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“The Elephant In The Room”: Southern States Do Not Distort The Primary

At the end of last night’s Democratic debate, Dana Bash asked Sanders whether he will take the contest to the convention in Philadelphia if neither candidate clinches the nomination via pledged delegates. Sanders responded by saying that he plans to win the nomination outright. But then he injected something that both he and his campaign staff have said frequently.

Look, let me acknowledge what is absolutely true. Secretary Clinton cleaned our clock in the Deep South. No question about it. We got murdered there. That is the most conservative part of this great country. That’s the fact.

For the last several weeks, this is a contention the Sanders campaign has made in various forms. Most recently, the candidate told Larry Wilmore that having the Southern states vote early in the primary “distorts reality.” If we combine that statement with what he said last night, the argument becomes: having Southern states vote early in the primary distorts reality because it is the most conservative part of the country. Of course, if that were true, it would hurt Sanders as the candidate who consistently lays claim to being the more progressive of the two.

I would propose that the Mountain West (where Sanders has notched up big wins lately) could challenge the claim that the Deep South is the most conservative part of the country. An analysis by The Hill on the five most conservative states turns up a mix of these two regions, giving us: Alabama, Alaska, Idaho, Kansas and Mississippi. Were the primaries in Alaska, and Idaho distorted by their conservatism? The other question this assertion raises is: do more conservative Republicans in a state mean that Democratic primaries there are “distorted?”

Ultimately, the elephant in the room about this claim is that the difference between conservative Mountain and Southern states is that the Democratic electorate in the latter is made up largely of people of color – with whom Sanders performs poorly. Do people of color distort reality because they are more conservative?

It is very possible that the answer to that question is “yes.” The truth is…we don’t have a lot of data on that. But I would suggest that anyone who asserts that argument is assuming that a political continuum from conservative to liberal is, by default, based on how white people would construct it. For example, I would imagine that liberals in the Mountain West states would prioritize things like repealing Citizens United and challenging Wall Street, whereas African Americans in the South would prioritize voting rights, ending systemic racism and programs to lift people out of poverty. How progressive one is would be measured by their record and platform on those issues.

The whole dismissal of the South by some Democrats is also very short-sighted. Not only are Hispanics becoming a key voting bloc in many of those states, it ignores the fact that the great migration of African Americans out of that area during the Jim Crow days is now being reversed.

The quiet return of African-American retirees and young professionals has the potential to reshape the South again over the next few decades, much as the exodus to northern cities reshaped it in the 20th century.

Years ago I was taught a lesson in the different ways that white and black liberals view the South. After having been raised primarily in Texas, I decided to settle in Minnesota. That decision was influenced by a desire to escape the racism that was so blatant in the South. I was shocked and confused when my African American friends up here talked about longing to return to the South. They patiently explained two things to me. First of all, the South is “home.” It’s where their people are. And they long to return to that sense of community. Secondly, many of them actually prefer to deal with the outright racism of the South rather than the subtle form they experience from so-called friends and allies in the North.

The fact that Bernie Sanders insinuates that Democratic voters in the South are more conservative and distort the primary process indicates that he hasn’t spent much time hearing from or thinking about the perspective of African Americans in that part of the country. That is probably true for a lot of Northern liberals. But if he’s looking for an answer to the question about why he is not winning their support, this is part of the reason.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 15, 2016

April 16, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Deep South, Democratic Primary Debates, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A President Can’t Go Ordering Folks Around”: Clinton Is Running For President. Sanders Is Doing Something Else

It is amazing how little the Democratic race has really changed over the last several months. Hillary Clinton is the odds-on favorite to win the nomination. Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) is leading a revolt from the left. Sanders speaks to white ideological liberals and young Democrats. Clinton speaks to practically everyone else in the party — and, as “Saturday Night Live” pointed out, provides a refuge for moderates terrified of the other options this election year. Nothing in Sunday night’s debate changed any of this, which nets out to a loss for Sanders.

Down in the polls in advance of Tuesday’s major contest in Michigan, Sanders needs the race to take a dramatic turn before Clinton wins another populous state. Yet rather than attempting to advance onto new ground in Sunday’s debate, Sanders simply entrenched himself on his same narrow patch of ideological turf. Either he knows he probably will not win the nomination and he figures he should just keep making his point while everyone is still watching, or he believes that his problem is that not enough people have heard him say the same things over and over again.

In fact, much of the debate revolved around the same basic argument between practicality and ideology that emerged the first time the two faced off on the debate stage, when Clinton declared, “I’m a progressive, but I’m a progressive who likes to get things done.”

Early in the debate, Clinton criticized Sanders for voting against the 2009 auto industry bailout. Sanders said that the auto bailout was folded into a larger bill that also bailed out the financial industry. He argued that “the billionaires” should have bailed out themselves, by which he means that Congress should have accepted his politically ludicrous plan to raise taxes in the middle of a recession. Clinton responded that Sanders chose purity over the public good. “You have to make hard choices when you’re in a position of responsibility,” she said. “If everybody had voted the way he did, I believe the auto industry would have collapsed.” Not only the auto industry. If Congress refused to respond practically to a moment of profound national crisis, it would have made the economic panic much, much worse and ruined many more ordinary people.

Later in Sunday’s debate, Clinton proposed doubling the amount of money the country invests in transportation infrastructure — which, despite bipartisan support for fixing up the nation’s roads and rails, would be a big legislative lift. “I’m trying to do this in a way that will gain support and be affordable,” she said. Moderator Don Lemon then asked Sanders to explain why his plan, which is twice as large as Clinton’s, is not “yet another example of a costly plan that will never get through Congress,” given that President Obama struggled to get a much smaller infrastructure proposal through. Sanders merely restated the case for much more spending and said he would target corporate tax dodgers to pay for it, ignoring the question of whether either proposal would be politically plausible.

Finally, the two candidates talked about fracking, an issue on which there is an obvious, sensible middle ground that Sanders predictably scorned. Clinton listed off a series of requirements she would impose on domestic fracking operations, such as limiting methane emissions and insisting on standards that would prevent water contamination. This is not so different from the Obama administration’s wholly reasonable position, which is to allow the industry to employ people and sell product while minimizing the environmental risks. Sanders simply said that he wants to ban fracking, and he dismissed the Democratic governors who want to see well-regulated fracking proceed in their states.

At least the detour onto fracking forced the candidates to speak about an issue that has not gotten much attention this campaign, even if the candidates’ positions simply reconfirmed their general approaches to policy. Mostly, Sanders steered the conversation back to his core concerns — Wall Street, campaign finance, a massive public jobs program and single-payer health care — and made his usual pitch. Clinton, meanwhile, ran for president. “A president can’t go ordering folks around,” she said at one point. “Our system doesn’t permit that.” It’s nice to know at least one candidate on either side is keeping that in mind.

 

By: Stephen Stromberg, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 7, 2016

March 8, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Primary Debates, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Sanders Makes The Case For A Single-Issue Candidacy”: A Specific Message, Which He’s Eager To Connect To Any Issue

About a month ago, during the sixth debate for the Democratic presidential candidates, PBS’s Judy Woodruff asked Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders about U.S. race relations in the Obama era. Clinton responded by emphasizing some areas of improvement, while also describing “the dark side of the remaining systemic racism that we have to root out in our society.” Her efforts as president, she said, would focus on criminal justice reforms, education, jobs, and housing.

When the question about racial divisions went to Sanders, the Vermont senator immediately turned to “the disastrous and illegal behavior on Wall Street.” When the moderator asked if race relations would be better under a President Sanders, he responded, “Absolutely.” Why? Because if he’s elected, he’ll change tax policy to stop “giving tax breaks to billionaires.”

The exchange stood out for me because it was such a striking reminder about Sanders’ approach. He has a specific message, which he’s eager to connect to practically any issue. It’s easy to imagine Sanders going to lunch, getting asked what he’d like to order, and hearing him respond, “I’d like a turkey on rye, which reminds me of how the economy is rigged against working families.”

Last night, I believe for the first time, Sanders acknowledged that one of Clinton’s criticisms of his candidacy is probably correct.

“[L]et us be clear, one of the major issues Secretary Clinton says I’m a one-issue person, well, I guess so. My one issue is trying to rebuild a disappearing middle class. That’s my one issue.”

At another point in the debate, Sanders even connected the Flint water crisis to, of all things, Wall Street.

Keep in mind, it wasn’t long after Clinton raised concerns about Sanders being a “single-issue” candidate that he rejected the label out of hand. “I haven’t the vaguest idea what she’s talking about,” he said a couple of weeks ago, adding, “We’re talking about dozens of issues so I’m not quite sure where Secretary Clinton is coming from.”

But the answer in this latest debate was different, though it was probably more of a repackaging than a reversal. Sanders is still “talking about dozens of issues,” but as of last night, he’s effectively making the case that the issues that are most important to him – economic inequality, an unfair tax system, trade, Wall Street accountability, etc. – fall under the umbrella of a broader issue: rebuilding the middle class.

In other words, Sanders is willing to present himself as a single-issue candidate, so long as voters recognize the fact that his single issue is vast in scope.

This isn’t altogether expected. In recent weeks, Clinton’s principal criticism of Sanders is that his areas of interest are far too narrow. As of last night, Sanders has stopped denying the point and started presenting it as a positive.

And who knows, maybe it is. Democrats have been focused on the interests of the middle class for generations, and when Sanders made his “one-issue” declaration, the audience applauded.

But it’s not every day that a candidate announces during a debate that one of the central criticisms of his candidacy is broadly accurate.

During last night’s debate, Clinton let Sanders’ acknowledgement go without comment – she did not repeat the “single-issue candidate” criticism – but it creates an interesting dynamic in their race. Remember, as we discussed a month ago, Clinton wants voters to see Sanders as a well-intentioned protest candidate. The White House is about breadth and complexity, the argument goes, and even if you agree with Sanders, it’s hard to deny his principal focus on the one issue that drives and motivates him.

A president, Clinton wants Democratic voters to believe, doesn’t have the luxury of being “a one-issue person.” A president’s responsibilities are simply too broad to see every issue through narrowly focused lens.

Sanders is willing to gamble that progressive voters will back him anyway. It’s a risk that will likely make or break his candidacy in the coming weeks.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 7, 2016

March 8, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Primary Debates, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Understanding Bernie Bros”: Right-Wing Hillary-Haters Seeking To Foment Discord Among Democrats

Sometimes I think I learned more politically relevant lessons playing ball than anywhere else. If nothing else, sports teach realism: what you can do, what you can’t, how to deal with it. Also, what’s the score, how much time’s left, and what’s the best tactic right now?

It helps to know the rules, and it’s important to keep your head. Bad plays are inevitable, dumb plays less forgivable.

But here’s something else you learn playing ball: not everybody on your team is going to be your friend, just as people wearing different-colored shirts aren’t personal enemies.

Also, spectators can be fickle. Your most passionate fans can quickly turn into your opponent’s ally.

These are all useful concepts during an American primary election.

An athlete in his youth, Bernie Sanders appears to understand overwrought fans. His campaign’s apology to Hillary Clinton supporters harassed online by so-called “Bernie Bros,” angry young men given to coarse attacks upon anybody — especially women — supporting his rival was a class move.

“If you support @berniesanders,” Sanders aide Mike Casca tweeted from Iowa, “please follow the senator’s lead and be respectful when people disagree with you.”

Columnist Joan Walsh has called out the Bernie Bros’ behavior. “When I’ve disclosed that my daughter works for Clinton — in The Nation, on MSNBC, and on social media — we’ve both come in for trolling so vile,” she wrote “it’s made me not merely defensive of her. It’s forced me to recognize how little society respects the passion of the many young women — and men — who are putting their souls into electing the first female president.”

Walsh told BuzzFeed that while she didn’t blame Sanders, “it is disturbing to see such a misogynist strain in the male left. It’s not a new thing, but it’s tough to experience.”

Kathleen Geier, a contributor to The Nation and a Sanders supporter, concedes the Bernie Bros are definitely “doing harm to the cause. I haven’t seen people treat Obama supporters like this, or supporters of other male establishment candidates — just Hillary. So it’s definitely misogyny.”

Well, yes and no. See, I suspect many of these jokers are Internet trolls in the original sense: right-wing Hillary-haters seeking to foment discord among Democrats.

Anybody can pretend to be anything online. Anonymity encourages people to unmask their darkest impulses. Read the comments line to almost anything on the Internet about the Clinton-Sanders campaign.

Did a group of prominent women Senators and diplomats endorse Hillary?

“Their vaginas are making terrible choices!” writes one characteristically vulgar Sanders supporter. The discussion goes straight downhill from there.

Even in the relatively civilized precincts of The Guardian, commenters to a Jill Abramson column sympathetic to Clinton revel in nasty sexual insults:

“Yes, please tell me how Shillary is the nicest corporate oligarchical servant, and how she will lovingly sell out the people who voted for her to her banker masters, with a twinkle in her fellating eye.”

Another online philosopher opines that “she can’t be good for a nation if she wasn’t good enough for her husband.”

A third adds that “Hillary is a terrible campaigner and a much worse human being. She is thoroughly corrupt, dishonest, vile, vindictive, vengeful, condescending, etc.”

As somebody who’s gotten obscene, often threatening emails WRITTEN ALL IN IN CAPS for years, I can’t say I’m shocked. Recently a tough guy in Illinois speculated that being named “Eugene” made me a sissy; Noreen says Hillary’s a COMMIE BITCH. My photo makes her vomit.

All in a day’s work.

Anyway, maybe I’m looking in the wrong places, but I see no comparable venom towards Bernie Sanders. My own strongest reservation is that despite his admirable qualities, I’ve seen few signs of political realism in his campaign.

As baseball people say, there’s no such thing as a six-run home run. How otherwise sensible Democrats have persuaded themselves that a candidate preaching “revolution” and promising big tax increases can win come November in swing states like Ohio, Michigan, and Florida—places that have trended Democratic, but have Republican governors — is hard for me to grasp.

(Unless, of course, the GOP nominates a far-right Froot Loop like Ted Cruz, not a probability I’d want to gamble on.)

The Daily Banter’s Chez Pazienza sums up everything that needs to be said about “Bernie Bros,” make-believe and real: “if you’re a liberal who believes these things about Clinton — if you see her as anything other than a liberal Democrat who’s guilty of nothing more than being a politician with faults and with a plethora of enemies like every other on this planet, including Bernie Sanders — you’ve proven that the protracted smear campaign against this woman has worked. You prove that the GOP won a long time ago.”

Meanwhile, both candidates’ supporters would do well to recall that Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton voted together in the U.S. Senate 93 percent of the time.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, February 10, 2016

February 14, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Bros, Bernie Sanders, Democratic Primary Debates, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Presidential Leadership Gap”: Hillary Campaign Twitter-Trolls Bernie — And Rubio

The Hillary Clinton campaign posted an interesting tweet Thursday, seizing on a Republican attack line against President Obama in order to illustrate her own support for the president.

Let’s dispel with this fiction that @POTUS doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows exactly what he’s doing. https://t.co/DQ4HHj9kXZ

— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) February 11, 2016

This was, of course, the grammatically strange phrase that Marco Rubio delivered — and then repeated several times — at last weekend’s Republican debate in New Hampshire, where his fumbled performance caused his numbers in the state to crash all the way down to fifth place. (The tweet was not signed “-H,” which is used to indicate authorship by the candidate herself. Thus, it was apparently written by the campaign team.)

But the linked article from NBC News is not about Rubio — it’s about Hillary’s rival Bernie Sanders, whom she will face in a debate Thursday night. The headline: “Sanders: Obama Hasn’t Closed ‘Presidential Leadership Gap.’”

The piece concerns an interview that Sanders conducted with MSNBC political correspondent Kasie Hunt. From NBC’s report:

“There’s a huge gap right now between Congress and the American people. What presidential leadership is about closing that gap,” he told MSNBC in an interview Wednesday that will air in full Thursday evening on “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell.”

Asked if he believed President Obama had closed that gap, Sanders said: “No, I don’t. I mean, I think he has made the effort. But I think what we need, when I talk about a political revolution, is bringing millions and millions of people into the political process in a way that does not exist right now.”

The message from Clinton’s campaign is clear: She’s the one who has continuously supported President Obama, and is equipped to successfully carry on his programs in office. That theme will certainly be important for the upcoming Democratic contests in Nevada and South Carolina.

 

By: Eric Kleefeld, The National Memo, February 11, 2016

February 12, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Primary Debates, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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