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“Making The Case For Clinton”: Sanders Increasingly Appears Petulant And Shortsighted

Bernie Sanders is facing a critical test of his leadership, and so far he’s failing. When some of his supporters threw chairs at a mid-May convention of the Nevada State Democratic Party and threatened the life of Roberta Lange, the state party chairwoman, Sanders’ response was to paint the Democratic establishment — the leaders of the party with which he has had a marriage of convenience for decades — as corrupt.

He sounded more petulant than apologetic, more angry at his Democratic rival than alarmed at the actions of his supporters. That’s troubling.

There is an axiom, frequently quoted to younger folk who are facing difficulty, that says you are more accurately judged by your response to adversity than your response to advantage. There’s much truth in that — and Sanders, who is no longer young, should know it.

He is losing. He has run a lively, imaginative and uplifting campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination and has attracted millions of supporters. He has influenced Hillary Clinton, the likely nominee, pushing her to the left on some critical issues, including trade.

But, as often is the case in life, that hasn’t been enough. It’s nearly impossible for him to win. He simply cannot get enough votes in the remaining primaries.

His response? He has accused Democrats of “rigging the system” against him and implicitly threatened to withhold his support from Clinton if he doesn’t win. He has made noises about a contested convention and suggested that he doesn’t care whether his tactics aid the presumptive GOP nominee, Donald Trump.

In so doing, he simply makes the case for Clinton, who clearly is better suited, not only by experience but also by temperament, for a demanding job where you don’t always get your way. She has been just where Sanders is now — remember 2008? She didn’t threaten to turn the nominating convention upside down or insist that she’d been cheated.

Clinton ran an energetic contest against a young senator named Barack Obama — a contest that was sometimes rancorous and racially tinged. There were suggestions of a breach that would never be repaired, of a rivalry that was all-consuming, of a Democratic Party that would be riven for decades to come. But Clinton never suggested to her supporters that they stage a revolt.

And after she lost, she and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, campaigned tirelessly for Obama. She later became his loyal and dedicated secretary of state.

(Obama, for his part, exhibited the equanimity for which he has become well known throughout the testy 2008 primary season. Though he started far behind Clinton in support from superdelegates, he persuaded many of them to change their allegiance to him without resorting to hints of blackmail. Can you imagine, by the way, what would have happened had the supporters of a black candidate thrown chairs and issued death threats?)

Sanders’ tactics, by contrast, are not only shortsighted and immature, but they are also dangerous, fueling the cynicism and suspicion that are eating away at the civic fabric. He is leading his voters to believe that he is being cheated out of the nomination, but that is simply not true.

The party rules that hand over outsized power to unelected superdelegates, most of whom are Clinton supporters, are not democratic (small “d”), but those rules have been in place for decades. Sanders never complained about them before.

Of course, Sanders hasn’t been a Democrat before, either. He has spent most of his career as an independent, a self-described socialist. While he usually votes with Democrats in the U.S. Senate, he has often snubbed them publicly, suggesting his colleagues were too wedded to a corrupt system. That is not the sort of history likely to persuade those same colleagues — many of whom are superdelegates — to support him for the nomination.

Sanders should reconsider his strategy. He could stay in the race until June (as Clinton did in 2008) and still gracefully concede and back her candidacy. He would return to the Senate in a position of power and prestige.

But if he continues his current course, his legacy might be to elect Trump as president. Is that terrifying prospect what Sanders wants?

 

By: Cynthia Tucker Haynes, Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2007; The National Memo, May 21, 2016

May 22, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Sanders Supporters | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“His Campaign Has Developed A Closed Feedback Loop”: Does Sanders Continue To Deserve The Benefit Of The Doubt?

From the beginning I questioned the seriousness of Bernie Sanders’ proposals. Long before the disastrous New York Daily News interview, it seemed obvious to me that he was better at pointing out problems than he was at crafting actual solutions.

Then came the debates. Sanders’ explanation for any barrier to progressive change was the corruption of big money – that was true for both Democrats and Republicans. Discussion became almost impossible. Anyone who didn’t agree with him was an establishment sell-out.

As it became increasingly clear that he was going to lose the nomination to Hillary Clinton – despite doing better than anyone thought he would – the excuses began. It was because Southern states with African American voters went early in the process. Then it was because of closed primaries. Initially the campaign railed against the superdelegates. All that was reversed in an attempt to justify Sanders staying in the race based on the idea that he could flip them to support him instead of Clinton. None of that made any sense and his message got lost in complaints about the process.

Through all of that I wanted to give Sanders the benefit of the doubt. I wanted to believe that he was in this race to promote the progressive ideas he has championed his entire career, and that when the results were all in, he would do what Clinton did in 2008…support the nominee and come out of the convention in Philadelphia as a unified party.

Believing that wasn’t a pipe dream. During his time in the House and Senate, Sanders has demonstrated the ability to work within the system to advocate for progressive change. For example, in 2009 he proposed single payer in the Senate, but pulled the bill when it was clear that it didn’t have the votes. He then went on to fight for positive changes to Obamacare (i.e., community health centers) and eventually voted for it.

But the time for giving Sanders the benefit of the doubt might have ended. Paul Waldman explains it well.

If he and his people want to actually exercise some influence, they’ll have to start thinking about mundane things like presidential appointments, executive branch regulations, and the details of complex legislation. Victories in those forums will be partial and sporadic. From our vantage point today, is there anything to suggest that’s an enterprise he and his people will be willing to devote their efforts to? What happens if Clinton offers Sanders something — changes to the party’s platform, or input on her nominees? Will his supporters say, “This may not have been all we wanted, but it’s still meaningful”? No, they won’t. They’ll see it as a compromise with the corrupt system they’ve been fighting, a sellout, thirty pieces of silver that Sanders ought to toss back in her face. That’s because Sanders has told them over and over that the system is irredeemable, and nothing short of its complete dismantling is worthwhile…

To be honest, at the moment it looks like there’s no going back. Sanders could come out tomorrow and tell his supporters that even if they don’t get their revolution, it’s still worth working for every bit of positive change they can achieve. But that would mean disavowing everything he’s told them up until now.

In other words, the Sanders campaign has developed a closed feedback loop. No matter the outcome, it reinforces the premise. It is hard to see how that changes.

My one remaining hope was that perhaps the candidate himself could break out and convince at least some of his supporters to take a more constructive path. Martin is right, they’re not all Bernie Bros. That hope was beginning to die when Josh Marshall pulled the final plug.

For months I’d thought and written that Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver was the key driver of toxicity in the the Democratic primary race…

But now I realize I had that wrong.

Actually, I didn’t realize it. People who know told me.

Over the last several weeks I’ve had a series of conversations with multiple highly knowledgable, highly placed people. Perhaps it’s coming from Weaver too. The two guys have been together for decades. But the ‘burn it down’ attitude, the upping the ante, everything we saw in that statement released today by the campaign seems to be coming from Sanders himself. Right from the top.

We are reaching the end game here. The question for me isn’t so much about what Clinton will do – she is putting her energy into winning the remaining states and has already begun to pivot to the general election. What remains to be seen is what happens to the progressive movement in the Democratic Party. If Sanders insists on “burning things down,” will it survive?

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 19, 2016

May 20, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton, Sanders Supporters | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Change Requires More Than Righteous Anger”: How Sanders Can Avoid Becoming The Ted Cruz Of The Left

As it becomes increasingly clear that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic presidential nominee, a lot of people are beginning to talk about what Bernie Sanders should do now. The more interesting question is: what happens to the “movement” he has inspired once this election is over. That is what Brian Beutler attempted to address. Here is a summary of his advice:

Sanders must keep the apparatus he’s built largely intact, but refocused on lobbying for progressive policies and promoting and financing progressive candidates—and making establishment Democrats fear the price of opposing both.

That sounds like good advice to me, with one caveat: don’t become the Ted Cruz of the left.

After the election in November, Bernie Sanders will go back to being the Senator from Vermont. Unless he wants to give up that seat – he will be working from inside the system. As Beutler goes on to point out, if Democrats win control of the Senate, Sanders will be in line to be chair of the Budget Committee. Using that position to advance his progressive agenda means playing the “establishment” game. Unless he wants to become a full-time activist working from outside the system (which would be a viable option), here are some things he could do:

  1. Develop a plan for universal health care coverage that is more than simply throwing numbers at a page that don’t add up. In other words, develop a plan that would actually work.
  2. Submit the Rebuild America Act to address this country’s infrastructure needs and create jobs.
  3. Work with Senate colleague Sherrod Brown to develop a serious proposal to break up the big banks.

I could go on with other things Sanders has advocated for in this primary, but perhaps you get my drift. As a candidate, Sanders has been good at naming and describing problems. Where he has been weak is in developing serious plans to address them. Energizing his movement to maintain the pressure for more progressive policies means providing the country with actual progressive policies. Sanders could then mobilize the army of his young supporters to take up the cause and fight for them. As President Obama said at Howard University:

You have to go through life with more than just passion for change; you need a strategy. I’ll repeat that. I want you to have passion, but you have to have a strategy. Not just awareness, but action. Not just hashtags, but votes.

You see, change requires more than righteous anger. It requires a program, and it requires organizing.

The alternative is to become the Ted Cruz of the left – always disrupting but never offering anything constructive that could actually change things.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 10, 2016

May 11, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Nominee, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Agent Of (Message) Change”: Hillary Clinton Went After Bernie Sanders’ Strengths In New Hampshire

Would it be impolitic (this being a Democratic debate and all) to say that Hillary Clinton came out with guns blazing? She may be on course to a Granite State thrashing, but she showed up at the University of New Hampshire loaded for Bern.

She tempered a broad hug of Sanders’ liberalism (“We have a vigorous agreement here,” she said at one point when discussing financial reform) with the assertion that she is better positioned to advance that agenda.

Beyond that, go through the issues that have animated the Democratic race recently or are central to the Sanders case: Is he running a more inspiring campaign? Only because it’s a more fantastical one: “Let’s go down a path where we can actually tell people what we will do,” she said. “A progressive is someone who makes progress.” (That’s better phraseology, by the way, than the “progressive with results” formulation she had been using, which sounded like a rip-off of George W. Bush’s “reformer with results” message from 2000.)

And is she indeed a real progressive? She had a whole soliloquy prepared in answer: “I have heard Senator Sanders’ comments, and it’s really caused me to wonder who is left in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party,” Clinton said. “Under his definition, President Obama is not progressive because he took donations from Wall Street.” Ditto Joe Biden (Keystone XL) and the late Sen. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota (Defense of Marriage Act). Then a pivot to Sanders’ progressive weak underbelly: “I don’t think it was particularly progressive to vote against the Brady [gun control] bill five times.”

Bonus points to moderator Chuck Todd for pressing Sanders on whether President Barack Obama is a progressive; the Vermonter’s answer seemed to be that Obama is progressive despite failing some litmus tests because he’s actually made progress. (Which is rather like the argument that Clinton is making.)

Is she in the establishment? Hell no – she’s a woman running for president which by definition means she’s not establishment. This answer was glib if, as Ezra Klein noted, nonsensical:

If Clinton is not part of the establishment than there is no such thing as the establishment. And there is such a thing as the establishment

— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) February 5, 2016

Is she part of the corporate-money-corruption problem that is central to Sanders’ political message? That’s a “very artful smear,” an “insinuation unworthy” of the Vermont progressive, she fumed.

Did she vote for the Iraq War while he voted against it? “We did differ,” she said. “A vote in 2002 is not a plan to defeat [the Islamic State group].”

Indeed foreign policy was easily Sanders’ weakest portion of the evening. A question about Afghanistan sent him on a verbal tour through Syria, Iraq, Jordan and the battle with the Islamic State group, prompting Todd to follow up: “Can you address a question on Afghanistan?”

Saying we need allies is not foreign policy. Example: We can’t get Sunni allies w/o taking on Iran. What does Sanders suggest?

— Walter Russell Mead (@wrmead) February 5, 2016

I hated the Iraq War as much as anyone, but “I made the right call on a vote 13 years ago” is really not a foreign policy vision for now.

— Paul Waldman (@paulwaldman1) February 5, 2016

If there’s one takeaway from this debate it is that Sanders is woefully unprepared, on foreign policy, to be president

— Michael Cohen (@speechboy71) February 5, 2016

For his part Sanders was standard-operating-Bernie. It’s a compelling message but it’s limited and he did little to address the arguments against it. Take the entirety of his agenda: How will he get something passed? “No, you just can’t negotiate with [Senate Republican Leader] Mitch McConnell,” Sanders said. “Mitch is gonna have to look out the window and see a whole lot of people saying, ‘Mitch, stop representing the billionaire class. Start listening to working families.'” The revolution will come and Mitch McConnell will cave.

Sanders believes a sufficiently large crowd outside McConnell’s window would make him support campaign finance reform. I do not.

— Jonathan Chait (@jonathanchait) February 5, 2016

Chait’s right; Sanders is basing his would-be presidency on the kind of tea party thinking that informed Ted Cruz and the shutdown crew. And it won’t work any better for the left than it did the right.

 

By: Robert Schlesinger, Managing Editor for Opinion, U.S. News & World Report, February 5, 2016

February 8, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Foreign Policy, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

   

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