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“Time For Grown-Up Talk”: Sanders Needs To Talk Down His Supporters And Explain That Nothing Is Being ‘Stolen’

Bernie Sanders gained a split decision in Tuesday’s presidential primaries, losing to Hillary Clinton by an eyelash in Kentucky and beating her by a more comfortable but reasonably close margin in Oregon. The net results won’t significantly reduce Clinton’s lead in pledged delegates, leaving Sanders with a nearly impossible task of winning the June 7 primaries by huge margins to overtake her. But again, it remains unclear whether Sanders will pack it in if he loses pledged delegates. Indeed, in a speech Tuesday night in California, Sanders simultaneously discussed the tough odds against winning a majority of pledged delegates and promised to “take the fight to Philadelphia,” apparently no matter what.

This ambiguous situation needs to be understood in the context of what happened this weekend in Nevada, where an ugly and fractious scene emerged at a state convention where four delegates to the Democratic National Convention were being selected. Veteran Nevada political reporter Jon Ralston watched it all and came away convinced the Sanders campaign had deliberately fed supporters spurious grievances over the rules in order to rationalize what was actually a fair-and-square Clinton victory in organizing for the event, which after all, simply confirmed Clinton’s earlier win in the February caucuses.

By the time hotel security shut down the event late Saturday evening, the Sanders delegates had hurled ugly epithets at Clinton surrogate Barbara Boxer and used a sign to block her from being shown on big screens; they had screamed vulgarities at state chairwoman Roberta Lange, who later received death threats after Sanders sympathizers posted her cellphone number and home address online; and they threw chairs at the stage as they rushed forward to try to take control of a convention they had lost, just as Sanders was defeated at the February 20 caucus by Clinton in a decisive result.

Ralston suspects this atmosphere of paranoia and self-pity could easily carry over to the national convention, assuming Clinton arrives there as the presumptive nominee via a narrow lead in pledged delegates. I’d say that’s a reasonable suspicion if Bernie Sanders and his campaign operatives continue to insinuate that the nomination is being stolen from him. The Nevada Democratic Party agreed in a letter to the DNC after Saturday’s near-riot:

We believe, unfortunately, that the tactics and behavior on display here in Nevada are harbingers of things to come as Democrats gather in Philadelphia in July for our National Convention. We write to alert you to what we perceive as the Sanders Campaign’s penchant for extra-parliamentary behavior — indeed, actual violence — in place of democratic conduct in a convention setting, and furthermore what we can only describe as their encouragement of, and complicity in, a very dangerous atmosphere that ended in chaos and physical threats to fellow Democrats.

And it’s not just mainstream media folk and Establishment Democrats who feel this way. Esquire‘s Charles Pierce, a Sanders supporter, was upset enough about Nevada to urge Sanders to “pack up and go home”:

[T]he Sanders people should know better than to conclude what has been a brilliant and important campaign by turning it into an extended temper tantrum.

I voted for Bernie Sanders … But if anybody thinks that, somehow, he is having the nomination “stolen” from him, they are idiots.

Nevada aside, consider the three arguments heard most often from the Sanders campaign against the unfair conditions it has endured.

The first is that DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz conspired to limit opportunities for candidate debates. That’s probably true. But there’s no particular evidence these events disproportionately benefited Sanders, who had no trouble getting to the starting gate with high name ID and plenty of support (viz the “virtual tie” in Iowa and his big win in New Hampshire). And she was forced to add some debates. Don’t know about you, but I feel like I heard from the candidates enough.

The second is that closed primaries (aggravated in some states by very early deadlines for changing party affiliation) disenfranchised many Sanders supporters. Let’s be clear about this: None of the primary participation rules were set after the Clinton-Sanders competition emerged. States with closed primaries have for the most part always had closed primaries. Until this cycle, moreover, it was typically Democratic progressives, not “centrist” Democrats, who favored closed primaries as a way to elevate the influence of “base” as opposed to “swing” voters. In no way, shape or form were these rules set to thwart Sanders or candidates like him.

And the third is that superdelegates (who at present overwhelmingly support Clinton) have tilted the playing field away from the people-powered Sanders all along. But Bernie’s people have a “clean hands” problem in making this argument, since they are simultaneously appealing to superdelegates to be prepared to deny the nomination to the pledged delegate winner (almost certainly Clinton) based on elites’ superior understanding of electability criteria. Beyond that, this is the ninth presidential cycle in which Democrats have given superdelegates a role in the nominating process. It’s not like it’s a nasty surprise sprung on the poor Sanders campaign at the last minute to seize the nomination for Clinton.

But even if these arguments for a big Bernie grievance are pretty empty, you can appreciate that the close nature of this year’s nominating contest makes it easy to assume something fishy happened, particularly if you begin with the assumption, as some Sanders supporters do, that your opponents are unprincipled corporate shills. It’s like Florida 2000: In a race this close, you can blame the outcome on anything that makes you mad, from Joe Lieberman’s support for counting overseas military ballots to Ralph Nader’s presence on the ballot to dozens of single events like the Brooks Brothers Riot.

Unfortunately, in a statement Sanders issued after the torrent of criticism over his supporters’ behavior in Nevada, the candidate was defiant, perfunctorily disclaiming violence and identifying closed primaries with dependence on corrupt big money cash. Prominent progressive blogger Josh Marshall read it and commented on Twitter:

For weeks I’ve thought and written that Sanders Camp Manager Jeff Weaver was the driver of toxicity in this race. But what I’ve heard in a series of conversations over recent weeks w/highly knowledgable people forced me to conclude that I had that wrong. It may be him too. But the burn it down attitude, the upping the ante, everything we saw in the statement released today by the campaign seems to be coming from Sanders himself. Right from the top.

One thing is largely indisputable: Bernie Sanders himself could help clear the air by informing his supporters that while there are many things about the Democratic nomination process that ought to be changed, no one has “stolen” the nomination from him or from them. Perhaps a thousand small things gave Hillary Clinton an “unfair” advantage in this contest, but they were mostly baked into the cake, not contrived to throw cold water on the Bern. And the best step Sanders’ supporters could take to promote their long-term interests in the Democratic Party would be to get a grip before they wind up helping Donald Trump win the presidency. And Bernie Sanders himself has a responsibility to talk his devoted followers off the ledge.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, May 18, 2016

May 21, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Sanders Supporters | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“His Campaign Has Developed A Closed Feedback Loop”: Does Sanders Continue To Deserve The Benefit Of The Doubt?

From the beginning I questioned the seriousness of Bernie Sanders’ proposals. Long before the disastrous New York Daily News interview, it seemed obvious to me that he was better at pointing out problems than he was at crafting actual solutions.

Then came the debates. Sanders’ explanation for any barrier to progressive change was the corruption of big money – that was true for both Democrats and Republicans. Discussion became almost impossible. Anyone who didn’t agree with him was an establishment sell-out.

As it became increasingly clear that he was going to lose the nomination to Hillary Clinton – despite doing better than anyone thought he would – the excuses began. It was because Southern states with African American voters went early in the process. Then it was because of closed primaries. Initially the campaign railed against the superdelegates. All that was reversed in an attempt to justify Sanders staying in the race based on the idea that he could flip them to support him instead of Clinton. None of that made any sense and his message got lost in complaints about the process.

Through all of that I wanted to give Sanders the benefit of the doubt. I wanted to believe that he was in this race to promote the progressive ideas he has championed his entire career, and that when the results were all in, he would do what Clinton did in 2008…support the nominee and come out of the convention in Philadelphia as a unified party.

Believing that wasn’t a pipe dream. During his time in the House and Senate, Sanders has demonstrated the ability to work within the system to advocate for progressive change. For example, in 2009 he proposed single payer in the Senate, but pulled the bill when it was clear that it didn’t have the votes. He then went on to fight for positive changes to Obamacare (i.e., community health centers) and eventually voted for it.

But the time for giving Sanders the benefit of the doubt might have ended. Paul Waldman explains it well.

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…

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.

In other words, the Sanders campaign has developed a closed feedback loop. No matter the outcome, it reinforces the premise. It is hard to see how that changes.

My one remaining hope was that perhaps the candidate himself could break out and convince at least some of his supporters to take a more constructive path. Martin is right, they’re not all Bernie Bros. That hope was beginning to die when Josh Marshall pulled the final plug.

For months I’d thought and written that Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver was the key driver of toxicity in the the Democratic primary race…

But now I realize I had that wrong.

Actually, I didn’t realize it. People who know told me.

Over the last several weeks I’ve had a series of conversations with multiple highly knowledgable, highly placed people. Perhaps it’s coming from Weaver too. The two guys have been together for decades. But the ‘burn it down’ attitude, the upping the ante, everything we saw in that statement released today by the campaign seems to be coming from Sanders himself. Right from the top.

We are reaching the end game here. The question for me isn’t so much about what Clinton will do – she is putting her energy into winning the remaining states and has already begun to pivot to the general election. What remains to be seen is what happens to the progressive movement in the Democratic Party. If Sanders insists on “burning things down,” will it survive?

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 19, 2016

May 20, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton, Sanders Supporters | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“No Cause For All The Fuss”: Bernie Sanders Is No Fool. He’ll Back Clinton When He Drops Out

Eight years ago, I spent an election night in a basement gymnasium in Manhattan, watching Hillary Clinton and her campaign advisers take up residence in a parallel universe.

It was June 3, 2008, and Barack Obama had just clinched the Democratic presidential nomination, making official a victory that had seemed inevitable for months. But Terry McAuliffe, then the campaign chairman and emcee of this Clinton “victory” party, recited a list of Clinton’s primary wins and introduced her as “the next president of the United States.”

Clinton that night made no mention of her defeat, boasting that she won “more votes than any primary candidate in history.”

Yet four days later, Clinton graciously bowed out of the race. In a concession speech at the National Building Museum in Washington, she said she and her supporters would “do all we can to help elect Barack Obama the next president of the United States.” Some in the hall booed — but Clinton delivered her supporters to Obama in November.

Recalling this serene end to the bitter and extended 2008 Democratic primary battle, I’m not inclined to join in all the hand-wringing about the damage Bernie Sanders is doing to Clinton’s chances in November by remaining in the race.

Tempers flared this week after a Sanders supporter, actress Rosario Dawson, mentioned Monica Lewinsky at a campaign rally. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), a Clinton supporter, demanded Sanders tell his supporters “to stop providing aid and comfort to Donald Trump and the Republican Party.”

This, in turn, caused Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver on Tuesday to accuse the Clinton campaign and her supporters of using “language reserved for traitors to our country.”

Why the hysteria? It doesn’t matter if Sanders continues his candidacy until the last votes are cast in June. What matters is that he quits gracefully, and there should be every expectation that he will, for a simple reason: Sanders is not a fool.

Sanders showed no sign of retreat Tuesday night, even as Clinton extended her lead by winning the night’s biggest prize, Pennsylvania, as well as Maryland, Delaware and Connecticut; Sanders won only Rhode Island. He gave a defiant, hour-long speech in which he said he was “taking on the most powerful political organization in America.” The reference to Clinton drew boos.

Sanders sounded like an extortionist Monday night when he said Clinton, if she won the nomination, would have to earn his supporters’ votes by embracing single-payer health care, free college tuition and a carbon tax — all things Clinton rejected in her (successful) campaign against Sanders. But seconds later, Sanders, prodded by the moderator, MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, added a qualifier: “I will do everything in my power to make sure that no Republican gets into the White House in this election cycle.”

That’s the crucial part. Sanders wants to exert maximum leverage to the very end to move Clinton toward his populist policies. But he is a practical man, and he certainly doesn’t wish to see a President Trump or President Cruz. This is why there’s no cause for all the fuss over him remaining in the race until he is mathematically eliminated.

Elimination is coming. Even before Clinton padded her lead with Tuesday night’s wins, Sanders needed to win 59 percent of remaining delegates, or 71 percent if you include superdelegates. That isn’t going to happen.

Clinton loyalists worry that Clinton will suffer general-election consequences from Sanders’s suggestions that she is unqualified and in Wall Street’s pocket. It’s true that Trump has echoed these attacks and said he’d like Sanders “to keep going.”

Still, this just doesn’t qualify as ugly campaigning — particularly compared with a Republican race in which candidates have called each other liars and argued about genital size. Or compare it with the Obama-Clinton standoff of 2008 — a much closer contest than this one. At a May 31, 2008, meeting of the Democratic National Committee, the two campaigns clashed with accusations of cheating. There were hecklers, howls and foul language, and extra security had to be called in to keep order. At the time, Clinton aides, sounding much like this year’s Sanders aides, were threatening that Obama “has work to do” to convince Clinton backers to go his way.

But a week later, Clinton was out, and the party was on a path to unity.

And so it will happen this time. Sanders, when he quits the race, can justifiably declare victory in moving the debate — and Clinton — in his direction on trade, Wall Street, income inequality, campaign finance and energy. His campaign has exceeded all expectations, and he isn’t about to jeopardize his movement by handing the presidency to Trump.

 

By: Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, April 26, 2016

May 5, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , | 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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