Attacks on Sanders, Progressives Falsely Depict Obama As Lefty Failure as Opposed to Neoliberal Success

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A sign that the progressive cause is moving out of the wilderness and starting to rattle The Powers That Be is that the messaging apparatus is starting to attempt to demonize Sanders as a hopeless cause. That means he’s moved from the “first they ignore you” phase in Gandhi’s classic trajectory of activism to somewhere between the “then they ridicule you, then they fight you” phases.

We’ll use a particularly noxious article from Slate, flagged by reader Jeff W, called, No, He Can’t – Bernie Sanders is an inspirational candidate, but his theory of change doesn’t have a chance . Jeff W thought it warranted an NC version of “Where’s Waldo?” as in “How many errors can readers spot in this article?”

Mind you, what is important about pieces like this is not that they go after Sanders per se. The headline conveys the much bigger message: Change based on popular will won’t happen, so all of you voters should just stop trying.

Now this is a ratcheting up of anti-democratic messaging when we are seeing major cracks in the institutional ice in the US and other countries that had moved strongly in the neoliberal direction. Jeremy Corbyn’s trouncing of the Blairites has had the elites in the UK frothing at the mouth. The magnitude of Justin Trudeau’s win in Canada caught pundits by surprise. And in the US, Bernie Sanders was written off by the chattering classes from the very start of his campaign. Yet with virtually no media buys, the Democratic party turning away Sanders backers at the local level, until recently, a press blackout on his campaign, Sanders polls at somewhere between 25% ad 35% of Democratic voters, and nearly met Clintons’ fundraising level last quarter at far lower cost, meaning he almost certainly raised more money on a net basis.

I encourage readers to shred the details of the Slate article, but let me go after its thesis, which regular readers, and anyone with any political savvy, will recognize as bunk. As Jeff W summarized it: “Bernie Sanders will fail because Barack Obama failed.”

This is utterly ludicrous because Obama did not fail. He was always a neoliberal, pro-status quo candidate who artfully presented himself when campaigning as being well to the left of where he actually sat. He used his early opposition to Iraq and his short tenure in the Senate, where he was absent from a remarkably high proportion of votes, to play on deep antipathy to Bush. But as readers know, he’s for the most part continued Bush policies with slightly improved optics.

I was not a very close watcher of politics then, and I have to confess to believing for a bit that he might be tough on banks by virtue of having Paul Volcker as his most visible economic policy advisor. But anyone who knew Obama’s history would recognize that he was a made man of the powerful Rubin wing of the Democratic party, which a colleague who is deeply knowledgeable about bank regulatory politics has long called the Rubino syndicate. But even if you had not made that much study of Obama, the key tell came before the election, when Obama whipped for the TARP, which insiders say was critical to its passage. And right after the election, the “save the incumbents” trajectory of financial services policy was made crystal clear with Obama’s choice of New York Fed president Timothy Geithner to head the Treasury Department. Volcker was exiled to the political version of Siberia, given a prestigious-sounding committee with no real mandate to baby-sit.

A critical part of the history of the Obama Administration that is repeatedly airbrushed out of existence is that when Obama came into office, he not only had majorities in both Houses, but he had a country that was frightened and desperate for leadership. The banks were cowed and uncertain of their survival. As we wrote of this period in 2010:

Recall how we got here. Early in 2009, the banking industry was on the ropes. Both the stock and the credit default swaps markets said that many of the big players were at serious risk of failure. Commentators debated whether to nationalize Citibank, Bank of America, and other large, floundering institutions.

The case for bold action was sound. The history of financial crises showed that the least costly approach is to resolve mortally wounded organizations, install new management, set strict guidelines, and separate out the bad loans and investments in order to restructure and sell them. An IMF study of 124 banking crises concluded that regulatory forbearance, the term of art for letting impaired banks soldier on, found:

The typical result of forbearance is a deeper hole in the net worth of banks, crippling tax burdens to finance bank bailouts, and even more severe credit supply contraction and economic decline than would have occurred…

Shuttering sick banks is hardly a radical idea; the FDIC does it on a routine basis. So the difference here was not in the nature of the exercise, but its operational complexity.

This juncture was a crucial window of opportunity. The financial services industry had become systematically predatory. Its victims now extended well beyond precarious, clueless, and sometimes undisciplined consumers who took on too much debt via credit cards with gotcha features that successfully enticed into a treadmill of chronic debt, or now infamous subprime and option-ARM mortgages.

Over twenty years of malfeasance, from the savings and loan crisis (where fraud was a leading cause of bank failures) to a catastrophic set of blow-ups in over the counter derivatives in 1994, which produced total losses of $1.5 trillion, the biggest wipeout since the 1929 crash, through a 1990s subprime meltdown, dot com chicanery, Enron and other accounting scandals, and now the global financial crisis, the industry each time had been able to beat neuter meaningful reform. But this time, the scale of the damage was so great that it extended beyond investors to hapless bystanders, ordinary citizens who were also paying via their taxes and job losses. And unlike the past, where news of financial blow-ups was largely confined to the business section, the public could not miss the scale of the damage and how it came about, and was outraged.

The widespread, vocal opposition to the TARP was evidence that a once complacent populace had been roused. Reform, if proposed with energy and confidence, wasn’t a risk; not only was it badly needed, it was just what voters wanted.

But incoming president Obama failed to act. Whether he failed to see the opportunity, didn’t understand it, or was simply not interested is moot. Rather than bring vested banking interests to heel, the Obama administration instead chose to reconstitute, as much as possible, the very same industry whose reckless pursuit of profit had thrown the world economy off the cliff. There would be no Nixon goes to China moment from the architects of the policies that created the crisis, namely Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, and Director of the National Economic Council Larry Summers.

Defenders of the administration no doubt will content that the public was not ready for measures like the putting large banks like Citigroup into receivership. Even if that were true (and the current widespread outrage against banks says otherwise), that view assumes that the executive branch is a mere spectator, when it has the most powerful bully pulpit in the nation. Other leaders have taken unpopular moves and still maintained public support.

Obama’s repudiation of his campaign promise of change, by turning his back on meaningful reform of the financial services industry, in turn locked his Administration into a course of action. The new administration would have no choice other that working fist in glove with the banksters, supporting and amplifying their own, well established, propaganda efforts.

Thus Obama’s incentives are to come up with “solutions” that paper over problems, avoid meaningful conflict with the industry, minimize complaints, and restore the old practice of using leverage and investment gains to cover up stagnation in worker incomes. Potemkin reforms dovetail with the financial service industry’s goal of forestalling any measures that would interfere with its looting. So the only problem with this picture was how to fool the now-impoverished public into thinking a program of Mussolini-style corporatism represented progress.

With the benefit of hindsight, treating Obama as perhaps having “failed to see the opportunity” was too charitable. His health care reform program was deeply cynical, with no consideration given to single payer, and the public option a merely decoration that the Administration dropped rather than traded away. And please don’t try the excuse “Obama never had the votes.” First, Obama never made the slightest effort to campaign for universal health care. The legislation was written by the health care industry and both Big Pharma and health insurance stocks traded up when the ACA was passed. Second, even though health care was supposedly one of the incoming President’s top policy concerns, he did not try to push it through in the first 100 days when Presidents have the most leverage. Third, the loss of the 60 seat majority in the Senate was the direct consequence of the bank-friendy approach to the crisis. As political scientist Tom Ferguson has demonstrated through granular analysis of voting results in the Senate election that produced the Scott Brown win, the Republican votes were highest in districts with the greatest declines in home prices. We even had several staunch liberal voters in Massachusetts write us saying they had voted for Brown out of disgust with how the Democrats had handled the crisis. That pattern was repeated in each Congressional election under Obams, as neoliberal Blue Dog Democrats were turfed out in all but the most secure districts while progressives held their seats or were even voted in.

If you still harbor doubts at to the depth of Obama’s commitment to the interests of the wealthy, a remarkable piece of evidence comes from a speech made by Robert Fitch on heels of Obama’s historic election. I’m embedding this must-read at the end of this post. From a 2012 post:

A remarkable speech by Robert Fitch puts Obama’s early career in a new perspective that explains the man we see now in the Oval Office: one who pretends to befriend ordinary people but sells them out again and again to wealthy, powerful interests – the banks, big Pharma and health insurers, and lately, the fracking-industrial complex.

Fitch, who died last year, was an academic and journalist, well regarded for his forensic and archival work, as described by Doug Henwood in an obituary in the Nation. He is best known for his book Solidarity for Sale, which chronicled corruption in American unions, but his work that is germane to his analysis of Obama is Assassination of New York. In that, he documented the concerted efforts by powerful real estate and financial interests to drive manufacturing and low-income renters out of Manhattan so they could turn it over to office and residential space for high income professionals.

Fitch gave his eye-opening speech before an unlikely audience at an unlikely time: the Harlem Tenants Association in November 2008, hard on the heels of Obama’s electrifying presidential win. The first part contains his prescient prediction: that Obama’s Third Way stance, that we all need to put our differences aside and get along, was tantamount to advocating the interests of the wealthy, since they seldom give anything to the have-nots without a fight.

That discussion alone is reason to read the piece. But the important part is his description of the role that Obama played in the redevelopment of the near South Side of Chicago, and how he and other middle class blacks, including Valerie Jarrett and his wife Michelle, advanced at the expense of poor blacks by aligning themselves with what Fitch calls “friendly FIRE”: powerful real estate players like the Pritzkers and the Crown family, major banks, the University of Chicago, as well as non-profit community developers and real estate reverends.

In other words, any time anyone tries to present Obama as having failed to implement a “liberal” agenda because the right was too powerful is either an apologist or ignorant. Obama has achieved precisely what he intended to achieve, which was to implement center-right economic policies with tepid social justice measures to divert attention from how he was serving the interests of the 1% and even more so, the 0.1%. And the fact that his allies in Congress have in large measure been voted out of office, that Sanders is going from strength to strength despite his lack of big corporate support, and that the neoliberal diehard Clinton is being forced to feint to the left are signs that the political tectonic plates are shifting. Much more is possible now than was six years ago. That does not mean progressives will prevail, but it means there’s a real opportunity to make very serious inroads. The pundit classes clearly recognize this opening; hence the eagerness to stanch populist energy and engagement through heavy doses of defeatism.

Robert Fitch on Obama

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  1. Clive

    We can’t say it too often — and we can’t demand it often enough to from prospective elected representatives — the left must not treat social justice and airy high-concept notions of social reform as an alternative to economic equality. It must be given at least comparable attention, energy and policy responses. And I would argue perhaps greater weight because, frankly, what is the point of having better rights for women in the workplace, the permission to enter into a same-sex marriage or similar if you are trapped into poverty, poor housing and bad healthcare outcomes because, well, neoliberalism.

    Not that I am denigrating any progressive agenda. But it does risk having too narrow a focus if we’re not vigilant.

    1. RabidGandhi


      A great (ie revolting) example of this is the Supreme Court.

      In my experience, any attack on Team Blue’s rancid record on economic equality inevitably invokes a response along the lines of: “Culture War!” “Marriage Equality!” “Do you want Marco Rubio nominating supreme court justices!” etc etc.

      So look at Exhibit A: Elena Kagan, who other than voting for marriage equality is essentially Scalia/Alito/Thomas’ BFF on every pro-corporate case before the court. This is the DNC ideal: someone who fights fearlessly for the corporate overlords whilst also supporting “progressive” causes that affect a much smaller, more affluent population only, thus allowing us to feel good about ourselves for not being like those evil retrograde repubs. So you can have your neoliberal cake and eat it too!

      Marriage equality has become the stick the DNC uses to beat us on the left into submission (just as the RNC uses abortion to beat its base).

      1. Strangely Enough

        About Kagan

        Despite my best efforts to prevent it, the Harvard Law School Faculty and Deans hired the war criminal Goldsmith right out of the Bush Jr. administration knowing full well that he was up to his eyeballs in the Gitmo Kangaroo Courts, torture, war crimes, enforced disappearances, murder, kidnapping, and crimes against humanity, at a minimum. And when Goldsmith’s proverbial “smoking-gun” Department of In-Justice Memorandum was published by the Washington Post, then Harvard Law School’s Dean Elena Kagan contemptuously boasted in response about how “proud” she was to have hired this notorious war criminal. Previously Kagan had also publicly bragged that the future of International Legal Studies at Harvard Law School would be in the “good hands” of their resident war criminal Goldsmith. How perversely and tragically true! The Neo-Conservative Harvard Law School Faculty and Deans deliberately hired this Neo-Nazi legal architect of the Bush Jr. administration’s bogus and nefarious “war against terrorism” because they fully support it together with all its essential accouterments of torture, kangaroo courts, war crimes, murder, kidnapping, enforced disappearances, crimes against humanity, and Nuremburg crimes against peace.

        . . .

        As for Harvard Laws Neo-Con Dean Kagan, Harvard Law Graduate President Barack Obama appointed her Solicitor General in his Department of Justice as the third highest ranking official in that department and thus as the proverbial oeTenth Justice for the 9-Justice U.S. Supreme Court. In this capacity Kagan has quarter-backed, supervised, and defended in all U.S. federal courts the Obama administrations continuation of the Bush Jr. administrations hideous atrocities perpetrated against human rights, international law, civil rights, civil liberties, the U.S. Constitution, and Americas Bill of Rights. As payback for her yeoman Neo-Con efforts, Kagan is now reportedly at the top of a very short list for President Obama to nominate to the U.S. Supreme Court upon the expected retirement of Mr. Justice Stevens, the reputed leader of the Courts oeliberal wing.

      2. S M Tenneshaw

        So right.

        The ObamaClintonBidencrat theme song: “Come on everybody, do The Social Issue Shuffle.”

    2. Uahsenaa

      It’s odd to me how often activists narrowly define their progressive agendas, when the academic form of cultural studies, critical race theory, gender studies, etc., after Kimberle Crenshaw, has emphasized the interconnection of the many categories of oppression: class, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, and so forth.

      I’m with Dr. West on this one: there can be no social justice without economic justice.

  2. allan

    Part of the elite’s demonization process is to silo Sanders as `far left’, which of course makes it sound as if he has no chance. And in the current acceptable political discourse, nobody bats an eye at that label. As a sign of how far the Overton Window has (been) moved over the last few decades, stories covering Harper’s defeat referred to him as center right. As if.

    In his stump speech, Sanders should proclaim that he’s proudly center left, which by the standards of the 1970s or 1980s, he is. At some point he’s going to have to contrast himself not only with his opponent, but with his predecessor. And that unfortunately might not play well with those for whom politics means identity politics.

    1. sleepy

      Yes. Nothing Sanders has advocated would be considered out of the ordinary by a Hubert Humphrey or Lyndon Johnson.

    2. Rad-Randy

      At some point, I am going to investigate how Sanders has been able to remain electable in Vermont. Is it because those who vote are overwhelmingly liberal or because he can successfully respond to the interests of a broad political spectrum? If the latter is the case, that may say more about his politics than how he positions himself. Iike that he is not afraid to call himself a socialist and that he has been able to sustain a political career in a state with what I suspect is a large conservative constituency.

      1. Arizona Slim

        Sanders has done very well among Republicans in VT. Why? Because a lot of them are small business owners and/or farmers. They admire how he stands up to big companies like Dean Foods.

    3. nigelk

      It’s been stupefying to watch the oBots defend their neoliberal champion regardless of what he does.

      Sanders is a New Deal Democrat. People need to remember who Henry Wallace was. Would that he wasn’t thrown off the ticket in 1944 for the Kansas City gangster Truman by party insiders!

  3. Simon Girty

    “First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you. And that, is what is going to happen to the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America.” Nicholas Klein 1918 address to the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America in Baltimore.

    I LOVE the site, but there’s now a tendency to pontificate, arbitrarily on speciously misconstrued issues, beyond the purview of a sound finance, trade & economics career & education.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      If you have an objection to the post, readers might be prepared to hear it, but all I see is that you object to referring to a quote from Gandhi that is so well known as to verge on being a cliche because you prefer an apparent antecedent. That’s not a substantive objection and it frankly hurts your credibility to pretend it is one.

      1. Ulysses

        “In other words, any time anyone tries to present Obama as having failed to implement a “liberal” agenda because the right was too powerful is either an apologist or ignorant.”

        Very well said! The reality we face, however, is that some people cling to delusions ever more fiercely, the more facts are adduced to destroy them. This is why I believe Bernie Sanders is very clever– to point out the enormous policy differences he has with the current administration, while still leaving room for misinformed people to continue believing that President Obama was “obstructed” from doing any of the things that Senator Sanders proposes.

    2. nippersdad

      It would appear from the ongoing pontification of self serving economists that actually get face time in the MSM (see Bernanke and Summers) that the only way the American people have of noting their actual performance is through the collateral damage that the Washington Consensus of economic opinion leaves in its’ wake, therefore the issues that you denominate as speciously construed and arbitrary are, in actuality, fundamental to any sound education in economics these days.

      I fundamentally disagree with your premise. Both sound financial discussion and the examples of why such discussions are necessary form a far better educational foundation than siloed facts and charts would alone.

      1. participant-observer-observed

        This piece was a refutation rejoinder to the original Slate article;, no premise was posited.

    3. Uahsenaa

      Economic justice is social justice. One of Gandhi’s most provocative and effective protests was not his many hunger strikes but encouraging people to spin and weave their own textiles–also to produce their own salt from sea water. Textiles lay at the very heart of British imperial ambitions in India, and by encouraging ordinary people to engage in a simple, traditional handicraft he undermined the economic order of the Empire and their reasons for being their in the first place.

      While Sanders and Gandhi are not a perfect match by any stretch of the imagination, Sanders similarly has undermined the Democratic political order by doing what politicians used to do regularly: walk in parades, talk to people at barbeques, hold townhall meetings, etc. Corbyn similarly found great success in the Labour leadership election by using almost the same means. The political operatives in those parties are so used to doing things in a particular way, one which is more about PR than motivating voters, that doing something old fashioned, just like Gandhi’s spinning, has far greater potential to pull the rug out from under them than any media campaign.

      That’s more than a slogan.

  4. Ed Walker

    1. In The Great Transformation, Karl Polanyi argues persuasively that in the wake of WWI, the elites tried to recreate the self-regulating market with its three pillars of free trade, strict adherence to the gold standard, and a free market in labor. The last of these meant that the burdens of coping with deflation and price undercutting by free trading nations would be borne by the working people. The result was the Great Depression, and the gradual unraveling of laissez-faire economic dominance in favor of more socially controlled capitalism.

    This is the same theory followed by Obama and Western Europe. We only need to restore the status quo that existed before the Great Crash and all will be well. This is nothing less than the revival of neoliberal thinking at a time when it could only get worse.

    2. The two political candidates who have stunned the stupid pundits of the mainstream, Trump and Sanders, both raise the question. Trump points to the stupid foreign policy of George Bush, a question closely related to the neoliberal project of projecting US power to secure our commercial interests at the expense of the lives and taxes of people who won’t benefit. He even questions some of the tax policies that form Republican ideology.

    Sanders is even less a liberal in the HRC/Obama mode. HRC has a five point program to guard against TBTF banks. Sanders has a one-point program: break them into little pieces that won’t be a horrible danger. HRC has a 14 point program for fixing college costs. Sanders has a one point program: free college tuition at public colleges and universities.

    These are heretical ideas. These two politicians suggest a new approach: it’s broke, so don’t try to fix it. Instead use this as a chance to rethink the fundamentals of the way we do things.

    3. And that’s what this post says. Obama didn’t try to change things. His goal was to reinstate the status quo, which meant nothing good would happen for the 99$.

    Trump is a bully and an ignoramus, and most of his ideas are horrifying. But they are real change, and that’s what the Republican base seems to want. Sanders is smart, persuasive and just as blunt as Trump, and his domestic policies are just what the Democratic Party base wants,

    4. Both Polanyi and John Maynard Keynes believed that laissez-faire economics was doomed. They were both wrong. We are still fighting those battles. We will have to fight them forever, apparently.

    1. Left in Wisconsin

      Polanyi argues that laissez-faire cannot persist because at some point the people harmed by it will turn to government and demand action (this is the “double movement”). But he doesn’t claim that whatever government action follows will necessarily be helpful or even successful. Nor does he claim that laissez-faire can or will be killed once and forever. As Yves likes to point out, the main historical point of The Great Transformation is that the Speenhamland laws were a failed attempt to regulate laissez-faire in the mid-1800s. Other, later strategies ended up being modestly more successful and yet there it was a century later needing to be slayed again. And here we are now.

      I think John R Commons got the cyclicality part right. Working people organize in order to confront economic power and capitalists are constantly at work trying to dis-organize them, which they often succeed in doing by expanding the size/scope of labor or product markets. (See “American Shoemakers”.) There are no permanent wins.

    2. participant-observer-observed

      free market in labor. The last of these meant that the burdens of coping with deflation and price undercutting by free trading nations would be borne by the working people. The result was the Great Depression, and the gradual unraveling of laissez-faire economic dominance in favor of more socially controlled capitalism.

      Local working people. Elites had always used working people to bear the burdens, via slavery and colonialism. But they were kept conveniently out of daily public sight, same like Bangladeshi and workers of today.

    3. meeps

      That “rethinking the fundamentals of the way we do things” is heretical speaks volumes about why we keep fighting the same battles forever. Bill Mollison’s succinct utterance, “Though the problems of the world are increasingly complex, the solutions remain embarrasingly simple” points directly to the problem solving process: the scientific method. Protracted and thoughtful observation reveals what works and what to avoid. We (culturally, that is) are programmed to disregard/deny the data and take things on faith/ideology. That’s a recipe for a positive feedback loop resulting in a neverending repetition of errors. It’s 2015; we need heretics more now than ever.

    1. Vatch

      I had to look up “dap” in the Urban Dictionary. The list of things that I don’t know never ends!

      1. TheCatSaid

        Dap greeting per Urban Dictionary: “The knocking of fists together as a greeting, or form of respect.”

        Wikipedia: “Dap is a form of handshake and friendly gesture that has recently become popular in western cultures. The term is sometimes explained as dignity and pride . . . According to one tale, it was introduced to and popularly used by African-American soldiers by Marine Captain John Dapolito during the Vietnam War. . . . Though it can refer to many kinds of greetings involving hand contact, dap is best known as a complicated routine of shakes, slaps, snaps, and other contact that must be known completely by both parties involved.”

        D.A.P. also stands for Dog Appeasing Pheromone. LOL

  5. Eric Patton

    Adolph Reed, Jr., also deserves dap:

    In Chicago, for instance, we’ve gotten a foretaste of the new breed of
    foundation-hatched black communitarian voices; one of them, a smooth
    Harvard lawyer with impeccable do-good credentials and
    vacuous-to-repressive neoliberal politics, has won a state senate seat
    on a base mainly in the liberal foundation and development worlds. His
    fundamentally bootstrap line was softened by a patina of the rhetoric of
    authentic community, talk about meeting in kitchens, small-scale
    solutions to social problems, and the predictable elevation of process
    over program — the point where identity politics converges with
    old-fashioned middle-class reform in favoring form over substance. I
    suspect that his ilk is the wave of the future in U.S. black politics,
    as in Haiti and wherever else the International Monetary Fund has sway.
    So far the black activist response hasn’t been up to the challenge. We
    have to do better.

    From “The Curse of Community,” Village Voice, January 16, 1996—reprinted in
    Class Notes: Posing as Politics and Other Thoughts on the American Scene
    (New Press, 2000)

    1. Eureka Springs

      Glen Ford says it well in his most recent post.

      Blacks Will Transform America, and Free Themselves, But Not at the Ballot Box in 2016

      At this point, Hilllary Clinton’s most solid support comes from Black Democrats. It is a stain and a shame that must be explained.
      The entire history of modern polling, and every competent analysis of voting patterns, shows that African Americans are the most leftish constituency in the nation, especially on the central issues of economic redistribution, criminal justice reform, and war and peace. Yet, Black voters cannot be counted on to support the most progressive presidential candidates available at the polls, whether they be the dubious Sen. Sanders – whose only role before he folds his tent and pledges eternal loyalty to Hillary Clinton is to cause her to lie to the people more extravagantly – or the genuinely progressive Green Party candidacies of Ralph Nader, Cynthia McKinney and, currently, Jill Stein, who is running on a “Power to the People” platform.

      1. Anon

        You know, when I first read Glen Ford earlier this year, he put up a strong argument for the “sheepdog” maneuver, but with the way things have been lately, I’m not so sure that it’ll go that way. I’ll be pleasantly surprised if it does, but based on his strong debate performance and the punditry burying him right after, maybe he could go all of the way. I’d put the sheepdog theory at 45/55 (i.e. 45% chance of it happening).

      2. meeps

        I suspect the explanation relates to faith and ideology (Democrats=For Us, By Us) overriding the data/established record (feedback), as noted in my response to Ed Walker (above ):

        –That “rethinking the fundamentals of the way we do things” is heretical speaks volumes about why we keep fighting the same battles forever. Bill Mollison’s succinct utterance, “Though the problems of the world are increasingly complex, the solutions remain embarrasingly simple” points directly to the problem solving process: the scientific method. Protracted and thoughtful observation reveals what works and what to avoid. We (culturally, that is) are programmed to disregard/deny the data and take things on faith/ideology. That’s a recipe for a positive feedback loop resulting in a neverending repetition of errors. It’s 2015; we need heretics more now than ever.–

        Are Black Democrats fearful of being heretical?

    2. Lambert Strether

      That is the quote everybody uses. I would love to have the whole article. Anyone got access to the Village Voice archives for 1996?

      Adding, me, 2007, late to the party, I know: “Obama stump speech strategy of conciliation considered harmful.” Back when I could get a link from Krugman… And before Krugman was replaced with a pod person at that White House dinner…. And when I had a lot more hope for Democrats than I do today (2003 – 2006 was like that).

      1. Jeff W

        That is the quote everybody uses. I would love to have the whole article. Anyone got access to the Village Voice archives for 1996?

        Not me but the entire article (which is less than four pages long, as reproduced in Reed’s Class Notes Posing as Politics and Other Thoughts on the American Scene) is here as a PDF.

  6. paulmeli

    “…the left must not treat social justice and airy high-concept notions of social reform as an alternative to economic equality. “

    Or, put another way, those other things don’t matter much if you’re starving.

  7. andrea

    I would not consider the election of Justin Trudeau synonymous with anything progressive. Just as Obama looked good compared to Bush – Trudeau appeared “progressive” when compared to Harper. But the Liberals, like the Democrats here in the U.S. say one thing and do another. Trudeau’s real policies will expose his true neoliberal bent. They took Obama’s 2008 playbook and used it well.

    1. Benedict@Large

      Canadians did not vote for Trudeau because he was progressive. They voted for him because he wasn’t Harper. Canadians, after a time, had simply come to hate Harper. Trudeau was just as progressive as he had to be to be seen as “not Harper”, and not a lot more.

      I my more conspiratorial moments, I imagine the Canadian elites getting together and telling Harper, OK, time for you to turn into a real asshole. Time for you to be the worst dick you can imagine for yourself. Because we’re going to have to replace you, and if you stay just so-so, the people will look further to the left for Canada’s new leader. If instead, you get them to hate you, we can instead replace you with some hopey-feely Obama type, and get on with making money.

      1. RabidGandhi

        Call me racist (all those white boys look the same to me) but I have the darndest time telling Justin Trudeau and Ed Milliband apart.

      2. PIGL

        You’re infected by the rather over-the-top Obama hatred on this blog. Mr. Trudo did not require that Stephen Harper pretend to be an asshole. Stephen Harper’s act has been entirely consistent in that regard since he first came to public attention in the 1990s. It was actually a conservative underground to talk on Justin Trudeau to compare him to Obama exactly the way you’re doing and it’s unfounded.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          The onus is on you to rebut our arguments. You’ve failed to do so, which suggests you are unable to do so. Pulling out a lazy and intellectually bogus ad hominem attack like “Obama hatred” effectively says you don’t like what we are saying but you can’t disprove its accuracy.

        2. Lambert Strether

          Silly comment. Even accepting the “hate” trope, which I don’t, this blog is quite mild in both tone and content compared to any number of right wing sites (and heck, even some right wing office-holders).

          The door to Daily Kos is that way.

    2. Kurt Sperry

      Read Justin’s tortured rationale for supporting Bill C-51 and it’s like experiencing Obama at his worst all over again.

      1. PIGL

        He’s already committed to amending out the more of noxious sections of the act.

        My opinion is that the reason the Liberals supported the bill in the house was to avoid any unpleasant surprises during the election campaign. Perhaps not the most principaled move but entirely sensible … Certainly not evidence of evil intent. y’all need to give the guy more than 48 hours before deciding that he’s a neoliberal plant. To judge somebody by their actions you have to wait for some actions to have taken place…. I don’t understand why some people on this blog want to sound like the comment section of the right wing papers.

  8. Carolinian

    If some of us do indeed feel defeatist it may be because Sanders, unfortunately, seems to agree more with Slate than with the above post. By making his target “billionaires” and Republican obstructionists rather than his neoliberal opponent he is simply playing the identity politics game. He himself has said that Obama is a good man who has been thwarted by political circumstances. It’s telling that before the recent debate you were seeing articles predicting little policy disagreement between the two leading candidates.

    Of course many of us hope that Sanders does prevail against Clinton but hope is not a plan. So in fairness to the press some of their skepticism about Sanders winning the nomination may be justified. In order to win you have to fight, and his fight at the moment is against Mrs. Clinton, herself a representative of “billionaires,” and not the amorphous and increasingly disorganized rightwing.

    1. nippersdad

      “By making his target “billionaires” and Republican obstructionists rather than his neoliberal opponent he is simply playing the identity politics game.”

      But, really, what is his alternative? He has the same problem that Clinton does, he cannot directly attack her in an age of identity politics lest he lose her coalition in the general. Anything he does in that respect WILL BE construed as mysogyny, just as an attack on Obama will be construed as racism (see the BLM protests). Why get mired down in an expensive fight on the front pages and talking head shows that one cannot win?

      I, too, am a little disappointed in his not bringing his points home more firmly, but he is a remarkably good pol and can see how easily marginalized he would be were he to say anything that could confirm the narratives that the DNC has been crafting all year about him; an old, out of touch, ivory tower crank that is far too politically radical to be elected.

      The campaign is just beginning, why shoot yourself in the foot before the race has even really begun?

      1. Vatch

        Absolutely right — thank you for saying this. Sanders is doing what he must do to avoid alienating the people who currently support Hillary Clinton, as well as the people who (amazingly) still support Obama. If he seriously offends them by telling the blunt truth, he will lose their potential support in the general election. He needs to be diplomatic.

        By attacking the billionaire class, he surreptitiously attacks Clinton and Obama, since there are billionaires and hecto-millionaires who support Clinton and Obama and who have donated large sums to them. Sanders’s relentless attacks on the TPP are attacks on a centerpiece of the Obama administration.

        1. nippersdad

          Exactly! Once he has this “Democratic Socialism” speech behind him it will be easier for him to use a less oblique approach, but as long as we have so-called liberals out there calling him a communist he will never be able to successfully attack the policies of the so-called liberal leadership within the Democratic Party. His strengths lie with the issues, and people have only just tuned in; solidify those and obfuscatory identity based attacks lose their ability to harm his campaign.

          1. Carolinian

            But you aren’t explaining how he actually gets the nomination. It’s clear Hillary is simply going to declare herself a “progressive” and steal all his issues until she becomes President and then it will be Obama all over again. Her only vulnerable point is foreign policy where she isn’t going to back down from her hawkish positions. Here Bernie isn’t contesting her at all. Just believing the right things–and I do think Sanders is sincere and not a “sheepdog”–isn’t enough to win an election since they are about competing interests, not simply competing ideas

            1. Vatch

              Ronald Reagan used to say “thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican”, and he managed to win a lot of primaries. Why can’t Sanders do the same, except about Democrats?

              1. Carolinian

                Not trying to be a downer. I certainly do hope that “movement” he keeps talking about pushes him over the top. And Hillary is a lousy politician which is why she needed Bill. If she stumbles Sanders will be there to pick up the pieces.

            2. nippersdad

              Have you not seen the knots that she has had to tie herself into in order to run left? Jiu Jitsu! He appears to be getting HIS issues out there and making her conform to them. Every time she has to do that it makes her less credible. A year or so of her acting out of character and he can start to point out that she would have been a really good candidate if had she not had to adopt his platform. Then, maybe, he hits her with Victoria Nuland and her hiring of Nazis in Ukraine? That would be a real coup, so to speak. A variant of “why vote for the fake Republican when you can vote for the real one” starts to come into play.

              He is going to let her do it to herself.

              As for foreign policy, I am believe that Sanders has been doing the same thing whilst in Congress; voting against the big stuff and going along to get along with the rest….or, at least, find some profit from it for his constituency (F-35). If you really look at his votes, it starts to look like he has been on autopilot for a long time; that he really doesn’t even bother with it. Again, why shoot yourself in the foot and make it easy to be marginalized?

            3. wbgonne

              I tend to agree with you. It is one thing for Sanders not to attack Clinton personally — that would surely backfire regarding the Democratic nomination. But Sanders, IMO, is far too weak-kneed going after Clinton on policy. For example, had Sanders gone after Clinton hard on TPP he could have claimed credit (and dominance?) when she appeared to shift her position, and then he could have gone ever harder after her for her weaselly “opposition.” Same for Glass-Steagull, fracking, warmongering, global warming, criminal justice, etc., etc. Those are policy-based and perfectly legitimate challenges which are obviously necessary for a long-shot contender like Sanders. Sanders seems to be campaigning as if he is the favorite. At some point it begins to appear Sanders is just providing window-dressing opposition to Hillary’s coronation. We are near that point.

              1. nippersdad

                Seems like he needs to surmount the “ancient white communist from Vermont” meme before he can get to all of the rest of it. Democratic pols are always being criticized for introducing themselves with their wonky fifteen point plans, and venues like the BLM forum will be sufficient for getting out the criminal justice issues later, as will the release of the TPP text, etc.

                It is said that no one tunes in until the first debate. He may have just wanted to introduce himself as the kindly gentleman that graciously helps others out of their tight spots rather than the red faced bomb thrower he is advertised as in the MSM.

                1. wbgonne

                  Perhaps we assess the race differently. Yes, it is “early” but Clinton’s institutional advantages rival that of an incumbent’s and I think Sanders may have already peaked. IMO, Sanders has at best a rapidly closing window to derail Hillary because the inevitability meme is beginning to take on life fro real now. And after this Benghazi hearing, you can expect to see the Clinton Machine ramp up significantly because nothing suits the Clintons more than victimhood and self-pity. Bernie has to go after her HARD on policy and stop with the vague, soft-soap criticisms. Just my opinion, of course.

                  1. nippersdad

                    That is a perfectly valid opinion. and normally I would agree with it. However, I do not think that these are going to be normal times. The establishment has been discredited and the outsiders (Trump and Sanders) are calling the tune. The institutional advantages of incumbency are not what they once were, as evidenced in both Britain and Canada.

                    People hate to be told what to believe, so the arrogance of inevitability may be a curse this year when inclusion may no longer be an illusion. When McCaskill called Sanders an unelectable socialist, she stirred up a hornets nest among a demographic that had nearly been lost to the Party. They cannot afford any more of those kinds of missteps, and, as you say, there will be many more to come..

                    The question will really come down to the iron law of institutions; how badly are they willing to damage the Party in order to win? Sanders’ voters are not fungible, whereas Clinton’s are and the establishment still needs the cover of two legacy Parties. When both appear to be going to the Whigs, they may reconsider their strategy.

                    1. wbgonne

                      I agree that the American people are rejecting the status quo. That may even be enough for The Donald to get the GOP nomination, which is astonishing. However, the GOP base is far more restive than the Democrats, who have been put to sleep by Obama. The article under discussion being a perfect example.

                      Further, I think that, generally speaking, the Democratic base is now more authoritarian than the Republican base. The Democratic base has a whipped dog, Stockholm Syndrome mentality, while the Republicans (and most of the rest of the country) are furious. This is probably caused by several factors, most importantly the Obama effect.

                      My point should not be overstated, however. I think Clinton’s institutional advantages will likely secure her the Democratic nomination. But they may well fail — and indeed backfire, as you suggest — in the general election.

              2. meeps

                Health care should be added to the long list of policy positions she needs to answer for. At least Sanders confirmed his position on Medicare for All during the “debate” and wow, how she squirmed and knotted herself evading it! She did, however, commit to selling insurance to immigrants on the exchanges. She got off way to easily on that point, although it was as much a failure of moderation as it was on Sanders. This is still a contentious issue for much of the electorate and more pressure must be applied from here on out.

    2. flora

      Whether or not Sanders win the nomination, he has changed the conversation. The media have tried mightily to ignore his talking points. Now they are talking about them. It’s now within normal conversational bounds to talk about what Sanders is saying. (and what OWS was saying.) That’s a big deal.

    3. Steven D.

      I think the Sanders strategy is to not attack Clinton directly but forthrightly lay out the problems and draw the implicit contrast with her double talk. It was working right up until the press realized he was a real threat. Since then, they’ve been buttering up Hillary. If Sanders fails, Clinton will by default be the most left-wing person in the race and the media will go back to demonizing her. Then her poll numbers will tank again.

      I suppose Sanders’ biggest failing is not seeing the coming media honeymoon with Clinton. It’s something he’s going to have to face. Unless people start to see through Clinton on their own and change their minds again.

      1. nippersdad

        I thought that this gave insight to the strategy:

        “He said Obama and Vice President Biden…were “not really” interested in creating a political revolution to overthrow the corporate interests that he says have taken over Washington.”

        And it goes on in that vein. It is a little nuanced, but effective. He will be able to do the same thing with Clinton as well.

  9. Tyler

    Hi Yves,

    I went to college with Jamelle Bouie. He’s very liberal. I agree with him that it would be extremely hard for Bernie to enact his agenda. The Republicans are not going to lose the House next year and many Congressional Democrats are conservative.

    I would love to see Bernie as president, if only because it’s time to boldly confront the billionaire class that rules our country. Final thought: I’m concerned about Bernie’s age. Most people die in their seventies.

    1. wbgonne

      I went to college with Jamelle Bouie. He’s very liberal.

      And I read Bouie when he was writing for Greg Sargent’s Washington Post column, which has carried more water for Obama’s neoliberal policies than just about any other. Very liberal? In your opinion perhaps.

      From Bouie’s latest there-is-no-alternative, lesser-of-two-evils, defeatist apologia for Obama:

      We can criticize Obama for everything he didn’t do as a legislative leader, but the truth is that his plans were steered, in large part, by the right flank of the Democratic Party.

      What Bouie neglects to mention is that Obama is himself from “the right flank of the Democratic Party.” Which is the tell on Bouie’s credibility and which leads inexorably to these concern-troll bon mots from him:

      If Sanders wants to be president, he needs a serious theory of change.

      How about honestly trying? That might work. Notwithstanding Bouie’s Obama-apologia (which itself is a large part of the problem), we certainly haven’t found out under Obama, who is a Master of Deceit, a living lie saying pretty progressive things while entrenching the plutocracy ever deeper with his actions.

    2. Uahsenaa

      The major difference, though, is that Sanders acknowledges this fact again and again in his stump speeches and interviews. He knows full well that being President changes surprisingly little, and that things will only change when there is a mass mobilization of popular support for it. It’s one of the reasons why I’m less suspicious of him than Obama in ’08. Obama’s propositions concerning change were all exceedingly vague, as we have come to realize, because he was never going to meaningfully campaign for them. I would suggest watching his hour long roundtable with the Des Moines Register, where he lays out in precise terms what would need to happen after the election, if anything is to be done.

    3. Jeff W

      That Jamelle Bouie might be very liberal—or think he is or have you think he is—is more disheartening than if he weren’t. His working theory about President Obama trying to enact any sort of liberal agenda and being thwarted by Republicans and conservative Democrats would be risible if it weren’t so immobilizing (aside from being wrong).

      Glenn Greenwald in Salon in 2009, said the following, first referencing a quote from Ryan Grimm:

      The White House is playing hardball with Democrats who intend to vote against the supplemental war spending bill, threatening freshmen who oppose it that they won’t get help with reelection and will be cut off from the White House, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) said Friday. “We’re not going to help you. You’ll never hear from us again,” Woolsey said the White House is telling freshmen.

      That’s what the White House can do when they actually care about pressuring someone to vote the way they want. Why didn’t they do any of that to the “centrists” who were supposedly obstructing what they wanted on health care? Why didn’t they tell Blanche Lincoln — in a desperate fight for her political life — that she would “never hear from them again,” and would lose DNC and other Democratic institutional support, if she filibustered the public option? Why haven’t they threatened to remove Joe Lieberman’s cherished Homeland Security Chairmanship if he’s been sabotaging the President’s agenda? Why hasn’t the President been rhetorically pressuring Senators to support the public option and Medicare buy-in, or taking any of the other steps outlined here by Adam Green? There’s no guarantee that it would have worked – Obama is not omnipotent and he can’t always control Congressional outcomes — but the lack of any such efforts is extremely telling about what the White House really wanted here.

      The issue, of course, is not about health care, although we’d know a little over a year later how the Obama administration secretly negotiated with the healthcare industry to do away with the public option even before Greenwald wrote his column—which is consistent with the administration’s actions or inactions. It’s about what Obama was really seeking and, more importantly, it’s about politics and power, both of which the very liberal Jamelle Bouie, Slate’s chief political correspondent, seems oblivious to. We simply don’t know what would have happened if some different president had played hardball with conservatives or changed the political discourse or mobilized public opinion (or a myriad of other options) in a way Obama clearly did not.

      There is no argument that it could be extremely hard for Bernie Sanders to enact his agenda. Whether Sanders could wield power effectively in the face of Republican and conservative Democratic opposition is obviously a valid question. At the very least he would change—and has changed—the discourse. The point is that we can’t, as Bouie does, use Obama’s “failures” (if they even are that, considering, as just one example, Obama got the healthcare bill he wanted) as any indication of that.

  10. Michael Hudson

    It’s even worse than just Obama. It’s the democratic leadership. Regarding health care, when Dennis Kucinich tried to press for the public option, he was blocked by Pelosi and the House leadership saying that this was off the table from the outset. It was a done deal, and Obama simply toed the Rubin-health-care monopoly line.
    The reason this is important is that the Democratic Party’s apparatchiks — Wasserman-Schulze, etc. — will undercut Sanders, esp. by using the party’s own votes at the convention to overwhelm whatever state and local voters might support.
    In the 1950s, we used to debate whether Russia was a “degenerated workers state” and therefore reformable (as Stalinists claimed), or an unreformable bureaucratic state (as Sanders believed at that time). The same discussion is now appropriate for the Democratic Party: Is it reformable, or totally Rubinized?
    I think the latter. So perhaps the best that Bernie can do is help speed the parting guests and split the party into a real alternative to neoliberalism.

    1. Tyler

      “[Some] argue that the Democratic Party, and the ‘system’ in general, are irretrievably broken, and that they must build a third party, such as the Green Party with its endorsement of Ralph Nader. The difficulties with this notion are hard to count. For one, splitting the left is a certain recipe for centuries of aristocratic domination. For another, building a party with only people who share your opinions to the nth degree is a certain recipe for factionalism and isolation. For another, the Green Party is a chaotic mess that has no serious chance of becoming a mass-based political party.”

      Full essay here.

      1. Michael Hudson

        What makes you think that levying Rubin’s Democratic Party is “splitting the left”? It’s a precondition for the left advocating for a public option in health care, for opposing neocons’ war efforts and neoliberal policies such as the TPP?
        The TPP is not left, nor is the Syrian war or Obamacare.

        1. Tyler

          The Rubin wing of the Democratic Party is certainly not left-wing, but they’re not the collective insanity that has become the Republican Party. The Rubinites acknowledge the seriousness of the climate crisis.

          Millions of people are fans of both Hillary and Bernie, and none of these people vote Republican. We need these people. Hillary is not a leftist, but she’s well to the left of any of the Republican presidential candidates.

          I think the best move is to change the Democratic Party back to the way it was in the 1960s, minus LBJ’s horrendous foreign policy.

          1. wbgonne

            That dog won’t hunt. Not anymore. The lesser-of-two-evils strategy has been followed for 40 years and all it has done is delivered what we were told we were avoiding: an authoritarian, militaristic, neo-fascist state. No more. Not for me at least. I don’t care how many times you fluff the scary GOP boogeyman. I won’t vote for Hillary Clinton under any circumstances. And you may be surprised to learn how many others feel like me. If you really want to save the Democratic Party, help deliver it from the Clinton/Obama Wall Street cabal. Give people something to vote for. Fearmongering won’t work any longer.

            1. Tyler

              I want the Democratic Party to be delivered from the Clinton/Obama Wall Street cabal. What do you propose we do? Vote for Jill Stein? She wouldn’t win. Most of the country has no idea who she is.

              So what do we do, besides continuing to whine on the internet?

              1. wbgonne

                I want the Democratic Party to be delivered from the Clinton/Obama Wall Street cabal. What do you propose we do? Vote for Jill Stein? She wouldn’t win. Most of the country has no idea who she is.

                First thing to do is to stop doing what has failed for 40 years: continuing to support the Democrats no matter how bad they are because the GOP is worse. At some point — and we are already past that point — failure is just failure. Perhaps Jill Stein wouldn’t be unknown and might have even a chance of winning if there were a lot fewer people like you claiming to want change but too skittish to take any risk to secure that change. This iteration of the Democratic Party must be repudiated. Complete political failure will cause it to reform or go into oblivion. I am indifferent which fate it meets because political parties are nothing but vehicles and, if the Democratic Party collapses, another party will emerge.

                In any event, voting Green is what I did in 2012 and what I will likely do again, unless by some miracle Sanders gets the Democratic nomination.

                So what do we do, besides continuing to whine on the internet?

                Says the guy on the internet.

                1. Tyler

                  Let’s say the Republicans win the White House and both houses of Congress next year. What would be the result? Well, they would unleash the fossil fuel industry far more than Obama. This would cause the globe to warm exponentially faster and humanity would meet its full demise by around 2030.

                  Are Humans Going Extinct?

                  1. wbgonne

                    Let’s say the Republicans win the White House and both houses of Congress next year. What would be the result? Well, they would unleash the fossil fuel industry far more than Obama.

                    Maybe. But Obama has done more for the fossil fuel industry than the Bush-Cheney regime. There is more deepwater drilling (notwithstanding the worst environmental disater in American history in thr Gulf of Mexico), the Arctic was opened to drilling, the East Coast was approved for exploratory drilling and, last yet first, the scourge of unregulated fracking, with its water pollution, water waste, earthquakes and general environmental devastation was spread through the country and the world (thanks, Hillary!) by the Obama Administration. Oh, Obama hates coal, which is good but — coincidentally, no doubt — a great bonanza for the frackers upon whom the Democrats depend for their share of Big Oil’s big money.

                    This would cause the globe to warm exponentially faster and humanity would meet its full demise by around 2030.

                    Instead of 2070 as under the Democrats? As I wrote above, sometimes failure is just failure. No matter the grading curve.

              2. Jeff W

                What do you propose we do?

                (1) Realize that voting for the-lesser-of-two-evils does not push the less-evil party to be even less evil. That party just has to be marginally less evil than the more-evil party. It’s a very short-term strategy—it works only as far as this election cycle. Every election cycle rinse and repeat.

                It’s entirely rational behavior for achieving what it says—keeping the more-evil party out of power. It’s not rational as a way of pushing the less-evil party to be closer to what you want.

                (2) Intervene in leverage points in the system—or, more realistically, propose or at least have put on the agenda, those higher-leverage types of interventions—which something like voting for the lesser-of-two-evils which does not. (In fact, that perpetuates the system.)

                These leverage points boil down to a) expanding the political franchise (so that more people get to vote); b) implementing preferential voting systems (so that the dynamic of “splitting the vote” does not occur; and c) most importantly, put in the broadest terms, getting money out of politics—from campaign finance reform at one end to the revolving door of legislators becoming industry lobbyists at the other. In other words, you have more people vote and the way they vote or will vote, as opposed to money in the system, counts. (There are other important leverage points such as those involving the media but those are the main ones.)

                (3) View people’s observations, even those without solutions, as playing a role in shaping everyone’s behavior as opposed to “whining.”

    2. participant-observer-observed

      Yes, the Berner really is place holder for otherwise uncountable millions of voters who have lost all affinity for the legacy parties especially Dems. Just because Sanders claims he will pledge to HRC does not mean his supporters will do so. DNC has to gamble that they will boycott before voting GOP. But Sanders supporters are not so apathetic. Many find DNC and co. more repulsive than Gop. Sanders makes the disenfranchised countable.

  11. TheCatSaid

    The meme that HRC will “definitely” be the Democratic candidate is playing loudly in both BBC and Al Jazeera English. Typical context: someone was being interviewed about some other topic, and the media interviewer interjected as fact that of course HRC will win the Dem. nomination. Sanders’ name wasn’t ever mentioned.

    I’ve observed this several times in the last couple days. The definiteness in tone and language, and that the words were coming from the mouths of major media interviewers, was new and particularly striking as it ignored Sanders’ rapid rise in polls and more people becoming aware of his stance.

  12. Left in Wisconsin

    Realism is valuable. But the tell re Dem realism is that it never involves a plan to move the Overton Window so that better politics and policies are a possibility down the road. Clinton/Obama/HRC are always the best we can do in that moment, and that is always the only thing that counts.

    I’m sure they will continue to use this playbook as long as it works.

    Realistically, even if Bernie were to somehow win the Presidency in 2016, he is likely to face a hostile Congress and we could well see 2 years of gridlock that would make the current period look like O’s original fantasy of bi-partisanship. But I’m confident Sanders would use those 2 years to play directly to the public in order to try to get a more simpatico Congress in 2018. And, best case, that would only be to set up for 2020, which could then turn out to be a real opportunity to change the course of the country. But, as it stands now, Dems see 2020 as an HRC re-election election, which will lead to lackluster turnout and continued rightwing control of most state houses and probably Congress as well at best. If the economy tanks during an HRC first term, 2020 could cement rightwing control for another decade. And the Dems will claim it is all the lefties’ fault for pushing things too far!

    1. Jeff W

      Realistically, even if Bernie were to somehow win the Presidency in 2016, he is likely to face a hostile Congress and we could well see 2 years of gridlock…But I’m confident Sanders would use those 2 years to play directly to the public in order to try to get a more simpatico Congress in 2018.

      That’s a realistic assessment (as opposed to the Slate piece, which is defeatism in the guise of realism).

      There is more to politics than passing legislation. The President, even more so than Congress, gets to set the political agenda. What’s on the agenda might get considered and then passed or might not but what’s not on the agenda rarely does (unless there is some unforeseen event).

      Bernie Sanders isn’t talking about “saving” (that is, eviscerating) Social Security—he’s talking about expanding it. He’s not talking about a healthcare “marketplace,” he’s talking about healthcare as a matter of right—if he refers to healthcare in every other advanced nation on earth, as he does, he is talking about not-for-profit or very-restricted-for-profit health care. He’s not talking about public vouchers for private schools, he’s talking about tuition-free public education.

      We can sit around and snipe and say “realistically,” “Well, obviously, none of that is gonna happen!” and, in effect, take it off the agenda—which means it won’t happen—or we can, as President Sanders would, keep it on the agenda until it does (and figure out steps to enact that agenda). But it’s got to be on the agenda in the first place. That’s the real value of a Sanders candidacy and presidency.

  13. jfleni

    When Barry the “butt-kisser” said out loud to the plutocrats and banksters “I am the only one standing between you and the pitchforks”, then the truth became known: High Effing treason to regular folks, especially black ones.

    Result: The world’s largest “Job-free zone”, Ruin Porn in many places like majority black Detroit, and garbled gibberish from both the racketeer Repugs and their co-criminal Democrat buddies!

  14. washunate

    Enjoyed the read. There have been many great articles by confused Dem pundits recently. My favorite is still the WaPo one where the author was mad that Sanders wanted to use government to interfere with government institutions.

    But I think it’s important to point out that Sanders does leave himself open to some legitimate questions (which of course are not the ones brought up by the Serious People). On national security, he does not say that war is a matter of self-defense. He still reserves the right to use force as a policy choice, just as a last resort instead of a first one.

    On the police state and drug war and systemic oppression and injustice, he has not been a big presence, and even now his website is pretty generic on this front. Lots of sermonizing, little concrete promises. There is no general issues section at all for this. On the racial justice section, there are three introductory paragraphs, then two more under addressing violence. The word drug isn’t even mentioned. And while there are ten specific stars of action, they are mostly feel-good things about how the legal system ought to work rather than specific plans to make the legal system work. You have to keep scrolling down to a different section to even find a mention of the drug war, and again, there is lots of sermonizing with little action. Indeed, one of the specific things Sanders proposes, “investing in drug courts”, is directly incompatible with ending the drug war. After all, we don’t have “ate a whole package of Oreo courts” or “TV bingewatching courts” or “misunderstood the prescription drug direction courts”. Because doing those incredibly unhealthy things are properly viewed as a public health matter, not a legal matter, even though processed foods, sedentary lifestyles, and prescription drugs kill far more Americans than marijauna, cocain, heroin, and amphatemines. The problem with the drug war is not disparities in sentencing. The problem is that the legal system is involved at all.

    And on higher education, this is a great example of the advocacy of moar without actually diagnosing the problem first. Free college doesn’t address the assault on public education at the k-12 level or the academic achievement gaps between kids of more affluent parents and less affluent parents. Nor does it address why universities themselves have become such wasteful and corrupt servants of the power structure.

  15. Kulantan

    I really wish people wake up to reality and support the only candidate with any chance of beating the Republicans in the general election. I know people have their own preference but sometimes you just have to suck it up and vote tactically; I mean no one wants to see the damage that Republican nominated supreme court could cause. Bernie Sanders is our only hope.

    Running HRC against Trump would be a disaster. Trump is willing to speak the unspeakable and ignore the unwritten rules. He would attack her for being a woman, for her incompetent record, for her insider status, for her hair, for the way she dresses, for riding Bill’s coat-tails into high office. With every attack Hillary would look more and more like an animatronic know-nothing who is only a contender because of family connections, just like Jeb Bush. Trump has managed to devastate every establishment candidate thrown at him and Hillary would just add to his tally.

    On the other hand Sanders embraces all the labels and smears that Trump could throw at him. Rather than looking wan and pale in comparison to the Donald’s candour, Sander would give him a run for his money.

    Note, while I’m mostly posting this as satire, I’m serious about high-jacking the “he is the only one who can win” meme.

    1. bdy

      Kudos. First time I’ve seen this argument. Is it satire if it’s true?

      Trump’s campaign rests entirely on “look! The E has no clothes!” He’s winning because he’s the only guy in the room telling the truth, which seems to pair nicely with a pathological impulse to lie about himself. Hillary, buck naked as she is, wouldn’t stand a chance against that guy.

      Still, he’s far from a lock for the nomination. But apparently she polls poorly against a name pulled out of a hat . . .

    2. Carolinian

      The polls I’ve seen show Clinton ahead of Trump in many states (not all–Pennsylvania for Trump). But as you say he hasn’t even gotten started on her. That said, the press will probably defend Hillary in a way they haven’t defended Jeb. It’s an interesting question whether the country would elect superficially crazy but possibly sane Trump over superficially sane but possibly wacko Clinton. Then there’s the bigger question: why don’t we have better candidates! Even Sanders, whether you support him or not, is an improbable President at 74.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        There are a few reasons for a lack of better candidates:

        -the GOP is the GOP, so it’s not worth mentioning.
        -because of devolution and the states having limited budget and tax collection revenues, the role of the state’s is such that it’s difficult for a governor to be anything other than banal at best. Many battles have been fought and won.
        -Team Blue did nothing without running it by Obama and his agenda. There are very few Team Blue types who are noteworthy. Hillary Clinton’s claim to fame is being Bill Clinton’s wife and significantly under performing Gore in a very safe Senate race in 2000.
        -support for a number of issues such as charter schools has ultimately crippled many potential candidates. With even a remotely sane Republican on the ballot, many current Democrats would have been tossed.
        -Obama has been a terrible President but for a variety of reasons has remained personally popular, and he presents a problem for any one who wants to rage against the system. How does one who proudly supported ACA now attack it or point out the Healthcare system is a mess? In many ways, only Bernie, always been different, and Hillary, Obama’s old opponent, can get away with this. What would a random Team Blue member running for office who voted for the 2005 Bankruptcy Act say? “I didn’t understand the legislation, but vote for me anyway.” Hillary gets away with that kind of thing because she is a celebrity people have projected onto. Anyone else will have to say something a out themselves, a day people think the country is on the wrong path.

        1. Carolinian

          Or perhaps the two parties themselves are just played out. The GOP has ridden voodoo economics until the nag is about to drop, and the Dem’s whole spiel is “we’re not them.”

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            If Obama had even been vaguely tolerable, there would be Obama successors (sans Biden) raring to go. In 2008, there was talk of Tim Kaine as VP. No one is calling for the now Senator to be anything.

            Things are so bleak, Lincoln Chaffee, an actual Republican, was allowed at the Team Blue CNN beauty pageant.

        2. washunate

          That’s a great comment.

          support for a number of issues such as charter schools has ultimately crippled many potential candidates

          So true it hurts. And it’s fascinating how that has played out even in other institutions that historically lean Democratic, like the EMILY’s list and NEA endorsements of Clinton. I adore the statement Stephanie Schriock released. If it had said it’s about damn time for a woman president, that might at least have meant something. But she actually thinks there’s a substantive policy case for wanting a Clinton presidency(!).

          “Hillary Clinton is a lifelong champion for women and families and the most qualified candidate to be president,” said Stephanie Schriock, President of EMILY’s List. “With roots in the middle class, Hillary’s top priority is changing the economic reality for American families. Her focus is on strengthening the middle class, creating jobs, and making sure hardworking families get a fair shot. No one will work harder than Hillary. She knows how to lead so Washington fights for all Americans. As president, Hillary will create more opportunities than ever for women and girls and for all hardworking Americans across the country, just as she has done throughout her exceptional career. The EMILY’s List community – now more than three million members strong – is proud to endorse Hillary Clinton for president.”

          That is some laugh out loud funny.

  16. jo6pac

    I’m going to vote for who ever the nsa and cia want. It’s not how you vote but who counts them. Stalin I think.

  17. SamInSC

    If Bernie wants my support he’s going to have to:
    (1) repudiate his support for insurance companies as govt-sanctioned toll booths,
    (2) call out Dems – including his bro Obama – as much as he likes to call out the Koch brothers or a recalcitrant Repub Congress (as demonstrated in the post), and
    (3) abandon the idea of “paying for” his programs (until then, i have to seriously question his sincerity with regard to said policies or his command of the financial operational realities of sovereign countries, especially since he has the expertise of Kelton in his arsenal).

    Maybe I’m so jaded from 07/08, but i see the same rationalizations for Bernie that i saw for Obama, especially among those who are supporting Bernie more out of Hillary antipathy than in substantive policy divergences (if any exist).

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