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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

“The Moment Of Truth”: Why The Sanders Movement Is Just About Dead

This is the moment of truth for Bernie Sanders and his supporters. It’s the moment that determines whether everything they’ve accomplished to this point is translated into real power and real change, or fizzles into nothing, leaving behind only bitterness and resentment. And right now, the latter course is looking much more likely.

What happened in Nevada over the weekend was an expression of some key features of the Sanders campaign, even if it involved only a small number of Sanders supporters taking things to an extreme that most of them would never contemplate. It showed just how hard it’s going to be to convert the campaign into a lasting enterprise that has any influence over American politics. And at the moment, Bernie Sanders himself — the one person with the power to shape where this movement goes from here — hasn’t shown that he understands what’s happening or what he ought to do about it.

To briefly catch up: In February, Hillary Clinton won the Nevada caucuses over Bernie Sanders by a margin of 53-47. But because Nevada is one of the states with absurdly arcane procedures involving multiple conventions leading up to the party gathering that took place last weekend which chose the final allocation of delegates, both campaigns did their best to out-organize each other in an attempt to win a few extra delegates. After some arguing and disputes over credentials, the party finally awarded more delegates to Clinton. Sanders supporters basically went nuts, with a lot of yelling and screaming, some tossing of chairs, and eventually a torrent of harassment and threats aimed at the state party chair.

I’m not going to try to adjudicate what happened in Nevada, beyond saying that it looks like Clinton won the caucus, Sanders tried to work the system to grab some extra delegates, but then Clinton worked the system to grab them back, which doesn’t seem particularly unfair in the end. At the very least it was equally unfair to everyone.

That doesn’t mean that Sanders hasn’t had some legitimate process complaints all along. When he says that the leadership of the DNC aren’t neutral but are basically behind Clinton, he’s right. And I get that Sanders is in an awkward position. Telling his supporters to tone down their criticisms lest they damage the nominee would mean acknowledging that he isn’t going to win, and doing that would demobilize his supporters.

We should also appreciate that the Clinton campaign is all too happy to see this kind of meltdown, because it only makes Sanders and his supporters look like desperate dead-enders who can’t accept reality. And if she does become president, she’d probably be happier if she never faced any organized pressure from the left. But at the moment, Sanders has chosen to spend his time suggesting that the Democratic Party is corrupt, and any outcome other than him being the nominee just proves it. That is a recipe for the destruction of everything he’s accomplished up until now.

This is the problem with framing your campaign and everything you want to do as a “revolution.” You can’t have a partial revolution; either you overthrow the old order or the old order survives. And Sanders is encouraging his supporters to believe that if there’s anything of the old order left, then all is lost.

But the reality is that if the Sanders campaign is to become the Sanders movement — a force that has lasting impact on the presidency of Hillary Clinton and American politics more generally — it will only happen because he and his supporters manage to exercise influence through that system they despise. When he goes to visit Clinton in the Oval Office and tells her, “We still need a revolution!”, what is she going to say? Okay Bernie, thanks for coming, it was nice to see you.

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.

This is the danger inherent in a critique that stands apart from substantive policy issues. The Sanders supporters who are now losing their minds certainly want the policy changes Sanders has advocated, like single-payer health care and free college tuition. But that isn’t what’s motivating them most powerfully right now. If it were, they’d be strategizing on how to maximize the chances of achieving those changes given the reality that Bernie Sanders is not going to be the next president of the United States.

Instead, they’re most emotionally invested in the Sanders campaign as a vehicle of rebellion and revolution, a blow against that big amorphous blob of people, institutions, procedures and norms called “the establishment” or “the system.” Because they are convinced that the system is corrupt and only the Sanders campaign is pure, any loss by Sanders can only be evidence that corruption has triumphed. If more Democrats prefer Hillary Clinton to be their nominee, it can only be because the game was rigged.

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.

There are millions of people who voted for Sanders in the primaries and will happily support Hillary Clinton in the general election — indeed, that describes the vast majority of Sanders supporters. Even most of the core activists who made up his revolutionary vanguard will probably cast the same vote, if for no other reason than to stop Donald Trump. And many of them will take the inspiration they felt and the things they learned working on this campaign and use them in new efforts for change. But the idea of a lasting, effective movement led by Bernie Sanders and built on the ideals and goals of his campaign? That’s just about dead.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, May 18, 2016

May 21, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton, Sanders Supporters | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Californication”: Sanders Taking A Free Ride On Other Peoples’ Character Defamation

Earlier today, I observed that if Bernie Sanders wins this Tuesday’s closed Democratic primary in Kentucky, “Sanders and his supporters will likely take advantage of a win here to promote the idea that there are still plenty of Democrats who aren’t comfortable with Clinton, and that the ‘Democratic establishment’ should agree to all of his demands at the Democratic convention even if he ultimately fails to win the nomination.” Speaking of primaries and the convention, what if Sanders manages to do the seemingly impossible, and actually pulls off an upset victory over Clinton in the June 7 California primary?

It is unlikely that Sanders would be able to defeat Clinton by a significant margin in the Golden State primary (which is open to Democrats and those who have no stated party preference), which means that even if he also wins (by presumably close margins) the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and North Dakota caucuses and the Oregon, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Dakota and District of Columbia primaries, he will still come up short in the pledged delegate count. However, a victory in California, even by a close margin, would provide political momentum to Sanders and his supporters going into Philadelphia, where the self-professed democratic socialist plans to ask superdelegates to, in essence, void the votes of those who supported Clinton and declare him the Democratic nominee. MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki explained Sanders’s apparent thinking Tuesday night:

Sanders would certainly have the right to make his case to those superdelegates–but how strong of a case would that be? As MSNBC’s Chris Hayes suggested on May 11, the argument that Sanders should be declared the nominee because he currently performs better than Clinton in head-to-head polls against Donald Trump is rather questionable (it certainly doesn’t factor in the power of the right-wing noise machine).

I wouldn’t be surprised if Team Sanders tries to convince superdelegates that he would perform better against Trump in the general-election debates than Clinton would: Trump’s presence will guarantee that the debates will be ratings bonanzas, and the argument that the Democratic candidate must thoroughly dismantle the bigoted billionaire in these debates is compelling. However, can anyone seriously argue that Clinton cannot hold her own in debates?

I fear that the case for awarding the Democratic nomination to Sanders rests upon a dynamic that Paul Krugman explained a few weeks ago:

As I see it, the Sanders phenomenon always depended on leaving the personal attacks implicit. Sanders supporters have, to a much greater extent than generally acknowledged, been motivated by the perception that Clinton is dishonest, which comes — whether they know it or not — not from her actual behavior but from decades of right-wing smears; but Sanders himself got to play the issue-oriented purist, in effect taking a free ride on other peoples’ character defamation. There was plenty of nastiness from Sanders supporters, but the candidate himself seemed to stay above the fray.

But it wasn’t enough, largely because of nonwhite voters. Why have these voters been so pro-Clinton? One reason I haven’t seen laid out, but which I suspect is important, is that they are more sensitized than most whites to how the disinformation machine works, to how fake scandals get promoted and become part of what “everyone knows.” Not least, they’ve seen the torrent of lies directed at our first African-American president, and have a sense that not everything you hear should be believed.

What will Sanders say to voters of color who overwhelmingly supported Clinton, and who will obviously feel shafted if Sanders is successful in convincing superdelegates to hand the nomination over to him? I imagine that Sanders will simply quote Warren Beatty’s remarks to aggrieved African-American churchgoers in Bulworth: “So what are you gonna do, vote Republican? Come on! Come on, you’re not gonna vote Republican!”

If Sanders wins the California primary, even by a small margin, he will have earned the right to petition superdelegates for a redress of his grievances. However, something tells me that after he does so, he’ll still have grievances.

 

By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 13, 2016

May 16, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Sanders Supporters | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“How The Media Promote Conflict”: Because That’s What Sells

Have you ever had the experiencing of reading an explosive headline only to click on the story and find that the actual context doesn’t back it up? I sure have. Let me give you an example.

Perhaps you’ve heard that, at a news conference, Bernie Sanders said that Democrats would have a “contested convention.” Jonathan Easley and Amie Parnes have a story at The Hill with this headline: Clinton allies fume over Sanders’s vow to fight on. That headline repeats the first paragraph of the story.

Hillary Clinton’s allies are fuming over Bernie Sanders’s vow to take the presidential nominating contest to a floor fight at the Democratic convention this summer.

After that, you get some background on the state of the race. When it comes to what “Clinton allies” actually said, here is the report:

“Hillary leads in pledged and unpledged delegates, and there is little opportunity for that dynamic to change over the next few weeks,” said former Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Holly Shulman. “Nothing about these numbers says we’re headed to a contested convention.”

And none of the more than half-dozen Clinton supporters The Hill interviewed believe Sanders would risk casting the Democratic convention into the kind of chaos that Republicans are bracing for in Cleveland.

If he tries, they say, he’ll fail…

Rather, Democrats view Sanders’s rhetoric as a last-ditch effort to stay relevant in a race that has gotten away from him.

That’s fine with most Clinton supporters, at least for now.

Many Democrats are at peace with Sanders staying in the race through the end of the primaries and using his leverage to push for a more progressive Democratic platform at the convention.

There is little pressure on Sanders to drop out, even though he trails.

Who’s fuming? I guess a headline suggesting that Clinton allies are fine with the fact that Sanders is launching a last-ditch effort to stay relevant, are at peace with him staying in the race, and are not exerting pressure on him to drop out just wouldn’t sell.

But I can imagine that there will be people who only read the headline and run with the story about how the Clinton campaign is angry and lashing out at Sanders for vowing to fight on. If so, it is a total media fabrication designed to promote conflict – because that is what sells. Politicians and their allies acting like grown-ups apparently doesn’t.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 3, 2016

May 7, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Media | , , , , | 1 Comment

“Closed Primaries Did Not Stop Bernie Sanders”: Peddling Misleading Explanations To Supporters As To Why He Fell Short

Bernie Sanders is so convinced that his campaign was fatefully hamstrung by “closed” primaries in which independent voters could not participate that he is including the end of closed primaries in his list of convention demands.

There’s no reason to deem this demand self-serving; at 74 years of age, Sanders will not be running for president again and he apparently wants to create a process in which candidates who follow in his footsteps will have a better shot.

Although he has every right to pursue that goal, he’s wasting his time, and squandering his leverage, by focusing on closed primaries. Yes, he was swept in the closed states. But he also lost the open primaries by a 2-to-1 margin.

There have been 40 state contests so far, 27 primaries and 13 caucuses. Nineteen of those primaries  were accessible to independent voters. Yet Sanders only won six of them, and two were his home state of Vermont and neighboring New Hampshire.

Hillary Clinton has only won six more states than Sanders, and she won all eight closed primary states. Would throwing all those contests open have made a big difference?

Probably not, because most of Clinton’s closed primary wins were not close. Connecticut was the narrowest at five points, but that contest was also the most “open” of the closed states since independents could switch their registration the day before election. Twenty percent of the Constitution State’s electorate was composed of self-described independents, not far behind the 27 percent share in the Sanders states of Michigan, Oklahoma and Wisconsin.

Four others, Delaware, Florida, Louisiana and Maryland, were completely out of reach for Sanders, as Clinton posted margins between 20 and 48 points. Only three closed states might have become competitive if independents could have participated: Arizona, Pennsylvania and New York, where Clinton’s spread was between 12 and 16 points.

The reality is that, in general, primaries were unfriendly terrain for Sanders. His wheelhouse was the caucus, pocketing 11 out of 13. The low-turnout meeting-style contests are known to favor liberal candidates, having buoyed George McGovern and Barack Obama to their nominations. Sanders recently said, “We want open primaries in 50 states in this country.” If he means that literally, and would end caucuses altogether, that would certainly increase voter turnout in those states. But it also would risk ceding what’s now populist turf to establishment forces.

These facts are important for Sanders’ his fans to know. Not to rob them of their comforting rationalizations and make them wallow in their misery, but so they can best strategize for the future.

They want the Democratic Party to change. They want a party that shuns big donors. They want a party that routinely goes big on progressive policy goals.

But if they believe that the nomination process is the obstacle preventing the will of the people from enacting that change, then they are letting gut feelings overwhelm hard facts.

The only explanation for the sudden obsession with closed primaries is that we’ve just had five of them in the last two weeks. The truth is the race was lost long before, when Clinton build an essentially insurmountable lead by sweeping the largely open primaries of the South and lower Midwest. Sanders’ recent defeats stung badly because his die-hard supporters wrongly believed his caucus streak meant he was gaining momentum. They should not let that sting cloud their vision.

One wouldn’t expect the average voter to pore over the intricacies of delegate math. Sanders has, and he should know better. Granted, the intense emotion a candidate suffers at the end of a losing presidential campaign is an excruciating feeling most of us can never fully grasp. Undoubtedly, it’s painful for the candidate to take a step back and make clinical assessments instead of excuses.

If he wants his revolution to keep moving forward, he can’t lead it in the wrong direction. He can’t get caught up in the raw emotion of electoral defeat. He can’t peddle misleading explanations to his supporters as to why he fell short.

Because if he does, he is going to waste their time, energy and precious political capital fighting a convention floor fight for nomination rules reform that is a complete distraction from what they really want: a party rooted in populist principles and funded by small donors.

 

By: Bill Scher, a Senior Writer at Campaign for America’s Future, Executive Editor of LiberalOasis; Contributor, RealClearPolitics; May 2, 2016

May 4, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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