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“Bernie Has Plenty To Lose”: The Sanders Campaign Is Divided Over How It Wants To Die

The night Hillary Clinton won the New York primary, the Sanders campaign sent two radically different messages about how it planned to proceed. In an interview with the Associated Press, senior Sanders adviser Tad Devine said the campaign would “sit back and assess where we are” after the five northeastern primaries on April 26. At roughly the same time, the senator’s campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, told MSNBC that there would be nothing to assess until the superdelegates cast their official votes at the convention.

“We’re going to go to the convention,” Weaver told Steve Kornacki. “It is extremely unlikely that either candidate will have the requisite number of pledged delegates … so it is going to be an election determined by the superdelegates.”

Weaver won that argument. Bernie Sanders lost four of five states on April 26, but continued campaigning aggressively, nonetheless, arguing that a win in California – combined with his superior performance in head-to-head polls with Donald Trump – would convince superdelegates to throw the election to him in Philadelphia.

Now, with Clinton set to clinch a majority of pledged delegates when the final six states cast their primary ballots Tuesday night, the Devine-Weaver divide is resurfacing – and their boss doesn’t seem to know whose side he’s on.

On Monday night, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Sanders campaign is divided between the “Sandernistas” – longtime Bernie backers from his time in Vermont and Congress who want to rage against the dying of the light – and those with broader ties to the Democratic Party, who believe Sanders’s agenda would be best served by uniting the party against Trump. Devine, who advised Democratic nominees Al Gore and John Kerry, speaks for the latter.

“What will happen hopefully when the voting is done, our two campaigns will begin to talk once more to one another and figure out where the common ground is,” Devine told the Journal on Monday night.

Weaver, who has worked as a Sanders operative since the mid-’80s, told the paper a different story.

“The plan is as the senator has described it: to go forward after Tuesday and keep the campaign going to the convention and make the case to superdelegates that Sen. Sanders is the best chance that Democrats have to beat Trump,” Weaver said. “The trajectory is the same regardless of the outcome in California.”

In most of his recent statements, Sanders sounds more like his campaign manager. On Monday night in Los Angeles, Sanders told supporters that a win in California would give him “enormous momentum” with superdelegates going into the convention. But earlier in the day, he struck a more “Devine” note – asked about whether he would endorse Clinton before the convention, Sanders replied, “Let me just talk to you after the primary here in California where we hope to win. Let’s assess where we are after tomorrow before we make statements based on speculation.”

For Weaver, there’s no cause for such assessments. Nothing hinges on the outcome in California. But his candidate sounds less certain. And not without reason. There are a lot of powerful voices whispering into his other ear.

Over the weekend, Sanders and President Obama spoke for over 30 minutes, according to CBS News. While the content of the conversation is unknown, the president has argued that Tuesday’s results will be decisive – and has indicated that he intends to endorse Clinton well ahead of the July convention.

Meanwhile, Sanders’s sole backer in the U.S. Senate, Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley, has called on Sanders to drop out once Clinton secures a majority of pledged delegates. The Vermont senator’s Clinton-backing colleagues – along with virtually every other elected Democrat – obviously agree.

If Sanders was looking for a way to sustain his campaign past a loss in California, the Associated Press’s decision to declare Clinton the primary’s winner on Monday night may provide one justification. In an interview with CNN on Tuesday, Weaver argued that the AP’s call – which was based on a revised count of Clinton’s advantage among superdelegates – was “suppressing voter turnout in six states across the country.”

But the Vermont senator has something to lose in defying the will of the Democratic Party. Should Democrats recapture the Senate, Sanders is in line to become chair of the Budget Committee – a powerful post, especially when held by a politician with a national following and first-rate donor list. If the democratic socialist opts for political revolution over party unity, however, his colleagues could ostensibly deny him that position.

Plus, Sanders’s superdelegate strategy works a lot better as a rationale for giving Democrats in California a chance to make their preferences known than it does as a means of actually winning the nomination. Barring an FBI indictment or medical catastrophe, Democratic elites are not going to overturn the will of their voters to give the party’s nod to a man who has been a Democrat for a little over a year.

But Bernie Sanders isn’t known for being terribly sensitive to political pressure. And at least one voice in his campaign is telling him to go down swinging. We’ll know very soon how loudly all the other voices speak.

 

By: Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, June 7, 2016

June 9, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“It’s All Over, And It’s All Just Beginning”: Hillary Clinton’s Next Challenge: Bury Trump And Stay Out Of The Gutter

So the last Sanders argument, like umpteen others, has come around to bite him.

He’s spent the last two weeks talking about the “momentum” he was going to have after winning California, but as the primaries draw to a close, the momentum is on Hillary Clinton’s side.

She exceeded expectations in California, with her victory called early Wednesday (what was up with those polls that had Bernie Sanders beating her among Latinos? They always smelled fishy to me). She demolished him in New Jersey, won New Mexico, and even pulled off a stunning (if small-potatoes) win in South Dakota, which came out of nowhere.

Speaking of nowhere, there’s nowhere for Bernie to go now. He ran an impressive race in many ways, and annoying in others, but he lasted a lot longer than almost anyone thought he would. But today the story isn’t him. It’s the nominee.

It’s a huge historical marker, as Clinton noted in her speech. “Thanks to you, we’ve reached a milestone, the first time in our nation’s history that a woman will be a major party’s nominee,” Clinton said. “Tonight’s victory is not about one person—it belongs to generations of women and men who struggled and sacrificed and made this moment possible.”

It’s also a huge personal moment for Clinton. For all the arrows, justified and not, she’s absorbed for the last quarter-century, she’s made it. She’s made history in a huge way. If you read biographies of her, you’ve read about the people who thought back when she was at Wellesley that maybe she had it in her to be America’s first woman president. It’s an expectation that has hovered over her for many years, and she’s now in a position to achieve it.

The Democratic Party has now nominated in succession the country’s first African American and its first woman. This is a great sign of progress, but more tellingly it’s a sign of what the two major parties have become over the course of the past 20 years. The Democrats are the party of multicultural America, while the Republicans have become in essence a white ethno-nationalist party. Yes, it has some nonwhites, but it’s a party whose raison d’etre is increasingly to save white America from the new hordes, a point made clearly by its collective decision to reject two Latino nominees and instead elevate the first openly racist major-party candidate since maybe Woodrow Wilson.

So now it’s (almost) officially Clinton vs. Trump, the question is, what will it look like? Big-time ugly. Trump, in his speech, said he’s giving a speech next Monday about the Clintons and corruption, signaling what his campaign is basically going to be about. And Clinton already showed us last week in that San Diego speech on Trump and foreign policy, and reminded us again in splashes Tuesday night, that her main argument is going to be that temperamentally and otherwise, Trump just doesn’t belong in the Oval Office. Every election, people like me say, “This is going to be the nastiest presidential election ever,” and, every time, it turns out to be true—each one has been a little nastier than the last. But this one is going to be hyper-space nasty.

The key challenge for Clinton is going to be one of tone and balance—she’ll need to find a way to trade punches with Trump without letting him get in her head and without reducing herself to his drooling level. This is what the other Republicans could never get right. Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz let Trump get inside their heads, toy with them the way Ali used to toy with the bums of the month he was fighting in 1963. Marco Rubio made the mistake of lowering himself to Trump’s level, trading insults. As I tweeted at the time, the two of them came off like Don Rickles and Joan Rivers. Rubio was good at it, but it wasn’t what people wanted out of him, and it certainly isn’t what voters want out of Clinton.

She found the sweet spot in that San Diego speech. She shredded his dignity but managed to maintain, and even augment, her own. Trump is going to be continually trying to take her down into the gutter from which he operates. She needs to stay out of it while staying on the attack. That won’t be an easy thing to do.

And in the near-term, she has an intra-party issue to attend to: How will she woo the Sanders voters? It’s mostly on Bernie, especially the way the air went out of the balloon Tuesday, to do the right thing. Maybe the fact that he requested a meeting with President Obama is a sign that he’s ready to. But it’s incumbent upon Clinton to handle this right, too, not for Sanders’s personal sake, but for the sake of his voters. She needs those voters in November, and they probably represent the future direction of the Democratic Party.

Clinton’s had a great couple of weeks—the terrific San Diego speech, the better-than-expected performance Tuesday night, and most importantly Trump’s self-immolation around Judge Curiel, which led to members of his own party calling him a racist. There’s no way she could have hoped for a better start to the general-election campaign. But she’s still barely ahead, and every week isn’t going to be like these last two.

Back when this was just getting started, I thought that yes, Clinton is going to win, which places a special burden on her to run a better race than she did in 2008 and not blow this. Given who she’s running against, that’s a lot truer now than it was when I first thought it.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, June 8, 2016

June 9, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, General Election 2016, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“An Infinite Loop Of Bullshit”: Bernie Sanders Has Some Strange Ideas About Why He Deserves The Nomination

The season-finale episode of Saturday Night Live imagines a bar-stool conversation between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in which the two candidates bond over Sanders’s stupidity in refusing to attack Clinton, and Clinton having rigged the primary system. (Clinton: “Remember all those states like Wyoming where you beat me by a lot, but I still got most of the delegates?” Sanders: “That was so stupid! It’s rigged!” Clinton: “I know. It’s so rigged!”)

The system isn’t rigged. Clinton is going to win the nomination because she has won far more votes. She currently leads with 55 percent of the total vote to 43 percent. That’s fairly close for a primary, but it’s not Bush-versus-Gore close. It’s not even Bush-versus-Dukakis close (the 1988 election, widely seen as a landslide, was settled by less than 8 percent). Clinton’s lead in pledged delegates is proportionally smaller than her lead in total votes because Sanders has benefited from low-turnout caucuses. Yet Sanders has enjoyed astonishing success at framing his narrative of the primary as a contest that, in some form or fashion, has been stolen from its rightful winner. His version of events has bled into the popular culture and fueled disillusionment among his supporters.

Sanders initially discounted Clinton’s success as the product of “conservative” states, which is a technically accurate depiction of the states as a whole, but not of the heavily African-American Democratic voters in them who supported Clinton. As Sanders has continued to fail to dent Clinton’s enormous lead in votes and delegates, his campaign has devised a series of increasingly absurd formulations to defend its theme that Sanders, not Clinton, is the authentic choice of the people.

  1. The activists love Bernie. “Any objective analyst of the current campaign understands that the energy and the grass-roots activism of this campaign is with us,” Sanders said recently. “Not Hillary Clinton.” But that’s not how you decide elections. Energy and activism are definitely part of the election process. But the way you determine the winner is by holding elections.
  2. Bernie has won more a lot of states. Sanders’s “top advisers” tell Politico that he will make “an aggressive pitch” for his nomination because Sanders “will be able to point to victories over Clinton in more than 20 states.” There are two problems with this pitch. First, unless you’re really into states’ rights, the number of states won is not a terribly useful metric — Sanders has done disproportionately well in low-population states, while Clinton’s supporters are concentrated in larger states. That is hardly a democratic basis to award him the nomination.

Also, 20 states is definitely less than half of all the states.

  1. Pledged delegates don’t count because of superdelegates. When presented with Clinton’s insurmountable lead in pledged delegates, Sanders notes dismissively that pledged delegates alone are not enough to win (i.e., “Hillary Clinton will not have the requisite number of pledged delegates to win the Democratic nomination at the end of the nominating process on June 14. Won’t happen. She will be dependent on superdelegates.”).
  2. Superdelegates also don’t count because of pledged delegates. The superdelegate system, he has charged, “stacks the deck in a very, very unfair way for any establishment candidate.” Or, alternately, “The media is in error when they lumped superdelegates with pledged delegates. Pledged delegates are real.”

The nomination is won by adding up pledged delegates and superdelegates. Clinton has a large lead in pledged delegates, and an even larger lead in superdelegates. You could rely entirely on one or the other, or change the weights between them in any fashion, and Clinton would still win. Sanders simply refuses to accept the combination of the two, instead changing subjects from one to the other. Ask him about the pledged delegates, and he brings up the superdelegates. Ask about the superdelegates, and he changes to the pledged delegates. It’s an infinite loop of bullshit.

Sanders deserves some sympathy. He set out to run a message campaign to spread his ideas. At some point, the race became quasi-competitive, and he discovered that he needed a competitive rationale in order to make the news media cover it, and as he has failed to gain ground, his competitive rationale has gone from strained to ludicrous. Meanwhile, his message has attracted fervent supporters who like him so much they actually believe his crazy process arguments.

 

By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, June 6, 2016

June 8, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , | 4 Comments

“A Day Of Reckoning For The Sanders Campaign”: Decision Time, To Concede Or Attempt To Disrupt The Convention

Coming off of big wins in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico this weekend, the Associated Press reports that Hillary Clinton is within 26 delegates (pledged and super) of clinching the Democratic presidential nomination. With upcoming races on Tuesday in New Jersey, California, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and New Mexico, the folks at NBC First Read summarized the situation with pledged delegates like this:

Clinton must win 30% of remaining pledged delegates to get a majority in pledged delegates

Sanders must win 70% of remaining pledged delegates to get a majority in pledged delegates

Based on previous races and current polling, it is likely that Clinton will win New Jersey and New Mexico, while Sanders will prevail in much less delegate-rich Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota. Everyone expects California to be a nail-biter. That’s why this morning Greg Sargent suggests that even a “win” in California won’t save the Sanders campaign. At the end of the day on Tuesday, he will be behind Clinton in the number of pledged delegates and – if you include superdelegates – she will have gone over the threshold of the 2,382 needed to win the nomination. His only play would be to convince a large number of superdelegates to vote against the leader in pledged delegates.

All of this means that Bernie Sanders’ day of reckoning will be this Wednesday. Either he will decide to concede that he has lost the primary, or attempt to disrupt the Democratic Convention in July. According to Peter Nicholas, that is still an unsettled discussion going on within the campaign.

A split is emerging inside the Bernie Sanders campaign over whether the senator should stand down after Tuesday’s election contests and unite behind Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, or take the fight all the way to the July party convention and try to pry the nomination from her…

Tad Devine, a senior Sanders strategist who advised Democratic nominees Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004, among others, suggested the “path forward” is uncertain, hinging on the outcome in California and other states that have yet to vote. He voiced a conciliatory note, describing how the two campaigns might set aside differences that have grown more pronounced in the heat of the year-long campaign…

Campaign manager Jeff Weaver, who has worked in Mr. Sanders’s congressional offices and Vermont-based campaigns dating to the mid-1980s, takes a more aggressive approach…

“The plan is as the senator has described it: to go forward after Tuesday and keep the campaign going to the convention and make the case to superdelegates that Sen. Sanders is the best chance that Democrats have to beat Trump,” Mr. Weaver said. “The trajectory is the same regardless of the outcome in California.”

Ultimately, the candidate himself will have to make the call. It will be up to Bernie Sanders to decide whether he continues to be a progressive voice within the Democratic Party or sidelines both himself and his supporters as disrupters.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 6, 2016

June 7, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Anger, Desperation, And The Desire For Drama”: Why There Will Be More Violence During This Campaign

The 2016 election may not quite be turning into a repeat of 1968, but the tension is certainly rising. Just as the violence around Donald Trump’s rallies seemed to abate, it has now returned, in a widening circle of chaos. And now people outraged by Trump are getting in on the action; last Thursday outside a Trump rally in San Jose, Trump supporters were hit with eggs and fists, leading to some blood being spilled and people being arrested. Prominent Democrats everywhere condemned the incident, including Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, not to mention all manner of liberal pundit-types. But there were also voices on social media praising the violence, essentially arguing that since the threat from Trump is so urgent, beating up some people who support him is justified.

That’s plainly ridiculous; if you object to Donald Trump’s thuggish ways, breaking out a little thuggery of your own has no moral justification. If you slug a Donald Trump supporter, all you’re doing is agreeing with him that people who disagree with you politically should be subjected to violent abuse as punishment for their thought crimes. As Jamelle Bouie writes, “it’s mobocracy. And it runs counter to the liberal democratic ideal—the thing we’re defending in the first place.”

It’s also just about the worst way you could come up with to move events in your desired direction, presuming that those few lefties throwing punches actually want to see Trump defeated. There’s going to be an election in five months, and if you don’t want Trump to become president, you should think about how to persuade the maximum number of people to vote against him, because that’s how he’ll be defeated. I’m pretty sure that beating up Trump supporters in front of the news cameras is not the way to do that.

But I’d guess that the ones spoiling for a fight aren’t thinking strategically. They’re mad, and they go down to the Trump rally to express their anger. And let’s be clear about something else: It’s pretty exciting, even if you don’t start a melee. Just being in a hostile environment, facing off with your comrades against people you’re sure are personally contemptible, and are certainly participants in a cause you despise, guarantees you an eventful evening.

We should never underestimate the role drama plays in motivating political involvement and political decisions. Political action isn’t just about bringing the kind of change you think is desirable, it can also offer social gratifications and a sense of purpose. Nevertheless, most of the things one does to participate in politics are pretty unexciting. There’s rarely anything electrifying about knocking on doors or making phone calls, no matter how meaningful the overall effort. But going to the other side’s rally to confront his supporters? That’ll get your blood pumping.

I suspect that the desire for drama is now leading at least a few Bernie Sanders supporters to consider a way to thrust their swords one last time at Hillary Clinton, no matter how doomed the effort. As Annie Karni of Politico recently detailed, some Sanders delegates are heading to the convention in Philadelphia with the intention of stirring things up, eager to stage protests and draw attention to their own ideas and concerns. To which one might say: Of course they are. Even if the overwhelming majority of Sanders voters will vote for Clinton and realize there’s not much purpose in trying to screw up the convention for her, there are those for whom a unified convention seems like the end of a noble crusade, with no gratification to offer them. There are some activists participating in this primary contest not because they want Democrats to win or even because they’re all that concerned about the outcome of the presidential race, but because it’s a vehicle for them to draw attention to their own issues, the issues they cared about before this election began and the ones they’ll care about after it’s over. “This is a battle and we’re not going to give in,” one told Karni. “We will not stop yelling about what we think the people need.” If that’s your plan, no concession on the party platform is going to satisfy you; the yelling is the whole reason you’re there.

That’s not really Bernie Sanders’ fault; right now he’s trying to both give his supporters hope that he can still beat Clinton and turn the focus on Trump, which is a tricky line to walk. But disruptions could happen at the Democratic convention whether Sanders sanctions them or not. When he issues his call for unity (and he will), there will be Sandernistas who conclude that Sanders himself is insufficiently committed to the Sanders cause. And they’ll want to keep fighting Clinton in Philadelphia, because fighting her and what she represents is what gives them energy and purpose; joining with her to fight Donald Trump doesn’t feel quite as revolutionary.

So both conventions may end up featuring loud protests, backroom dealings, and even some pushing and shoving, if not worse. The comparisons to the bloody Democratic convention of 1968 will be inevitable. In that campaign, there was a candidate who claimed to speak for the “silent majority.” He used the violence at the Democratic convention to weave a tale of a nation in chaos, with crime in the streets, hippies scorning traditional values and hierarchies, war overseas, and a general atmosphere of societal breakdown. He aired ads like this one, meant to tie it all together in one horrifying, seizure-inducing assault on all that was right and good. And, he said, Democrats were the enablers of chaos, too weak and indulgent to give those no-goodniks the smack upside the head they deserved.

This year isn’t quite the same; Donald Trump may claim to speak for a new silent majority, but it’s obvious to just about everyone that he’s the primary sower of chaos. That’s not to mention the fact that he doesn’t have a majority, and his supporters are anything but silent. And if he looks like he’s losing, more of his supporters, who already feel like the America of their youth has been stolen from them, may be tempted to take a swing at the people they perceive are sending them to another defeat. This isn’t the last time we’ll see bloodied noses at a campaign event, from one side or the other. Let’s just hope it doesn’t get any worse.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, June 6, 2016

June 7, 2016 Posted by | Democratic National Convention, Donald Trump, Republican National Convention | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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