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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

“Californication”: Sanders Taking A Free Ride On Other Peoples’ Character Defamation

Earlier today, I observed that if Bernie Sanders wins this Tuesday’s closed Democratic primary in Kentucky, “Sanders and his supporters will likely take advantage of a win here to promote the idea that there are still plenty of Democrats who aren’t comfortable with Clinton, and that the ‘Democratic establishment’ should agree to all of his demands at the Democratic convention even if he ultimately fails to win the nomination.” Speaking of primaries and the convention, what if Sanders manages to do the seemingly impossible, and actually pulls off an upset victory over Clinton in the June 7 California primary?

It is unlikely that Sanders would be able to defeat Clinton by a significant margin in the Golden State primary (which is open to Democrats and those who have no stated party preference), which means that even if he also wins (by presumably close margins) the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and North Dakota caucuses and the Oregon, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Dakota and District of Columbia primaries, he will still come up short in the pledged delegate count. However, a victory in California, even by a close margin, would provide political momentum to Sanders and his supporters going into Philadelphia, where the self-professed democratic socialist plans to ask superdelegates to, in essence, void the votes of those who supported Clinton and declare him the Democratic nominee. MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki explained Sanders’s apparent thinking Tuesday night:

Sanders would certainly have the right to make his case to those superdelegates–but how strong of a case would that be? As MSNBC’s Chris Hayes suggested on May 11, the argument that Sanders should be declared the nominee because he currently performs better than Clinton in head-to-head polls against Donald Trump is rather questionable (it certainly doesn’t factor in the power of the right-wing noise machine).

I wouldn’t be surprised if Team Sanders tries to convince superdelegates that he would perform better against Trump in the general-election debates than Clinton would: Trump’s presence will guarantee that the debates will be ratings bonanzas, and the argument that the Democratic candidate must thoroughly dismantle the bigoted billionaire in these debates is compelling. However, can anyone seriously argue that Clinton cannot hold her own in debates?

I fear that the case for awarding the Democratic nomination to Sanders rests upon a dynamic that Paul Krugman explained a few weeks ago:

As I see it, the Sanders phenomenon always depended on leaving the personal attacks implicit. Sanders supporters have, to a much greater extent than generally acknowledged, been motivated by the perception that Clinton is dishonest, which comes — whether they know it or not — not from her actual behavior but from decades of right-wing smears; but Sanders himself got to play the issue-oriented purist, in effect taking a free ride on other peoples’ character defamation. There was plenty of nastiness from Sanders supporters, but the candidate himself seemed to stay above the fray.

But it wasn’t enough, largely because of nonwhite voters. Why have these voters been so pro-Clinton? One reason I haven’t seen laid out, but which I suspect is important, is that they are more sensitized than most whites to how the disinformation machine works, to how fake scandals get promoted and become part of what “everyone knows.” Not least, they’ve seen the torrent of lies directed at our first African-American president, and have a sense that not everything you hear should be believed.

What will Sanders say to voters of color who overwhelmingly supported Clinton, and who will obviously feel shafted if Sanders is successful in convincing superdelegates to hand the nomination over to him? I imagine that Sanders will simply quote Warren Beatty’s remarks to aggrieved African-American churchgoers in Bulworth: “So what are you gonna do, vote Republican? Come on! Come on, you’re not gonna vote Republican!”

If Sanders wins the California primary, even by a small margin, he will have earned the right to petition superdelegates for a redress of his grievances. However, something tells me that after he does so, he’ll still have grievances.

 

By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 13, 2016

May 16, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Sanders Supporters | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Bernie’s Math Problem”: Why Sanders Campaign Has Resorted To Arguments Of Swinging Superdelegates In His Favor

Bernie Sanders won the Indiana presidential primary and has so far garnered 43 delegates to Clinton’s 37. But that’s pretty much where the good news ends. As Nate Silver documented prior to knowing the final results:

But let’s suppose Sanders pulls it out and wins a narrow victory instead, claiming 42 of Indiana’s 83 pledged delegates. He’d still then need 611 of the remaining 933 pledged delegates to catch Clinton, or about two-thirds. Here’s a scenario for what that would look like: Sanders would need to win California by 31 percentage points, for instance, and New Jersey by double digits despite having lost every neighboring state.

Even if Sanders was able to pull off winning California by 31% and New Jersey by 13% (which would only happen if an unforeseen event upset the demographics that have dictated this race so far), he would still only manage to catch up with Clinton on pledged delegates. If you include superdelegates, Gabriel Debenedetti explains how the situation gets even more bleak for Sanders.

Here’s how it works: After winning Indiana, Sanders has 1,399 pledged delegates and superdelegates to his name, according to the Associated Press’ count. That means he needs 984 more to reach the threshold of 2,383 needed to win.

The remaining contests, however — Guam, West Virginia, Kentucky, Oregon, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, and the District of Columbia — only have 933 pledged delegates to offer.

So even if Sanders were to win 100 percent of the pledged delegates in each of those states, he wouldn’t make it past the mark.

That explains why the Sanders campaign has resorted to arguments aimed at swinging the superdelegates in his favor.

To sum up Bernie’s math problem, he is now faced with needing to win the remaining states by improbable margins AND convince a significant number of superdelegates to change their minds. On the other hand, Clinton could lose all of the remaining states by the margin we saw in Indiana yesterday and still garner enough delegates to win the nomination. It is probably too soon to say that Hillary is the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, but it’s even more clear today that we are headed for a Clinton/Trump contest in November.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 4, 2016

May 8, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Super Delegates | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“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

“Time To Think Less About Revolution Than Evolution”: It’s All Over But The Shouting; Hillary Clinton Crushed Bernie Sanders

Another handful of Clinton wins in big states, and the margins grow. I’m writing before the full pledged delegate count from tonight is known, but she led by 244 coming into tonight not counting super delegates and that may grow by another 30 to 40. (Here’s a great delegate calculator; bookmark it.)

As for the popular vote, she led it by a lot coming into Tuesday night: 10.4 million to 7.7 million, a nearly 2.7 million-vote difference, or 57 to 43 percent, numbers that we call a landslide in a general election. She may have added a couple hundred thousand to that margin tonight. Depending on what happens in California and New Jersey, this could end up being close to 60-40.

So forgive me for being a little confused about why these margins give Bernie Sanders such “leverage” in what we presume to be his looming negotiations with Hillary Clinton over the future of the party of which he’s not a member. It is “incumbent” upon Clinton, he told Chris Hayes Monday on MSNBC, “to tell millions of people who right now do not believe in establishment politics or establishment economics, who have serious misgivings about a candidate who has received millions of dollars from Wall Street and other special interests.”

Is there precedent for the losing candidate demanding that the winning candidate prove her bona fides to his voters? I sure can’t think of any. The most recent precedent we have for this kind of thing is 2008, a contest that of course involved Hillary Clinton. Let’s have a look at how that one wound down.

Clinton did indeed run until the end, winning states all along the way. On the last day of voting, June 3, they drew—she took South Dakota, and he won Montana. At that point, depending on what you did or didn’t count (Michigan and Florida were weird races that year after they broke the DNC calendar to move their primary dates up, and the party punished them by taking away delegates), she was actually ahead of Obama on popular votes. But even excluding Michigan, where Obama wasn’t on the ballot, it was a hell of a lot closer than 57-43. It was 51-49.

Did Clinton carry on about her campaign of the people? Did she say it was incumbent upon Obama to prove his worth to her voters? Did she put her forefinger on her cheek for weeks and make Obama twist in the wind? No, of course not.

Four days after the voting ended, she got out of the race, gave the famous 18-million-cracks-in-the-glass-ceiling speech, and said: “The way to continue our fight now, to accomplish the goals for which we stand is to take our energy, our passion, our strength, and do all we can to help elect Barack Obama, the next president of the United States. Today, as I suspend my campaign, I congratulate him on the victory he has won and the extraordinary race he has run. I endorse him and throw my full support behind him. And I ask all of you to join me in working as hard for Barack Obama as you have for me. I have served in the Senate with him for four years. I have been in this campaign with him for 16 months. I have stood on the stage and gone toe-to-toe with him in 22 debates. I’ve had a front-row seat to his candidacy, and I have seen his strength and determination, his grace and his grit. In his own life, Barack Obama has lived the American dream…” and so on. She laid it on thick, and gave a strong and gracious convention speech later.

Now granted, it’s not June. There’s plenty of time for this to wind down civilly. It was a good sign that Tad Devine ++told The New York Times Tuesday afternoon++  that Sanders would “reassess” things Wednesday morning. Of course, that was Devine talking—the only one of Sanders’s top crew who is actually a Democrat and who has to mend fences to eat lunch in this town. At the same time that Devine was speaking these conciliatory words, the Sanders camp sent out a cheeky, we’re-not-done-yet fund-raising solicitation featuring a photo of Bill and Hill at the Donald’s wedding.

So the signals from Sanders-world are mixed. One thing’s for sure: There is no expectation that Sanders will behave like Clinton did in 2008. It’s worth examining why.

On the one hand, it’s understandable. He’s not a Democrat, so party loyalty isn’t a thing here. And the main thing is that the ideological differences between Sanders and Clinton are greater than between Clinton and Obama, or John Edwards and John Kerry, or Bill Bradley and Al Gore. The people voting for Bernie are voting to reject Hillary’s politics in a more fundamental way than the people voting for Bradley were rejecting Gore.

On the other hand… the media’s expectations of these people hinges so greatly on the personality types they establish, and that the media just accept them. No one expects Sanders to be a team player because he’s a guy (emphasis on guy) who has always agitated outside the system. Whereas everyone expects Clinton to behave properly because she’s a woman (emphasis on woman) who has always been the type to do what’s expected of her.

If this were two men, the onus would clearly be on the one who’s behind to play ball and do the responsible thing. But I can’t help suspecting that the media are going to put the weight on her in these next few weeks: Will Hillary accept Bernie’s conditions?

She shouldn’t accept conditions. But she absolutely should take steps to mollify his voters. She’s going to have to. However, she should do it like someone who’s ahead 57-43 should do it. She should say: Sure, I’ll adopt a couple of your positions. But I have a couple of conditions of my own. If I hear the words “Goldman” and “Sachs” coming out of your mouth one more time, if I see any more fund-raising appeals that paint me as the harlot of Wall Street, the deal is dead, and I’ll call Chuck Schumer and make sure that you don’t chair the Budget Committee if we retake the Senate, but instead you have the post-office renaming subcommittee. And I may drop some of that oppo I have on you that I’ve never used. You know the stuff I mean.

Sanders should run to the end. He owes it to his backers in California and New Jersey to give them a chance to vote for him. I don’t know anyone who says otherwise. But it’s now time for him to think about his future, and the future of the influence his movement will have in the Democratic Party.

I want that movement to have influence. There are a lot of people like me, who think Clinton is the stronger candidate, but want Sanders to have some influence over her. And to us, it looks like it’s time for him to think less about revolution than evolution.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, April 27, 2016

April 28, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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