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“A Day Of Reckoning For The Sanders Campaign”: Decision Time, To Concede Or Attempt To Disrupt The Convention

Coming off of big wins in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico this weekend, the Associated Press reports that Hillary Clinton is within 26 delegates (pledged and super) of clinching the Democratic presidential nomination. With upcoming races on Tuesday in New Jersey, California, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and New Mexico, the folks at NBC First Read summarized the situation with pledged delegates like this:

Clinton must win 30% of remaining pledged delegates to get a majority in pledged delegates

Sanders must win 70% of remaining pledged delegates to get a majority in pledged delegates

Based on previous races and current polling, it is likely that Clinton will win New Jersey and New Mexico, while Sanders will prevail in much less delegate-rich Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota. Everyone expects California to be a nail-biter. That’s why this morning Greg Sargent suggests that even a “win” in California won’t save the Sanders campaign. At the end of the day on Tuesday, he will be behind Clinton in the number of pledged delegates and – if you include superdelegates – she will have gone over the threshold of the 2,382 needed to win the nomination. His only play would be to convince a large number of superdelegates to vote against the leader in pledged delegates.

All of this means that Bernie Sanders’ day of reckoning will be this Wednesday. Either he will decide to concede that he has lost the primary, or attempt to disrupt the Democratic Convention in July. According to Peter Nicholas, that is still an unsettled discussion going on within the campaign.

A split is emerging inside the Bernie Sanders campaign over whether the senator should stand down after Tuesday’s election contests and unite behind Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, or take the fight all the way to the July party convention and try to pry the nomination from her…

Tad Devine, a senior Sanders strategist who advised Democratic nominees Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004, among others, suggested the “path forward” is uncertain, hinging on the outcome in California and other states that have yet to vote. He voiced a conciliatory note, describing how the two campaigns might set aside differences that have grown more pronounced in the heat of the year-long campaign…

Campaign manager Jeff Weaver, who has worked in Mr. Sanders’s congressional offices and Vermont-based campaigns dating to the mid-1980s, takes a more aggressive approach…

“The plan is as the senator has described it: to go forward after Tuesday and keep the campaign going to the convention and make the case to superdelegates that Sen. Sanders is the best chance that Democrats have to beat Trump,” Mr. Weaver said. “The trajectory is the same regardless of the outcome in California.”

Ultimately, the candidate himself will have to make the call. It will be up to Bernie Sanders to decide whether he continues to be a progressive voice within the Democratic Party or sidelines both himself and his supporters as disrupters.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 6, 2016

June 7, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Super Scapegoats”: Sorry Bernie Supporters, Superdelegates Aren’t The Reason Sanders Is Losing To Hillary Clinton

Bernie Sanders’ supporters seem to be getting their guy confused with Donald Trump.

It’s true that both are anti-establishment candidates and native New Yorkers; but despite what some Bern-ers seem to think, only one of them has a legitimate case to complain about the system potentially robbing them of the nomination or distorting the will of the people. Spoiler alert: It’s not Bernie Sanders.

Trump, the putative GOP front-runner, has been complaining for weeks about the intricate rules of the Republican Party nominating process, mostly because he apparently never gave them much thought and is now distraught to realize Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s campaign not only did but is using them to maximum advantage. (Trump’s complaint about the unfairness of a rigged system is rich coming from someone who brags about “taking advantage” of bankruptcy laws and worked the system to get 9/11 recovery money intended for small businesses.)

As a result of the Trump campaign’s political malpractice, conventional wisdom for some weeks has held that a contested convention is plausible-to-likely (see Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell describing himself over the weekend as “increasingly optimistic” about the scenario coming to pass), with Trump seen as a dead candidate walking if he can’t secure the nomination on the first ballot. He will almost certainly go into Cleveland as the leader in delegates and (of symbolic importance) votes. So make what you will of Trump’s complaints – whether you think he was robbed or should have known the rules – he’ll have legitimate grounds to complain.

The same can’t be said for Team Sanders: As I noted last week, there’s simply no metric by which he is winning the race for the Democratic nomination. Here’s The Washington Post’s Philip Bump summarizing the state of play:

In fact, by every possible democratic measure, Clinton is winning. She’s winning in states (and territories) won … She’s winning in the popular vote by 2.4 million votes – more than a third more than Sanders has in total. In part that’s because Sanders is winning lower-turnout caucuses, but it’s mostly because he’s winning smaller states. And she’s winning with both types of delegates.

The types of delegates in question are pledged – those won in primaries – and superdelegates, the party’s official free agents who can support whomever they see fit. Setting aside the supers, Clinton holds a roughly 200-delegate lead over Sanders among delegates earned at the ballot box. That means, per NBC News, that Sanders must win 57 percent of the remaining pledged delegates to hold a majority of that group. Keep in mind that to date, he’s won roughly 46 percent of the pledged delegates (and that from only 42 percent of the raw votes), per FiveThirtyEight’s David Wasserman, so in order to pass her in pledged delegates, Sanders would have to start performing dramatically better than he has thus far. It’s true that Sanders has won seven of the last eight contests, but all states are not created equal, and because he’s been running up his win streak in small states he hasn’t been able to meaningfully close the gap in votes or (more important) pledged delegates.

To put it another way, if the Democratic National Committee passed a rule today eliminating superdelegates altogether … Clinton would still be overwhelmingly well-positioned to win the nomination because she’s won substantially more votes and thus more delegates.

And yet some Sanders partisans seem to think that – Trump-like – he is somehow being robbed of the nomination or that superdelegates are distorting the will of the people by handing Clinton the election, unearned.

Case in point is a piece that ran in Salon over the weekend under this rather lengthy headline: “Superdelegates have destroyed the will of the people: As a political activist and hopeful millennial, I won’t support a broken system by voting for Hillary.”

What follows is a bewildering argument asserting that a “broken, corrupt and unjust” system is foisting Clinton over (the barely acceptable despite being not quite liberal enough) Sanders because … well, superdelegates or something. The author cites the Vermont senator having won Wyoming by 12 percentage points but coming out behind Clinton in that contest because, per the allocation rules, they split the 14 pledge delegates and Clinton persuaded the state’s four superdelegates to support her. She goes on to quote MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski bemoaning the unfairness of such an outcome and for good measure throws in a lengthy comment from Trump about the injustice of the superdelegate system.

But if you want to indict “the system,” look at the system – don’t cherry-pick one result. As I noted earlier, Sanders has won 46 percent of pledged delegates while only winning 42 percent of raw votes – so if anything “the system” is overstating how well Sanders is doing. If anyone is positioned to complain about distortion, it’s the Clinton campaign, not the Sanders-ites.

(The Salon piece then starts to read like a parody of an earnestly self-involved millennial, with the author complaining that “voting no longer provides me the indulgence and satisfaction it once did” and analogizing her refusal to participate in the presidential political process to boycotting Walmart; the difference of course is that if enough people refuse to spend their money at Walmart it could hurt and ultimately shutter the store, while if enough progressive activists refuse to vote the system will endure and simply be run by conservatives.)

Here’s a kernel of an idea: MoveOn.org has started promoting a petition arguing that CNN should not include supers in its delegate tallies (why only CNN and not MSNBC, Fox News Channel, The New York Times and so on is unclear), because the practice is misleading since even supers who have declared for a candidate are free to switch their allegiance at any time and thus the tally overstates Clinton’s lead over Sanders. It’s important to note, by the way, the supers’ ability to switch since Sanders’ candidacy is now predicated on their doing just that – the idea being that regardless of whether he catches her in either pledged delegates or raw votes, superdelegates will flock to him on the basis of late-season momentum.

And in fairness, most news organizations do tend to break down the pledged-versus-super totals; but if media organizations discounting superdelegates will help bring greater clarity to the process then by all means they should do so. Because while including Clinton’s supers in her total may exaggerate her lead, Bern-er fixation with them covers up the scope of his pledged delegate deficit.

The bottom line is that Clinton isn’t poised to win the nomination because superdelegates are contravening the will of the voters, but because she’s simply winning more votes. Team Sanders needs to reconcile itself to that reality.

 

By: Robert Schlesinger, Managing Editor, U. S. News and World Report, April 19, 2016

April 24, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Super Delegates | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“A Brutal General Election”: Bernie Sanders’ Supporters Are Convinced He Could Win A General Election. They’re Wrong

Bernie Sanders’ rather unconventional personal style and characteristics are part of his appeal. Not some blow-dried politician who could fill in doing the weather on your local newscast, Sanders looks different from other candidates. A 74-year-old socialist with wild hair, frumpy suits, and an old-timey Brooklyn accent thicker than a pastrami sandwich, Sanders seems like the last guy who’d be able to assemble a national majority. But if that’s what you think, his supporters will tell you, you’ve got it all wrong. In fact, they say, Bernie is the only Democrat who can win in the fall. It’s only if the party screws up and nominates Hillary Clinton that Democrats are doomed.

It may be getting late in the process for arguments about electability, particularly when Clinton will almost have the nomination in hand if she wins in New York. But since Sanders supporters are so insistent on this point, it’s worth exploring.

Before we begin, we should acknowledge that all judgments about electability are imperfect, to say the least. That’s partly because politics is inherently unpredictable, and you never know what issues will emerge, what events will occur, what the other side will do, and how your candidate might screw up. It’s also because all of us have a hard time putting ourselves in the mindset of people who think differently than we do. In particular, people who care a great deal about politics and have clearly thought-out and ideologically coherent beliefs often find undecided voters positively baffling. How on earth can a person look at two candidates representing parties with profoundly different agendas and values, and say, “Gee, I just don’t know who to pick”?

But they do, and as we’ve seen before, the voting public’s judgments about candidates they don’t know much about beforehand can be radically altered by what happens in the fall campaign.

Sanders supporters, however, say not to worry. Their primary evidence for the superior electability of their candidate comes from “trial heats,” polls that ask voters whom they would choose in the general election between each Republican and each Democrat. And it’s true that in those polls, Sanders usually does better than Clinton. Trial heats show her beating Donald Trump, roughly tied with Ted Cruz, and behind John Kasich, while Sanders beats all three.

But is that much of an indication of what would happen in the general election? Clinton and Sanders come to this race with very different profiles. He was a completely novel character to most Americans, while she has been one of the country’s central political figures for over two decades. So in the eyes of most Americans — who are paying only intermittent attention to the primary campaign — Bernie Sanders seems like a kindly if eccentric uncle. He doesn’t sound like a typical politician (always a bonus), he speaks some uncomfortable truths, and he has an air of purity about him.

But what hasn’t happened yet is anyone really attacking Sanders. Clinton’s criticisms have been mild, and have largely come from the left, on those few issues like guns where she could position herself there. But you can barely get a Republican to utter an unkind word about Sanders, and that’s precisely because they know how they’d be able to go to town on him if he became the nominee.

So let’s consider the kinds of attacks Sanders would face from Republicans. They wouldn’t just call him a socialist — in fact, that’d be about the nicest thing they’d say about him. They’d say he’s coming to raise your taxes to fund big-government schemes. They’d say he wants to cripple the military. They’d say he’s advocated eliminating our intelligence capabilities. They’d say he was part of a Trotskyite party that expressed “solidarity” with the theocratic government of Iran while it was holding Americans hostage. They’d say he wants government to seize the means of production. They’d say he hates America. They’d say he’s the author of smutty rape fantasies.

These attacks would be unfair, exaggerated, distorted, dishonest — and when Sanders protests, the Republicans would laugh and keep making them. By the time they’re done with him, most Americans would think Sanders is so radical and dangerous that they wouldn’t want him running their local food co-op, let alone the United States government.

Sanders supporters tend to wave away the possibility that these attacks would hurt him in much the same way the candidate himself dispenses with questions of practicality, by saying that his revolution will be so extraordinary that it will sweep all opposition away. Millions of heretofore absent voters will turn up at the polls, Americans will see the wisdom of his ideas, this election will be different than any that came before! But there’s little reason to believe that will happen, particularly when even within the Democratic Party, Sanders hasn’t been persuasive enough to overcome Hillary Clinton, who is supposed to be so weak.

And there’s no doubt that Clinton does indeed have plenty of weaknesses as a candidate. Twenty-five years of attacks from the right have taken their toll on her public image, and she’s made plenty of her own mistakes along the way. But there’s nothing new that the GOP is going to throw at her — we know what Republicans will say, and we have a good idea of how the public will react.

On the other hand, the Democrats haven’t nominated a candidate as far to the left as Bernie Sanders since George McGovern in 1972 (and maybe not even then). I’d love to think that a candidate with his ideological profile could get through a brutal general election and still assemble a national majority. But it’s an awfully hard thing to believe.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, April 19, 2016

April 20, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, General Election 2016, Hillary Clinton, Republicans | , , , , | 2 Comments

“Ship Of Fools”: The Inconvenient Truth, The “Bernie Or Bust” Crowd Is Indistinguishable From Right-Wing Fundamentalists

If you’re like me, and you know a number of “Bernie or Bust”-ers on social media who still insist that under no circumstances will they vote for the “corporatist” Hillary Clinton if she defeats Bernie Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination, ask them to consider this scenario:

1) Clinton wins the Democratic nomination, and the overwhelming majority of Sanders supporters decide to abstain from voting on November 8 (presumably, there will be a not-insignificant number of Sanders supporters who will vote for presumptive Green Party nominee Jill Stein, but for purposes of this argument, let’s say almost all of the Bernie-backers back out of the general election). In an effort to pacify peeved progressives, Clinton selects as her running mate a Sanders-style star who happens to be an actual member of the Democratic Party—say, Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown.

2) Donald Trump wins the Republican nomination, and immediately announces that Ted Cruz is his running mate.

3) A significant number of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents find themselves unable to support a Trump-Cruz ticket, and decide to set their issues with Clinton aside and vote for the Clinton-Brown ticket on November 8. Their votes, combined with the votes of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, make the allegedly “corporatist” Clinton the 45th president of the United States.

Under this scenario, will the Bernie backers who sat out the election—the ones who think the Democratic Party has been contaminated by “corporatism,” the ones who believe Sanders is the only morally pure choice for President—have any clout whatsoever in American politics? Will they be able to have any real influence on the Clinton-Brown administration? Will they be able to encourage Vice President Brown to publicly break with President Clinton on policies progressives find fault with? Or will they just be dismissed as whiners who blew a chance to have a claim on the new President?

This is the problem with the “Bernie or Bust” movement. By declaring that they will refuse to vote for a non-Sanders Democratic presidential nominee, these folks are declaring, in essence, that they are not seriously interested in moving the Democratic Party in a more progressive direction.

Wouldn’t it make more sense for the “Bernie or Bust”-ers to accept a Sanders primary loss with grace, commit themselves to preventing a Republican reactionary from seizing the White House, and then declare that Clinton owes a part of her victory to those who had initially supported Sanders? Wouldn’t they be able to influence Clinton’s actions on education, energy and economics? Wouldn’t they be able to pressure Clinton to govern as an undisputed progressive?

Harsh as this might be to say, it’s clear that the “Bernie or Bust” movement has officially replaced the Tea Party movement as the most illogical and incoherent force in modern American politics. By proclaiming that Clinton is too dishonest and dirty to deserve support, these folks are saying that the right wing was right all along about Hillary (and Bill). That’s a sensible message?

It’s also clear that the “Bernie or Bust” crowd—which regards Bill Clinton as having sold out the Democratic Party to economic elites in the 1990s—must also loathe former Vice President Al Gore as much as the right wing does, but for different reasons. After all, Gore was at Clinton’s side when the 42nd President supposedly abandoned the middle class. Gore supported the much-maligned North American Free Trade Agreement. Gore was associated with that progressive bogeyman known as the Democratic Leadership Council. Presumably, the older members of the “Bernie or Bust” bunch were the same ones who regarded Gore as insufficiently progressive in 2000, and defected to Ralph Nader.

The inconvenient truth is that the “Bernie or Bust” crowd is indistinguishable from right-wing fundamentalists in their loathing of compromise and their refusal to recognize that sometimes people can make bad decisions in good faith. Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and Al Gore are neither evil nor corrupt. Neither is Bernie Sanders, for that matter…but what does it say about those who only recognize morality in the latter, and malevolence in the former?

 

By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 16, 2016

April 18, 2016 Posted by | Bernie or Bust, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“The Calendar Is Unforgiving”: Following Bernie Sanders’ Latest Landslides, What’s Next?

A couple of weeks ago, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, laid out his short-term expectations for the Democratic presidential race, which now appears rather prescient. As Mook saw it, Bernie Sanders would win the next five caucus states with relative ease – Idaho, Utah, Alaska, Hawaii, and the state of Washington – while coming within striking distance in Arizona.

After Clinton’s bigger-than-expected win in Arizona, one of Mook’s predictions looked a little off, but the rest of the assessment was quite sound. Last week, Sanders cruised to easy wins in Idaho and Utah, and over the weekend, the independent senator did it again.

Bernie Sanders swept all three Democratic caucuses on Saturday, with decisive victories over front-runner Hillary Clinton in Washington state, Alaska and Hawaii, according to NBC News analysis.

Speaking to a rapturous crowd in Madison, Wisconsin, after his victory in Alaska, Sanders declared his campaign was making “significant inroads” into Clinton’s big delegate lead.

Sanders was supposed to do well in Saturday’s caucuses, but let’s be clear: he did extremely well, winning by margins ranging from 40 to 70 points. As for “significant inroads,” the final numbers are still coming together, but it looks like Sanders will end up with a net gain of 60 to 70 pledged delegates.

By most measures, Saturday was Sanders’ single best day of the entire presidential race: three lopsided landslides, which, when combined, gave the Vermonter his biggest net delegate gain of 2016.

That’s the good news for Sanders and his supporters. The bad news is, well, just about everything else.

The delegate math is so brutal for the senator that narrowing the gap in earnest remains incredibly daunting. Clinton’s recent victory in the Florida primary, for example, netted her about 70 delegates. Sanders’ wins on Saturday night were worth roughly as much.

Or put another way, Clinton appeared likely to win the Democratic nomination on March 15, when she led by about 215 pledged delegates, and as things stand, her advantage is even larger now, even including Sanders’ weekend wins. (Adding Democratic superdelegates to the equation makes Clinton’s advantage even larger.)

The argument from the Sanders campaign is that these results don’t happen in a vacuum: big wins get noticed, and this leads to improved fundraising, positive press, increased enthusiasm, and a sense of momentum as the race enters the next round of contests.

And while that may yet happen, the calendar is unforgiving. Sanders is excelling – winning by enormous margins, making sizable net delegate gains – in caucus states with low turnout among African-American and Latino voters. There are a few more of these contests remaining – Wyoming and North Dakota stand out – but there aren’t many, and the number of delegates at stake is quite modest.

Saturday’s caucuses were practically custom made for Sanders, and he took full advantage, winning by enormous margins. But what he needs is a calendar full of caucus states like these, and they don’t exist in a quantity that would make a real difference. The alternative is racking up big wins in competitive primaries, which could happen, but which recent history suggests is unlikely.

I’m not saying his nomination is impossible – it’s been an election cycle full of unexpected developments – but even after the weekend, the Democratic race doesn’t look much different than it did a couple of weeks ago. Sanders was a long shot before his latest round of caucus wins, and he’s still a long shot now.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 28, 2016

March 28, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

   

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