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“An Unexpectedly Accommodating Affair”: Yes, Bernie Sanders Really Is Winding Down His ‘Revolution’

Was that Bernie’s way of saying “uncle”? I’d imagine that most people who watched his video address tonight to his supporters didn’t think so, because he did not officially concede or endorse Hillary Clinton. But I say it was an unexpectedly accommodating affair nonetheless.

I thought he was going to lay out specific demands for the Democratic Party going forward these next few weeks and insist the demands be met or else. He did some of that. But emotionally, his emphasis was on other things. Metaphorically, he pointed his gun not at the Democratic Party’s head, but at its orotund midsection.

Consider the speech’s structure. It came in four parts. Part one, how amazing are the things I/we have accomplished. Part two, how important it is to defeat Donald Trump. Part three, how the Democratic Party needs to change more in his image. Part four, how the people’s revolution must continue beyond this year and manifest itself in Bern-feelers running for office and staying involved in politics far beyond this campaign.

That is to say, only one part out of four was directly confrontational to the Democratic power structure, and even that part picked its spots quite carefully. He ticked off 15 matters on which he suggested the Democrats ought to follow him. But on 10 of them, Hillary Clinton already agrees (and indeed on a few of them, like guns and equal pay for women, she’s done more than he has and is more committed than he—I’d even add health-care-as-a-right to that list, since as first lady she helped lead the charge for health care for poor children, the S-CHIP program, which is free for poor children).

There were five that left room for platform committee fights: the $15 minimum wage (she backs that in more expensive cities but says it could be lower in less expensive areas); a fracking ban, which she does not support and which a president has no power to impose anyway; a “modern-day Glass-Steagall” to break up the banks; free college tuition; and health care as a right for all, which she would say she backs but not in the sense that he means it (everything free for everyone, financed by taxes).

He then did take on what he euphemistically called the “Democratic Party leadership.” He never mentioned chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz by name, and never directly called for the removal of an unnamed chair. Instead he demanded that the Democratic Party pursue a “50-state strategy.” That probably comes from the people in the red states he won like Oklahoma and Idaho and so on, and it’s totally unobjectionable and even the right thing for the Democratic Party to do, as it was when Howard Dean proposed it as chair back in the mid-2000s (there’s an irony there all right, as there’s no love lost between these two Vermonters, and Dean is a Clinton endorser from the early days). But the important point is that it isn’t a confrontational demand, something that puts immediate pressure on the DNC. It’s a Beach Boys demand: wouldn’t it be nice.

Also basically unmentioned: any reform of the primary process. Sanders and Jeff Weaver—and maybe the media, to be fair—had led us to believe that reform of the voting process was going to be demand number one. But it wasn’t to be heard in Thursday night’s speech. I can’t imagine this was an oversight. It had to be a conscious decision to toss this demand overboard.

Then the last part of the speech, and the part that drew the most attention from Bernie people on Twitter, was the “the revolution must go on” part. This was the section that gave his people the signal that this was bigger than Bernie, and I give him credit for emphasizing it, because to me this was a campaign that had some cult-of-personality aspects to it from the start. But this was Sanders clearly signaling: “I know I’m 74, and I hope what I’ve started here survives me.”

So that’s how his people saw it. How actual Democrats saw it—and I don’t mean the banking lobbyist, I mean the state committeewoman from Illinois who is a public-interest lawyer in Evanston—I’m not sure. Less favorably, I’m sure. She no doubt hung on the key two sentences: “The major political task that we face in the next five months is to make certain that Donald Trump is defeated and defeated badly. And I personally intend to begin my role in that process in a very short period of time.” Those sentences, along with the election reform matter he left out, signaled a de facto endorsement of Clinton, whether his people want to admit that or not.

But I’m pretty sure my Evanston lawyer also heard the grandiosity that Sanders, a candidate who certainly did much better than expected but in the end lost by quite a large margin, assigned to himself. To her and to thousands like her—precisely the people forgotten in the Clinton-Sanders debate all these months, because they are representative of the “little people” who are for Clinton, which seems to most of the media oxymoronic, but they are real, and they number in the many millions—Bernie is now old news. And he’s just going to get older every week.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, June 16, 2016

June 18, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Much Bigger Deal Than Usual”: Bernie Sanders Gives The Middle Finger To The DNC

Mixed messages over the past few days from camp Sanders on how hard he’s going to fight on the Democratic platform. Friday night, Rachel Maddow broke the news that the Sanders campaign wanted Clinton backers Dannel Malloy and Barney Frank removed from their positions as co-chairs of, respectively, the Platform and Rules committees; Maddow suggested Sanders was threatening to tie the convention in knots if they weren’t removed.

[UPDATE: Greg Sargent writes in to point out that Tad Devine said this to him about Frank and Malloy back on May 18, and so they did. Happy to correct the record.]

The Democratic National Committee said no dice to this on Saturday, and Sanders softened his tone a bit. Meet the Press’s Chuck Todd tried to lure Sanders into talking some platform smack, but he didn’t engage.

The old cliché about platforms is that no one reads them and no one cares. The new cliché, which I just invented, is: It’s still true that no one reads them, but that need not prevent millions of people from getting irate about what is and isn’t in them after they’ve been instructed on Twitter to get irate. So we have every reason to think that this platform fight is going to be a much bigger deal than usual. How hard Sanders and his appointments to the platform committee push—and on what exact points—will say a lot about how unified the Democrats are going to be.

Before we look at that, though, let’s just spend a paragraph noting how extraordinary it is that Sanders has appointments on the platform committee at all. Throughout history, party chairs have appointed these people. Whatever you think of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, her decision to let Sanders name five of the committee’s 15 members went way beyond what was necessary.

And then Sanders responded in his usual graceless way. Four of his appointees are fine to very good, but Cornel West is just a bulging middle finger to the president and the party. He despises the Democratic Party. What possible interest could he have in shaping its platform, except to enrage the kinds of Democrats—like, oh, the future nominee, for example—for whom he has such open contempt?

All right. I’ve read different accounts in which Sanders is going to demand about 20 different things, all of them uttered by him or leaked out by his campaign over the past month. One big one was going to be a demand that there be no vote in this Congress on the Trans Pacific Partnership. That’s exactly the kind of Sanders bluster that drives me nuts, since as he well knows Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan decide on that, and they don’t care what Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton think. And in any case, Clinton has already agreed to this piece of utterly meaningless theater. So we can check that one off the list.

Last week the media focused on Israel as a big point of contention. There is potential here for messiness, as Clinton has been a big Israel hawk ever since representing New York in the Senate. But I’ve been in contact with a couple of sources who think this is being overplayed. Even Sanders said on MTP:  “I have the feeling that while the media wants to make this into a great conflict, I think there’s going to be broad consensus within the Democratic convention on that issue.” It may well come down to just adding language accepting that the Palestinian people have to be seen as human beings. As those of you who monitor my columns for evidence of thought crimes might remember, this is the one issue for which I have nothing but praise for Sanders.

No, the major issues are probably going to be the ones at the heart of Sanders’s campaign: the big banks; the free stuff; the corrupt-system complaints. And here, Clinton should say no on the first two but cede ground on the third.

Breaking up the big banks isn’t her position. The guy who’s going to end up with about 300 fewer pledged delegates and more than 3 million fewer votes doesn’t get to say “you beat me, but you must adopt my position.” It’s preposterous and arrogant, which of course means he will do it. And she’ll probably have no choice but to arrive at some kind of semantic accommodation of him. But will he rail on about how her refusal to adopt his position shows that she’s corrupt and give us another two months of “release the Goldman-Sachs transcripts”?

As for free college, that’s just bad policy, and it would be nice if Clinton would say so, although alas she probably won’t be in a position to. Why is it bad policy? As Harvard’s Theda Skocpol explained at The Huffington Post, universal free tuition would “waste resources on upper-middle-income families that can afford to pay or borrow to cover at least some college costs.” Clinton’s plan for debt-free college is actually more progressive in that it targets those who really need help most, while still offering massive relief to those in the upper-middle brackets. I hope against hope that if the time comes she will just stand up and say this.

Finally, on corruption questions, she should just largely agree. She already does, on overturning Citizens United (another vastly overrated thing that will help, although not nearly as much as its proponents think or as Sanders has led his followers to believe, although of course I’m for it). Since most of these matters are for the courts to decide anyway, the only actual commitment she need make here is to nominate progressive judges, which she’s obviously going to do anyway.

We’ll have to see how Bernie plays it. If he wins California he’ll be feeling his oats. If he loses it narrowly we can probably expect another week of “the system is rigged” and resultant prickliness to follow. If she defeats him by more than four or five points, even he might finally accept reality.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, May 31, 2016

May 31, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Everyday Is A Whining Road”: The Moral Difference Between An Imperfect Democrat And A Dangerous Republican

Is the Hillary Clinton campaign prepared for the possibility that Bernie Sanders may never actually concede?

Even if Clinton wins big in the New Jersey Democratic primary on June 7 and thus reaches 2,383 delegates* (regardless of the outcome in the California primary that night), it’s difficult to see him throwing in the towel prior to the Democratic convention in Philadelphia, where he has already signaled that he will petition superdelegates to hand the nomination over to him, on the grounds that he is (in theory, anyway) a stronger general-election candidate than Clinton. The dream of unity between Clinton and Sanders after the conclusion of the primaries is unlikely to ever come true: the visceral hatred that Sanders so obviously feels for Clinton is simply not going to dissipate.

As the old joke goes, even Stevie Wonder can see that Sanders is going to have an epic meltdown at the convention if superdelegates reject his request for the nomination. The behavior of Sanders, his campaign staff, and some of his supporters is profoundly disappointing to those who wanted Sanders to play a constructive and healthy role in defining the post-Obama Democratic Party. During the 2008 Democratic primary, Clinton may have said a few undiplomatic words about Obama in the final days of her campaign, but it never seemed as though Clinton personally loathed the future president. Things are much different this time around.

I was disturbed watching Sanders’s interview on CNN’s State of the Union last weekend; Sanders seemed to be filled with a dark rage, an intense bitterness, a scornful tone. Sanders came across as a man who believes he is morally entitled to the Democratic nomination, who looks down upon those who think Clinton would be the party’s best representative, whose soul is now filled with palpable jealousy and contempt for Clinton.

Like Kevin Drum, I have to ask: what happened to Sanders? Why didn’t he remain positive? Why didn’t he and his campaign understand that putting Clinton down wouldn’t raise him up?

Clinton and the Democratic Party should be quite concerned about the prospect of a disastrous convention, disrupted by Sanders supporters upset over their hero not getting what they believe he was entitled to. (Just because chairs weren’t thrown the last time around doesn’t mean they won’t be thrown the next time.) If Sanders speaks at the convention and begins to make disparaging and disrespectful remarks about Clinton, current Democratic National Committee head Debbie Wasserman Schultz, or the allegedly villainous members of the Democratic “establishment,” will convention organizers feel compelled to cut his microphone?

It’s sad to see Sanders fall into the same intellectual abyss that the progressive radio host Sam Seder fell into three years ago, during the special election to fill the seat left vacant by the passing of New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg–the intellectual abyss that prevents one from recognizing the moral difference between a imperfect Democrat and a dangerous Republican. Who would have thought that when Sanders announced his presidential bid last year, he would become the biggest cautionary tale in American politics?

 

By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 28, 2016

May 30, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Pragmatism Don’t Know Bernie”: Locked In A Battle With The Party He Ostensibly Seeks To Lead

“You can’t always get what you want.” — The Rolling Stones

A few words in defense of pragmatism.

That ideal has taken quite a beating lately, mostly at the hands of Bernie Sanders and his supporters. The Vermont senator faces a virtually impossible deficit in his battle with Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination. Pragmatism would seem to suggest it’s time for him to pack it in.

But pragmatism don’t know Bernie. Or Bernie Nation.If this weren’t clear before, it has been made abundantly so in the last two weeks, beginning with Sanders supporters in Las Vegas tearing open the Nevada Democratic convention in a protest so angrily chaotic it was shut down by security, fearing violence. But Sanders supporters weren’t done yet; they also sent death threats to party officials.

The proximate cause of this Trumpish behavior was a dispute over rules, a claim that, as Sanders’ campaign manager put it, the convention had been “hijacked” to award more delegates to Hillary Clinton. Politico rated that false.

Not that this has made much difference to Sanders, now locked in a battle with the party he ostensibly seeks to lead. His denunciation of the convention chaos was as tepid and belated as Donald Trump at his worst. He has blasted the party for being, as he sees it, in the pocket of the rich, and specifically denounced Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. In a Monday interview, Sanders told the Associated Press that this summer’s convention could be “messy,” though he later insisted that was not a tacit suggestion of violence.

Given the intensity of the emotions at play and the behavior of his supporters in Vegas, it’s hard to see how it could have been anything but. Which is disappointing. A few days ago, Sanders’ campaign seemed headed for an honorable legacy. But he has apparently decided instead upon a legacy of peevishness and sore losing, which is, as Frank Bruni noted a few weeks back in The New York Times, a hallmark of this political epoch.

Look: There is something to be said, under certain circumstances, for fighting to the last breath. Under certain circumstances, it is noble to stand one’s ground, come what may. Under certain circumstances, it might even be heroic to soldier on past the point of defeat.

These are not those circumstances. Trump awaits. And every second the left spends arguing with itself is a gift to the presumptive Republican nominee.

Let’s not get it twisted. For all that some people now seek to normalize him and his campaign, for all that they fool themselves into thinking he wouldn’t be so bad, for all that a party once appalled to find him its leader now coalesces behind him, Trump is still what he’s always been: a tire fire in an expensive suit.

Yes, Clinton is, putting it mildly, a flawed candidate, stiff at the lectern, shameless in her pandering and disliked for reasons both substantive (she sometimes seems to have only a nodding relationship with truth) and not. (Since when is it a sin — or a surprise — for a politician to be ambitious?) But she’s also intelligent and experienced. And compared to Trump, she’s a plate of Lincoln with a side of FDR.

As such, she might make a good president, might be a middling president, might even be a bad president, but at a minimum, she would be a president unlikely to hand out nuclear weapons like party favors or require customs agents to ask would-be visitors, “Are you now or have you ever been a Muslim?”

Clinton is, in other words, a good, pragmatic choice. And no, that’s not an inspiring battle cry.

But a reality show buffoon unburdened by knowledge, decency or dignity is closing in on the White House. We should probably take a little inspiration from that.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, May 25, 2016

May 25, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Time For Grown-Up Talk”: Sanders Needs To Talk Down His Supporters And Explain That Nothing Is Being ‘Stolen’

Bernie Sanders gained a split decision in Tuesday’s presidential primaries, losing to Hillary Clinton by an eyelash in Kentucky and beating her by a more comfortable but reasonably close margin in Oregon. The net results won’t significantly reduce Clinton’s lead in pledged delegates, leaving Sanders with a nearly impossible task of winning the June 7 primaries by huge margins to overtake her. But again, it remains unclear whether Sanders will pack it in if he loses pledged delegates. Indeed, in a speech Tuesday night in California, Sanders simultaneously discussed the tough odds against winning a majority of pledged delegates and promised to “take the fight to Philadelphia,” apparently no matter what.

This ambiguous situation needs to be understood in the context of what happened this weekend in Nevada, where an ugly and fractious scene emerged at a state convention where four delegates to the Democratic National Convention were being selected. Veteran Nevada political reporter Jon Ralston watched it all and came away convinced the Sanders campaign had deliberately fed supporters spurious grievances over the rules in order to rationalize what was actually a fair-and-square Clinton victory in organizing for the event, which after all, simply confirmed Clinton’s earlier win in the February caucuses.

By the time hotel security shut down the event late Saturday evening, the Sanders delegates had hurled ugly epithets at Clinton surrogate Barbara Boxer and used a sign to block her from being shown on big screens; they had screamed vulgarities at state chairwoman Roberta Lange, who later received death threats after Sanders sympathizers posted her cellphone number and home address online; and they threw chairs at the stage as they rushed forward to try to take control of a convention they had lost, just as Sanders was defeated at the February 20 caucus by Clinton in a decisive result.

Ralston suspects this atmosphere of paranoia and self-pity could easily carry over to the national convention, assuming Clinton arrives there as the presumptive nominee via a narrow lead in pledged delegates. I’d say that’s a reasonable suspicion if Bernie Sanders and his campaign operatives continue to insinuate that the nomination is being stolen from him. The Nevada Democratic Party agreed in a letter to the DNC after Saturday’s near-riot:

We believe, unfortunately, that the tactics and behavior on display here in Nevada are harbingers of things to come as Democrats gather in Philadelphia in July for our National Convention. We write to alert you to what we perceive as the Sanders Campaign’s penchant for extra-parliamentary behavior — indeed, actual violence — in place of democratic conduct in a convention setting, and furthermore what we can only describe as their encouragement of, and complicity in, a very dangerous atmosphere that ended in chaos and physical threats to fellow Democrats.

And it’s not just mainstream media folk and Establishment Democrats who feel this way. Esquire‘s Charles Pierce, a Sanders supporter, was upset enough about Nevada to urge Sanders to “pack up and go home”:

[T]he Sanders people should know better than to conclude what has been a brilliant and important campaign by turning it into an extended temper tantrum.

I voted for Bernie Sanders … But if anybody thinks that, somehow, he is having the nomination “stolen” from him, they are idiots.

Nevada aside, consider the three arguments heard most often from the Sanders campaign against the unfair conditions it has endured.

The first is that DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz conspired to limit opportunities for candidate debates. That’s probably true. But there’s no particular evidence these events disproportionately benefited Sanders, who had no trouble getting to the starting gate with high name ID and plenty of support (viz the “virtual tie” in Iowa and his big win in New Hampshire). And she was forced to add some debates. Don’t know about you, but I feel like I heard from the candidates enough.

The second is that closed primaries (aggravated in some states by very early deadlines for changing party affiliation) disenfranchised many Sanders supporters. Let’s be clear about this: None of the primary participation rules were set after the Clinton-Sanders competition emerged. States with closed primaries have for the most part always had closed primaries. Until this cycle, moreover, it was typically Democratic progressives, not “centrist” Democrats, who favored closed primaries as a way to elevate the influence of “base” as opposed to “swing” voters. In no way, shape or form were these rules set to thwart Sanders or candidates like him.

And the third is that superdelegates (who at present overwhelmingly support Clinton) have tilted the playing field away from the people-powered Sanders all along. But Bernie’s people have a “clean hands” problem in making this argument, since they are simultaneously appealing to superdelegates to be prepared to deny the nomination to the pledged delegate winner (almost certainly Clinton) based on elites’ superior understanding of electability criteria. Beyond that, this is the ninth presidential cycle in which Democrats have given superdelegates a role in the nominating process. It’s not like it’s a nasty surprise sprung on the poor Sanders campaign at the last minute to seize the nomination for Clinton.

But even if these arguments for a big Bernie grievance are pretty empty, you can appreciate that the close nature of this year’s nominating contest makes it easy to assume something fishy happened, particularly if you begin with the assumption, as some Sanders supporters do, that your opponents are unprincipled corporate shills. It’s like Florida 2000: In a race this close, you can blame the outcome on anything that makes you mad, from Joe Lieberman’s support for counting overseas military ballots to Ralph Nader’s presence on the ballot to dozens of single events like the Brooks Brothers Riot.

Unfortunately, in a statement Sanders issued after the torrent of criticism over his supporters’ behavior in Nevada, the candidate was defiant, perfunctorily disclaiming violence and identifying closed primaries with dependence on corrupt big money cash. Prominent progressive blogger Josh Marshall read it and commented on Twitter:

For weeks I’ve thought and written that Sanders Camp Manager Jeff Weaver was the driver of toxicity in this race. But what I’ve heard in a series of conversations over recent weeks w/highly knowledgable people forced me to conclude that I had that wrong. It may be him too. But the burn it down attitude, the upping the ante, everything we saw in the statement released today by the campaign seems to be coming from Sanders himself. Right from the top.

One thing is largely indisputable: Bernie Sanders himself could help clear the air by informing his supporters that while there are many things about the Democratic nomination process that ought to be changed, no one has “stolen” the nomination from him or from them. Perhaps a thousand small things gave Hillary Clinton an “unfair” advantage in this contest, but they were mostly baked into the cake, not contrived to throw cold water on the Bern. And the best step Sanders’ supporters could take to promote their long-term interests in the Democratic Party would be to get a grip before they wind up helping Donald Trump win the presidency. And Bernie Sanders himself has a responsibility to talk his devoted followers off the ledge.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, May 18, 2016

May 21, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Sanders Supporters | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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