mykeystrokes.com

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

“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

“His Campaign Has Developed A Closed Feedback Loop”: Does Sanders Continue To Deserve The Benefit Of The Doubt?

From the beginning I questioned the seriousness of Bernie Sanders’ proposals. Long before the disastrous New York Daily News interview, it seemed obvious to me that he was better at pointing out problems than he was at crafting actual solutions.

Then came the debates. Sanders’ explanation for any barrier to progressive change was the corruption of big money – that was true for both Democrats and Republicans. Discussion became almost impossible. Anyone who didn’t agree with him was an establishment sell-out.

As it became increasingly clear that he was going to lose the nomination to Hillary Clinton – despite doing better than anyone thought he would – the excuses began. It was because Southern states with African American voters went early in the process. Then it was because of closed primaries. Initially the campaign railed against the superdelegates. All that was reversed in an attempt to justify Sanders staying in the race based on the idea that he could flip them to support him instead of Clinton. None of that made any sense and his message got lost in complaints about the process.

Through all of that I wanted to give Sanders the benefit of the doubt. I wanted to believe that he was in this race to promote the progressive ideas he has championed his entire career, and that when the results were all in, he would do what Clinton did in 2008…support the nominee and come out of the convention in Philadelphia as a unified party.

Believing that wasn’t a pipe dream. During his time in the House and Senate, Sanders has demonstrated the ability to work within the system to advocate for progressive change. For example, in 2009 he proposed single payer in the Senate, but pulled the bill when it was clear that it didn’t have the votes. He then went on to fight for positive changes to Obamacare (i.e., community health centers) and eventually voted for it.

But the time for giving Sanders the benefit of the doubt might have ended. Paul Waldman explains it well.

If he and his people want to actually exercise some influence, they’ll have to start thinking about mundane things like presidential appointments, executive branch regulations, and the details of complex legislation. Victories in those forums will be partial and sporadic. From our vantage point today, is there anything to suggest that’s an enterprise he and his people will be willing to devote their efforts to? What happens if Clinton offers Sanders something — changes to the party’s platform, or input on her nominees? Will his supporters say, “This may not have been all we wanted, but it’s still meaningful”? No, they won’t. They’ll see it as a compromise with the corrupt system they’ve been fighting, a sellout, thirty pieces of silver that Sanders ought to toss back in her face. That’s because Sanders has told them over and over that the system is irredeemable, and nothing short of its complete dismantling is worthwhile…

To be honest, at the moment it looks like there’s no going back. Sanders could come out tomorrow and tell his supporters that even if they don’t get their revolution, it’s still worth working for every bit of positive change they can achieve. But that would mean disavowing everything he’s told them up until now.

In other words, the Sanders campaign has developed a closed feedback loop. No matter the outcome, it reinforces the premise. It is hard to see how that changes.

My one remaining hope was that perhaps the candidate himself could break out and convince at least some of his supporters to take a more constructive path. Martin is right, they’re not all Bernie Bros. That hope was beginning to die when Josh Marshall pulled the final plug.

For months I’d thought and written that Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver was the key driver of toxicity in the the Democratic primary race…

But now I realize I had that wrong.

Actually, I didn’t realize it. People who know told me.

Over the last several weeks I’ve had a series of conversations with multiple highly knowledgable, highly placed people. Perhaps it’s coming from Weaver too. The two guys have been together for decades. But the ‘burn it down’ attitude, the upping the ante, everything we saw in that statement released today by the campaign seems to be coming from Sanders himself. Right from the top.

We are reaching the end game here. The question for me isn’t so much about what Clinton will do – she is putting her energy into winning the remaining states and has already begun to pivot to the general election. What remains to be seen is what happens to the progressive movement in the Democratic Party. If Sanders insists on “burning things down,” will it survive?

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 19, 2016

May 20, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic National Convention, 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

“Spin Wasn’t Invented Yesterday”: No, Clinton’s Late-Primary Struggles Don’t Portend November Defeat

With Bernie Sanders winning yet another primary (in West Virginia) well after most pundits have concluded Hillary Clinton has all but locked up the Democratic presidential nomination, it’s natural for there to be some speculation that her late-primary performance may portend a lack of momentum that could haunt or curse her in the general election. For one thing, the “Big Mo” argument is central to Bernie Sanders’s forlorn message to superdelegates. For another, Republicans are using Clinton’s primary fade along with some very dubious general-election polling to counter doom-and-gloom fears about their unlikely new nominee, Donald Trump. “Hillary Clinton is unraveling quickly,” chortles New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin.

Now, this is all obviously a bit absurd, since the general election is nearly six months away, with conventions, debates, and billions of dollars in paid media still ahead. It’s a bit like judging the postseason “momentum” of Major League Baseball teams based on their current early-season records. But for the record, there’s no particular correlation between late-primary performance in contested nomination contests and success in general elections.

Sure, most nominees win late primaries because their opponents have dropped out. But when they don’t, the ultimate winner doesn’t necessarily have a cake walk.

The obvious example is Barack Obama, who after May 1, 2008, lost primaries to Hillary Clinton in Indiana, West Virginia, Kentucky, Puerto Rico, and South Dakota. His loss in West Virginia was by 39 points, compared to Clinton’s 15-point loss in the same state this year. And he lost Kentucky by 36 points. Somehow he managed to recover by November.

There’s earlier precedent for a late-primary fade leading to a general-election win. In 1976 after May 1, Jimmy Carter lost to Jerry Brown in Maryland, Nevada, and California, and to Frank Church in Nebraska, Idaho, Oregon, and Montana. He somehow regained “momentum” and won the presidency.

Carter also, however, provided a counterexample in 1980, when Ted Kennedy beat him in five June primaries. He did indeed go on to lose in November, but a lack of late-primary “momentum” probably had less to do with the results than the fact that he was an incumbent president with terrible economic numbers dealing with a hostage crisis and the partisan realignment of his home region. And he was facing Ronald Reagan rather than Donald Trump.

Matter of fact, even Reagan wasn’t entirely immune to the late-primary swoon. In 1980, he lost a late-April Pennsylvania primary and a late-May Michigan primary to Poppy Bush. I don’t know if there were columns headlined “Reagan is unraveling quickly,” but spin wasn’t invented yesterday.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, May 11, 2016

May 13, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, General Election 2016, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Disagreeing Publicly?”: Is There Dissension In The Sanders Campaign About An Endgame?

Yesterday I noted that, on Tuesday night, Jeff Weaver was crystal clear about the Sanders’ endgame when he talked with Steve Kornacki: even if Clinton leads in pledged delegates and the popular vote at the end of the primaries, they will spend the weeks prior to the Democratic convention attempting to flip the support of superdelegates to vote for Sanders. As implausible as that sounds (and contrary to most everything Bernie Sanders stands for), Weaver stuck to his guns on this as the strategy of the campaign.

On the other hand, Tad Devine has sounded a different note – suggesting that the campaign would re-assess after the five primaries next Tuesday. In talking to Rachel Maddow last night, he continued with that approach.

The superdelegates are there. We’re gonna work hard to earn their support. I think we’ll be able to do that if we succeed. Listen, the key test is succeeding with voters. In 2008 I wrote a piece that they published in the New York Times right after Super Tuesday. And I argued that superdelegates should wait, should look, and listen to what the voters do and follow the will of the voters. And I can tell you I got a lot of pushback from the Clinton campaign at the time, you know, when I published that piece. But I believe that today, that our superdelegates, that our party leaders should let the voters speak first. And I think if they do that all the way through the end of voting that will strengthen our party, and certainly strengthen our hand if we succeed with voters between now and June.

Perhaps this is simply Devine making a more palatable case for the same strategy Weaver outlined. No one is likely to challenge the idea of letting the voters speak. But that “if” in the last sentence carries a lot of the load for what he seems to be saying. While Weaver indicates that the outcome of the last primaries won’t affect the strategy, Devine seems to indicate that it will.

It is very possible that candidate Sanders is receiving different advice from his campaign manager than he is from his chief strategist. One might expect this in any campaign that is on the ropes. The fact that they seem to be disagreeing publicly could indicate a problem. But ultimately it is Sanders who will decide on the path forward. The rational choice would obviously be to go with the advice he’s getting from Devine. We’ll see.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 21, 2016

April 25, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Jeff Weaver, Tad Devine | , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: