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“Whoa Nellie!”: Bernie Sanders Is The Future Of The Democratic Party, Right? Not So Fast

As the competitive phase of the Democratic presidential primary has wound down, the action now moves to the nebulous contest to define the terms of Hillary Clinton’s victory and what, if anything, she owes to Bernie Sanders. It is a little strange, as Ed Kilgore points out, that the coverage of this question treats Sanders as the victor and Clinton as the vanquished. The discussion hinges on the premise that Sanders, even while losing the fight for delegates, has won the war of ideas within the party. The premise is shared by such disparate figures as economically moderate Matthew Yglesias (“Sanders’s basic vision of a party with a more sharply ideological message on economic issues is very likely to dominate in the future”) and ecstatic radical Corey Robin, who sees in Sanders’s success the rise of socialism that will sweep liberalism into the dustbin of history. But this assumes that Sanders’s appeal was mostly or even entirely ideological. That is probably wrong.

It is certainly true that Sanders pushed the debate leftward, by bringing previously marginal left-wing ideas into the Democratic discussion. It is also true that his disproportionately young supporters lie farther to the left than Clinton’s, and that his ideas account for at least some of his enthusiastic support. But to understand the Sanders campaign as primarily a demand for more radical economic policies misses a crucial source of his appeal: as a candidate of good government.

American liberalism contains a long-standing tradition, dating back to the Progressive Era, of disdain for the grubby, transactional elements of politics. Good-government liberals prefer candidates who make high-minded appeals to the greater good, rather than transactional appeals to self-interest. The progressive style of politics was associated with the middle-class reformers and opposition to urban machines, and was especially fixated with rooting out corruption in politics. Candidates who have fashioned themselves in this earnest style have included Adlai Stevenson, Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, Gary Hart, Jerry Brown, Howard Dean, and Barack Obama. These candidates often have distinct and powerful issue positions, but their appeal rests in large part on the promise of a better, cleaner, more honest practice of politics and government.

Sanders has tapped effectively into this tradition. His disdain for corporate donations, disheveled appearance, frequent disavowals of personal attacks (“People are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails!”), and pleas to conduct the campaign as an elevated issues seminar have lent him a rare authenticity. This has been aided by the fact that Clinton is unusually vulnerable to a good-government candidate. Through a combination of her husband’s scandals, her own missteps, and a hostile news media, Clinton has labored under the buildup of years of toxic coverage. Obama effectively attacked her on these themes eight years ago, and in 2015 her campaign began under the clouds of new scandals around her buckraking and misuse of a private email server. Polls of Democratic voters showed Sanders crushing her on perceptions of being honest and trustworthy.

The Wisconsin primary is indicative. Fifty-four percent of Democrats said they wanted a candidate who would continue President Obama’s policies, while only 31 percent of voters preferred more liberal policies. (This measure is itself imprecise, since Obama would also prefer more liberal policies, except the Republican Congress is blocking them.) But almost 90 percent of Democrats called Sanders honest and trustworthy, versus 57 percent who said the same about Clinton. Sanders won Wisconsin by 13 points.

Sanders has certainly benefited from and encouraged the spread of radical policies on the left. But the media attention to these ideas has magnified their real-world constituency. A faction is not close to taking majority control of a party before it is able to win at least a sizable minority share of the party’s elected officeholders. When Barry Goldwater led an insurgency to win the Republican nomination in 1964, the conservatives who supported him represented an important faction within the party, with representatives in both houses of Congress. Within the Democratic Party, on the other hand, socialists — depending on how you define it — are limited to Sanders himself. Sandersism may one day become the Democratic mainstream creed, but that day is probably a long way off.

 

By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, May 2, 2016

May 3, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Wrath Of The Conned”: The Divergent Nomination Outcomes Of 2016 Aren’t An Accident

Maybe we need a new cliché: It ain’t over until Carly Fiorina sings. Anyway, it really is over — definitively on the Democratic side, with high probability on the Republican side. And the results couldn’t be more different.

Think about where we were a year ago. At the time, Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush were widely seen as the front-runners for their parties’ nods. If there was any dissent from the commentariat, it came from those suggesting that Mr. Bush might be supplanted by a fresher, but still establishment, face, like Marco Rubio.

And now here we are. But why did Mrs. Clinton, despite the most negative media coverage of any candidate in this cycle — yes, worse than Donald Trump’s — go the distance, while the G.O.P. establishment went down to humiliating defeat?

Personalities surely played a role; say what you like (or dislike) about Mrs. Clinton, but she’s resilient under pressure, a character trait notably lacking on the other side. But basically it comes down to fundamental differences between the parties and how they serve their supporters.

Both parties make promises to their bases. But while the Democratic establishment more or less tries to make good on those promises, the Republican establishment has essentially been playing bait-and-switch for decades. And voters finally rebelled against the con.

First, about the Democrats: Their party defines itself as the protector of the poor and the middle class, and especially of nonwhite voters. Does it fall short of fulfilling this mission much of the time? Are its leaders sometimes too close to big-money donors? Of course. Still, if you look at the record of the Obama years, you see real action on behalf of the party’s goals.

Above all, you have the Affordable Care Act, which has given about 20 million Americans health insurance, with the gains biggest for the poor, minorities and low-wage workers. That’s what you call delivering for the base — and it’s surely one reason nonwhite voters have overwhelmingly favored Mrs. Clinton over a challenger who sometimes seemed to dismiss that achievement.

And this was paid for largely with higher taxes on the rich, with average tax rates on very high incomes rising by about six percentage points since 2008.

Maybe you think Democrats could and should have done more, but what the party establishment says and what it does are at least roughly aligned.

Things are very different among Republicans. Their party has historically won elections by appealing to racial enmity and cultural anxiety, but its actual policy agenda is dedicated to serving the interests of the 1 percent, above all through tax cuts for the rich — which even Republican voters don’t support, while they truly loathe elite ideas like privatizing Social Security and Medicare.

What Donald Trump has been doing is telling the base that it can order à la carte. He has, in effect, been telling aggrieved white men that they can feed their anger without being forced to swallow supply-side economics, too. Yes, his actual policy proposals still involve huge tax cuts for the rich, but his supporters don’t know that — and it’s possible that he doesn’t, either. Details aren’t his thing.

Establishment Republicans have tried to counter his appeal by shouting, with growing hysteria, that he isn’t a true conservative. And they’re right, at least as they define conservatism. But their own voters don’t care.

If there’s a puzzle here, it’s why this didn’t happen sooner. One possible explanation is the decadence of the G.O.P. establishment, which has become ingrown and lost touch. Apparatchiks who have spent their whole careers inside the bubble of right-wing think tanks and partisan media may suffer from the delusion that their ideology is actually popular with real people. And this has left them hapless in the face of a Trumpian challenge.

Probably more important, however, is the collision between demography and Obama derangement. The elite knows that the party must broaden its appeal as the electorate grows more diverse — in fact, that was the conclusion of the G.O.P.’s 2013 post-mortem. But the base, its hostility amped up to 11 after seven years of an African-American president (who the establishment has done its best to demonize) is having none of it.

The point, in any case, is that the divergent nomination outcomes of 2016 aren’t an accident. The Democratic establishment has won because it has, however imperfectly, tried to serve its supporters. The Republican establishment has been routed because it has been playing a con game on its supporters all along, and they’ve finally had enough.

And yes, Mr. Trump is playing a con game of his own, and they’ll eventually figure that out, too. But it won’t happen right away, and in any case it won’t help the party establishment. Sad!

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, April 29, 2016

April 30, 2016 Posted by | Democrats, Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Sorry, Teabaggers”: America Really Loves These Liberal Policies

I keep hearing Joe Scarborough go off on how the great unwritten story of this election season is how far left the Democratic Party has moved—a drum he’s been beating for months now. The idea, I suppose, is that this will be the Democratic Achilles’ heel this fall; that the whole topic is one huge Drudge siren that no one has bothered to look or listen for because everyone is so fixated on the Republican chaos.

Nonsense. To the extent that the Democratic Party has moved left, it’s mostly as a consequence of following, not leading, public opinion. So if the Democratic Party is left wing, then the American people are too.

Let’s start with some of Bernie Sanders’s positions. Sanders is in all likelihood not going to be the nominee, but a reasonably high percentage of rank-and-file Democrats support him (although not that high—remember that much of his support is from independents). So what are the main things he’s saying?

1.That the system is rigged in favor of the 1 percent. That’s not left wing, that’s just a statement of the obvious. Everyone agrees with that; not least the 1 percent themselves, who are investing billions of dollars in this election in the hope that things stay that way. Anyway, for those who need such things, here’s a poll result from this month. Is the system rigged? Saying yes, 85 percent. Saying no, 4 percent. Supporting the GOP position that the 1 percent needs more tax breaks so they can trickle it down to the rest of us? Well, they didn’t even ask that one.

2. That Citizens United is corrupt and should be overturned. Here, the Sanders position (really the Democratic Party position, since virtually the whole party holds it) doesn’t fare as well. I mean, only 78 percent of America thinks Citizens United was a bad decision; 17 percent take the Republican view that it was well decided.

3. That the minimum wage should be $15 an hour. Here’s one poll of many showing high support for that—63 percent. Also, 82 percent support indexing it to inflation. The Republican position that any increase is a job killer isn’t even asked, but based on those who “strongly” oppose an increase, it would seem to be a view held by around 10 percent of Americans.

4. Free college tuition. This one’s tighter, but even here, a poll last year showed people supporting it by 46-41 percent. That same poll showed more generally that people agreed with the idea, much more broadly reflective of the position of the Democratic Party, that no one should have to go into debt to attend a public university, by 62 to 29 percent. Radicals!

5. Free health care. This does less well, but still wins a plurality of 39-33, with the rest undecided.

Again, Bernie Sanders isn’t a Democrat, the Democratic Party isn’t going to be nominating him. But I use his positions because generally speaking they’re to the left of Hillary Clinton’s, and large majorities and pluralities support even them. Levels of support for Clinton’s versions of the above policies run higher. For example, she gets attacked from the left for saying the minimum wage could be $12 in rural and less expensive areas. Well, fully 75 percent support that, 12 points higher than the 63 percent who back a $15 minimum.

What about some of Clinton’s signature proposals? Paid family leave, is that radical? If so, 185 countries are left wing. Chad—Chad—gives mothers 14 weeks, paid at 100 percent! As for the polls, 79 percent of America is irresponsibly left wing on this question.

I could go on and on. I don’t want to turn the whole column into the March of the Poll Numbers. But OK, here’s one more. Marijuana legalization—maybe that’s radical? I mean, after all, it’s drugs. Nope, sorry; 58 percent support legalizing pot. The story is the same on same-sex marriage, contraceptive rights, and a whole bushelful of things.

Here’s what I’m getting at: The Democrats’ new positions look radical if you can only look at the world through a Beltway-specific, and indeed Capitol Hill-specific, lens.

Because if Congress is what you see when you see America, then you see a place where roughly half—no, more than half—of the people think that raising the minimum wage is radical, or that health care is a privilege you have to earn, or that climate change is a fantasy (or a Chinese conspiracy, as Donald Trump has been telling it), or that everyone up to and including schoolteachers ought to carry loaded guns.

Out in the real country, only crackpots think these things. As I’ve shown above, 70 percent of Americans agree with these non-left-wing, common sense positions. But the crackpot community is dramatically overrepresented in Washington and skews the way all these things are discussed and described on shows like Morning Joe.

So no, these positions aren’t radical. Or come to think of it, if they are, then it is because the American middle class has been somewhat radicalized. After the meltdown and the good-but-not-good-enough recovery, the people in the middle, making from $35,000 to $70,000 or thereabouts, said “We’ve had it.” They’ve spent 35 years treading water, watching the rich have a party while listening to politicians tell them that the money for their needs just wasn’t there. They’re sick of it. There’s a lot about Sanders I’m not crazy about, but it’s obvious why he’s struck such a nerve.

And this fall, Clinton can’t succumb to this “radical Democratic Party” frame for a second. It’s not radical to tell the 1 percent the party’s over. It’s radical—in the other, malevolent direction—not to.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, April 26, 2016

April 27, 2016 Posted by | Public Opinion, Republicans, Tea Party | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“We’ll Never Stop Arguing About It”: Obamacare Is Helping A Lot Of People. Not Everyone Thinks That’s Good News

April 21, 2016 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Conservatives, Obamacare, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Up-And-Running Now”: Hillary’s “Establishment Politics” Has Already Delivered Some Of The Paid Leave Sanders Promises

The negative reviews of and cascading events from Bernie Sanders’ less-than-deft Q&A with the New York Daily News earlier this week continue. But there is one additional passage from that interview that deserves, but has largely escaped, notice (emphasis mine):

Alright, I believe that in the midst of the kinds of crises that we face with a disappearing middle class and massive levels of income and wealth inequality, the only major country on earth not guarantee to healthcare to all people, only major country not to provide paid family and medical leave, it is time to get beyond establishment politics. So to put your question in maybe a simpler way, is she a candidate of the establishment? The answer is, of course she is.

This is an astonishing thing for Sanders to say for a couple of reasons. First because, as he surely knows, it was the “establishment” Bill Clinton who, as one of his first acts as president in 1993, signed the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) after it had twice been vetoed by his predecessor. Second (and maybe Sanders doesn’t know this; few do), having signed the FMLA providing up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to workers to care for a newborn or a sick family member, Clinton, with the active help of his wife, became the first president to use federal power to provide paid leave to American workers.

I know this because I wrote the speech in which he unveiled the policies. It was a commencement address delivered on May 23, 1999 at Grambling State University, an historically black college in norther Louisiana that boasts, among other things, one of the best marching bands in the country. In the speech, Clinton announce two executive actions. First, federal workers would be allowed to use the sick leave they’d earned to take time off to care for other sick family members. Second, and potentially more important, states would be allowed to let public and private sector workers who have paid into the state’s federally regulated unemployment insurance systems to collect payments from those systems while they’re on leave caring for a newborn or a newly adopted child. Having attended the meetings where these policies were hashed out, I can assure you that they were a joint East Wing/West Wing initiative. The main person behind them was Nicole Rabner, who was the First Lady’s senior domestic policy adviser as well as a special assistant to the president.

The first policy (paid leave for federal workers) is still in place today. The second (allowing states to tap their unemployment insurance systems for paid leave) was overturned by George W. Bush, who deemed it a harmful imposition on businesses. But four states (California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Washington) that have separate Temporary Disability Systems, which are not federally regulated, used those systems to create basically the same voluntary family leave programs the Clintons were trying to incentivize. A major study of California’s, the largest and longest running paid leave program, found that it improved children’s health outcomes without measurably harming business productivity.

So the “establishment” politician Hillary Clinton can rightly claim a share of the credit for the paid leave programs that exist in the United States. They’re far from universal, but they’re real, up-and-running programs that seem to be working as advertised. And the reason they’re not more wide spread is not “establishment politics”–they are in fact the result of establishment politics–but Republican resistance.

Both Clinton and Sanders sponsored bills in the Senate to expand family leave that didn’t pass, and each has put forward plans to do so if they’re elected president (though the plans differ in how they’re financed). So both are, for progressives, on the “right side” of the issue. But only one of them has actually accomplished anything on this, and it isn’t Bernie Sanders.

 

By: Paul Glastris, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 8, 2016

April 9, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Bill Clinton, Family and Medical Leave Act, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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