Why Bernie’s (Maybe) Winning

… despite the media and pundit antipathy to Sanders’ viability.

Some of my own thoughts that have been meanderin’ around the noodle for a bit. And down the screen a bit some thoughts from Corey Robin of Crooked Timber blog.

I heard someone on TV say this morning that the best 2008 analogy is that Bernie is running as Obama’s 2008 campaign with the bold language of hope and change while Hillary is running as his actual presidency, stressing compromise and accommodation, softening expectations and settling for half a loaf if you can get it.  (Which reflects the not inconsistent reality of the Obama presidency that many Democrats supported him, support him still but are nonetheless disappointed that he took too long to fight back against his haters or use more of a bully pulpit in 2010 and 2014).

I think that sounds right and the problem with this is not with Bernie, it’s with Hillary – why is her campaign throwing cold water on big goals? How are you going to inspire people like that? Why run the policy equivalent of a prevent defense?

Is the plan to beat Bernie and then adopt his agenda? Because that is what people want – the safeness of Hillary with Sanders’ policies. And that defines both Hillary’s problem and the real choice between them.  As Sanders spokesperson Tad Devine laid out last week, the philosophy behind the Sanders campaign is to inspire and expand – inspire people who don’t normally get involved in electoral politics and expand the electorate. This was the Obama plan. It’s virtually always the plan when presidents win. Although it can go two ways: you can inspire people to come out to vote for you, or inspire (scare) the crap out of enough people that they vote against your opponent.  Or do both like in the Johnson landslide of 1964 or the Nixon reelection in 1972. But only the former strategy of inspiring a positive vote has the power to bring  people along down ballot.  A campaign that hopes to coast to a victory against an extremist foe, but only offers a limited vision of government has less of a chance to inspire and expand in order to create that wave of change.  (Unless you buy into the anti-Sanders “socialism” argument, Robin and I discuss later).

Let’s be clear about the general election – whomever the Democrats nominate will have almost unprecedented opportunity to campaign negatively against whomever the Republicans nominate.  Hillary’s negatives or Bernie’s negatives do not come anywhere near the negatives the potential GOP noms have.  So let’s just completely do away with any regurgitation of GOP talk about how nominating Bernie would be their dream.  It may be, but they are delusional and it won’t work for them.  The ads against Trump and Cruz that make them look unpresidential at best, but downright Palinesque at worst, write themselves.  So to have so many “establishment” Democrats shit on a Bernie nomination at this point is truly disappointing.

To look at why Bernie is forcing these Hillary errors I turn to Corey Robin of Crooked Timber blog. Bile, Bullshit and Bernie: 17 comments about a dismal campaign. Go read the whole thing, but here are a few salient points.

  1. Corey refers to the Clintonite dismissal of Sanders’ policy prescriptions as really an attack on classic Democratic values.

Raising taxes to pay for popular social programs: that used to be the bread and butter of the Democratic Party liberalism. Now it’s socialism. And that—now it’s socialism—used to be the bread and butter of Republican Party revanchism. Now it’s Democratic Party liberalism.

It’s quite troubling for some Democrats to hear that what we’ve advocated as a party since FDR is now considered Socialism not just by Republicans but also now by Democrats. But then again, that was Bill’s triangulation wasn’t it? That’s how Bill frustrated Newt and gang in the 90s, by running to the right, co-opting ideas as comfortable to Ronald Reagan as a jar of jelly beans. Ideas that even Bill has recognized as a mistake that helped set the world economy on fire (in a bad way) in 2008.  My greatest hope for Hillary was that she saw the failures of her husband’s presidency in deregulation, welfare reform, DOMA, etc. and run away, far away from that strategy. But now Hillary is running on a rhetorical return to the hated centrism of the late and not lamented Democratic Leadership Council. Who wants that? Um, nobody.

6. Sanders harps famously on all the Wall Street money that Clinton has taken and asks the simple question, if we all agree that we have to re-regulate Wall Street, how do we entrust that to someone taking their money? Well, the issue is not limited to that. While her campaign was working hard to denigrate Sanders’ position on Black Lives Matter, Clinton was taking money from people with ties to the private prison industry.

Post-script: In October, Clinton was forced to stop working with these clowns from the prison industrial complex. And return all the money.

Sanders never had to return a dime. Because he never took a dime.

and furthermore the defense industry defense of Clinton…

8. When the Clinton campaign released a letter signed by 10 foreign policy experts and Clinton supporters to denounce Sanders as “misguided” on Iran, the media was only too happy to report what the experts said about Sanders, but failed to discuss how many of them had troubling ties to the military contracting establishment, exactly half of them.

Wash Post: The pro-Clinton letter is signed by (Wendy) Sherman, the former undersecretary of state for political affairs; Jeremy B. Bash, former chief of staff at the CIA and Pentagon; former White House adviser Rand Beers; former counterterrorism adviser Daniel Benjamin; former undersecretary of state Nicholas Burns; former assistant secretary of defense Derek Chollet; former undersecretary of defense Kathleen Hicks, former undersecretary of defense James N. Miller; and former deputy national security advisers Julianne Smith and retired Lt. Gen. Donald Kerrick.

From the Intercept:

  • Former Assistant Defense Secretary Derek Chollet, former Pentagon and CIA Chief of Staff Jeremy Bash, and former Deputy National Security Adviser Julianne Smith are now employed by the consulting firm Beacon Global Strategies, a firm we profiled last year. Beacon Global Strategies’ staff advises both Clinton and Republican candidates for president, including Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. The firm makes money by providing advice to a clientele that is primarily military contractors. Beacon Global Strategies, however, has refused to disclose the identity of its clients.

  • Former Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns is a senior counselor at the Cohen Group, a consulting firm founded by former Defense Secretary William Cohen. The firm “assists aerospace and defense firms on policy, business development, and transactions,” including deals in the U.S., Turkey, Israel, and the Middle East.

  • Former Undersecretary of Defense Jim Miller is an advisory boardmember to Endgame Systems, a start-up that has been called the “Blackwater of Hacking.” Miller is also on the board of BEI Precision Systems & Space, a military contractor.

Once again, the connections are troubling, but the lack of reporting on the connections may be most troubling.  It would be hard to run a campaign today without some potential conflicts of interest in the brain trust, but like with Wall Street, or private prisons, these connections should at least be reported.

9. The media reports Clinton’s campaign as the worthy successor to Obama, having hired many of Obama’s campaign professionals, a juggernaut of organization. But

Even though the Clinton team has sought to convey that it has built a national operation, the campaign has invested much of its resources in the Feb. 1 caucuses in Iowa, hoping that a victory there could marginalize Mr. Sanders and set Mrs. Clinton on the path to the nomination. As much as 90 percent of the campaign’s resources are now split between Iowa and the Brooklyn headquarters, according to an estimate provided by a person with direct knowledge of the spending. The campaign denied that figure. The campaign boasted last June, when Mrs. Clinton held her kickoff event on Roosevelt Island in New York, that it had at least one paid staff member in all 50 states. But the effort did not last, and the staff members were soon let go or reassigned….For all its institutional advantages, the Clinton campaign lags behind the Sanders operation in deploying paid staff members: For example, Mr. Sanders has campaign workers installed in all 11 of the states that vote on Super Tuesday. Mrs. Clinton does not.

and even Bill has expressed questions about the campaign.

Bill Clinton, according to a source with firsthand knowledge of the situation, has been phoning campaign manager Robby Mook almost daily to express concerns about the campaign’s organization in the March voting states, which includes delegate bonanzas in Florida, Illinois, Ohio and Texas.

10. The Socialism argument is very old school and won’t work.

Little noticed in this week’s Des Moines Register-Bloomberg Politics Iowa poll was this finding: a remarkable 43 percent of likely Democratic caucus participants describe themselves as socialists, including 58 percent of Sanders’s supporters and about a third of Clinton’s.

You know what electorate it would work on?  The Reagan Democrats of 1980, who are largely now dead or Republicans (if you can tell the difference). It makes my skin crawl every time the fossilized remains of Chris Matthews mentions this 35 year old demographic as if they still matter. Take it from me, voting is really spotty at long term care facilities.

The core goals of the Democratic Party will only be achieved by engaging young people, minorities, etc.  not those old white people whose car radios only have presets for Rush Limbaugh and oldies music that Trump is courting.  Nobody who would vote for a Democrat, any Democrat, anywhere, will be swayed by the knee jerk repetition of the word socialist in 2016. Could Sanders lose Alabama by more than Hillary would, sure. Maybe. But given that he had 7,000 people at a rally in Birmingham last week, there’s also the possibility that, also just maybe, he would bring the progressives out of their hidey holes in purple states.   I’m willing to be that this is the more profitable strategy than the idea that we should keep our heads down, keep our policy proposals inoffensive and count on the GOP self-destructing.

Fifty-six percent of those Democratic primary voters questioned said they felt positive about socialism as a governing philosophy, versus 29 percent who took a negative view.

I’ll stop there, but Robin has a lot of interesting things to say.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s