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“Time To Think Less About Revolution Than Evolution”: It’s All Over But The Shouting; Hillary Clinton Crushed Bernie Sanders

Another handful of Clinton wins in big states, and the margins grow. I’m writing before the full pledged delegate count from tonight is known, but she led by 244 coming into tonight not counting super delegates and that may grow by another 30 to 40. (Here’s a great delegate calculator; bookmark it.)

As for the popular vote, she led it by a lot coming into Tuesday night: 10.4 million to 7.7 million, a nearly 2.7 million-vote difference, or 57 to 43 percent, numbers that we call a landslide in a general election. She may have added a couple hundred thousand to that margin tonight. Depending on what happens in California and New Jersey, this could end up being close to 60-40.

So forgive me for being a little confused about why these margins give Bernie Sanders such “leverage” in what we presume to be his looming negotiations with Hillary Clinton over the future of the party of which he’s not a member. It is “incumbent” upon Clinton, he told Chris Hayes Monday on MSNBC, “to tell millions of people who right now do not believe in establishment politics or establishment economics, who have serious misgivings about a candidate who has received millions of dollars from Wall Street and other special interests.”

Is there precedent for the losing candidate demanding that the winning candidate prove her bona fides to his voters? I sure can’t think of any. The most recent precedent we have for this kind of thing is 2008, a contest that of course involved Hillary Clinton. Let’s have a look at how that one wound down.

Clinton did indeed run until the end, winning states all along the way. On the last day of voting, June 3, they drew—she took South Dakota, and he won Montana. At that point, depending on what you did or didn’t count (Michigan and Florida were weird races that year after they broke the DNC calendar to move their primary dates up, and the party punished them by taking away delegates), she was actually ahead of Obama on popular votes. But even excluding Michigan, where Obama wasn’t on the ballot, it was a hell of a lot closer than 57-43. It was 51-49.

Did Clinton carry on about her campaign of the people? Did she say it was incumbent upon Obama to prove his worth to her voters? Did she put her forefinger on her cheek for weeks and make Obama twist in the wind? No, of course not.

Four days after the voting ended, she got out of the race, gave the famous 18-million-cracks-in-the-glass-ceiling speech, and said: “The way to continue our fight now, to accomplish the goals for which we stand is to take our energy, our passion, our strength, and do all we can to help elect Barack Obama, the next president of the United States. Today, as I suspend my campaign, I congratulate him on the victory he has won and the extraordinary race he has run. I endorse him and throw my full support behind him. And I ask all of you to join me in working as hard for Barack Obama as you have for me. I have served in the Senate with him for four years. I have been in this campaign with him for 16 months. I have stood on the stage and gone toe-to-toe with him in 22 debates. I’ve had a front-row seat to his candidacy, and I have seen his strength and determination, his grace and his grit. In his own life, Barack Obama has lived the American dream…” and so on. She laid it on thick, and gave a strong and gracious convention speech later.

Now granted, it’s not June. There’s plenty of time for this to wind down civilly. It was a good sign that Tad Devine ++told The New York Times Tuesday afternoon++  that Sanders would “reassess” things Wednesday morning. Of course, that was Devine talking—the only one of Sanders’s top crew who is actually a Democrat and who has to mend fences to eat lunch in this town. At the same time that Devine was speaking these conciliatory words, the Sanders camp sent out a cheeky, we’re-not-done-yet fund-raising solicitation featuring a photo of Bill and Hill at the Donald’s wedding.

So the signals from Sanders-world are mixed. One thing’s for sure: There is no expectation that Sanders will behave like Clinton did in 2008. It’s worth examining why.

On the one hand, it’s understandable. He’s not a Democrat, so party loyalty isn’t a thing here. And the main thing is that the ideological differences between Sanders and Clinton are greater than between Clinton and Obama, or John Edwards and John Kerry, or Bill Bradley and Al Gore. The people voting for Bernie are voting to reject Hillary’s politics in a more fundamental way than the people voting for Bradley were rejecting Gore.

On the other hand… the media’s expectations of these people hinges so greatly on the personality types they establish, and that the media just accept them. No one expects Sanders to be a team player because he’s a guy (emphasis on guy) who has always agitated outside the system. Whereas everyone expects Clinton to behave properly because she’s a woman (emphasis on woman) who has always been the type to do what’s expected of her.

If this were two men, the onus would clearly be on the one who’s behind to play ball and do the responsible thing. But I can’t help suspecting that the media are going to put the weight on her in these next few weeks: Will Hillary accept Bernie’s conditions?

She shouldn’t accept conditions. But she absolutely should take steps to mollify his voters. She’s going to have to. However, she should do it like someone who’s ahead 57-43 should do it. She should say: Sure, I’ll adopt a couple of your positions. But I have a couple of conditions of my own. If I hear the words “Goldman” and “Sachs” coming out of your mouth one more time, if I see any more fund-raising appeals that paint me as the harlot of Wall Street, the deal is dead, and I’ll call Chuck Schumer and make sure that you don’t chair the Budget Committee if we retake the Senate, but instead you have the post-office renaming subcommittee. And I may drop some of that oppo I have on you that I’ve never used. You know the stuff I mean.

Sanders should run to the end. He owes it to his backers in California and New Jersey to give them a chance to vote for him. I don’t know anyone who says otherwise. But it’s now time for him to think about his future, and the future of the influence his movement will have in the Democratic Party.

I want that movement to have influence. There are a lot of people like me, who think Clinton is the stronger candidate, but want Sanders to have some influence over her. And to us, it looks like it’s time for him to think less about revolution than evolution.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, April 27, 2016

April 28, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Larger Democratic Fight”: Bernie Sanders Finds ‘The Right Candidates’

It’s no secret that Bernie Sanders’ fundraising juggernaut has amazed much of the political world, exceeding Hillary Clinton’s financial support over each of the last few months. The Clinton campaign has been quick to note, however, that the Democratic frontrunner has spent the year raising millions of dollars, not just for her candidacy, but also for the Democratic Party and more than 30 state Democratic parties, in the hopes of building a broader foundation for the 2016 elections.

The Vermont independent, meanwhile, has collected stunning sums for his own campaign operation, but so far in 2016, Sanders hasn’t raised any money for the Democratic Party, any of the state Democratic parties, or even any specific Democratic candidates. When Rachel asked in a recent interview whether that might eventually change, the senator replied, “We’ll see.”

But Jane Sanders said something interesting on the show last week. Asked whether her husband might be willing to help other campaigns financially, she said Sanders would definitely lend a hand – for “the right candidates.”

Yesterday, we got a better sense of what that means. Politico reported:

Bernie Sanders is raising money for a trio of progressive House candidates who have endorsed him, a move that comes just weeks after he faced friendly fire for not committing to fundraise for down-ballot Democrats. […]

The trio of candidates – New York’s Zephyr Teachout, Nevada’s Lucy Flores, and Washington state’s Pramila Jayapal – is running in primaries that pit them against more establishment-aligned foes.

In a fundraising solicitation that went to donors yesterday, Sanders wrote, “I’ve told you throughout this campaign that no candidate for president, not Bernie Sanders, not the greatest president you could possibly imagine, can take on the billionaire class alone.  When I am elected president, I am going to need progressives in Congress who are willing to continue the fight we started in this campaign.”

The pitch makes the case for Teachout, Jayapal, and Flores, and the letter included a link to a fundraising page in which donors were offered a choice: make a contribution that would be divided evenly four ways (the three congressional candidates and Sanders), or specify a personalized allocation for the contribution.

And in some ways, this new endeavor is itself emblematic of the larger Democratic fight.

Zephyr Teachout is running in New York’s 19th congressional district, which is currently held by a retiring Republican. Democratic officials are generally optimistic about Will Yandik, a local city councilman, but Sanders is now raising money for his more liberal primary rival.

Lucy Flores is running in Nevada’s 4th congressional district, which is also currently held by a Republican. Many Democratic officials have rallied behind state Sen. Ruben Kihuen, but Sanders is now raising money for his more liberal primary rival.

Pramila Jayapal is running in Washington’s 7th congressional district, where a Democratic incumbent in retiring. Many local Democratic leaders are backing Joe McDermott, a King County council member, but Sanders is now raising money for his more liberal primary rival.

It’s as if there’s a pattern emerging.

The big news here, of course, is the shift itself: Sanders was raising money exclusively for himself, and now he’s not. This, to a degree, brings him more in line with Clinton’s approach of supporting other Democrats seeking other offices.

But even here, there’s a stark difference between the two. Team Clinton is supporting the national and state parties generally, while Team Sanders is supporting more specific allies. It’s a matter of perspective which approach is more compelling.

That said, I’d be interested in hearing more from Sanders about his long-term intentions in this area. After all, the president – any president – is practically by definition also the head of his or her party. What kind of role would Sanders envision for himself with regard to the DNC and related campaign committees? Would Democratic candidates who only agreed with parts of Sanders’ agenda still be able to count on support from a Sanders White House? As the convention draws closer, they’re the kind of questions superdelegates seem likely to ask.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 14, 2016

April 15, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Down Ballot Candidates, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“How And Why Campaigns Behave As They Do”: An Explanation Of What Bernie Sanders Staffers Actually Did And Why It Matters

After a spat lasting just over 24 hours, it appears that the top news story of the day is already resolving itself: the DNC has come to an agreement to return voter database access to the Bernie Sanders campaign after top staffers were caught snooping into the Clinton campaign’s records.

The brouhaha over this little fiasco has been intense, and made worse by the fact that only a few thousand people in the United States understand anything about the voter tools involved. Few journalists–to say nothing of armchair activists–have enough campaign and field management experience to truly understand what happened. That ignorance has led to wild accusations and silly reporting from all sides, whether from conspiratorially-minded Sanders supporters or schadenfreude-filled Republicans.

The first thing to understand is that NGPVAN is a creaky voter database system that looks, and feels like it was put together in the 1990s. It has been the mainstay of Democratic campaigns all across the country and has intense loyalty among national campaign professionals–though it should be noted that the California Democratic Party uses one of its more robust and more expensive competitors PDI (PDI, hilariously, sent an email this morning to its users with the subject line “At PDI Data Security Is Our Top Priority.”) I myself have extensive experience running campaigns on both platforms, both as a campaign consultant and as a county Democratic Party official in California.

The DNC contracts with NGPVAN, meaning that firewalls between competitive primary campaigns within NGPVAN are incredibly important. But they also have been known to fail. When that happens, campaign professionals are expected to behave in a moral and legal manner. But they would also be stupid not to, since every action taken by an NGPVAN user is tracked and recorded on the server side.

The other important piece of information to note is the difference between a “saved search” and a “saved list.” NGPVAN’s voter tracking has the option of being dynamic or static, meaning that you can run dynamic searches of voters whose characteristics may change as NGPVAN’s data is updated, or you can pull static lists of voters who currently fit the profile you are seeking. Most voter data pulls within an NGPVAN campaign will be dynamic searches–and in fact, that is the default setting. You really only want to pull a static list if you’re doing something specific like creating a list for a targeted mail piece–or if you want a quick snapshot in time of a raw voter list.

However, merely pulling a search or a list doesn’t mean you can automatically download all the information on those voters. You can see topline numbers. You can take a few screenshots–though it would take hundreds of screenshots and the data would be nearly useless in that format. To download the actual data, you would need to run an export–a step that requires extra levels of permissions only allowed to the highest level operatives. Despite the breach that allowed them to run lists and searches, Sanders staffers apparently did not have export access.

However, the access logs do show that Sanders staff pulled not one but multiple lists–not searches, but lists–a fact that shows intent to export and use. And the lists were highly sensitive material. News reports have indicated that the data was “sent to personal folders” of the campaign staffers–but those refer to personal folders within NGPVAN, which are near useless without the ability to export the data locally.

Even without being able to export, however, merely seeing the topline numbers of, say, how many voters the Clinton campaign had managed to bank as “strong yes” votes would be a valuable piece of oppo. While it’s not the dramatic problem that a data export would have been, it’s undeniable that the Sanders campaign gleaned valuable information from the toplines alone. It’s also quite clear that most of the statements the Sanders campaign made as the story progressed–from the claim that the staffers only did it to prove the security breach, or that only one staffer had access–were simply not true. It’s just not clear at this point whether the campaign’s comms people knew the truth and lied, or whether they were not being told the whole truth by the people on the data team who were still making up stories and excuses to cover their tracks. I suspect the latter.

In this context, it made sense for Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the DNC to suspend the Sanders campaign’s access to the data until it could determine the extent of the damage, and the degree to which the Clinton campaign’s private data had been compromised. As it turns out the ethical breach by Sanders operatives was massive, but the actual data discovery was limited. So it made sense and was fairly obvious that the DNC would quickly end up giving the campaign back its NGPVAN access–particularly since failing to do so would be a death sentence for the campaign and a gigantic black eye to the party.

This doesn’t mean that Wasserman-Schultz hasn’t, in David Axelrod’s words, been putting her thumb on the scale on behalf of the Clinton campaign. She clearly has been, judging from the intentionally obfuscated debate schedule and from her demeanor and reaction to this recent controversy. The Democratic Party would have been wiser to bring the campaigns together privately and resolve the matter internally. Instead, Wasserman-Schultz chose to take it public to attempt to embarrass the Sanders campaign, and merely managed to embarrass herself and the Party’s data security vulnerabilities in the process.

Still, the Sanders camp’s reactions have been laughable. It was their team that unethically breached Clinton’s data. It was their comms people who spoke falsely about what happened. The Sanders campaign wasn’t honeypotted into doing it–their people did it of their own accord. NGPVAN isn’t set up to benefit Clinton at Sanders’ expense–and if the violation by the campaigns had been reversed, Sanders supporters would have been claiming a conspiracy from sunrise to sundown. What’s very clear is that the Clinton camp did nothing wrong in any of this. Sanders campaign operatives did, and then Wasserman-Schultz compounded it by overreacting. And in the end, the right thing ended up happening: the lead staffer in question was fired, and the campaign got its data access back.

It’s also another reminder that armchair activists speculating about news stories would do well to actually get involved in campaign field activities. If you want to be involved in politics, there’s no substitute for actually doing the work to gain a real understanding of how and why campaigns and politicians behave as they do. There would be a lot fewer overwrought conspiracy theories, at the very least.


By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, December 19, 2015

December 20, 2015 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democratic Primary Debates, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Religious Symbolism”: Republicans’ Holy War On The DNC Platform

Republican and conservative complaints about the Democratic platform have crystallized in the last two days. The two main themes are pure questions of religious symbolism. If this election is about the economy, as Republicans constantly assert that it is, then their attacks on the DNC are way off topic.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Emergency Committee for Israel blasted out an article from the Free Beacon, a conservative website, complaining about the Democratic platform. ECI called it, “another shift by the Obama administration away from Israel and toward the Palestinians.” It is not entirely fair to call the language in the DNC platform an act of the Obama administration. The Republican Party platform, for example, calls for banning abortion in all cases, with no exceptions. Mitt Romney, however, is running a platform that would ban abortion except in cases of rape and incest and where the life of the pregnant woman is endangered. But, it’s fair to say there is some association between the party’s platform and its presidential nominee, and that the nominee has some influence over the text of the platform.

So, what is the objectionable portion of the platform? It does not mention Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, nor does it specify that the descendants of Palestinian refugees should be settled in a Palestinian state, not Israel proper, and it also does not condemn Hamas. The 2008 DNC platform did all of these things. Romney issued a statement complaining just about the Jerusalem question. The Romney campaign also sent out statements from its two token Jewish surrogates, Representative Eric Cantor (R-VA) and former Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN), attacking Obama on all three fronts.

When asked by The Nation for a response, a Democratic National Committee spokesperson wrote in an e-mail:

The Obama Administration has followed the same policy towards Jerusalem that previous U.S. Administrations of both parties have done since 1967. As the White House said several months ago, the status of Jerusalem is an issue that should be resolved in final status negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians—which we also said in the 2008 platform. We will continue to work with the parties to resolve this issue as part of a two state solution that secures the future of Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland of the Jewish people.

Meanwhile, the theocratic partisan propagandists at Fox News are decrying the absence of the word “God” from the DNC platform. As Media Matters notes, Fox downplayed the significance of the GOP’s platform, in order to minimize the public’s revulsion at extremist planks such as the one on abortion. But when it came to this non-issue, they couldn’t get enough of it.

Neither of these lines of attack is likely to resonate with swing voters. Rather, they are meant to rev up the evangelical right-wing base, which obsessively pushes religion into the public square and wants to expand Israel’s boundaries to fulfill a supposed biblical prophecy.

The Republican National Convention had two themes—that the GOP would tackle the biggest issues facing the country, and that it would try to expand beyond its base. These petty attacks do neither.

Update: On Wednesday night the DNCreportedly at President Obama’s behestamended its platform to reinstate the language from its 2008 platform regarding Jerusalem. 


By: Ben Adler, The Nation, September 5, 2012

September 6, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Wave Of Unlimited Contributions”: GOP Right Wing Raises Mega-Cash For Hypocritical Attack Ads

Sixty million dollars sure sounds like a lot of money. That’s how much the Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee raised in the month of May. Michele Bachmann figures it’s such a huge number that she can scare conservatives into giving her Congressional re-election campaign money by citing it. “Our victories this week have the Democrats on the run, but $60 million dollars in one month will help them fight back hard and I’m concerned they are preparing to dump their piles of cash on me and other Constitutional conservative candidates,” reads her latest fundraising e-mail.

There’s only one problem, for Bachmann and the Democrats alike. Republicans out-raised them by a comfortable margin. The Romney campaign and Republican National Committee together brought in $76.8 million in May.

Democrats are gamely trying to spin this by arguing that it is cyclical: Obama and the DNC were way ahead of Romney and the RNC because the Republicans had not settled on a candidate. Now that they have, a flood of donations will come in on their side, but in the end it will even out.

That’s true, but Obama has to vastly out-raise Romney if he is to compete on the airwaves this fall. That’s because the wave of unlimited contributions from corporations and eccentric billionaires unleashed by the Supreme Court is going much more to the right than the left. Last week Politico reported that right-wing groups are planning to spend $1 billion on the election. “Just the spending linked to the Koch network is more than the $370 million that John McCain raised for his entire presidential campaign four years ago,” noted Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen. “And the $1 billion total surpasses the $750 million that Barack Obama, one of the most successful fundraisers ever, collected for his 2008 campaign.”

What is that money going to? Some of it, including much of the $400 million being spent by the Koch-related groups, will go to grassroots field operations. But most will go to advertisements.

And what will the advertisements consist of? Intellectually dishonest attacks on Obama’s record. Consider this hit job from Crossroads GPS, one of the two groups run by Karl Rove that together will raise and spend $300 million on the campaign. The commercial, which is being distributed with a $7 million ad buy, features a ticking debt clock and a narrator complaining that Obama is “adding $4 billion in debt each day” and “borrowing from China to pay for his spending.”

Coming from Karl Rove, this is more than a little hypocritical and misleading. Rove, of course, was the political mastermind of the Bush administration. The national debt nearly doubled under Bush–who inherited surpluses and left office running a massive deficit—from $5.7 trillion to $10.6 trillion. That’s because he passed tax cuts and increased spending. Bush’s first Treasury secretary, Paul O’Neill, blamed the political operation in the White House—in other words, Rove—for being irresponsible and ideological rather than serious about governance.

While it is technically true that the debt has continued to rise under Obama, this is hardly his fault. According to the Congressional Budget Office, roughly half of current deficits are due to the tax cuts Bush signed and the two wars Bush started. Meanwhile, Obama inherited a recession caused in part by Bush’s reckless mismanagement. During recessions governments run deficits because tax revenues decline even if rates stay the same, and automatic spending on programs such as food stamps and Medicaid increases as more people become eligible. Moreover, anyone with a basic understanding of macroeconomics knows that tax cuts and stimulative spending are often required during a recession to boost demand and help generate economic growth. In light of all this, Rove is more responsible for the current deficit than Obama is. But Rove blames Obama for it anyway.

Crossroads GPS actually proposes to make the deficits worse. As Jonathan Salant points out at Bloomberg News: “For all the talk about the debt, Rove’s group wants to continue all of the Bush tax cuts, as well as eliminate the estate tax on multimillionaires. Crossroads GPS doesn’t offer any specific spending cuts to pay for these policies.”

Republicans hope to convince the public to blame Obama for the debt they created, and to vote for more of the same policies that created it. And with an enormous spending advantage, they may be able to.


By: Ben Adler, The Nation, June 7, 2012

June 9, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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