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“An Unexpectedly Accommodating Affair”: Yes, Bernie Sanders Really Is Winding Down His ‘Revolution’

Was that Bernie’s way of saying “uncle”? I’d imagine that most people who watched his video address tonight to his supporters didn’t think so, because he did not officially concede or endorse Hillary Clinton. But I say it was an unexpectedly accommodating affair nonetheless.

I thought he was going to lay out specific demands for the Democratic Party going forward these next few weeks and insist the demands be met or else. He did some of that. But emotionally, his emphasis was on other things. Metaphorically, he pointed his gun not at the Democratic Party’s head, but at its orotund midsection.

Consider the speech’s structure. It came in four parts. Part one, how amazing are the things I/we have accomplished. Part two, how important it is to defeat Donald Trump. Part three, how the Democratic Party needs to change more in his image. Part four, how the people’s revolution must continue beyond this year and manifest itself in Bern-feelers running for office and staying involved in politics far beyond this campaign.

That is to say, only one part out of four was directly confrontational to the Democratic power structure, and even that part picked its spots quite carefully. He ticked off 15 matters on which he suggested the Democrats ought to follow him. But on 10 of them, Hillary Clinton already agrees (and indeed on a few of them, like guns and equal pay for women, she’s done more than he has and is more committed than he—I’d even add health-care-as-a-right to that list, since as first lady she helped lead the charge for health care for poor children, the S-CHIP program, which is free for poor children).

There were five that left room for platform committee fights: the $15 minimum wage (she backs that in more expensive cities but says it could be lower in less expensive areas); a fracking ban, which she does not support and which a president has no power to impose anyway; a “modern-day Glass-Steagall” to break up the banks; free college tuition; and health care as a right for all, which she would say she backs but not in the sense that he means it (everything free for everyone, financed by taxes).

He then did take on what he euphemistically called the “Democratic Party leadership.” He never mentioned chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz by name, and never directly called for the removal of an unnamed chair. Instead he demanded that the Democratic Party pursue a “50-state strategy.” That probably comes from the people in the red states he won like Oklahoma and Idaho and so on, and it’s totally unobjectionable and even the right thing for the Democratic Party to do, as it was when Howard Dean proposed it as chair back in the mid-2000s (there’s an irony there all right, as there’s no love lost between these two Vermonters, and Dean is a Clinton endorser from the early days). But the important point is that it isn’t a confrontational demand, something that puts immediate pressure on the DNC. It’s a Beach Boys demand: wouldn’t it be nice.

Also basically unmentioned: any reform of the primary process. Sanders and Jeff Weaver—and maybe the media, to be fair—had led us to believe that reform of the voting process was going to be demand number one. But it wasn’t to be heard in Thursday night’s speech. I can’t imagine this was an oversight. It had to be a conscious decision to toss this demand overboard.

Then the last part of the speech, and the part that drew the most attention from Bernie people on Twitter, was the “the revolution must go on” part. This was the section that gave his people the signal that this was bigger than Bernie, and I give him credit for emphasizing it, because to me this was a campaign that had some cult-of-personality aspects to it from the start. But this was Sanders clearly signaling: “I know I’m 74, and I hope what I’ve started here survives me.”

So that’s how his people saw it. How actual Democrats saw it—and I don’t mean the banking lobbyist, I mean the state committeewoman from Illinois who is a public-interest lawyer in Evanston—I’m not sure. Less favorably, I’m sure. She no doubt hung on the key two sentences: “The major political task that we face in the next five months is to make certain that Donald Trump is defeated and defeated badly. And I personally intend to begin my role in that process in a very short period of time.” Those sentences, along with the election reform matter he left out, signaled a de facto endorsement of Clinton, whether his people want to admit that or not.

But I’m pretty sure my Evanston lawyer also heard the grandiosity that Sanders, a candidate who certainly did much better than expected but in the end lost by quite a large margin, assigned to himself. To her and to thousands like her—precisely the people forgotten in the Clinton-Sanders debate all these months, because they are representative of the “little people” who are for Clinton, which seems to most of the media oxymoronic, but they are real, and they number in the many millions—Bernie is now old news. And he’s just going to get older every week.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, June 16, 2016

June 18, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“How To ‘Make It Stop'”: A New Assault Weapons Ban, Written For The Realities Of 2016

Almost four years ago in Newtown, the victims were mostly children – first graders. Last weekend, the victims were mostly LGBT adults at a night club. But the one thing they all had in common is that their deaths were the result of an assault weapon in the hands of a deranged killer. Today the Boston Globe – in a bold statement – says simply, “Make it Stop.”

In this country, the federal government limits duck hunters to weapons that carry only three shells, to protect the duck population. But you can buy an assault weapon in seven minutes and an unlimited number of bullets to fire with it. For every McDonald’s in the United States, there are four federally licensed gun dealers and an untold number of unregulated private dealers who can legally sell an unlimited number of guns out of their homes, backpacks, and car trunks without requiring a criminal background check or proof of ID.

These weren’t the guns, and this wasn’t the America, that the Founders foresaw. That is why we need a new assault weapons ban, written for the realities we face in 2016.

For those of us who were already convinced, the Globe also asserts that any action on an assault weapons ban is likely to begin in the Senate. They give us the names of 6 senators who stand in the way:

Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)

Richard Burr (R-NC)

Jeff Flake (R-AZ)

Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)

Ron Johnson (R-WI)

Rob Portman (R-OH)

Of course there are other (mostly Republican) senators who would vote against an assault weapons ban. It’s clear that these 6 were chosen by the Globe because they are the most likely to be either convinced to change their position or defeated. That’s where it starts.

I am reminded of a commitment President Obama made back in January in an op-ed titled: Guns Are Our Shared Responsibility.

Even as I continue to take every action possible as president, I will also take every action I can as a citizen. I will not campaign for, vote for or support any candidate, even in my own party, who does not support common-sense gun reform. And if the 90 percent of Americans who do support common-sense gun reforms join me, we will elect the leadership we deserve.

All of us have a role to play — including gun owners. We need the vast majority of responsible gun owners who grieve with us after every mass shooting, who support common-sense gun safety and who feel that their views are not being properly represented, to stand with us and demand that leaders heed the voices of the people they are supposed to represent.

We can chose to remain cynical that anything will ever change, or make this a priority and keep fighting. I think about our historical heroes of reform. Some of them didn’t even live to see the fruits of their efforts – for example, Elizabeth Cady Stanton. But that certainly didn’t stop them.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 16, 2016

June 18, 2016 Posted by | Assault Weapons Ban, Orlando Shootings, Senate Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Toxic Social And Cultural Stew”: Get Ready For A Long, Very Ugly Election Won On The Ground

Yesterday I wrote that the politically obsessed should not pay attention to general election polls right now, because the GOP primary is over while the Democratic one continues. That in turn has given presumptive nominee Trump a consolidating boost, while Sanders supporters still resist supporting Clinton. That phenomenon will dissipate within the month, and Clinton will get her own boost once the last votes are cast.

Still, the latest poll showing Trump leading Clinton by 2 points is instructive not for its toplines, but for the very high negative public perceptions of both candidates. While the topline numbers should change over the next few months in Clinton’s favor, the candidates’ negatives are unlikely to. Compounding this reality is that the public has lower-than-ever perceptions of the news media, which means we’re ripe for a toxic social and cultural stew as we approach the election.

What does this mean going forward? Mostly that the election will be driven in part by core supporters who do like their respective candidates on both sides, but mostly by fear of the other side. Conservative voters who don’t like Trump will have to make a choice whether to trudge to the polls to vote against Clinton, and liberal voters who don’t like Clinton will have to do likewise against Trump. Undecided voters who don’t like either choice will have to decide whether to vote at all.

Pure partisans won’t have any trouble showing up, because that’s what we do. But general elections aren’t won by pure partisans who vote in every election. Nor are they usually won by persuading the very small slice of people who can’t seem to make up their minds between two very different candidates all the way into October.

General elections are won by turning out the people who already agree with you ideologically, but only show up to vote every other election when they really feel inspired to but otherwise feel that politics is a waste of time that doesn’t change anything dramatically affecting their daily lives.

In that sense, the way both sides will try to win is not to convince the disaffected that their candidate will affect dramatic positive changes (though Trump may have some disaffected voters with whom he can make that argument; Clinton’s chance of persuading her own version of the same is somewhat less due to her intentionally incrementalist message), but to scare them into believing that the other candidate will make dramatic negative changes.

In other words, Trump will try to convince apathetic conservatives that Clinton will turn America into a gun-free Venezuelan socialist despotism, while Clinton will try to convince apathetic liberals that Trump will turn America into an unstable, trigger-happy fascist dictatorship. Clinton will use Trump’s lascivious past against him, even as Trump brings up decades of unsavory personal Clinton associations. It’s going to a very nasty affair. The one big advantage Democrats will have is a probable surge in the Latino vote out of genuine self-preservation.

In the meantime, the election will actually be won not in the air, but on the ground. The ugliness on the air will depress turnout even further, which will require campaign organizers to depend on millions of face-to-face conversations with voters on the fence about whether to vote at all.

All of which is to say this: as we approach the general election, those who want to help their candidate win in November should probably spend a lot less time arguing with other people in online forums or obsessing over television ads, and a lot more time making calls and knocking on doors. That’s where this very ugly game is going to be won and lost.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 23, 2016

May 24, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, General Election 2016, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Promoting Videos In Which Hillary Clinton Is Killed”: NRA’s Ted Nugent Sparks Yet Another Ugly Controversy

About four years ago at this time, Ted Nugent, a musician, reality-show personality, and National Rifle Association board member, was doing his best to help Mitt Romney get elected. Appearing at the NRA’s national convention, Nugent said, “If Barack Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will be either dead or in jail by this time next year…. We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November. Any questions?”

He went on to say, “It isn’t the enemy that ruined America. It’s good people who bent over and let the enemy in. If the coyote’s in your living room pissing on your couch, it’s not the coyote’s fault. It’s your fault for not shooting him.”

The comments, not surprisingly, generated a Secret Service investigation.

Four years later, Nugent has a new target, but he appears to have learned very little. Media Matters noted this week:

National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent, who will deliver a speech at the NRA’s annual meeting this month, shared a fake video that depicts Hillary Clinton being graphically murdered by Bernie Sanders with a handgun during a presidential debate.

In a May 10 post on his Facebook page, Nugent shared a video with the descriptions “Bernie Sanders destroys Hillary Clinton in debate on Vermont gun laws” and “Bernie Sanders absolutely killed Hillary over this issue.”

The video takes footage from a recent debate between Clinton and Sanders, but it’s manipulated to show Sanders shooting Clinton in the chest – complete with an animated blood spurt.

Just to be clear, Nugent does not appear to have created the video, but he helped disseminated it through social media, and he endorsed it with his own poorly written message: “I got your guncontrol right here bitch!”

All of this comes nearly nine years after Nugent, commenting on Clinton’s first presidential campaign, delivered an on-stage rant in which he pointed to his gun and said, “Hey Hillary, you might want to ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless bitch.”

I can appreciate why it’s tempting to ignore Nugent’s nonsense. As entertainers in the public eye go, we’re talking about a guy who hasn’t had a hit single since the Carter administration, so it’s safe to say his cultural relevance has faded into obscurity.

Nugent is, however, a board member of the NRA – a group Senate Republicans believe should have veto power over Supreme Court nominees – and he remains a prominent partisan activist in right-wing circles. Indeed, let’s not forget that in 2012, Mitt Romney actively sought, and eventually earned, Nugent’s personal endorsement after a private discussion between the two men.

This year, Nugent is a high-profile Trump supporter – who also happens to be promoting videos in which Hillary Clinton is killed.

At least the Secret Service knows how to reach him if agents have any questions.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 11, 2016

May 12, 2016 Posted by | Hillary Clinton, National Rifle Association, Ted Nugent, Trump Supporters | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Pitfalls Of Self-Righteousness”: The Sanders Campaign Needs More Self-Reflection And Less Self-Righteousness

Brooklyn was home to the debate heard ’round the world on Thursday evening, as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders finally clashed on stage after weeks of increasing hostilities.

The tension was as thick as the candidates’ voices were loud. But while both presidential contenders were fiery, Sanders came off looking particularly irascible. Rather than seizing the opportunity to atone for his campaign’s recent bout of unforced errors, his performance gave weight to the concern Paul Krugman articulated last week: “Bernie is becoming a Bernie Bro.”

During the debate, Sanders repeatedly interrupted Clinton, at one point even throwing out a long “excuuuuse me” while wagging his finger. When not interrupting, he often smirked and made faces while Clinton spoke, at one point appearing to mumble a sarcastic “OK.” He laughed out loud as she prepared to answer a question on gun control legislation after Sandy Hook.

In sum, Bernie’s performance oozed acrimony and self-righteousness – the same pitfalls behind his campaign’s controversial blunders of late.

When Sanders said he didn’t consider Clinton “qualified” to be president last week because of her ties to super PACs, a low-blow to the former senator and secretary of state that he’s since walked back, Sanders justified his attack by claiming Clinton had said the same of him. She hadn’t, though – Sanders’ campaign seemingly got that impression from a headline and ran with it without checking Clinton’s actual remarks.

A careless attack, yet one that strikes at the heart of the quest to become the first female president. As Clare Malone and Julia Azari wrote at FiveThirtyEight, “Sanders’s remarks and their interpretation play into discussions of the subtle, pernicious forms of sexism that women in positions of power must deal with. At the core of Clinton’s candidate packaging is the idea that she has for decades been the competent woman behind the scenes a workhorse – not a show pony.”

To be clear: Sanders is a man of impeccable integrity and I have no doubt that he would never intend to use coded language on gender. But he was so confident that he was justified that he didn’t stop to consider the implications of his rhetoric.

This wasn’t the first time. Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ campaign manager, made a similar misstep with sexist overtones when he complained that Clinton’s “ambition” could tear the Democratic Party apart. By definition anyone who runs for president is ambitious – Sanders is calling for a revolution! – but somehow it’s the woman’s ambition that’s dangerous.

Also recall the constant refrain about Clinton’s being too loud, a complaint rarely if ever leveled against the ever-yelling Sanders. And just this week, a Sanders surrogate contrasted Bernie with not simply, say, corporate sell-outs but with “Democratic whores” at a campaign rally.

The Sanders campaign laid the groundwork for these problematic statements by presenting themselves (and apparently believing it) as the campaign that always holds the moral high ground: From Wall Street to small donors, Sanders, unlike Clinton, isn’t spoiled by establishment ties. With this frame of mind, the campaign can dismiss as illegitimate any attempt by Clinton to take Sanders off his high horse. You’re apt to be less careful with potentially tricky topics if you view any critique as by definition illegitimate.

Protected by self-righteousness, there’s little need for self-reflection. Sanders doesn’t seem to realize he’s “starting to sound like his worst followers,” as Krugman wrote. His debate performance showed that the senator is starting to act like them too.

The Republican contest provides a cautionary tale about the importance of self-reflection in the midst of a campaign. A lack of self-awareness lead several GOP candidates to morph into the caricatures of themselves created by critics.

Jeb Bush kicked off his ‘joyful’ presidential bid in June with so much enthusiasm that it was incorporated into his official logo.(!) But then Donald Trump slapped him with the “low energy” label a few months later, and Bush was so consumed with disproving Trump’s critique that he didn’t notice the life evaporating from his campaign. Attempts to show passion at rallies came off as annoyance, while rehearsed debate zingers bumbled even when they hit their mark.

Similarly, Ben Carson entered the race after years of urging from conservatives impressed by his inner-city-to-neurosurgeon pedigree and bold remarks at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast. Yet as whispers of ineptitude began to swirl around his campaign, Carson himself became increasingly nonsensical as he struggled to prove his depth. He seemed confused by his own alleged life story and baffled by basic foreign policy and economics. He spent his final GOP debates practically catatonic, blissfully unconcerned by his lack of knowledge. Now he’s just a sideshow, providing comic relief as a disastrous Trump campaign surrogate.

Donald Trump, of course, has built his entire brand around a lack of self-awareness. He defends himself against claims that he’s sexist by treating women like objects and dismisses critics who call him a racist by doubling down on race-baiting rhetoric.

Sanders’ campaign has little in common with this Republican circus, of course. But Bernie isn’t impervious to valid criticism, and his campaign must accept this fact and give more thought to the implications of the rhetoric it chooses or risk turning Sanders into a caricature himself – the quintessential Bernie bro.

 

By: Emily Arrowood, Thomas Jefferson Street Blog, U. S. News and World Report, April 15, 2016

April 17, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Bros, Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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