A great sports analogy from reader Brad regarding this late moment in the Democratic race:
I have no preference over who wins the nomination. My comments are about the nature of competition in the homestretch. I’m tired of hearing about poll numbers and how Bernie should drop out of the race because the delegate count is impossible, etc. In the political arena, things can change on a whim just like in sports, or life in general.
This is a hilarious football play that shows my point:
Say Beebe saw that Lett had such a lead and thought, “There’s no way I can catch him” and gave up. Lett would’ve scored and been celebrating a lot more than he already was. But instead, Beebe hustled and stripped Lett at the last second.
Imagine these scenarios: Say a hot mic picked up Hillary saying something crazy or a racial epitaph or something. That might be something that could sway voters on the fence. Or let’s go back to 2008. Imagine if Obama got caught saying something crazy, or dissing women or whatever. I think that might have swayed a lot of people to vote for Clinton. Although these are extreme examples and the former isn’t likely, my point is that you play the game to the end because you don’t know what could happen.
If I were Sanders and came all this way, I wouldn’t stop; anything can happen. Similarly, if I was Clinton, I wouldn’t say “I got a such a big lead, I’m going to stop. No, I’m playing the game to the final whistle.”
This next reader, John Mensing, contends that Bernie has already won the Democratic primary, based on expectations:
Well, Chris, the most salient point that’s been missing from most articles on the subject—including columns in The Atlantic like “This Is How Revolutions End”—is that Hillary lost. She came into the race as the presumptive nominee with every advantage: a brace of superPACs, munificent funding, media that had donated already generously to her campaign, name recognition, and the “thumb on the scale” chicanery of machine politics at the precinct level. She was supposed to either have enough pledged delegates by now to have the nomination secured (like Trump does) or be in sight of that total.
Instead, she lost. She failed to get enough delegates, and so, come June 7th [the day of California’s primary], she will not have the requisite total.
Clinton does look increasingly likely to lose California based on the latest polling, but John’s claim that she will not have the requisite number of delegates is dubious, according to a new NYT report: “She is expected to reach the 2,383 delegates needed to clinch the nomination roughly three hours before the California results are tallied, when the polls close in New Jersey, a mathematical fact that Mrs. Clinton’s allies have been reciting to reporters.” Back to John:
So she, and her surrogates, are trying to spin this, saying that the superdelegates—whose job, after all, is to decide in just such a contest, where a presumptive nominee fails to get the requisite number, which is the best candidate—have already been bought. It’s all spin, spin, spin. And people recognize it, and are disgusted by it, and are disgusted with Hillary.
She’s a weak candidate. Sanders is a much more viable alternative. Getting people to like Hillary more is like getting people to like Nixon more.
Bernie’s David-vs-Goliath record against Hillary has been impressive indeed, but his success ironically undercuts his core message: That big money and corporate influence control the political process. But Bernie has demonstrated through his vast network of small donors and huge rallies that even a democratic socialist can bring the establishment to its knees (much like outsider Obama did to propel his first presidential bid, riding it to two terms and shaping the establishment from the inside). True, Bernie is still likely to lose the nomination, thus bolstering his One Percent theory, but he will get incredibly close regardless. And he and his supporters have nevertheless shaped the priorities of the Democratic establishment through their intense pressure.
However, on the other side of the race, Trump, who has essentially clinched the nomination, was vastly out-fundraised and outspent by his Republican rivals and still managed to bulldoze them. So the criticisms of big money and Citizens United become more and more difficult in the age of the internet and decentralized media.
Speaking of campaign finance, Marilyn W. Thompson has a new piece for us on the Presidential Election Campaign Fund:
[It’s] used to give political unknowns a fighting shot. Now $300 million sits in the fund—and no one wants anything to do with it. Can campaign spending be fixed?
Before addressing that question, here are some more thoughts about the homestretch of the Democratic race, from reader Kathleen:
First of all, I am not a Democrat, or a Republican. I like to think I’m an independent and think for myself. Regarding the Democratic race, I think Bernie Sanders has done quite a bit for young people and the disenfranchised who usually do not get involved in political campaigns. His followers are probably not mainly Democrats. His ideas are socialist.
I feel he has used the Democratic Party. But he probably feels the Democratic Party has used him. He probably promised NOT to be a third-party candidate (much like Trump did with the Republicans).
I just think Bernie needs to give in. Even though he’s older and a good guy, Hillary has done her due diligence. Even if you don’t like her and think she is funded by the wrong people, she did go through one unsuccessful campaign in 2008 and handled it well. I was for her then and found her graceful exit and support of Barack Obama inspirational.
Obama was an anomaly. But, then again, the Democratic Party decided the people had spoken. Obama was also black, and how could they fight that and show diversity in their party? I have to tell you Obama inspired me. He was certainly riding the wave.
I just wonder if the Democrats or Hillary have anything in store for Bernie. I don't see him being vice president, even though I have thought about it and don’t think it would be a bad idea (although his followers would hate it and so would he). There is no such thing as a Socialist in Chief. But maybe there can be someplace found for him in government.
But, as the article related (paraphrasing Al Gore), this Democratic race is about the country. The country comes first.
A reader suggests that Debbie Wasserman Schultz is causing most of the turmoil within the Democratic Party right now:
Molly Ball writes, “Many Sanders supporters told me they had once liked Clinton, but over the course of the primary they have come to dislike and distrust her.” This is exactly what is happening for many Bernie supporters, and much of the blame lies on the DNC. Whether you believe the game was “rigged,” you have to admit that having the former campaign chair of one of the candidates heading up the party as DNC chair during the primary creates the appearance of impropriety.
This created an environment where confirmation bias ruled and everything that could be considered tipping the scales for Hillary (limited debates, poorly scheduled debates, superdelegates flocking to a single candidate, DNC/Clinton campaign office sharing, coordinated fundraising etc.) hardened the opposition to Clinton. People who were once lukewarm toward Clinton now have an animus toward her that may not be remedied before the general.
And, of course, Clinton’s refusal to release her transcripts [of her Wall Street speeches] hasn’t helped. As much as Clinton supporters may not care about the transcripts, Bernie supporters see it as proof that she is corrupt. If there really is nothing damaging there, her refusal to release them seems baffling.
However, if Clinton loses the general, the DNC will be to blame.
But Clare, in a post earlier this week, wondered if Bernie’s campaign could be hurting its own cause by speaking out against Wasserman Schultz and backing her primary opponent in her home district (and building his own network of support within the party in general):
Politifact awarded a “false” rating to allegations that the Nevada convention had been tainted by misconduct. [CB note: Here’s a video of DWS responding to those charges on CNN]
And in the past week, the campaign appeared to undercut its own argument that it has not been treated fairly by the Democratic establishment. In December, Weaver told supporters the DNC had put “its thumb on the scales in support of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.” But during the CNN interview in which he accused Wasserman Schultz of “throwing shade,” Weaver suggested the problem was personal, not institutional. “It’s not the DNC. By and large, people in the DNC have been very good to us. Debbie Wasserman Schultz really is the exception,” Weaver said. If the campaign sends mixed messages as it engages in the feud, that could divert the attention of supporters away from its big-picture ambition.
Do you think Wasserman Schultz should step down as DNC chair? Or is Bernie’s campaign more to blame for the discord in the party right now? Share your thoughts via hello@. Update from a reader, Stephen Sheehy:
Wasserman Schultz certainly deserves criticism for the mess that her party finds itself in. The Dems have been crushed in Senate and House races and even more so at the state level. How about bringing back Howard Dean’s 50-state strategy?
Whatever one thinks of Clinton or Sanders (for whom I caucused, admittedly), it would be hard to find two less electable people in the party. Everyone hates Clinton and Sanders is a socialist! The only reason I have any hope is that Trump is perhaps even more unappealing. A smart DNC head would have told both Sanders and Clinton to forget about it and supported alternatives. Any generic liberal (like O’Malley) would win in a walk.
Here’s another reader, Jill, and I think a lot of her analysis could be applied to Trump and the effect he’s having on the Republican Party:
Sanders is currently sowing deep distrust of the Democratic Party. With each primary loss, he blames the system as undermining him or being unfair, planting the idea that Clinton is not the legitimate winner of the Democratic nomination. What worries me is that by attacking the structure of the primary process he is not just weakening Clinton's eventual candidacy but the party itself. He has pulled in voters who are distrustful of the system and showed them that their biases against the system are correct.
But then Sanders isn’t really a Democrat and he’s not thinking—or caring—about what’s best for the Democrats as a whole. He’s not going to pull a Howard Dean, who became chairman of the party after his primary loss, and he couldn’t accept such a position without charges of selling out by his most ardent supporters.
As for someone pulling an Al Gore and getting Sanders to concede the race, I don’t believe that is possible. It would be seen as a betrayal by many of his young fans who would rather the deep and corrupt party system be utterly obliterated than to ensure a continuation of liberal and progressive policies, but less progressive than they’d like, for at least the next four years. Sander would not only have to tone down his rhetoric but admit that some of his attacks on Clinton were wrong.
In the end the divide is between a group of people who want to see the Democratic party thrive and continue pushing policies that helps Americans, and a group of people that feels that the two-party system is what is hurting America. And I don’t know how you reconcile those two world views.
Hillary is the stodgy, old politician while Bernie is fun, exciting, and new. Yeah, Bernie has been around politics forever, but no one outside Vermont other than political junkies knew who he was until about six months ago. Bernie’s appeal with college kids is especially unsurprising, since he basically carries himself like a lovable old college professor.
And why doesn’t the self-described socialist alienate many Democrats with that label? “I think young people haven’t generated enough assets and are far enough away from natural death to not be scared by social democracy,” says one reader. Not to mention that Millennials have no living memory of Cold War communism. And the Republicans have overused “socialist” over the past seven years to describe the the country’s center-left, pragmatic president and other mainstream Democrats, so perhaps the term is becoming normalized—a crying wolf, of sorts. Here’s another reader:
Why is the age gap is so stark? I’ll give you a hint: it is not because we think Bernie Sanders is totally radical, dude. It’s simple: The Internet.
Like TV was to radio in the famous Kennedy Nixon debate, so is the Internet to traditional media sources. Younger voters do not get their media through TV talking heads or dying newspapers, but even when they do, it is filtered through the Internet, where fact-checking and comments are easily and quickly accessible. We have grown up used to taking what we see with a grain of salt and then checking on Snopes to see if it’s legit.
Traditional or old media has been perpetuating the concept of Clinton as the best candidate or the inevitable candidate. Anyone with an Internet connection can see that in comment sections, Bernie Sanders is overwhelmingly more popular. They can go to opensecrets.org and see exactly where the money funding these campaigns is coming from. They can quickly access years of voting records with a click. With these resources at our fingertips, the difference between the candidates becomes as plain as day.
Bernie Sanders is funded by over 3.25 million contributions averaging $27 and has no SuperPac. Sanders has held similar positions his entire career. He has never been beholden to special interests and he never will be. He is a public servant in the truest sense of the word.
Hillary Clinton gets most of her donations from people maxing out at $2700 and holds lavish campaign fundraisers entertaining the wealthy elite. Her SuperPac has been chugging along for quite some time, gathering vast sums of dark money from we-will-never-knows. Her positions have changed time and again depending on which constituency she is speaking to or what the political mood is at the time. We have no reason to believe she has our interests at heart.
Now, if you were simply reading print editions the NYTimes or watching CNN, these facts may never have been presented to you. For added irony, the older generation that sleep-walked us into the current disaster we call our representative government (aka the status quo) are the ones who are desperately defending it. They are now what we should refer to as low-information voters.
Another reader looks to ancient philosophy for insight:
By chance, I was reading Aristotle’s Rhetoric earlier today. He argues that young people are credulous because they have not yet been deceived many times; they are optimistic because they have not yet met with much failure; they are free from malice because they have not yet observed much wickedness. Hence, he argues, an orator addressing an audience consisting of young people must adapt to this collective character.
If the audience is composed of old people, on the other hand, the speaker is advised to adapt to a different set of characteristics that—as Aristotle suggests—consists “for the most part of elements that are the contrary of these [i.e. the characteristics of young people]”: old people are cynical because they have been deceived many times; they are pessimistic because they have met much failure; they are full of malice because they have experienced much evil, and so forth.
Far as I can see, there’s a problem with his advice. Even if we assume, for the sake of the argument, that these collective character sketches are accurate, Aristotle’s advice is only helpful if the audience consists of either old people or young people. Yet what is the speaker supposed to do if the audience consists of both young and old people? On Aristotle’s own account, after all, the character of the one group is “the contrary” of the character of the other. How then is the speaker supposed to adapt to contradictory characters without constantly contradicting herself?
He doesn’t offer any answer. I don’t really have one either.
If you do, or want to sound off on Hillary vs. Bernie in general, drop us an email. Update from a few readers, starting with Jonathon Booth:
A shocking large proportion of articles analyzing why young voters support Bernie in such large numbers ignore the most obvious reason why they would do so: They agree with his policies.
I guess the idea of voting for a politician whose policy positions you agree with doesn't fit well into the stereotype of shallow Millennials, but it seems to be the case. Clearly lots of young Americans are left-leaning and support (some version of) social democracy. Given the insanity of the Republican party and the structural changes in our economy over the past 40 years, this should surprise no one—unless, of course, you’re convinced that young people care only about popularity and snap-chatting.
Another gets more specific with the policy question:
It’s healthcare. I pay $1500 out of pocket for work-provided insurance that comes with a $2500 deductible that includes prescriptions and no copays. Young people are being shafted for insurance they can never afford to use in order to benefit an older class who’s entire motto is “I got mine, deal with it.”
I’m not a Sanders fan—I’m mourning Rand Paul right now—but I can see why he has the appeal. Young people want new solutions because what we have now is bullshit. Hillary parrots the same spiel as Obama and it hasn’t been a great eight years for young people.
In the wake of the Iowa caucuses, Ron Brownstein spotlights “the single most important dividing line in the struggle between Sanders and Clinton”—age:
He crushed Clinton by an almost unimaginable 6-1 (84 percent to 14 percent) among voters younger than 30. For those tempted to dismiss that as just a campus craze, he also routed her by 58 percent to 37 percent among those aged 30-44. But Clinton’s margins were almost as impressive among older voters: she beat Sanders 58 percent to 35 percent among those aged 45-64, and by 69 percent to 26 percent among seniors.
A reader remarks on those “astonishing” numbers:
Now I know for the first time how much trouble Hillary is going to be in come November. The Democrat Party needs young people to turn out in big numbers, and young people apparently can’t stand her. I guess Lena Dunham’s pleas fell on deaf ears?
But seriously though, this might be the biggest news from last night. Look for Hillary to double her youth outreach efforts. Look for lots of lame comedy videos and young celeb endorsements.
This reader isn’t as worried for Clinton: “Hillary has the edge: Young people don’t turn out to vote.” Another reader wonders why Sanders—age 74, six years older than Clinton—is killing it with the kids:
Young people have always wanted to upset the old order and change things. My generation fell in love with Gene McCarthy in the ‘60s. Like Sanders, McCarthy was able to portray himself as an outsider who was going to deliver us from the dark and save us from the madness.
Sanders is hitting all the right revolutionary rhetorical notes, but eventually his people will realize that his promises are just too good to be true.
Another skilled writer from our inbox is deeply skeptical of a Sanders presidency:
One thing I still have trouble understanding is how Bernie believes he can be an effective commander in chief. President Obama, whom I think of as a moderate/pragmatic Democrat, came into office riding a wave of popular support and a mandate for change following eight years of Bush and a financial crisis. He also had overwhelming majorities in both the House and Senate.
Yet, he still struggled to get his agenda through Congress.
Bernie is admittedly further left than Obama and is sure to face at least one Republican-controlled chamber, if not two. When asked how he will manage to get his agenda through the legislature, his response is always some variation of, “The political revolution we’re trying to start will put so much outside pressure on members of Congress that they’ll be forced to work with me.”
First, this assumes that Bernie will be able to sustain any popular support he will have coming into office. I find it hard to believe that Bernie’s support is anywhere near the overwhelming levels President Obama had in 2008. Moreover, as we saw with Obama, that consistent support fell off before he had much time to start rolling out his agenda (see: 2009 town halls with an abundance of Tea Partiers and a noticeable absence of the Obama coalition).
Second, Bernie also assumes elected officials who may not share his views will be swayed by these supposed outside demands. That is either disingenuous or incredibly naive. Politics aside, Bernie himself acknowledges how much of Congress is beholden to special interests; does he think he can convince members to suddenly accede to public opinion over the interests of their donors? Did he see what happened to the background-check legislation that had 90 percent support from the public?
Lastly, Bernie and Obama share one trait that I think has made it difficult for Obama to work with Congress and is a likely harbinger of a Sanders presidency: Neither wants to do the relationship-building (i.e. schmoozing) required of a president to build trust with legislators. As LBJ, Reagan, and the first Clinton have shown, knowing how to work within the system is paramount to accomplishing one’s agenda.
Some may counter that it was impossible for Obama to work with a Republican Party that had no interest in coming to the table. But this problem wasn’t just between Obama and Republicans; it extended to Democrats, too. Obama barely managed to get his TPP proposal through, and his initial last-minute appeals to Democrats failed. I don’t see how Bernie operates any differently.
Ultimately, the realities of the presidency will have one of two consequences for Bernie: either he will remain steadfast in his principles and be incapable of accomplishing anything, or he will be forced to work within the system. Both will leave his supporters disappointed and wondering whether he is just “more of the same.”
But this Bernie supporter provides an impassioned plea:
I’ve been exposed to Sanders from his appearances on Real Time with Bill Maher for about 6 or 7 years now, and he has always been a no-bullshit debater, extremely passionate about his views. I remember an episode that aired 11/07/2014, and during the Overtime segment, they were mulling over him running for president and the audience in unison just yelled, “Run Bernie!” Since that day I have been supporting him for president, originally hoping that Warren and him would make the best ticket I could hope for.
It wasn’t until his rally that he held in LA back in August that I realized that something special was going on with him. I had given up on American politics in general. An uninformed people combined with paid-for politicians had put my mind into a state of civil war, where one side of me wanted to leave the country and move to a place that better represented my views, and the other side of me understood and respected what our founding fathers had done, and what the people who came before us had done, to make this country the greatest ever and I have great pride in America.
My views were shattered during that rally; seeing 27,000 people show up was jaw dropping. I had thought Americans were dumb and didn’t care, but that rally corrected that belief. It was also the first time I had heard a candidate say something I had been saying for years which was, “Why should people be given criminal records for marijuana possession, yet not one person responsible for the financial collapse of 2008 being charged for their crimes.”
When I was 17 years old I was arrested and charged with one felony for sales and one felony for intent to sell, because I had two grams of pot on me. After being threatened with mandatory minimums, I pleaded guilty and accepted a plea-bargain, despite the fact those chargers were bullshit.
The event ruined my life. I lost my eligibility for a scholarship program, my drivers license was suspended for years, and my relationship with my family was destroyed, which lead to severe depression. That depression turned to anger after the 2008 financial collapse, especially after watching a few of PBS Frontline investigations that covered the subject. It was absolute bullshit that I was a criminal in society’s eyes, yet these bankers were not.
Bernie was the first politician I have seen who agreed with that premise—not just agreed with it, but stated it loud and clear for everyone to hear. I remember hearing him say that and just tearing up because I could not believe that someone finally made that connection.
I am constantly ridiculed by conservatives and called naive by Clinton supporters, but to me it is worth it. I truly love this country.
Anyway, I hope that gives you some insight as to why I feel as strongly about this election as I do. I’m glad you give readers a platform from which to express their opinions, and you seem to be doing the best you can to do so without bias. Thank you!
As a student at the University of Chicago, Sanders was active in both the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). In 1962, he was arrested for protesting segregation in public schools in Chicago; the police came to call him an outside agitator, as he went around putting up flyers around the city detailing police brutality.
Another tweet floating around goes further than the one above, claiming that “if elected, Goldwater promised to overturn the Civil Rights Act and re-segregate the nation.” That’s not true; he backed the 1964 GOP platform that endorsed “full implementation and faithful execution of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and all other civil rights statutes, to assure equal rights and opportunities guaranteed by the Constitution to every citizen.” Goldwater did vote against the 1964 bill, but from the standpoint of a constitutionalist, not segregationist. In fact, Goldwater was very much committed to civil rights at the state and local level. For instance, he was a founding member of the Arizona NAACP and helped integrate the Phoenix public schools. Lee Edwards, in his biography of Goldwater, further details his complex political persona:
Another reader, Jon Barber, addresses the question:
I had also read the several media pieces that delved into Bernie Sanders’s past. Yes, there were a few quirky things as a young man, but not the type of stuff that make a difference to the independent voter. What we don’t find are scandals or unethical behavior. There is no red meat. I found the vetting articles to be refreshing for that reason because it confirmed his reputation for honesty and ethics and that’s the vetted material that impresses independents.
Can we say the same thing about Hillary Clinton? It doesn’t really matter. She has the negatives of more than 50 percent that never really drop. Those numbers comes from her looseness with the truth over the years.
I could list plenty of hypocritical actions or statements from her. My favorite is how she was bilking colleges of hundreds of thousands of dollars for speaking fees to get up to the podium to talk about how much college costs for students. Gee Hillary, your fees weren’t part of the problem?
Personally, I think the Democratic race is over and this subject is a moot point.
Her performance since the latest polls have shown a Sanders surge, only confirmed her untrustworthy negative, as well as desperation. Sending her daughter Chelsea out to lie about Bernie’s healthcare plan was a mistake and the punditry said so. Why would she bring in a third family liar, the daughter of “I did not have sex with that woman” father Bill? The whole family is a negative rating for honesty.
The fact that Sanders has financed his campaign without tainted money from rich special interests, shows a candidate willing to live his ideals of campaign finance reform today, not in some claim of caring about it that Clinton offers. The numbers for his campaign, the two million individual donors (reached the fastest in history) is impressive. Bernie has done only one fundraiser; that is incredible in today’s politics.
The race is over, unless some outside event I can’t think of changes things. Sanders has done and will do what Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama all did in their campaigns—started as underdogs and won the nomination, then presidency.
Another critic of Clinton flags the above video:
Hillary has no integrity; she changes her stances on issues based on poll numbers rather than standing up for what she believes in. One instance is marijuana. The first debate she was against decriminalization, but a few weeks later Sanders proposes new legislation to take marijuana off of the controlled substances and it polls overwhelmingly well within the DNC—and low and behold, she supports it. I could name 15 or so issues in which she has done this: she copies Sanders policies, skews them more to the center, then releases them as her own. I’m sorry, but how can I believe she’ll actually go through with any of these progressive policies when she only switched when the polls did.
Sanders is willing to stand up for something he believes in when it is unpopular; that is true character and something Hillary lacks completely. These issues are very important to me and my family, and I can’t afford to put my vote in for someone who is just pandering to me.
I could break down all their differences, but I’d probably end up spending an hour or two ranting about it. But her recent attacks on Sanders show she has no problem lying to voters in an attempt to manipulate their vote. If I wanted that type of behavior, I’d vote Republican.
You quoted a reader who alluded to Bernie Sanders’ 1972 comments on rape—but who couldn’t actually repeat his quote or even state it directly before dismissing it as nothing to see here. Well, Republicans would NOT view it as nothing, and Sanders’ rape comments would come back to haunt him big time in a general election. Pretending it wouldn’t is delusion and frankly, crazy. In order to win the Democratic nomination, Sanders would have to defeat a woman only to end up being tarred as a misogynist in the general election. Donald Trump would destroy Bernie Sanders with this one remark alone.
The press is obviously aware of this, since it takes about three seconds to find it on the net. Republicans know all about it but have chosen not to make a big stink in the hope (presumably) that Bernie will knock out Hillary Clinton. You can rest assured it will be front-page news if Sanders gets the nomination and Bernie will have some 'splainin to do. It doesn’t take a genius to see that a 70-year-old man defending his comment that “women fantasize about rape” ain’t gonna win a presidential election. Some comments simply don’t play in Peoria.
Sanders also comes with a laundry list of totally unrealistic policy proposals that are dead on arrival in an era of half-trillion-dollar deficits and Republican controlled congresses. He’s offering a vision that is a near complete rejection of both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama’s pragmatic centrism and fiscal prudence. He doesn’t even call himself a Democrat, preferring “Democratic Socialist.” Sanders as the Democratic nominee would not only be a general election defeat, but would split the Democratic Party in two at least as bad as a Trump nomination would for Republicans.
So look before you leap and think before you vote. Thank you for the debate.
With regard to Hillary versus Bernie, one thing that people tend not to be factoring in is that Bernie has not faced serious attacks. The back and forth between Clinton and Bernie is basically kids gloves.
For better or worse, Hillary is a known quantity. Her past has been well hashed out, and although it’s quite possible that more stuff can be dug up, I'm not sure how likely it is. Sanders, on the other hand? He has 40 years worth of statements and positions that will, relatively speaking, be news to the vast majority of people. There has been no Swift Boats, or Rev. Wrights, or even pastel suits!
The other reader:
In your latest note about the electability of Clinton and Sanders, you asked Clinton fans to name her biggest accomplishment. Politico already asked that question, and they got responses from some pretty high-profile Clinton supporters. In my mind, the best answers are: pioneering SCHIP as first lady and secretary of state, authoring the sanctions that brought Iran to the negotiating table for its nuclear program, brokering a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, and guiding the passage of the New START treaty with Russia.
For me the only question of any import is which candidate is more likely to win the general election. If the Republicans win the presidency they will probably control Congress as well. I cannot underscore enough what an enormous disaster I think this would be for our nation. Given that a Democratic president is unlikely to be able to make any new policy except via executive action, I truly do not care who the Democratic nominee is as long as they win. They MUST win.
And I don’t think Bernie can. He does worse than Hillary in head-to-head comparisons to Republicans. We know that swing voters aren’t policy oriented people. If they didn’t vote from the gut, they wouldn't be swing voters! I can’t see those voters trusting a man who intentionally cultivates an image as angry and unprofessional. Bernie presents the image of a nutty professor as part of demonstrating that he’s reliably socialist. The tradeoff is that, judging by looks alone, he appears to be a nut, and a significant part of swing voters will make their decisions on that factor alone! Given how close elections are, the “bad hair factor” doesn’t need to be very large to cost us the election.
The reader claims that Bernie “does worse than Hillary in head-to-head comparisons to Republicans,” but I’m not so sure that’s true, at least regarding the GOP’s decisive frontrunner. According to polling averages from RealClearPolitics, Bernie leads Trump by the same margin as Hillary leads Trump—44 to 42. And according to The Huffington Post’s averages, Bernie leads Trump 49 to 42 while Hillary only leads Trump 48 to 44.5. The primaries haven’t even started yet, of course, and Election Day is still ten months away, but Bernie seems like he could be just as strong in the general election as his more centrist Democratic rival. Update: The reader below, Matt, bolsters my point even further:
That comment from the guy who says Bernie loses head-to-head matchups against any Republican? Maybe 18 months ago, but the latest polling on RCP has Sanders beating every Repub while Clinton only beats most. (Cruz for some reason has big numbers in Iowa, but it must just be his turn.) So Sanders has the advantage over Clinton in every hypothetical race (see attached screencap from RCP).
This stuff is not exactly science, but it is illustrative. The Clinton Inevitablity/Electability narrative is half-myth, half-Beltway insider consensus. Nobody is inevitable, Clinton least of all (*cough 2008 cough*).
That reader, in his original email, scrutinizes the Clinton narrative in great detail:
My name is Matt. You posted my thoughts about the merits of online dating for a discussion thread you ran several months back. Today I have more comments on another subject near and dear to people of my general age and political persuasion: Bernie Sanders. I wanted to respond to the individual who wrote the topmost email in this note. The reader ultimately misstates the nature of Clinton’s appeal while ignoring that her apparent positives—steadiness, competence, a legislative record to run on, realism, pragmatism, political and bureaucratic mastery, etc—are actual aspects of Sanders’ legislative accomplishments.
People like Hillary for a variety of reasons—her competence, her formidable knowledge and recall of geopolitics, her decades of hard-won relationships in Washington that could theoretically be leveraged into real legislative accomplishments. I too have met her; I found her warm and engaging, if a little humorless and kind of a hard ass. But I have also met Sanders (I interned for him in college) and found him much the same.
The argument I’m not buying, and never will, is the “she’ll by gosh get things done” canard. This is a problematic argument for two reasons.
First, where is the evidence for this? In her favor, she was an adequate secretary of state (though if statecraft was measured by the number of miles traveled, Ben Franklin would look like a rank amateur) and she did great work in the Sisyphean task of starting to rebuild our foreign policy credibility after the Bush years.
However, she failed to anticipate, moderate, or meaningfully exploit the extent to which the Arab Spring allowed radical Islamists to seize power across the region, which will continue to have repercussions for decades. This relates to her earlier failure to anticipate the absolute fiasco that the Iraq War would become, her non-apologies for supporting that disastrous quagmire, and her “bomb first” tendencies (e.g. Syria) that contrast sharply with Obama’s more measured, level-headed, and reasonable approach to intervention.
The whole Benghazi thing, while technically and legally not her fault, was nevertheless her responsibility. Her ineptitude in managing the scandal, her tendency towards unreasonable secrecy and paranoia in the name of operational security, and her series of half-assed excuses for the events that led to the deaths seriously calls into question her judgment. And it makes me shudder to think of watching cable news for 4-8 years of a hypothetical Clinton presidency. (Think things are weird and bad now? How quickly we forget the ‘90s … ).
And on domestic matters? Again, I see no real evidence for Clinton’s apparent bureaucratic mastery or skills at agenda-advancing knife fighting. And if, as your reader writes, Obama lacks these skills and it was fatal to his agenda, where is the evidence for that? His lack of progress? I say again, what lack of progress? He managed quite well against an unprecedented and wholly unreasonable Republican Congress.
This is all to say, mastery of the dark arts is not a necessary quality for legislative success, and if it is, I’m not sure that your reader has proven that Clinton possesses it. She sure gets into a lot of fights with people, I’ll give her that. But name me one serious, real accomplishment that Clinton made as a senator or as first lady of either the USA or Arkansas. Can anyone? [CB note: If a Clinton supporter would like to respond to that question in some detail, please email me.]
There’s an argument to be made that she’s a behind-the-scenes actor who helps advance and write legislation without attaching her name to it. It’s this and evidence like this—negative evidence, unproven and unprovable evidence, anecdotal evidence—that seems to form the crux of the “Clinton Competence” argument. Her supporters (Marcotte et al) point to an underwhelming-to-nonexistent record of policy accomplishment—a resume that, while substantial and meaningful, lacks any serious executive experience that would recommend somebody for the presidency. (Yes, I know this argument was lobbed at Obama as well, but let’s not forget that Clinton piled right on, which is itself pretty rich).
She has been in Washington for a long time, true, but if proximity to the Oval Office were an indicator of executive acumen, Gerald Ford would have been goddamn transformational. So there’s that, and the wholly unsupported argument that she has some sort of proven track record of working across the aisle to move the sticks (the same folks that accused her of murder in the ‘90s?).
This brings me back to Sanders and finally (apologies) to my point.
If the arguments for Clinton are accomplishment, bipartisan cooperation and the ability to advance legislation under less than optimal conditions and bureaucratic/executive experience, suffice it to say that Sanders, who has held an elected office of one sort or another since 1981—longer than I’ve been alive—has it in spades. As evidence, look to his legislative record, or to his long history of working—against apparently immovable conservative opposition—to craft and enact legislation.
So your reader is using distorted, emotional and unsupported arguments in a way that not only misrepresent the apparent and very hypothetical effectiveness of a President Clinton but also ignores the very real political effectiveness of Sanders throughout his career.
This is not to say that a Sanders presidency would necessarily be transformational, that a Clinton presidency wouldn’t or that Sanders is an ideal candidate. I will admit to supporting him, and as I mentioned, I interned for him in college. But to be perfectly fair, my first job out of college was as an organizer on Clinton’s 2008 campaign. I like them both a lot and will vote for whomever makes it out of the primary with no (okay, a few) reservations. So don’t mistake this for an unconsidered screed from some overheated “berniebro.”
But to take as granted the argument that Clinton is de facto “the adult” in the race, with the resume, the accomplishments, the skills and the dead-eyed, depressing Kissingerian realism to succeed as president ignores two fundamental things: there’s no real proof for this argument unless your media consumption is 100 percent inside the Beltway pablum; and the traits that your reader is mistakenly attributing to Clinton are actually demonstrated to a large extent by Sanders’ actual list of accomplishments.
Your reader wrote: “Clinton appeals to a smaller and smaller segment of the Democratic electorate. She is BORING.” This, I think, is the crux of why I’m wary of Sanders and will be voting for Clinton. Maybe she’s boring. Maybe she’s stiff in public and lacks her husband’s ability to pirouette through the electorate. But I think she’ll be competent and effective in a way that I've seen no indication that Sanders can be.
Obama came into 2008 riding the type of train Sanders is on now. Our last great hope! Save America from the Establishment! HOPE! CHANGE!
I always though the mushy hope/change stuff was largely BS. But what I did see in Obama, in a few unguarded moments like the Reverend Wright speech and the “cling to their guns” moment, was the guy underneath the messiah campaign. And that guy seemed to me like someone who was smart, capable, empathetic, knowledgable, and realistic about the state of the world. It’s that man I wanted to be president.
And that’s the president we got. But he revived a MOUNTAIN of shit for this in the first term. The people inspired by 2008 felt dismayed, betrayed, disillusioned. The president was meek, weak, feckless, ignored their promises. And while they whined, and complained, and felt betrayed, Obama quietly went ahead and put together the cleanest, most effective presidency of my 32-year lifetime.
When I look at Sanders, I see a B version of Candidate Obama. When I look at Clinton, I see a B version of President Obama. The latter is who I want to be chief executive.
Sanders, right now, is riding a wave of unrealistic expectations. People want him to come in and “fix everything”—though without a clear explanation of what precisely is broken, and how it can be fixed. When I look at America, I see a country that’s done pretty dang well, except for the glaring problems of median wage stagnation and income inequality.
But Bernie Sanders can’t fix that. It’s a society-wide problem. I’m glad Bernie’s putting the issue on the table, but there’s no presidential initiative that’s going to unionize the American workforce, or make shareholders not like profits, or end technological advancement, or make foreign workers more expensive. And if there are, he certainly hasn’t explained them. In fact, he’s given me very little reason to believe he’s capable of delivering anything he promises.
I happen to have good friends who’ve worked personally with Mrs. Clinton. They describe her as smart, thoughtful, and willing to listen to input. Like I said, I am glad Sanders is shifting the discussion left, and I think he’s great in a role that lets him be loud and angry. But 90 percent of the presidency is managing, reacting to events, compromising between diametrically opposed forces. I know Clinton can do this, but can Sanders?
If Sanders is nominated, I’m not sure whether or not he can withstand the harshness of the general election. But I expect his presidency would be a disappointment, because the expectations are so unrealistic. He won’t fix everything. He’ll have to compromise. He’ll have to ignore promises, or break them. And it will be a betrayal to his supporters. It’s a recipe for gridlock, or a GOP win in 2020, or both.
Clinton, though, won’t suffer from this. She can be dirty. She can play the game. She can be an effective president and be herself.
I think Bernie Sanders is resonating because he is Trump’s tell-it-like-it-is counterpart on the other side. Only the more Bernie speaks, the more it’s evident he’s being entirely truthful and doesn’t appear to be in the race for his ego, which is why I think he could beat Trump head-on, whose tell-it-like-it-is persona is just a laundry list of cynicism, doom and gloom, while he appears to be in it solely for ego.
If you’re a hard-working person just trying to get by, it is clear that Bernie is the truest candidate for your interests. He isn’t bought off by anybody and is primarily looking to benefit you after more than three decades now where Washington always defaults to putting their corporate slavers first.
In a Sanders-Trump matchup, Sanders looks like the boring, sensible one.
In a piece from David Graham showing how close the race is between Clinton and Sanders in key polling, David notes how she is “pulling out various stops. In particular, she has spent the last few days assailing Sanders for being, in her view, soft on gun control”—despite the Vermonter’s D-minus rating from the NRA. Along those lines, a reader predicts that Sanders would “wipe the floor with Trump” and refers to the video seen above:
Obama called her Annie Oakley in the 2008 primary because of her proud pro-gun stance, but now ALL OF A SUDDEN she is supposed to be some kind of anti-gun crusader? Come on.
Clinton appeals to a smaller and smaller segment of the Democratic electorate. She is BORING. Sanders has ALL of the excitement because he actually stands for something and is principled. She is so very obviously nothing but a panderer who changes her tune depending on which way the wind blows.
H.A. Goodman in The Huffington Postlooks at the record from the last time Clinton ran against a fellow Democrat:
According to a 2008 New York Times article titled Clinton Portrays Herself as a Pro-Gun Churchgoer, Clinton’s rhetoric on the 2nd Amendment differed greatly from today’s attacks against Sanders:
For the third time since Mr. Obama’s remarks were made public Friday night, Mrs. Clinton criticized him at length, saying his comments seemed "kind of elitist and out of touch."
"I disagree with Senator Obama's assertion that people in our country cling to guns and have certain attitudes about immigration or trade simply out of frustration," she said.
She described herself as a pro-gun churchgoer, recalling that her father taught her how to shoot a gun when she was a young girl and said that her faith "is the faith of my parents and my grandparents."
Imagine Clinton recalling how she learned to shoot a gun in 2016. She also focused on faith and the right-wing talking point of liberal elitism, which is why Clinton stated Obama was "kind of elitist and out of touch."
In addition to describing herself as a "pro-gun churchgoer," Clinton made a point to continue these themes against Obama. A 2008 CNN article titled Clinton touts her experience with guns explains her rural Indiana visit in greater detail:
"You know, my dad took me out behind the cottage that my grandfather built on a little lake called Lake Winola outside of Scranton and taught me how to shoot when I was a little girl," she said.
"You know, some people now continue to teach their children and their grandchildren. It's part of culture. It's part of a way of life. People enjoy hunting and shooting because it's an important part of who they are. Not because they are bitter."
Minutes later, in a slightly awkward moment, Clinton faced a question from a woman in the audience whose son had been paralyzed by a gunshot...
"As I told you, my dad taught me how to shoot behind our cottage," she said. "I have gone hunting. I am not a hunter. But I have gone hunting."
Clinton said she has hunted ducks.
Meanwhile, a Sanders supporter responds to David’s point that “Sanders won’t benefit from the good feeling of electing a first black president, as Obama did”:
One thing the author forgot to mention is that even though Sanders isn’t black, he is Jewish (and people say atheist as well). Obama was the first black president, but Sanders would be the first Jewish president, which would also be very notable.
Another reader who feels the Bern:
Bernie is the ONLY candidate whose record proves he is honest. He wants tuition-free college paid for by a tax on Wall Street speculation. He wants to break up the big banks. He voted no to all the trade deals.
Hillary said NAFTA was good and that the TPP was the gold standard. Now she is against the TPP because she has to copy Bernie. Why get the lying copy when you can get the real thing?
Bernie wants a single-payer health insurance system. Hillary wants to strengthen Obamacare. Hillary will make your health insurance even more expensive. Mine is currently $475/month (compared to my $25/month car insurance from Insurance Panda, or my $10/month dental insurance, but I digress). Hillary is in bed with Big Pharma.
Trump wants low wages, but only now after Bernie pointed it out, proving he is copying Bernie as well.
Bernie is the new FDR, and if we let him he will stop the corruption and bring our country into prosperity again. The other candidates are paid for by the corporations.
Are you a strong Clinton supporter and want to make your case? Drop me an email and I’ll post.
Colonizing the red planet is a ridiculous way to help humanity.
There’s no place like home—unless you’re Elon Musk. A prototype of SpaceX’s Starship, which may someday send humans to Mars, is, according to Musk, likely to launch soon, possibly within the coming days. But what motivates Musk? Why bother with Mars? A video clip from an interview Musk gave in 2019 seems to sum up Musk’s vision—and everything that’s wrong with it.
In the video, Musk is seen reading a passage from Carl Sagan’s book Pale Blue Dot. The book, published in 1994, was Sagan’s response to the famous image of Earth as a tiny speck of light floating in a sunbeam—a shot he’d begged NASA to have the Voyager 1 spacecraft take in 1990 as it sailed into space, 3.7 billion miles from Earth. Sagan believed that if we had a photo of ourselves from this distance, it would forever alter our perspective of our place in the cosmos.
After saying a racial slur and being exiled from radio, Morgan Wallen has become only more popular. What’s going on?
It’s no exaggeration to say that one of the biggest artists in American music right now is a disgrace. Three weeks after the 27-year-old country singer Morgan Wallen said a racial slur on camera, his second studio album, Dangerous: The Double Album, is at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. His singles have been bobbing in the country-music top 10 and the cross-genre Hot 100. Billboard’s ranking of the most popular artists in the United States had him in the top spot for five straight weeks. Thousands of people are, at this moment, streaming Wallen’s songs, buying his records, and watching his music videos—putting money in the pockets of someone who has admitted to saying one of the most noxious things imaginable.
We’ll never know for sure how contagious people are after they’re vaccinated, but we do know how they should act.
Every day, more than 1 million American deltoids are being loaded with a vaccine. The ensuing immune response has proved to be extremely effective—essentially perfect—at preventing severe cases of COVID-19. And now, with yet another highly effective vaccine on the verge of approval, that pace should further accelerate in the weeks to come.
This is creating a legion of people who no longer need to fear getting sick, and are desperate to return to “normal” life. Yet the messaging on whether they might still carry and spread the disease—and thus whether it’s really safe for them to resume their unmasked, un-distanced lives—has been oblique. Anthony Fauci said last week on CNN that “it is conceivable, maybe likely,” that vaccinated people can get infected with the coronavirus and then spread it to someone else, and that more will be known about this likelihood “in some time, as we do some follow-up studies.” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky had been no more definitive on Meet the Press a few days before, where she told the host, “We don’t have a lot of data yet to inform exactly the question that you’re asking.”
The GOP has become, in form if not in content, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union of the late 1970s.
We are living in a time of bad metaphors. Everything is fascism, or socialism; Hitler’s Germany, or Stalin’s Soviet Union. Republicans, especially, want their followers to believe that America is on the verge of a dramatic time, a moment of great conflict such as 1968—or perhaps, even worse, 1860. (The drama is the point, of course. No one ever says, “We’re living through 1955.”)
Ironically, the GOP is indeed replicating another political party in another time, but not as the heroes they imagine themselves to be. The Republican Party has become, in form if not in content, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union of the late 1970s.
I can already hear the howls about invidious comparisons. I do not mean that modern American Republicans are communists. Rather, I mean that the Republicans have entered their own kind of end-stage Bolshevism, as members of a party that is now exhausted by its failures, cynical about its own ideology, authoritarian by reflex, controlled as a personality cult by a failing old man, and looking for new adventures to rejuvenate its fortunes.
When the polio vaccine was declared safe and effective, the news was met with jubilant celebration. Church bells rang across the nation, and factories blew their whistles. “Polio routed!” newspaper headlines exclaimed. “An historic victory,” “monumental,” “sensational,” newscasters declared. People erupted with joy across the United States. Some danced in the streets; others wept. Kids were sent home from school to celebrate.
One might have expected the initial approval of the coronavirus vaccines to spark similar jubilation—especially after a brutal pandemic year. But that didn’t happen. Instead, the steady drumbeat of good news about the vaccines has been met with a chorus of relentless pessimism.
A guide to America’s awkward, semi-vaccinated months
The past 11 months have been a crash course in a million concepts that you probably wish you knew a whole lot less about. Particle filtration. Ventilation. Epidemiological variables. And, perhaps above all else, interdependence. In forming quarantine bubbles, in donning protective gear just to buy groceries, in boiling our days down to only our most essential interactions, people around the world have been shown exactly how linked their lives and health are. Now, as COVID-19 vaccines rewrite the rules of pandemic life once more, we are due for a new lesson in how each person’s well-being is inextricably tangled with others’.
This odd (and hopefully brief) chapter in which some Americans are fully vaccinated, but not enough of us to shield the wider population against the coronavirus’s spread, brings with it a whole new set of practical and ethical questions. If I’m vaccinated, can I travel freely? Can two vaccinated people from different households eat lunch together? If your parents are vaccinated but you’re not, can you see them inside? What if only one of them got both shots? What if one of them is a nurse on a COVID-19 ward?
The Danish series John Dillermand makes a very big deal about a very big body part.
The world of Danish children’s television is not for the prudish. Kids who turn on the tube in Denmark might be greeted by gratuitous flatulence, cursing, casual nudity, or cross-dressing puppets. One show centers on a pipe-smoking pirate who wallops ninjas and flirts with Satanism. In another, an audience of 11-to-13-year-olds asks probing questions about the bodies of adults who disrobe before them. As Christian Groes, an anthropologist at Denmark’s Roskilde University, told me, Danish children’s television is not unlike an LSD trip: “Everything is possible in that universe,” he said, loosely quoting a friend, “and people won’t complain about it.”
But people did complain when the Danes debuted a kids’ animated series in January featuring a protagonist with an absurdly long, prehensile penis.
The first way to fight a new virus would once have been opening the windows.
A few years ago, when I still had confidence in our modern ability to fight viruses, I pored over a photo essay of the 1918 flu pandemic. How quaint, I remember thinking, as I looked at people bundled up for outdoor classes and court and church. How primitive their technology, those nurses in gauze masks. How little did I know.
I felt secure, foolishly, in our 100 additional years of innovation. But it would soon become clear that our full-body hazmat suits and negative-pressure rooms and HEPA filters mattered little to Americans who couldn’t find N95 masks. In our quest for perfect solutions, we’d forgotten an extremely obvious and simple one: fresh air. A colleague joked, at one point, that things would have gone better in the pandemic if we still believed in miasma theory.
Getting a heat pump is one of the easiest ways for homeowners to fight climate change.
If you’re like me, you know that getting rid of your car is one of the best things you can do for the climate, and also that you will never do it. This is a car-oriented country, and a car-oriented time. But in 2019, the private cars and light trucks that ordinary people drive for work and shopping and leisure were responsible for about 15 percent of U.S. fossil-fuel-energy use. Electric vehicles get a lot of press, but less than 1 percent of energy used for transportation came from electricity. Personal transportation is a large contributor to carbon emissions in America; it’s also the hardest to give up.
But trading a gasoline automobile for an electric one (or for a bus or train) isn’t the only way ordinary citizens can contribute to fossil-fuel reduction. Decarbonization has two pillars: First, generate electricity from energy that does not emit carbon—renewable sources such as wind, solar, and geothermal instead of fossil fuels. That requires legislative and regulatory change. Second, use electricity to run as much of your personal life as possible.
The nation’s politics is in dire need of earnestness. Can its culture meet the moment?
On Tuesday evening, at the start of his Fox News show, Tucker Carlson shared the results of an investigation that he and his staff had conducted into a well-known agent of American disinformation. “We spent all day trying to locate the famous QAnon,” Carlson said, “which, in the end, we learned is not even a website. If it’s out there, we could not find it.” They kept looking, though, checking Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Twitter feed and “the intel community,” before coming to the obvious conclusion: “Cable news” and “politicians talking on TV,” Carlson said, must be responsible for the lies running rampant in America. “Maybe they’re from QAnon,” he added. “You be the judge.”
This anti-investigation, like so much of what happens on Carlson’s show every day, was funny right up until it was frightening. (Just before informing his viewers of his inability to locate QAnon.com, Carlson had attempted a rebranding of disinformation itself: “Freelance thinking,” he called it.) The most basic of good-faith searches would have revealed the reality—and the danger—of a widely believed conspiracy theory positing, in part, that Democrats eat children. But reality is not Carlson’s project. Destabilizing it is. Fox’s most popular personality, his show’s marketing literature will tell you, offers “spirited debates” about the news of the day. In truth, Carlson is simply selling cynicism. Night after night, he informs you that the ways you might have of understanding the world and yourself within it—politics, culture, science, art, the news, other people—are not to be trusted. The only American institution that remains worthy of your confidence, in the bleak cosmology of Tucker Carlson Tonight, is Tucker Carlson.