Gaius Publius: The Clinton Campaign Notices the Sanders Campaign, or How to Read the Media

By Gaius Publius, a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States and frequent contributor to DownWithTyranny, digby, Truthout, Americablog, and Naked Capitalism. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius, Tumblr and Facebook. This piece first appeared at Down With Tyranny. GP article archive here.

The 2016 primary contest won’t begin until early next year (schedule here), with the Iowa Democratic caucus on February 1 and the New Hampshire primary on February 9. On the one hand, that’s a still half a year away. On the other hand, that’s only half a year away. So poll numbers and crowd sizes are beginning to be significant.

As for the polls, Clinton appears to have peaked, though at a pretty high level, while Sanders is steadily gaining, as you’ll read below. But the biggest indicator — and certainly the most visibly convincing — are crowd sizes. Above you can see the surprising turnout for a recent Bernie Sanders event in Madison, Wisconsin. By all accounts, the stadium was full or nearly so:

Bernie Sanders has been running for president for two months, but Wednesday night in Madison, Wisconsin, his long-shot campaign got real.

When Sanders walked on stage at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum, he was greeted by a raucous, howling crowd of 9,600 people, according to Sanders’ campaign aides and arena staff.

A clearly energized Sanders, who late last year was speaking to crowds of 50 people in Iowa classrooms, appeared taken aback by the reception he received.

“Whoa,” he said. “In case you haven’t noticed, there are a lot of people here.”

I’m among those who didn’t think this was a long-shot campaign. The “ready for Warren” frenzy that has gripped active and “paying early attention” Democrats made it obvious there was room for someone serious about overturning what I call “rule by the rich” and what Sanders calls control by the “billionaire class.” But I’m glad to see others, including the Clinton campaign, catching on.

Taking Apart the Insider Game

The most important thing to consider when thinking about the Sanders campaign is this. Everyone else who’s running, on both sides, is an insider playing within — and supporting — the “insider game,” the one that keeps insiders wealthy and outsiders struggling, the one where the wealthy and their retainers operate government for their benefit only. What sets Sanders apart is his determination to dismantle that game, to take it apart and send its players home (back to the private sector) or to jail.

Two examples should make this clear. One is Fast Track and the “trade” agreements being forced upon us. The pressure to pass these agreements is coming equally from mainstream Democrats like Barack Obama, a “liberal,” and from mainstream Republicans, supposed “conservatives.” They may differ on “rights” policy, like abortion rights, but not on money matters. Trade agreements are wealth-serving policies promoted by people in both parties who serve wealth, which means most of them. People like Sanders, Warren and others, by contrast, would neuter these agreement as job-killing profit protection schemes and turn them into something else.

A second example involves Wall Street banks, in particular, a policy of breaking them up, reinstating Glass-Steagall, and prosecuting Wall Street fraud. Can you imagine any announced candidate doing any of these things, save Bernie Sanders?

In both of these cases, Sanders would aggressively challenge the insider profit-protection racket, not just give lip service to challenging it. Which tells you why he is so popular. Many of us in the bleachers have noticed the insider game — after all, it’s been happening in front of us for decades— and most of us are done with it. Ask any Tea Party Republican voter, for example, what she thinks of the bank bailout of 2008-09. She’ll tell you she hated it, whether she explains it in our terms or not.

And that’s why Sanders, like Warren before him, draws such enthusiastic crowds. The pendulum has swung so far in the direction of wealth that the nation may well change permanently, and people know it. People are ready, just as they were in 2008, prior to eight years of betrayal. People have been discouraged about the chance for change lately, but they’re ready for the real thing if they see it.

The Clinton Campaign Notices Sanders

There’s been an attempt to downplay the Sanders candidacy since the beginning, to sink his campaign beneath a wave of silence. That ended a bit ago, and the press has begun to take notice, if snippily. Now the Clinton campaign is noticing, if the New York Times is to be believed. I found the following fascinating, for a number of reasons.

The piece first along with some news, then a little exegesis (my emphasis):

Hillary Clinton’s Team Is Wary as Bernie Sanders Finds Footing in Iowa

The ample crowds and unexpectedly strong showing by Senator Bernie Sanders are setting off worry among advisers and allies of Hillary Rodham Clinton, who believe the Vermont senator could overtake her in Iowa polls by the fall and even defeat her in the nation’s first nominating contest there.

The enthusiasm that Mr. Sanders has generated — including a rally attended by 2,500 people in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on Friday — has called into question Mrs. Clinton’s early strategy of focusing on a listening tour of small group gatherings and wooing big donors in private settings. In May, Mrs. Clinton led with 60 percent support to Mr. Sanders’ 15 percent in a Quinnipiac poll. Last week the same poll showed Mrs. Clinton at 52 percent to Mr. Sanders’s 33 percent.

“We are worried about him, sure. He will be a serious force for the campaign, and I don’t think that will diminish,” Jennifer Palmieri, the Clinton campaign’s communications director, said Monday in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Some of Mrs. Clinton’s advisers acknowledged that they were surprised by Mr. Sanders’ momentum and said there were enough liberal voters in Iowa, including many who supported Barack Obama or John Edwards in 2008, to create problems for her there.

“I think we underestimated that Sanders would quickly attract so many Democrats in Iowa who weren’t likely to support Hillary,” said one Clinton adviser, who like several others spoke on the condition of anonymity to candidly share views about the race. “It’s too early to change strategy because no one knows if Sanders will be able to hold on to these voters in the months ahead. We’re working hard to win them over, but yeah, it’s a real competition there.”

I don’t want to quote the whole thing (well, I do, but I can’t). So I encourage you to read it. There’s much there worth noticing.

What to Look at When the Times Reports on Clinton

Now, some exegesis, meta-reading of the media, especially corporate media like the Times. My three main points are bulleted below.

First, when you expose yourself to any of the “liberal” U.S. outlets (as opposed to, say, The Guardian) be aware that because they are owned by establishment corporations they’re already pro-Clinton. Subtly, not blatantly, but certainly.

That sounds like prejudice, so let me explain. For one thing, neither the outlets nor their owning corporation can afford not to prepare their seat at the Clinton White House table. It’s just a fact. Media want access and corporations want government to smile on their profit schemes. At this point, currying favor with Sanders is on no one’s mind, and the Clintons are known to “have long memories … they punish their enemies and help their friends” (quoted here). The incentives are all aligned.

But also, mainstream insider corporations are completely aligned with the insider game for the obvious reason — they’re part of it. No one inside the game wants to see it damaged. Hayes and Maddow, as people, may or may not prefer Sanders over Clinton, but MSNBC has a clear favorite and if you listen carefully and consistently, it shows. Their owners, and all of the other big media owners, can’t afford (literally afford, as in, there’s major money at stake) to play this one straight. You may find some unskewed reporting, but not a lot of it.

In the present instance, for example, I read the story above (click through for all of it) as being pro-Clinton, and in fact, most stories like these will be painted that way, with a light brush or a heavy one, for some time to come. If you don’t spot this bias where present, you’re not reading the story as written.

In the same way that every New York Times story I read in the last two months, literally every one, used the inaccurate and propagandistic phrase “pro-trade Democrats” to describe Ron Wyden, Earl Blumenauer and the small handful of other Dems who defied their voters to support the White House and the wealthy — in that same way you’ll have a hard time finding mainstream Sanders or Clinton coverage that doesn’t in some way sell Clinton. If that’s not a fact, I’ll be eager to be proven wrong.

Second, be aware that much so-called reporting is the result of “placement,” a term from advertising. Ad placement is when you buy space in a publication or media program into which you can put your message. Campaigns, among other entities, frequently do the same with reporters. The reporter offers space, a container, into which the campaign can put its message. (The reward is usually “access.”)

It’s certainly true that many reporters and writers openly advocate; I’m often one of them and I’m not alone. But no one suspects open advocates of trickery. It’s much more subtle, and dangerous for readers, when the advocacy is hidden, as it is in supposed “straight news” articles.

In cases like these — certainly not all cases of reporting, but far too many — the reporter doesn’t “get” the news. The news “gets” the reporter. A campaign’s messenger comes to the reporter, offers the message, and the reporter builds a genuine and frequently interesting news story around it, including research from other sources, but always starting with the seed provided by the campaign or public official.

In the present instance, the article above, you should therefore ask:

  • Is it really true that the Clinton campaign just now discovered Sanders’ popularity and that he may be a threat?
  • Or could the following be true? That the Clinton campaign always knew a Warren-like opponent could gain ground but were publicly ignoring it; now, however, it’s time to appear to be noticing, so they approached a reporter with their take on the Sanders surge.

In other words, is the bolded part of the first sentence of the article its seed? Who approached whom? That first sentence again:

The ample crowds and unexpectedly strong showing by Senator Bernie Sanders are setting off worry among advisers and allies of Hillary Rodham Clinton

I don’t have an answer to the bulleted questions above. Either could be correct. I’m a little suspicious though. First, by the obvious but subtle bias in the story — similar to the constant bias in all of the Times Fast Track reporting. Second, by the plurals above: “among advisers and allies of Hillary Rodham Clinton.” This isn’t one person speaking, but a coordinated effort by staffers and surrogates (“allies”) to say a coordinated single thing to the Times reporters.

Third, I’m made suspicious by this, a little further down:

“I think we underestimated that Sanders would quickly attract so many Democrats in Iowa who weren’t likely to support Hillary,” said one Clinton adviser, who like several others spoke on the condition of anonymity to candidly share views about the race. “It’s too early to change strategy because no one knows if Sanders will be able to hold on to these voters in the months ahead. We’re working hard to win them over, but yeah, it’s a real competition there.”

There’s obvious messaging, especially in the last part of the paragraph. But look at the bolded part. Of those in the campaign, the only ones quoted in the article by name are Clinton herself and Jennifer Palmieri, who spoke, not to the reporters, but to “Morning Joe.” Everyone else is off the record, speaking to these reporters “on the condition of anonymity to candidly share views about the race.”

“Candidly” implies leaking, not messaging or spin, and here’s where the deception seems more clear. Have these reporters really found a minor army of leakers? If these are truly leakers, expect them to be fired soon.

So, scenario one: Sanders is surging, the Clinton campaign is caught by surprise, and two Times reporters find a bunch of anonymous campaign leakers who say (paraphrasing), “Sure, Sanders caught us by surprise. We’re aiming for one type of Democrat and he’s getting the other type. It’s too early to change strategy — the man could trip and fall — but yes, there’s now competition.”

(Did you notice that part about two kinds of Democrat? The actual quote says: “We underestimated that Sanders would quickly attract so many Democrats in Iowa who weren’t likely to support Hillary.” I think the campaign knows exactly what kind of Democrat they were ignoring, and if you think about it carefully, you will too.)

Or, scenario two: The Clinton campaign is ignoring the Warren wing, giving them nothing but platitudes and (as in the case of Fast Track) avoidance. Now the “Sanders surge” is in the news and the campaign has to respond. They get their message together — “Yes, we’re surprised, and we have to admit that out loud. But it’s early days, and if we keep getting reporters to say ‘socialist’ and ‘anathema,’ we won’t have to counter his specifics with our specifics. So let’s round up some reporters and get ‘Morning Joe’ on the phone.”

Did the reference to “socialist” and “anathema” surprise you? Read on.

■ Finally, because of the two points above, you’ll find that in many cases the story supports the campaign, while justifying itself as “reporting.” Both bolded pieces are important.

Let’s look at each element above. First, “the story supports the campaign”:

Those who see Mrs. Clinton as being at risk in Iowa say she is still far better positioned to win the nomination than Mr. Sanders, who lags by double digits in Iowa polling. He also has far less money than she does, and his socialist leanings are anathema to many Americans.

In the first sentence the campaign is being subtly and indirectly quoted. But the bolded phrases above are pretty strong language in a sentence that isn’t necessarily an indirect quote, and echoes open Clinton surrogates like Claire McCaskill. Even “leanings” lends an unsavory color, since it echoes the phrase “communist leanings.”

(The alternative to the last sentence above, by the way, and much more honestly sourced, would be something like this: “The anonymous campaign adviser also said, ‘Frankly, we think if we just keep saying ‘socialist’ whenever we can, we won’t have to change our strategy of being vague on the economic issues. At least we’re sticking with that for now.'” I would buy that as excellent honest reporting.)

Second, “justifying itself as reporting”: Once you present the core message as provided by the messengers, the reporter can then call around for other, non-Clinton-sourced comment. Thus the quotes, much further down from Joe Trippi, Carter Eskew and the Sanders campaign.

Add in a little of the reporters’ own analysis, much of it good:

“The enthusiasm that Mr. Sanders has generated — including a rally attended by 2,500 people in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on Friday — has called into question Mrs. Clinton’s early strategy of focusing on a listening tour of small group gatherings and wooing big donors in private settings.”

and you have the makings of a news story friendly to Clinton built around a news hook and potentially “placed” elements. The hook, the “placed” elements (if they were placed), and some original analysis go at the top, and the rest of the story is built to follow that.

Bottom Line

If you like this exercise in reading behind the media, please read the article again with the above thoughts in mind. Is this original reporting (i.e., reporters starting a conversation), or did the campaign make the first approach? Does the article carry Clinton water, subtly support the campaign? Are any opposing viewpoints featured at the top, or are they buried below the point where most people stop reading?

This Times story may be a completely honest exercise in independent journalism. There certainly is a Sanders phenomenon, and it’s detailed honestly and factually, so there’s value in reading it. But there’s an obvious bias toward Clinton messaging in the reporters’ own prose, so I’m suspicious, and you should be as well.

I’ll also say that most stories about campaigns operate this way, as do many other news stories involving public figures. What will make reporting the Sanders campaign different is what I wrote above — Sanders wants to take apart the insider game. What major media outlet will help Sanders do that, will shut the door to corporate favors, media access and other prizes from a future Clinton administration, in order to be even-handed?

My guess is few or none.

Reader note: Gaius asked for me to allow comments on this post, so please have at it!

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  1. Steve H.

    They knew who they were ignoring, so they had the information, and that is the opposite of surprise (definitions by Shannon). They are candid if given anonymity, but anon means you can’t check for veracity, nor test their priors. But united in message, thus substituting quantity for quality; this is building the huge pile of crap to hide the pony. The pony is the white horse they knew some rival would ride in on.

    What is notable is the discipline of the messaging. Previously Clinton_2 campaigns have run on entitlement and the presumption of invulnerability. It looks like this time they had a better idea of what was coming and were prepared for it.

  2. Sam Adams

    Greeks gave the world democracy; Rome gave the world the structure of governance. Britain gave the world capital creation within a common-law. The U.S. gave the world corporate consumer manipulation by placement. What a legacy.

  3. AJ

    I was that Sanders rally in Council Bluffs. I follow politics especially on the left very closely so I didn’t really come home with any thing new (besides some extra Bernie stickers). However, the crowd was huge and engaged. It almost had the feel of a big tent revival.

    One issue that I’ve been thinking about lately that I haven’t seen publicly addressed (except for in the comments on the 538 article Lambert posted yesterday) is how reliable do we think sine of these polling numbers are? Given that Sanders support definitely skews younger, would these people even be captured in telephone polls? I tend to think this is why the Greek vote was as big of a surprise as it was. I think there is a large going progressive part of the population (both on the US and abroad) that doesn’t get picked up in the polling. If true, Sanders could be a lot closer to Clinton than these numbers suggest.

    1. Gaius Publius

      Nice observation, AJ. Very good point, and good comparison to the Greek poll numbers as well.


      1. flora

        Yes. Polling by land-line telephone will skew results. I know lots of people, especially 20-30 somethings, who have cut their land-lines and only use cell phones now. Do pollsters contact them?

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      Pollsters know this, but there are three kinds: the national subscription polls who just want to be relevant, paid polls, and the local reputation polls. Because of the distance to the election, there won’t be good responses, and cell phone users have grown reliant on texting and are less likely to respond. The pollsters know this. Needless to say, the Quinnipiac poll should be disconcerting for the Clinton camp and the Democrats who thought Hillary would shower them with cash and appearances. That result means they see enough to make this claim even though they aren’t quite on the ground the way a Roanoke College poll is in Virginia. The local reputation poll has a sense of the electorate because they’ve polled every local election while CNN was trying to interview Nessie.

      There is dissatisfaction within Team Blue that Hillary Clinton can’t bridge. There is a myth about Bill’s magical campaign touch Democrats have internalized despite a lack of evidence, and I think Team Blue elites feel Obama failed them and want to bring Hillary in as a savior. Obviously, they weren’t around in ’94.

      1. pat b

        Bill and Al ran a magical campaign in 92, but that was a long time ago, and they spent two decades
        triangulating against the Base. Bill signed NAFTA and HRC spent 23 years defending it.

        In 92 the clinton’s were selling the dream of the 90’s. Now, they are selling Windows 98.

    3. Nick

      Too bad young people have a horrible track record actually voting. Clinton knows the game well enough.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Hillary is 8 years older, so are her core nostalgia supporters. Without a message for the now under 45 crowd, Hillary has lost 8 years worth of supporters to relative infirmity or death. She didn’t rally the crowds for Grimes, Landrieu, or Hagan. Shaheen was the incumbent she saved, but she was running against an unremarkable Massachusetts carpet bagger. I’m not certain the Democrats have ever left the Spring of ’94.

        1. vidimi

          don’t underestimate the number of young, white females voting clinton. it will be somewhere near all of them.

          1. mn

            What about college debt and the fact that there are no jobs. Gender seems to be a selling point, like race the last time. Not all younger females will be that stupid again.

            1. NotTimothyGeithner

              Actually, Obama won younger females. Credit where credit is due. Gender may have affected older voters who come from an obviously more repressive era, but I suspect brand loyalty and legitimacy (it’s her turn messaging), racism, and nostalgia played a hand in Clinton’s 2008 support more than gender. If a 25 year old woman in 2008 didn’t vote for Hillary, what has Hillary done to change her mind or attract the 17 year old from 2008? In many ways, Hillary has to replace 8 years of death to her base.

              1. mn

                At that time people were saying to vote for Hillary because she would prop up destroyed 401ks (to me the mindless young voter). I fell for the hope and change b.s., I won’t do that again. Long time Bernie fan.
                As for my friends they are voting for Hillary because they don’t think Bernie can win, others that hate her are sitting out. Yes, many females really do not like her. Love Ann Richards! RIP.

              2. Lambert Strether

                I believe you’re right, but could we get some linky goodness?

                * * *

                On a related note, I think this is an unreported story from the time: Some percentage of older women left the party apparatus — certainly the overt misogyny of the Obama campaign didn’t help — and were replaced by OFA-types with cellphones. And some of those older women could swing a precinct. No links or figures, of course, just anecdote….

                I would very much like to know whether this type of “influencer” has returned.

                1. NotTimothyGeithner

                  It’s not great, but it popped up when I checked to confirm my memory. If time permits, I’ll wade past the numerous articles about the obvious gender gap in the general.


                  I do sense OFA resulted in the local committees becoming even more secret club affairs than before. I remember OFA spent it’s time in 2009 poaching volunteers and holding Healthcare events while there was a governor’s race. This did not sit well.
                  LOTEs warning about the Supreme Court started early last cycle, but except for that, there was nothing in the local paper. Terry Mac pulled the same size crowd every time he came. They weren’t working too hard. Of course, I’m not contacted very often. Back when I had access to votebuilder, I might have altered my voting profile, so I’m on do not ever call list.

          2. NotTimothyGeithner

            Why didn’t they vote in droves for those same female senators and candidates Hillary campaigned for in 2014? I named female candidates. There are plenty of ladies in Texas, and Dubya managed to defeat Anne Richards.

            The kind of person who is voting for Hillary because of her parts already votes Democratic or won’t register in time. I’m not underestimating the voter. Give me evidence for this unwashed mass of non voting would be Hillary voters. They didn’t show in 2008 for Hillary either.

        2. Jerry Denim

          Hagan, ha! Classic Blue Dog DINO. She had a Christmas gift dropped in her lap with the Moral Monday protests in Raleigh but chose not to stand with progressives and sane citizens that were opposed to Art Pope’s right wing hijack of the legislature and Governor’s mansion. All she had to do was reach out and be saved but she was too tone deaf to realize. Hopefully Hillary will do the same, ignore the Democrat base and keep chasing the big money believing deep pockets and unlimited ad-buys will save her.

        3. Paul Tioxon

          One of the weak points of many political comments here on NC is to fail to give weight to organized political opposition. And I don’t mean as opposed to unorganized opposition. While Hillary is 8 years older, so is the generation of seniors citizens who hated her guts, her husbands guts, and FDR and all of the 1960s radicalism. I call them the WWII generation as opposed to the baby boomers. The baby boomers are now the senior citizens who can be relied upon to show up and vote. Who care about Social Security and Medicare and are at least open minded about pot legalization, decriminalization or medicinal use.

          By losing so many people of a certain age who would probably never think of voting for a woman, an African-American or a Jew, the possibility for ideological change is evident. Not only the Southern strategy or blue collar capture of the silent majority, but the entire campaign of misdirection and displaced anger landing in the lap of a minority that could be blamed for your problems, the welfare queen baby factory, the lazy shiftless types who look out only for free government benefits that keep you, the hard working flag decal or lapel pin wearing patriot paying higher income taxes. All of the venting against a domestic enemy that required a war. A war on drugs. A war on crime. A war on poverty. Always a war against something that was causing all of the problems of America but was really a war not against a problem, but a war made upon a huge swathe of American citizens.

          Now, communism is defeated. Terrorist on a Jihad mission is the new enemy, the domestic threat against America is no longer situated in various sub-cultures of domestic civil society. The police are being view as more of a problem for causing social unrest than communities that they are supposed to keep on lid on. The prison population fueled by drug busts and a Nixon era national police force, the DEA, formed at his instance by Executive Order 11727–Drug law enforcement, and the falling back of regional ideology of a White Southern Identity with the retreating Confederate Battle flag, and other landmark changes of ideas of what is a transgression against the expectation of what it means to be an American, all of this is gone with the wind.

          So, it is not so much 8 years of loss of Clinton nostalgia fans, but more the loss of her main opposition to her, the people who could be counted on to loyally vote republican or abandon the democratic nominee due to a bridge too far for them to cross. 65 year olds were born in 1950, they came of age in 1968, through the Beatles, assassinations, a drug culture and sexual liberation that became the new normal. Not to even mention Viet Nam, for all of the draft card holders. These are not necessarily the friends and voters of Hillary, but they are not her mortal enemies, that older generation that Nixon played like a violin.

          It is not enough to look on the balance sheet of politics and look only at the credits, the debits are equally important. The younger republicans candidates are trying to appeal for their parents approval because it is their vision of America that they are trying to conserve and so far, they are just failing to accept that real changes in ideas and attitudes in addition to material harm done from the terrible financial crash has changed civil society permanently.

          1. pat b

            The Silent Generation anchored Reagan and was much more conservative and risk averse then the Boomers of which Hillary is one. However, the issue isn’t Hillary vs the GOP’s aging angry silent generation types, it’s more Hillary’s aging Boomer female base vs the millenials who think the Boomers shafted them. It was the Boomers who benefited from
            cheap college tuition then voted in Reagan to cut taxes and dump these costs onto Gen X, GenY and the Millenials.

            1. Paul Tioxon

              My point is that of the passing of an era. And not only in terms of voters,the army of the silent majority which saw the blue collar conservatives, the hard hats, the cops, leave the democrats en mass and the democrats having little to replace them. The defection of the dixiecrats from the dems to the republicans, as witnessed in the complete turnover of Texas to the republicans amalgamated what was a coalition into a choke hold from 1968 until 2008, with only 12 years dems in the WH only 2 dem presidents over 40 years. And of course, Clinton may as well have been George Bush for all that it mattered for domestic policies.

              So Hillary and the dems do not have the army of voters against them that they used to have plus what ever momentarily disaffected Millenials seeking payback or another group to reinforce numbers making the republicans a majority party. They are not.
              The point is that as your opposition declines in numbers as far as the ballot box goes, and your likely supporters increase, the odds favor your party as a majority.


              Millenials, according to Pew Polls, the 18-33 year olds, are 51% democrat/ leaning democrat vs 35% republican/leaning republican. Even though independent is now the largest of the 3 categories, leaning is the place to go when there is no alternative choice, apparently.

              I am not sure the younger group is following the republican strategist wedge issue that the old people are stealing from the young with college debt, social security, Medicare being blamed for the diminished prosperity of the young. Trying to turn their grandparents who are retired after a lifetime of hard work into the new welfare queens is not getting the traction you would think. Apparently holding onto ritual Thanksgiving Day dinners and baking cookies around the holidays is more of a social bond than fabricated grievances by political consultants can even rend asunder. And of course, blood is thicker than water. Don’t expect granny and pop pop to pushed off on an iceberg anytime soon because of college debt.

              1. pat b

                oh i’m just saying that the Millenials really like Sanders and the aging silent generation women and boomer females like Clinton.

                The millenials being a bigger cohort will have a lot of energy and mass against

              2. mn

                Many I talk with, young, don’t think in term of R vs D, young vs old, etc…. It is who represents corporate interests vs the middle class. Why vote, why take part if everything candidates says are lies and nothing changes. In my eyes America is circling the bowl. Last election I preferred Ron Paul, now Bernie.

    4. Praedor

      What I see in this is the potential for a low turnout election. POTENTIAL. Those enthusiastic young voters, or the previously disgusted sideline sitters who have come out anew for Sanders (or previously for Warren) are NOT likely to shrug their shoulders and vote for Hillary if she ends up pulling in the pre-anointed crown. It’s hard to get all fired up and enthusiastic about candidate A only to be stuck with candidate B who you weren’t interested in before. This has the potential to really change things or gut the process of any participants except the true believer core of the Democrats.

    5. pat b

      i figured the greek polls were off because the really poor don’t have phones, much like in 48 when Gallup
      blew the Truman/Dewey race

    6. Big River Bandido

      Thanks for your eyes and ears in Council Bluffs. Growing up in Davenport, I came to realize that polling for the Iowa caucuses is, in itself, very much a crap shoot, and will continue to be so even if the cellphone issue is moot. There’s the issue of taking the time out to go vote — it’s not just casting a ballot, it’s attending a (long) meeting, having to sit through a number of long-winded speeches, etc. I’m not sure pollsters will ever be able to predict accurately who might even attend a local caucus, much less actually carry any influence there.

      Even if individual voters carry influence at their own precinct caucus, so what? With the caucus process designed to weed out the weaker-supported candidates all the way down to the precinct level, one starts to see why running a primary campaign in a caucus state can lead to so many dashed hopes. In other words: having seen and participated in the process up-close, I’m convinced its very purpose is to ratify the choice of the party “elites” and shut down any outside challengers. I think the Obama campaign of 2008 understood this, and simply out-organized the Clinton campaign.

  4. Uahsenaa

    I found this sentence to be rather curious: “Mrs. Clinton’s advisers, meanwhile, have deep experience pulling off upsets and comeback political victories, and Mrs. Clinton often performs best when she is under pressure from rivals.” The first part is unsubstantiated vaguery, but the second part is demonstrably untrue. Or, if not “untrue,” then it implies that Sec. Clinton’s “best” is still “loses.” Also there’s the earlier bit about Sanders being “untested” nationally, yet, when you parse that, you realize Ms. Clinton’s “testedness” amounts to “lost to an insurgent candidate who had been in national politics for all of a few minutes.”

    Since I’m still somewhat skeptical of what a Sanders candidacy means, I am quite happy to see how, along with Bernie, others in various facets of government seem to be emboldened to fight back. TPA may have been a loss in the short term, but the administration was clearly taken aback by having to fight resistance at all. My hope is the Sanders campaign, at a bare minimum, will demonstrate how popular fighting back really is and stiffen the spines of those in government who want to do something but fear genuine reprisal.

      1. Uahsenaa

        It’s been surprising to me how willing Sec. Clinton has been to alienate core constituencies of the Democratic party. When O’Malley and Sanders came to Iowa City, they both reached out to local unions for support/attendance/whatever, but when Clinton came here on Tuesday, I found out about it when I showed up with my daughter for reading time at the library. I hear again and again about the Clintons’ political savvy, yet in practice I just don’t see it. They may be ruthless, but ruthless only gets you so far. She cannot take Democratic stalwarts for granted this election cycle, especially when the AFL-CIO went into open war with the administration over TPA. Who does she think shows up for the polls in primary elections?

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          I can’t speak for Hillary, but I did hear a story or recollection about Bill from an informed source. Towards the end of the 92 campaign, the vaunted Clinton war room was standing in front of the big map trying to determine the final strategy. Carville and company were focused on a strategy that required Perot to win electoral votes, and Bill announced they would turn formerly Republican-leaning New Jersey Democratic. Carville and company argued and stomped their feet, but Bill wouldn’t have it. Needless to say, New Jersey has been in the blue column since. The implication, my source adores Bill and Hillary, is that stalwarts of the Democratic Party needed Bill more than he needed them. The source was pushing Dean over Terry Mac’s replacement at the time.

        2. TheCatSaid

          “Who does she think shows up for the polls in primary elections?”
          This seems like the key question.
          It’s one thing to motivate people to vote for a presidential election, but motivating people to turnout for a primary might be different entirely. For example, do as many young voters and minority voters turn out for a primary? If not, what would it take to change this?

          If Hillary feels she can control primary voters through local Democratic party machines, that might explain her standpoint.

          1. Lambert Strether

            I wonder how effective the local Democratic party machines are, or whether Obama’s reverse Midas touch destroyed them. (Certainly my own local machine is ineffectual, and the state party is corrupt (landfills)).

            I wonder if there’s a comparison to be made between ObamaCare signups and GOTV (I mean a literal one, in that the same apparatchiks would get walking around money for both, and the data might even be/have been dual-purposed). My first impulse is to say, if so, “Good luck, and let me know how that works out!” but I don’t know how directly the metrics translate.

            1. Jeremy Grimm

              For the last few years I have been a lowly member of the local Democratic Party machine, a volunteer co-precinct leader (though hardly similar to what a precinct leader used to be). The local party leadership and membership is old, late boomer, steadfast and immobile. Republican party opposition in this area is virtually non-existent so I have no idea how effective our local organization is as opposed to how skewed the demographics of my area. With little or no efforts, we consistently turn out a substantial Democratic vote. I believe the corruption of politics in my state, New Jersey, is justly famous. I have no idea what corruption might exist in my local township, though I am starting to wonder. As for President Obama’s reverse Midas touch I live near the headquarters of several big pharmaceutical corporations. I am sure they have wide-open purses for both parties.

              As of late last year, our organization has had few meetings and poor attendance at the one meeting I showed up for. I learned at that meeting, about a month ago, that several of the other precinct leads have resigned, though I don’t know why. I am moving away and will also resign as of the end of this month.

              I suspect our local organization will come out strongly in favor of Hillary Clinton though provide little in the way of support. When I raised concern about the TPA and TPP at the last meeting I attended and urged the other members of this supposedly political organization to call or write to our Representative … few of the members knew what I was talking about. The chair tried to rule my concern out of order though all other business was done and our Democratic Mayor, who is a member of the organization, suggested we should each hear views from both sides before deciding our individual stance on the TPA or TPP since there were arguments for both sides (even though the TPA was coming up for a vote in a few days). I should add a little context … this meeting consisted of the eleven or so people who showed up. In my experience this close watch over all dissent from local, state or national party line typified our organization. All questions other than very specific procedural questions and discussions were NOT welcome.

              I can only speak of my own alienation from the Democratic Party, local, state and national. I voted for Obama with enthusiasm in 2008 but with disgust in 2012. I have been a Democrat since Adlai Stevenson II (though I was too young to vote for him). I will continue to register as a Democrat but I doubt many Democrats will receive my vote and certainly no Republicans. I have no plans to further participate in Party politics. I will vote for candidates I like but never again vote for the “lesser of two evils.” I cannot gauge the extent to which my alienation typifies other Democrats since political discussions are generally considered impolite except among close friends.

              1. Pissed Younger baby boomer

                I am too disillusioned with the democratic party .where i live in Oregon ,my congressman is a blue dog dem. i called his a least five times to voice my opposition to TPP. A few months ago I signed up for phone town hall meeting .i never received an e-mail invitation .YES talking about suppressing dissent.i am considering switch to the greens or a socialist party. My fear i hope we do not become fascist country and three out of four congressmen vote for TPA and senator Wyden voted for it too.I also lost faith in the phony liberal media.

              2. NotTimothyGeithner

                The GOP organizes through churches and other outfits. Ted aren’t as noticeable wherever one is, but the GOP isn’t interested in turnout as much as making sure their people vote. They have minders who phish for potential voters. Why do women ever vote Republican? Because they have a club that demands it. Your area may be skewed but half of Dean’s 50 state strategy was lifted from GOP election approaches.

          2. Uahsenaa

            With the exception of Illinois, because Chicago, the state democratic parties in most midwestern states are in shambles, so the likelihood of the “machine” squeaking out a win is quite low. In the absence of that, what you have left are the institutions traditionally loyal to the D party who have been thrown under the bus so many times over the past 8 years, it’s bewildering. I mentioned the AFL-CIO break with the administration over “trade,” (scare quotes don’t quite seem big enough) precisely because it seems to indicate a willingness to break from tradition, if an opportunity presents itself.

            Now, I have no idea what things are like in the South, and those states plus NY/IL/CA might be enough to push Hillary through to the nomination. However, if she continues the way she has so far, the apparatus in a large number of states is not going to be enough to buttress her against popular grumbling.

            1. John Zelnicker

              In Alabama the Democratic Party apparatus is a total mess and completely ineffectual. The party “leaders” spend most of their time protecting their little fiefdoms and fighting efforts to expand and diversify the membership of the statewide committees and local affiliates. In fact, it has gotten so bad that some activists are trying to set up independent Party committees to recruit candidates for local and state elections and run GOTV efforts.

  5. C. dentata

    I think it may not be pro-Clinton as much as anti-Sanders bias. The corporate media are certainly happy to ridiculously hype any of the nonstories about Hillary that Trey Gowdy feeds them.

  6. anonymous123

    It was really nice to see someone deconstruct this article. When I read it the other day I had the same thoughts go through my head about the overt messaging going on.

    1. Bill

      Yeah, no kidding. I hope Yves considers some of the suggestions that appeared yesterday – pre-approved commenters, etc

    1. ambrit

      Yay! And Dr. Funkenstein for Fed Chair! I wonder if the Mothership could land on the Capitol Mall?

  7. vidimi

    pro-trade reminds me of pro-russian rebels. seems very likely that the chamber of commerce or state department or somesuch approached all editors and ordered them to use these two terms for their respective designees. classic propaganda tactic.

  8. kingless

    I expect to vote for Sanders in the primary and Clinton in the election. I don’t think of my attitude as cynical, just cautiously pessimistic.

    1. Vatch

      I expect to vote for Sanders in the primary, and for an as yet unknown third party candidate in the election. Obama and Bill Clinton have taught me that main stream Democratic politicians only differ from Republican politicians on a few social issues; on everything else they are the same. I refuse to knowingly vote for a voluntary agent of the oligarchs, which is what Hillary Clinton is.

      1. flora

        Yes. Both the GOP and the DLC Dems agree on all major economic issues. The electioneering so far has been personality oriented. !Jeb!, The Donald, Hillary!, etc.

        Except for Sanders, who isn’t running a personality campaign. He’s talking about important economic issues in a way the others won’t.

        In the late ’70s conventional wisdom solidified around the idea that economic stagnation was due to organized labor having too much economic power (true or not, my point isn’t to re-argue that case). The ‘Reagan revolution’ promised to re-balance and right the economy by reining in organized labor.

        Now organized money has too much economic power. It’s harming the whole economy. Bernie is talking about reining in organized money. How do the other candidates deal with this without bursting their ideological bubble for the audience? The NYTimes article is a case in point.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            His age is an issue from the campaign aspect. Sanders like Clinton can’t eat the best sandwich at every stop or s hake every hand, so they both need a personality that isn’t everyone’s best friend.

      2. Cano Doncha Know

        HRC is the biggest threat to the Democrats winning the White House. She is so far to the right on almost every issue, she is the most unelectable of them all. I basically view her campaign as a front for Jeb!

      3. c waltz

        Haven’t completely decided what I’ll do in the general but fully intend to pull a oligarchs ploy and hedge my bet and support Sanders and a third party position for now. I was pro Clinton 2008 but after what the party pulled and after Hillary chose not to fight I decided I will not support her in 2016.
        My message to the DNC on that is not in a bus,not on a plane,not with a fox, not in a box,not on a train…….I will not vote for Clinton……the end. So if she wins the primary my vote will go third party again.

  9. Anarcissie

    If Sanders wins a few primaries, I would expect a moderate-bot to be trundled in. The Webb, for instance, has already been turned on and is humming, ready to go. (The O’Malley seems to have already burned through its batteries.)

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      The Webb? No, no, no, no, no. As a Webb primary voter, I can assure you the man has 0 personality and isn’t a big campaigner. If the young Hillary supporters in NYC found Hillary uninspiring, they might collapse into a blob and just stop after listening to Webb. I just assumed he is running because he likes Iowa.

      O’Malley has already attacked Sanders and doesn’t pick up the Hillary experience narrative as well as having to roll out during the Baltimore protests.

  10. Lambert Strether

    I want to thank GP for this excellent post, which really exemplifies NC’s calling card of “nuanced, non-binary, information dense argument.” I’m wondering if the argument could be sharpened just a bit to make it more structural, which would give this mode of “deconstruction” wider application

    GP has three bulleted points (“■”). But only one of them is named: “much so-called reporting is the result of ‘placement.'” I’m a big believer in “name it and claim it,” and so I’d like to turn each bullet point into three strategies for close reading, phrased in the imperative, as follows:

    For any story:

    1) Check ownership to understand the factional portfolios* involved;

    2) Check sourcing to understand the mix of reporting and placement;

    3) Check language to see the faction advanced.

    This is really pretty sloppy (it’s trying to be a post) and so I crossed out the first and last points. Perhaps readers or even GP can improve.

    One thing I like about the way GP has set this up is that it places reporters at the intersection of a play of forces. It’s not simplistic or mechanical (and hence is more realistic). For this reason I prefer it to Jay Rosen’s “Church of the Savvy,” which emphasizes the common worldview between players, rather than their interplay.

    NOTE * I like the idea of elites (oligarchs, squillionaires, owners) having a portfolio of options for work in electoral politics that they deploy opportunistically. There’s really no reason a squillionaire can’t own piece of Hillary Clinton, the Brookings Institute, and the Chamber of Commerce, and Paul Ryan, if they want to balance their portfolio that way. That gets binary thinking out of the way…. However, I don’t mean to force a card here, which is why I crossed out the point!

    1. Gaius Publius

      There’s an error. There should be only three bullets. The big square bullet next to “Third” should not be there. You’ll see in text, under the second bullet, “First” … “Second” … [and then, new paragraph] “Third”.

      Good catch, Lambert.


  11. ks

    My hope for Sanders’ impact on Oregon is that young voters will hear his anti-TPP message and come to understand that Blumenauer (climate hero! rides a bike! supports legalization of marijuana!) and Wyden (fighting dragnet data collection!) undermine every progressive position they take with their support for TPA and TPP. Like the NYT, local papers refer to Wyden and Blumenauer as ”pro-trade Democrats” and show little interest in informing readers about the issue (or, in the case of The Oregonian, positive interest in misinforming.)

  12. Bob Richard

    Nothing GP is says about the Times article or reporting in general is wrong. But the MSM, including the Times reporter, is completely missing the real story of the Sanders campaign.

    I will take at face value the statement that Sanders’ personal views are a threat to the capitalists who control both major parties. But his strategy is not. In spite of his best intentions, he will end up being the sheepdog that makes sure the progressive movement stays in the Democratic Party (for the term “sheepdog” and supporting analysis see

    Like Ralph Nader before him, Sanders has a completely wrong approach to political parties. Nader understood that he needed to work outside the major party framework but did not understand that social movements don’t just need popular candidates. They also need enduring organizations, which are called political parties. For most of his career, Sanders has been able work both sides of this fence, helping to create a state-level organization (the Progressive Party) in Vermont but also running with Democratic Party endorsements. This spring was a moment of truth for him. He has (or until now had) the stature to create a new political party, perhaps from scratch or perhaps by joining and helping build the Green Party. He chose to turn his back on the left.

    The left needs a political party. Yes, I know, we have a two party system. But that is the problem. Believing that the two party system is an immutable law of nature is not part of any solution.

    1. Bob Richard

      Sanders himself does not think he is “turning his back on the left” and I shouldn’t have implied otherwise. I should have written, “he chose to ignore the real needs of the left, which of necessity include a political party to the left of the Democrats”.

  13. RPY

    Bernie I believe because of his message, is attracting people from both sides of the aisle. Everyday people who are tired of partisan politics and are just glad to hear someone willing to speak the truth of how screwed things are. From the corruption of wall street to the corruption of Washington, DC politics.

    1. Lambert Strether

      Some of us on the left would rather deal with a straightforward reactionary who’s honest about their intentions than backstabbing “Join the conversation” Democrats. I wonder if there’s a similar dynamic on the right: They’d rather deal with an honest-to-gawd Socialist than McConnnell and Boehner (Exhibit A: TPP).

      1. bob goodwin

        Yes! I have my first bumpersticker ever, it says “Not Bush or Clinton 2016”.

        I voted for Romney. I would vote for Warren over Bush or McConnel in a heart beat, And of course Rand Paul over Hillary. The tea party is maligned by the left, and misunderstood, but in my intellectual corner it shares identical views with what has been written in this article and in the comments. The issues that split the libertarian right from the progressive left are largely issues that are not politically in play (sometimes benefiting one side, sometimes the other.) – and most often wedge issues that serve to keep the corporatists in power. We will see which party breaks out as a populist movement.

        1. Gaius Publius

          The tea party is maligned by the left, and misunderstood, but in my intellectual corner it shares identical views with what has been written in this article and in the comments.

          Completely agree, bob. I always distinguish between TP voters and TP office-holders. Every TP voter I encounter in RL hates bailouts, hates the loss of jobs, and if she notices, hates the way the SS Admin, for example, makes going to an SS office a painful chore, unlike it used to be. The parallel to what’s going on at the Post Office could not be more clear, even under a “Dem” administration.

          They know that the country is being stripped, the way the mafia hollows out a company. They just don’t know what to do, because (1) Team Red vs Team Blue, and they’re culturally Team Red, and (2) no one is speaking the truth about the economics.

          I think Bernie has a real shot. It will be uphill for him, with all the wind in his face, media, mainstream Dem, everything. But he has the message and the way to present it. Game on.

          Thanks for the observation.


          1. pat b

            The Actual difference between TP and Occupy was about 1″.
            It’s why Obama, and the TPTB were terrified of them.

  14. nomoreclintons

    Hillary’s campaign manager: “A lot of the public polling is not very reliable”

    Hillary Clinton Aides Shed Light on Bill’s Role in Her Campaign

    Mook also dismissed recent poll numbers that suggest Hillary Clinton’s favorability numbers are slipping. According to a CNN poll published last week, 57% of Americans think the former secretary of state is not trustworthy. “A lot of the public polling is not very reliable,” Mook said. “I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to it.”

  15. John

    The American people, Right or Left, are hungering for a populist president they feel is really for them.

    The winner of the throne of the U.S. presidency will be the one that convinces the most people they are fighting for the middle class.

    And it will be the best liar, or the best truth teller who wins.

  16. phichibe

    Hi Yves, Lambert, et al at NC,

    I hope I’ll be forgiven for sneaking in here a message of support for your (reluctant) decision to end comments. The signal/noise ratio of many comments was certainly not worth the toll it took on you as moderators. I’m finally reading Econned after having it my shelf for several years – I was so mauled financially in 2008-9 by “urgent account maintenance” demands (ie, margin calls) that I just couldn’t stomach reading too much on it until recently – and am so in awe of Yves’ dual commands of economics/finance and of English. If Rebecca West wrote financial journalism, she’d have been Yves Smith. I just read Yves’ posting announcing the No Comments change, and was shocked at the physical toll it’s taken on you all to moderate the zealots and pinheads who use anonymity to engage in vituperative aned even vile remarks. You guys fought the good fight for an open site and the bad guys won the battle. But you own the battlefield and you’ll win the war.

    Best wishes….

  17. oho

    *** First, when you expose yourself to any of the “liberal” U.S. outlets (as opposed to, say, The Guardian) be aware that because they are owned by establishment corporations they’re already pro-Clinton. ***

    While the Guardian is nominally independent, it ain’t much better at being “liberal” that the NYT. Guardian editors like access to Westminster, their fellow Oxbridge alums and invites to cocktail parties in Kensington too.

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