The “Existential Battle” Is for Control of the Democratic Party

Yves here. While I agree with Neuberger that the fight that really counts for the direction of the US is within the Democratic Party, it is unfortunate that this struggle is being personified, as in too often treated by the media and political operatives as being about Sanders. The fight is really about whether the Democrats will remain the party of the top 10% or will be bludgeoned into representing working people on a broad basis.

By Thomas Neuburger. Originally published at DownWithTryanny!

Steve Kornacki, MSNBC’s so-called “numbers guy,” visually misrepresents Sanders’ strength against Trump, then lies about the erroneous graphic: “Elizabeth Warren, she’s been running second place, she is running second place on the Democratic side. She leads Trump by 5 points.” The graphic shows that Kornacki is obviously wrong. Warren is in third place, and Sanders’ margin against Trump is greater than Warren’s.


Sanders is the revolutionary. His election would mean a complete overhaul of the Democratic Party, forcing everyone who ever worked for a Clinton to look toward the private sector. That’s what a vote for “change” would mean in 2020.

–Matt Taibbi

We’ve been hearing quite a bit about how the 2020 election is an “existential battle” for control of the nation’s future, and that Trump’s re-election poses an “existential threat.” For example:

Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post: “we are in a fight for our democracy and our decency; we are engaged in an existential battle to defend objective reality”.

Chauncey DeVega, Salon: “Trump is promising an authoritarian “national renewal” to his white supporters through a fake populism that nurtures feelings of grievance and victimhood — feelings that can only be remedied through loyalty to the Great Leader and Dear Father. Political violence will be necessary — and is already taking place across the country — because TrumpWorld and its members believe that they are in an existential battle for survival.”

Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone, reporting from Iowa: “In a mid-June appearance in Iowa, Biden tipped off reporters that he’d be making remarks about Trump. Dressed in dark-wash dad jeans and blue shirt, he became the 10,000th Democrat this year to call the president an ‘existential threat.'”

That 2020 existential battle, of course, is always cast as between the Democrats and the Republicans.

But there’s another existential battle going on, one that will occur before the main event — the battle for control of the Democratic Party. In the long run, that battle may turn out to be more important than the one that immediately follows it.

Matt Taibbi, from the same article:

[T]he undeniable truth is that the Democratic race is about Sanders. Most of the candidates either support Medicare for All or try to sound like they do. They also tend to support a $15 minimum wage and call for wealth taxes, a Green New Deal, antitrust actions, and some rejection of corporate donors. Even Joe Biden, he of the lengthy career deep-throating credit-card-industry bucks, has parroted Sanders’ anti-corporate themes, noting that the Constitution reads “ ‘We the People,’ not ‘We the Donors.’ ”

There is an irony in the fact that Sanders has become the bête noire of Clintonian politics, given that Sanders represents the culmination of Bill’s 1992 electoral formula: “Change versus more of the same.”

Decades later, this is no longer just a marketing formulation. About 20 of the candidates exist somewhere on the spectrum of traditional Democratic politics, with Klobuchar, Mayor Pete, and Biden on one side, and Warren on the more progressive end. Sanders is the revolutionary. His election would mean a complete overhaul of the Democratic Party, forcing everyone who ever worked for a Clinton to look toward the private sector. That’s what a vote for “change” would mean in 2020.

Before mainstream Democrats can begin the “existential battle” with the forces of Trump and Republicanism, they have to win the existential battle against the force that wants to force change on their own party.

They’re engaged in that battle today, and it seems almost all of the “liberal media,” sensing the existential nature of the threat, is helping them win it. Katie Halper, in a second perceptive piece on the media’s obvious anti-Sanders bias, “MSNBC’s Anti-Sanders Bias Is Getting Truly Ridiculous,” writes: “When MSNBC legal analyst Mimi Rocah (7/21/19) said that Bernie Sanders ‘made [her] skin crawl,’ though she ‘can’t even identify for you what exactly it is,’ she was just expressing more overtly the anti-Sanders bias that pervades the network.”

Halper then documents instance after instance of this bias, from graphics that show Sanders in fourth place in a poll in which he placed second…

to Steve Kornacki presenting a different misleading graphic from a different poll, then reinforcing the visual error with a verbal lie (see above), to political analyst Zerlina Maxwell (and former Clinton staffer, though this was never mentioned) blaming Sanders on-air for not mentioning race until 23 minutes into a speech, when in fact he mentioned it at the five-minute mark.

Maxwell corrected her misrepresentation later when challenged about it

…but only on Twitter, and only while reinforcing her scorn for Sanders.

MSNBC is clearly acting as a messaging arm of the Democratic Party mainstream in its battle with progressives in general and Sanders in particular, and Zerlina Maxwell, who’s been variously employed by that mainstream, from her work with Clinton to her work on MSNBC, is an agent in that effort.

Let me repeat what Matt Taibbi wrote: “[Sanders’] election would mean a complete overhaul of the Democratic Party, forcing everyone who ever worked for a Clinton to look toward the private sector.

Before this election becomes a referendum on Trump, it will be a referendum on the Democratic Party, on whether voters in the Democratic primary, as many of them as are permitted to participate in it, will choose to continue the Party as currently constituted, or force on it sudden, radical and transformational change.

If the nation wishes true deliverance, not just from Trump and Republicans, but from the painful state that got Trump elected in the first place, it will first have to believe in a savior.

Will it choose as its savior a radically overhauled Democratic Party? Or will it trust its salvation to a Party that, in the words of the Onion’s fictional, but accurate Nancy Pelosi, offers as “our core 2020 argument” that “we are infinitesimally less objectionable than our opposition.”

Welcome to the Democratic primary. In the long run, if mainstream Democrats win the first existential battle of 2020 and enter the second unreformed, how much of the nation will truly rally to their side and help them defeat the current Trump, or the next one, or the next one after that?

Will the nation still seek delivery from their pain, even after Trump is defeated, if indeed he is? And if they do, will they find it in an unreconstructed, money-driven Democratic Party, or go looking elsewhere again, perhaps to an elsewhere worse than the elsewhere the current Trump emerged from?

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  1. fdr-fan

    You need to start with the fact that Trump is Hillary. Or more precisely Trump is Hillary’s revenge against Obama.

    Obama fired Hillary in 2014 and started to move away from Hillary’s permanent war. He made peace with Persia and Cuba.

    Trump restored both of those wars, and hasn’t stopped any other wars. Aside from that, he’s still loyally serving Wall Street just like BOTH Hillary and Obama.

    1. TG

      Agreed. Trump fought the swamp, and the swamp won.

      Trump campaigned on ending our stupid pointless wars and spending that money on ourselves – and it looked at first like he might actually deliver (how RACIST of the man!) but not to worry, he is now surrounded by uber hawks and the defense industry dollars are continuing to flow. Which the Democrats are fine with.

      Trump campaigned on enforcing the laws against illegal immigration and limiting legal immigration, but he’s now pretty much given up, the southern border is open full “Camp of the Saints” style and he’s pushing for more legal ‘guest’ workers to satisfy the corporate demands for cheap labor – and the Democrats are for this (though Sanders started to object back in 2015 before he was beaten down).

      Trump campaigned on a populist platform, but once elected the only thing he really pushed for was a big juicy tax cut for himself and his billionaire buddies – which the Democrats are fine with (how come they can easily block attempts to stop the flow of cheap labor across the southern border, but not block massive giveaway tax cuts to the super rich? Because they have their priorities).

      Soon I expect that Trump will propose massive regressive tax increases on the working class – which of course the Democrats will be fine with (‘to save the planet’).

      So yeah, Trump is governing a lot like Hilary Clinton would have.

      And elections are pretty much pointless. Even if Sanders does win, he’ll get beaten down faster even than Trump was.

      1. Inode_buddha

        Nah, he won’t. Sanders can’t be bought. That’s why they are so terrified of him. He’s been running on the same policy ideas since the 60’s.

  2. David

    I just don’t see it possible for Sanders to win the Democratic primary at this point with both the media and the mainstream of the Democratic Party strongly against his candidacy.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Virtually no one thought Trump would win.

      Virtually no one thought Brexit would win.

      Virtually no one thought AOC would win.

      1. Redlife2017

        I think people have a hard time with real inflection points. Most of life uses more short-term linear decision making. But at inflection points we have multiple possibilities that turn into rather surprising turns of events, such as Brexit and Trump. We still have people saying in the UK – “but they wouldn’t do that!” The hell “they” won’t. Norms are thrown out of the window and people start realising how wide the options are. This is not positive or negative. Just change or transformation.

        That is my philosophical way of agreeing with you! It is easy to point at the hostility of the mainstream media and DNC as there being no way for Sanders to win. After all in 2004, look what the media and DNC did to Howard Dean. But people weren’t dying then like they are now. The “Great Recession” wasn’t on anyone’s radar. People felt rich, like everything would be fine. We are not in that situation – the facts on the ground are so wildly different that the DNC and mainstream media will find it hard to stay in control.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          Dean’s conservatism and Joe Trippi caused the precipitous drop in Dean’s polling before the famed scream.

      2. russell1200

        I think it was at 358, or maybe not. I really can’t remember. But a number cruncher pointed out that with the polling numbers of the Democratic candidates at this point, none of them are likely to win. Obviously one of them will win, but no single individual is likely to win.

        So I think it is fair to say the Bernie Sanders is unlikely to win. Just like everyone else.

      3. David

        True. But the media actually helped amplify Trump at least at the beginning of the 2016 cycle.

        By the time the mainstream press turned against Trump, the damage had already been done, and Trump was able to then run against the “liberal” media.

        The media either ignores or unfairly maligns Bernie.

        1. Procopius

          It seems paradoxical to me, but I remember the old saying, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” Much (most?) of the reference to Trump is pretty neutral, not “against” him. The fact that he grabs so much press attention means he’s always in the public eye. I thought the press was actually against Hillary and for Trump in 2016. The only difference now is that Hillary is not on the front page (“Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi!“, “But her emails …”) Every. Damned. Day.

      4. Jim

        Yes, but Trump didn’t have to deal with the superdelegate hurdle that Democrats put in place to prevent mere citizens like us from electing candidates like Bernie. Then they flooded the field to dilute his small campaign donations and his message. And they’re slowly getting rid of (small “d”) caucuses in favor of more malleable primaries. Pretty diabolical.

    2. Jonathan Holland Becnel

      You sound straight outta 2016.

      I assure you, Comrade, 2020 will be much different. Sanders et al are doing a much better job deligitamizing the MSM and DNC candidates at this point. Id look at the Robert Acosta Interview with Sanders where he criticises not only Bank of America but also the Washington Post for their pro 1% slant.

      Reject Identity politics.
      Embrace Economic Class based rhetoric.
      Attack the pro Clinton wing directly on the debate stage LIVE.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        The debates will be watched by probably 10%, Twitter feuds an even smaller sample. But the steady pulse of the Panopticon box, in the waiting room at the dentist, in the gym, in the airport, in the corner of the sports bar, 24 hours per day 7 days per week, can drip feed whatever candidate the war machine wants

  3. cripes

    We can hope.

    And meet up with your local Sanders debate watch parties and volunteer for other events.

    Maybe the gaggle of non-entities pretending to run will be whittled down this week, the mal-entities still standing commit ritual seppuku, and something resembling a contest of ideas and policy will emerge.

    Biden will suck again.
    Kamala will try to repeat her showboating.
    Lil’ Pete will echo Obama’s soothing sounds without any meaning.
    Williamson; comic relief and the occasional bulls-eye.
    Warren, schoolmarmish, sincere, and wonky but timid.
    Beto; please, please don’t call on him, I can’t stands no more.
    Booker: makes Biden look sincere in comparison.
    Gabbard: If there’s a god, she’ll add points and be less wooden.
    Yang: embarrassing.
    De Blasion: Sound and fury signifying nothing.
    Sanders: A little more spontaneous, careful of the canned phrases, talk about the canada trip, and less crap from moderators would help.

    1. Lambert Strether

      > Sanders: A little more spontaneous, careful of the canned phrases, talk about the canada trip, and less crap from moderators would help.

      Sanders needs to understand, “in his bones,” that a television debate is a different medium from a speech in a hall. He doesn’t need to prepare canned zingers, like Harris did with Biden, but he does need to understand that he needs to think and speak in sentences, not paragraphs. He’ll also be less easy to interrupt and deflect, by moderators and candidates. I hope he’s willing to be prepped by staff; his staff is doing a great eviscerating Harris’s horrid attempt to privatize Medicare by making Bush’s Medicare Advantage the go-to, middle of the road solution.

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        ” he needs to think and speak in sentences, not paragraphs”
        altho i can see how it would be hard to make that phase-change.
        but bumperstickers are what works, these days.
        my native tongue is Fire Hose(the east texas dialect)….and when i get my ire up, I’m told it’s overwhelming, and therefore somewhat offputting.
        so when i was radicalised by my Obtaining a Hip Fiasco, I gave much thought to how to get enough of the Radical Analysis across in the context of the produce aisle, without the numerous terrorwords(“Socialism!”). With arguments that upend the Paradigm, this is difficult to do even without such subtle disadvantages…we tend naturally to provide all kinds of context to overcome the simplistic pavlovian bell-ringing, and that often clouds the usually simple moral argument. (there but for the grace of god…:disability isn’t welfare, it’s insurance i paid for;healthcare system is run by sociopaths;etc)

        i note that the soundbites deployed against things like MFA aren’t required to provide detailed analysis, like Bernie is. They are allowed to stand on their own.

        1. Jonathan Holland Becnel

          Exactly! Down here on Da Bayou its F Bankers, Murica, and F Liberals! Like a Jeffersonian Longism sans the Racism.

      2. roadrider

        And he needs to ask the so-called “moderates” like Delaney and Hickenlooper why are they polling in the low single digits if their “moderate”, “centrist” views are so popular ?

        There – I just wrote a a zinger for Bernie!

      3. Barbara

        Sanders needs to be like he was with that interviewer who said about Syria “It’s just a limited action.” He responded spontaneously and effectively.

        The thing that annoys me about some waffly Bernie supporters – he’s grumpy, he says the same thing all the time-nothing new. To some extent, thank God he is that way – you know what he stands for. The rest of the pack – Hey, which way is the wind blowing this morning?

      4. Mattski

        Not saying that any of you are guilty of this, but anyone who doesn’t think Sanders can connect with working people should watch his masterful first Fox town hall. People aren’t asking to be talked down to.

        Sanders faced a couple of disadvantages in the first debate–he looked tired, for one. (I doubt his campaign makes the same mistake this time.) And he was miked VERY high, which led me to wonder if he had been booby-trapped. (Alert campaign aides MIGHT have been able to address this.)

        It IS a challenging situation because you are speaking both to a large live audience and to the public at home. Sanders needs to assume his calm interview manner and he will do fine.

        The structural disadvantages he faces, however, aren’t going away. To reach the corporate liberals who are actual members of the party, and sway them, is for the most part an impossible task. He needs to continue speaking to the seven out of ten people who aren’t Democrats, to working people and the lower class, and build that campaign for change–far beyond the party–that astute readers in other forums here have noted must be the real goal. I’ve been listening to friend/members of the DSA and others swear they were going to take over the party since 1984. Barring a serious upset–one that looks particularly daunting given that he and Warren are splitting the “progressive” vote–Sanders needs to pivot hard after the primaries and throw his weight behind the Movement for a People’s Party, headed up by Sanders’s former Nat’l Outreach Coordinator and with some serious firepower in its emerging arsenal. Would love if you-all gave that some serious attention here.

        1. Carey

          Thanks for this comment, and agree that Sanders needs to go all-in for the MPP after the almost-certainly rigged
          Dem primaries and convention™.

    2. Jonathan Holland Becnel

      Goin to a Sanders Debate Party hosted by fellow NCers in Lakeview tonight! Bringin da Fam n Girlfriend hopefully!

  4. WheresOurTeddy

    If Sanders is polling 49-48 among the registered, it’d be a landslide against Trump, as nearly any poll (and any done by MSDNC, most assuredly) undersamples the young, to say nothing of the fact that independents and those not registered could be reliably expected to break for Sanders by an appreciable margin.

    They’re all running on versions of his platform already anyway. May as well go with the guy who has been saying it for 40 years instead of those who have been saying it for roughly 40 weeks.

      1. pretzelattack

        how legit were those hillary polls, though? i don’t think it will be a landslide, and i don’t know if he can win running uphill against the dnc and the media (and oh, the republicans), but the young were far less supportive of clinton than they are of sanders.

      2. Jonathan Holland Becnel

        Trump Voters loved Bernie and Hated Hilldawg.

        Bernie would smash Trump!!!!

      3. BlakeFelix

        I think you are confusing polls with odds of victory, and 538 never projected 90% chance of Hillary to my knowledge. I don’t think anyone sane projected her getting 90% of the votes. They had her more likely to win, but up like 60-40, which is closer to a coin flip than a landslide. There were people like those clowns from Princeton who were calling it 99% for Hillary, but their credibility should IMO go in the garbage with the copies of that book describing how Hillary used her technocratic mastery of big data to win with minimal expenditures…

      4. Basil Pesto

        As I recall, that 90-10 figure was Hilary’s projected likelihood of winning the presidency, not a polling figure

    1. jrs

      I fear any poll also under-samples Trump, I mean given who Trump is many people are probably embarrassed to admit they will vote for him. Oh I won’t vote for him, but I suspect Trump has some closeted supporters out there.

    2. Phil in KC

      Polling data on a national basis is misleading. Electoral College. Need to see state by state polling data, especially in swing/battleground states to gauge the state of the race, now and up to election day. Trump could well be the first Exec to win two terms, each with losses of the popular vote.

  5. Nax

    I think it’s much more likely that a Sanders victory would see the Clintonistas digging even further into the underbelly of the Democratic Party. There they would covertly and overtly sabotage Sanders, brief against him in the press and weaken, corrupt and hamstring any legislation that he proposes.

    If Sanders should win against Trump expect the establishment to go into full revolt. Capital strike, mass layoffs, federal reserve hiking interest rates to induce a recession, a rotating cast of Democrats siding with Republicans to block legislation, press comparing him to worse than Carter before he even takes office and vilifying him all day every day.

    I wouldn’t be shocked to see Israel and the Saudis generate a crisis in, for example, Iran so Sanders either bends the knee to the neocons or gets to be portrayed as a cowardly failure for abandoning our ‘allies’ for the rest of his term.

    1. Redlife2017

      Sounds like the Labour party…the Blairites are like the undead. They take the Charlton Heston line of “I’ll give you my [party] when you take it from my cold, dead hands” a bit too seriously.

    2. Tyronius

      You’ve just convinced me that the American Experiment is doomed. No one else but Sanders can pull America out of its long slow death spiral and your litany of the tactics of subversion of his presidency is persuasive that even in the event of his electoral victory, there will be no changing of the national direction.

      1. JCC

        I’m reading a series of essays by Morris Berman in his book “Are We There Yet”. A lot of critics complain that he is too much the pessimist, but he presents some good arguments, dark though they may be, that the American Experiment was doomed from the start due to the inherent flaw of Every Man For Himself and its “get mine and the hell with everybody else” attitude that has been a part of the experiment from the beginning.

        He is absolutely right about one thing, we are a country strongly based on hustling for money as much or more than anything else, and both Trump and the Clintons are classic examples of this, and why the country often gets the leaders it deserves.

        That’s why I believe that we need people like Sanders and Gabbard in the Oval Office. It is also why I believe that should either end up even getting close, Nax is correct. Those with power in this country will not accept the results and will do whatever is necessary to subvert them, and the Voter will buy that subversion hook, line, and sinker.

        1. Jonathan Holland Becnel

          I disagree. If theres one thing that Americans can agree on, its that we are America and will do what needs to be done!


      2. Left in Wisconsin

        No. The point is that electing Sanders can not be the endgame, only the beginning. I think Nax is completely right that a Sanders win would bring on the full wrath of all its opponents. Then the real battle would begin. The notion that real change could happen in this country by winning an election or two is naive in the extreme. But that doesn’t make it impossible.

    3. Amfortas the hippie

      naked perfidy and betrayal.
      this sort of thing has finally brought Wife around…but mom’s a msdnc/kos fan, and stepdad can’t get past “trump=long chain of expletives”.
      but i saw somewhere that msdnc only has around 10 million viewers(ie: “cable news” is dying).
      and even the NYT runs things that make Kamela sound like a heartless bureaucrat, pushing dry beans around with a pencil, while corpses litter the street(
      given what i overhear, I’ll be interested to see how the demprimary electorate swells this year in my corner of Texas(no party registration required, just ask for the Dem Ballot)
      Bernie’s proxies might think about how to get that idea out there, because probably 70% of the people I know(out here, “people”=”republican”) are almost openly interested….and it’s obvious from their eagerness that they’re not hearing about him wherever they get their news.

      1. Left in Wisconsin

        Your viewership estimates are an order of magnitude too high. Latest ratings show MSNBC with 1.67 million viewers in primetime, fewer than 1 mm for the rest of the day. Maddow gets the highest ratings with 2.5 million viewers.

        My spouse is one of them but they have very little influence outside the already converted.

      2. Jonathan Holland Becnel

        Avg viewer of MSDNC is ~60years old.

        Corporate Dems will die out in 20 years.

        1. flora

          The current corporate Dems 60 and older may die out in 20 years. The younger corporate Dems will probably still be here and as corporatist as ever. Passively waiting for time to sweep the corporatists away seems unlikely to produce the hoped for results. imo.

    4. Mattski

      Expect Big Capital to come gunning for Bernie with everything it has, as it has against every socialist experiment that has ever taken place globally, down to assasination and murder. That’s why no ‘savior from on high’ is going to rescue us; has to be a grassroots consensus for specific change(s) and a people willing to defend it.

      1. Inode_buddha

        Maybe that’s why Sanders is smart to get the younger crowd involved — they would be sure to take on the system far sooner than their elders.

  6. Acacia

    This argument is persuasive, but I wonder about the core premise, embodied in Matt Taibbi’s statement, repeated several times: “[Sanders’] election would mean a complete overhaul of the Democratic Party, forcing everyone who ever worked for a Clinton to look toward the private sector.”

    Would it? Would the establishment Dems really give up?

    As Yves puts it: “The fight is really about whether the Democrats will remain the party of the top 10% or will be bludgeoned into representing working people on a broad basis.”

    Would a Sanders victory be sufficient to the bludgeon the dead-enders? I wonder.

    1. Lambert Strether

      > Would the establishment Dems really give up?

      No, they will never give up because there’s too much money at stake (and who knows, some of them believe the crap that they peddle, especially the academics). They will need to be sidelined and/or purged. That will be ugly, because the first thing they’ll do is scream to assets in the press. However, they will have lose the high ground, and that’s not nothing.

      1. Acacia

        Yes, that’s more what I would expect. And “purged” sounds very ugly indeed. What would that even look like?

        1. Redlife2017

          It looks like what the Labour Party is going through now. We’re having votes on de-selections at constituency level (extrapolate to making sure lefties primary all congressional seats), but have multiple idpol things (not just the obvious) being weaponised against Corbyn and his group. It’s slow and ugly. Even in my reliably pro-Corbyn neck of the woods, we have some pretty poisonous anti-Corbyn people come out of the woodwork. It’d happen to Bernie on a national stage. Bernie will be hurt more by the Clintonites sniping then by anything Trump will/would do.

          Our saving grace in the UK is the idiocy of some of the people doing it. Our shadow deputy PM is licking his wounds just as he thought he was going to get the knife in. He was done in by supporting a liar who had accused multiple politicians of being paedophiles (yes, really). He went rather quiet after that (there are other things in the background, like supporting really corrupt local government officials in his constituency, but I won’t bog down the post).

        2. Big River Bandido

          Lots of people hired by the Clintons, Obama, Rahm Emanuel, Cuomo, etc. will have to be defenestrated. Lose their public sector jobs, if not outright charged with crimes. No one must be left in a position to hurt you after the election. Anyone on the “other side” must lose all power or ability to damage you, except those too weak. These people can be turned and used by you; they can be kept in line with fear. But all the leaders must go.

          1. Acacia

            I agree with all of this. I’m just not sure how it can happen. There seems to be so much cronyism, so many people “protected” by favors, dirt, nepotism, bribes… just plain old corruption.

            Does Sanders have the clarity to do this? Even if he does, I don’t see how he could do it alone. He would need to appoint a bunch of people who can go in and fire lots of people, basically taking a scorched-earth policy towards the Establishment.

            The DNC would need to be gutted… somehow.

            Either that or firing squads…

            1. Chris

              And let’s not forget the staff for all these campaigns. Who is left to run operations once you’ve told all the true 3rd way believers to go home? The Tea Party was co-opted (if it ever really was independent) so quickly because they changed faces but kept all the same machinery underneath. We need more than a new skin on the same engine.

              If there is ever to be a brand new party and the Clinton’s influence is ever to be removed, you need new staff for all the campaigns and committe, and congresscritter, and senators, and fund raisers, and marketers, and pollsters, even down to the people who have the connections to get good deals on hotels in host cities for the conventions.

          2. Tom Doak

            How is that possible when all of your Cabinet appointments have to be approved by Congress? Do you think Pelosi will support all of Sanders’ non-mainstream choices? That might jeopardize some Blue Dog seat in 2022 … can’t have that!

            Jimmy Carter had the same problem in 1976 – his own party refused to support some of his key policy people.

      2. Norb

        In order for Sanders to survive the onslaught that will surely come, he must have a jobs program ready to go on day one of his administration- and competent people committed to his cause ready to cary out the plan.

        The high ground is being able to express a new vision for the common good, 24/7, and do something to bring it about. You win even if you suffer losses.

        Without that, life in the USA will become very disruptive to say the least.

        1. EricT

          It will be easy since the Supreme Court just nullified Congress ability to control the budget. He’ll just claim that its a national employment emergency and demand the pentagon coughs up some of its budget to help the people.

    2. Arizona Slim

      I don’t think the Clinton Alumni Association will seek work in the private sector. Instead, they’ll gravitate toward academia, nonprofit organizations, and NGOs.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Those phony jobs were provided due to access. With Sanders, they lose access, and private sector Republicans aren’t going to embrace a wave of Team Blue types who couldn’t even drag HRC across the finish line. With DC mortgages, this is an existential threat.

        The NYT wastes space on the ilk of Bret Stephens. They couldn’t even find a Clintonista to argue against the green new deal type policies.

  7. cuibono

    whether or not it would , it clearly makes the insiders worried that Taibi is right.
    One thing he might be wrong about: they could look to the private sector surely, but would they meet open arms? Doubt it, as their shelf life would be rapidly coming to an end…for they have nothing to peddle except influence

    1. Lambert Strether

      > makes the insiders worried that Taibi is right

      I think that’s why we’re seeing so many liberal Democrats demonstrating fealty to the donor class right now, when it’s still very early in the campaign. Harris could have danced around Medicare for All for months, if she’d wanted. But no, she’s put her cards right on the table.

  8. Lambert Strether

    > “[Sanders’] election would mean a complete overhaul of the Democratic Party, forcing everyone who ever worked for a Clinton to look toward the private sector.”

    Yikes, that would collapse the private sector, at least based on performance. Maybe we should think twice about this.

    1. g3

      Mainstream Dems are performing their role very well. Most likely I am preaching to the choir. But anyways, here is a review of Lance Selfa’s book “Democrats: a critical history” by Paul Street :

      Besides preventing social movements from undertaking independent political activity to their left, the Democrats have been adept at killing social movements altogether. They have done – and continue to do – this in four key ways: (i) inducing “progressive” movement activists (e.g. Medea Benjamin of Code Pink and the leaders of and United for Peace and Justice today) to focus scarce resources on electing and defending capitalist politicians who are certain to betray peaceful- and populist-sounding campaign promises upon the attainment of power; (ii) pressuring activists to “rein in their movements, thereby undercutting the potential for struggle from below;” (iii) using material and social (status) incentives to buy off social movement leaders; (iv) feeding a pervasive sense of futility regarding activity against the dominant social and political order, with its business party duopoly.

      It is not broken. It is fixed. Against us.

  9. g3

    The last time a “rogue” candidate got the Dem nomination, this is what happened.

    As soon as McGovern was nominated, party leaders began systematically slurring and belittling him, while the trade union chieftains refused to endorse him on the pretense that this mild Mr. Pliant was a being wild and dangerous. A congressional investigation of Watergate was put off for several months to deprive McGovern’s candidacy of its benefits. As an indiscreet Chicago ward heeler predicted in the fall of 1972, McGovern is “gonna lose because we’re gonna make sure he’s gonna lose”…So deftly did party leaders “cut the top of the ticket” that while Richard Nixon won in a “landslide,” the Democrats gained two Senate seats.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Not comparable. McGovern never had a lead in the polls over Nixon, even before his party undermined him.

      Nixon emphasized the strong economy and his success in foreign affairs, while McGovern ran on a platform calling for an immediate end to the Vietnam War, and the institution of a guaranteed minimum income. Nixon maintained a large and consistent lead in polling.

      Nixon had put forward a bill for a guaranteed minimum income in 1969, so I am at a loss as to how this position helped McGovern.

        1. pretzelattack

          the msm democrats would consider him an unrealistic leftist who could never win.

          1. John

            Nixon: “a radical socialist” or “an unrealistic leftist”! Wow. That says all that needs be said about the slide to the right in our politics and it happened in large part because of inertia and self-satisfaction among the Democrats; they were the majority party after all while the right beginning with Bill Buckley and the National Review and their think tanks and their economists and their money began and continued the counter-revolution against FDR and the New Deal.

            This is not news to the politically aware. It could be a starting point for a rebirth of a real democratic party as opposed to whatever shambles along in the tattered garments of the old.

            Take a hypothetical. Biden wins, the House stays Democratic narrowly, the Senate is evenly divided. What exactly is going to change other than the rhetoric. I would not expect Biden to continue the racist and xenophobic pronouncements of Trump, but the finance weenies would still be in charge domestically, the Israelis and the donors would be running foreign policy and any and all billionaires would continue to be treated as demigods.

            The status quo is destroying the country. The corporoids, the professionals, the suave sophisticated urbanites do not notice and would not care. The USA needs revolutionary change just to discover that it really has a soul. Then the hard work of generations could begin.

            1. Anon

              I agree that the USA needs revolutionary change, but the hard work of organization, communication, and expertise in governing (implementing programs) needs to be cultivated before the raid. (Power to the sewer plant needs to be continuous or we’ll all die of cholera.)

            2. Carey

              Thanks for this fine, perceptive comment.
              I’d only take humble issue with your “slide
              to the right..”, that word implying that it’s
              been some kind of natural, inevitable
              occurrence; rather than being engineered
              by the very few for forty-plus years; the
              Powell Memo, Carter’s defenestration, and
              the ’78 Midterms being especially noteworthy,
              to me anyway.

          2. anonymous

            Nixon couldn’t dream of the money pouring into msm democrats today either. (although creep did invent hippie punching for estab dems.)

      1. Watt4Bob

        And in 1972, the working class was solidly behind the status quo, now, almost fifty years later, the working class has seen the end of the road coming up and is starting to ask the pointed questions they were incapable of even contemplating then.

        In 1972, it seemed only derelicts died of drug overdoses, and hard-hats were throwing things at hippies, now those people who were so defensive about the American dream, are unemployed and increasingly questioning whether there’s an alternative.

        Witness the peaceful ‘confrontation’ that met Trumps aborted campaign rally in Chicago in 2016, in 1972 there would have been riot police and blood in the streets.

        In 2016 the anti-Trump protestors and Trump supporters stood on opposite sides of the street with a scant force of cops, sans riot gear between them and there was virtually no violence.

        1. Anon

          I turned 21 in 1968. The violence in the streets was coming from the police not the protesters. The local sheriff department in my locale (Isla Vista; UCSB) was deemed “riotous” in its performance during anti-war protests by a subsequent grand jury investigation.

          I do agree that the current general population (working class) now sees itself as the “protesters”.

      2. Henry Moon Pie`

        “McGovern never had a lead in the polls over Nixon”

        Very true, but it’s important to remember that up until Wallace was wounded by Bremer in May, another three-way race with Wallace was anticipated. Polling in early May (and this is from memory) had Nixon and McGovern within the margin of error in a three-way race. There was a realistic possibility that things would have ended up in the House as they almost did in ’68.

        The Establishment Dems hated McGovern for several reasons. While his anti-war stance enraged the Dem neocons like the Scooper, his commission’s reforms that put the most women and minorities ever in the convention hall gave some serious heartburn to party bosses like Daley and labor bosses like Meany.

        Very shortly after the convention, I went before my border state’s Dixiecrat-flavored Dem county committee to plead for their support in the general. We got nowhere. McGovern’s campaign in my county consisted of some of us young folks and a few dissidents who opened some storefronts and did some canvassing. The party regulars probably all voted for Nixon.

    2. Big River Bandido

      *Those* mainstream Democrats knew how to actually get the vote out. Old time Democrat pols like Bailey and Daley would view their contemporary counterparts with scorn and contempt.

      Today’s mainstream Democrats cannot win a presidential election without help from the left (we learned this last time), which they won’t get in sufficient quantity to win if the nominee is Not Bernie Sanders (we learned that last time, too).

  10. The Rev Kev

    Pretty bad optics on MSNBC’s part being unable to do simple numbers and I can fully believe that their motto starts with the words “This is who we are”. Jimmy Dore has put out a few videos on how bad MSNBC has been towards Bernie and Progressives lately so it is becoming pretty blatant. Just spitballing a loose theory here but perhaps the Democrats have decided on a “poisoned chalice” strategy and do want not to win in 2020.
    After 2008 the whole economy should have had a major re-set but Obama spent tens of trillions of dollars saving Wall Street – at the expense of Main Street – so that nothing got resolved about the problems that caused the crash in the first place. Trump’s policies are doubling down on these problems so there is going to be a major disruption coming down the track. A major recession perhaps or maybe even worse.
    Point is that perhaps the Democrats have calculated that it would be best for them to leave the Republicans in power to own this crash which will help them long term. And this explains why most of those democrat candidates look like they have fallen out of a clown car. The ones capable of going head to head with Trump are sidelined while their weakest candidates are pushed forward – people like Biden and Harris. Just a theory mind.

    1. Tom Doak

      The flaw in your theory is that there aren’t any charismatic Democrat candidates sitting on the sidelines, waiting for 2024. (Except AOC, who will still be too young, and who is definitely not part of the Party’s grand strategy.)

      These clowns running against Sanders are the best they’ve got. And those clowns Trump steamrolled in 2016 were the best the Republicans had.

      1. mle in detroit

        AOC’s 35th birthday is October 13, 2024…weeks before the election, months before the inauguration which is when “the office” starts.
        We should think of the coming election as an opportunity to clean out the toxins being dumped in the swamp and prep the soil for regeneration. And rapidly getting down to specifics on the GND-jobs program or else we’re all cooked.

  11. James Miller

    There’s a tear in the corporate media blackout curtain regarding climate change, and a small, pretty little firebrand has helped to make it.
    What if a candidate- Sanders- were to choose this moment to rip wide the tear, to propose a massive national program to save the earth, pedal to the metal,and to enlist all those client states without the balls to deny the Empire in it? Make America great again. Save the earth.Use every resource available to the President without congress, and then defy congress and particularly the New Dems and their ilk to attempt to cut the lifeline such a policy would offer the world.
    I think of ways to sabotage such a move, and most of them seems to hinge on the question of whether the political human race (top 10%, of course) is truly willing to die to win a political contest.

  12. Norb

    The militarization of US economy and society underscores your scenario. By being part of the war coalition, the Democratic party, as now constituted, doesn’t have to win any presidential elections. The purpose of the Democratic party is to diffuse public dissent in an orderly fashion. This allows the war machine to grind on and the politicians are paid handsomely for their efforts.

    By joining the war coalition, the Democrats only have leverage over Republicans if the majority of citizens get “uppity” and start demanding social concessions. Democrats put down the revolt by subterfuge, which is less costly and allows the fiction of American Democracy and freedom to persist for a while longer. Republicans, while preferring more overt methods of repressing the working class, allow the fiction to continue because their support for authoritarian principles can stay hidden in the background.

    I have little faith in my fellow citizens as the majority are too brainwashed to see the danger of this political theatre. Most ignore politics, while those that do show an interest exercise that effort mainly by supporting whatever faction they belong. Larger issues and connections between current events remain a mystery to them as a result.

    Military defeat seems the only means to break this cycle. Democrats, being the fake peaceniks that they are, will be more than happy to defer to their more authoritarian Republican counterparts when dealing with issues concerning war and peace. Look no further than Tulsi Gabbard’s treatment in the party. The question is really should the country continue down this Imperialist path.

    In one sense, economic recession will be the least of our problems in the future. When this political theatre in the US finally reaches its end date, what lies behind the curtain will surely shock most of the population and I have little faith that the citizenry are prepared to deal with the consequences. A society of feckless consumers is little prepared to deal with hard core imperialists who’s time has reached its end.

    This wrath of frustrated Imperialists will be turned upon the citizenry.

    1. notabanker

      This wrath of frustrated Imperialists will be turned upon the citizenry.
      When their fiat money is worthless, we’ll see how effective that “wrath” really is.

      1. ambrit

        By owning the means of production, the Oligarchs will be able to produce the machinery of oppression without the resort to ‘money.’
        In revolutionary times, the most valuable commodity would be flying lead.

        1. Carey

          Could that be why “our” three-letter agencies have been stocking up on that substance for awhile, now?

    2. Phil in KC

      The purpose of the Democratic Party is to diffuse public dissent in an orderly fashion.”

      Wow! I’m going to be keeping that little nugget in mind as I watch the debates. Well-stated, Norb.

    1. Off The Street

      And some countries are even cratered for!

      The Democratic Party will be forced to address at some point its track record, as people will be looking at issues and demanding answers.

  13. dearieme

    forcing everyone who ever worked for a Clinton to look toward the private sector

    How many assassins does the private sector need?

  14. DJG

    If the nation wishes true deliverance, not just from Trump and Republicans, but from the painful state that got Trump elected in the first place, it will first have to believe in a savior.

    No, no, no, no, no. No oooshy religion, which is part of what got us into this mess. Cities on a hill. The Exceptional Nation(tm). Obligatory burbling of Amazing Grace. Assumptions that everyone is a Methodist. And after Deliverance, the U S of A will be magically re-virginated (for the umpteenth time), pure and worthy of Manifest Destiny once again.

    If you want to be saved, stick to your own church. Stop dragging it into the public sphere. This absurd and sloppy religious language is part of the problem. At the very least it is kitsch. At its worst it leads us to bomb Muslim nations and engage in “Crusades.”

    Other than that, the article makes some important points. In a year or so, there will be a lot of comments here on whether or not to vote for the pre-failed Democratic candidate, once the Party dumps Bernie Sanders. There is no requirement of voting for the Democrats, unless you truly do believe that they will bring the Deliverance (and untarnish your tarnished virtue). Vote your conscience. Not who Nate Silver indicates.

    1. jrs

      The deliverance stuff is odd because that’s not what Sander’s believes.

      But eh shrug, I’m in CA, the state is deep blue, I’ll vote my conscience in the primary, but I’ll vote to send a message in the general thank you very much. Maybe the message I want to send is these Dems are lame because uh Kamala-Biden, but maybe the message I want to send EVEN MORE is the finger stuck out there in the wind as far as it can go to Donald Trump (let him lose the popular vote by 20 million if he gets reelected). He won’t even leave our state level clean air standards alone etc., even a lame Dem would do that. 10 million miles from the change we need but, but yea I’d vote my middle finger maybe. I don’t have the whole “women scorned” thing about the Dem party because I literally don’t think I’ve ever been a registered Dem! I may do so just to get my vote counted.

    2. polecat

      Yep, I concur. Sanders, or any of the bunch, are not Gods !!

      Might as well utter : “Help us ObiWan Kanobi, you’re our only ‘hope’ ” (By Zeus, how I hate that word !! .. )

  15. flora

    an aside:

    Sanders about Kamala Harris’ ‘Medicare for All’ plan:
    Sen. Kamala Harris released a plan today that her campaign calls “Medicare for All” — you can call it anything you want, but you can’t call that plan Medicare for All.

    Her plan is centered around privatizing Medicare, enriching insurance executives and introducing more corporate greed and profiteering into the Medicare system — and even then, waiting for 10 years before any changes happen.

    Max Blumenthal about Joe Biden’s privatization plans – and their results:

    These two are the current Dem estab’s darling ‘front runners’.

  16. ptb

    Yes, this election is starting to remind me of 2004. High-up Dems, believing they’re playing the long game, sacrifice the election to maintain standing with big biz donors. The leading issue of the day (Iraq/GWOT/Patriot Act) was erased from mainstream US politics and has been since. Don’t for a minute think they won’t do a similar thing now. Big donors don’t particularly fear Trump, nor a 6-3 conservative supreme court, nor a Bolton state dept, nor a racist DHS/ICE – those are not money issues for them.

  17. KYrocky

    Sadly, when Sanders speaks of a “revolution”, and when he is referred to as a revolutionary, while at the same time accepting that the Democratic Party is a Party of the top 10%, puts into context just how low the bar is for a political revolution in America.

    The candidate who would fight and would govern for the 90% of Americans is a revolutionary.

    The fact that it can be said as a given that neither major Party is being run specifically to serve the vast majority of our country is itself an admission for that the class war begun by Reagan has been won, in more of a silent coup, and the rich have control of our nation.

    Sadly, actual democracy is an impediment to those who wield power in today’s America, and in that respect the class war continues to be waged, primarily through divisive social issues to divert our attention from the looting being done by and for the rich and the decline in opportunity and economic security for everyone else.

    Sanders is considered a revolutionary merely for stating the obvious, stating the truth. That is what makes him dangerous to those that run the Democratic Party, and more broadly those who run this nation.

    Sanders would do better to cast himself not as a revolutionary, but as a person of the people, with the belief that good government does not favor the wants of the richest over the needs of our country. That is what makes him a threat. To the rich unseen who hold power, to the Republican Party, and to some Democrats.

    1. alan2102

      Written by Umair Haque — good guy,until you find out that he supports Lizzie Warren, the fauxgressive.

  18. Matthew G. Saroff

    I love reading Taibbi, but in his article, that quote, “Sanders is the revolutionary. His election would mean a complete overhaul of the Democratic Party, forcing everyone who ever worked for a Clinton to look toward the private sector,” should be the lede, and its buried 2/3 of the way down.

    This primary season is about how the Democratic Party consultant class, I call them leeches, is fighting for its power at the expense of the party and the country.

  19. flora

    Yves writes: … it is unfortunate that this struggle is being personified, as in too often treated by the media and political operatives as being about Sanders.

    I agree. Sanders represents the continuing New Deal-type policies. The DLC-type New Democrats (corporatists) have been working to destroy New Deal Democrats and policies as a force in the party. The New Deal Democrats brought in bank regulations, social security, medicare, the voting rights act, restraint on financial predation, and various economic protections for the little-guy and for Main Street businesses. The DLC Dems have brought deregulation of the banks and financial sector, an attempt to cut social security, expansion of prisons, tax cuts for corporations and the billionaires, the return of monopoly power, and the economic squeeze on Main Street businesses forced to compete with monopolies.

    The MSM won’t talk about any of the programmatic differences between the two sides. The MSM won’t recognize the New Deal style Democratic voters even exist; the New Deal wing voters are quickly labeled ‘deplorable’ instead voters with competing economic policies to the current economic policies.

    So, we’re left with the MSM focusing on personalities to avoid talking about the real policy differences, imo.

  20. sharonsj

    When Bernie talks about a revolution, he explains how it must be from the grassroots, from the bottom up. If he manages to get elected, his supporters have to make sure they get behind the politicians who also support him and, if they don’t, get rid of them. Without continuing mass protests, nothing is going to happen. Other countries have figured this out but Americans remain clueless.

  21. DHG

    Biden and quite a few others are republicans in Dem clothing, it is easy to see who the corporate Dem shills are. Warren and Sanders are actually ones who want to do things for the 90%. With Biden nothing will change it will remain as it is now only without the Trump racism and stupidity if he were to get elected. As I have 0 faith in this system and in human governments nothing will be done for the lesser off and the greed of the top will continue on until they are cut off forever at Armageddon.

  22. Johny Conspiranoid

    The Dems are finished as a force for meaningfull change. Their current constitution locks in the oligarchy. You should re-group around the Greens and fight the electoral laws which exclude non duopoly partys.

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