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“Pragmatism Don’t Know Bernie”: Locked In A Battle With The Party He Ostensibly Seeks To Lead

“You can’t always get what you want.” — The Rolling Stones

A few words in defense of pragmatism.

That ideal has taken quite a beating lately, mostly at the hands of Bernie Sanders and his supporters. The Vermont senator faces a virtually impossible deficit in his battle with Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination. Pragmatism would seem to suggest it’s time for him to pack it in.

But pragmatism don’t know Bernie. Or Bernie Nation.If this weren’t clear before, it has been made abundantly so in the last two weeks, beginning with Sanders supporters in Las Vegas tearing open the Nevada Democratic convention in a protest so angrily chaotic it was shut down by security, fearing violence. But Sanders supporters weren’t done yet; they also sent death threats to party officials.

The proximate cause of this Trumpish behavior was a dispute over rules, a claim that, as Sanders’ campaign manager put it, the convention had been “hijacked” to award more delegates to Hillary Clinton. Politico rated that false.

Not that this has made much difference to Sanders, now locked in a battle with the party he ostensibly seeks to lead. His denunciation of the convention chaos was as tepid and belated as Donald Trump at his worst. He has blasted the party for being, as he sees it, in the pocket of the rich, and specifically denounced Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. In a Monday interview, Sanders told the Associated Press that this summer’s convention could be “messy,” though he later insisted that was not a tacit suggestion of violence.

Given the intensity of the emotions at play and the behavior of his supporters in Vegas, it’s hard to see how it could have been anything but. Which is disappointing. A few days ago, Sanders’ campaign seemed headed for an honorable legacy. But he has apparently decided instead upon a legacy of peevishness and sore losing, which is, as Frank Bruni noted a few weeks back in The New York Times, a hallmark of this political epoch.

Look: There is something to be said, under certain circumstances, for fighting to the last breath. Under certain circumstances, it is noble to stand one’s ground, come what may. Under certain circumstances, it might even be heroic to soldier on past the point of defeat.

These are not those circumstances. Trump awaits. And every second the left spends arguing with itself is a gift to the presumptive Republican nominee.

Let’s not get it twisted. For all that some people now seek to normalize him and his campaign, for all that they fool themselves into thinking he wouldn’t be so bad, for all that a party once appalled to find him its leader now coalesces behind him, Trump is still what he’s always been: a tire fire in an expensive suit.

Yes, Clinton is, putting it mildly, a flawed candidate, stiff at the lectern, shameless in her pandering and disliked for reasons both substantive (she sometimes seems to have only a nodding relationship with truth) and not. (Since when is it a sin — or a surprise — for a politician to be ambitious?) But she’s also intelligent and experienced. And compared to Trump, she’s a plate of Lincoln with a side of FDR.

As such, she might make a good president, might be a middling president, might even be a bad president, but at a minimum, she would be a president unlikely to hand out nuclear weapons like party favors or require customs agents to ask would-be visitors, “Are you now or have you ever been a Muslim?”

Clinton is, in other words, a good, pragmatic choice. And no, that’s not an inspiring battle cry.

But a reality show buffoon unburdened by knowledge, decency or dignity is closing in on the White House. We should probably take a little inspiration from that.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, May 25, 2016

May 25, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Sanders Campaigns Against The Democrats”: The Question Is Whether Or Not He Cares

As the primaries come to a close, Bernie Sanders has upped the ante in his fight against the Democratic establishment, leading many Democrats to worry about party unity going into the general election.

This late in the game, it’s extremely unlikely that Sanders will manage to wrest the nomination from Hillary Clinton. She’s hundreds of delegates ahead, not counting super delegates that have pledged their non-binding allegiance to her, and many in the Democratic establishment have criticized Sanders’ decision to stay in the race.

“Bernie made his point,” said an unnamed Colorado Democrat to Politico. “It’s time to bring the party back together. The longer he waits, the more damage he does. The question is whether or not he cares. The rest of us do.”

Sanders knows that, which is why he has begun focus on committee assignments and other minutiae at the Democratic National Convention in July. But that hasn’t stopped him from focusing fire on his rival.

“We need a campaign, an election, coming up which does not have two candidates who are really very, very strongly disliked. I don’t want to see the American people voting for the lesser of two evils,” he said on ABC’s This Week on Sunday, describing the low favorability ratings both Clinton and Donald Trump face going into a presidential election match up.

Comments like that have signaled Sanders’ increasing investment in a divided Democratic Party as the primary calendar runs down to its last six contests. “The ‘burn it down’ attitude, the upping the ante,” wrote Josh Marshall on Talking Points Memo, “seems to be coming from Sanders himself. Right from the top.” While blame was initially cast on Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ fiery campaign manager, commentators started placing blame more directly on Sanders himself after his statement following the supposed scuffles that took place in the Nevada Democratic convention — Sanders placed most of the blame for his delegate’s rowdiness on “Democratic leadership us[ing] its power to prevent a fair and transparent process from taking place.”

Sanders has also been outspoken in his criticism of Debbie Wasserman Schulz, chair of the Democratic National Committee, who has been accused of tilting the nomination process in Clinton’s favor, primarily by scheduling what few debates the Democrats had early in primary season on odd days and over long weekends. Sanders has even endorsed Tim Canova, a Democrat currently fighting a Sanders-style insurgent primary campaign against Wasserman Schulz in South Florida.

“Clearly, I favor her opponent,” Sanders said in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper. “His views are much closer to mine than as to Wasserman Schultz’s.” He also said that if he were elected president, he would not reappoint Wasserman Schultz as chairperson of the DNC.

Nevertheless, Sanders has been able to extract concessions from the party. It was announced earlier today that Sanders would be given more seats in the party’s convention platform committee, a key body that decides party positions and policies. The agreement was part of a strategy advocated by both Sanders and Clinton allies to ameliorate the party divide and give a stronger voice to the substantial following Sanders now commands.

While Sanders initially wanted the committee to be split evenly between his and Clinton’s delegates, with one neutral appointment by the DNC chair, the announced changes were a victory in themselves for Sanders. The original rules allowed Schulz to appoint all 15 members of the committee — a move that likely could have led to a repeat of the chaos at the Nevada Democratic convention, but in Philadelphia on primetime television. One can only imagine the ways in which Donald Trump would try to use such a display to his advantage.

Clinton has been forced to tack further left in this election than most predicted she would, incorporating parts of Sanders’ message into her stump speeches. Following her surprise defeat in the Michigan primary, Clinton gave a concession speech that sounded remarkably like Sanders’s speeches, tapping into a growing anger over the behavior of American corporations outsourcing jobs and abusing the tax code.

We are going to stand up to corporations that seems have absolutely no loyalty to this country that game them so much in the first place. Look at Nabisco laying off 600 workers in Chicago and moving a production line out of the country.They have no problem taking taxpayer dollars in one and giving out pink slips with the other. Look at the Eden Corporation in Ohio. They get millions of dollars in tax credits and government contracts to make electrical equipment. But that has not stopped them from using accounting tricks to move their headquarters overseas and avoid paying their fair share of taxes here at home. Now they are shutting down a factory, eliminating more than 100 jobs, moving that work out of the country. And to top it off, they gave their CEO a payout worth more than $11 million. Now, we should make corporations pay for these so-called inversions with a new exit fare.

Her pivot towards anti-corporatism could be explained by the overblown fear that Trump will peel off white, working class Sanders supporters who espouse his anti-free trade, protectionist economic policies

In a comprehensive analysis by The Washington Post, a quarter of Sanders supporters had strongly unfavorable views of Clinton. Meanwhile, three quarters of respondents held negative views of the all-but-coronated Republican presidential candidate. More Sanders supporters said they would vote for an unnamed third party candidate than for Trump, effectively saying they would vote for literally anyone over the repeatedly-bankrupt businessman. Like much of what the racist billionaire says, his claims that independent voters will flock to him once Sanders is out of the race are more bluster than substance.

 

By: Sail Alnuweiri, The National Memo, May 23, 2016

May 24, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Vainglory And Cult Of Personality”: Bernie Sanders’ Campaign Isn’t About Ideas Anymore. It’s About Him

Bernie Sanders made a huge mistake this week. It’s one that, if not soon corrected, could squander the sizeable influence he has over his party’s platform, and, more indelibly, create for the eventual Democratic nominee, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a schism in the party that she does not have the means to reconcile.

The error: Bernie’s campaign became a vehicle to advance Bernie Sanders’ vainglory and cult of personality. His staff responded irresponsibly to violence at the state caucuses in Nevada. He compounded their tone deaf responses by wrapping a muted condemnation of the chaos inside a long justification of the complaints that caused it.

Clinton won Nevada by six points on Feb. 20. The rules for delegate selection are clear. They are complex but they are not opaque. Sanders knew them going in to the race, and by accepting delegates, he has signed on to their legitimacy. He can protest them and try to revise them, but he cannot, in good conscience, urge his supporters to ignore them — or to find them unfair, inter alia, as the stakes change.

But before you accuse me of not understanding what really was at stake, let me explain for you the reason why Sanders’s supporters got so angry.

The rules say that the chairperson of the state convention can call for a voice vote to approve the adoption of the credentials report — basically a list of delegate identities submitted by each campaign. The chairperson of the Nevada State Convention, Roberta Lange, did just that. The room erupted. Sanders’s supporters were angry that the credentials report had enshrined the selection of many more Clinton supporters than Sanders supporters, and they loudly tried to “no” vote the approval process. Lange reasoned — reasonably — that the volume of the nays did not reflect the size of the nay vote. (Indeed, there were more Clinton supporters in the room.) Only Lange can decide whether to call for a roll call vote, or some other mechanism. Those are the rules. Even as Sanders supporters screamed at her, spitting cusses in her direction, she decided not to. That’s her prerogative. Those are the rules.

A responsible answer to this chaos from the Sanders campaign would have been to say: “We think the rules are unfair and did not give voice to our supporters, and we will try to revise the rules to make sure that this doesn’t happen again.”

That is not the answer that Sanders’s campaign gave. Instead, they (once again) questioned the legitimacy of the party. Questioning the legitimacy of the institution that you’ve chosen to work inside of is tantamount to a call for a revolt. If the DNC and its proxies are not legitimate, then, indeed, the election IS being stolen from Bernie Sanders, and since a hell of a lot IS at stake, then agitation verging on violence is pretty much the only alternative short of going home and giving up.

It’s fine for Sanders supporters in the heat of battle to believe this, but it is beyond irresponsible for Sanders’s campaign to encourage the provenance of this view. Why? Because it’s not true. It simply isn’t. The rules are not rigged in favor of or against any particular candidate. They can’t be. They were set long before the candidates entered the race. They haven’t been capriciously changed. Indeed, they are skewed in FAVOR of Sanders: He has received more delegates than his popular vote totals should see him allocated, assuming that, as he does, the only real form of democracy is direct. Or maybe not: He has repeatedly said that the party does a disservice when it doesn’t allow independents to vote in its primaries. And he has also said that he represents the “working people” — the “working people” only vote for him. (Do Clinton supporters not work?)

His campaign is descending into semiotic babble. He is creating unrealistic expectations for his supporters. If those expectations cannot be met by a reconciliation, and if the party truly cannot convince a large number of Sanders delegates that they have been treated fairly, then his delegates could cause real trouble at the convention. They could prevent Clinton from uniting the party. They could prevent Sanders from keeping the party accountable for its promises to voters. They could nullify the very real power Sanders has right now to remold the party in the image of the type of candidate who is independent and more attentive to working class voters.

In other words, his blinders, put upon him by campaign staff and other hangers-on, are hurting his cause right now. I’ve vacillated about whether a responsible Democrat should want Sanders to stay in the race, given that his chances of winning the nomination by accumulating delegates are vanishingly small, and that his arguments that superdelegates should follow the expressed will of their state’s voters have fallen largely on the back of necks — ears have turned away. For me, it came to down to the future of the party. If Sanders’s movement was best served by his presence in the race, he should stay in. If not, he should bow out. For a while, his victories in demographically appropriate states, his willingness to tone down his attacks against Clinton, his musings about building the party’s bench down the ballot — all of these pointed to a man with mature instincts for a tempered use of his considerable power.

Even his supporters know: Bernie’s campaign isn’t about them. It’s about policies. It’s about removing the influence of big money in politics. It’s about fairer trade. It’s about an American manufacturing renaissance. It’s about, in other words, stuff for other people. The moment it becomes about him is the moment he needs to make it about that other stuff again. Time is running out.

 

By: Marc Ambinder, The Week, May 20, 2016

May 22, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Sanders Supporters | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Making The Case For Clinton”: Sanders Increasingly Appears Petulant And Shortsighted

Bernie Sanders is facing a critical test of his leadership, and so far he’s failing. When some of his supporters threw chairs at a mid-May convention of the Nevada State Democratic Party and threatened the life of Roberta Lange, the state party chairwoman, Sanders’ response was to paint the Democratic establishment — the leaders of the party with which he has had a marriage of convenience for decades — as corrupt.

He sounded more petulant than apologetic, more angry at his Democratic rival than alarmed at the actions of his supporters. That’s troubling.

There is an axiom, frequently quoted to younger folk who are facing difficulty, that says you are more accurately judged by your response to adversity than your response to advantage. There’s much truth in that — and Sanders, who is no longer young, should know it.

He is losing. He has run a lively, imaginative and uplifting campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination and has attracted millions of supporters. He has influenced Hillary Clinton, the likely nominee, pushing her to the left on some critical issues, including trade.

But, as often is the case in life, that hasn’t been enough. It’s nearly impossible for him to win. He simply cannot get enough votes in the remaining primaries.

His response? He has accused Democrats of “rigging the system” against him and implicitly threatened to withhold his support from Clinton if he doesn’t win. He has made noises about a contested convention and suggested that he doesn’t care whether his tactics aid the presumptive GOP nominee, Donald Trump.

In so doing, he simply makes the case for Clinton, who clearly is better suited, not only by experience but also by temperament, for a demanding job where you don’t always get your way. She has been just where Sanders is now — remember 2008? She didn’t threaten to turn the nominating convention upside down or insist that she’d been cheated.

Clinton ran an energetic contest against a young senator named Barack Obama — a contest that was sometimes rancorous and racially tinged. There were suggestions of a breach that would never be repaired, of a rivalry that was all-consuming, of a Democratic Party that would be riven for decades to come. But Clinton never suggested to her supporters that they stage a revolt.

And after she lost, she and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, campaigned tirelessly for Obama. She later became his loyal and dedicated secretary of state.

(Obama, for his part, exhibited the equanimity for which he has become well known throughout the testy 2008 primary season. Though he started far behind Clinton in support from superdelegates, he persuaded many of them to change their allegiance to him without resorting to hints of blackmail. Can you imagine, by the way, what would have happened had the supporters of a black candidate thrown chairs and issued death threats?)

Sanders’ tactics, by contrast, are not only shortsighted and immature, but they are also dangerous, fueling the cynicism and suspicion that are eating away at the civic fabric. He is leading his voters to believe that he is being cheated out of the nomination, but that is simply not true.

The party rules that hand over outsized power to unelected superdelegates, most of whom are Clinton supporters, are not democratic (small “d”), but those rules have been in place for decades. Sanders never complained about them before.

Of course, Sanders hasn’t been a Democrat before, either. He has spent most of his career as an independent, a self-described socialist. While he usually votes with Democrats in the U.S. Senate, he has often snubbed them publicly, suggesting his colleagues were too wedded to a corrupt system. That is not the sort of history likely to persuade those same colleagues — many of whom are superdelegates — to support him for the nomination.

Sanders should reconsider his strategy. He could stay in the race until June (as Clinton did in 2008) and still gracefully concede and back her candidacy. He would return to the Senate in a position of power and prestige.

But if he continues his current course, his legacy might be to elect Trump as president. Is that terrifying prospect what Sanders wants?

 

By: Cynthia Tucker Haynes, Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2007; The National Memo, May 21, 2016

May 22, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Sanders Supporters | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Moment Of Truth”: Why The Sanders Movement Is Just About Dead

This is the moment of truth for Bernie Sanders and his supporters. It’s the moment that determines whether everything they’ve accomplished to this point is translated into real power and real change, or fizzles into nothing, leaving behind only bitterness and resentment. And right now, the latter course is looking much more likely.

What happened in Nevada over the weekend was an expression of some key features of the Sanders campaign, even if it involved only a small number of Sanders supporters taking things to an extreme that most of them would never contemplate. It showed just how hard it’s going to be to convert the campaign into a lasting enterprise that has any influence over American politics. And at the moment, Bernie Sanders himself — the one person with the power to shape where this movement goes from here — hasn’t shown that he understands what’s happening or what he ought to do about it.

To briefly catch up: In February, Hillary Clinton won the Nevada caucuses over Bernie Sanders by a margin of 53-47. But because Nevada is one of the states with absurdly arcane procedures involving multiple conventions leading up to the party gathering that took place last weekend which chose the final allocation of delegates, both campaigns did their best to out-organize each other in an attempt to win a few extra delegates. After some arguing and disputes over credentials, the party finally awarded more delegates to Clinton. Sanders supporters basically went nuts, with a lot of yelling and screaming, some tossing of chairs, and eventually a torrent of harassment and threats aimed at the state party chair.

I’m not going to try to adjudicate what happened in Nevada, beyond saying that it looks like Clinton won the caucus, Sanders tried to work the system to grab some extra delegates, but then Clinton worked the system to grab them back, which doesn’t seem particularly unfair in the end. At the very least it was equally unfair to everyone.

That doesn’t mean that Sanders hasn’t had some legitimate process complaints all along. When he says that the leadership of the DNC aren’t neutral but are basically behind Clinton, he’s right. And I get that Sanders is in an awkward position. Telling his supporters to tone down their criticisms lest they damage the nominee would mean acknowledging that he isn’t going to win, and doing that would demobilize his supporters.

We should also appreciate that the Clinton campaign is all too happy to see this kind of meltdown, because it only makes Sanders and his supporters look like desperate dead-enders who can’t accept reality. And if she does become president, she’d probably be happier if she never faced any organized pressure from the left. But at the moment, Sanders has chosen to spend his time suggesting that the Democratic Party is corrupt, and any outcome other than him being the nominee just proves it. That is a recipe for the destruction of everything he’s accomplished up until now.

This is the problem with framing your campaign and everything you want to do as a “revolution.” You can’t have a partial revolution; either you overthrow the old order or the old order survives. And Sanders is encouraging his supporters to believe that if there’s anything of the old order left, then all is lost.

But the reality is that if the Sanders campaign is to become the Sanders movement — a force that has lasting impact on the presidency of Hillary Clinton and American politics more generally — it will only happen because he and his supporters manage to exercise influence through that system they despise. When he goes to visit Clinton in the Oval Office and tells her, “We still need a revolution!”, what is she going to say? Okay Bernie, thanks for coming, it was nice to see you.

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.

This is the danger inherent in a critique that stands apart from substantive policy issues. The Sanders supporters who are now losing their minds certainly want the policy changes Sanders has advocated, like single-payer health care and free college tuition. But that isn’t what’s motivating them most powerfully right now. If it were, they’d be strategizing on how to maximize the chances of achieving those changes given the reality that Bernie Sanders is not going to be the next president of the United States.

Instead, they’re most emotionally invested in the Sanders campaign as a vehicle of rebellion and revolution, a blow against that big amorphous blob of people, institutions, procedures and norms called “the establishment” or “the system.” Because they are convinced that the system is corrupt and only the Sanders campaign is pure, any loss by Sanders can only be evidence that corruption has triumphed. If more Democrats prefer Hillary Clinton to be their nominee, it can only be because the game was rigged.

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.

There are millions of people who voted for Sanders in the primaries and will happily support Hillary Clinton in the general election — indeed, that describes the vast majority of Sanders supporters. Even most of the core activists who made up his revolutionary vanguard will probably cast the same vote, if for no other reason than to stop Donald Trump. And many of them will take the inspiration they felt and the things they learned working on this campaign and use them in new efforts for change. But the idea of a lasting, effective movement led by Bernie Sanders and built on the ideals and goals of his campaign? That’s just about dead.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, May 18, 2016

May 21, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton, Sanders Supporters | , , , , , | 2 Comments

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