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“A President Can’t Go Ordering Folks Around”: Clinton Is Running For President. Sanders Is Doing Something Else

It is amazing how little the Democratic race has really changed over the last several months. Hillary Clinton is the odds-on favorite to win the nomination. Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) is leading a revolt from the left. Sanders speaks to white ideological liberals and young Democrats. Clinton speaks to practically everyone else in the party — and, as “Saturday Night Live” pointed out, provides a refuge for moderates terrified of the other options this election year. Nothing in Sunday night’s debate changed any of this, which nets out to a loss for Sanders.

Down in the polls in advance of Tuesday’s major contest in Michigan, Sanders needs the race to take a dramatic turn before Clinton wins another populous state. Yet rather than attempting to advance onto new ground in Sunday’s debate, Sanders simply entrenched himself on his same narrow patch of ideological turf. Either he knows he probably will not win the nomination and he figures he should just keep making his point while everyone is still watching, or he believes that his problem is that not enough people have heard him say the same things over and over again.

In fact, much of the debate revolved around the same basic argument between practicality and ideology that emerged the first time the two faced off on the debate stage, when Clinton declared, “I’m a progressive, but I’m a progressive who likes to get things done.”

Early in the debate, Clinton criticized Sanders for voting against the 2009 auto industry bailout. Sanders said that the auto bailout was folded into a larger bill that also bailed out the financial industry. He argued that “the billionaires” should have bailed out themselves, by which he means that Congress should have accepted his politically ludicrous plan to raise taxes in the middle of a recession. Clinton responded that Sanders chose purity over the public good. “You have to make hard choices when you’re in a position of responsibility,” she said. “If everybody had voted the way he did, I believe the auto industry would have collapsed.” Not only the auto industry. If Congress refused to respond practically to a moment of profound national crisis, it would have made the economic panic much, much worse and ruined many more ordinary people.

Later in Sunday’s debate, Clinton proposed doubling the amount of money the country invests in transportation infrastructure — which, despite bipartisan support for fixing up the nation’s roads and rails, would be a big legislative lift. “I’m trying to do this in a way that will gain support and be affordable,” she said. Moderator Don Lemon then asked Sanders to explain why his plan, which is twice as large as Clinton’s, is not “yet another example of a costly plan that will never get through Congress,” given that President Obama struggled to get a much smaller infrastructure proposal through. Sanders merely restated the case for much more spending and said he would target corporate tax dodgers to pay for it, ignoring the question of whether either proposal would be politically plausible.

Finally, the two candidates talked about fracking, an issue on which there is an obvious, sensible middle ground that Sanders predictably scorned. Clinton listed off a series of requirements she would impose on domestic fracking operations, such as limiting methane emissions and insisting on standards that would prevent water contamination. This is not so different from the Obama administration’s wholly reasonable position, which is to allow the industry to employ people and sell product while minimizing the environmental risks. Sanders simply said that he wants to ban fracking, and he dismissed the Democratic governors who want to see well-regulated fracking proceed in their states.

At least the detour onto fracking forced the candidates to speak about an issue that has not gotten much attention this campaign, even if the candidates’ positions simply reconfirmed their general approaches to policy. Mostly, Sanders steered the conversation back to his core concerns — Wall Street, campaign finance, a massive public jobs program and single-payer health care — and made his usual pitch. Clinton, meanwhile, ran for president. “A president can’t go ordering folks around,” she said at one point. “Our system doesn’t permit that.” It’s nice to know at least one candidate on either side is keeping that in mind.

 

By: Stephen Stromberg, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 7, 2016

March 8, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Primary Debates, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Facts Are Facts”: Bernie Sanders Will Not Be President

I respect Bernie Sanders. I admire his passion and his devotion to the common good as he conceives it. I find his style of leftist politics — with greater ties to the class-focused concerns of the Old Left than to the cultural and identity obsessions of the New — quite compelling. I admire the democratic socialist welfare states of Northern Europe on which he models his own policy proposals and would be happy to see the United States move further in that direction.

But it isn’t going to happen.

If you Feel the Bern, by all means keep fighting the good fight. Work to get Sanders and his issues placed front and center in the campaign. Act as if you think he has a good chance of burying Hillary Clinton, winning the Democratic nomination, and then triumphing over whichever candidate comes out on top at the end of the GOP primary scrum.

But facts are facts — and the fact is that Bernie Sanders is not going to be elected president of the United States.

The first obstacle Sanders faces is of course winning the Democratic Party’s nominating contest against Hillary Clinton. At the moment Sanders and his supporters feel like they have a good shot because he’s currently leading many polls in Iowa and New Hampshire. If he takes those first two states, showing that Clinton is beatable, then all bets are off.

Except that they’re not.

For one thing, lily-white Iowa isn’t especially representative, and neither is even more lily-white New Hampshire, which also just so happens to border Sanders’ home state of Vermont. Once the voting moves on to states in the South, West, and Midwest, and to bigger, more demographically diverse states where vastly more delegates are at stake, Clinton is quite likely to come out on top over and over again.

How likely? Very. We know this because of the national polling spread. Clinton has led Sanders in every poll taken since the start of the election cycle. The most recent ones place Clinton in the lead by anywhere from 4 to 25 percentage points, with the RealClearPolitics polling average showing Clinton nearly 13 points ahead. When a candidate consistently comes out on top, she is winning.

But what about the 2008 scenario? That’s when Barack Obama leapt ahead of Clinton in February after trailing her handily up to that point and ended up beating her to the nomination. That’s obviously the script that Sanders supporters hope to see repeated this time around.

The problem is that Bernie Sanders isn’t Barack Obama — and no, I’m not just talking about Obama’s presumably much greater ability to mobilize the African-American vote. I also mean his enviable capacity to inspire moderates as well as liberals to vote for him. Sanders, by contrast, is the strong favorite of those who identify as “very liberal” but understandably polls weakly among self-described “moderate” Democrats. With Sanders continuing to propose very liberal economic policies that even leading progressive commentators consider to be vague and unrealistic, that is unlikely to change.

But doesn’t Clinton face equal and opposite problems of her own by appealing primarily to moderates in the party? She would if there were equal numbers of economically liberal and moderate Democrats, but there aren’t. Though the number of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents willing to describe themselves as economically liberal has increased in recent years, the terms still apply to just 32 percent of the total. The proportion of those describing themselves as economically moderate or conservative, meanwhile, is 64 percent.

Which means that Clinton’s more economically moderate base of support is roughly double the size of Sanders’ liberal base.

To those, finally, who look to Donald Trump’s remarkable ascent in the Republican primary field as a sign that a populist insurgent can overturn the preferences of party establishments, a note of caution is in order. Leaving aside the fact that, unlike Sanders, Trump has been leading in national polls for six months straight, and often by wide margins, there remains the complication that Trump’s campaign scrambles established ideological assumptions on the right rather than simply reinforcing or radicalizing them. The mogul from Manhattan combines a far-right stance on immigration with economic positions that make him sound like a moderate Democrat. That’s why his candidacy is so dangerous to the GOP: It threatens to tear apart the electoral coalition and ideological agenda that has more or less held the party together since Ronald Reagan was elected 36 years ago.

Sanders’ candidacy threatens no such thing. It merely aims to pull his party further to the left — as Democrats have defined the left since 1972. Now if Sanders had responded to Clinton’s very liberal latter-day stance on gun control by championing the rights of gun owners, or if he’d made other strategic moves to the right on social issues (on abortion or religious freedom, perhaps), then he might well have sowed Trumpean chaos among Democrats and ended up leapfrogging Clinton to the nomination. But as it is, Sanders is merely doing what ideologically doctrinaire primary candidates always do: working to radicalize and purify his party’s already established ideological commitments.

That strategy will only win Sanders the nomination if the Democrats lurch quite a bit further leftward — or if some new (or old) scandal suddenly engulfs Hillary Clinton — in the coming weeks or months.

But in that unlikely (but not impossible) event, wouldn’t Democratic nominee Sanders stand a very good chance of winning the presidency? Haven’t a series of head-to-head polls shown that Sanders does well and in some cases even better than Clinton against the leading Republican candidates?

Yes they have, but those polls deserve to be taken with several grains of salt.

For one thing, these same polls also show Clinton in a dead-heat against the fading and transparently absurd sideshow candidacy of evangelical neurosurgeon Ben Carson. That’s strong prima facie evidence that the poll results are driven to a significant extent by voter ignorance. Put Carson on a debate stage opposite Clinton, and his support would collapse rapidly and dramatically.

Perhaps even more far-fetched is the finding that Sanders would defeat Trump by a wider margin than Clinton. Clinton’s hypothetical victory over Trump by a narrow 2.5 percentage points can be explained by the fact that both candidates would be appealing to the same bloc of white working-class voters, many of whom are Democrats. That could indeed make Clinton vulnerable against Trump. But to believe that Sanders would outperform her to beat Trump by 5.3 percentage points one has to presume that Sanders could do a better job than Clinton of persuading this (or some other) bloc of pro-Trump voters to support him instead.

Let’s just say that I find that implausible. Americans as a whole are strongly disinclined to vote for a socialist — more disinclined than they are to vote for a Catholic, a woman, a black, a Hispanic, a Jew, a Mormon, a homosexual, a Muslim, or an atheist. Is it at all likely that white working-class would-be Trump supporters are among the country’s most open-minded voters in this respect?

Sorry, I don’t buy it — and neither should you.

Bernie Sanders is a good man and an effective advocate for the causes he champions. But he isn’t going to be president.

 

By: Damon Linker, The Week, January 19, 2016

January 22, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

“Caring About The Political Fortunes Of The Causes”: If Bernie Sanders Wins, Centrist Liberals Are Morally Obligated To Support Him

In modern electoral politics, moderate and centrist Democrats are well-known for browbeating leftists with the lesser-evil argument. Democrats might not be particularly concerned about, say, child poverty, but they’re still better than Republicans on just about any issue you care to name. Obama might drone strike American citizens, but at least he doesn’t start full-blown wars of aggression that kill hundreds of thousands of people.

And that’s true, so far as it goes. However, there is a small but distinct possibility that moderates might find themselves on the receiving end of such an argument in the next election, if a leftist like Bernie Sanders wins the presidential nomination. As Matt Bruenig points out, they don’t seem to like this possibility. But they better be prepared for it.

For an example of a Democratic partisan, here’s Mark Kleiman explaining why he doesn’t agree with “emo-progs” (i.e., left-wing critics of Obama), in a post from a couple years ago entitled “Confessions of an Obamabot”:

What the emo-progs refuse to remember — now, and in the run-up to the 2010 election — that I never for a moment forget is that, whatever the failings of Barack Obama the human being, “Barack Obama” the political persona is the leader of the Democratic Party (and thus, effectively, of the entire progressive coalition) in a battle with a well-organized, well-funded, and utterly dedicated plutocrat-theocrat-racist-misogynist-obscurantist-ecocidal Red Team, whose lunatic extremism is now actually a threat to republican governance. If I’m reluctant to help Rand Paul and Glenn Greenwald add NSA! to Benghazi! and IRS! and Solyndra! and all the other b.s. pseudo-scandals designed to make Obama into Richard Nixon, it’s not because I’m in love with “The One:” it’s because, for good or ill, the political fortunes of the cause I care about are now tied to Obama’s political fortunes. [Washington Monthly]

Interpreted narrowly, this is a reasonable point. It is very often taken too far, of course — as with the people who blame the 97,000 Nader voters in Florida in 2000 for Gore’s loss of that state, instead of the 2.9 million who affirmatively voted for Bush. I would further add that Democrats should not always be supported without question. Centrist hack Democrats like Andrew Cuomo do not care about left-wing priorities like affordable housing and quality public transit — indeed he has actively worked against both. In Cuomo’s case, it is worth risking a potential loss in order to change the political incentives in New York at the state level.

Still, in America, tactical voting must always be a consideration. And for voters in swing states, that consideration is powerful indeed. Republicans really could do spectacular damage — just look at the smoking wreckage the last GOP president left.

The question is whether moderates are willing to swallow such an argument if Sanders manages to clinch the Democratic nomination. It’s still an extreme long shot, but it’s not completely out of the question.

After all, something similar happened in the U.K. just last week, with the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party. The reaction was not encouraging. Moderate liberals, like New Labourite Tony Blair, who all but begged his nation on hands and knees not to vote Corbyn (and probably added 10 points to Corbyn’s victory margin in the process), are furious. Some Labour MPs have reportedly even approached the Liberal Democratic Party about defecting.

Of course, that’s in the U.K., a genuinely multi-party democracy. There is less of an obligation to support Labour when the Greens or Scottish National Party could end up being part of a liberal coalition. In the U.S., there are only two real national parties, thus greatly strengthening any lesser-evil argument.

So unless moderate liberals’ arguments were 100 percent hypocrisy, should Sanders lock down the nomination, they will be obliged to support him. If they really care about the political fortunes of the causes they care about — ObamaCare, climate change, women’s rights, a higher minimum wage, keeping 27-year-old Heritage interns off the Supreme Court, etc. — they best start saying “actually, democratic socialism is good” in front of a mirror. They may need the practice.

 

By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, September 20, 2015

September 22, 2015 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democrats, Hillary Clinton, Progressives | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

   

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