the political system, particularly the influence of big money. They don’t despise Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid the way so many Republican voters despise McConnell and Boehner. They certainly aren’t going to take Clinton’s endorsements from the likes of Planned Parenthood as a reason to vote against her.

There’s also nothing comparable on the left to what those on the right hear from their favorite media figures. To begin with, liberal media isn’t nearly as central to the progressive movement as conservative media is to the conservative movement, either in influence or audience size. But even if it were, people like Maddow aren’t on the air every day railing against the Democratic establishment the way Limbaugh, Ingraham, and others rail against the Republican establishment.

Sanders is right that the Democratic establishment isn’t going to support him, but the biggest reason for that is that they don’t think he’s going to win the nomination and they don’t think he could win the general election if he were the nominee. Now it may be that this is the last time he brings this up, and he’ll go back to talking about the things that actually draw people to his revolution. But if he thinks it’s because they want to fight the establishment, he may have been spending too much time watching what’s going on in the Republican race.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, January 20, 2016

January 21, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Establishment, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


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