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“Bernie Sanders’s Superdelegate Hypocrisy”: What Are Sanders’s Real Metrics For Political Success?

For months, superdelegates, or unelected representatives of the Democratic Party who have votes at the nominating convention, have loomed large as a force in the presidential primary. Hillary Clinton has dominated Bernie Sanders in “committed” superdelegates (though they can always change their vote), and Sanders and his supporters are vocal about the uphill battle they’ve faced as a result of the Democratic establishment’s pro-Clinton bias.

Superdelegates aren’t small-d “democratic.” They aren’t bound to represent the will of their state’s Democrats, and in this primary season especially, many chose a candidate to support before their state’s voters even indicated their own preferences.

Still, superdelegates know that voters see them as undemocratic: in 2008, as it became clear Barack Obama would beat Hillary Clinton, superdelegates supporting Clinton switched their vote to support him in order to keep the party united. There’s no winning a general election if you defy the will of the people.

Which is why it’s especially rich that Bernie Sanders’s campaign has begun recruiting superdelegates to challenge Clinton’s increasingly large lead.

After Sanders’s huge wins in Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii on Saturday, he went on television to make his case.

“A lot of these superdelegates may rethink their position with Hillary Clinton,” he said on CNN. After such large states had supported him in such large numbers, he went on, they should re-evaluate their allegiance.

In an interview for the Washington Post, Sanders advisor Tad Devine told Greg Sargent that “Sanders would call for this [superdelegate] switch if Sanders trailed in the popular vote and was very close behind in the pledged delegate count, too.”

But in November, Devine told the Associated Press that “The best way to win support from superdelegates is to win support from voters.”

Now who’s being undemocratic?

I support Sanders’s campaign for president. But more than that, I support the “revolution” of newly-politically engaged primary and general election voters he claimed would transform American politics into a fairer arena. If such a revolution fails to win the majority of democratically-elected delegates, and even fails to win the majority of the popular vote, how can it be said to be a revolution at all?

There’s a case to be made that Clinton’s early advantage in committed superdelegate support may have discouraged would-be Sanders supporters from voting for him, but that doesn’t seem likely: First, Sanders and Clinton have long been the only two viable Democratic candidates, so why wouldn’t primary voters choose Sanders even if they knew about Clinton’s superdelegate lead? And also, as the “anti-establishment” candidate of the pair, Sanders’s populist support has more often than not been emphasized by Clinton’s superdelegate support, not undermined by it.

The question then is: what are Sanders’s real metrics for political success? If he continues with his current delegate strategy, it seems popular support isn’t one of them.


By: Matt Shuham, The National Memo, March 28, 2016

March 29, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton, Super Delegates | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Voter Turnout Challenges Sanders’ Recipe For Success”: There Is No Real Evidence Supporting His Thesis

It’s not exactly a secret that Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign faces skeptics when it comes to “electability.” With so much on the line in 2016, including the prospect of a radicalized Republican Party controlling the White House and Congress, plenty of Democratic voters, even some who may like Sanders and his message, are reluctant to nominate a candidate who’s likely to fail in a general election.

And on the surface, those concerns are hard to dismiss out of hand. Sanders is, after all, a self-described socialist senator running in an era in which most Americans say they wouldn’t support a socialist candidate. He’s 74 years old – two years older than Bob Dole was in 1996. Sanders has no experience confronting the ferocity of the Republican Attack Machine.

When GOP officials, leaders, and candidates take steps to help the Sanders campaign, it’s pretty obvious why.

But Sanders and his supporters have a counter-argument at the ready. Below these surface-level details, the argument goes, Sanders’ bold and unapologetic message will resonate in ways the political mainstream doesn’t yet understand. Marginalized Americans who often feel alienated from the process – and who routinely stay home on Election Day – can and will rally to support Sanders and propel him to the White House.

The old political-science models, Team Sanders argues, are of limited use. Indeed, they’re stale and out of date, failing to reflect the kind of massive progressive turnout that Bernie Sanders – and only Bernie Sanders – can create.

This isn’t the entirety of Sanders’ pitch, but it’s a key pillar: the Vermont senator will boost turnout, which will propel him and Democratic candidates up and down the ballot to victory.

There is, however, some fresh evidence that challenges the thesis.

In last week’s Iowa caucuses, turnout was good in the Democratic race, but it dropped when compared to 2008, the last competitive Democratic nominating fight. (Republicans, however, saw turnout increase this year to a new, record high.)

In yesterday’s New Hampshire primary, turnout was again strong, and with nearly all of the precincts reporting, it looks like about 239,000 voters participated in the Democratic primary. But again, in the party’s 2008 nominating contest, nearly 288,000 voters turned out, which means we’ve seen another drop. (Like Iowa, Republican turnout in New Hampshire yesterday broke the party’s record.)

This is obviously just two nominating contests, and there will be many more to come. It’s entirely possible that Sanders-inspired turnout will start to appear in time.

But Iowa and New Hampshire are arguably the two best states in the nation, other than Vermont, for Sanders. But that didn’t produce an increase in voter turnout.

It’s a metric that may give Democrats pause as the fight continues. If Sanders’ entire model of success is built on the idea that he’ll bring more voters into the process, it matters that there’s no real evidence of that happening, at least not yet.

Update:  I received an update from a reader who suggested comparing 2016 turnout to 2008 turnout isn’t entirely fair, since the 2008 Obama-Clinton race was an epic fight that drove numbers up. It was, in this sense, an outlier – which makes it a poor point of comparison.

And while there’s likely something to this, it actually helps reinforce my point: if a 74-year-old socialist is going to become president of the United States, he’d need to boost turnout in ways without modern precedent. Or more to the point, he’d need to be able to match and build on the kind of turnout Dems saw in 2008. So far, the numbers simply don’t show that.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 10, 2016

February 11, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Electability, Election 2016 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“It All Comes Down To Electability”: The Most Important Battle In Terms Of Who Will Actually Prevail

If you’re trying to choose between two candidates to represent the Democratic Party as their presidential nominee, there are some filters you can use to help you decide. I’ll just list out a few of them.

1. Is one more electable than the other?
a. because of their identity (region/age/gender/religion/race/ethnicity/sexual preference)
b. because of their record
c. because of their proposals
d. because of their ability/inability to unite the party
e. because of their ability/willingness to raise money
f. because of their potential to bring in new voters/get crossover votes
g. because of their willingness to play hardball and do whatever it takes
h. because their opponent will do more to energize the opposition?

2. Does one’s proposals and policies align more with your values than the other?

3. Does one have more relevant experiences than the other?
a. because they’ve had executive, cabinet level, or other managerial responsibilities, or more of them
b. because one has been at the center of power within the party for a long time and the other hasn’t
c. because one has a broader and more pertinent base of knowledge?

4. Does one seem to have better judgment than the other?
a. if they’ve differed on any big, contentious issues, who turned out to be right, or more nearly so?
b. has one ever made a really big error or offered advice that could have been catastrophic?
c. does either show a stronger tendency to learn from their mistakes?

5. How do you evaluate their moral character?
a. do they have a religious belief system that troubles you?
b. have they committed any serious ethical lapses?
c. are they consistent over time, when appropriate, or do they shift with the winds?
d. do you trust them to do what they say?
e. how honest do you think they are? What’s your estimate of their core integrity?

6. Can they govern?
a. have they governed effectively in the past, on any level?
b. do they understand how Congress works, and also how to get big, difficult bills through Congress?
c. how are their relationships with the media and on Capitol Hill?
d. what kind of powerful enemies and friends do they have?

7. Are their proposals and policies sound?
a. Irrespective of whether they can be implemented, do their policies make sense?
b. Are their policies aspirational or pragmatic and designed with a mind to a difficult Congress
c. How do you feel about their foreign policies, or the things they can do using executive power alone?

8. Finally, does either have a theory of the case for how the Democrats can break the deadlock in Congress and win back majorities on the local, state and federal level?

I think, if you’re honest, when you apply this test to Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, you’ll see that they each “win” or look better on a lot of questions and “lose” or look worse on a lot, too.

If you’re like me, it’s almost split down the middle.

But there’s a big question in here, and it’s the first. Is one candidate more electable than the other?

If Hillary Clinton wins that argument, she’ll win the nomination easily. And, while this could change as more results come in during the primary or other shoes drop related to the email investigation, at the moment Clinton seems to have the better argument.

Sanders has an argument, too. But it’s much more theoretical. He says he can reshape the electorate by inspiring masses of new voters to participate and also by dominating among the youth vote in a way that Clinton cannot. If he keeps winning 80% of the under-30 vote in the more diverse states to come, we may have to start taking his theory very seriously. But, if he can’t convince people that he can actually win, all the areas where he’s strong look much less important.

In a real way, this battle over whether Sanders can or cannot win is the most important battle between these two candidates in terms of who will actually prevail. So, we should expect them to fight ferociously over this question. Fortunately, it will eventually become less of a he said/she said argument. If Sanders wins primaries by bringing out masses of new voters, winning crossovers and independents, and dominating among the youth vote, he’ll start to win people over to his theory of the case. If he can’t do that, and soon, the Democratic voters will go with what they see as the safer bet.


By: Martin Longman,  Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, February 8, 2016

February 9, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Misreading The Nature Of His Revolution”: Bernie Sanders Is Attacking The ‘Establishment.’ He’s Only Half Right

In the Republican race for president, there are few slurs more cutting than when one candidate says another is too close to “the establishment.” But we hadn’t heard that from the Democrats until yesterday, when Bernie Sanders tarred Hillary Clinton with the dreaded “E” word. The problem is that it isn’t so dreaded among Democrats, and if Sanders thinks it is, then he may be misreading the nature of his revolution and the voters who are rallying behind it.

This started last night on Rachel Maddow’s show on MSNBC, when Maddow asked Sanders about Clinton’s endorsements from Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign. Here’s what Sanders said:

“I would love to have the endorsement of every progressive organization in America. We’re very proud to have received recently the endorsement of We’ve received the endorsement Democracy for America. These are grassroots organizations representing millions of workers.

“What we are doing in this campaign, it just blows my mind every day because I see it clearly, we’re taking on not only Wall Street and economic establishment, we’re taking on the political establishment.

“So, I have friends and supporters in the Human Rights [Campaign] and Planned Parenthood. But, you know what? Hillary Clinton has been around there for a very, very long time. Some of these groups are, in fact, part of the establishment.”

This argument would be unworthy of note if it came from a Republican, but Clinton quickly criticized Sanders, tweeting, “Really Senator Sanders? How can you say that groups like @PPact and @HRC are part of the ‘establishment’ you’re taking on?”

On one level, Sanders is absolutely right: Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign are indeed part of the Democratic establishment. They’ve been around for a long time, they have deep ties with other left-leaning advocacy groups and Democratic politicians (not least the Clintons), and they’re the kind of place where you’ll find former and future members of Democratic administrations. They endorsed Clinton for a lot of reasons — because she has a history of supporting their issues and interests, because people within the organizations have personal ties with her and the people around her, and almost certainly because they see her as the most likely nominee, and they want as much access and influence in the next Democratic administration as they can get. That’s what advocacy groups do.

But Sanders is wrong if he thinks that significant numbers of Democratic voters look at groups like those and say, “Yuck, the establishment.” Or even that the dissatisfaction that is driving voters to him is directed at the Democratic establishment itself.

(A brief aside: There are some gay activists and intelligentsia who do indeed believe that the Human Rights Campaign is a bunch of sellouts. Without wading into the substance of that question, it’s safe to say that the proportion of Democratic voters who have any idea what that might be about is tiny).

This is where the difference with the Republican side is so stark, and where Sanders’s success is a product of a fundamentally different phenomenon than what’s fueling the campaigns of Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. On the Republican side, anger at their elected officials, their party leaders, and the broader network of Washington-based organizations and individuals that make up that thing we call the establishment is intense. That anger almost constitutes its own ideology, even though it’s barely about issues at all, but is more concerned with tactics. It has been nurtured by “outsider” candidates, and by conservative media figures like Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham who fancy themselves a kind of counter-establishment. It vilifies people like Mitch McConnell and the departed John Boehner who are supposedly too willing to knuckle under to Barack Obama without forcing dramatic and quixotic confrontations. It promotes intra-party revolts and primary challenges to Republicans, and promulgates a narrative in which everything that has gone wrong for them in the last seven years is because of that establishment’s weakness and betrayal.

There’s nothing like that on the Democratic side. Yes, Sanders voters are dissatisfied. But they’re drawn to Sanders because of his ideological purity, his frank discussion of fundamental progressive values, his big ideas unencumbered by any buzz-crunching pragmatism about the mundane realities of governing, and his focus on the pathologies of the political system, particularly the influence of big money. They don’t despise Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid the way so many Republican voters despise McConnell and Boehner. They certainly aren’t going to take Clinton’s endorsements from the likes of Planned Parenthood as a reason to vote against her.

There’s also nothing comparable on the left to what those on the right hear from their favorite media figures. To begin with, liberal media isn’t nearly as central to the progressive movement as conservative media is to the conservative movement, either in influence or audience size. But even if it were, people like Maddow aren’t on the air every day railing against the Democratic establishment the way Limbaugh, Ingraham, and others rail against the Republican establishment.

Sanders is right that the Democratic establishment isn’t going to support him, but the biggest reason for that is that they don’t think he’s going to win the nomination and they don’t think he could win the general election if he were the nominee. Now it may be that this is the last time he brings this up, and he’ll go back to talking about the things that actually draw people to his revolution. But if he thinks it’s because they want to fight the establishment, he may have been spending too much time watching what’s going on in the Republican race.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, January 20, 2016

January 21, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Establishment, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


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