Sanders, Clinton, Their Ads, and the Politics of Trench Warfare

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Both the Sanders and the Clinton campaigns have issued their “closing” TV ads for the Iowa caucuses (which may be repurposed for the New Hampshire primary; I don’t know). Both are sixty seconds long and obviously produced by highly professional campaign teams. The Sanders ad is titled “America”; the Clinton ad, “Stand Up.” First, I’m going to present both ads, along with a “census” of the people who appear in each, for reasons I’ll get to. Next, I’ll compare and contrast the two. Finally, I’ll look very briefly at the “theories of change” that both ads embody. (This is the trench warfare part.)

I encourage you to view both ads; sixty-seconds exposure can’t possibly be toxic. And even if you’re completely alienated from today’s electoral process, who knows? You might wish to make your own videos some day, or encourage other political actors to do so. (Also, there may be more nuances that I did not change, and my census could probably use some double-checking; the computer screen is what it is, and my eyes are what they are.) Oh, and turn up the volume; the soundtracks are important. So, to the ads!

Sanders Ad: “America”

(Covered in the New York Times.) Here is the “census” of the Sanders ad; I’ve included the time codes so you can check me. The candidate’s name is in ALL CAPS:

0:04 White middle class woman with girl child
0:05 Older white farmer woman feeding cow
0:06 Old white farmer walking down line of cows
0:08 Young white female and white male hipster creatives at computers
0:09 Young white woman at cafe with young white male barista
0:10 30-something white male and female in office setting
0:11 30-something white female, baby, and white (bearded) male
0:12 Heavily bearded white male walking in snow with young white girl
0:14 Old white farm couple moving hay in barn
0:15 Older white couple dancing at Sanders rally with crowd and background
0:17 Two white women in flannel with Sanders sign in crowd at rally (all-white)
0:18 SANDERS shaking hands with white man in cap in crowd (all-white)
0:19 SANDERS shaking hands with different white man in cap in different crowd (all-white)
0:20 Crowd (not all white) holding “We love Bernie” signs
0:21 Black Sanders volunteer slapping hands with other volunteers
0:23 White boy in snowsuit holding calf, white farmer man in background moving haybale.
0:24 Same white family with cow herd, bales of hay
0:25 Same white family: Grandson, father, grandfather, presumbly.
0:26 SANDERS shaking hands at (all-white) rally
0:30 SANDERS and Jane Sanders walking toward rally through crowd (all-white)
0:31 Applauding audience at rally (almost all-white)
0:32 SANDERS at rally with big American flag in background (crowd faces indistinguishable).
0:33 – 0:36 Series of montages of contributors/volunteers, with “THEY’VE” “ALL” “COME” “FOR” “AMERICA” superimposed (almost all white).
0:39 SANDERS speaking at rally on Lake Champlain (crowd faces indistinguishable).
0:41 SANDERS shaking hands with line of supporters (almost all white).
0:42 SANDERS embracing black woman.
0:42 SANDERS and Jane Sanders walking hand-in-hand with two (white) children down street, waving
0:43 SANDERS at rally with young white man, young black woman, crowd in background
0:44 Crowd waving Sanders placards, one Asian woman.
0:45 SANDERS speaking at rally, crowd holding “Bernie” signs (crowd faces indistinguishable)
0:47 Young man holding child (waving flag)
0:48 SANDERS at podium, crowd out of focus and indistinguishable
0:49 Audience waving “Bernie” signs at (almost all-white) rally.
0:50 Young white men and women waving signs, punching air with fists.
0:52 Auditorium rally (crowd faces indistinguishable).
0:54 0:50 Young men and women waving signs, punching air with fists (almost all-white)
0:54 Even bigger auditorium rally, with cellphone lights (crowd faces indistinguishable).
0:57- 0:59 Close up of SANDERS, smiling at podium, with (almost all white) crowd in background.

Clinton Ad: “Stand Up”

(Covered in the New York Times.) Here is the “census” of the Clinton ad, also with time codes, and with the candidate’s name is in ALL CAPS:

0:03 Naval personnel on carrier, backs to camera, watching plane launch
0:07 White woman, child, white man at kitchen table.
0:09 CLINTON as first lady with (all-white) schoolkids
0:10 CLINTON with (mostly black) schoolkids
0:13 CLINTON with (almost all-white) 9/11 dignitaries and emergency personnel (one black).
0:14 Two male figures in smoky 9/11 street
0:15 CLINTON with all-white male 9/11 dignitaries
0:16 CIINTON as SoS waving from plane.
0:16 CLINTON as SoS with all-white, all-male dignitaries and military personnel
0:19 CLINTON as SoS with white, male Vladimir Putin
0:21 Backlit CLINTON as SoS.
0:22 CLINTON speaking in midst of all white, male/female crowd
0:23 CLINTON at national-security meeting with Obama and other men, all white.
0:24 CLINTON with white male factory workers and white female co-ordinator
0:27 Old white man and old white woman
0:28 White women holding Planned Parenthood signs
0:32 White hand lifting gun at gun sale
0:33 White woman coordinator, white woman worker, black man worker (in hard hats).
0:36 Trump rally, with white male crowd waving placards
0:37 White male lifting gun
0:39 CLINTON speaking to crowd of older men and women, faces distinguishable (all white)
0:40 CLINTON speaking to crowd (almost all-white).
0:41 CLINTON surrounded by crowd of men and women, some press (all white).
0:42 CLINTON speaking to crowd (not all-white)
0:44 CLINTON with three white women, shaking hands with a little white girl
0:45 CLINTON with white man. maybe staffer or security
0:46 CLINTON with four white men at small (manufacturing?) business
0:47 CLINTON with two white men
0:48 CLINTON at campaign rally, in crowd (all-white)
0:49 CLINTON in restuarant with white woman (foreground) and white man (background)
0:50 CLINTON at coffee shop table with two young white women and an older man, two white men in background
0:51 CLINTON shaking hands with young girl in campaign crowd (all-white)
0:52 CLINTON in campaign crowd, men and women (all-white, except maybe for the almost-completely obscured face at top left).
0:54 CLINTON embraces white woman.
0:55 CLINTON alone giving speech
0:56 Crowd waving placards (faces not distinguishable).
0:57 CLINTON and two women, one older, white, the other younger.

The Sanders and Clinton Ads Compared

1. Identity Politics

To give credit to Clinton, campaign chair Podesta yanked attack puppy David Brock’s choke collar when Brock proposed (suicidally) to go after Sanders on his personal health. But here’s what Brock had to say about the Sanders ad:

David Brock, a longtime Clinton supporter who founded the “super PAC” backing her, told The Associated Press on Thursday that the advertising presented a “bizarre” image of America focused on white voters. Mr. Brock also said the ad was a “significant slight to the Democratic base,” according to the news agency.

“From this ad it seems black lives don’t matter much to Bernie Sanders,” Mr. Brock told The Associated Press.

To determine Brock’s “focus on white voters,” let’s look at the census for each candidate’s ad[1]: Black adults shown for Sanders: 3. For Clinton: 2. Crowds/rallies (with distinguishable faces) that are not all white: Sanders 6/11; Clinton: 3/9. More importantly, look at the adult social relations: The Sanders volunteer (0:21) clearly has agency, and the older black woman (0:42) is being embraced by Sanders (to be fair, Clinton also embraces a woman at 0:54, albeit a white one). More centrally, all blacks portrayed in the Clinton ad are in subordinate positions: A white woman coordinator and an almost out-of-frame black worker (0:33), not to mention the single, centered, dominant white woman and the many black children (0:10). I could wish that both ads were better, but the Sanders ad is, if anything, less “bizarre” than the Clinton ad.

Apparently Podesta didn’t direct Brock not to lie, or to be vile (or, to be fair, Podesta and Brock failed to coordinate properly). All that money, and the Clinton campaign can’t come up with a competent surrogate? Smarter attack puppies, please.

2. Candidate Focus

Here again we can turn to the census: Sanders appears 13 times; Clinton, 26. “From this ad,” as David Brck usefully phrases it, and these metrics, as well as the montage of supporters in “America” — nothing remotely like it appears in “Stand Up” — it would be fair to say that the Clinton campaign is about Clinton; the Sanders campaign, by contrast, is about his supporters.

3. Candidate Spouses

Here again we have metrics from the census: Appearances with spouse, Sanders: 2 (0:30 and 0:42). Appearances with spouse, Clinton: 0. One can only wonder why.

4. Sound Track and Dominant Emotions

The Clinton soundtrack is a doomy rapid-fire voiceover spoken one of those dominance-hormone-soaked male announcers. So scary! And very old-fashioned. The Sanders soundtrack, by contrast, is not spoken but sung: Simon and Garfunkel’s America. To veer into policy for a moment, here’s why Garfunkel authorized the Sanders campaign to use the song:

I believe the monied interests have gone too far and have rigged the system.

The dominant emotion is Clinton’s ad is clearly fear: As the Times puts it:

It feels as if it’s much longer than 60 seconds, and that is a good thing: The ad seeks to give Mrs. Clinton’s strengths the feeling of overwhelming force while conveying that only she has what it takes to meet the demands of the presidency and to defend what Democrats hold dear.

“Defend.” That’s fear. Or, as Greg Sargent puts it:

Clinton has reverted to a hard-boiled message about the need for experience and toughness to confront a dangerous, complicated world.

Again, fear. Sargent goes on to contrast Clinton’s message to Sanders. The headline reads: “Bernie Sanders wants to be this year’s hope and change candidate,” but I don’t think that’s quite right; I think the the dominant emotion in the Sanders ad is not hope, but wonder. Garfunkel again, on what he sought to convey musically:

I wanted my arrangement to be urgent, reaching, yearning, shining, and full of glory, full of my love for this country.

And wonder is what the last shot of “America” conveys to me: Sanders looking out over the crowd, amazed at what has (finally?) come into being (and with 70% small contributors, too, none of whom, by definition, are maxed out). The Times writes:

The ad actually said plenty about how Mr. Sanders views the Democratic presidential contest. As politicians often say but seldom get across so viscerally, the election is ultimately about the voters. By turning over the microphone to Simon and Garfunkel, and aiming the camera not at Mr. Sanders so much as at Iowans generally and his admirers specifically, the ad tries to convey that “what Bernie Sanders is building is a movement in America,” explained Tad Devine, his senior strategist.

Well, Mr. Devine, I hope so because that’s what it will take. But I haven’t seen any institutional signs of it. When is that happening?

Trench Warfare

“America” and “Stand Up” could also be said to embody the “theories of change” of both candidates. Greg Sargent again:

Still, it’s worth noting that the differences between Sanders and Clinton go beyond policy, to the very core of how change can be secured. Clinton has come to see politics as essentially a form of trench warfare. Clinton’s closing ad in Iowa vows to “stop the Republicans from ripping all our progress away,” an implicit acknowledgment that a new Democratic president (whoever it might be) would be deeply constrained from realizing his or her agenda, meaning the 2016 election is mostly about whether Dems can prevent total Republican rule from rolling back the gains of the Obama years. Clinton acknowledges the true nature of the structural impediments to change; that the country is deeply divided ideologically; and that we will probably remain stuck in a grueling holding pattern for years — meaning legislative advances will be ground out on the margins, thorough difficult, painstaking efforts to peel off Republicans and forge compromises that will look dirty and will really, really suck.

Operative K says the same thing, summarized here by Robert Reich:

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman yesterday warned Bernie supporters that change doesn’t happen with “transformative rhetoric” but with “political pragmatism” — “accepting half loaves as being better than none.” He writes that it’s dangerous to prefer “happy dreams (by which he means Bernie) to hard thinking about means and ends (meaning Hillary).”

Krugman doesn’t get it. I’ve been in and around Washington for almost fifty years, including a stint in the cabinet, and I’ve learned that real change happens only when a substantial share of the American public is mobilized, organized, energized, and determined to make it happen.

I should say something trenchant here about Italian theorist Antonio Gramsi’s distinction between “war of position” and “war of maneuver,” but in my reading — I’ll stick with the trench warfare metaphor — at some point, victory requires transforming a war of position into a war of maneuver; to break through the enemy lines, as it were.[2] In World War I, the Germans, fueled by troops released from their victory on the Russian front, invented infiltration tactics and assault troops to break through the Allied trenches; they initiated the war of maneuver, and failed. The Allies initiated the war of maneuver too, with technology, the tank (not to mention the advent of the Americans), did break through the enemy lines, and won.

To me — and logic applies to both insurgent candidates, Trump and Sanders:

1. It’s “pragmatic” to have victory as a goal;

2. It’s “pragmatic” to define what victory might mean;

3. It’s “pragmatic” to invent, test, and deploy new tactics (like infiltration tactics);

4. It’s “pragmatic” to invent, test, and deploy new new technology (like the tank).

I don’t think either legacy party establishment has victory as a goal (and that’s one reason Republican base is so truly ticked off). Certainly the Clinton campaign does not: “[S]top the Republicans from ripping all our progress away” is not victory. Nor is a pre-compromised mish-mash of focus-grouped plans. If anything, the trench warfare continues because both party establishments wish to keep their respective factions of the political class in tassel-loafers, and that’s about it (which is why the endless trench warfare of permanent campaigns important to them, ka-ching). There is no thought of transitioning to a war of maneuver at all. In the corporate world, that’s cause for a hostile takeover.

And as far as inventing new tactics and technologies, the record of the Democrats is decidedly mixed: Howard Dean invented the 50-state strategy and the Democrat won the House and the Senate in 2006 (how excited we all were). The party establishment promptly stuffed Dean back in his box, dismantled the new strategy, and brought in Emmanuel, Israel, and all the rest of ’em as replacements. Bush was awful enough, and Obama just good enough, for the Democrats to win in 2008, with the aid of new tactics (Obama for America) and new technology (data-driven GOTV with the cellphone as a platform). After Obama’s victory, the new tactics were at once abandoned, as OFA was stuffed back into the box along with Dean, and victory was abandoned as a goal, as Obama systematically rehabilitated the Republican party. The party establishment then proceeded to lose badly in 2010, and worse in 2014, with Obama’s stroll to victory over the Republican party establishment in 2012 the only bright spot. Does that record sound “pragmatic” to you?

More centrally, with hindsight, we can see that there was one sea change in the organizational capacity of the Democratic electorate in 2008: It could be mobilized, and came to understand it could be mobilized. That is the lesson of 2008, and it would have enabled a continuing war of maneuver had not the Democratic establishment sought instantly to unlearn it (and Obama, personally, to betray it). It may be that we are to learn the same lesson, again, with the Sanders campaign, but this time with victory as a goal, and defined. If so, the sense of wonder in “America” may well prove to be prophetic.


[1] I’m not including crowd shots of dignitaries, since that class skews so heavily white it would be unfair to Clinton. And again, please check my figures; I thought of this as a prose problem before I thought of it as a data problem.

[2] Even a purely attritional war of position must go over to maneuver to take and hold ground, or destroy the enemy’s forces. Otherwise, you have two ever-weakening armies locked in a permanent death grip.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


    1. optimader

      The scale and external impacts are just larger in the US than other places.

      In what country of significant geopolitical impact is the behind the curtain sausage making of politics ennobling? As a matter of fact, In what country is the behind the curtain sausage making of politics ennobling?

    1. HotFlash

      Actually, this Canadian envies you. We had the choice of Steven Harper, Justin Beiber Trudeau and Thomas Marshmallow.

  1. allan

    The defensive crouch of the Clinton ad sends the message `We suck less than the GOP crazies’,
    and not much more.

    And Brock’s attempt to play the race card was predictable, given that the female and elderly components of the `demographic firewall’ seem to be crumbling.

    1. flora

      Yes. The tone was “it’s a scary world out there, but I can protect you from the nightmare.” (the nightmare of Ted Cruz, the GOP, Putin, etc.)

      1. nycTerrierist

        The fear card just conjures Dick Cheney. Like every reference to Hell’s much-vaunted ‘experience’.

        Experience, yes, and crappy judgment.

    2. Jen

      “We suck less” being the rallying cry of the DNC for the last 8 years. Not exactly the Saint Crispin’s Day speech.

    3. jrs

      But the race thing is just so obvious, the ad is so white, I guess you’d have to live somewhere multicultural enough to see it, where you see more minorities on a daily basis, but the whiteness is blinding. Now I don’t think that’s a reason to make a decision one way or other for Sanders of course! And I like S&G.

  2. JEHR

    I liked what Garfunkel said about the reasons he gave Bernie permission to use his song. THAT explanation would have made a better advertisement, I think.

  3. MartyH

    OK, I watched them. I liked the thought that Sanders’ focuses on the voters and Clinton on herself. It is a clever differentiator. You would predict she is going to be all about herself. Ultimately, his weapon is, IMHO, to make it clear that it’s all about herself and make her sound like the spoiled brat throwing a temper tantrum. On the position versus maneuver, she’s been in the trench (wrapped in tissue paper to quote someone) since the beginning and he’s been flitting about touching lives and taking risks. If nothing else, his use of Vermont meet-and-greet style campaigning is a nice change for the positive.

    1. Myron Perlman

      In 2008 primary campaign Clinton and Obama differed over gains due to civil rights movement. Obama talked about the movement of large numbers of people. Clinton gave the credit to LBJ. Echo of that attitude in the video of Hillary’s meeting with Black Lives Matter activists. Again, it is about how one looks at the making of history. Hillary is all about elites; Bernie, at least rhetorically, is stressing the people of America.

    2. JTFaraday

      “make her sound like the spoiled brat throwing a temper tantrum”

      I haven’t paid real close attention but seems to me that when I see HRC today in 2016, in the debates or even in an interview I saw on MSNBC, she sounds really steely harsh and almost like she’s yelling. I don’t remember this tonal quality from 2008. Then the other day it occurs to me that it could be Sanders’ speech style that’s pushed her into this, and if people have commented that Sanders comes across this way, it’s going to wear even less well on a woman.

      That said, I think Carly Fiorina is the same way. But surrounded by the Republican screamers it kind of fades into the background more, what with Trump ribbing Jeb for his lack of energy and etc.

  4. Getorex

    I realized the other day why the Dems are so happy with the current state of Congress, particularly the Senate. People keep talking about “how important” it is to retake the Senate for the Dems…but why? The Dems heels both houses of Congress the 1st 2 yrs of Obama’s reign but what did they do with that control? Absolutely nothing. Nothing at all. They allowed the GOP to control the the priorities and allowed them to squelch any change. That is key – they ALL WED it. They allowed it because it is really simple to change the rules of the Senate for new leadership. The Dems have had ample repeat opportunities to change the rules of filibuster but the adamantly refuse to do so. All that is needed is for the Dems to bring back the REAL filibuster. Don’t gret rid of the filibuster, it’s really a needed tool, but change it so it is what it used to be: a stand up and talk nonstop on the floor of the Senate hour after hour, day after day filibuster. Add originally designed and intended. Do that and the filibuster instantly becomes what it once was: rate and difficult instead of so easy that you have to ask, “Why NOT ‘filibuster’? See, a filibuster used to be hard for those doing the filibuster to pull off but today it is reversed 180 she’s to be utterly painless for those doing the “filibuster” but malt impossible to break for the other side.

    You need to ask, “Why do the Dems WANT things this way? Why do both sides like it this way? ” Well, the Dems never have to do what they were elected to do. They NEVER have to actually pad any progressive bills at all because they can throw up their hands and claim that, in spite of being in the majority, they are helpless against the GOP constant Instead. Instead of blaming us Dems, blame the GOP. Likewise, the GOP never gets they really crazy shit through because the Dems will obstruct it with a painless fake filibuster, but in the end both parties get what they wanted all along: incremental gains for big money and corporations while keeping the base in check with a few bits of low hanging fruit now and again. Both them hey HUGE donations and support from big money and corporations and have retained their bases via trickery.

    If the filibuster were made to be REAL, them a lot of bills would get thru on simple majorities. There would also be a lot more racing across the aisle to pass real bills and the need to overcome the most extreme elements of their bases. They would have to satisfy a majority of the PEOPLE instead of just big money. They would have no real excuse anymore for not even trying to change anything. They’d actually have to PRODUCE. THIS is why the Dems obstinantly refuse to listen to demands to bring back the real filibuster – doing so would totally change the current status quo. Can’t have that.

    1. fresno dan

      I think those are good insights.
      But I think the main thing is that the dems and repubs disagree to the same extend professional wrestlers do – all strurm and drang to make a good show for the audience…and rake in the bucks.

    2. Steven D.

      The Dems didn’t even need to change the filibuster. They could have used budget reconciliation to circumvent the filibuster. That’s how Bush got tax cuts for the rich three times.

  5. ambrit

    I can’t get the Times Video feature to work on my PC. Perhaps it’s because I refuse to allow Flash Player on any computer I own.
    That being said, I must observe that these ads are targeted at voters in two predominantly White states. I’d bet that the ads for Super Tuesday will be much more ‘inclusive.’ Of equal interest is how ’empowered’ non-whites are in various states. A wider target demographic evidenced in an add would suggest to me a strategy of widening the representative sample of voters. Obamas’ ’08 campaign reached out to those normally alienated from voting and encouraging them to become involved in promoting “Change You Can Believe In.” This worked, and then, victory assured, the inclusion of the newly ’empowered’ was reversed.
    This was not too long ago. Bernies’ task is to re-involve the ‘marginal’ voting groups and convince them that he will not betray them as Obama did. If Clinton keeps reasserting the Obama Legacy, this feeling of betrayal will only hurt her chances. She should visibly run as far from Obamas shadow as she can.

    1. Bev

      Very correct. Obama was pushed by the msm media with “oh, how well spoken he is…nearly mesmerizing.” Lots of coverage and a nearly empty background of law changing people’s lives for the better. His organizing in Chicago was also a lie as he was a gentrifier for wealthy people by pushing out poorer people from their homes and neighborhoods.

      Media gives very, very little coverage to Bernie Sanders because he is not one of their own, approved by their owners. And, before one tries to undercut Bernie on issues of race, remember he protested with Martin Luther King. He’s been there from the beginning to help everyone.

      And, in the paragraph stating the theory of change, Lambert gives Hillery Clinton’s but did not state Bernie Sanders’ Theory of Change:

      Bernie Gets It Done: Sanders’ Record of Pushing Through Major Reforms Will Surprise You

      Not only has Sanders gotten a lot more things done than Clinton did in her own short legislative career, he’s actually one of the most effective members of Congress, passing bills, both big and small, that have reshaped American policy on key issues like poverty, the environment and health care.

      The Amendment King
      Amendments in the House of Representatives are often seen as secondary vehicles to legislation that individual members sponsor, but they are an important way to move resources and build bipartisan coalitions to change the direction of the law. Despite the fact that the most right-wing Republicans in a generation controlled the House of Representatives between 1994 and 2006, the member who passed the most amendments during that time was not a right-winger like Bob Barr or John Boehner. The amendment king was, instead, Bernie Sanders.

      His Theory of Change, From Burlington to the White House

      The big question is, can Sanders translate his time as an effective senator into an effective president? After all, a legislative job is different than an executive job.

      But Sanders has a theory of change, in order to be an executive who can pass progressive policy even in the face of a recalcitrant Congress. He frequently talks about a “political revolution” that means vastly increasing voter turnout and participation in political activities so conservative lawmakers and Big Money are unable to overwhelm public opinion. During the Democratic debate, this line had its doubters, from former Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) to a skeptical Anderson Cooper.

      Sanders is probably not so unsure of himself. After all, he’s done it before. When Sanders was mayor of Burlington, Vermont, one of his big accomplishments was to increase civic life in the city. During the course of his terms, voter turnout doubled. In his eight years as mayor, he rejuvenated a city that was considered by many to be dying, laying out progressive policies that cities around the country later adopted, and he did all this without particularly alienating Republicans. As one former GOP Alderman noted, he implemented ideas from the Republican party that he felt were not particularly harmful to working people, such as more efficient accounting practices.

      It’s easy for the establishment media and politicians to make the assumption that Bernie Sanders is not an effective lawmaker or executive. He has strong convictions and he stands by them, and we’re often told that makes one a gadfly—someone who is out to make a point rather than make an actual change. But with Sanders we have the fusion of strong principles and the ability to forge odd bedfellow coalitions that accomplish historic things, like the audit of the Federal Reserve or the rejuvenation of Burlington that has served as a model for cities around the country. “Don’t underestimate me,” Sanders said at the beginning of the race, words that anyone who knows his political and policy history take to heart.

      1. 3.14e-9

        I posted this comment yesterday, but way late, so I hope it’s OK to post it again, since it adds to Bev’s point:

        The idea that Clinton will have a better chance of working with Congress is not supported by any facts, so why does anyone believe it in the first place? All we’ve got to go on is her Senate record, which Politifact studied and found substantially lacking in bipartisanship. Sanders, meanwhile, worked successfully with John McCain to pass legislation for better healthcare for vets. As a vet, I’m entitled to use the VA system — thank goddess, because my ACA coverage is worse than worthless. After that bill was passed, I saw almost immediate improvement in the amount of time it took to get an appointment, and I started receiving surveys asking whether I was satisfied with the care I was receiving.

        Here are some articles to look up:

        Spot check of Hillary Clinton’s Senate record fails to support bipartisanship claim
        Politifact, Jan. 20, 2016

        Bernie Sanders, the Wide-Eyed Pragmatist
        HuffPo, June 24, 2015

        Congress’s only socialist becomes a bipartisan dealmaker
        MSNBC, June 25, 2014

        1. cwaltz

          That VA coverage is a real boon too since it allows those of us who served and who were fortunate enough to be enrolled to avoid a penalty were private insurance to end for us.

    2. human

      Tried to open the Clinton video in 4 different browsers on my Debian/Linux PC. It appears to require some internet exploder specific javascript.

      Just another example of MSM elitism and the inclusiveness of Sanders.

      1. SomeCallMeTim

        Succumb to Google Chrome and all will be revealed.

        Borrowing from a neighboring post, is that a nudge?

  6. Billy bob

    The focus on Caucasian imagery in the New Hampshire ads is simply target demographics and marketing 100. According to census data, 94% of NH voters identify as white, 1.5% black, 2.5% Asian with Hispanics at 3.3%.

    Donde estan los Latino Americanos?

    1. Billy bob

      By this logic, adverts in the more racially diverse states should utilize more diverse imagery.

      I guess we will find out soon enough.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        They do. It’s nothing new. When Tim Kaine ran for governor, he had fliers to hand out at churches listing him as a Christian missionary or Jesuit missionary depending on the region.

    2. TheCatSaid

      Isn’t this an Iowa ad?

      I looked up the demographics the other day, and this ad seemed accurate from that perspective.

      I thought I saw 1 Hispanic woman; maybe Lambert saw it differently.

    3. Clonal Antibody

      The first “America” ad was released for the Iowa market. Almost all of the visuals are from the Iowa campaign (including the tug boats – Missouri River) – except for the scene where he announced his candidacy – Burlington VT. The campaign is on the record stating that they will be releasing a NH version of the ad in the last week before the NH primary. I presume that the NH ad will have the NH visuals and not the Iowa visuals.

      The Simon and Garfunkel song lends itself to all demographics, and can be tailored to each state. I do hope that they keep it as the theme of the campaign.

      1. flora

        In the 2008 Iowa caucus election it was Obama vs. Hillary. Obama’s message then was about reining in Wall St., getting the lobbyists out of politics, and more affordable health care and college. Obama won the 2008 Iowa caucus. So race wasn’t the deciding factor there.

        1. flora

          Probably should add “Democratic caucus”, although that seems obvious. When Obama won the Iowa caucus national pundits went nuts. A black guy won in white Iowa?!? Whaaat? You mean those hick voters vote on issues instead of race?!?

          If Hizzoner the Mayor gets into the race he’ll be a shoo-in for the fly-over states’ votes. /s

      2. 3.14e-9

        Actually, the dairy farm near the beginning is in Vermont. It’s from his ad, “Rock.” The one with the windmills is in Iowa. It was featured in video called “Patti and George,” who are the older couple hefting hay bails near 0:14. Their farm is in the path of the Bakken pipeline, which Bernie came out against.

        Would love to know where the three-generation dairy farm is located. That kid with the calf just kills me.

  7. craazyman

    the music in the Clinton ad is bouncy and peppy marching music. It only hints at militarism and group force while evoking the energy of the calculated determination a person feels driving the suburbs on a Saturday doing errandds for the family, being a Serious Family Provider ready at any moment to battle if needed.

    it evokes a subtle double-framed dialectical concordance & contrast superficially with the ad’s undertone of the power to confront danger while affirming it at an unconscious level. obviously it was crafted that way of course. the ad doesn’t make me vomit like I thought it would, it’s too innocuous and I’m not “against Hillary”. I’m not that emotionally involved in the election campagins or candidates, but nor would it make me vote for her. I’d vote for Bernie, for sure.

    If it’s true that your thoughts become your realities, which is a theory that’s not at all easy to either dismiss completely or validate, then the Bernie Vision is far more uplifting. I hope it resonates.

    I do believe there is a vast and profound underlying spiritual reality at play hhere that is far too subtle for easy description or easy perception. But i do think many people feel it at a visceral level, or some do anyway, or enough do that the illumination from it is a bit like the light of a distant city over the horizon at night. The sky is dark but the horizon has a faint glow and you’r’e not quite sure what it is but you sense the difference in the magnitude of darkness. And you wonder at just what is there, if you can anyway

    1. readerOfTeaLeaves

      IMVHO, your last paragraph is more insightful than 98% of the stuff that I have heard and read about this campaign.
      Contrast Bernie’s ad: farm families, the mundane of everyday life, absent heroics — but animated by daily tasks devoid of ego.
      And then Hillary’s… almost tone deaf to the lives that Bernie’s ad observes and celebrates.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        It all reminds me of my late Mom, who carefully considered the issues, thought about the policy positions and impacts, and then decided to do grass-roots work for Adlai Stevenson.
        On voting night she overheard a woman behind her on the bus say to her friend “I’m going to vote for Ike, he’s got a nice smile”.

  8. Jane

    Not an American, so my take might not be valid, but my first thought after watching the Sanders video was ‘Wow. White America, again.’ There were a few black/brown faces but not until about half-way in. Why? Is he trying to regain part of the old southern democrat base? blue-collar workers? Music points in that direction; as a boomer, I grew up listening to, and loving, Simon & Garfunkel, impossible for their music not to move me and probably most in my age group. So far, if memory serves, he is getting support from younger voters and from #BlackLivesMatter so maybe this is the next step, middle America? I re-watched the video with the sound off and it felt like I was watching a swelling flow of happy Americans.

    Clinton’s ad sounded like doom and gloom; first thing I noticed was all the power symbols and Hilary in the midst of them; so it was all about her as a powerful figure, as well, the hugs struck me as being initiated by supporters rather than vice versa, as if people were ‘grateful’ she was running. She also seemed to be trying to distance herself from Trump and Cruz, why? Is she lumping herself with them in an effort to win over some for the GOP voters while at the same time trying to show she is stronger than them? Struck me as a very discordant and insincere note.

    1. Lord Koos

      The reality is, no matter how a candidate may feel about race, most voters in the USA are white. The other, sadder reality is that too many black faces will turn off some white voters, even so-called “liberal” ones.

    2. HotFlash

      Let’s see now, where would Bernie get crowd shots? He could get them from his file, as Hilary does, or he could buy/rent them (wasn’t that Trump?) or he could get them from his campaign appearances to date. That would be mainly in Iowa and NH, I would think, so the crowds would probably look like IA and NH. I read above that this is the IA ad, so IA people, IA rallies and therefore IA voters. That would be honest and also courteous to and respectful of the states that he is trying to get nominated in, no? If that is the case I would expect to see different crowds in different states. We can watch and see.

    3. trinity river

      I looked up the ethnicity distribution for Iowa: 88% white, 3% black, 5% Hispanic, 3% Asian

  9. ScottW

    Hillary plays the feminist card in her campaigning until it comes to the voice for her Ad. Could there be any more testosterone?

    People are slowly waking up to the fact money controls all policy decisions and decision makers. Even the supposedly low information voters, many who have suffered much more than the limo liberals. Politicians want voters to show up every two years, endorse the failed system by voting, and shut up. Those who have opted out do so quite rationally since there is rarely a viable candidate who is not bought and paid for.

    This year is different and it is refreshing to actually here someone speaking who is not bought and paid for. The irony is how those who have actually lived through 30+ years of money bag politics are more willing to see it continue by way of Hillary than young adults who support Bernie in greater numbers.

    It is like my generation has just given up and wants to hold on to the last crumbs before we exit stage left and give the entire mess over to our children/grandchildren. A sad state of affairs since much of what Bernie is proposing is merely a return to the way it used to be–at least in Calif. during the ’70’s. Free community college, nearly debt free public colleges, low cost medical care, decent paying jobs, etc.

    My generation reaped the benefits and allowed the moneyed interests to take control. But was their anyway to really stop it with politicians like the Clintons supposedly leading the left?

    Back to the advertisement–I can watch the America ad many times and not get sick of it. It was very hard to get through the Hillary ad one time.

    1. Gio Bruno

      I’m a component of that California Dreamin’ era. The living WAS easy then.

      However, only 16% of that generation obtained a baccalaureate degree (or higher). Many did find and hold onto well paying jobs for the long term. However the less educated Boomer generation is now experiencing job loss (and insufficient pension, and skyrocketing medical costs) and many of those are Trump(eter)s supporters.

    2. 3.14e-9

      I can watch the America ad many times and not get sick of it. It was very hard to get through the Hillary ad one time.

      Same here. Part of it is her voice. At the risk of sounding sexist — “It’s just that when women talk, some people think we’re shouting” — her voice grates on me, especially when she’s in campaign speech mode.

      Of course, Bernie’s angry-old-man-from-Brooklyn thing rubs a lot of people the wrong way, too. Which, as Yves pointed out yesterday, may have been a major factor in creating an ad with music.

      1. JTFaraday

        As I mentioned above, I think the tonal quality of her voice is different from 2008. I just don’t remember it being so drill sergeant harsh. In other words, she almost is shouting:

        “make her sound like the spoiled brat throwing a temper tantrum”

        I haven’t paid real close attention but seems to me that when I see HRC today in 2016, in the debates or even in an interview I saw on MSNBC, she sounds really steely harsh and almost like she’s yelling. I don’t remember this tonal quality from 2008. Then the other day it occurs to me that it could be Sanders’ speech style that’s pushed her into this, and if people have commented that Sanders comes across this way, it’s going to wear even less well on a woman.

        That said, I think Carly Fiorina is the same way. But surrounded by the Republican screamers it kind of fades into the background more, what with Trump ribbing Jeb for his lack of energy and etc.

    3. crittermom

      Regarding your statement, “The irony is how those who have actually lived through 30+ years of money bag politics are more willing to see it continue…”, I really, really hope you’re wrong.
      At least in my case you are. I’m turning 65 & am sick & tired of the big banks & their money ruling my world.
      I lost everything of a lifetime to the banksters while the govt turned a blind eye (until they finally “fine” the banksters, which does us victims no good but certainly seems to be enriching the govt).
      While no candidate is “perfect” for everyone, I love what Bernie says & stands for.
      I find Hillary to be a two-faced bitch & as transparent as a window pane.
      But that’s just my opinion—which I hope to be voicing in the next “race” for president.

  10. TedWa

    Personally, I think she should run as a 3rd party candidate.

    We know she can beat Trump and as her ad shows, the republicans need her as much as the democrats do. Neo-liberal should be it’s own party.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      I would love to see that for the ensuing hilarity, but Hillary’s true strength which separates her from Bloomberg or even a random female Team Blue candidate is the perception she is the rightful Democratic leader and is the beneficiary of nostalgia. Without reactionary Democratic support, Hillary is nothing. She is a Carly Fiorino.

      1. Gio Bruno

        Well, Hillary is nowhere near as stupid as Carly. But as many have pointed out, Hillary is simply a female Blinton (a triangulating, political calculator without good judgement.)

      2. Christopher Fay

        I don’t like describing our overlords as elite. That is giving them too much credit.

        What our democrat party overlords are engaged in mostly is selling out the commons for personal gain. Hillary needs the structure of the democrat party. On her own, less than Carly

        1. Vatch

          I don’t like describing our overlords as elite. That is giving them too much credit.

          You have a reasonable objection. “Elite” can refer to skills, ethics, or position in a hierarchy. None of our oligarchic overlords achieved their hierarchical status via ethics, some may have used skill, and many used either theft or the dumb luck of inheritance.

        2. hunkerdown

          Would you buy “elitist“? Seems they’re selling out the commons for class interest as much or more than personal gain. The belief in the necessity and propriety of a blessed overclass apparently legitimizes many wrongs on their part.

  11. TG

    Minor quibble – the allies didn’t win WWI with the tank, not really. They won with the blockade, i.e., position warfare at the strategic level.

    1. Higgs Boson

      I think it was General Robert H. Barrow who said armchair generals study strategy, professionals study logistics.

      1. TheCatSaid

        Yes. Your comment brings to mind the Syriza government / negotiations, perhaps it was similarly a problem of too much strategy, absence of logistics.

      2. RMO

        The allies won because of economic power and because the ideas and consequent actions of the Axis nations created a world of enemies for them. Just think – the Great Britain and the U.S.A. allied themselves with the U.S.S.R. Can you think of any other way that could have happened? Funny thing is that the U.S. seemed to completely miss the significance of that lesson and instead tried emulating the losers in the post WW2 era. You can judge for yourself how well that’s worked out for the world. Even just looking at the military record is pretty damning.

        As for the lead article. There’s something wonderfully funny in a dark, twisted way that Brock is trying to imply that Sanders doesn’t care about black people (aside from the fact that even applying his own standard of “count the black faces” in the ads doesn’t support his position in the first place). As already pointed out the man marched with Martin Luther King. What was Hillary doing back in the old days? – oh yeah, supporting Barry Goldwater. Of course many of Goldwater’s political positions at the end of his life actually made him a loony leftist by GOP standards of today.

        1. ST

          “the Great Britain and the U.S.A. allied themselves with the U.S.S.R.”

          It wasn’t the U.S.S.R. at the time; it was the empire of Russia, which had long sought Western European allies to counterbalance Prussian and/or Hapsburg military power. After the Revolution, the nascent U.S.S.R. withdrew from the war under the impression that the imperialists would destroy each other as part of the death throes of capitalism.

        2. alex morfesis

          The allies “won” because of sgt york types…and they were fighting the germans…who always lose…but they do put on pretty little parades dont they though…with those pointy achtung helmets…ok…york was not yet a sgt…but the germans have always been girleemanz and fold when dealing with someone who is not running away so fast they cant notice when the gerreez run out of gas.. Hack..cough…dunkirk. Cough…
          (wrong war…same germans)

  12. Kris Alman

    The 2016 election is about class warfare. The 99%ers are fighting a proxy war between two parties battling for dark money of the powerful elite. Rather than trench warfare, this is more like a circular firing squad–with libertarian Republicans best armed for the skirmishes.

    In 2016, the grassroots progressive movement isn’t fooled. While Obama used social media to bait small donors for their money and votes, he switched quickly to the donor class once elected, appointing neoliberals to his Cabinet. We figured out that money is speech long before the Citizens United decision.

    Progressives can’t win with 20th Century trench warfare. The 2016 difference is that progressives are using social media and social action to propel Sanders in the race. Since the mainstream media has largely dismissed Sanders, he comes off as a dark horse for progressives who are waging a strange bet.

    Clarity about income and wealth inequality, climate change and racial injustice makes Sanders a favorite of enlightened 21st Century voters.

      1. nycTerrierist

        ha! remember Adlai Stevenson:

        “During his 1956 presidential campaign, a woman called out to Mr. Stevenson “Senator, you have the vote of every thinking person!”

        Stevenson called back “That’s not enough, madam, we need a majority!”

        Here’s hoping Bernie continues to amaze us.

        1. different clue

          I wonder how many among the “majority voters” at that time heard that little expression of jerk-shit liberal jerk-shit snobbery on the part of Stevenson.

          “They laughed when I said ‘nukular’. uh hyuk.”

  13. susan the other

    politix is hopeless – we need something else – here’s the question: what can replace politix?

    1. hunkerdown

      Consent and consensus are worth trying. Liberal-democrats can no longer appeal to a lack of bandwidth as a reasonable bar to direct democracy.

  14. TsWkr

    In the Hillary ad,

    0:37 White male lifting gun

    Is that Ted Cruz? I have to say, thinking of the man in that clip being President scared the complete bejeezus out of me, so mission accomplished on that ad, I guess.

  15. dcblogger

    What I like best about the Clinton ad is that white men with guns are shown as menacing figures. I hope more candidates use this image.

  16. Bas

    The NYT is behind a paywall now, I think, I could not watch it. The description was enough to make me glad of that. From my perspective on Bernie, he really is about other people and about solutions, not about the chaos within which the insider Dems and Repubs maneuver to enrich themselves. It makes sense for Clinton to go the fear route, she is a chaos person. It is ironic to present yourself as someone who will “keep you safe” when you depend on chaos for support. Sanders is their worst nightmare, and our best hope.

    1. PNW_WarriorWoman

      To get around the NYTimes paywall, open Google Chrome, then File>Open Incognito Window>enter You should be around the paywall.

    2. fakie wallie

      alternatively, if you’re in the safari environment and don’t care to switch, ctrl+option+mouse click, open in new private window.

  17. Lord Koos

    Something going on with the comments today? I left a comment a couple of hours ago that vanished….

    So again — the Hillary ad screams business-as-usual. It sounds like the Clinton campaign hired same voice-over guy as the one who does narration for horror movie trailers.

    The Sanders ad is much more positive and the use of the music rather than dialogue is an excellent choice IMO.

  18. TedWa

    Went to a Bernie meeting yesterday and they handed out cards and on the back of 1 was :Support International Conflicts – Don’t start them”. I think that’s far enough away from the Imperialist America mindset to set some minds here at ease over voting for him. ObamaBush have had more than their share of starting conflicts with no end in sight, HRC promises to do the same, Bernie, very doubtful according to this statement.

    1. lindaj

      Bernie sez: “Support International Conflicts – Don’t start them.”

      Huh? Keep supplying arms to the Saudis to decimate Yemen? Keep supplying arms and $$ to Israel to demolish Palestine? Keep supplying Al Qaeda in Syria to get rid of Asad and in the process killing of Syrians or causing them to flood into Europe? Keep sending troops to Iraq?

      Bernie has no problem with militarism and the above message embodies Imperialist America and this is why I will never vote for Bernie.

      Jill Stein of the Green Party has principled positions on policies, both foreign and domestic. Or do Americans really not want peace and justice in this world?

      If voting for someone like Stein is not viable, then we better quit pretending that voting will get us anywhere and think of something else.

      1. different clue

        I guess I will never be a true and pure enough purity jerk of a purity asshole to care about the objections you affect to raise. I will be voting for Sanders. I sure won’t be voting for a preening dilettante like Stein or her preening dilettante party.
        I for one won’t be dancing on Wellstone’s grave.

      2. Yves Smith

        Did you manage to miss that Jews (with some billionaire exceptions) vote Democratic, turn out in high percentages, and many are politically active (as in donate)? Oh, and even though AIPAC is doomed demographically (younger Jews for the most part don’t identify with Israel), older ones generally do, and strongly so?

        Bernie has enough of an uphill battle winning the nomination as it is. If I were him, I’d be as lukewarm as possible regarding the Middle East. His firm commitment to more social spending in the US means he will have to want to cut war spending and that means war involvement. I’d expect him to be crisper on this topic later.

        Moreover, even if he were strongly anti-war, he can’t get there from here (as they say in Maine) if he were to go at it frontally. The entrenched interests are way too powerful. He’d be better off chipping away at it on a case by case basis, since the case for continued or increased involvement pretty much everywhere is weak.

        By contrast, I can imagine the conversation when Mr. Blowhard Trump tries telling the military and CIA he’s taking their budget away were he to become President. I suspect he’d be told, in a not very coded manner, that he was putting his life in danger.

        1. lindaj

          “I’d expect him to be crisper on this topic later.”

          I bet you cried at Obama’s inaugural.

          Wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’
          Plannin’ and dreamin’ each night he’ll dump arms
          That won’t get rid of those arms.

          Your basic position is that Bernie can rationalize any position just to get elected. So he should downplay his principles (which I don’t think he has on Israel/Palestine anyway) and then come out swinging? You mean like Obama on single payer, etc.

      3. Lambert Strether Post author

        Your vote is your own. IMNSHO, Stein, while well-intentioned, isn’t Presidential timber, and the Green Party isn’t a serious national party (although some state parties are serious (my own, however, having collapsed)).

        To be fair, I’ve sometimes thought that sortition would be a great idea.

        1. lindaj

          Wow, this site is really stunning me with the rationalizations on electoral politics. Stein isn’t PRESIDENTIAL TIMBER???? Why? Because she has principles unlike any frickin’ democrat you can name?

          Were both you and Yves Obama supporters also? Didn’t learn anything, huh?

      4. Vatch

        You said:

        Bernie has no problem with militarism

        This is not true. For the record, here are some facts about votes by Bernie Sanders. Note that he was in the House of Representatives for many years before he became a Senator.

        His vote against the Patriot Act:

        His vote against the Iraq war resolution:

        Some of his criticism of the Israeli treatment of Palestinians:

  19. rusti

    “accepting half loaves as being better than none.” He writes that it’s dangerous to prefer “happy dreams (by which he means Bernie) to hard thinking about means and ends (meaning Hillary).”

    I agree with the assessment that winning isn’t the objective. I was thinking that the Hillary/Krugman strategy was akin to going for a field goal in the last second of the game trailing by 6, but upon further reflection it’s more akin to taking a knee and getting a cut from the advertisers as they fade to commercials.

    1. Darthbobber

      Of course, if you START OFF by proposing half loaves, you’re guaranteed to wind up with less than that.

  20. edmondo

    The biggest difference I saw between the two ads is that Bernie isn’t trying to convert anyone; not one policy statement in the ad. He’s preaching to the choir. If you don’t know who Bernie is, and what he want’s to do, the ad doesn’t talk to you at all.

    Hillary lists “accomplishments” that she claims credit for. She apparently has forced bakers to slice bread and even rested on the seventh day. She’s after the uncommitted democrats.

    May God have mercy on all of us if we are going to spend the next ten months counting ethnicities in TV ads. I may have to go back into hibernation.

    1. Yves Smith

      I disagree. I think on of the big motivations for Bernie’s ad is to counter the effort by Hillary and the other Dems to depict him as 1. angry and 2. not electable. The message to me is that Bernie is interested in ordinary working Americas (farmers, because Iowa, tech workers in not senior roles, the guy working in the coffee shop) and has their support in big numbers (crowd scenes) because they believe he is interested in their welfare.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      Had the odious David Brock not made the statement he did, I wouldn’t have had to go to the trouble of definitively refuting it. Sometimes these things take work, like counting.

    3. DalGal

      I think you have to view these ads from a non-political junkie perspective. If you do, then: Ms. Clinton’s ad, for such a civilian, was the more powerful — & I would not vote Clinton even against Cruz. Yes, it reinforced the notion of fear, it also demonstrated efficiency and action. Sanders’s was “feel good” with no consequence, no action, only reaction to Bernie. It reminded me of Reagan’s “Morning in America” trope.

      Ms. Clinton’s admen dismissed Sanders. To make a very damaged character appear to have a leader’s chops, they had to prove agency: each scene shows Ms. Clinton carrying out or being congratulated for a presumably beneficial governmental action. Action frames are necessary to dispel two legitimate ‘quarrels’ with her candidacy, too. One, her gender, which remains a defect in quarters where Joan of Arc is unfamiliar and the thought of a woman negotiating with foreign leaders, signing a peace treaty, etc. is alien.
      More significantly: Ms. Clinton is clearly unwell and has little energy: Why else the five minute speeches, the highly choreographed and carefully paced appearances and the “hidden” debates? Clinton is highly defended and the clips intimate that. She has great make-up artists, but her skin and eyes are unhealthy. The admen photo-shopped or chose clips with dark backgrounds and Hilary in the forefront, blond hair, pearls, white skin shining. The effect: energy, movement, glow. Those are winning combinations in American politics — again, for a ‘civilian.’
      Sanders is by far the more energetic and engaged candidate. Yet, for all his media reputation as anti-social and grumpy, he looks grandfather-listening-to-the-kids natural, and remarkably at home in the final shots. His ad gives no sense of his being a leader — the people are the leaders. He has come to see their performance. Kumbaya. What policy does that suggest? Against Clinton’s suggestion of urgency, drive, and action, Bernie says nothing but that he would be a good guy and we’d all go for a good walk. Reagan’s Morning. Maybe it will work. Everyone is so exhausted from wars-we-know-not-where-or-why and mass-shootings, a new start is appealing, but it is not energizing.

      1. Yves Smith

        1. The most important requirement for a politician is to be likeable, or its close cousin, attractive. The fact that many readers couldn’t watch the ad a second time is damning. And they didn’t bother finding good-looking pictures of Clinton. She looks like a battleaxe. I found the ad creepy, authoritarian and retrograde. The voice was straight out of 1950 clips on the nuclear threat.

        2. Asserting you are a leader is like saying you are good at sex. People who makes those claims generally aren’t.

        3. Aspirational ads sell. Look at cars, for starters. Effective ads are appeals to emotion, not reason.

        4. Trying to ignore Bernie has been working so far for Team Clinton, now has it?

        1. DalGal

          RE: “Effective ads are appeals to emotion, not reason.”
          That is the point, don’t you think? Hil’s ad is rife w/emotional prompts, albeit negative: fear, authoritarianism (the voice), & reassurance in the if this (fear), then that (vote for me; I’ll take care of business).
          The Bern says danger!, too (things are rough), but we’re all in this together (reassurance), and we’ll make it through (if you vote for me). It’s all implied by presence not action, however, and for those undecideds and Republicans who are so at sea that they need external structure(s), he looks like mush.
          A big deal editor once told me, “Always promise Americans you’re gonna give them the future. They’ll read anything, buy anything if that’s the promise. That’s the power of Trump. I’m saying that that’s the dark suggestion of Hil. The Bern gives us a present in which we’re all together and loving. To win, I think he needs to get past that Birkenstock goodness and project action as much as propose it.

          1. readerOfTeaLeaves

            Birkenstock goodness? Nonsense.
            I wear them due to back problems, and mine were recommended by a physician.

            Second, it’s occurred to me today that Bernie’s ad calls to mind one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite movies: Jerry Maguire, in the scene where Dorothy explains that she ‘just wants to be inspired.’

            I went to YouTube to find that video clip, and came up with something at least as good: Dicky Fox, Jerry’s old mentor, telling him that relationships are the secret to success:
            I think that probably Bernie Sanders is some kind of quirky mix of Dicky Fox and Jerry Maguire, and that’s good enough for me.

            Lord knows, the GOP is being suffocated by a shrill, obnoxious, belligerent crew of Bob Sugars.

  21. JaaaaayCeeeee

    Bernie Sanders’ Iowa ad included more diversity and another black guy at 0:44. The young woman at 0:43 is indeterminate brown not African American, and I think that the father and child given so many milliseconds at 0:47 are supposed to represent Latino Americans.

    Although it was probably the video editors loving on Bernie Sanders’ anti-neoliberalism, there were some cool symbols of this, in the ad:

    0:07 The shot of the Iowa flag and Des Moines downtown was from the opposite of the usual developer/tourism angle, with the old town in foreground focus and waterfront high rises as background.

    0:10 30-something white male and female in office setting
    They are in front of a wall poster of Iowa musician Christopher the Conquered’s album, “Decide the Fate of a Good Man”. Contains the song, “Free To Try (But Not Always To Do) with lyrics that start out,
    “Welcome to America, home of brave and free
    I agree that it is my home and if you’re brave then you can be
    Free to try, but not always to do..”
    Looks like the kidz are all right (none of their music allowed on my front lawn), after I found a review of the album at…/

    0:21 Black Sanders volunteer slapping hands with other volunteers
    The young minority skipping along high fiving is wearing a t-shirt “Canada”

    0:43 SANDERS at rally with young white man, young black woman, crowd in background
    The gauzy view of Sanders with a youthful Mark Zuckerburg clone in a Stanford top and indeterminate young brown lady (not looking very African American) segues to…

    0:44 Crowd waving Sanders placards, one Asian woman
    This punchier, shouty-er shot also includes 2 blue collar looking guys, one of them an older black guy, holding a “…Robin Hood” sign, in front of someone holding a clearer sign that says, “Healthcare Not Wealthcare”

    Anyways, I agree with Charlie Pierce that “This Bernie Ad May Be the Best Political Commercial I’ve Ever Seen”.

    1. JaaaaayCeeeee

      This would increase minorities featured in Sanders’ ad, from 3 that Lambert tallied, up to 6.

  22. HotFlash

    If you want to see black faces in a Bernie ad, look at this one.

    Targeting is important. The target in the Bernie ad above is Iowa. I would expect Iowans to be suspicious if the people in the ad didn’t look like Iowans, no?

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I thought of that; again, my focus was the odious Brock, who just flat out lied, and with especial chutzpah.

      I did think, yes, Iowa demographics. It also seemed to me that visibly pandering (as with Clinton’s footage from the vaults with the schoolchildren) might backfire.

      And I did like the volunteer who was slapping hands. (That, again, is not “hope” but wonder or joy or happiness*.) It seemed to me that things accelerated after that frame.

      * Not a lot of that in the Clinton ad, which left a dour taste in my mouth.

  23. nippersdad

    Not sure the demographics of the ads mean all that much in the greater scheme of things; they are representative of the markets in which they will run. People are only starting to pay attention, and most still get their information via the television, so when the campaigns come South I expect Bernie, say, will start using footage from Birmingham or Charleston; something more reflective of their intended markets. That is the beauty of this type of ad, anyway, it can be amended to suit any ratio of demographics.

    I think that Hillary’s doom and gloom ad will founder. We have enough of that in everyday life to not want to see more of it; endlessly, daily, for months. People like young, happy and hopeful. At the end of the day I think people will prefer to vote for the nice, Grandfatherly guy without the baggage who hangs out with people who look like our every day surroundings.

    Just my take.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      It’s a closing ad. Confident winners run this ad. At least in Iowa, the caucus goers have been identified and plans have been made to cart them to the caucuses. Part of me thinks the Sanders campaign is expecting a big win. It’s possible they have rounded up the bulk of Edwards and Obama caucus goers plus a new generation minus some bleeding. The Vote builder scandal might have been born out of a real sense of panic at the DNC and Team Hillary. The Obama campaign and Joe Trippi’s Dean and Edwards campaigns focused on moving primary type voters who don’t usually caucus towards caucusing. If you didn’t vote for Hillary in 2008, why would you vote for her today is a relevant question? I’m starting to think the Sanders people might crush it in Iowa.

        1. HotFlash

          I took that to mean the time when some Bernie staffers found they could access the Clinton voter database due to a firewall failure and the DNC cut off Sanders campaign from his database. Briefly.

          1. Jerry

            That is correct. Votebuilder refers to the NGP VAN database of voters from which Bernie was banned for a day or so.

        2. cybrestrike

          I think said commenter is referring to this kerfuffle back in December.

          DNC penalizes Sanders campaign for improper access of Clinton voter data

  24. SomeCallMeTim

    Maybe just a keyboard-jerk reaction, but the entire tone and theme of Hillary’s ad made me wonder whether she was running in the Republican primary, and brought to mind the ‘no difference between the parties’ canard.

  25. dk

    Glad that you pointed out the difference in tactics and what those differences say about the candidates and their political philosophies.

    But Hillary’s convoluted situation is in a class by itself, independent of almost any opponent: when showing your own spouse in a major, statement-making ad has become problematic, you have to know you’re in trouble.

  26. ekstase

    This is an interesting piece, Lambert. As others have said, the lack of images of minorities may be because of where they shot their footage. Still, this needs to be fixed. Other than that, these ads seem to me to reflect two world views which have been vying with each other for decades. One includes people who talk down to you, (the “first they laugh at you,” crowd). The other includes you as an equal. Nobody wants the former unless they are tricked into it, or are accepting of hierarchy and bullying as a way of life. That one of these candidates doesn’t seem to get this is troublesome.

      1. ekstase

        Yes. But if I were a minority, I think it would still trouble me. Like why couldn’t they get more footage? It’s hard for “non-minorities” to see this sometimes, even if they are well-intentioned, (as I guess it’s hard for some people to see the “missing women” in a lot of advertising and other media.)

  27. Big Spooge on your America

    Well, since you ask, that is one f*ckin annoying song. Why have we all gone to look for an abstraction? And why that abstraction? Why not modus ponens, or transeunt causation, or the square root of negative 1, or some other abstraction that doesn’t get shoved up our ass twenty thousand times a day? Who the fuck would go to look for America? If we couldn’t find it, that would be fucking great.

    Hillary’s ad sucks too, but it would be better if it ended with a 100 MT tsunami torpedo that cruises up the Potomac and fills the beltway with a sinkhole of molten basalt.

    1. weinerdog43

      Seriously? This is Simon & Garfunkel for pete’s sake. Millions of people love them and they love that song. Younger folks may not be familiar with it, but for people over a certain age, this song has a lot of weight. I love it.

      1. Jerry Denim

        The problem with “younger” is it keeps getting older and older as you get older. I was born in 1975, I am 40 years old. I equate Simon & Garfunkel as old people music. Probably because that is how I thought of it when I first encountered it as a kid. Working from the assumption that most children below the age of five have few memories of distinct songs and have no recollection or awareness of listening to a particular musician or artist, a person alive today would have needed to have been at least five years old in 1972 to have fond memories of time and place associated with the Simon & Garfunkel song “America”. It charted at number 97 on the US Billboard Hot 100 in 1972. Anyone who remembers when the song was popular would have been born after 1967, or 49 years old today. Most Simon and Garfunkel fans are likely much older though. I’m not sure what you call the 39 to 49 year old age cohort alive today, but it probably shouldn’t be ‘youngsters’. I’m not trying to be a dick, I feel the years creeping up as well, just making a point about the subjective nature of young vs. old and just how long ago Simon & Garfunkel were actually popular.

        I liked the Bernie ad and the song choice by the way, but I’m still not sold on Simon & Garfunkel. Fugazi, Rage Against the Machine, or Run The Jewels are more my idea of protest music, but that stuff is way too angry for political ads in Iowa! Simon & Garfunkel definitely has more mass appeal and is probably closer in tone to the zeitgeist of today’s more conservative but positive and optimistic youth.

        1. weinerdog43

          Thanks for your thoughtful post. You’re correct on all points of course. I’m 57 and love the Smashing Pumpkins, but I think “Zero” might not be what Bernie was looking for. lol

  28. EmilianoZ

    Lack of minorities? The whole song is an ode to immigration.

    They’ve come to look for America

    What do you think immigrants are here for?

  29. JTFaraday

    Okay, now that I’ve actually listened to the Sanders ad, I think have the answer to the under 40 reaction to the S&G song. This was used as mood music in the movie Almost Famous. In fact it’s SO distracting, I had to turn the volume off to actually register the images.

    Or maybe it’s just me. I’m a very aural person.

    1. low_integer

      I think have the answer to the under 40 reaction to the S&G song. This was used as mood music in the movie Almost Famous.

      I think you are drawing a pretty long bow here.

  30. Fool

    One ad is so significantly better than the other, that one need only state that disparity and the reader can tell which is which.

  31. Bernard

    all this numbers counting of blacks, hispanics, whites and so forth seems so out of place considering the racial make up of the states of Iowa and NH. from what i’ve read the ad from Sanders is representative of the places he is campaigning in. now if this was NY, IL or Fl or any big state with lots of diverse groups of people, then I would begin to wonder how “in touch” Bernie was.

    there is just so much more than what “meets the eye,”it is good to see such analysis.

  32. Jim in SC

    Joe Klein, #2 on the list of ‘America’s most left biased journalists,’ has this to say about Sanders: ‘the best argument against Sanders’ health plan is the essential case against socialism–which Clinton’s supporters raised after the debate–and its next of kin, redistributionism: it dampens incentives, which dampens creativity, which leads to poverty.’ Sanders problem in the general election is his policies. Once people look past his vibe, his authenticity, and the wholesomeness of his supporters, they will see his policies and recoil. He is essentially planning to to confiscate the assets–over time–of anyone with more than $50 million in assets. Is this really what America wants?

    More Klein: ‘So we have this strange election: Republicans race toward know-nothing nativism, and Democrats stumble toward socialism. Both are reactionary, discredited ideas. I want my country back!’

    1. HotFlash

      He is essentially planning to to confiscate the assets–over time–of anyone with more than $50 million in assets. Is this really what America wants?

      Well, after 50 or so years of the millionaires taking the assets (“over time”) of anyone who has over $50, I’d bet yes.

      1. Jim in SC

        The notion that millionaires and billionaires have tilted the playing field so far in their favor that all the money flows to them is, shall we say, a bit unexamined. The reality is they pay a lot more of the taxes now than they did in the ’50s, when nominal rates maxed out at 90%. Wealth inequality has a lot to do with assortive mating (doctors marrying doctors), ZIRP, the decline of marriage among the traditional working class, and the huge influx of immigrants since the ’80s. (Immigrants typically take a few generations to catch up economically.)

        A strange thing happened between the Gilded Age and the present, the leisure class became the working class. The difference between a Wal-Mart employee and a successful professional is often that the professional is in control of their own schedule, and so can work longer hours. Even so, on an hourly basis, the receptionist can often make more than the doctor. Perhaps in the future Bernie should work on limiting the amount of time professionals and businesspeople can work. Let’s see where that gets us.

        1. Vatch

          You said:

          The notion that millionaires and billionaires have tilted the playing field so far in their favor that all the money flows to them is

          Few people have made that claim. What has been claimed, with good reason, is that an increasing proportion of the money flows to them. The Tcherneva chart, showing how more than 100% of the recent recovery has gone to the top 10%, is available in many places on the internet. Here are two:

          You also said:

          The reality is they [billionaires and millionaires] pay a lot more of the taxes now than they did in the ’50s

          Please provide a factual source for this assertion.

          1. Jim in SC

            Here is a Bloomberg piece by Amity Shlaes that explains the situation. She does not explain, however, that the reason wealthy people paid less in taxes in the ’50s than they do today is because tax laws allowed much greater (and faster) depreciation of real estate then than now, and people took advantage of these opportunities to invest in real estate. Ultimately this led to a terrible misuse of capital, as the United States would up with twenty times the per capita retail space of France. Perhaps if we’d had a different tax regime, we’d have weathered the ’70s in much better condition.

            Reagan’s bi-partisan 1986 tax reform put an end to all this depreciation nonsense. It directed capital to more productive use, and is largely, in my view, responsible for the boom of the ’90s.

            Today, thanks to the Earned Income Tax Credit and other public benefits, taxes are more progressive today than they have ever been. Of course, nobody realizes this. People have also forgotten that the middle class paid income taxes in the ’50s.

            One point Amity Shlaes makes here is that the expectation for future trends in taxation has a big effect on present behavior. Today, the expectation is for higher taxes, and growth is slow, compared to the ’50s, when the expectation was for lower taxes, and growth was much faster.


            1. Lord Koos

              If taxes today are “more progressive than they’ve ever been”, then how can you explain, exactly, why we are in the present situation of extreme inequality?

              1. Jim in SC

                It’s very hard to compare apples and apples in talking about income and wealth inequality. I believe the data do not support the idea that we’re in some extreme place, as you appear to believe. For example, one study (that I’ve been unable to find again) shows that ALL wealth inequality in Europe can be explained by considering whether one owns a house or not.

                It seems to me that three areas of life, all of which have significant government involvement, have become dramatically more expensive: housing, education, and health care. Figure out how to make them as cheap as they were in the ’50s and we’d all feel a lot richer.

                Many people have bashed the recent Pew Report, which shows that the middle class is shrinking primarily because more people are getting wealthy. It may be that Pew should have looked at payroll data rather household income, but to do so begs the question: what changes would we see in income and wealth inequality if we kept household composition constant between the 1950s and the 2015? That is, if we just looked at households that contained the fifties norm of a man, a wife, and 2.5 children? My guess is this type household would be difficult to locate in the bottom household income quintile today. In other words, ‘household’ doesn’t mean the same thing now as it did then.

                The top quintile hasn’t changed that much. They work even more hours, perhaps, than they did in the ’50s, and the wife is more likely to be a doctor or lawyer or something also, which works against income equality. However, I have no doubt that the biggest factor in inequality is that rates of marriage among the working class have dropped precipitously between the ’50s and today. This is not to blame the victims. No one knows where the tipping points are that lead people to decide not to get hitched. But we know that, if they are hitched, the man will work more hours, and the money is less likely to be spent on frivolities. It may be that a combination of more generous government support and diminishing prospects for formerly marriageable working class men have pushed us into a trap from which there is no easy escape. The solution is certainly not as simple as taxing rich people and dishing out more benefits, which is what Bernie Sanders seems to think.

                1. Vatch

                  The problem isn’t the top quintile (the top 20%). The problem is the top 0.1%. They’re the ones whose wealth has been becoming so much more concentrated. To a lesser extent, the top 1% and even the top 10% have benefited from this trend, but I suspect that most of the increases in the income or wealth of the top 10% have actually occurred within the top 0.1%.

                  I tried to post other information yesterday, but it disappeared into limbo. I hope today’s post will succeed in appearing on the site.

        2. Jerry Denim

          You’re living in a parallel fact-free universe where even your own cherry picked facts disagree with your argument. Speaking of the wealthy billionaires and millionaires of the United States, you said: “The reality is they pay a lot more of the taxes now than they did in the ’50s, when nominal rates maxed out at 90%.”

          Ok, earners in the top income tax brackets pay far less, (70% marginal in 1980 vs. 39.6% now) capital gains down, estate taxes down, inequality and earnings for the wealthiest up, middle class and working class wages down, but yet “they (the wealthy) pay a lot more now”? HOW???

          You make no sense at all sir.

          1. Jim in SC

            Note the point of Amity Shlaes article: marginal rates are not effective rates. Elvis may have paid 91% income taxes in the ’50s, but you can be assured that Howard Hughes and most of the rest of America’s wealthy did not. There were many, many generous tax deductions then, such that it was possible to shelter more of one’s income from taxes then than now. Howard Hughes became the richest man in the world by deducting everything, right down to the pistachio ice cream.

            1. Vatch

              I replied to your message above, but it’s either in moderation or anti-spam limbo. If it doesn’t appear in a few hours, I’ll try again. As for tax deductions, they still exist, and are still being used by the ultra rich. No billionaires or hecto-millionaires pay the standard effective rates.

        3. flora

          “The notion that millionaires and billionaires have tilted the playing field so far in their favor that all the money flows to them is, shall we say, a bit unexamined.”

          In my state a couple of billionaires got the state tax code changed (by our compliant legislature (donations)) so that they, owners of a global business that’s structured as a pass-thru, no longer have to pay state income tax.

  33. Norb

    In America, the elite have been waging overt class warfare for over 30 years. The leadership plan has been to double-down on that strategy and continue as long as common folk lack the will or awareness to stop them. What is working itself out is what form the force of change will take. Is non violent change possible when confronted by a adversary hell bent on maintaining power under any circumstance? Probably not. Both campaign adds clearly stake out their positions on the matter and as voters we are left with fairly clear choices.

    The Sanders add has an extremely positive emotive response and as messaging is very effective if one has not been totally preprogrammed by propaganda techniques. The theme- All come to look for America- brings back the notion of America as a place of possibility for the future- for All. If showing citizens of humble origins working peacefully for their futures is not a representation of the goodness- and greatness of the American Dream, I don’t know what is. The very notion of the Sanders add being racist or “too white” smacks of propaganda and tired old division politics and anyone raising that objection to the add should be called out on it- or how about we just don’t give that objection credit and waste our precious energy arguing or refuting the claim. When people of color appear in the Sanders add, some form of physical contact is happening- hugs, hi-fives, and hand on shoulder. You either trust the sincerity or not. The 3 second clip of hundreds should say enough about racial diversity. Again, the question is one of trust and action. What has the person done in real life in support of fellow human beings. Sanders holds a pretty strong record.

    In America, the political choice we must make as a nation in the next few years is one between the embrace or rejection of Empire. Our politics and energy will be focused on the people of the nation and their wellbeing or the power and glory of Empire. That is our choice. The Clinton add, in no uncertain terms, tells us were she stands. Empire and Power. The patronizing tone at the end asking for our support to help HER make positive change in the world possible is a wonder to behold. I can’t think of a more depressing notion that fellow citizens responding to her message in a positive way. How do you confront people with such a worldview?

  34. Kate Beatty

    I may be wrong but at :17 I take the two white women in flannel to be a gay couple while the words of the song at that moment are “let us be lovers, we’ll marry our fortunes together.” That was not accidental??

    Everyone I know loves the Bernie ad whether they are for him or not. Why? Because you feel good after watching it and it is a nice change of pace from all the “ISIS is coming to kill you, be very afraid” ads.

  35. Jerry Denim


    I watched the two ads expecting them to be fairly similar, because I figured both would be slickly produced by political ad professionals up on all of the same trends, but man were those two ads different.

    The Bernie ad was very emotional and positive, the 15 second intro with the bassy guitar picking and humming accompanied by shots of wind power and Americans quietly and modestly going about their work days amid idle ships and languid but picturesque downtowns with American flags flapping in the breeze hinted at a great past, a pent-up idle energy, and a potentially bright future absolutely pregnant with possibility. As the lyrics start and pace of the activities shown on screen pick up energy, the message clearly becomes “Love” and rediscovering or renewing the American dream. “Let us be lovers, we have married our fortunes together…” A image of a couple joyously dancing at a campaign event, a young lesbian couple, a cute little boy with a baby calf, high fives, smiling faces, Bernie Sanders walking with his wife. A trio of Bernie supporters at a rally holding up three posters, WE-LOVE-BERNIE with the word ‘Love’ being the most prominent and conspicuous word written in red. Love, love, love, and more love. I thought it was great. The main Simon and Garfunkel lyric/ad message was “We’ve all come to discover America” as in; WE (the collective, team-building, patriotic ‘we’) are going to find (rebuild) the American Dream (opportunity). I don’t even like Simon and Garfunkel but I thought the ad was brilliant. Admittedly I have a strong Sanders bias, so I would be curious to hear what a Clinton supporter or an undecided Independent or Democrat leaning voter thought of the piece. In addition to being heavy on love and optimism the Sanders ad was clearly sought to invoke the old band-wagon appeal with all of the adoring crowd shots, but that is probably a wise tactic given Sanders’s opponents have sought to portray him as an outsider and a nobody with no chance of winning the Presidency.

    The Clinton ad was surprisingly different and it had a different message and tone on so many different levels. The first thing that jumped out at me was the white-male pharmaceutical-ad narrator voice who sounded as if he should be warning you about the side effects of a nail fungus medication, but instead administers a good serious ‘mansplaining’ to the audience why Hillary Clinton is the right person to preside over Americans like a good shepherd. The Clinton ad was much less inclusive and more authoritarian right from the start.

    “The person who lives here (White House image) has to solve problems as big as the world (F-18 fighter jet being launched into battle, silhouette of industrial facility emitting scary gases into a blood orange red sky ) and as small as your kitchen table every day.” (Image of family sitting at dinner table)

    I don’t know how others understood this, but I basically heard: Being President is hard and serious, the world is scary, so leave this serious person stuff of running the world to me and I’ll keep you safe and preserve the status quo so you can decide between whether to serve Mac’N Cheese or meatloaf for dinner. The rest of the campaign ad just went downhill for me from there as the ad proceeds to doubles down on fear, identity politic issues and negative vibes. 9/11, guns, gun control, Planned Parenthood, Ted Cruz holding a machine gun looking like a evil assassin, Trump at a political rally, Valdimir Putin who we are told is a “hostile leader” etc. etc. Fear, fear, fear and more fear. Yuck!

    There’s been a few psychological studies I’ve read over the years that seek to explain the difference between personal political preferences, and if I recall correctly psychologists have found more fearful people tend to trend conservative in their politics. If they are correct then Hillary has just produced the perfect Republican campaign ad. I don’t see this ad polling well with the liberal base of the Democratic party. Hillary’s ad gave me the hebbey-jebbies and made me feel dirty and gross all over. Bernie’s made me feel emotional, tender, optimistic and very hopeful. I have hated Hillary Clinton for years and adore Sanders so I’m not sure my personal reaction to these ads are very accurate, but there is no mistaking the “fear’ theme of Clinton’s ad versus the “Love” theme of Bernie’s ad. I really hope love wins.

  36. Jim in SC

    Peter Schiff wrote an even clearer piece comparing 1950s taxes payments to today’s. In his view, the difference is that the wealthy are actually paying about the same percentage of income taxes as in the 1950s, but the middle class and poor are paying far less. He goes into greater detail about how the tax deductions worked.

    From Schiff: ‘the share of taxes paid by the bottom two-thirds of taxpayers has fallen dramatically over the same period. In 1958, these Americans accounted for 41.3% of adjusted gross income and paid 29% of all federal taxes. By 2010, their share of adjusted gross income had fallen to 22.5%. But their share of taxes paid fell far more dramatically—to 6.7%. The 77% decline represents the single biggest difference in the way the tax burden is shared in this country since the late 1950s.’

    1. flora

      In the 50’s the tax code said businesses would get a tax deduction for profits spent in onshore capital improvements, factory expansion here, but profits taken as top management pay packets would be taxed as income. Now, that’s been reversed, and in fact there are tax breaks for companies to offshore.
      It’s not just the ‘on-paper’ rates, it’s what the rate structures represent as encouraging and discouraging.

    2. Jerry Denim

      Twisted logic, massaged numbers, but the data is still working against you. By Schiff’s numbers the bottom 67% of Americans saw their slice of the earning pie decline from 41.3% to 22.5%. That means one-fifth of the earnings pie was redistributed upwards from the broader bottom two-thirds of Americans to the top third. Yet not even Schiff claims the wealthy are paying more now although they are clearly richer. If our taxation system were fair and truly progressive the rich would be paying more taxes now since they capture a much greater percentage of overall earnings. The bottom 67% pay less in taxes now because of our weakly progressive taxation system. The bottom 67% earn far less, with most of the former middle-class being demoted to struggling working class. If these Americans had to pay more in taxes they would be out on the street because they are barely able to make ends meet now with their vastly reduced wages and inflation in real estate, healthcare and education. If wealthy Americans want poor Americans to pay more taxes they should give them all raises, bump them into higher tax brackets and the problem will be solved. I don’t think middle America will complain much about it.

      Isn’t Schiff a gold-bug libertarian hack who makes a living by hustling books and financial advice? Not exactly an impartial source eh?

    3. flora

      David Cay Johnston has been writing about tax policy for a long time.

      ” America grew and grew during this era. GDP, adjusted for inflation and increased population, was up 227 percent. But wages and fringe benefits did not grow with the economy. For most workers, they fell. Wages peaked way back in 1972-1973, were on a mostly flat trajectory for more than two decades, rose briefly in the late 1990s, and then fell sharply in the new century. … Millions are out of work, and the jobs they once held are … not coming back. And even if the Great Recession is coming to an end, we face years of jobs growing more slowly than the working-age population, which could radically transform America’s culture, work ethic, and sense of progress.
      During the 45 years starting in 1961, payroll taxes have gone from a minor levy to almost a sixth of wages for the bottom 90 percent of American households. This $760 in income tax savings that the average taxpayer enjoyed in 2006 was taken back, and more, by the increased tax rates for Social Security and Medicare. Those rates rose from 3 percent withheld from pay in 1961 to 7.65 percent in 2006. Not all income is from wages, of course, but those higher payroll taxes wiped out the seeming reduction in the income tax and more. …

      And at the top? Now, that’s a different story. The average income for the top 400 taxpayers rose over the 45 years from $13.7 million to $263.3 million. That is 19.3 times more.

      The income tax bill went up too, but only 7.8 times as much because tax rates plunged. Income tax rates at the top fell 60 percent, three times the percentage rate drop for the vast majority. And at the top, the savings were not offset by higher payroll taxes, which are insignificant to top taxpayers. …”

    4. Yves Smith

      Your are quoting Peter Schiff? The man is a fraud and knows squat about just about anything, and certainly not about taxes. The only reason he get quoted is he is a shameless self promoter and is willing to say extreme things on the record.

  37. Dick Burkhart

    Bernie’s “political revolution” is his real goal – to do what Obama promised but failed to deliver.

  38. Jim in SC

    See if you prefer these folks. They’ve been around since 1937. I do not know who funds them. But they are interpreting a CBO report which seems to address the issues we’ve been kicking back and forth.

    Unfortunately, their data just goes back to 1979:

    Summary: there is no long term trend towards income inequality in the US. However, there is a marked trend towards increasing redistribution of income through the agency of the tax code.

    1. Yves Smith

      Jim, the Tax Foundation is Grover Norquist, Mr. “I want government so small I can drown it in a bathtub”‘s operation. Its “research” is famously and fabulously biased. There are lots of researchers have confirmed the long-standing work of Emanuel Saez and Thomas Pikeetty on the rise of income and wealth inequality in the US. Even the World Bank shows our Gini coefficient (a measure of inequality) has risen a great deal. You see tons of confirmation in the way prices of positional goods, like art and prime real estate in New York has exploded in price. No one reputable disputes the general trend. The only debate is over how far it has gone and why.

      1. Skippy

        The Taxes are “Theft” meme … the damage done by that one bit of phraseology is more socially destructive than any ex nihilo axiom I can think of…

        Skippy… especially when taxes enable society e.g. social compact…

      2. Jim in SC

        Grover Norquist. Say no more, Yves.

        I am skeptical about Piketty because I thought his grand formula was simplistic. My observation, contra Piketty, is that the wealthy tend to do dumb things with their money. They either take too much risk, or too little, much like the general public. If they’re tight as ticks, they may keep it for more generations, but divorces, large families, and the constant drain of lawyers, money managers, and taxes diminish large fortunes pretty quickly. As you, and many readers of this blog (but not Piketty) know: getting a decent return on your money is not easy.

        I finally happened on a NY Times infographic that seems to me pretty accurate. It takes state and local tax burdens into account, and shows that households who make more than $350,000 have been paying more of the total fed, state, and local tax burden than in the past (because they are earning more), even though they pay less as a percentage of income than in 1980. The difference was that they paid 1.56x their share of national income in 1980, versus 1.37x their share of national income today. That doesn’t seem like a dramatic decline to me.

        Household data doesn’t tell you what a household is. Clearly the definition is very different than it was in the 1950s for lower income households, and probably for upper income households as well, in ways that exacerbate income inequality. This data also doesn’t take into account the huge number of people who have dropped out of the workforce, but I think we can assume that, if they were included, income inequality would look worse than it presently does. However, I believe that if the same percentage of the lowest quintile were married with children as were in 1950, the income inequality numbers would look much better, because women lead men to work harder and better utilize their money. Not to mention that marriage allows one to share expenses.

        We live in a more expensive world than our forefathers, in part because of the failure of government to rein in costs of housing, healthcare, and education at all levels. If these increases had not occurred, people would find it much easier to live within their means. Likewise if they had continued to marry as they did in the past, rather than glory in perpetual adolescence.

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