mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Fringe Appeal”: Sanders’ And Trump’s ‘Us vs. Them’ Mentality Won’t Win Over America

If you want a window into the state of U.S. politics, the speeches given by the first- and second-place finishers in New Hampshire’s presidential primary were revealing. But what was striking was that the commonalities among the candidates did not follow party lines as much as they related to the candidates’ “outsider” or “establishment” status.

The outsiders won last night, of course: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, while having been elected to the U.S. House and Senate, did so as an independent and considers himself a democratic socialist. Donald Trump, a real estate developer and reality television personality, has held a variety of positions on political issues and contributed to both parties, but has never before held political office.

The runners up, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican John Kasich, embody their parties’ establishments: Clinton was a first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state. Kasich served as U.S. congressman, chairman of the House Budget Committee and is the popular two-term governor of Ohio.

But in their victory speeches, the outsiders sounded more like each other than they did their partisan colleagues. Sanders and Trump piqued the frustrations and angst of their respective parties’ primary voters.

For Sanders, it was American versus American: Wall Street, the billionaire class and Super PACs versus the victims of the “rigged economy.” His solution: a “political revolution” to make the rich pay their “fair share” so the rest of us can have free college, health care and retirement.

For Trump, it was Americans versus non-Americans: China, Mexico, immigrants and terrorists. His plan is to “earn world respect” and “make American great again” by constructing a border wall and rebuilding the military to “knock the hell out of” the Islamic State group. Unlike Sanders, Trump at least tempered his typical campaign demeanor and rhetoric during his victory speech in an apparent combination of glee and recognition of the fact that he had a national audience in prime time.

Clinton and Kasich, on the other hand, acknowledged and assuaged the insecurities of their parties’ bases by invoking core American values and desires.

Clinton, always politically calculating and often poorly advised, made a somewhat brief attempt to sound the Sanders theme, vowing to “fight Wall Street,” before falling back on her natural strengths. She promised to “work harder than anyone,” and reminded voters of her lifelong commitment to public service (which has proved that she does, indeed, work harder than anyone). She described a “growth and fairness economy” and vowed to support human rights for “every single American.”

Kasich vowed to “re-shine” America. He discussed the importance of the opportunity to work, the desire in each of us to help our families and neighbors and the preference to look to government as a last resort. Kasich promised to heal divisions, “leave no one behind,” and solve problems not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans.

Unfortunately for Sanders and Trump, most Americans still reject the “us versus them” mindset, whether internally or externally focused, espoused by Democrat or Republican. This approach is not just “outsider,” it is “fringe.” That fringe appeal proved to be a successful primary strategy in New Hampshire, but it is neither a viable general election strategy nor a way to govern an already insecure and divided nation.

In contrast, during their New Hampshire primary night speeches, both Clinton and Kasich appeared to have adequately addressed the concerns of their partisan voters while simultaneously appealing to the national electorate that they hope to face in November. To the extent that the term “establishment” correlates with judgment of the sort that Clinton and Kasich demonstrated on primary night in New Hampshire, we might just want to consider using the more appropriate term “qualified.”

 

By: Michael C. Barnes, Thomas Jefferson Street Blog, U. S. News and World Report, February 10, 2016

February 11, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, New Hampshire Primaries | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Sanders’s Story Provides A Comforting Fable”: What Bernie Sanders Doesn’t Understand About American Politics

At the recent Democratic town hall, moderator Chris Cuomo presented Bernie Sanders with what has been a common complaint about his presidential campaign: Sanders’s relentless focus on income inequality, in this campaign and through his career, raises the question of whether he is prepared to address the full spectrum of issues faced by a president. But there is a deeper problem with Sanders’s vision of American politics. It is not just that he has trouble talking about issues other than the redistribution of income; it’s that he has trouble conceptualizing those issues in any other terms. His rigidly economistic frame of mind prevents Sanders from seeing the world as it is.

The phrase Sanders invokes constantly, and which distinguishes him from Hillary Clinton and other Democrats not merely in degree but also in kind, is “political revolution.” The political revolution is the secret sauce. When presented with any concrete obstacles that would stand between him and his desired policy outcomes, Sanders brings up the revolution, which will transform the world he inhabits into the one he desires. One questioner at the town hall asked how Sanders proposes to pass his left-wing economic program, given “the likelihood that Republicans will win control over at least one house of Congress.” This poses a massive obstacle, given the twin facts of a map that requires Democrats to win Republican-leaning districts in order to gain a majority and polarization so deep that almost all voters now choose the same party up and down the ballot. How to get around these obstacles? Sanders again brought up (this time, without using the term) the revolution:

In my view, you have a Congress today that is much more worried about protecting the interest of the wealthy and the powerful and making sure they get campaign contributions from the wealthy and the powerful.

If we are serious about rebuilding the American middle class, if we are serious about providing paid family and medical leave to all of our people, if we are serious about ending the disgrace of having so many of our children live in poverty, the real way to do it is to have millions of Americans finally stand up and say, enough is enough, for people to get engaged in the political process, to finally demand that Washington represent all of us, not just a handful of very wealthy people.

Note that Sanders, asked about Republican opposition to his proposals, defined that opposition as “protecting the interest of the wealthy and the powerful.” It is certainly true that fealty to the interests of the rich heavily colors Republican policy. But Sanders is not merely presenting corruption as one factor. It is the entirety of it. Likewise, Sanders has difficulty imagining any reason other than corruption to explain disagreements by fellow Democrats, which he relentlessly attributes to the nefarious influence of corporate wealth. One does not have to dismiss the political power of massed wealth to acknowledge that other things influence the conclusions drawn by Americans who don’t share Sanders’s full diagnosis.

In reality, people have organic reasons to vote Republican. Some of them care more about social issues or foreign policy than economics. Sanders would embrace many concepts — “socialism,” big government in the abstract, and middle-class tax increases — that register badly with the public. People are very reluctant to give up their health insurance, even if it is true that Sanders could give them something better.

What’s more, the interests of the wealthy do not cut as cleanly as Sanders indicates. It’s true that business and the rich tend to oppose parts of his program like higher taxes on the rich, more generous social insurance, and tougher regulation of finance. But the Obama administration’s stimulus encountered intense Republican opposition even though it did not pose a threat to any business interests. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce even endorsed the stimulus, which profited business both directly (by pumping billions into contracts for projects like infrastructure) and indirectly (by goosing public demand for its members’ products). That did not stop 100 percent of House Republicans from opposing it. Nor did the unified opposition of the business lobby dissuade Republicans from holding the debt ceiling hostage in 2011, or persuade them to pass immigration reform in 2013. Sanders currently proposes a massive infrastructure program, which would make lots of money for the construction industry. Clearly, subservience to big business only goes so far in explaining Republican behavior.

The depiction of conservatism as a mere cover for greed is a habit Sanders indulges over and over. Donald Trump’s appeal, in Sanders’s telling, has nothing to do with xenophobia or nationalism: “They’re angry because they’re working longer hours for lower wages, they’re angry because their jobs have left this country and gone to China or other low-wage countries, they’re angry because they can’t afford to send their kids to college so they can’t retire with dignity.” Sanders does not explain why this economic security has manifested itself almost entirely among white voters when minorities are suffering the same conditions. He simply assumes Trump has converted economic frustration into a series of pseudo-concerns, and rather than deal with those beliefs, Sanders proposes instead to convert them back into their original form: “I think for his working-class and middle-class supporters, I think we can make the case that if we really want to address the issues that people are concerned about … we need policies that bring us together that take on the greed of Wall Street, the greed of corporate America, and create a middle class that works for all of us rather than an economy that works just for a few.”

It is not only Republican voters whose ideas Sanders refuses to grapple with. Here he is in the previous debate explaining Republican climate-science denial: “It is amazing to me, and I think we’ll have agreement on this up here, that we have a major party, called the Republican Party, that is so owned by the fossil-fuel industry and their campaign contributions that they don’t even have the courage, the decency to listen to the scientists.” It is surely true that fossil-fuel contributions have encouraged the spread of climate-science denial. But the doctrine also appeals philosophically to conservatives. It expresses their disdain for liberal elites, and, more important, it justifies opposition to government action. Psychologists and social scientists have poured years of study into identifying the causes of climate-science denial. One does not need to harbor even the slightest whiff of sympathy for climate-science denial to grasp that its causes run deeper than a cash transaction with Big Oil. Figures like George Will and Charles Krauthammer dismiss climate science because it is a way to maintain order within their mental world. Many other conservatives have social or professional reasons to believe, or at least to say, that Will and Krauthammer are serious intellectuals rather than loons spouting transparently preposterous conspiracy theories. There are deep tribal influences at work that cannot be reduced to economic self-interest.

Sanders’s story provides a comforting fable for his party. Not only are Democrats not hemmed in by the Republican hold on Congress, but they don’t even need to do the laborious work of persuading the political center to come to their side. They need only to rise up and break the grip of moneyed interests on the political system.

There are many reasons to doubt Sanders’s promise that he can transform American politics. Perhaps the most fundamental is that he does not actually understand how it works.

 

By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, January 27, 2016

January 30, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Congress, Economic Inequality, House Republicans | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“The Idealism-Vs-Pragmatism Debate”: The Differences Between Obama And Sanders Matter

Paul Krugman noted the other day that there’s a “mini-dispute among Democrats” over who has the best claim to President Obama’s mantle: Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. The New York Times columnist made the persuasive case that the answer is obvious: “Mr. Sanders is the heir to candidate Obama, but Mrs. Clinton is the heir to President Obama.”

The framing is compelling for reasons that are probably obvious. As a candidate, Obama was the upstart outsider taking on a powerful rival – named Hillary Clinton – who was widely expected to prevail. As president, Obama has learned to temper some of his grander ambitions, confront the cold realities of governing in prose, and make incremental-but-historic gains through attrition and by navigating past bureaucratic choke points.

But the closer one looks at the Obama-Sanders parallels, the more they start to disappear.

Comparing the core messages, for example, reinforces the differences. In 2008, Obama’s pitch was rooted in hopeful optimism, while in 2016, Sanders’ message is based on a foundation of outrage. In 2008, red-state Democrats welcomed an Obama nomination – many in the party saw him as having far broader appeal in conservative areas than Clinton – while in 2016, red-state Democrats appear panicked by the very idea of a Sanders nomination.

At its root, however, is a idealism-vs-pragmatism debate, with Sanders claiming the former to Clinton’s latter. New York’s Jon Chait argues that this kind of framing misunderstands what Candidate Obama was offering eight years ago.

The young Barack Obama was already famous for his soaring rhetoric, but from today’s perspective, what is striking about his promises is less their idealism than their careful modulation.

What Obama did eight years ago, Chait added, was make his technocratic pragmatism “lyrical” – a feat Clinton won’t even try to pull off – promising incremental changes in inspirational ways.

That’s not Sanders’ pitch at all. In many respects, it’s the opposite. Whatever your opinion of the Vermonter, there’s nothing about his platform that’s incremental. The independent senator doesn’t talk about common ground and bipartisan cooperation; he envisions a political “revolution” that changes the very nature of the political process.

The president himself seems well aware of the differences between what Greg Sargent calls the competing “theories of change.” Obama had a fascinating conversation late last week with Politico’s Glenn Thrush, and while the two covered quite a bit of ground, this exchange is generating quite a bit of attention for good reason.

THRUSH: The events I was at in Iowa, the candidate who seems to be delivering that now is Bernie Sanders.

OBAMA: Yeah.

THRUSH: I mean, when you watch this, what do you – do you see any elements of what you were able to accomplish in what Sanders is doing?

OBAMA: Well, there’s no doubt that Bernie has tapped into a running thread in Democratic politics that says: Why are we still constrained by the terms of the debate that were set by Ronald Reagan 30 years ago? You know, why is it that we should be scared to challenge conventional wisdom and talk bluntly about inequality and, you know, be full-throated in our progressivism? And, you know, that has an appeal and I understand that.

I think that what Hillary presents is a recognition that translating values into governance and delivering the goods is ultimately the job of politics, making a real-life difference to people in their day-to-day lives. I don’t want to exaggerate those differences, though, because Hillary is really idealistic and progressive. You’d have to be to be in, you know, the position she’s in now, having fought all the battles she’s fought and, you know, taken so many, you know, slings and arrows from the other side. And Bernie, you know, is somebody who was a senator and served on the Veterans’ Committee and got bills done. And so the–

THRUSH: But it sounds like you’re not buying the – you’re not buying the sort of, the easy popular dichotomy people are talking about, where he’s an analog for you and she is herself?

OBAMA: No. No.

THRUSH: You don’t buy that, right?

OBAMA: No, I don’t think – I don’t think that’s true.

The electoral salience of comments like these remains to be seen, but the president is subtly taking an important shot at the rationale of Sanders’ candidacy. For any Democratic voters watching the presidential primary unfold, looking at Sanders as the rightful heir to the “change” mantle, here’s Obama effectively saying he and Sanders believe in very different kinds of governing, based on incompatible models of achieving meaningful results.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 25, 2016

January 26, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, President Obama | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

%d bloggers like this: