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“The Last Berniebro?”: Sanders Runs The Risk Of Waiting Too Long, To The Point Where It No Longer Matters

“I’ve got this thing,” said the politician on a secretly recorded phone call, “and it’s f-ing golden. And I’m just not giving it up for f-ing nothing.”

That politician, as you probably remember, was Rod Blagojevich, then the the governor of Illinois, and the thing in question was the appointment to temporarily fill the Senate seat of Barack Obama, who was headed to the White House. But Blagojevich’s colorful sentiment could apply equally well to the way Bernie Sanders seems to think about his endorsement in this year’s presidential race. It’s golden, a precious jewel he has secured in a safe whose lock can only be sprung by one who has shown herself to be pure of heart, or at least one who has paid sufficient attention to Sanders and performed the proper rituals of supplication. Then and only then will the endorsement be presented, perhaps on a velvet pillow of deepest blue, with gold piping around the edges, all nestled in a handcrafted mahogany box. He’s not giving it up for nothing.

But what Sanders may not realize is that by the time he’s finally ready to hand over that endorsement, very few people are likely to care. He surely calculated that he would lose something if he endorsed Hillary Clinton too quickly, without getting something in return. But now he runs the risk of waiting too long, to the point where it no longer matters.

Appearing Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union, Sanders waved away the idea that he was ready to endorse Clinton. And as for his supporters, “What we are doing is trying to say to the Clinton campaign, stand up, be bolder than you have been. And then many of those voters in fact may come on board.”

It’s unsurprising that there are holdouts among Sanders’s supporters, even as Donald Trump’s unique brand of horrifying buffoonery makes the stakes of the election clearer with each passing day. For a year now, they’ve been told not that their candidate is the best of a collection of reasonable options, but that they’re part of a revolution against a deeply corrupt establishment, embodied in the person of Hillary Clinton. To now ask them to make a pragmatic choice in favor of Clinton almost seems like a betrayal of everything they signed up for, no matter how ghastly the alternative to a Clinton victory is.

Yet that’s exactly the choice they’re making—and with little help from Sanders himself. In a new Washington Post poll, the number of Sanders supporters saying they’ll vote for Trump in the general election is at 8 percent, down from 20 percent just a month ago. “What’s more, the 81 percent of Sanders backers who are now behind Clinton is a higher number than in any poll of 2008 Clinton backers who rallied to Obama,” the Post writes.

This poll could be an anomaly; maybe it’s understating the degree to which Sanders supporters are going to withhold their support from Clinton. But on the other hand, maybe Sanders supporters as a group aren’t quite the doctrinaire revolutionaries we thought they were. Could it be that the passionate intensity (and, sometimes, outright douchebaggery) of a small number of Berniebros who make so much noise in social media convinced us that they were representative of Sanders supporters when they actually weren’t? Might it be that your typical Sanders supporter is a liberal Democrat who was attracted to Sanders’ ideas, but is also perfectly willing to vote for Clinton even if she wasn’t their first choice?

And might it be that it doesn’t really matter to them whether and when Bernie Sanders says the words “I endorse Hillary Clinton”?

One of the things Sanders had been holding out for was the writing of the Democratic Party platform, which he hoped would represent his views. The platform committee has finished working on the draft of the platform, and it looks to be the most progressive one the party has ever written, including calling for a repeal of the Hyde Amendment forbidding federal funds from going to abortions, a $15 an hour minimum wage, an expansion of Social Security, and the elimination of the death penalty. But because Sanders didn’t get absolutely every last thing he wanted (it’s almost as if somebody else won the party’s primaries!), he now cites the platform as another reason he can’t yet give Clinton his endorsement.

Not that too many people will actually read it (or that Clinton, if she becomes president, will be bound by it one way or the other), but I’m pretty sure that if most Sanders voters looked at the platform, they’d say, “Gee, that all sounds pretty good.” Nevertheless, there will be that vocal few who say it’s yet more evidence that anyone who supports Clinton is a Wall Street stooge. Liberal hero Elizabeth Warren got that reaction from an angry few when she endorsed Clinton, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Sanders himself, whenever he finally does make his endorsement, will hear that he has sold out his own revolution.

But how many Sanders supporters are there who won’t decide to vote for Clinton until Bernie says it’s OK to do so? The number gets smaller every day. And if he waits long enough, he could find that almost none of them are still waiting with him.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, June 27, 2016

June 30, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Bros, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Self Declared Spokesman For Blacks”: Why Did Bernie Sanders Put An Obama-Hater On The Democratic Platform Committee?

The liberal case against Hillary Clinton rests in large part upon her associations — people she surrounds herself with and whose judgment she relies upon. She has caught an enormous amount of flak, some of it fair, for her ties to figures in the finance industry or advisers with morally questionable worldviews. By the same token, what should we make of Bernie Sanders’s decision to appoint Cornel West as one of his advisers to the Democratic Party’s platform committee?

West, of course, has socialist views largely in line with Sanders’s own. But West also has a particular critique of the sitting Democratic president that goes well beyond Sanders’s expressions of disappointment. West’s position is not merely that Obama has not gone far enough, but that he has made life worse for African-Americans:

On the empirical or lived level of Black experience, Black people have suffered more in this age than in the recent past. Empirical indices of infant mortality rates, mass incarceration rates, mass unemployment and dramatic declines in household wealth reveal this sad reality. How do we account for this irony? It goes far beyond the individual figure of President Obama himself, though he is complicit; he is a symptom, not a primary cause. Although he is a symbol for some of either a postracial condition or incredible Black progress, his presidency conceals the escalating levels of social misery in poor and Black America.

This is actually not empirical. African-American infant mortality has declined, not increased, during Obama’s presidency:

The African-American unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest level since 2008. The African-American uninsured rate has fallen by more than half, and the administration has undertaken a wide range of liberalizing reforms to the criminal-justice system. The notion that Obama has made life worse for African-Americans rests entirely on affixing the blame for the 2008 economic collapse on him, without giving him any credit for the wide-ranging measures to alleviate it, or the recovery that has ensued. This is, in other words, the Republican Party’s method of measuring Obama’s record, and it’s the sort of grossly unfair cherry-picking that no good faith critic would use.

West does not merely lament the alleged worsening of conditions for African-Americans that he claims Obama has caused. He has a theory for it:

“I think my dear brother Barack Obama has a certain fear of free black men,” West says. “It’s understandable. As a young brother who grows up in a white context, brilliant African father, he’s always had to fear being a white man with black skin. All he has known culturally is white. He is just as human as I am, but that is his cultural formation. When he meets an independent black brother, it is frightening. And that’s true for a white brother. When you get a white brother who meets a free, independent black man, they got to be mature to really embrace fully what the brother is saying to them. It’s a tension, given the history. It can be overcome. Obama, coming out of Kansas influence, white, loving grandparents, coming out of Hawaii and Indonesia, when he meets these independent black folk who have a history of slavery, Jim Crow, Jane Crow and so on, he is very apprehensive. He has a certain rootlessness, a deracination. It is understandable.

“He feels most comfortable with upper middle-class white and Jewish men who consider themselves very smart, very savvy and very effective in getting what they want.”

West’s theory is essentially the mirror image of the notion, peddled by Dinesh D’Souza and Newt Gingrich, that Obama absorbed a racial ideology from one of his parents. For Obama’s unhinged right-wing critics, that parent is his father. For West, it is his mother. The racial biases he inherited allegedly define his worldview and turn him into a tool of racial bias — for black people, in the right-wing version, and against them, in West’s. Then you have West’s dismay at Obama’s excessive comfort with wealthy Jews, which he portrays as the result more than the cause of Obama’s lack of interest in helping African-Americans.

The Sanders revolution means that, rather than a full-throated celebration of Obama’s record akin to the treatment Ronald Reagan received at the 1988 Republican convention, the party’s message will include the perspective of one of the president’s avowed haters. Of course, Sanders himself has not said these things, and perhaps he is rewarding West for his campaign service. But if you are celebrating the changes Sanders is bringing about to the Democratic Party, you are celebrating the replacement of one cohort of advisers and activists with another. Sanders’s revolution means giving West’s views more legitimacy and influence in Democratic politics.

 

By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, May 24, 2016

May 30, 2016 Posted by | African Americans, Bernie Sanders, Financial Crisis | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Keeping The Jackasses Out Of Power”: Trump’s Unique Ability To Help Clinton Unite Democrats

One of the most common questions in Democratic politics is obvious, though it’s not easy to answer: Once the primaries are over, how will Hillary Clinton unify progressive voters ahead of the general election? Much of the discussion involves speculation about Bernie Sanders’ strategy, the party’s convention, the party’s platform, Clinton’s eventual running mate, etc.

But there’s a piece to this puzzle that sometimes goes overlooked: Clinton will try to bring Democrats and progressive independents together, but it’s Donald Trump who’ll seal the deal.

Last October, Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi covered the House Republicans’ Benghazi Committee and its 11-hour grilling of Clinton, and he wrote a very memorable piece soon after. Taibbi, a Clinton detractor, conceded at the time that he started to feel more sympathetic towards the Democrat, not out of pity, but in response to the GOP’s outrageous antics.

Those idiots represent everything that is wrong not just with the Republican Party, but with modern politics in general. It’s hard to imagine a political compromise that wouldn’t be justified if its true aim would be to keep people like those jackasses out of power.

In context, none of this had anything to do with Bernie Sanders or the Democratic primary, but Taibbi’s point – there’s value in compromise if it means keeping “those jackasses out of power” – lingered in my mind because I suspect many of Sanders’ die-hard supporters will be making a similar calculation in the coming months.

And Donald Trump, whether he realizes it or not, is going to help.

This is sometimes forgotten, but for much of Bill Clinton’s presidency, he was popular with Democrats, but not that popular. The former president developed a reputation, which was well deserved, for adopting a “triangulation” posture and taking advice from the likes of Dick Morris. Among congressional Democrats at the time, they supported Clinton, but often through gritted teeth.

How did Bill Clinton eventually bring Democrats together, uniting them behind his presidency? He didn’t; Tom DeLay did. The more intense the congressional Republicans’ anti-Clinton crusade became – culminating, of course, in impeachment – the more congressional Democrats rallied around their ally in the White House. It wasn’t overly complicated: Dems may have been annoyed by the president triangulating, but they were far more disgusted with Republican extremism.

Nearly two decades later, consider how Donald Trump is shifting his focus to the 2016 general election: Trump is attacking Hillary Clinton over her gender; he’s blaming her for ’90s-era sex scandals; and in a line of attack that no sane person should consider normal, he’s suggesting that she might have had something to do with Vince Foster’s death. You’ve heard the cliche, campaigns are always about the future? The presumptive Republican nominee, who has no real policy agenda or specific goals of his own, has decided this campaign is entirely about the past.

There may be Republican voters who find all of this compelling, but let’s not discount the fact that these are the kind of attacks that also motivate Democratic and progressive voters in the opposite direction.

The number of liberal Sanders supporters watching the news this week, eager to hear more from Trump about Vince Foster conspiracy theories, is probably infinitesimally small. But the number of progressive voters watching all of this unfold, thinking about keeping “people like those jackasses out of power,” is probably quite high.

The question of how Clinton and Sanders will reconcile, keeping left-of-center voters together, obviously matters. But the question of how many of these same voters will gravitate to Clinton instinctively out of contempt for the Republican nominee may end up mattering just as much.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 25, 2016

May 26, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“From The Ground Up”: For Sanders Backers, A Focus On Downballot Primaries Is The Right Idea

Progressive pundits across the spectrum have been blasting out a resounding message in the last week: it’s time for Sanders to stop attacking Clinton and the Democratic Party directly. That doesn’t mean Sanders should drop out, or refrain from making his withering and accurate critiques of unrestrained capitalism, Wall Street, and big-donor fueled politics on both sides of the aisle. Sanders can and should continue to push back against the neoliberals and incrementalists in the party and demand that Democrats offer a more visionary and bolder approach, and he should maintain his focus on corralling and curtailing the financial sector–not just the shadow banking industry but more importantly the big banks.

But in truth, the sort of political revolution the Sanders campaign ostensibly has been pushing for rarely originates in the form of a top-down presidential run or Oval Office win. It bubbles up from the bottom.

That’s why, in the wake of Howard Dean’s unfortunate 2004 loss at the hands of establishment Democrats who turned all their fire on him, he recommended that his activists run for central committees and local offices all across America to reinvigorate and renew the Democratic Party in a progressive mold, from the ground up. A large number of those inspired by the Dean campaign did just that, and used their influence in local primaries to push more progressives into statehouses and ultimately into Congress as well. Howard Dean himself made great strides in implementing the 50-state strategy as head of the DNC, ensuring that a progressive message would be heard and that organizers would be hired all across the country.

The Sanders campaign is well equipped to do likewise. For now, most of the attention is on whether Sanders will be able to influence the Democratic Party platform at convention. But that’s frankly tiny potatoes compared to making a difference downballot.

Whether you agree with Sanders and his voters or not, tactically speaking going after downballot primaries is the right approach for a populist base voter insurgency. When movement conservatives wanted to take over the Republican Party from the Eisenhower crowd, they started at the local level and moved their way up. When the Tea Party wanted to overtake the establishment, they began with primaries that ultimately engulfed and ousted even Eric Cantor. That energy has been a boon to conservative politics and pushed the country rightward. It also set the stage for Donald Trump’s run, which has torched a moribund Republican establishment that still looks to the failed decades-old policies of Ronald Reagan in an increasingly globalized and automated world that abuses and discards workers even in developed economies. Trump may be bad for the GOP brand with minorities and women, but his embrace of domestic jobs over corporate profits will ultimately be a necessary course correction and boon for the party.

Regarding Sanders, his backers are unlikely to snatch any primary victories in the short term–and the victories would need to happen for the right reasons to maintain long-term credibility. The big story at the moment surrounds Sanders voters attempting to primary DNC chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz on account of her handling of the DNC and perceived bias against the Sanders campaign. However, while she has undoubtedly tipped the scales in Clinton’s favor, Sanders supporters would be better served reinforcing their populist, anti-Wall Street credentials by focusing on Wasserman-Schultz’ defense of payday lenders, instead.

The 2018 midterms will provide a great test of whether the brand of progressive populism championed by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren can actually have the lasting staying power of movement conservatism. The so-called political revolution will need to win primaries in open seats, and even potentially supplant some of the most conservative and/or finance-industry-backed Democrats. That would do far more good for the movement’s stated goals at this point, than continued attacks on Clinton and the Democratic Party itself.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 21, 2016

May 24, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Down Ballot Candidates, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Party Affiliation Ought To Account For Something”: Instead Of Banning Closed Primaries, Just Make It Easier To Change Parties

One of the more difficult demands the Bernie Sanders campaign is regularly making is a future ban on closed Democratic primaries in which independent (and Republican) voters are excluded from participating. It’s unclear how such a ban would work (since state governments, not the national party, usually make these determinations), and the idea is also offensive to many Democrats who think party affiliation ought to account for something in party-nomination contests.

Fortunately, there is a reform available that makes participation in Democratic primaries by independents much easier without abandoning party affiliation requirements: eliminating re-registration deadlines so that independents can become Democrats at the primary or caucus site just before they vote. That’s already the case in some states (notably Iowa). This would deal with the handful of extreme cases (most famously New York, with its re-registration deadline that is 193 days before the primary) where deadlines have often passed by the time voters even form the intention to vote.

Easy re-registration, moreover, could help with problems faced by independents, even in open-primary states. In California, for example, independents will be allowed to vote in the June 7 Democratic primary. But as the Los Angeles Times revealed in April after a study of the situation, hundreds of thousands of Californians who consider themselves independents accidentally registered as members of the American Independent Party, the ancient right-wing vehicle invented by George Wallace for his 1968 presidential run. It’s managed to maintain ballot status largely because of such mistakes.

An update by the Times indicates that the AIP suffered a net loss of about 21,000 voters in the two weeks after its initial report — which got a lot of publicity in California — was published.  That leaves 473,000 registered AIP members, with an estimated two-thirds or so having no intention of belonging to any party, much less the wacky Wallace party. Sure, some more AIP members have re-registered since early May, but the deadline for doing so is Monday. That is frustrating for a Bernie Sanders campaign that is desperately relying on independents to play a big role in the kind of overwhelming upset win they need to come within shouting distance of Hillary Clinton in pledged delegates. Instead, Lord knows how many tens of thousands of self-identified Democratic-leaning independents will get their mail ballots or show up at the polls to discover their choices include not Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton but a group of anonymous right-wing schmoes.

Hillary Clinton would be smart to propose same-day re-registration as a counter to the Sanders call for universal open primaries. It’s a way to keep the door open to independents — including those who make mistakes in their original registration — without diminishing the value of calling oneself a Democrat. Most of these indies will probably stick around, just as Bernie Sanders has pledged to do.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, May 20, 2016

May 24, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Closed Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , | 3 Comments

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