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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

“A Statement Of Mathematical Fact”: Come On, Bernie, Time To Level With Your Dreamers

Soon and very soon, Bernie Sanders is going to have to help his most ardent fans confront the fact of his defeat. How he does so will help to determine his legacy.

That is not meant to disparage the campaign or the candidate, despite the vitriol that’s sure to start flooding into my Twitter timeline right now. It’s a statement of mathematical fact. As of today, no matter what happens in Kentucky (or Oregon, or Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington, D.C. or even mighty California), Hillary Clinton is going to be the Democratic nominee.

Clinton is 94 percent of the way to the 2,383 required delegates, having won 54 percent of the total pledged delegates so far, to Sanders’s 46 percent. She needs only 35 percent of what’s left, while Sanders needs 65 percent, and a literal miracle. If you throw in superdelegates, as they stand today, Clinton needs just 14 percent of the remainder to win, versus an astounding 86 percent haul Sanders needs.

Everyone covering this race knows these facts, and the only question is how to manage the communication of them in a way that respects the ongoing democratic process.

Of course, none of that has stopped the magical thinking, and in some quarters, the rage and even conspiracy theorizing of hardcore Sandernistas who refuse to accept that the war is lost. Case in point, the cantankerous Nevada Democratic convention in Las Vegas this weekend at which stalwart liberal California Sen. Barbara Boxer was booed and shouted down for the crime of calling for civility and party unity, and a fight literally broke out on the convention floor over the setting of rules and the election of 43 delegates and three alternates to go to the July 25 national convention in Philadelphia.

Indeed, there’s nothing quite like firing up Twitter only to be inundated by Bernie-hair avatars shrieking about hundreds of thousands—no, millions—of would-be Bernie voters falling victim to a supposed national voter suppression campaign that is the “real reason” he isn’t winning. The culprits, in this alternate reality, are the Democratic National Committee, which does not set the rules for individual caucuses and primaries. They are run, respectively, by state parties and state legislatures, but according to the theory, they’ve been gamed by nefarious Hillary Clinton operatives in the parties, who have been programmed by “The Establishment” to deny Bernie his rightful nomination.

And then there’s Sanders, his wife Jane’s and some of his prominent surrogates’ dismissals of the heavily African-American Southern primaries won by Hillary Clinton as irrelevant red states that are too conservative, too “brand loyal” and too unacquainted with their own best interests to have voted the “right way”; nearly all-white red caucus states like Idaho, Utah, Wyoming and nearly all-white, red primary states like West Virginia notwithstanding.

The rush to conspiracy theories, appropriation of the real, ongoing struggles against actual voter suppression including voter ID laws, and the embrace by some on the Sanders left of every scurrilous accusation against Hillary Clinton, from the ’90s to Benghazi, is jarring. And the memes are especially vicious among the youngest Sandernistas, whose abject, #BerntheWitch hatred of Secretary Clinton is reaching World Net Daily proportions. In fact, some supposed leftists have taken to tweeting out actual WND, Breitbart, and Daily Caller links to prove their case.

And while this likely represents a small minority of Sanders supporters, much like the Hillary PUMAs and “Obama bros” in 2008, the Sanders campaign and the candidate have done little to try to shut it down.

In 2008, Team Obama pushed out foreign policy adviser Samantha Power and sidelined Obama national co-chair Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. for slagging Hillary Clinton as a “monster” and mocking her New Hampshire tears, respectively. Obama himself directed his team and supporters to lay off the Clintons, while the Clinton campaign ultimately forced out Geraldine Ferraro over her racial bitterness, and wouldn’t let the PUMA faithful anywhere near the Denver convention, to the point where some of them turned on Hillary herself as a traitor to the cause.

By contrast, Sanders and his team have seemed at times to encourage the bitter-enders to fight to the proverbial death, with the campaign itself vowing to contest the nomination right onto the convention floor. It’s not clear what Team Sanders hopes to achieve, beyond a platform battle in Philadelphia that will make for a great TV spectacle, but won’t change the outcome.

Meanwhile, a reality show vulgarian with a penchant for fight club rallies, tasteless broadsides against “flat-chested women” and a singular ability to excite white nationalists (including his own longtime butler) with his anti-Muslim and anti-Mexican rhetoric is quickly consolidating the Republican Party behind his nomination. And some Democratic operatives are starting to worry that Sanders’s zombie campaign is preventing Hillary Clinton—who possesses some real flaws as a candidate, from her inability to deliver a big speech to the ongoing drag from her paid speeches and her private email server—from focusing her full attention and resources on the real target.

If Sanders does hope to have a future in Democratic Party politics, he will eventually have to tell his supporters the truth: that he simply lost the primary contest, despite a hard-fought race. He’ll have to walk back some of his sharpest anti-Clinton rhetoric, and find some way to become a bridge to the voters who have become so fervently devoted to him.

It’s tough to imagine the Vermont senator actively embracing Clinton, who is considerably more hawkish on foreign policy, and less ambitious on domestic affairs than he. But Sanders has a particular credibility with white working-class voters and young, mostly white collegians. Sanders’s particular resonance with the white working-class,a group that has bedeviled Democrats over the last 50 years, and whose skepticism of free trade makes them a prime target for Donald Trump, could prove to be his most valuable asset to his newfound party. Sanders has proven to be an effective attacker when he sets his mind to it. If, as he says, he wants to do everything in his power to prevent a Trump presidency, nothing is preventing him from using his capital now, to try to prevent those voters in his camp from bolting to Trumpville by training his fire on the Republican nominee.

Of course, Sanders could refuse to do that, perhaps concluding that he would lose too much credibility with the rather angry movement he’s built, and go right on hitting Hillary Clinton instead. But he risks winding up an isolated figure in Philadelphia, surrounded by his diehards but scorned by Democrats who blame him for weakening the nominee, tolerated by Camp Clinton only because they have to, and unable to win meaningful platform concessions from a party that could well view him as an enemy invader, rather than a bluntly critical, but ultimately valuable friend.

Only time will tell how Sanders chooses to play out the end of his campaign.

 

By: Joy-Ann Reid, The Daily Beast, May 18, 2016

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

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