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“Momentum Is Irrelevant”: Why Bernie Sanders Supporters Can’t Accept The Grim End Of Their Crusade

It’s hard to say goodbye to something you love — and there are a lot of people right now who absolutely love Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. As well they should. It has been one of the most remarkable happenings in the recent history of American politics, as a rumpled, crotchety 74-year-old socialist put together a serious challenge to the Democratic Party’s anointed candidate, raising over $200 million and energizing young people across the country for a revolutionary crusade to remake American politics.

So you can understand why Sanders supporters have trouble accepting that there’s just no way for him to be the party’s nominee. Part of it comes from the fact that, technically, it’s still possible for Sanders to prevail. Yes, it would require him to persuade nearly every remaining Democratic voter to cast a ballot for him, and then get all the superdelegates now supporting Clinton to flip as well. So who knows?

Here’s the brutal truth, though: No matter how the big prize of California comes out next Tuesday, Clinton is still going to have a majority of the delegates and is still going to be the Democratic nominee. As Harry Enten has observed, it’s a near-certainty that Clinton will officially pass the number of delegates she needs when New Jersey closes its polls at 8 p.m. eastern on Tuesday. Even though the California primary looks to be extremely close — the widely revered Field Poll shows Clinton leading Sanders by a margin of 45 percent to 43 percent, and other recent polls have found similar splits — since Democrats allocate delegates proportionally, the two candidates will gain similar numbers of delegates. It won’t matter at that point who nosed out who in that last big contest.

But tell that to a Sanders supporter, and you’ll likely get an earful of protestation. That’s not because they aren’t rational people, it’s because they have so much invested in his campaign — often financially or in terms of the time they’ve spent, but mostly emotionally. Bernie has promised them so much, and the campaign has accomplished so much, that saying, “Oh well, we gave it a good shot but it didn’t work out” must seem like a betrayal of everything they’ve been fighting for.

Hillary Clinton has offered her supporters little in the way of grand dreams and glorious visions of transformation. She’s a pragmatic politician presenting a pragmatic program. Sanders, on the other hand, is a candidate of revolution. He asked his supporters to believe in something epic, to change their thinking about what’s possible in politics. If you Felt the Bern, you yourself were transformed. To admit that the campaign is over means admitting that the dream is dead, and that person you wanted to be — hopeful, committed, optimistic — was wrong about what was possible.

Add to that the fact that Sanders supporters have convinced each other that the system is rigged, which means that any outcome other than Sanders winning is not just unfortunate but fundamentally illegitimate. If you believe that, it means that once you assent to a Clinton victory you’ve assented to corruption.

While Sanders himself has gotten some criticism for not bowing out already or acknowledging that it’s all over, you can’t blame him — and when you watch him being interviewed in recent weeks, you can see his internal struggle. He surely feels that at the very least, he has an obligation to stay in the race long enough for all his supporters to have the chance to cast their ballots for him. And it would be weird to say, “I’m still in the race, even though I know I’ve lost.” So he can be forgiven for putting the best face on things, even if it sometimes means he has to stray into fantasyland. “If we win California, and if we win South Dakota, and North Dakota and Montana and New Mexico and New Jersey, and the following week do well in Washington, D.C.,” he told rapturous supporters this week, “I think we will be marching into the Democratic convention with an enormous amount of momentum.”

Which is, of course, ridiculous. First of all, he’s not going to win all those places. But even if he did, Clinton will still have passed beyond the majority of delegates she needs. After all the voting is done, “momentum” is irrelevant. It’s like saying that even though your team lost the game 5-4, the fact that you scored a run in the ninth inning means you ought to be considered the winner.

Even after all the TV anchors and newspaper headlines declare that Clinton is now the nominee of the party, there will be a few Sanders supporters who refuse to accept it (and those few will surely have no problem finding cameras into which they can air their grievances). They’ll say Bernie can still make his case to the superdelegates, that they’re holding out for the FBI to indict Clinton, that it was never a fair fight to begin with. If you feel the urge to mock, consider sparing a sympathetic thought for them.

They’ve come a long way, and their idealism is something our system needs. And eventually, even if it takes a while, they’ll make their peace with defeat.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, June 3, 2016

June 5, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Reporters Now Face A Choice”: Can Donald Trump Win By Duping Young Voters With ‘90s Conspiracy Theories?

The final week of the Republican primary was essentially a formality, but in hindsight an exceptionally important formality.

As long as Donald Trump still had to go through the motions to fend off candidates whose campaigns had been reduced to simulacra, and as long as his opponents were clinging to the hope of defeating him at the GOP convention, their combat served as a kind of permission for reporters to treat Trump’s campaign as the anomaly that it was.

On the eve of the fateful Indiana primary, when Trump infamously and speciously linked Ted Cruz’s father, Rafael, to the assassination of John F. Kennedy, The Washington Post ran a story headlined, “How on earth is the media supposed to cover Trump’s wacky JFK-Cruz conspiracy theory?” Glenn Kessler, who writes the Post’s fact checker column, gave Trump all four of his dreaded Pinocchios. Even the Post’s straight news piece about the supposed Cruz/Lee Harvey Oswald connection lead with an incredulous dependent clause, describing Trump as “Never one to shy away from discussing unsubstantiated tabloid fodder …”

In theory, debunking political whoppers is what the press is supposed to do, but in practice, things aren’t usually so straightforward. Politicians control access to themselves and their privileged information, which gives them outsize control over who breaks news. With their parties and supporters behind them, they can freeze out adversarial reporters and dismiss accusations of dishonesty as media bias. But in Trump’s case, reporters weren’t the lone arbiters of truth during the primaries. Other Republicans participated, too. Ted Cruz called Trump an “utterly amoral” “pathological liar,” a “narcissist” and a “bully.” The press wasn’t adjudicating Trump’s claims so much as they were relaying a cross-ideological consensus that Trump was unglued.

Just a few hours after he addressed the JFK conspiracy theory, Cruz suspended his campaign and the dynamic between the press and Trump changed. Leading Republicans stopped calling Trump a liar and trying to deny him their party’s nomination. In embracing Trump, they essentially rescinded their permission to the press to treat him as an outlier.

Reporters now face a choice between reimagining Trump as a partisan mirror image of Hillary Clinton, or drawing the ire of the broader GOP. Trump can’t become president unless he comes to be seen as on a par with Clinton, and that can’t happen without the assent of the media. So far the media hasn’t granted it, but we’ve seen scattered indicia of how it might happen.

Trump can’t become president unless he comes to be seen as on a par with Clinton, and that can’t happen without the assent of the media.

When Trump swung into general-election mode and indulged the horrific lie, fixated upon by conservative media more than twenty years ago, that the Clintons may have murdered Vince Foster (a Clinton ally who killed himself shortly after joining the White House counsel’s office), the Post rightly described Foster’s suicide as “the focus of intense and far-fetched conspiracy theories on the Internet.” But the same article essentially baptized Trump’s tactics as part of the normal give-and-take of partisan campaigning:

The presumptive Republican nominee and his associates hope that his tactics will bring fresh scrutiny to the Clintons’ long record in public life, which conservatives characterize as defined by scandals that her allies view as witch hunts. Through social media and Trump’s ability to garner unfiltered attention on the Internet and the airwaves, political strategists believe he could revitalize the controversies among voters who do not remember them well or are too young to have lived through them.

Trump’s approach would be perfectly reasonable but for the fact that the “scandals” he has resurfaced have all been either roundly debunked or, in the case of Hillary supposedly enabling Bill’s sexual indiscretions, merited no respectful hearing to begin with.

What Trump and his allies really hope is that they can hoodwink first-time voters or people who weren’t paying close attention back in the 1990s into believing known lies. Only the media can prevent this—but with Trump as GOP nominee, and party leaders rallying behind him, the media suddenly faces fresh incentives not to intervene, and they will become harder to resist over time.

It is possible, even in the context of a general-election campaign, to treat Trump’s embrace of widely discredited Clinton attacks responsibly. The Post, even as it was presenting Trump’s myth-based campaign strategy as a neutral matter in its news pages, ran a story by Foster’s sister, scolding Trump for revisiting “untold pain” on the Foster family, and Kessler gave Trump another four Pinocchios.

Meanwhile, CNN’s Jake Tapper set a standard for reporters who have to cover Trump’s pronouncements, but don’t want to lend credence to false claims, by calling the Foster insinuations “ridiculous and frankly shameful.”

“This is not an anti-Trump position or a pro-Clinton position,” Tapper said. “It’s a pro-truth position.”

The trouble is that unless a critical mass of media figures agrees to treat the things Trump exhumes from the fever swamps of the 1990s with the appropriate contempt, Trump will enjoy the benefit of the doubt most major-party nominees expect. It was easy for reporters to treat Trump adversarially, without fear or favor, when other Republicans were begging them to scrutinize him. Just three weeks later, the same kind of scrutiny presents those reporters with a collective action problem—by admonishing Trump, they might find themselves at a disadvantage to peers who choose to remain in the good graces of both campaigns. And if enough of them are cowed into treating the 20-year-old contents of The American Spectator as fair-game politics, Trump’s plan to dupe the young and forgetful will succeed.

 

By: Brian Beutler, The New Republic, May 27, 2016

May 31, 2016 Posted by | Conspiracy Theories, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Reporters | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Power Of Sisterhood”: Trump, Clinton Could Post Record Numbers With Opposite Corners Of White America

The stereotypical Donald Trump voter is a non-college-educated white man. Hillary Clinton’s base of support is much more diverse, but in terms of general election swing voters, her stereotypical voter is probably a professional white woman. Stereotypes are always over-generalizations and are sometimes misleading. But depending on how the general election develops, the impressive strength of the major-party candidates among downscale white men and upscale white women could prove to be the key match-up.

Veteran journalist Ron Brownstein looked at the internals of some recent general election polls and found that adding gender to education levels among white voters produced a shocking gap between the two candidates.

In early polling, the class inversion between Clinton and Trump is scaling unprecedented heights. In the national CBS/NYT poll, Trump led Clinton by 27 percentage points among non-college-educated white men, while she led him by 17 points among college-educated white women, according to figures provided by CBS. The ABC/Washington Post survey recorded an even greater contrast: it gave Trump a staggering 62-point advantage among non-college-educated white men and Clinton a 24-point lead among college-educated white women. State surveys reinforce the pattern. In the Pennsylvania Quinnipiac survey, Trump led among non-college-educated white men by 43 points, but trailed by 23 among college-educated white women. In Quinnipiac’s latest Ohio survey, Clinton’s vote among college-educated white women was 20 points higher than her showing among blue-collar white men.

Brownstein argues that each candidate is reaching or in some cases exceeding the all-time records for their party in these demographics — which means the gap could be larger than ever, too. What makes the trade-off potentially acceptable to Democrats is that college-educated white women are a growing part of the electorate while non-college-educated white men have been steadily declining for decades. What gives Republicans some hope is the theory that blue-collar white men, who are usually somewhat marginal voters, will turn out at record levels for Trump. Sean Trende, the primary author of the “missing white voters” hypothesis explaining a big part of Mitt Romney’s 2012 loss, thinks Trump is a good fit for these voters despite his weaknesses elsewhere in the electorate.

To be very clear: even though these two opposite corners of the white vote are significant, in the end a vote is a vote and there are many dynamics that could matter more. Most notably, if Hillary Clinton can reassemble the “Obama coalition” of young and minority voters with the same percentages and turnout numbers as the president did in 2012 or (even more) 2008, she has a big margin for error among all categories of older white voters. And within the universe of white voters, racial polarization could give Trump a higher share of college-educated voters than currently appears likely, while Democrats have high hopes of doing very well among non-college-educated white women by hammering away at the mogul on both economic and gender issues.

In the end, Democrats have won the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections and have a coalition that is growing while that of the GOP is shrinking. They also have a nominee who, for all her problems, raises far fewer worries among both swing and base voters than does the Republican.  Trump’s carefree attitude about who he offends could be more problematic in a general than in a primary election, and his disdain for the technological tools necessary to carefully target voters could prove to be a strategic handicap.

If the election does come down to a contest between women and men of any race or level of educational achievement, a Clinton victory would be not only historic, but a demonstration of the power of sisterhood against an opponent who’s a cartoon-character representation of The Man.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, May 30, 2016

May 31, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, General Election 2016, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Does Bernie Sanders Really Have Working-Class Support?”: Premise Sanders Is The Tribune Of The Working Class Is Full Of Holes

The idea that he’s fighting for an oppressed and dispossessed working class is central to Bernie Sanders’s identity as an old-school New Dealer closely aligned throughout his career with the labor movement and prone to diagnosing all the country’s problems as a product of economic inequality. Class struggle is also central to his critique of the Democratic Party as an institution that has traded its New Deal heritage of working-class solidarity — especially by promoting trade agreements and financial liberalization — for a mess of Wall Street pottage.

Indeed, some political observers have suggested that Sanders and Donald Trump represent parallel wings of a working-class uprising against political and economic elites. And Trump himself is fond of arguing that, if Bernie is denied the Democratic presidential nomination, his working-class supporters might drift over into the Trump column.

This all represents a nice, dramatic “narrative.” But the premise that Sanders is the tribune of the working class is full of very large holes.

One problem is the punditocracy’s habit of conflating “working class” with “white working class.” No one believes Sanders is sweeping the African-American or Latino working class, which matters quite a bit because those are the elements of the working class that are tangibly part of the Democratic electoral base.

But even within the “white working class,” Sanders’s support levels have been exaggerated by a failure to look at some crosscutting variables, as explained at Vox by Jeff Stein:

Because young voters also tend to have lower incomes, the massive age gap between Sanders and Clinton has sometimes looked to observers like a gap in economic class, according to political scientists Matt Grossmann and Alan Abramowitz.

But the most salient divide in the primary is not between rich and poor. It’s between young and old — and between white and black.

I’d interject here that an income-based definition of “working class” has always been problematic because earnings vary so much with age; a young college grad destined for the upper class may temporarily make less than a seasoned union member engaged in manual labor. It’s one reason most analysts use an educational definition for working class as people who do not have a college education (there’s a whole separate argument about how to classify people with “some” as opposed to no college, but let’s not go down that rabbit hole). But even an educational standard is problematic to some extent because college students don’t have a degree any more than their proletarian cousins.

As Stein shows, however, by any definition, class quickly fades as a factor in likelihood to feel the Bern as opposed to age:

If Sanders’s “white working-class” voters aren’t just college students, you’d also expect him to be doing better among downscale middle-aged white voters than rich ones.

But this turned out not to be true: Low-income white people in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s did not break for Sanders. There was little difference in support by income among older voters, with higher-income older white voters actually more likely to support Sanders, according to Grossmann’s Michigan data.

“My main concern is that the image of Bernie-supporting older poor people who’ve lost their factory jobs to trade is not supported,” Grossmann says. “I’m least supportive of the idea that there’s a population of white, older workers who lost their jobs and are now supporting Sanders. There’s very little evidence of that.”

Similarly, Abramowitz ran a multivariate analysis to help figure out this question. Abramowitz looked at a large survey data set and asked: What forms of identity actually predict support for Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton?

“It was age, and beyond that nothing mattered. Maybe ideology mattered a little bit,” he said. Income was not a factor.

Now, maybe none of this matters and Sanders’s youth appeal indicates he’s winning the fight for the future of the party even if his claim to represent decades of working-class grievances against capitalism isn’t so clear. But at a minimum, a proper understanding of Bernie’s base should reduce fears that his following is transferable to Trump. To put it more sharply, the idea that the actual working-class voters Sanders claims to represent view Clinton as the devil isn’t borne out by the numbers. According to Andrew Levison, who’s conducted the most intensive analysis I’ve seen of the appeal of various candidates to the white working class, Sanders isn’t running that far ahead of Clinton in this demographic to begin with. And of course, if you add in the black and brown working class, any Sanders advantage disappears entirely.

Having said all this, there’s nothing wrong with a candidate’s appeal being based on age rather than class; best I can tell, no candidate has ever run up the kind of numbers among young voters in a competitive presidential nominating contest that Sanders is regularly achieving this year. It’s an impressive accomplishment with obviously large implications for the future Democratic Party. But it’s not a tale of workers rising together to shake off their chains.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, May 20, 2016

May 23, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, White Working Class, Working Class | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Unprecedented Demographic Change”: Adapting To Change Requires Curiosity And Creativity

Our 24/7 news cycle that is addicted to the crisis of the moment and the horse race of electoral politics doesn’t do a good job of recognizing the tectonic shifts of change that are undergirding our lives.

The attacks of 9/11 followed by the Great Recession changed the way a lot of people feel about America in ways that aren’t articulated often enough. We are experiencing demographic change that is unprecedented, are nearing the end of two terms for our first African American president and are likely on the cusp of electing our first female president. All of that is happening as we are experiencing the effects of globalization and automation in our economy while technology becomes more central to how we live our everyday lives. Finally, we are just beginning to see the effects of climate change – with dramatic impacts looming on the horizon.

We can play the political parlor game of trying to suss out which of these is the most responsible for the dynamics of our current politics, or we can notice that the combination of those changes is affecting all of us. When Kevin Drum wonders why both political parties are afraid to talk about an improving economy and Gregg Easterbrook asks when optimism became uncool, I suspect that it is the weight of all of these changes that is the answer. But Easterbrook makes an interesting observation.

Though candidates on the right are full of fire and brimstone this year, the trend away from optimism is most pronounced among liberals. A century ago Progressives were the optimists, believing society could be improved, while conservatism saw the end-times approaching. Today progressive thought embraces Judgment Day, too…

Pessimists think in terms of rear-guard actions to turn back the clock. Optimists understand that where the nation has faults, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work.

The Tea Party responded to these changes by saying that they wanted to “take our country back.” When Donald Trump talks about “making America great again,” that’s essentially what he is saying too. Fear and retreat are a pretty common reaction to change among human beings.

Traditionally progressives have faced challenges like this by working on ways to move forward rather than pinning for days past. To do so requires things like curiosity and creativity. The past can be examined objectively, but the future is still uncertain. Ideologues too often stand in the way of curiosity and creativity. Here is how then-Senator Barack Obama talked about that back in 2005:

…the degree that we brook no dissent within the Democratic Party, and demand fealty to the one, “true” progressive vision for the country, we risk the very thoughtfulness and openness to new ideas that are required to move this country forward. When we lash out at those who share our fundamental values because they have not met the criteria of every single item on our progressive “checklist,” then we are essentially preventing them from thinking in new ways about problems.

I believe that this is why the President so often says that it is young people who inspire his optimism. They tend to be free of the ideologies and baggage of the past. Instead, they bring fresh eyes to the challenges we face going forward. Progressives need not fear the changes we are experiencing today when we tap into all of that.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 17, 2016

May 17, 2016 Posted by | Democrats, Liberals, Progressives, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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