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“Different Analyses Of What’s Wrong With America”: Here’s The Big Difference Between Bernie Sanders And Donald Trump

Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary represented about as emphatic a rejection as you could imagine of that imposing monolith we’ve been calling “the establishment.” Bernie Sanders certainly felt it. “The people of New Hampshire have sent a profound message to the political establishment, to the economic establishment, and by the way, to the media establishment,” he said. “The people want real change.” On the Republican side, you could almost hear the establishment whimpering sadly as the possibility of Donald Trump being their nominee became even more real.

But we shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that Sanders’ and Trump’s success — whether temporary or not — represents two sides of the same coin, a single phenomenon manifesting itself simultaneously in both parties.

That isn’t to say there aren’t a few similarities between the messages the two men are sending. People joke about Sanders and Trump both being supporters of single-payer health care, even though Trump’s “support” consists of a couple of favorable comments years ago; the truth is that he doesn’t seem to know or care much about health care, just like most policy issues. But Trump has sounded some economic populist themes, particularly on trade, where he’s been as skeptical as Sanders of the free trade policies pursued by Democratic and Republican administrations alike. And Trump has no particular commitment to conservative ideology, so if he does become the nominee, don’t expect him to advocate for traditional Republican economic ideas.

That aside, Trump and Sanders have fundamentally different analyses of what’s wrong with America and its government, and what ought to be done about it.

Anger has been the signature emotion of this election on the Republican side. And while there’s no question that many Democratic voters have problems with what has happened during the Obama years, they’re not angry so much as they are disappointed. And that disappointment is really with governing itself — the difficult slog of legislation, the necessary compromises, the inevitable mix of victories and defeats. Hillary Clinton’s problem is that she doesn’t promise anything different; her point is not that she’ll remake American politics, but that through hard work and persistence she can squeeze out of that unpleasant process some better results.

It’s a pragmatic, realistic message, but not one to stir the heart. Particularly for idealistic younger voters, Sanders’ vision of not just different results but a transformed process was bound to be appealing. To those liberals whose attachment to the Democratic Party is less firm — which may also be true of younger voters — Sanders says that the problem isn’t the other side, it’s the whole system, and the “oligarchy” that controls it.

Trump too has a message that transcends partisanship. But where Sanders says the problem is that the system is corrupt because it’s controlled by the wealthy and corporations, Trump argues that the problem is stupidity. He doesn’t want to bring about some kind of transformation in the system. He wants to just ignore it, and produce unlimited winning through the sheer force of his will. For instance, they may both have problems with the trade agreements America has signed, but Sanders will tell you it’s because corporations exerted too much influence over the content of those agreements. Trump just says the agreements were negotiated by idiots, so we got taken to the cleaners by foreigners.

Here’s another important difference between the two: For all their misgivings about the Democratic establishment, Sanders’ supporters are idealistic, hopeful, and looking for dramatic change that is rooted in liberal ideology. They want more comprehensive government benefits in areas like health care and education, higher taxes on the wealthy, and greater restrictions on financial firms. In short, they want their party to be more ideologically pure.

Trump’s supporters, on the other hand, aren’t motivated by hope and idealism but by anger: anger at immigration, anger at Muslims, anger at foreigners, anger at a changing country that seems to be leaving them behind. They want a restoration of American greatness, the feeling of mastery over events and the world. They are far less interested in fulfilling a wish list of conservative policies — which is why they’re unfazed when other Republicans accuse Trump of not being a “real” conservative. He isn’t, and his supporters don’t really care.

There’s another difference: As dramatic as both victories in New Hampshire were, Trump and Sanders face very different prospects from this point forward. Trump is the overwhelming Republican frontrunner, standing far atop a chaotic race in which his opponents are dropping like flies. He may or may not become the nominee, but at the moment he’s got a much better shot than anyone else. Sanders, on the other hand, still trails Hillary Clinton in national polls and faces a daunting map. He’ll now have to go to states with large numbers of the minority voters among whom Clinton has been particularly strong.

We don’t yet know how deep the desire for “revolution” among Democrats really goes, and that question will probably determine the outcome of their primary race. The conservative rage that propelled Donald Trump to victory in New Hampshire, on the other hand, seems virtually inexhaustible.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, February 10, 2016

February 11, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Ideology, New Hampshire Primaries | , , , , , , , , , | 1 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

“Playing A Deeply Inside Game”: Why Ted Cruz Has The Best Chance Of Becoming The GOP Nominee

It’s good to be Ted Cruz.

He may not have the buzziest campaign of the 2016 cycle thus far, ceding the stage to standouts — like Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina — who have hit a populist nerve. But Trump, Carson, and Fiorina — even more so than Sanders — are outsiders, and despite Cruz’s penchant for making enemies and alienating people, he’s playing a deeply inside game.

It’s working like a charm. And his fellow insiders should be at least mildly terrified.

Here’s the Cruz playbook. First, count on the other insider insurgents to flame out or fade. That’s already happening to poor Rand Paul. (Things are so dire in the Paul camp that he’s had to fall back on his father as a fundraising surrogate.) It’s happening, in slow motion, to Scott Walker, whose lunkheaded approval of $80 million in public subsidies for a new NBA arena is just the latest indicator that he’s not as conservative or compelling a candidate as his supporters had hoped.

The next puzzle piece to fall into place is Rick Perry. Even for Cruz, who has happily made himself a hate figure in the oh-so-collegial Senate, dumping on Perry would be bad form. It’s essential to the Cruz campaign that Perry take himself out — and that’s nearly a done deal, now, too.

With Cruz holding steady in the polls, the stage is just about set for him to emerge as the only “true conservative” in the race with the brains and the chops to match the purity. Although those qualities definitely prevent Cruz from beating Trump or Fiorina in the invisible populist primary, establishment types know full well that Cruz is the only viable candidate who the right’s populists and elites can both stomach.

Of course, if Marco Rubio woke up tomorrow and decided to run to the right, that calculus would be upset in a hurry. But Rubio can’t do that. He has to win the invisible elitist primary first. Rubio’s playbook required that he keep pace with Jeb Bush, then let the party come to terms with the fact that Rubio had all the advantages of a Bush without the liability of the Bush name. But then Ohio Gov. John Kasich entered the race and showed surprising strength in the elitist primary, which makes Rubio’s task more difficult and complicated — great news for Ted Cruz, because it means Rubio has to tack more to the center to protect his slice of the anti-populist vote from going either to Bush or Kasich.

Not long ago, people were convinced that more moderate candidates were destined to win GOP primaries. John McCain’s and Mitt Romney’s victories indicated that conservatives had to make do with vice presidential nominees. But neither McCain nor Romney had to contend with someone as savvy and put-together as Cruz. You don’t have to be an Oscar-winning screenwriter to visualize how Cruz would have brought the boom down on those two.

Bush and Rubio are harder nuts for him to crack. But his ace in the hole is the populist vote, which at this point seems decidedly unwilling to settle for a Palin-esque consolation prize.

Then there are the billionaires. When Walker, Perry, and company falter and fail, the donors who backed them won’t just take their marbles and go home. In fact, they’re much more likely to bail beforehand, throwing their support to the most conservative candidate they think can stave off a full-blown populist revolt, sucking the disillusioned and disaffected back into the fold. And again, unless Rubio cuts right in a hurry, there’s only one place for them to turn: Cruz.

That’s why people jumped at the chance to believe recent (bogus) rumors that the billionaires, led by casino magnate Steve Wynn, had already decided to back Cruz. The logic behind that kind of backroom deal isn’t some farfetched conspiracy theory. It’s an open secret.

If you’re a Republican who thinks Cruz can win in the general election, this is all great news. But if you don’t, it’s fairly scary. Because it means a sure loser has the surest path to the nomination — and the confidence to pursue it with no reservations.

Yes, that’s right. Barring some unfathomable twist, Cruz will lose. For all his brilliant campaign strategy, that’s one contingency Cruz still can’t crack.

 

By: John Poulos, The Week, August, 18, 2015

August 21, 2015 Posted by | GOP Campaign Donors, GOP Presidential Candidates, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Significantly Ambivalent On Key Issues”: The White Working Class As “Yes, But” And “No, But” Voters

I think we are beginning to understand this year more than in the past that non-college white voters–a.k.a. the “white working class” are currently bifurcated into those who intensely dislike government but aren’t sold on conservative economic panaceas and those who are very angry about the “rigged” economy but aren’t sure they trust government to do anything about it. The former are heavily represented in the current support base of Donald Trump, while the latter should be targets for Democrats. That proposition about the latter was, of course, the main message in Stan Greenberg’s essay on the white working class in the current issue of the Washington Monthly, which also served as the basis for the roundtable discussion WaMo sponsored in conjunction with The Democratic Strategist.

In his WaPo column yesterday, E.J. Dionne grasped the importance of this realization in writing about “yes, but” voters who may have partisan voting habits but are significantly ambivalent on key issues. After discussing some polling from WaPo and Pew, Dionne noted:

[A] third study, a joint product of the Democratic Strategist Web site and Washington Monthly magazine, points to the work Democrats need to do with white working-class voters.

One key finding, from pollster Stan Greenberg: Such voters are “open to an expansive Democratic economic agenda” but “are only ready to listen when they think that Democrats understand their deeply held belief that politics has been corrupted and government has failed.” This calls for not only “populist measures to reduce the control of big money and corruption” but also, as Mark Schmitt of the New America Foundation argued, “high-profile efforts to show that government can be innovative, accessible and responsive.”

This ambivalent feeling about government is the most important “yes, but” impulse in the American electorate, and the party that masters this blend of hope and skepticism will win the 2016 election.

Yessir. The broader lesson is that the stereotype of swing voters as Broderesque, Fournierite “centrists” looking for bipartisan compromises that don’t upset elites misses the real swing voters, who may not be as numerous on the surface as is years past, but who could move political mountains in response to the right combination of messages that take seriously their concerns.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, July 27, 2015

July 28, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Economy, White Working Class | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Enthusiasm Does Not Equal Organization”: Decentralized Political Organizing Could Be A Problem For Team Sanders

Journalists are just now coming to grips with this, and there’s always a danger on such subjects of buying campaign spin. But there does seem to be a growing recognition that Hillary Clinton’s campaign differs from its 2008 predecessor because of a pervasive emphasis on organization-building in the states.

WaPo’s Matea Gold and Anu Narayanswamy come at the story from a different angle today, noting that HRC’s high “burn rate” for contributions is being driven by systemic investments in campaign infrastructure:

Details in the newly filed reports paint a picture of a campaign harnessing the latest technological tools and constructing the kind of deep ground operation that Clinton lacked in her 2008 bid. That kind of organizing capability has gained importance as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), one of Clinton’s rivals for the Democratic nomination, has drawn large crowds and gained ground in polls….

Clinton’s operation is paying rent in 25 cities across nine states, Federal Election Commission filings show. Along with about 340 staff members on the payroll, the campaign had hired nearly 60 field organizers by the end of June.

“It’s a sign that she’s approaching the campaign differently than the last time,” [David] Axelrod said. “They didn’t have as thoughtful an approach to laying the foundation for that campaign, and it ended up hurting them when it ended up being an organizational fight.”

At the “Politico Caucus” subsite, where there’s a sort of large focus group of early-state “Insiders,” the judgment is even clearer, per Katie Glueck:

Asked to assess what Clinton is doing right, and wrong, in their states, almost every Caucus participant — Democrats and Republicans — answered the question of what she’s doing right by saying Clinton has pulled together a strong staff and is doing all of the little things right when it comes to being organized for the early state contests and beyond.

“Doing right: building and investing in a monster field operation. Scares the hell out of this Republican knowing that many of those staff will easily pivot to organizing for the general election,” an Iowa Republican said.

“HRC is building a campaign rooted in organizing,” added a New Hampshire Democrat. “I’ve been to several house parties & campaign events and there are always new faces present — faces that weren’t involved in the 2012 presidential race. There is absolutely no one taking this primary race for granted whatsoever.”

“The organizing strategy is straight out of the Obama 2007 playbook,” an Iowa Democrat added. “The crew is enthusiastic and well-trained on the basics (pledge cards, pledge cards, pledge cards). Sanders and O’Malley will find it impossible to compete with the sheer size of the organizing.”

In New Hampshire, in particular, Democrats also largely lauded Clinton for visiting more rural parts of the state that are often overlooked. And across the board, her staff was praised for keeping cool amid the rise of Bernie Sanders.

Meanwhile, there’s also some recognition that the impressive enthusiasm that suffuses Bernie Sanders’ campaign is not automatically transmittable into a good organization, helpful as it is. At TNR earlier this week, Suzy Khimm suggested that the Occupy-influenced passion for decentralized political organizing could be a problem for Team Sanders:

Sanders is betting that passion will enable him to surmount the serious obstacles he faces in broadening his base of support. But that also means the campaign needs to find a way to corral popular enthusiasm into more traditional, on-the-ground organizing if Sanders wants a real shot at expanding his base beyond largely white, liberal enclaves. That means convincing more supporters to embrace a more centralized, hierarchical type of organizing, while still preserving the authentic, grassroots populism that Sanders embodies for his fans.

Iowa will be the acid test of this challenge. Caucus rules place an emphasis on local organizers knowing exactly what is expected of them in almost any circumstance, within the rubric of a Caucus Night strategy with some central direction. The epitome of the organization-outbids-enthusiam hypothesis occurred in 2004, when Howard Dean’s armies of orange-hatted volunteers may have done more to alienate than to organize Iowa Democrats, leading to a disastrous third-place finish despite strong poll numbers and an endorsement from Tom Harkin.

It’s all hypothetical at this point, of course. But neither crowd sizes nor expenditure numbers precisely capture the kind of qualities a campaign needs to win in a place like Iowa.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, July 17, 2015

July 28, 2015 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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