Some Comments on the Sanders Campaign

I’ve held off from saying much about Bernie Sanders’ decision to suspend his presidential campaign. In part that is because Naked Capitalism is a finance and economics site, not a political site. Nevertheless, the Sanders campaign was particularly important because he ran on a full-bore attack on neoliberalism. He not only made ideas heretofore regarded as political third rails, like wiping out the private health insurance industry, as proposals to be reckoned with, but also built funding, media, and canvassing operations entirely outside the Democratic party structure, which were impressive operational accomplishments.

I wish he had soldiered on a bit longer, but with key senior staffers pushing for him to effectively withdraw, he may have felt he had no choice (he could not continue with these disaffected aides in key roles, and it would have been extremely difficult to replace them). And keep in mind that coronavirus ending the campaign’s ability to hold large rallies and canvass in person, and potentially have supporters show up en masse in Milwaukee if he had over 40% of the delegates but not a majority as a testament to their loyalty to him, were additional crippling blows.

There will be more analyses and no doubt books written about the Sanders campaign, what it achieved and why it fell short. Lambert is toying with working up “matrix of failure” based on a structure of analysis devised in the classic book Military Misfortunes, and he has discussed both some questionable decisions other have highlighted, like why didn’t Sanders present policies in Iowa that addressed the needs of farming communities, or why didn’t he try harder to win over black leaders in the South, particularly South Carolina, so as to keep his loss to a respectable level.

Today, we’ll stick to a narrow issue, a meme which has become popular and Lambert and I regard as fundamentally wrong: that Sanders should have become more aggressive with Biden and tried to deliver a “knockout punch”. Lambert rejects the idea because among other things, it perpetuates the horserace framing of the contest, which he sees as wrong-headed. I’ve been put off by it because first, it’s too often comes from Sanders backers and members of the left calling for what they’d liked to see as opposed to what it would have taken to win over fence-sitting voters.

Second, the desire for a “knockout punch” is too reminiscent of action movies, where the outmanned hero somehow through ninja moves and/or impressive gunplay manages to kill a whole lot of baddies and emerge only a bit scratched up. It’s an admission of how much of an underdog position Sanders was still in. The mainstream media, day in, day out was gunning for him when it wasn’t ignoring him, and that continued at the debates, which him regularly getting the most “When did you stop beating your wife?” sort of questions, and often denied rebuttals when attacked by other candidates. The superdelegate system, though less heavy-handed than in 2016, still set an extremely high bar for him to win the nomination. The Democrats got rid of many state caucuses, which as we saw in Iowa, are more transparent than elections (so his backers had the dubious pleasure of seeing Sanders win the popular vote and even the eventual delegate tally had it been honestly counted….but the press would not touch that chicanery with a ten foot pole). There was obvious vote suppression in Texas by removing polling stations in poor neighborhoods, and in Maine by not having enough ballots in many districts. And exit polls consistently found support for Sanders higher than the eventual totals, by higher than the margin of error…which in third world countries is seen as a likely indicator of election rigging.

One also has to wonder if Pelosi’s curious decision to sit on the impeachment referral was largely driven by wanting to cashier Warren and Sanders and allow Biden and Buttigieg to make inroads against them in Iowa.

Yes, it would have been fun to see Sanders slap around Biden in a debate the way Warren did Bloomberg. But Warren got no bounce for accelerating Bloomberg’s exit (which was bound to happen given all his baggage and the fact Bloomberg had no loyalties to the party). Harris got only a short-lived pop from attacking Biden on his race record. Gabbard never got above 5% even with the flurry of coverage for her kneecapping of Harris.

Sanders did hold his fire against Biden, but attacking a fellow candidate at the podium is tricky business. What if Sanders had gone after Biden’s supposed greatest point of vulnerability, his record on Social Security? That had already been undercut by a Sanders ad that misfired and failed a Poynter Institute fact check: Sanders’ misleading Social Security attack on Biden. Biden would have turned the tables on Sanders and said, “There you go again. You ran an ad that misrepresented my record of supporting Social Security, a fact check even said so. And you’re doing it again.”

And the Sanders campaign was already under attack for being too angry. Even though Sanders worked to soften his public persona after his heart attack, his habitual stance is finger-punching about injustice. Generally speaking, Americans are very uncomfortable with disagreement and want emotional displays to be strongly biased towards happy (look at our movies compared to film out of Europe and Asia). Sanders’ regular shows of righteous anger is on the edge of what many will accept.

Disappointed Sanders supporters are also ignoring the elephant in the room: his “electability”. I don’t think most understood what that dog whistle signified, since to any Sanders fan, the charge was ludicrous on its face. Sanders had beaten Trump by 10 to 20 point margins in every one-on-one poll in 2016, every time, larger than Hillary’s point spread, and in 2020, almost always did best of all the Democratic party contenders in one-to-one polls.

Sanders voters were often too deeply vested in his policies to understand what the beef was. Studies on cognitive bias have shown again and again that people will react to the same economic proposition differently, depending on its framing. So even though polls for the last 30 years have consistently found that a majority, or the very worst, a clear plurality favors progressive positions like higher minimum wages, strengthening Social Security and Medicare, ending the wars, and taxing the rich, most Americans identify as centrists or even conservatives.

So “electability,” particularly for older voters, is code for “Sanders is McGovern 2.0.” “Even if you like him, he’s too far to the left. Too many big government schemes, too much in tax increases.” That’s also the point of attack with the Trump “Crazy Bernie” monicker: Pie in the sky, big spending.” And that’s before you get to the “s” word.

Sanders did not help himself by failing to knock back predictable and repeated attacks on his major policies. Biden in particular would repeatedly claim Sanders was lying about how much his health care plan would cost and would bandy about scary numbers. Sanders never rebutted that effectively when he had an easy first line of response:

Yes, Joe, taxes will go up. But guess what? For all but the very richest, you’ll have more cash in your pocket at year end. Right now, you are paying for expensive middlemen and overpriced drugs. Studies have found America’s health care admin costs are 18% to 30% of total costs, versus 2% for Medicare. That’s money we can save right away. We also pay more for drugs than any country in the world even when our government paid for the R&D! Those are savings we can get quickly too. There’s even more we can do over time.

The Green New Deal was also part of Sanders platform, but as least based on tweets of his operatives and supporters, it seemed to be getting 1% of the attention from the campaign as his Medicare for All push. That may have been a blessing in disguise. “Green New Deal” on the left is a hodge-podge of ideas. The Sanders plan does show a lot of initiatives, but even with various programs listed and price tags attached, it still winds up feeling weirdly abstract. If he had wanted to feature this more prominently (or his opponents wanted to corner him into defending it), it would have helped to make it more concrete: “Here are some of the things it would do in Wichita, Kansas.”

But again, for those who have not accepted a Green New Deal as the way to tackle climate change (and this site has reservations, since these schemes rely over-much on building new infrastructure, which means front-loaded energy costs using our current heavily-fossil-fuel-dependent energy sources), it sounds like costly leftie empire-building.

We’re not the only ones to be generally of this point of view. In comments yesterday Mark Giselson stated:

I’m a former party hack. Always a socialist, but up until 2000 I always worked within the framework of D party politics (labor issues excepted as the socialist labor folks were ALWAYS more helpful than the D’s).

I do not think Bernie ran a bad campaign. I’ve never seen stronger ground support or better discipline (Tweeters are not the campaign). I’ve also never seen such a massive disconnect vote-wise. For the life of me I cannot make sense of any of our election results this year.

Normally you can ALWAYS deconstruct an election after the fact. In 2016, I could not do that. The numbers did not add up and the general election numbers reinforced that analysis.

This cycle, not only do the numbers not add up, the case for count manipulation is incredibly well documented.

I honestly doubt that we’ve seen an honest national election in this century.

Bernie ran the kind of campaign you need to run to win. You cannot go scorched earth in the primaries, period. It cost Obama the PUMA vote and it cost HRC more Bernie votes than she could afford to lose. The PUMAs were, btw, the first organized super sore losers I’ve seen since the Vietnam War ended.

You win in the fall by prevailing in the spring in ways that do not unnecessarily offend your opponents’ followers. Bernie was running that kind of campaign; he was running to win in November.

He could still be fighting, but that would just assure he gets the blame when Biden gets humiliated by Trump. I have no problems with Bernie, or how he ran this campaign.

He didn’t bring a knife to a gunfight, he brought his guns. The other side had water cannons, the media, the police, the governors and all the machinery of corrupt governance because they knew that in a fair fight, Bernie would kick their ass.

He still has my full and complete respect. And I am still well on his left. We could not have done better without a better candidate and we didn’t have a better candidate.

The amount change Sanders was seeking to achieve normally takes more than a generation. The concerted right wing push, backed by open-ended corporate spending, Madison-Avenue phrasemaking, and an orchestrated effort to reshape jurisprudence, took 20 years to start getting real traction. Sanders looked to have an opening to carry his program forward much faster due to the fact that the elites did almost nothing to reform a broken and deeply unfair economic system after the 2008 crisis. The Democratic party had performed badly with and under Hillary Clinton, giving Sanders an opening no one had imagined was there.

The overly-large 2020 primary field, as many party insiders worried, had the potential to drain candidate coffers early, leaving them with less funding than they’d need to trounce Trump. And it didn’t help Sanders to have Warren as the more moderate progressive, not just splitting the left-leaning vote but also helping to show those nervous fence-sitters that Sanders really was out there….by some standard.

In fact, Warren may have been the perfect spoiler. Trump can be unnervingly accurate:

But on top of that, Warren’s barrages did seem to accelerate Bloomberg’s demise. If Bloomberg had stayed in the race longer, say at least through Florida, he would have sucked votes mainly from Biden. It’s not clear the post-South-Carolina salvo against Sanders would have been as effective with Bloomberg still running.

Unlike the many Sanders critics, Thomas Frank is quite clear that Sanders was not a self-saboteur but on the wrong end of a hatchet job. A snippet from his important piece in Harpers, How the Anti-Populists Stopped Bernie Sanders:

But the danger of anti-populism is that it goes far beyond objecting to one vile politician. This was demonstrated in March as the anti-populist establishment came together to pummel the campaign of Bernie Sanders. Whatever its target, anti-populism is always a brief for elite and even aristocratic power, an attack on the democratic tradition itself. That is ultimately what’s in the crosshairs when commentators tell us that populism is a “threat to liberal democracy”; when they announce that populism “is almost inherently antidemocratic”; when they declare that “all people of goodwill must come together to defend liberal democracy from the populist threat.”…

Here is David Brooks, making the connection between “populists of left and right” in a New York Times column denouncing Sanders. The Vermont senator, Brooks asserts, embraces

the populist values, which are different [from liberal ones]: rage, bitter and relentless polarization, a demand for ideological purity among your friends and incessant hatred for your supposed foes.

And here is how The Economist made exactly the same point, whining that Americans may soon be forced to choose

between a corrupt, divisive, right-wing populist, who scorns the rule of law and the constitution, and a sanctimonious, divisive, left-wing populist, who blames a cabal of billionaires and businesses for everything that is wrong with the world. All this when the country is as peaceful and prosperous as at any time in its history. It is hard to think of a worse choice.

As it happens, the men of quality did their job, and working Americans will not face the ignoble prospect of voting for a candidate who takes their side against billionaires and businesses. The larger message of anti-populism, regardless of where it comes from on the political spectrum, is always one of complacency. Elites rule us because elites should rule us. They are in charge because they are the best.

And so we come to understand the real task before us today: to rescue from the enormous condescension of the comfortable the one political tradition that has a chance of reversing our decades-long turn to the right.

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  1. PlutoniumKun

    As an outsider, I’d agree with nearly all of this. Those urging Sanders to attack Biden and go for the jugular simply don’t understand the psychology of politics. This type of approach rarely works, and only for certain types of politicians (Trump being a notable example). The most successful attacks are always done by proxy. Sanders weakness was not having someone on the left to do the dirty work for him. Tulsi and Warren at times helped Sanders inadvertently this way, but they weren’t doing it consistently enough and weren’t on board with the Sanders strategy. In my view one key mistake in the Sanders campaign was not explicitly doing a deal early on with Tulsi so that she could act as the ‘bad cop’ to Sanders ‘good cop’. They could both have benefited from it.

    Additionally, it would have sounded false, and there is no more fatal flaw in a conviction politician than to sound false. For better or worse, Sanders is who he is. For him to round on Biden personally would have undermined Sanders greatest electoral strength – his general personal likability and obvious decency.

    Sanders best chance was always to do what he does best – consistent positive messaging – and this is what he did. So far as I can see his only real failure in terms of his personal campaigning was his failure to rehearse some snappy soundbites to the ‘it will cost too much’ questions. I find his failure to do this quite baffling. He needed something quick, snappy and memorable, and he needed to say it over and over.

    But even then, the odds were against him. He could have won, but he needed the stars to align – and like many a general, he needed his enemies to keep making mistakes to succeed. You can always win against a stronger force if they underestimate you are make errors. But if the stronger force gets its act together, there is little an upstart can do. At the last gasp, the Dam establishment, with the help of some very good luck, got its act together to stop Sanders.

    It needs to be said over and over that the majority of voters in all elections in all countries, but especially in ‘closed’ type elections like primaries, veer older, conservative and are not on twitter. They get their news from the TV (yes, hard to believe, but they do). They are entirely oblivious to the arguments that occupy daily thoughts of the sort of person who reads NC or follows Twitter arguments or even reads the NYT. The right understands this, the left never seems to grasp it.

    A few months back I was reading a little about the transition to democracy in South Korea in the 1980’s. The Korean people, with immense determination and courage stood up to their autocratic leaders, and with students and unions at the vanguard overthrew the government and won democracy. The people then went out to vote and voted the old dictator and his cronies right back in again. This has happened over and over again in history. Its always a terrible error to confuse a genuine grassroots uprising (in whatever form) with the ‘real’ will of the people, as expressed in an election. Like it or not, its middle aged and older kulaks in small towns who decide these things. If they don’t like the look of you, you don’t get elected, its as simple as that. I think Sanders himself understood this very well – but I suspect many of his supporters and advisors didn’t.

    1. Adam Eran

      Nicely put. BTW, I’ve just read Sanders endorsed Biden.

      My own take on this is that Sanders is most like William Jennings Bryan, campaigning against the bankers. Bryan lost multiple times, yet still managed to influence government enough to produce the Fed, regulation of transport (so farmers weren’t held up by crooked railroads) and agricultural coops. These were some of the fruits of this movement that remain viable.

      Politicians in general are very reluctant to take on too many battles. Never mind his attitude toward Biden, Bernie employed Stephanie Kelton, but would never mention MMT.

      As for M4A, he should have said “How will we pay for something half as expensive as what we’re already paying that delivers better health care? That’s not a very sensible question, if you ask me!”

    2. ChrisPacific

      Yes, this (and the post) are a good summary. The idea that the scales would fall from voters’ eyes and they would realize what a horrible candidate Biden was, if only Bernie would just TELL them, always struck me as wishful thinking in the extreme. It’s the political equivalent of the clickbait stuff that appears in Facebook (“Watch Elizabeth Warren SCHOOL this finance CEO in the Senate!” and the like) that is read and enjoyed by people who share your viewpoint already and ignored by everyone else.

      The information is out there for people who are paying attention. Biden will even tell you himself – he is much worse at pretending to be on the side of the little guy than Obama and even Hillary were. Biden’s voters have already decided who he is, or else are treating him as a blank slate that they can project their own wishes and hopes onto, or are simply doing what they’re told (Lambert’s theory of the Super Tuesday coup as a signal to authoritarian followers).

      An interview I read with a guy that works for an NGO said that real change generally tends to take about 30 years, because most people aren’t going to fundamentally change their views after a certain age, so you appeal to the younger generation and wait for demographics to do their work. If you look at the breakdown of views in the USA by demographic, it’s very clear that change is coming in the next 20-30 years. What that ends up looking like depends on how smoothly and quickly we can make the transition. If it happens after the older generation cling to power for as long as they possibly can, perpetuating the economic distress of the younger generation and squandering our last chance to arrest or reverse the damage of climate change, then it could get ugly.

      1. J4Zonian

        Unfortunately our problem with that is twofold. First, it usually takes longer—typically 50 years to do an inadequate job partly eliminating a substance after it becomes known it’s harmful (against ferocious objections by the right), and 75 years once the movement gets going, for bigger things like getting rid of slavery. The second problem is we don’t have that time. Climate catastrophe, the larger ecological crisis, and the inequality/fascism crisis mean we have to make changes much faster than that—eliminating at least 90% of fossil fuel use in the next 10 years or less, for example.

    3. templar555510

      Yeh, not really. You’re leaving out the fact Sanders is an old man. No one wants to acknowledge this ( I’m entitled to do so I’m almost 71 ) . You don’t have the same energy , the same killer punch at 77 . This age thing in itself says the system is clapped out . Three septuagenarians vying for power . It’s ludicrous, except that as I said the system’s finished . The party system is finished just about everywhere . The question for the ‘ democracies ‘ is how do we deal with populism on the other side of the pandemic. It’s a very hard thing to face that the world that existed on 1st March isn’t coming back EVER. All this junking around with GDP statistics is nonsense . EVERYTHING is going to have to be reconfigured. I own a small, niche business in the ‘ hospitality sector ( not a restaurant or a hotel ) and as things stand it looks like we will survive, but that’s just a ‘ best guess ‘because if things don’t turn around by August we may not . So I’m sick to death of all this talk about ‘ recession, depression, slump etc ‘ . This is about SURVIVAL and then we’ll see what’s on the other side . Anything else is just a pleasant afternoon at a debating society while the fire is about to engulf the building you’re sitting in.

  2. Donna

    Thank you, Yves. I have been looking for a comprehensive review of the campaign that ended too early for his supporters. I too was impressed when I read Mark’s review yesterday and agreed wholeheartedly.

    I particularly appreciated the mention of exit polls and long lines at polling stations. I realize that any voting process needs citizens to keep it honest. But without hand marked paper ballots counted in public how do we ever get policies in place that support the 99%? Remember…. Bernie was ahead in polling in every single state the day before Super Tuesday according to Chuck Rocha, Bernie’s Latina outreach coordinator.

    Of course the elephant in the room is the coronavirus. No way to factor that in. But it has got to be huuuuuge. I also heard repeatedly from Sanders’ people that their polling showed if Bernie hit Biden, Bernie’s poll numbers would go down. So there is that too. A lot of Monday morning quarterbacking going on.

    Leaving out irregularities in the voting system, the negative press and the effects of the establishment aligned against Bernie just seems like Bernie bashing. It is not helpful in determining the next move which should include addressing the voting issues. How can you win a vote that is rigged? Was it rigged? Will we ever know if no one is willing to discuss it?

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      I reckon that the utter lack of a Free Press that reaches everyone has a lot to do with all this, too.
      Our current version of “Free Press” is disparate and scattered, and must be not only hunted for, but parsed. How many of our fellow americans possess the mental/informational prowess to do that?
      Chaos…not least in the ontological sense(what is Real?)…lends itself to the Boss Class’ agenda.

      1. Oh

        Our “Free Press” was a big factor because they did not cover his campaign except to malign him and his policies and ignore his wins. The DimRat ballot manipulation and miscounting was another. Elizabeth Warren’s lies about Bernie was also a factor and finally the use of several candidates to dilute Bernie’s wins did the trick.

        Unfortunately, people in this country refuse to think except for the minority at NC. They repeatedly vote against their own interest.

        1. edmondo

          Or maybe they didn’t like what they saw. I was all in for Sanders in 2016. I canvassed I contributed and I voted. Not so in 2020. I barely voted for him (I originally changed my registration to “D” to vote for Tulsi).

          After Bernie endorsed Hillary in 2016, I couldn’t care less about the Man nor his “revolution” that wasn’t going to happen. I merely ticked a box on a mail-in ballot> I knew he wouldn’t win for one big reason – HE NEVER WANTED TO WIN.

          Adios Bernie. Go away.

          1. Oh

            It looks like you were very perceptive. Not all of us are. I don’t blame you for not trusting him after he quit the last time and campaigned for Hilly.

            Tulsi was way before her time but she didn’t waver from her anti-war stance.

          2. Aumua

            He had an agreement in 2016 to do exactly what he did with Clinton, so I am willing to forgive that. However I’m not sure he had any such agreement to uphold this time around, and yet there he is today next to Biden, nodding his head to the bullshit Biden is spewing, and a “Biden for President” logo right next to his obviously pained face. THAT, while not unexpected, is very hard to watch.

      1. Big River Bandido

        It’s well beyond “sore loser” laws. Most states make ballot access incredibly difficult unless you are a Republican or Democrat. Incredibly high signature requirements, short collection windows, chicanery of the worst orders.

        It’s all to encourage bi-partisan cooperation, you see.

    2. Donna

      Whoops. Bernie was ahead in every poll before South Carolina. See my comment above and change Super Tuesday to South Carolina.

  3. John A

    That Economist quote
    “All this when the country is as peaceful and prosperous as at any time in its history. It is hard to think of a worse choice”.

    Are they for real? How many wars is the US currently engaged in? How many countries is it aggressively sanctioning, aka economic warfare? How prosperous is a country when millions have no savings? When there are homeless people everywhere? Where people cannot get an education or healthcare without virtually bankrupting themselves? War is peace, prosperity is bankruptcy, Orwell lives on at the Economist, clearly.

    1. Anarcissie

      The Economist meant, peaceful and prosperous for the kind of people who read the Economist and those whom they serve. They were not talking about the proles.

      1. Librarian Guy

        I used to occasionally read the Economist to know what “intelligent” people on the right were thinking. Recently I’ve been listening to Adam Johnson and Nima Shirazi’s outstanding, genuinely Left/ anti-NeoLib podcast Citations Needed.

        They did quite an informative piece on the Economist’s pro-slavery and pro-“Free Trade” globalism going back to 1843, who the Elite Brit business interests supporting them were, etc. Quite enlightening– They are foul, but quite consistent in worship of the market and a belief that some people (non-whites and poor whites) are subhuman and merit enslavement by their “betters” for their own good, or extermination if those people dare to resist Capital’s enlightened rule. And by consistent I mean nearly 2 centuries after beginning, the political views of TE are pretty much unchanged.

        Link to the Economist episode at

        1. Fazal Majid

          The Economist is actually far better now than in the mid-nineties when they didn’t even pretend to hide their enthusiasm for Newt Gingrich, I even recall an article mentioning “our” Contract with America, which led me to cancel my subscription.

          Here’s an interesting British perspective on The Economist as essentially the Pravda of the City of London:

          As for Bernie, his weakness with Black voters was his undoing, as for Butigieg. Centrists and Democrats who didn’t want an outsider taking over their party settled for Biden, not out of any admiration for him, which is their prerogative. Democratic socialists have to figure out how to move the Overton window if they are to avoid outright rejection by the centrist electorate.

          I think Warren could have done it (then again she is not a socialist), were it not for her unacceptable (for the American public) lack of a phallus (just for the record: I voted by mail for her in the California primaries).

  4. Vastydeep

    It’s long been said “You can’t be something with nothing,” but that was Before. Biden won in states where he barely campaigned, had no ground presence, spent no money, and lost or tied in exit polling. I agree with Mark Giselson — Bernie ran a laudable campaign, but as the I Ching says “Even the best of hunters finds no game in an empty field.”

    His most significant campaing failing was that his debate answers hewed so strictly to his stump speeches – for this reason, he was probably the only Democratic candidate that Biden might beat in a debate.

    In high-level chess there is “book” — the set of 10-20 opening moves that every top player has memorized and can play quickly and without thinking. Bernie was 100% book – so Biden could memorize the answers to the obvious (or pre-leaked) questions and stay on firm (if not entirely truthful) ground.

    If Bernie was his best opponent, Trump is surely his worst. Trump is 0% book – he could say anything at any time with no need to stick to facts, truth, or debate rules. I have to believe that in the Virtual Campaign 2020, debate will never happen.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Oh, but those Biden wins you point to were not “Biden” wins. They were Democratic party machine wins.

      And I beg to differ with you on Sanders in the debates. There is nothing in the sort of debate responses I suggested that were at odds with his campaign presentations. Lambert highlighted some of his smaller group town halls where Sanders was on message but not scripted and gave some excellent answers to pointed questions.

      However, Sanders apparently refused to let his aides rehearse him for debates. I’m at a loss to understand why. Did he not trust their judgment? Did he think he had better uses for the time? Even if he didn’t want to “rehearse” in a formal manner, he should at least have looked at likely questions and mentally rehearsed answers.

      1. Vastydeep

        Agreed — in fact we are in “violent agreement!” The clown car of Democratic contenders was probably strictly intended, market-segment by market-segment, to keep Bernie from a first ballot win. When they all fell down, Lambert’s Night of Long Knives produced the same outcome directly. The Democratic machine was never going to let Bernie win; by “empty field,” I suggest that Bernie couldn’t have done better by playing the game differently.

        I’m sure that Bernie’s debate and small town-hall answers were sharp and truthful — the problem was that they were also *predictable.* As long as Biden could stay “on book” he would win. Biden stayed on book and won. Against Biden, honesty and consistency are handicaps that Trump simply won’t worry about.

      2. Mark Gisleson

        (Thank you for your kind words and sharing my thoughts from Saturday!)

        I think I might function a bit like Bernie. If I work from prepared remarks, I feel chained to them. My brain functions best in an ad hoc environment, and I think this is also true of Bernie.

        Debate prep is all about quick rejoinders and put-downs plus (for some candidates) planned bafflegab to fill the time if they don’t have a good answer. It’s pretty fake because the format is very fake.

        Bernie doesn’t need bafflegab and he’s quick on his feet. As you pointed out earlier, he was often denied a chance to rebut, and I suspect those would have been his finest moments (also the most viral which is why they cut to commercials when they did). Coaching and rehearsals are necessary with HRC candidates who need to be reminded that on stage, they can’t use the same lines as they do at fat cat fundraisers. Not a problem for Bernie.

        The problem was the moderators. Future debates need to be kicked back to the League of Women Voters and the process must be more transparent.

        1. mpalomar

          Thanks for your thoughts and for your work on the ‘left’ and thanks to NC for this look back at Bernie’s primary adventure 2020.

          The problem was the moderators.

          -Indeed, specifically with the ‘game show’ debate formats and more widely with the ‘moderators’ of the corporate media discourse that had already fitted the parameters of the discourse in concrete overshoes.

          Debates are rarely designed for an informative examination of issues in the best of circumstances. These bizarre exercises in show biz politics are designed largely to avoid such outcomes.

          Sanders perhaps should have been armed with a few concise, direct quotes from Biden’s well documented support for the Iraq war and attacks on SS on the floor of the Senate and elsewhere. He might for instance have pressed Biden by directly asking, “Did you not tell the senate in 1995, and I quote, ‘That we should freeze federal spending, I meant Social Security as well… I meant Medicare and Medicaid. I meant veterans’ benefits. I meant every single solitary thing in the government. And I not only tried it once, I tried it twice, I tried it a third time, and I tried it a fourth time.’ ” Biden probably couldn’t have gotten away with the outright lie he told.

          Which risks the question, how in 2016 Trump managed to obliterate the GOP field in the primaries. Was it not through ‘flaming’ the competition in a highly confrontational manner? Could this only have worked with Trump or someone Trump-like who came out of reality TV and wrestling promotion and early on was mentored by Roy Cohen?

          It’s true, it’s hard to envision Sanders employing such tactics or the media allowing it from anyone other than a former clownish, wrestling promoter, who was allowed to carry on in such a manner because it was good for ratings and was assumed to be self destructive.

          “The amount change Sanders was seeking to achieve normally takes more than a generation.”
          By some reckoning generations have been waging the struggle in and on the periphery of the Democratic Party, FDR was the most successful, wildly successful one might say, but he had a depression and a War to mobilise around. Then there was Henry Wallace who was quickly dispatched and McGovern in 72 and primary challenges from Kucinich and Nader that were tamped out quickly but at least voices were raised.

          Some Sanders supporters, younger ones I think, have reacted angrily, they have not lived long enough to have been properly tempered by the ongoing string of disappointments the Democratic Party establishment has garroted the left with.

          1. RJM Consulting

            FDR as wildly successful deserves a careful review. 1932 was not the monumental success otherwise implied; he was a classic fence-sitter, and the machinations behind the scenes (cf. Joe Kennedy, WR Hearst, John Nance, Father Coughlin and more) probably had more to do with his ultimate election than did his political acumen. Here’s a quote that serves to entice further investigation:
            “FDR traveled around the country attacking Hoover and promising better days ahead, but often without referring to any specific programs or policies. Roosevelt was so genial—and his prescriptions for the country so bland—that some commentators questioned his capabilities and his grasp of the serious challenges confronting the United States.” See,

            1. mpalomar

              FDR’s leftish bona fides were perhaps scant in 1932 and presumably, given politics, he could have been expected to turn out as a typical facilitator to his class rather than ultimately as a somewhat ambiguous traitor.

              Yet indication of his thinking is evident in his 1930 NY gubernatorial re-election campaign, ” ‘That progressive government by its very terms must be a living and growing thing, that the battle for it is never-ending and that if we let up for one single moment or one single year, not merely do we stand still but we fall back in the march of civilization.’ He ran on a platform that called for aid to farmers, full employment, unemployment insurance, and old-age pensions.”- wikipedia.

              Wildly successful in this sense, he was elected four times running to the left of the pack.

      3. Fred Mullen

        Bernie is the most policy oriented candidate in living memory, much more so than Elizabeth “I have a plan for that” Warren. It simply didn’t compute, as it were, to rehearse for debates or to attack personally Biden (a truly opportunistic scumbag his entire political career) for his historical and pernicious positions. What’s to rehearse or what is there about a foe personally when the policies are the be all and end all of not only your campaigning but your entire political life. Watch again those videos of many decades ago from when Bernie was mayor of Burlington, VT and he’s out and about speaking with children, who are elementary school students. Their reactions to what are fundamentally policy positions range from the curious to the bewildered. To his credit, Bernie never devolved to the odiousness of Lee Atwater or Maureen Dowd.

  5. a different chris

    On a related note here is an article in the Post-Gazette.

    Pennsylvania Democratic Party chairwoman Nancy Patton Mills [my note: that’s a real working class name isn’t it?] called for unity, too, and said — in an email to party members — that supporters of the Vermont senator “should know there is always a place for their movement and ideas in the Democratic Party.”

    Yeah that place is in the very, very back row.

    “Behind Joe, Democrats can expand healthcare access, fix our top-down economy, safeguard our elections, and create a safer, more equitable nation,” Ms. Mills said.

    And there’s that “access” word again!

    Can somebody flip the tables on these idiots – we know “access” is a code for them always trying to nickle-and-dime us to death (literally, in this case!). But “access” is a word that means more than just that. How about the closing of rural hospitals? “Hey we saved up for your stupid co-pays and deductibles and out-of-pockets — but ‘lil Jonny broke his arm and there ain’t no hospital within an hour of here?”.

  6. Molly

    What is the PUMA vote? Honest question, I have no idea what the acronym stands for, and Google gives me no help.

    1. Acacia

      “The PUMAs—which, depending on the temperament of the person asked, stood for People United Means Action or, more likely, Party Unity My Ass—were a group of disillusioned, mostly Democratic voters who protested the nomination of then-Senator Barack Obama as the Democratic Party nominee in 2008. In their view, party leadership machinations (remember the “super delegates?”) robbed Clinton of the nomination.”

      1. Oh

        How silly of me! I thought it meant the urban dictionary definition:

        “A woman in her sexual prime between the ages of 30-39 who prefers to date younger men. The term “puma” does not apply to women before their 30s, and should never be confused with the titles “Cougar” (ages 40-49) and “Jaguar” (ages 50+).
        When Megan Fox becomes a puma, she’ll probably look like a jaguar.”

        1. GeoCrackr

          Well, you’re not entirely wrong there – the vast majority of PUMA’s were disaffected older white women.

      2. Oh

        How silly of me! I thought it meant the urban dictionary definition:

        “A woman in her sexual prime between the ages of 30-39 who prefers to date younger men. The term “puma” does not apply to women before their 30s, and should never be confused with the titles “Cougar” (ages 40-49) and “Jaguar” (ages 50+).
        When Megan Fox becomes a puma, she’ll probably look like a jaguar.”

    2. Carla

      Funny that Google couldn’t help you. Startpage gave it to me right away: People United Means Action.

      However, I like Acacia’s “Party Unity My Ass” much better!

    3. Barry Fay

      The annoying, pseudo-intellectual and unnecessary use of obscure acronyms continues unabated. Communication? Who needs it? I´d rather look “in-the-know” or like an “expert”.

  7. Kevin Hall

    This is all rear view mirror now.

    They thought Bernie was our last chance, our last hope. They are wrong, he was theirs.

    But it is time for a new battlefield. It won’t be won politically. A candidate like Bernie has only come around once in my nearly 50 years. In addition to that, they are never, NEVER going to allow hand marked ballots, hand counted in public.

    The grim time is at hand to fulfill the last part of JFK’s quote and do what must be done. It is going to be hard work and it is going to kill many and damage the rest of us – there will be a price to be paid by all.

    But it must be done and they have left us no choice.

    It is time to rise up.

    1. Big River Bandido

      I don’t think the American people have that in them any more. It will require the long term dislocation of, say, coronavirus, to make Americans do what is necessary. Like the espouse to the Great Depression, I suspect we’re going to be wallowing for at least 2-5 years.

    2. Aumua

      Yeah, I mean… things are going to have to get quite a bit harder for Americans before we really start talking about revolutionary rising up. Remember that Americans, rich and poor, still live in relative luxury compared to (and at the expense of) much of the rest of the world. I don’t see the kind of discontent under these conditions that will be needed.

      So maybe things just aren’t bad enough… yet.

  8. gsinbe

    This part of Mark Giselson’s post deserves more discussion, in my opinion:

    Normally you can ALWAYS deconstruct an election after the fact. In 2016, I could not do that. The numbers did not add up and the general election numbers reinforced that analysis.

    This cycle, not only do the numbers not add up, the case for count manipulation is incredibly well documented.

    The acceptance of paperless voting has essentially destroyed any illusion of democracy. I believe that the general election between Trump and Biden will hinge on which campaign has the most skillful hackers.

    I’ve seen the quote here that if voting really mattered, they wouldn’t let us do it. Well… they don’t.

    1. Acacia

      That passage also gave me pause. What doesn’t add up about 2016?

      Look, HRC was a sh*tty candidate, the DNC threw Bernie under the bus, and hypocritically catered to the 10% PMC. Trump told the other 90% what they wanted to hear.

      Is it really complicated?

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        I believe he means the primary numbers. My general sense (to be fair I haven’t done it on a congressional district level) is the general election numbers made sense except to pollsters predicting a 2008 like turnout. Between suppression and HRC not running to win as much as assume the throne, she saw reduced turnout in areas Team Blue organized in 2008. Trump didn’t suffer from being McCain who was never liked on evangelical right and being a Mormon. Trump did even better in districts ravaged by free trade and facing Iraq war veterans or absences. Hillary ran up numbers in safe blue districts and suburbs dependent on MIC grift, the moderate suburban republicans she courted. In a sense, their 2 for 1 strategy worked, but mostly in narrow corridors where they didn’t even swing states or congressional seats.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            I meant McCain. McCain suffered because he was never liked by the evangelical crowd which also wasn’t wild about Romney for being a Mormon.

            It wouldn’t have made a difference in 2008, and I would have to look at 2012. Obama won differently but his margins in the states in play weren’t as great as his EC vote total.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          On top of the general #s issue (and I am pretty sure Mark does mean the primaries), we had the ham-fisted disappearing of 125,000 votes in Brooklyn and a lot of chicanery in California (reported in detail by poll workers in a couple of videos, both in the 30-40 minute range, as an a lot of observations).

          1. Big River Bandido

            Also reported irregularities and ballot purges in Arizona. And the faked “chair throwing” in Nevada caucuses. I can’t even remember them all. The 2016 primary was rife with chicanery and organized vote suppression by the Democrats.

            I suspect a lot of general election votes the Democrats lost in 2016 were *Democrat voters they had disenfranchised in the primary. Out of spite, they stayed home or bolted the party in the fall.

            We’ll see a repeat of that this fall, and a lot worse. Pandemics, as we might have noticed, tend to depress turnout.

            1. sharonsj

              I’m part of a Progressive group on Facebook that supports Sanders. After the the screwing of 2016 and now the chaotic, irregular primaries/caucuses, along with a hostile media, progressives are no longer willing to fall in line. I’d say 99% of my group’s posters, myself included, are not going to vote for Biden. I’ve seen estimates that 15% – 20% of Bernie backers will bolt the party.

            2. Tom Bradford

              “The 2016 primary was rife with chicanery and organized vote suppression by the Democrats.”

              I wasn’t there and so can only take a 30,000ft view, yet what this and other posters are suggesting would surely require a massive conspiracy right down to the grass-roots level of the people conducting the election at polling-stations and counting centers across a dozen or more states – a conspiracy that would require the connivance of thousands of ‘ordinary’ folk – not one of which chose to blow the whistle. Moreover a conspiracy that was able to work as intended in some states yet failed – or was not extended into – in others, including the biggie, California.

              OK, I can’t explain it. I can even accept that many in the higher reaches of the DNC really, really didn’t want Sanders to win, but I have to question if they had the ability to perfectly select enough surreptitiously like-minded disciples from among the plebs, get them in the right places to patently corrupt the ‘democratic process’ so many Americans at least pay lip-service to, to deliberately distort the vote of friends, relatives, neighbours and people of their locality, and to keep absolutely quiet about it afterwards.

              1. Aumua

                If the voting was done with paper ballots that were hand counted then certainly that level of widespread conspiracy is not very plausible. But I think the black box voting machines make a much small conspiracy among top level people a bigger possibility.

                Unfortunately we will probably never be able to prove it either way.

              2. Yves Smith Post author

                No, you don’t understand how voting works in the US. Secretaries of State are in charge. They can reduce the number of voting stations. They can orchestrate (or pretend not to know it is happening) arrange for people in CA who recently switched from independent to Dem to assure they don’t get a “no party preference” ballot which might not be counted to nevertheless get a NPP ballot in the mail…or be told when they go to the polling station that they already voted by mail when they never did, and get only a provisional ballot.

                Point is all these moves would be executed way up the food chain. But the poll workers see the results.

          2. Mark Gisleson

            I did mean the primaries. Never getting over HRC winning six out of six coin flips in Iowa. There were countless videos this year of Buttigiegers trying the same fast coin flip nonsense but getting caught.

            No objective person could review the 2016 and 2020 D primaries and not suspect rampant fraud.

              1. Mark Gisleson

                Sorry, marketing side took over. I do remember two videos, one in Des Moines and one up in Steve King’s CD.

      2. T

        One thing that helps – training and process focus in the penalties for letting a bad vote count. You cannot go wrong, in the process, by interfering. So, slightest question about address, which are bound to come up with people who aren’t ling-time home owners, and minor questions which are overwhelming with long lines and strained polling stations, all get an arguement and maybe a provisional ballot which will be “counted” as not valid – if it’s ever touched again – and thrown in the trash. So if from the starting point even when you do have polling places available, you have a system in place to prevent a lot of those voters from being heard.

        And that’s before crosscheck and other shenanigans.

    2. Jeremy Grimm

      Joe Biden has all the appeal of a straw-stuffed dummy, until you take a closer look at the dirty straw he’s stuffed with. How could Biden beat anyone? How did he suddenly rise up to trounce Sanders on Super Tuesday and follow that with big jumps in his polling numbers? I must choose between losing faith in the Populace as voters or losing faith in how the democratic party handled the process.

    3. GeoCrackr

      For weeks now I’ve been quoting Stalin precisely b/c of this issue: “Those who vote decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything.”

  9. LowellHighlander

    Is is possible that Obama and his people had a hand in securing Sanders’ fate?

    1. timbers

      I would not be surprised if HE would imply he did. He’s a legend in his own mind.

      About Bernie, I have nothing but respect for him. What Yves wrote – right or wrong – Bernie went for it and and everyone makes mistakes.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Obama is such a narcissist I wouldn’t put it past him to back Biden behind the scenes because he knows Biden will lose or be awful thus preserving what little remains of the Obama legacy. With HRC, he has an out having ran against her, so he could always point to that if she an eff up as President.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Absolutely. I am not in a position to provide more detail, but all of the sudden post SC Establishment endorsers in Virginia were Obama allies, and the polls there moved an astonishing 20 points in a very few days.

    3. mtnwoman

      There were “stop sanders’ meeting spring and summer 2020 with candidates and Dem Elites.
      A ‘leak’ was that Obama stated he would get involved if it looked like Sanders was getting too far ahead.

      Sure seemed like there was Dem Estab coordination with at leaset MSNBC and their 24/7 insulting, lying when they weren’t ignoring Sanders.

  10. divadab

    Good analysis. Bernie really didn’t want to burn any bridges in the Senate, either, requiring a gentlemanly approach.

    Nonetheless, I’m not voting for Biden. Never. IMHO Trump will wipe the floor with him. What a flipping disgrace the utterly corrupt Dem party is.

    1. Tom Bradford

      “Nonetheless, I’m not voting for Biden. Never. IMHO Trump will wipe the floor with him.”

      Well yes. Trump will wipe the floor with him if people choose not to vote for him – often, it seems to me, in a fit of pique.

      Any number of writers back to Shakespeare have expressed the opinion that people get the government they deserve. Seems to me that with that attitude you deserve four more years of a Trump government so don’t expect any sympathy from me.

      1. witters

        Tom, not looking for your sympathy. And is this really true: “People get the governments they deserve?” – Magnificent justification of elite power my friend.

  11. Amit Chokshi

    This is a very good and measured and sober assessment, but I tend to side with Matt Stoller, Jimmy Dore, etc. Bernie was done in by Obama who made Pete, Beto, kamala, Amy all bend the kneee, prob traded some cabinet role for Bloomberg to drop out, and then encouraged jurvertson to keep Liz warren around as a useful idiot/spoiler.

    My only pushback is that from fall 2019 – feb 2020 all of the candidates were behind Bernie so punching down and laying the seeds of doubt with voters would have helped. His track record of being on the right side of most things before they became mainstream could have been more personally contrasted v Biden, Warren, etc. he didn’t need a push for him so much as obliterating his opponents. All of the neolibs were trying to just be the candidate by default, whoever survives via charisma and MSM backing.

    Tulsi obliterated Kamala with literally 90 seconds of truth telling. Kamala never recovered. Tulsi didn’t get a pop but her scenarios were always different. When the neolibs were all in the teens to 20s polling sanders could have just done that to each one and made them less appealing even befor Obama made his godfather move.

    Yves hopefully next piece is what happens to the prog movement. Some republicans like Hawley and even trumps policies re Medicare pricing for covid are left than anything Dems have.

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      regarding the hawley phenomenon:
      I distinctly remember a lot of Team Blue fingerwagging after 2016 against a “Red/Brown Coalition”…ie: the populist, not-so-culture-war right(small-r) and the lefty, socdem,anti-idpol,Class Analysis Bernie Wing , getting together…presumably as a Proto-Party to become a Leviathan in it’s own right.
      Since i live and move in a Red Rural Place, and am prone to teabilly whispering and eavesdropping in the produce aisle and leading ad hoc feedstore symposia(“Fieldwork”), I got hit upside the head with that one a lot.
      which means that their troll generals fear this.
      The question, I guess, is whether such small-r right creatures are to be trusted to forgo acting on any latent Handmaid’s Tale fantasies.(and whether the Mncius Moldbugs can be kept at bay)

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Kamala was never going to be the nominee, she had too much baggage. I had people in California who are plenty left-wing and open-minded telling me early on “No way is Willy Brown’s paramour going to become President.”

      1. Amit Chokshi

        Kamala had baggage but so does Biden, Klobuchar, Mayor Pete, Warren…they are all vying for the same voter, Warren not so much, but she’s about to go full pivot and endorse Biden for some cabinet role.

        1. Aumua

          Funny (and tragic) that the only one without any significant baggage is and always has been Sanders.

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          I don’t think you appreciate the significance of the Willy Brown bit. Seriously. Harris has baggage on top of that, but that’s normal political rough elbow self-serving stuff. The R’s would make utter hash of her having undeniably slept her way into politics. Brown advanced her several times early on.

  12. Chas

    Are there any real reporters left out their who could investigate the voter suppression and vote stealing and explain to us just how it happened? Was it the corporations who make the voting machines who counted the votes? What methods are used? Would it have been possible for Bernie to have had a team of hackers to go in and steal his votes back? In future elections might armies of hackers fight it out for cyber-cast votes in the recesses of the internet. To have any chance of free and fair elections in the future we need to know the mechanics of vote stealing in the internet era.

    1. geoff

      Greg Palast has been working on voter supression, election fraud etc. since at least 2000. From his website,

      “[Atlanta-Feb 9] In an extraordinary and unexpected move, Federal Judge Eleanor Ross has declared Gov. Brian Kemp the loser in a lawsuit brought by investigative journalist Greg Palast to compel the State of Georgia to open up its complete files on the mass purge of over half a million voters from the rolls.”

  13. TomDority

    My thinking is that the Democratic Party deliberately and with great coordination had all the other candidates bow out and endorse Biden at the same time before super Tuesday… the DNC hatchet job in the proverbial cigar smoke laden back room…..definite whiff of Clinton perfume.
    as a result – Biden is going to fail unless, of course, Biden and the DNC can convince voters (the same MO of fear and identity politics) that the only reason to vote Joe is to get rid of Donald and, to pay no mind to all the other important work that congress needs to get done.

    Isn’t there some way of transferring bone from a politician’s head to his back.

    A congressman naturally spends a lot of time fixing his fences, because that’s where he sits most of the time.

    We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace–business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.
    They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.
    Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me–and I welcome their hatred.”
    Election eve speech at Madison Square Garden (October 31, 1936)
    Franklin Delano Roosevelt

  14. Carolinian

    If Bernie losing all those Super Tuesday and South Carolina primaries doesn’t “make sense” then how about all those months of polls last year where Bernie trailed Biden by double digits. I’d say the real basis for this belief that Bernie was robbed is an overestimation of Sanders’ appeal as a politician. If populism is the solution then you need a standard bearer who is, you know, popular. The shallow political press are always going on about “who would you like to have a beer with” as their standard of electability and their reason for being dismissive of Sanders. But they aren’t entirely wrong. Politics also involves the vulgar business of getting people to like you and also fear you. FDR feared Huey Long the most and Donald Trump is now president with the equally clownish George W. Bush winning not that many years before. It’s not unreasonable to wonder if a pure issue candidate was ever going to go all the way.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Lambert points out that Sanders was continuing to gain in national polls. He estimates he needed another year of runway. If he had not been denied his Iowa win (and he did win the delegate count if the district results had been counted in accordance with the totals), he would have gotten the usual at least 5 points bounce. Given all of the chicanery in Texas (tons of polling stations removed), he might have won there if the Democrats had not set out to bury him. Sanders with Texas in his column would have looked plenty different, particularly since it’s a purple state. Would have blunted the electability concerns.

      Another issue is for Sanders to run over the dead body of the Democratic party, he needed more firepower: money and staff, which money buys. He had thin operations in some key states.

      He was taking on the Establishment, including the press, which was out to kill him at every turn. Since I moved to Alabama, I now regularly hear NBC Nightly News out of one ear. It is astonishing how much in the way of flagrant lies and cherry-picking v. Sanders they ran when they’d deign to notice him. And NBC was way less bad than CNN and MSNBC.

      1. Carolinian

        Everything you say is true but that doesn’t change the fact that for the left to win they are going to have to overcome all those obstacles and he didn’t. And while I’m suggesting a different candidate might have done so, admittedly no such candidate seems to be on the horizon. Indeed while my comment below makes a comparison to the 1930s, one could argue that the current money driven political setup is deliberately arranged to make sure there are no more popular champions like FDR.

        Ted Rall says a third party is needed to shake things up–local victories and party building at first and the presidency the long game.

  15. Jack

    Good analyses Yves. One added point. I think many voters are just mentally “worn out”. I watched a recent podcast by Naomi Klein on The Intercept where she also made just that point. Many people just want a return to “normal” and not have to deal with all of the theatre that Trump by his very nature and actions instigates. She quoted one gentleman she had spoken with as saying people just want a “rest” from the controversy. Sanders would not provide that. He was an advocate for major change.

    1. Tom Doak

      Most Americans don’t just want a rest from politics – they’d prefer never to have to think about it at all, and just trust that things will be okay.

      They can be that complacent because they’ve not seen a real worst case scenario in their lifetimes – yet.

    2. DanB

      I hear you, but there’s no rest in sight. Covid-19 is looking more and more like a worldview changer; and a state of one’s material existence changer too. Think Maslow’s Hierarchy meets political identity.

  16. ALM

    I blame the mainstream media outlets for Bernie’s loss. When they weren’t erasing Bernie from their coverage, they were pounding him with negative coverage that was loud, relentless, naked, and wall to wall, unfailingly reminding their readers and viewers that Bernie was unelectable even when he was winning in the polls and in head to head matchups. Bernie still beats Trump by a greater margin than Biden according to recent polls.

    The media generated anti-Bernie agitprop was powerful and remarkably successful. I don’t foresee a successful challenge of the Democratic establishment until either a demagogue with Trump’s star power and success in attracting saturation coverage emerges or the older cohort of voters, which relies on mainstream media outlets for its news, dies.

  17. rockford

    Thank you, Yves, for an even-handed take.

    I’ve largely tuned out criticism of the Sanders campaign, because most of it provides as much insight and accuracy as your typical “Monday morning quarterbacks” during the NFL season. Long on opinion, short on facts, mostly oblivious to factors that shape decision-making inside the vortex. (Reminds me of the Seinfeld comment about the game of Risk: “It’s a game of world domination played by two guys who can barely run their own lives.”)

    It seems to me the real question is not why the Sanders campaign failed, but how the Democratic party mobilized to ensure there would be little or no progress to improve opportunities for most Americans. The last two presidential campaigns have been wonderfully enlightening in regards to what Democrats oppose: just about everything I believe in.

    1. Carla

      THIS: It seems to me the real question is not why the Sanders campaign failed, but how the Democratic party mobilized to ensure there would be little or no progress to improve opportunities for most Americans.

    2. Carla

      THIS: “It seems to me the real question is not why the Sanders campaign failed, but how the Democratic party mobilized to ensure there would be little or no progress to improve opportunities for most Americans.”

      Really poor people have known this for decades. It’s why so many of them don’t vote.

    3. paintedjaguar

      The last two campaigns, and the Russiagate/Trump Derangement in between, have been even more enlightening in regard to how pitifully few information outlets are actually independent and progressive, as opposed to being tools of the DNC propaganda machine. Including almost all of my favorite bloggers from the Bush years.

  18. The Rev Kev

    I suppose that the reason that Bernie failed was that he was caught between a dilemma. On the one hand he wanted to win the Presidency and bring in the program that he had been working on for decades. But on the other, he did not want to burn his bridges with the Democratic party and this was a circle that could never be squared. As an example of how it played out – when asked how he was going to pay for medicare for all in a debate, he would fumble the answer which made many voters wonder about higher taxes to pay for it. What he should have said in that gruff voice of his was “From the same damn place that we got that $70 billion that we just gave the Pentagon, that’s where!” But to do that, he would be criticizing the Democratic leadership that voted that money as well and he would not go there.

    He could have taken down Biden but with a more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger approach rather than direct aggression but did not. In the last debate, he bunted rather than bated. Yes, maybe that was just Bernie being Bernie but I would ask people to consider this. In doing so, he would have to commit to the position that Biden was fully capable of being President of the United States. Obviously he is not and he is not getting any better but Bernie did commit to this position that Joe was fully capable and went on TV and told the whole country that. With that re-assurance, I am sure that a lot of voters would have said OK then, Biden it is as he is the safe vote. I think that Bernie did the country a terrible disservice there.

    When he recently gave up on Medicare for all, I wondered if that was it for a lot of his supporters. I heard one Bernie campaign advisor say that they would continue the fight – with or without Bernie. But one final thought here. A lot of people gave their heart and soul for his campaign. They dug deep into their pockets when a lot of them did not have that money in the first place. If people were that willing to put their heart into that campaign, then maybe before Bernie announced his seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination back in February of 2019, that he should have asked himself if he was willing to give an equal commitment to them as well. If he was not willing, perhaps he should have thrown his support to another person to stand as President instead.

    1. Basil Pesto

      your last paragraph is hard to square with the latter quoted part of Mark Gisleson’s analysis, which I find rather more convincing (I was also unaware that Sanders had ‘given up’ on Medicare for all).

      But it’s reminded me of something that’s struck me lately: the small donors being used as a stick to beat Sanders with.

      While it’s undoubtedly true that many people dug deep to contribute to the Sanders campaign, at considerable personal cost in many cases, when one says ”I/Joe Citizen gave $27 to the Sanders campaign, and therefore campaign should do – or should have done – this, this and this” has a certain whiff of transactional entitlement to it.

      And one wonders if this isn’t fundamentally the same sense of entitlement that big donors/SuperPAC heavies/The Kochs etc. must feel when they dole out their cheques to their various political concerns (again, fully aware that the scales of the donations and pecuniary sacrifice involved are different)

      And one then wonders if the corollary of these expectations not being met is the resentment that I’ve alluded to in my post below.

      It’s a bothersome thought.

      1. Sheldon Raiter

        Neither Mr. Sanders, Our Revolution, or Represent Us owe my wife and me anything for our Political contributions except their best efforts to support their stated positions. That said, we could have made the same contributions to a local food bank or the volcanic eruption relief fund. Just saying!

      2. Sheldon Raiter

        Neither Mr. Sanders or any other political organization owes its contributors any more than their best efforts to achieve their stated objectives. That said, my wife and I could have made the same contributions to a local food-bank or the volcanic eruption emergency fund. Just saying!

      3. Oh

        “While it’s undoubtedly true that many people dug deep to contribute to the Sanders campaign, at considerable personal cost in many cases, when one says ”I/Joe Citizen gave $27 to the Sanders campaign, and therefore campaign should do – or should have done – this, this and this” has a certain whiff of transactional entitlement to it.”

        The Rev Key didn’t say that. He’s observing that the donors to the campaign expected Bernie to give it his level best, rather than quittin midway, when the other candidate hasn’t won and there a several more primaries to go.

        I wonder if Bernie has fear of losing and therefore he gives up before he is judged to have lost? Some people do that so that they can say “I didn’t really lose!”.

        1. marym

          Yes, he’s been proposing an emergency response (on healthcare and other issues) for weeks. He and Jayapal have now proposed the healthcare response as the Health Care Emergency Guarantee Act which

          “empowers Medicare to pay all of the costs of treatment for the uninsured, and cover all out-of-pocket costs for those with public or private insurance, for as long as this pandemic continues…[that] would take effect immediately upon passage”

          Of course Congress is on vacation and Trump doesn’t care, but this seems like a very efficient way to cover people’s medical costs in the near term, not giving up on eventual M4A.

    2. DanB

      If I think of Bernie in terms of A.O. Hirschman’s Exit, Voice, and Loyalty model (which is about the three basic options of how to respond to organizational decline), it becomes apparent that he never, ever would threaten to use the Exit -I’m outta here- option. And this made Loyalty -to the senate, to the Dem. Party, to Biden- his only choice after it became clear he would not achieve the nomination though the Voice (politics) option. I applaud him for all he’s done, especially moving the so-called Overton Window to the left. Also, I sat in on a discussion last night via Zoom with some progressives -real progressives in my view. I felt the weight and disorientation of cognitive dissonance when they acknowledged all of Biden’s betrayal of the working class, corruption, war mongering, unctuous service to the 1% only to conclude they were going to back him. My stance was “the Democratic Party must be destroyed.”

        1. w

          True, but he probably didn’t think he needed such an option. After all, his big idea was that the modern state came to be by celebrating traditional vices of venality as actually drivers of social virtue. Now, where have I heard that before?

        2. No it was not, apparently

          “[destruction] is not one of Hirshman’s options.”

          It is, actually, when you consider that the MS/DNC does not allow for exit – i.e. any left wing politician must pass thru them – in order to escape from them Democrats must be destroyed, it is the only exit possible.

          And no, neither wing of the corporate plutocratic party will ever permit a European style multi party (“proportional representation” instead of “leader takes all votes”) electoral system.

          So, to make room for additional parties as another form of exit, MS/DNC still has to be destroyed.

          DanB is about as right as he can be, IMO.

  19. UserFriendly

    I agree with your general point about Sanders being too mean to Biden wouldn’t have worked. It’s just frustrating as hell that the establishment can whisper about anything in Bernie’s oppo file and it gets days of coverage but left media can rail about joe Biden and they won’t touch it for weeks if at all. ( just now NYT and MSNBC cover the rape, of course pointing out that Trump is a worse rapist)

    And there really is no other way to push a story in front of the centrists dems.. I definitely agree with blaming the media. It’s just really unfortunate that the media is essentially not allowed to cover the left fairly. Push comes to shove it’s in the media’s and the dem establishment’s best interest to lose to Trump, so of course they pushed biden in front of the bus. There also isn’t much downside for them if he wins.

    End of the day I think that everyone under 35 at leasts really hates both parties, if not the entire country. The mask came off, this country would much rather see us all dead than even consider doing anything helpful for us. Not that we’ll live to see it ( climate collapse will happen first) but I bet this is the death of patriotism.

    1. Spring Texan

      I’m an old woman but I agree entirely. This will be the death of patriotism and it should be.

      Obama pulled out all the stops before Super-Tuesday but before that Bloomberg did and before that Warren did. If they didn’t prevail on Super-Tuesday they would have pulled something else drastic. I understand now that the Democratic Party was never ever going to let Sanders win no matter what occured. He did remarkably considering that. But now I know there is simply no hope.

      I will go on fighting for people I don’t know because you have to fight even if you can’t win and small differences are better than nothing, but this is a crappy country, and the idea that Sanders “changed the discourse” and it will make much difference ignores that Biden is a lying corporate Republican beholden to 71 billionaires.

      It was never possible and I see that now.

      1. RJM Consulting

        I think we are missing the forest for the trees. The “establishment” and the “media” are neither republican nor democrat, they are simply preserving their status quo ante. [I got mine, and I intend to hold on to it.] Biden’s leaked quote (nothing will fundamentally change), ensures the support of the power-aligned and ensures the hopelessness of the fundamentally disenfranchised (whether by actual rigging or by political design). Sanders was saying to the non-1%, “it doesn’t have to be like this”, but as was mentioned above, it has been met with disbelief and the reaction of the ‘nearly boiled frog’ (as in, “its not so bad, just a little worse than it was last year”). Amurrican “stick-to-it’iveness” “we’ll get through this together” and calvinistic stoicism has far too many clinging to the devil they know. “Hope and Change?”, yeah, right.

  20. NotTimothyGeithner

    Obama’s 2004 dnc speech stood in sharp contract to and denied the reality and twisted Edward’s Two Americas which warned of major problems. If you look at Obama’s rhetoric it’s largely a claim that all of our problems are I our head and we just need to put the “smarties” in charge with no real demands on behavior. Sanders conversely asks people to think and act.

    Ultimately Obama and his ilk present the “easy” answer. Hillary is the most qualified Evah! as if the Presidency isn’t a political role but a job that requires people to have the equivalent of success in the minors or a good 40″ speed or wing span with an obvious shared goal. Hillary’s qualifications means “I” as a citizen have no further responsibilities.

    1. Carolinian

      Do the wonks ever win against the jocks? Adlai versus Ike, Nixon versus Kennedy, Gore versus Bush, Hillary versus Trump. To be sure Hillary won the popular vote as did Gore but in both those instances they should have walked away with it based on conventional wisdom about qualifications and experience. There’s a lot of talk about how we need another New Deal but what we really need is another FDR–second rate mind, first rate temperament. Of course he wasn’t really a dummy and had lots of ideas–I’m reading James MacGregor Burns’ book about him now–but he very much believed in the necessity of using the bully pulpit to win over the public to his programs. He was also skilled at winning over the press if not the fat cat newspaper owners. The always insecure media don’t like being on the unpopular side of issues which is why they oppose populists who might compete with their mass message.

      For sure we are no longer living in the 1930s but if the left is ever to rise again the template is there.

  21. stefan

    We used to say, you have to have “fire in the belly” to run for President.

    While Bernie has fire in the belly for his policies, I’m not sure he has the requisite belly-fire for himself personally to be the President. Hence the motto, Not Me, Us. This puts a burden on his supporters to sound more strident, which may have been a detriment to his campaigns.

    His withdrawal is particularly irksome, now that CoVid-19 is shining such a bright light on the good sense and timeliness of his entire agenda.

  22. Bob Hertz

    One point that hurt Bernie was his insistence that “despite higher taxes for M4All, the average worker will still be better off.”

    The problem with this statement, while technically true, is that millions of Americans receive nearly-free health care right now:

    1. 9 million on TriCare

    2. 10 million (at least) on generous union or employer plans with no employee premium required

    3. 15 million on Medicare with free retiree coverage for supplements

    These groups get nothing from M4All at this time.

    This is not why Bernie faded, but it would have been a huge problem on the Presidential stump.

    1. marym

      Do you have links for current numbers? Information on whether these employer-based benefits are grandfathered but not for current/new employees? Coverage compared to M4A (dental, vision, etc.)? Co-pays and deductibles?

      I agree Sanders should have done better in clearly comparing out-of-pocket costs, potential tax changes, and range of benefits. I don’t have a clear sense of who would possibly pay more and how much; and I’m skeptical that benefits would be less compared to current employer-based plans or current Medicare.

      Thirty-one percent of covered workers in small [3-199 workers] firms are in a plan where the employer pays the entire premium for single coverage, compared to only 5% of covered workers in large firms.

      Most covered workers must pay a share of the cost when they use health care services. Eighty-two percent of covered workers have a general annual deductible for single coverage that must be met before most services are paid for by the plan.

      Among covered workers with a general annual deductible, the average deductible amount for single coverage is $1,655, similar to the average deductible last year. The average deductible for covered workers is higher in small firms than large firms ($2,271 vs. $1,412).

          1. epynonymous

            Dick Cheney did a bit of a number on TriCare (military healthcare) actually.

            No reason for the troops not to pay out of pocket.

  23. FrenchTotoro

    A great article, really interesting.

    An other elephant in the room is the nature of the electorate of the primary. The median voter is 56 years old ! I was not aware of this fact and it seems obvious that it was always going to be hard for Sanders to win with such an old electorate.

    A large part of the electorate is also very affluent. In the Michigan primary, according to the exit polls, 35 % of voters have a family income of more than 100 000 dollars a year.

    An other key aspect is that Trump winning in 2016 added many Never Trumpers/Suburbans centrist voters in the Democratic party, and they voted for Biden. I don’t have clear numbers on this but I guess it partly explains the rise in turnout for the primary. Most affluent congressional districts are held by democrats since 2018. Trump’s victory, with WWC fleeing the party, made harder a working class takeover of it and consolidated its position of the party of the 10%.
    Therefore, winning more than 50% of pledged delegates would have been extremely hard.

    Warren was very damaging for Sanders in at least three ways :
    – the spoiler vote (mentionned in the article), remaining in the states until after Super Tuesday. Bernie would have been ahead if she had dropped out and endorsed before ST (not sure he would have won in this scenario but it would have been a lot closer)
    – Attacking Sanders with smear attacks just before the Iowa caucus. It clearly hurt him in the realignment vote with Warren voters in Iowa, it likely hurt him also after she dropped out, with many Warren voters refusing to vote for Sanders.
    – Sanders was engulfed in a woke/leftist race against Warren for most of the campaign, forcing him to take more radical positions, and blocking him to pivot/focus on convincing normies/moderate/old voters.
    Sanders lost many rural/WWC voters to Biden compared to 2016. Some believe they just were anti-HRC in 2016, but it seems they just side with what they perceived as the most conservative/anti-woke candate : Clinton in 2008, Sanders in 2016, Biden in 2020. Biden is also seen somehow by some as a union/workers friend, in a way Clinton was incapable of.

    I have some sympathy for Matt Stoller criticism of the Bernie campaign : you can’t defeat Obama’s grip on the party if you don’t deal with his legacy. Democratic voters, including many who voted for Sanders or considered voting for him, like theirs leaders.

  24. William Hunter Duncan

    Minnpost is an independent media outlet in Minnesota, a kind of mix of the neoliberal and the left. Eric Black regularly writes about Trump, and his posts consistently receive more comments than any other writer or articles. There are about a dozen regular, “moderate” liberal warriors commenting there. I generally try to point out that not all the world’s corruption is a Republican/Trump/Putin thing.

    In this article about how important Bernie fans are to Biden’s success in 2020, I commented in part by pulling from the various comments, all the pejoratives used by moderates to describe Bernie fans. Biden’s supporters seem to be repeating the failures of the Hillary campaign. Consistently at Minnpost among the commentariat, Bernie fans are mocked, ridiculed and shamed, usually repeated by some statement that if Biden loses it will be because Bernie fans won’t show up at the polls. The Bernie commentariat consistently asks, what does Biden stand for? His warriors reply generally by saying something about how awful Trump is, before they return to pejoratives about the “purists”:

    “In this thread of comments, here is a list of words and phrases used as a broad brush to describe people who supported Bernie Sanders:

    Horrible people
    Incapable of growing up
    Rock headed

    And then there was this:

    1. Possess an out sized sense of privilege.
    2. Possess an out sized sense of entitlement.

    8. Be indifferent to those who aren’t straight
    9. Be indifferent to those who aren’t healthy
    10. Be indifferent to those who aren’t affluent

    One might think this was a Republican website, the vitriol is so thick.

    Now Bernie fans, go vote for Joe Biden. Because Biden will be a return to civility?”

  25. michael hudson

    I have a quiz different take. Bernie was not really running against Biden (a merely symbolic candidate). He was running against the DNC. He should have said explicitly that what the debates were over was whether the Democratic Party should be the party of Wall Street, the health-insurance industry and the military-industrial complex, or the party of the 90%.
    That would have shifted the debate to party POLICY, not individuals. No need to fight Biden personally. Just the DNC program.
    If they let Bernie “write the platform” that is merely putting him in charge of the advertising copy in November.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      I believe you have identified what the Bernie campaign was really about. I am less sure how making it plain would have fared as a campaign strategy. I have trouble viewing Biden as anything more than a place holder representing the democratic party. To the extent that was the case in voters minds on Super Tuesday, the vote for Biden was a vote favoring the democratic party. I agree with Mark Giselson’s statement: “I honestly doubt that we’ve seen an honest national election in this century.” Believing that complicates interpreting votes for Biden and the massive shifts in the polling numbers to favor Biden.

  26. Deschain

    Agree. Tara Reade (in the context of years of public bad behavior) isn’t changing ‘blue no matter who’ pro-establishment Dem feelings about Biden. I don’t know what Bernie is supposed to have said that could have accomplished same.

  27. Basil Pesto

    Ha, a few paragraphs into this piece I was wondering when/if there’d been a Tom Frank take on recent events. Looking forward to his book on populism this year, sounds like it might be a worthy follow up to L,L.

    I’ve been put off by it because first, it’s too often comes from Sanders backers and members of the left calling for what they’d liked to see as opposed to what it would have taken to win over fence-sitting voters.

    Indeed, this desire for gratification – ”eviscerate Biden on live TV and I’ll vote for you even harder, baby” – always seemed more like wishful mutual masturbation than advocation for any sort of politically expedient manoeuvre. It came across as rather jejune.

    I was also surprised by the backlash against Sanders seen in the comments here lately. Over the last couple of years as far as I can tell the comments have been about as Sanders friendly as you would expect to find anywhere. Occasionally you would get someone complaining that he wasn’t left enough or that he was a hack/class traitor/whatever for ultimately supporting Hillary in 2016, but such complaints were few and far between and were often shut down. The last few weeks there’s been a lot of what I suppose you could categorise as resentment. It’s been rather interesting (and, setting aside my status as a curious outsider-observer with no skin in the game, rather a shame).

  28. John Beech

    Ms. Smith in part . . . “because Naked Capitalism is a finance and economics site, not a political site.”


    1. Yves Smith Post author

      We’ve explained this repeatedly. Because nothing of importance was fixed after the crisis, the increased economic distortions, particularly rising inequality, are now creating huge pressures in the political realm, such as the rise around the world of a borderline to actual fascist right.

      1. John Beech

        I changed party registration to support Senator Sanders and I am hugely disappointed by his ceasing his effort before the nomination was awarded, and party unity be damned! Why? Simple, it’s because I feel he owes me. And not just me, but 100% of his other supporters. He owes us the basic respect of staying the course. Instead, he chose to call it quits. And I am so disappointed I’m fit to be tied! And recall, I’ve voted Republican since 1980 so I feel like he really snookered me into believing he was the real deal. Instead, as it turns out, he’s just another ‘fall in line’ Democrat. Sob.

  29. Edward

    My basic feeling is that Sanders’ core mission was to argue that America has an inequality crisis, not accidentally but because of deliberate policies favoring the rich, and to propose policies that reverse this imbalance. This is exactly what he did and I think his campaign was fundamentally solid. He hammered on this and hammered on it and did not get sidetracked. Well done, Bernie Sanders. Voters should understand this basic choice they are being giving, and hopefully have enough wisdom to ignore fluff like who has better style or nicer Twitter supporters.

    I would have responded to Biden’s attack on a single payer system this way: “The private health insurance system is more expensive then a single payer system when you include all costs. You know this and your claim single payer is too expensive is disingenuous.”

    Biden seemed to me like an able politician, at least before his cognitive decline, in the sense that in the debates his responses were detailed, making him seem a master of the topics, and making debunking his claims a confusing and arduous process. If you knew the issues well you could figure out he was lying and was just making up stories, but how many people could do this? Toward the end, though, his lies were becoming too numerous and obvious. Sanders did have some success in exposing him. The problem for Biden, besides his cognitive decline, was that he was trying to get away with too many lies. He has been on the wrong side of most issues and had to lie about most of them.

    I think Sanders’ problems with the Black community go back to 2016, when he and the Baltimore mayor were ambushed by the Black Lives Matter movement. An activist raised the issue of police murders of blacks, saying “Black lives matter”. Sanders got angry and replied, “All lives matter”. This was at the time when videos of police murders of blacks, such as the Eric Garner video, had recently surfaced and many Americans, black and white, were shocked and appalled by what they were seeing. Sanders’ response was appalling. Three days later, BLM “ambushed” Clinton, asking the same question and giving her three days to prepare. Was BLM trying to assist Clinton? Anyway, Sanders is responsible for his terrible response and I think it fatally wounded his support in the black community.

    I am worried about cheating in our voting system. What should be done about this? We need international monitors.

    1. John Beech

      I’d sooner vote for President Trump as Mr. Biden . . . and will come November. Note; I supported Senator Sanders after changing voter registration from Republican to Democrat for the express purpose of supporting his effort. And bear in mind, I risked COVID-19 to cast my vote here in Central Florida. So for him to just cease his campaign before the convention? Grrrr!

      1. Edward

        I wonder what was going on behind the scenes before Sanders ended his campaign. It will probably help social distancing. I think the strongest reason not to end it is that it isn’t clear Biden will actually be the nominee, because of his cognitive decline. Will a viable third party emerge at some point?

        I thought about voting for Trump in 2016, because I was concerned that Clinton would cause a war with Russia, but couldn’t bring myself to do it and voted for Stein. I still don’t know if I made the right choice. At this point, though, the Trump administration is mostly under neoconservative control, beyond just being thoroughly corrupt, and I will not vote for him. I expect to vote for a third party.

        1. Antoinetta III

          Alas, but there is this creature, too horrific to contemplate that is straight out of the pages of a medieval beastiary that yet roams the land, and continues to pollute it. This is, of course, that Lovecraftian entity known as the Hildebeast.

          Now I think that the DNC and all the other honchos running the Democratic Party realize that Biden is flat-out unelectable; his dementia is altogether too visible and too far advanced for him to be a viable candidate. So what if shortly before the Democratic Convention, Old Joe is quietly put out to pasture, and the Hildebeast swoops in and gets the nomination? With Kamala or Cuomo or Michelle as VP.

          One shudders in horror should this come to pass.

          Antoinetta III

          1. Edward

            Clinton seems an unlikely candidate to me. She is also old. After the 2016 fiasco, I have a hard time seeing her as a possibility. This isn’t to say there aren’t plenty of Clinton-like alternatives in the Democratic Party, Biden being an example.

  30. DJG

    Yves Smith: Thanks for this analysis. It is true that Naked Capitalism is not a political site, but you, Mark Gisleson, and Tom Frank also make astute comments on gaining power and wielding power. Yet your initial coronavirus coverage started by pointing out its effects on the over-extended supply chain–which has now turned into an environmental, economic, and political disaster. Here, you give us in this post insight into how important it is to gain power and how the entrenched elites will not give up power. And wielding power in the U S of A means molding the economy (these days, it means looting and pillaging, but I quibble).

    Thanks also to Mark Gisleson. Maybe it is because I agree with his comments.

    There is problem that the numbers aren’t adding up.

    There is also the cultural problem that Americans are a fear-ridden people. Everything from the sloppy bad theology that dominates “moral” discourse to at-will employement to the fragility of our health-insurance coverage (which has only gotten worse and worse under Obamacare) leads to a populace that wants the normality of being treated badly. Occasionally, we collectively beat up a small country to show that we’re a bunch of tough guys and gals, renegades, mavericks. Yeah, sure.

    But your last paragraph is where we are: “And so we come to understand the real task before us today: to rescue from the enormous condescension of the comfortable the one political tradition that has a chance of reversing our decades-long turn to the right.”

    I cannot recall who wrote it (it may have been Norberto Bobbio), but a fact of life of being on the left is that that left has to work much harder to attain any progress. Rising up, in all the many senses of the word, takes much effort. Sliding down into the fear-ridden abyss, ironically, is much easier to accomplish.

  31. Tom Stone

    Thank you for the thoughtful analysis, Bernie did better than I expected and if the organization he built is not abandoned there is a possibility it can effect positive change.
    Not a likelihood, a possibility.
    A few things struck me about the 2020 campaign, one is that the DNC took off the mask and showed the world just how vile and corrupt it is.
    Once by letting Bloomberg overtly buy his way into the debates and once by urging the voters of Wisconsin to show up at the polls in the midst of a pandemic ( The Biden campaign did this as well).
    Every unnecessary death resulting from these actions can be laid directly at their feet.

    As to Biden, I have started referring to him as the “Yes, but” candidate.
    Yesterday I spoke to two “liberals” on the phone who are now Biden supporters and brought up policies that they care about deeply (SS, Medicare, Patriot act…) where Biden takes a position directly opposed to their interests.
    I have good voice control and merely sounded curious ” I didn’t realize you supported X”, which of course they don’t.
    But JB does.
    So I get “Yes, but he isn’t Trump” as an answer.
    Three times from one, five times from the other.
    “Yes, but”.
    No, I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind.
    I do want to make their cognitive dissonance or their hypocrisy more uncomfortable using a tone of friendly curiousity.

  32. dcblogger

    excellent analysis, to which I would only add the Bernie could have done more to reach out to the senior vote. he did not need to win it, he just needed to peel a little of it away from Biden. he also needed to find a way to explain it is not 1972 anymore.

    and as I said earlier, he needed to spend 2019 doing voter registration.

  33. Youngblood

    Thank you, Yves, for this excellent post. I agree with all of it. I confess to being one of the many Bernie supporters who want him to be more aggressive in debates and attack ads. My feeling on this and perhaps I am not alone, is that if Bernie is not willing to defend his own campaign and supporters against unfair attacks (like Biden lying mid-debate about Bernie having support of multiple PACs, or like how they went after Zephyr Teachout when she wrote an op-ed on Biden’s shady record), then he is also not going to take tough stands if elected President. Actually pushing his agenda from the Oval Office would require him to push back against a legislative branch in total resistance, from both parties. If he won’t push back at the Primary stage, then how would he later find the gumption to push back in the general election, or in office? I felt like I wanted Bernie’s victory more than he wanted it.

  34. Arizona Slim

    I’m going to venture out on a limb and say that Bernie Sanders’ health is the real reason why he dropped out so soon. Facts:

    Last fall, he had a heart attack. And then he had heart surgery.

    He’s 78 years old.

    My opinion: There are very few elderly people who can keep going, going, and going the way Sanders has been for the past few years. I think that he simply ran out of gas. And the heart trouble was an aggravating factor.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      To be honest I worried for Bernie. At 78 years old, faced with the collapse of his numbers in the polls and faced with the workings of the DNC, and the retreat of his senior staff: “key senior staffers pushing for him to effectively withdraw”, and with the ongoing Corona flu pandemic, it made sense for Bernie to withdraw. It was also a wise thing for Bernie to do to preserve his health and energy for the struggles to come.

      But backing off from Medicare for all, and voting for the CARES Act? Why? And if he campaigns for Biden beyond a few good words an a nod for the democratic party’s choice for the democratic herd — I will be truly mystified.

      1. mtnwoman

        I’m a news hound but haven’t seen the “key advisers pushing for him to withdraw”?

        The only key adviser I could imagine pushing that would be Rep Ro Khanna. Certainly not Nina Turner. Not David Sirota.
        Who are these key advisers?

        I suspect Bernie doesn’t want to be in the history books as the guy who “helped give Trump a 2nd term”,, even if that is purely manufactured narrative by the neoliberals. They DO control the narrative if we have learned anyting this past year.

        1. Jeremy Grimm

          I take Yves at her word. She has her sources.

          As for the ‘news’ I am not sure where the news went. It’s been missing for several years. Where do you find news?

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          It’s been reported several places in the press. One that was named was Faiz Shakir.

          See the Post: “Some top Sanders advisers urged him to consider withdrawing” on April 4:

          A small group of Bernie Sanders’s top aides and allies — including his campaign manager and his longtime strategist — have encouraged the independent senator from Vermont to consider withdrawing from the presidential race, according to two people with knowledge of the situation.

          The group includes campaign manager Faiz Shakir and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), a top Sanders surrogate and ally, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive private discussions.

  35. HH

    In all this analysis there is a touching faith in the inherent goodness of the American electorate. Unfortunately, the endless “war” America wages is not the result of the cunning deception of a virtuous people. Americans consent to inflicting gratuitous military violence all over the world, and they endorse continuing massive investment in the most terrible weapons ever devised. The choice will be between Trump and Biden because the majority of Americans support domestic plutocracy and aggressive military violence. It’s just that simple.

    1. Lupemax

      HH thank you for this.

      I can hear it now about the pandemic. ‘We’re number 1; we’re number 1.” There will be songs…even a broadway play…

      The American electorate is awesomely selfish, self-centered, greedy, indifferent, cruel and ignorant – A truly lethal combination. And they like it that way.

      As George Carlin wisely said, in 2006, and well worth reading the entire bit linked below:

      “…This country is full of nitwits and a**holes…. And they all vote. They all vote, yeah. In fact, sometimes you get the impression They’re the only ones who vote….

      “And now, they’re coming for your SOCIAL SECURITY MONEY. They want your … retirement money. They want it back! So they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street! And you know something, they’ll get it… they’ll get it ALL from you sooner or later… because they own this …. place! It’s a BIG CLUB…AND YOU AIN’T IN IT! You and I are not in the big club! By the way, it’s the same big club they use to beat you over the head with all day long when they tell you what to believe. All day long beating you over the head. And their media telling you what to believe, what to think and what to buy… The table is tilted. Folks. The game is rigged and nobody seems to notice. Nobody seems to care. Good. Honest. Hard- working people. White collar. Blue collar. It doesn’t matter what color shirt you have on.

      Good, honest, hard-working people continue… these are people of modest means. Continue to elect these rich ….who don’t give a f… about them. THEY DON’T GIVE A F… ABOUT YOU! THEY DON’T CARE ABOUT YOU. AT ALL. AT ALL. AT ALL! Yeah. You know. And nobody seems to notice. Nobody seems to care. That’s what the owners count on. The fact that Americans will probably remain willfully ignorant …. Because the owners of this country know the truth… It’s called the American dream. Because you have to be asleep to believe it.”

      Tim Canova can also tell you ALL about how corrupt elections are these days…

      1. David in Santa Cruz

        George Carlin is sorely missed — thank you!

        My prediction: Biden’s candidacy collapses under the weight of his creeping dementia and the undeniable credibility of Tara Reade’s accusations. Hillary Clinton gets the nomination.

        It’s a big club… and WE AIN’T IN IT!

        1. Spring Texan

          Good post. Might not be Hillary Clinton, but it’ll be someone loathsome.

          I don’t plan to vote for anyone loathsome (not that it matters in Texas).

          This saves me a lot of money I’d have willingly donated to Bernie.

          So agree when you say “It’s a big club, and WE AIN’T IN IT.”

  36. sd

    I think the Sanders campaign is far from over. Formally, yes. But we still have to navigate our way out of Coronavirus, and thru an election. It just feels like there’s a giant shoe that’s yet to drop.

    Could just be the wishful thinking of an old social justice voter, but there you have it.

    1. Arizona Slim

      I’m reminded of what was said about Barry Goldwater. He lost the 1964 presidential election in a landslide. But his ideas won the 1980 election.

  37. Ignacio

    To say it in short: The US is not yet ready for a “Sanders” representing anyone whose view is somehow distant from a, let’s say, apparent consensus view. I very much agree that an aggressive stance against Biden would have been a miscalculation showing clearly a mismatch between what you are messaging ” _____ FOR ALL”, and at the same time fiercely attacking a part of the whole. That would have ruined any little chance Sanders had. You need not to have 50-60% of support for a given policy (HC4A) but something above 75%, let’s say overwhelming support, to make it central in a campaign. In such a case, even the media would had been quite careful trying to ignore or beat Sanders every time they had a chance.

  38. Dick Burkhart

    The one critical underlying fact you neglected to mention is the gradual, but continual, recovery of the economy since the Great Recession. Even with our current extreme inequality, when the people at the bottom finally get a small boost, many start to feel that “normalicy” is less risky. Understanding this, the major media have falsely portray Bernie as a left version of Trump, given that most “pursuadable” voters aren’t knowledgeable enough to know any better.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I beg to differ. Sanders’ financial support came overwhelmingly from those people at the bottom: Walmart workers, restaurant staff, employees in the hospitality industry (hotels). They would not have put their money behind him if they thought things were OK. It was the upper middle classes who have sailed along since about 2010 who were out to bury him.

      And as we and others explained, the recovery meme is an illusion. You are counted as employed if you worked only 1 hour in the past week. The US still has an extremely high level of “involuntary part time employment” as in people who want full time jobs but can’t get them. Those people either aren’t making enough by not getting enough hours or are doing so by cobbling two or three part time jobs together, which is a stressful (logistics, transit between jobs, risk of it falling apart).

      1. Spring Texan

        This is it. Sanders supporters mny of them are people who need policy changes and NOW. They don’t need a better justice on the Supreme Court, they need pay and security and healthcare and debt forgiveness and an end to deportations. I still expect Biden to win (and like the writer of the piece below I definitely hope he does) – my brother is SURE he will lose. I guess time will tell. I’m bitter, and bringing the popcorn:
        this piece is long but I think brilliant to Biden supporters on how they can win over Bernie supporters (they can’t).

        I’m a volunteer with the Bernie Sanders campaign. I’ve been observing conversations between Biden voters online and have not seen much gloating about his victory, which now looks inevitable. I have seen a lot of people who are concerned about having lost the youth vote by, in some cases, fifty points or more, and I have seen journalists and commentators ask what concessions will win back the Sanders wing of the party. It is this same dim sense of danger that makes birds fly to high ground before a tidal wave. The prevailing sentiment seems to be “I don’t like Bernie or his Bernie Bros, but that energy…”

  39. Louis Fyne

    (in my opinion) the Sanders camp played up the intersectional-IDpol rhetoric more and strayed from its purely economic rhetoric in this cycle than last, to its detriment

    rhetoric telling an underemployed machinist stocking shelves at the dollar store that white men are the problem at best loses a voter.

    intersectional, culture wars rhetoric is stymieing a trans-identity class movement based on the bottom 90% v the top.

    and the oligrarchs are laughing all the way to the bank..well at least I would

  40. cm

    You reject the idea that

    Sanders should have become more aggressive with Biden and tried to deliver a “knockout punch”

    yet in the same article state:

    Yes, it would have been fun to see Sanders slap around Biden in a debate the way Warren did Bloomberg. But Warren got no bounce for accelerating Bloomberg’s exit (which was bound to happen given all his baggage and the fact Bloomberg had no loyalties to the party). Harris got only a short-lived pop from attacking Biden on his race record. Gabbard never got above 5% even with the flurry of coverage for her kneecapping of Harris.

    So Warren’s attack on Bloomberg was successful, and Gabbard’s attack on Harris was successful, yet you argue attacking Biden would be ” too reminiscent of action movies” — can you explain???

    At this point Biden does not have the mental capacity to be a school bus driver, yet Sanders concedes rather than get his hands dirty. America deserves this election.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      You clearly have a reading comprehension problem.

      Warren’s attacks worked only because they were aligned with the considerable antipathy among party insiders for Bloomberg. Accordingly, the press greatly amplified Warren’s blasts right after the debate.

      Bloomberg was regarded with tons of distrust because he’d been a Republican, campaigned for Bush and gave money to Republicans, and would bring in his own team and would put mainly his people in if he succeeded in buying the Presidency. He was an outside force. The attack on Bloomberg did nada to end Warren’s slide. Tulsi’s attacks on Harris did not boost Tulsi. Harris’s attacks on Biden didn’t dent Biden and only gave Harris a very short lived boost.

      1. cm

        Sorry, I should have explicitly stated that “attacks being successful” meant that the person in question dropped out of the campaign. I agree that the immediate attacker did not necessarily benefit, but I suggest that Sanders benefited by the removal of a competitor.

        In that light, I argue hardball attacks ultimately benefit Sanders.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          There’s no support for your view. Gabbard did not take out Harris. Look at this take on her fall. She deflated all on her own. Tulsi had no role:

          Harris did not dent Biden’s status as front-runner.

          Bloomberg was on his way out due to the Dem establishment not being on board with him plus his record on “stop and frisk” and with women. And as we said, Warren getting him out of the way faster hurt Sanders by cementing Biden as the nominee presumptive sooner. Bloomberg was taking voters from Biden more than anyone else.

          Again, you persist in misrepresenting the post and being unable to substantiate your personal opinion.

  41. JohnnyGL

    Krystal and Saagar covering Briahna Joy Gray getting into a twitter spat with Joy Ann Reid. I think there was a passive-aggressive way (democrats love to be passive-aggressive) of going negative against Biden under the guise of ‘electability’. Where you say things like, “I don’t think Joe’s corrupt, but all this stuff looks bad and Trump’s going to kill him with it. Joe’s a risky bet.”

    my $0.02, I think the SS attacks from Sirota were effective and helped Biden to his 4th place finishes in Iowa, and NH. There should have been more of them, especially in South Carolina. I think that was a tactical mistake.

    There was a strategic mistake in placing too much hopes in youth turnout. That strategy worked well in early state contests, but it’s hard to scale. Now, that strategy is being thrown back in the campaign’s face. They really needed to speak to older voters better in a way that resonated. Zaid Jilani has made this point in detail. I think he’s right.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I’ve not seen any support for your view about the Social Security ads. Biden was not running a very good on the ground campaign. He was regularly snapping at voters. He was down to $9 million cash in the bank for January. He continued to poll best among older people v. Sanders not, which is not what you’d see if the Social Security ads were effective. And in any event, the campaign had to pull them in the face of charges about inaccuracy.

      The app fiasco in Iowa helped him by taking attention off how badly he had done:

      New York Magazine, which has been a lot fairer to the Sanders campaign than just about any major pub, still treated Biden as the nominee presumptive after Iowa:

      As recently as last week, the former veep led Iowa in a survey from the well-regarded Monmouth outfit. It was plausible that a win there, perhaps compounded by a damagingly poor performance by “moderate lane” challengers Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, could have given Biden enough of a bounce to push him past Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire and/or Nevada and then propel him to the safe haven of South Carolina, where he has led every poll this entire cycle.

      But partial results from Iowa released by the state’s Democratic party on Tuesday confirmed what tepid crowds and an aborted Selzer poll had predicted: Biden badly underperformed in the state….

      Maybe the moment of maximum peril has passed, since we weren’t treated to any “Biden Bombs” chyrons scrolling beneath images of a tired, old-looking late-septuagenarian candidate on Caucus Night…..That moderate lane isn’t getting any less crowded, and Biden’s fire-wall primary in South Carolina is still an eternal 25 days away.

      That is Biden’s short-term challenge. His long-term challenge is Michael Bloomberg and his wallet, which await him on Super Tuesday and beyond. Buoyed by the confusion of the race post-Iowa, the former mayor has reportedly ordered his campaign to ramp up his spending to bloodcurdling levels…

      If Biden continues to bump along at an uninspiring pace, particularly if Sanders continues to do well, then moderates and business types terrified of Bernie may start jumping onto Bloomberg’s golden chariot. It’s early, of course, and Biden has consistently defied prophecies of his imminent demise.

      This proved to be accurate. Biden needed the other moderates to drop out and his threat was still much more Bloomberg than Sanders.

      No mention of any ads having to do anything with Biden Iowa flop. It’s attributed to his tired in person performances. And Sanders could not run that ad after Politifact dinged it for inaccuracy:

      The Sanders ad that got highest marks in terms of effectiveness was on Social Security, but it had nada mention of Biden. I think you may be confusing the two:–social-security-as-550-12

      1. JohnnyGL

        The attack line on SS came from Sirota. I don’t recall if he ran negative ads or not. The frustration Biden was showing on the campaign trail seemed to come from having to answer those attacks.

        Obviously polling data analysis requires caveats, but Biden came in under his polling averages in Iowa. Buttigieg seems to have picked up those votes.

        A lot of Mayor Pete’s votes came from rural areas of the state. Supposedly, he’d campaigned a lot there, much more than Bernie did. It’s possible those voters went to Pete as a 2nd choice instead of Sanders.

        Obviously, we can’t know if there was a last minute shift or not, but if there was (there’s evidence of a shift toward Klobouchar in NH, based on exit polling) a last minute shift, Sanders wasn’t in a position to grab much of those voters.

        Did the ‘revolution’ talk scare off the more conservative rural voters? Perhaps it was a style thing? A lot of Sanders surrogates sounded more radical than Sanders himself.

  42. David in Santa Cruz

    Terrific post and thoughtful comments.

    Yesterday’s Links featured a piece from NYMag about how surprised epidemiologists have been at the success of “social distancing” in the U.S. I think that it’s because Americans at their core dislike and distrust one another in a way that is more profound than was previously understood.

    “Not me, us” doesn’t resonate with people who have been happy to comprehensively shut-down most social and economic activity for the past month. “Not them, me” is the Zeitgeist playing out today. I believe that it’s an aspect of the “rationing” mentality driven by over-population and globalization.

    I also believe that Bernie Sanders is a rational man, and that it makes no sense for a 78-year old recovering from a heart-attack to risk his life campaigning in public during a pandemic. I hope that he continues to enjoy a long and healthy life.

  43. John Wright

    Part of Bernie’s problem was he was the new “hope and change” candidate.

    But that branding was immensely damaged by Obama, who entered office and immediately staffed his administration with those who would serve to preserve the current order.

    The list of Obama staffers was in place nearly a month before the election.


    “The cabinet list ended up being almost entirely on the money. It correctly identified Eric Holder for the Justice Department, Janet Napolitano for Homeland Security, Robert Gates for Defense, Rahm Emanuel for chief of staff, Peter Orszag for the Office of Management and Budget, Arne Duncan for Education, Eric Shinseki for Veterans Affairs, Kathleen Sebelius for Health and Human Services, Melody Barnes for the Domestic Policy Council, and more. For the Treasury, three possibilities were on the list: Robert Rubin, Larry Summers, and Timothy Geithner.

    “This was October 6. The election was November 4. And yet Froman, an executive at Citigroup, which would ultimately become the recipient of the largest bailout from the federal government during the financial crisis, had mapped out virtually the entire Obama cabinet, a month before votes were counted. And according to the Froman/Podesta emails, lists were floating around even before that.”

    Bernie would have had a difficult time getting the electorate to believe he really could effect real change.

    Obama’s early actions created a skeptical electorate, who may believe that while “Biden is a crook, he is a crook we know won’t do too much damage”.

  44. nn

    I don’t think that when people say Sanders should have been more aggressive, they have on mind some miraculous knockout punch. For example you mentioned electability. I guess we can all agree it’s Biden who has the bigger problem with electability, yet I don’t remember Sanders ever pointing out this, clearly explaining to voters all his flaws and how Trump is going to attack Biden. Instead he actually said that Biden can beat Trump. If he can’t make the argument, democratic media surely isn’t going to do it for him, so no wonder people think they are making the safe choice by voting Biden.

    Also I’m not sure the theory that US electorate likes nice politicians is accurate. When we look at the last three presidents, everyone played dirty, called opponents corrupt, etc. When Zephyr Teachout (correctly) called Biden corrupt, Sanders disavowed it. Well, if Biden isn’t corrupt, is decent man, can beat Trump and is Bernie’s friend, then why exactly should people vote for Sanders instead of Biden?

    1. HotFlash

      Bernie’s overarching failure is that he overestimated the decency and good sense of the American electorate while underestimating the perfidy and shamelessness of the Democratic establishment.

      1. nn

        Well, the word knockout appears in that article, but I don’t think they meant the same thing as you, at least as I understand you. You talk about ninja moves and outmanned hero smashing hordes of baddies. They talk about hammering Biden on his weak spots, like electability. This looks to me like absolutely basic stuff, no ninja moves. If pointing out that Biden is corrupt and unelectable is some equivalent of action movie fantasy, then I don’t know how left candidate could ever beat establishment candidate. And also how Obama or Trump became presidents.

      2. TB14

        You don’t think their is a nice way to go on the attack, specifically on the electability issue?

        Like if he said “Joe is a good friend and I worry about Biden’s ability to win” and said it early and often do you think it really would have come across as “negative”. It attacks Biden on his perceived strength and he can plausibly deny he’s insinuating anything particularly dirty by pointing to Biden’s policy faults and lack of energy at rallies.

        Like I think of Castro vs Booker. Booker’s “you worry about Biden’s ability to get the ball over finish line” was received with a lot less consternation then Castro’s “did you forget what you said 2 minutes ago”.

        I don’t know maybe it’s an age thing? I know plenty of 25-40 who when it came down to the final two did not like either because they thought neither could win. Do the older voters just not have that concern about Biden? Are they underrating that concern against concerns about everyone else?

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          For Sanders to play the electability card was a non-starter. because it was demonstrably false. Going that route would have attracted well deserved derision from the press. Biden was the front-runner. Trump’s approval rating, even at its very highest, has never exceeded 50%. The one on one polls consistently show Biden beating Trump comfortably; the only exception is a Fox poll that shows a tie.

          And it would degrade Sanders’ brand for him to make shit up:

          And what did those charges by Booker do for Booker’s campaign? Nada.

          The press was at least friendly to Booker. Any attack by Sanders ran the high risk of it being depicted in the press as desperate, proof he was losing. And if there was any way to clip it to make Sanders look dishonest, they’d have done that too.

    2. richard

      +1 more or less where I’m at with this too
      was just watching an Obama performance during the 2008 primary against Clinton
      it was pretty savage (she is corrupt/ clinton foundation and that makes her unelectable!)
      the audience dug it
      it can be done, even on the left side of things where I’ll admit it’s harder to attack
      (trump gets to break SO MANY taboos that Bernie or any national left candidate could never touch)
      but sanders wasn’t willing to try that though the moment SO called for it
      he was also cheated in every way he could be cheated, and some we don’t know about yet
      the campaign did accomplish a few things, but considering where we are as species and what time it is, it’s fair to be deeply disappointed, and wish Bernie had said some things he didn’t say
      but then that would be a different man, so best to him and farewell
      we move on

  45. Dang Me

    Sanders never had a chance with the S&P 500 at 3000. Dems value their 401(k)s and health plans too much and wanted an Obama redux in the form of the angel of Obama. He’s the next best thing.

    You get a Sanders at S&P 500 when all hope is lost. Dems right now would just like to be nice to gay and brown and black people.

    1. Adam Eran

      JFYI, when I expressed Sanders-friendly policies, one man replied he was worried a Sanders victory would diminish his 401K. Yves has mentioned a strike by capital as a possibility previously, but the bottom line is that all the money in the world won’t save you if the place is uninhabitable because of global warming.

      As Chris Rock says: “Wealth isn’t about having a lot of money; it’s about having a lot of options.” The options diminish as we sit home trying to stay healthy. Without options, dollars, or stock certificates, are just waste paper.

  46. Susan the other

    When the “TR” aircraft carrier found itself incapacitated with coronavirus the reaction from the US Military was shocking – I don’t know which one, but one of the Joint Chiefs felt obligated to do a belligerent announcement to anyone who was thinking of attacking us. He warned the world at large that the United States was locked and loaded and not to mess with us. That is how threatening it was for the military to have to admit that a virus had brought down an aircraft carrier. It has made the US Military look like a wild animal backed into a corner. I believe that 20 years ago the military was looking to get firm control over the ME by controlling all the oil. That has proven to be a daunting task. And in the process we’ve lost what remained of our credibility as a democracy. But still, if any organization has the incentive and the political power to choose the president, it’s probably the military. And that makes Biden (like HRC) their prime candidate. The real driver of our political dysfunction is this desperation, imo. It’s unnerving because nobody sees this at all. They just see Trump’s fantasies in meltdown; Biden’s very bad rendition of a nice old man; Bernie’s dedication to social justice. We see the Covid19 pandemic as an illness. We instruct the Fed to send everyone some money. I don’t think anything will ever be the same again.

  47. ChrisAtRU

    Thanks for this Yves. As a Berner, I am particularly saddened by Bernie’s decision to suspend his campaign, and I’ll offer some responses based on left follows on Twitter and my interactions with people IRL.

    Warning: This is probably going to be my longest set of comments ever on NC … LOL

  48. David Carl Grimes

    How about Russiagate? Didn’t that condition people’s minds on Biden’s electability. And Bernie towing the Russiagate line didn’t help.

    Why didn’t Bernie criticize Obama more forcefully? It was Obama’s policies that made Trump possible, after all.

    1. John Wright

      I talk with “progressives” who continue to assert that “Obama wanted to do the right things, but the Republicans stopped him”

      Obama was very, very, good at creating an aura of “frustrated rectitude” that continues to influence peoples’ view of him.

      I suggest that Sanders’ criticizing the saintly Obama would not help and might even hurt.

      1. notabanktoadie

        “frustrated rectitude” John Wright

        Typical of some (many, most, almost all?) Progressives who support a license to steal for the banks and then are astonished when they proceed to do so.

        Almost as if they are trying to prove original sin is a myth but proving it isn’t a myth in the process?

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Huh? Only a very tiny subset of voters does NOT believe Russiagate even though it fizzed out. They believe Russia is an evil empire and meddles effectively in our elections. For Sanders to have gone against that would have led to a press drubbing, plus attacks that this was proof that he like Trump was a Russian stooge.

  49. John k

    A good summary.
    Fdr had the advantage that it was three years after the crash that the election was held… imagine the virus lasts three years, with unemployment stuck at 25%. Plus there was not then a large group in a comfortable retirement furnished with Medicare… everybody, including many former rich, were desperate for change.
    We might yet get there, or not. Quinine might work for many, or a virus might finish off the virus. But as time progresses more and more of those moving into retirement will be ever less prepared. Think of gig workers.
    Imo future progressives will find a more sympathetic electorate simply bc that’s what neolib policies do. Pendulums continue in a particular direction until the opposing force overcomes inertia, then they obediently reverse. Maybe AOC, but there will be others. The young will inherit the earth, and the young, mostly progressive, are increasingly desperate for change.
    Bernie hacked a path through a very hostile wilderness. Others will follow.

  50. L

    Yves thank you for this, two responses if I may

    On this point

    “The amount change Sanders was seeking to achieve normally takes more than a generation.”

    To my mind the true test of the impact of Sanders’ campaign may be how many people go out and run for city council, mayor, county council, etc. That kind of gradual backbench change is what will, I think really flip the script.

    Pity it’s so slow.

    On this point:

    So “electability,” particularly for older voters, is code for “Sanders is McGovern 2.0.”

    So in response they turned to a reanimated Hubert Humphrey.

    1. Adam Eran

      Nah, Joe can’t hold a candle to Hubert, whose party loyalty led him to support LBJ, but never endeared him to the man. Robert Cato’s LBJ biographies say LBJ was more comfortable with Richard Nixon (despite the fact that he knew Nixon was trying to sabotage the Vietnam peace process).

  51. ChrisAtRU

    #SomeCommentsOnTheSandersCampaign – Opening (paragraphs 1 – 3)

    “He not only made ideas heretofore regarded as political third rails, like wiping out the private health insurance industry, as proposals to be reckoned with, but also built funding, media, and canvassing operations entirely outside the Democratic party structure, which were impressive operational accomplishments.”

    I remain impressed by Bernie’s ground game. I hope the organization stays in place for the future.

    ” … but with key senior staffers pushing for him to effectively withdraw, he may have felt he had no choice (he could not continue with these disaffected aides in key roles, and it would have been extremely difficult to replace them). And keep in mind that coronavirus ending the campaign’s ability to hold large rallies and canvass in person …”

    I am really curious where exactly the schism was here. Was this Faiz vs Sirota? Chuck & Faiz vs Turner & Sirota? I saw a really interesting tweet from Rose Ann De Moro – (from her Wikipedia entry) former executive director of National Nurses United and the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee and a former national vice president and executive board member of the AFL-CIO. She essentially quoted herself from an interview done as part of a WaPo article in which Sanders campaign exit tumult was being spun. The quote itself pulls no punches:

    ” … speaking of anyone encouraging him to consider bowing out. If people want to go work on K Street right now, go. The base is attached to the movement and Bernie, not operatives.”

    In other words, if you can’t stand the heat …

    … but to Yves point: “… he could not continue with these disaffected aides in key roles, and it would have been extremely difficult to replace them”

    The tell-all is going to be something.

    “Lambert is toying with working up “matrix of failure” based on a structure of analysis devised in the classic book Military Misfortunes, and he has discussed both some questionable decisions other have highlighted, like why didn’t Sanders present policies in Iowa that addressed the needs of farming communities, or why didn’t he try harder to win over black leaders in the South, particularly South Carolina, so as to keep his loss to a respectable level.”

    I can’t speak to the African-American outreach portion of these questions. Short of having an African-American version of Chuck Rocha, I am not sure how Bernie penetrates the fiefdom over which Clyburn and others of his ilk hold dominion. The economic message part I fault Bernie. I do not for the life of me understand how Bernie could have Stephanie Kelton as an economic advisor, and yet not avail himself of her and the wider #MMT community to help craft exactly the kinds of messaging described above. This is one of my main disappointments with his campaign – both in 2016 and again in 2020. I look forward to The Matrix!

    1. ChrisAtRU

      #SomeCommentsOnTheSandersCampaign – Paragraphs 4 – 9

      The Knockout Punch
      From my view, I think the “the podcast left” was a bigger advocate of this – and by this, I mean having Bernie essentially “tulsi” (yes, she became a verb this cycle) Joe Biden on live TV. It’s funny because my left friends IRL – like people I know personally – seemed less concerned about the “knockout punch”; and to the degree that those friends are online, I never saw them advocate for it. So this may be another chapter in the #Twitter != #RealLife saga. What I did see a fair amount of was supporters looking for Bernie to respond in kind, as it were. In other words, some supporters just wanted Bernie to have the same competitive animus towards the other candidates as they had toward Bernie. Examples: Bernie didn’t have to call Joe Biden a ”friend” during the debates. He didn’t have to say “Joe Biden can beat Trump” before Biden sealed the nomination. Does anyone remember (when Bernie had the delegate lead) that every single one of them besides Bernie said that they would refuse to support a candidate who had the plurality (but not majority) of delegates as the nominee? Why in such a world would Bernie concede that any of them could defeat Trump? In addition, even as some of his fellow nominees (Pete, Warren, Amy) went after him because of his supporters, he refused to go after them (and the media) for theirs – until late in the campaign. He should have said on TV that Chuck Todd called his supporters brown shirts; that a supporter of another candidate referred to elected officials Rashida Tlaib and Pramila Jayapal as his “concubines”. When you’re dealing with media manufactured consent, you have to make the most of those moments in front of the camera – not necessarily for a body slam – but if only to draw some empathy. So my view is that “knockout punch” aside, Bernie should have been at least willing to meet his opponents’ blows like for like. And I don’t think he did that. I agree with the assertions about Warren, Tulsi and Kamala. Great must-see TV, but did not help them poll better over the long haul.

      Angry Bernie
      I often lampoon centrists by saying #TheyHaveLearnedNothing from 2016. In a sense, I am asking myself if maybe Bernie needed to learn to use a different voice/mannerism in his debate appearances. Bringing the stump/rally speech to the debates is probably something I would change. Bernie wags his finger at the establishment, not everyday people, and I believe that when he was on the debate stage, he needed to bring himself to see those cameras as constituents. Bernie is great with people in groups; we’ve seen it time and time again. If he talked through his points as if he were speaking “to the American people” instead of say, responding to that stupid CNN moderator who asked if “#MedicareforAll would bankrupt the country”, there’d be less finger wagging about “bailouts for billionaires” and more of “here’s what we know we can do”.

      1. ChrisAtRU

        PS: Thanks for saying this: “And exit polls consistently found support for Sanders higher than the eventual totals, by higher than the margin of error…which in third world countries is seen as a likely indicator of election rigging.”

        Onward …

        #SomeCommentsOnTheSandersCampaign – Paragraphs 10 to Conclusion


        “Disappointed Sanders supporters are also ignoring the elephant in the room: his “electability”. I don’t think most understood what that dog whistle signified, since to any Sanders fan, the charge was ludicrous on its face.”

        LOL … #Guilty

        “So “electability,” particularly for older voters, is code for “Sanders is McGovern 2.0.” “Even if you like him, he’s too far to the left. Too many big government schemes, too much in tax increases.” That’s also the point of attack with the Trump “Crazy Bernie” monicker: Pie in the sky, big spending.” And that’s before you get to the “s” word.”

        Funny how the pandemic precipitated Bernie’s campaign suspension , but also brought us:
        – Neil Kashkari suggesting the Fed has infinite money to spend
        – SquawkBox Bro’s talkin’ ’bout “Ich bin ein MMT’er”
        … and more, all of which should have played into Bernie’s wheelhouse. Pity he hadn’t been talking MMT since 2016, because he would have been able to do a big fat “I told you so” middle finger to the establishment. Alas – not that a pandemic can ever have good timing, but in the way that things just don’t fall well for some people – Bernie would not be able to benefit from any awakening in the electorate.


        I think Warren emerges the worst from this. She was never embraced by the establishment as a palatable choice, and she has completely annihilated her cred with the “online left”. Calls for her to get primaried will get passionate support from a lot of the same people who donated to, and put real energy (canvassing/calling) into Bernie’s campaign. She’ll live in infamy in the hearts an minds of those who felt that 2020 was a chance for her to make up for the harm her non-endorsement of Bernie did in 2016. What a waste.

        So … as exercises left to the next left populist candidate:

        #1 – Populism
        “But the danger of anti-populism is that it goes far beyond objecting to one vile politician. This was demonstrated in March as the anti-populist establishment came together to pummel the campaign of Bernie Sanders.” – Ummm … Don’t Be The Only Left Populist Candidate?
        On the one hand, not sure what that would look like: Primila Jayapal, Rashida Tlaib and AOC run in 2024? On the other hand, pretty sure now that this has worked against Bernie, it will be part of the run book for future primaries.

        #2 Media
        The problem of the media is the toughest for me. I have seen in my own personal dealings exactly how media manufactured consent works. Cuomo as a candidate was a glaring example -from the 1st machinations online delivered by the very obvious blue check messengers … to the appointed talking heads on the television … to your personal social network contacts, your co-workers and then back again in a feedback loop, amplifying. For a brief moment in the campaign at the beginning, you could see a crack in this ability to manufacture consent. From the Iowa #ButtItItch debacle, to New Hampshire and then Nevada, Bernie’s ability to win basically had minds broken in mainstream media. Chris Matthews’ meltdown was epic, but seeing Anand lecture Joy Reid on taking that moment to “ask why” was another big sign that the blob was beginning to fear. But … South Carolina changed things … and the rest, as they say, is history.

        Thanks again for putting this piece together.

  52. EoH

    David Brooks whining about divisive politics? A hilarious example of the pot calling the kettle black, a characterization Mr. Brooks thinks he avoids by giving his work an understated matte finish.

    As for Bernie – or Warren – being “too angry,” I regard that as a conservative talking point meant to avert discussion from what he and we might legitimately be angry about.

  53. Greg Taylor

    Bernie’s 2020 five-state strategy was far different than his 2016 approach. In 2016, North Carolina canvassing operations started several weeks before early voting began. In 2020, these operations started during the 2nd or 3rd week of early voting. Resources appeared to have been heavily allocated to Iowa, NV, NH / MA, CA and TX. Perhaps the strategy would have worked had it been effectively executed. As is was, the lack of effort in most other Super Tuesday states showed.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I think this confirms another issue: Sanders didn’t have the gas to take on the Democratic party establishment. Not setting up these operations points to not having enough money. He was having to spend a lot early to stand out in the crowded field, particularly against Warren, who had a very large operation in Iowa. He also has to spend more by virtue of being held in Washington by the impeachment hearings (as in he had to compensate for the lack of rallies with more ad spend).

      He also didn’t have surrogates with enough stature to get MSM or much local news attention. AOC was as good as he had.

      1. John k

        He really needed credible people to show the weaknesses of other candidates. Of course the media wouldn’t mention them, but even having a couple attack dogs on the stage with him… maybe tulsi to take on warren, and somebody else for biden. There are other progressives in the country, surprised more of them didn’t rally around. Tammy Baldwin would have been very useful in the Midwest.. I thought she was a real candidate for his veep.

  54. tongorad

    Moderate Rebels (ironic name) take on Bernie:
    Bernie Sanders goes out with a whimper – An obituary on an aborted ‘revolution’ –>>

    Bernie Sanders has dropped out of the US presidential race. Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton discuss what went wrong in his campaign, from being unwilling to take on the Democratic Party, treating right-wing war criminal Joe Biden like a friend, refusing to attack a cartoonishly hostile corporate media, recruiting milquetoast Washington, DC foreign-policy advisors, and attracting a slew of careerists and opportunists in “left media.”

    They raise some very good points about Bernie’s soft imperialist foreign policy team and support by the fawning professional left such as Jacobin magazine.
    Well worth a listen.

  55. Herky

    Long-time Bernie supporter from one of the Obama-Trump flip counties in Iowa. A topic that Yves alludes to in the post, but none of the commentators seem (apologies if I’ve missed it) to have adequately expanded upon: I don’t think you can overstate just how terrible a brand “socialist” is (“democratic” or otherwise) in these parts. It’s like marketing yourself as a “non-murderer”. Anyone older than middle age grew up in middle America INDOCTRINATED to hate communists / socialists (and those two terms are used interchangeably here). They were the reason kids hid under school desks and they were the antithesis of American freedoms. The subtlety of “European-style Democratic Socialism” is a nuance completely lost on the majority of the flip-able electorate. For the difference it would have made, my pet belief has always been that Bernie should have marketed himself as a “democratic capitalist”.
    Also, I always felt like every time Bernie uttered “Trump” he was making a mistake and wasting an opportunity. Far better to ignore Trump and instead paint a positive picture of the future a Sanders administration would bring about, rather than bash on Trump– a person that many around here voted for and, while maybe these voters felt uncertain about or were a bit disappointed in Trump, they weren’t yet (or ever) willing to admit they made a mistake.

    1. Louis Fyne

      +!!! Sanders didnt channel Teddy Roosevelt enough.

      Break up the big banks, break up big tech, break up Amazon. mandate any hospital taking Medicare money must source 51+% of their medical supplies from the US (phased in gradually), right to repair, etc

      1. Herky

        Exactly. Now that Bernie’s done and no one among the Dems is looking promising to, at least in the near-term, pick up where he left off, I think there’s power laying in the streets–and on the gravel roads–waiting for the long-dormant-but-signs-of-life-appearing Roosevelt wing of the Republican party to scoop up and run with for a generation. I for one would be open to it. Hell, if Trump was capable of stringing together two coherent thoughts about something other than his TV ratings, he’d make that pivot himself in the next few weeks and guarantee himself re-election.

  56. Michael K

    Wonderful, Yves. Just wonderful. You’ve managed to capture so much of what I’ve been thinking about the Sanders campaign, but you’ve done it in your typically cogent way. Thank you!

  57. KFritz

    There’s one “accident of history”/”flying-fickle-finger-of-fate” factor to take into account in Sanders’ demise. He was part of a field of articulate, intelligent, often mediagenic candidates, most of whom were nominal “moderates.” If the field had been smaller, or filled with bozos, things might, just possibly, have turned out better. It would have been, of course, very unlikely. In 2016 Bernie’s opponent was inept and unattractive (to most, anyway), but the DNC moved ‘heaven and earth’ to annoint HRC. In 2020 without a strong field of opponents against Sanders, they might have been forced into an even more naked power play. I believe the strong field protected them from that possibility.

    Ironically, the contrastingly abysmal quality of Trump’s opponents in the 2016 Republican primaries was important, and probably essential, to his victory.

    A further note: here’s hoping the Dems don’t choose Kamala Harris as VP candidate–for a miserable but compelling reason. She has a squeaky “unpresidental” voice. Abe Lincoln’s voice was squeaky–he’d probably be unelectable in 2020. There were four 20th century POTUSes with weak voices: Teddy Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Harry Truman, and Gerald Ford (Truman’s was the best of this lot). Note that all four were appointed after the death of an elected POTUS. TR had tremendous “in-person” charisma which might have transcended his voice, even today. Truman’s 1948 opponent, Thomas Dewey, also had a mediocre speechifying voice. In today’s media-centric environment, Harris’s voice is a serious liability. This isn’t an attack on her persona. I find her “likeable-from-a-distance,” in spite of her adherence to Neoliberal memes.

  58. RJM Consulting

    Vote Blue No Matter Who has done for the establishment, and Joe Biden, all that needed to be done. But it won’t be enough. The disillusionment over a Biden candidacy does not require “holding one’s nose and voting for him anyway”, despite Dr Jill’s advice. I suggest that the ‘long game’ justifies sitting out the 2020 Presidential election and simply focusing on Senate, House and local races. Absent true constitutional crisis, Trump is out in 2024 and in true ‘self-preservation mode’, given demographics and (sadly) the effects of an extended unvaccinated Covid19, the republicans will be forced to temper the Donald’s urges and consider their own electability. If daylight appears between the Donald and his sycophants, and especially if the dems can retake the Senate (fingers crossed for a trumpian electorate that “balances their government”), the country might just survive. And the further accretion of the progressive polity (and the emergence of someone younger than a septuagenarian as a candidate), might just reverse the red tide in which we’ve been treading water.
    Consider also the likely 12 years of “moderate” democratic administration that follow from a Biden election. Disillusionment is cemented as true apathy, and the relatively impressive gains from the progressive left could wither on the vine.
    For my vote, Joe has to produce personnel that will promote policy, and I’m not holding my breath.

  59. Jonathan Holland Becnel

    Sanders should’ve gone full bore at CNN and MSDNC to dislodge 10%r Establishment Dems like my Grandparents quarantined in Lambeth House. That’s how Trump won in 2016.

    Uniting against the liberals is a winning message, without IDpol of course.

  60. Eric Titus

    Fully agree with this perspective. Bernie’s downfall was that he didn’t manage to get anyone who backed the other candidates to support him. Ultimately, I don’t think he was a good enough politician (which is a compliment!).

    Bernie’s Cuba comments played an unappreciated role in shifting the narrative. While I strongly support the sentiment, there are some battles in US politics that one has to be very careful about fighting. Bernie had his least disciplined week as a candidate at precisely the time when (it turned out) he needed to be fighting for moderate voters.

  61. Barry Fay

    The whole “Mr. Nice Guy” argument forgiving Bernie for not attacking Biden when it mattered most is completely wrong. And to watch most of the commentariat chime in is disappointing. Bernie was the head of a MOVEMENT that basically attracted young people and the energy thus released spread out to thinking voters. His first mistake was endorsing Hillary in 2016 – his movement lost a lot of steam immediately (remember all those delegates leaving the convention hall!). When he restarted, there was another push but many of the disillusioned were obviously missing (note the LACK of young voter turnout!) and Bernie continuing in his Mr. Nice Guy role of appeasing the Party kept them from rejoining. He needed to show that THIS TIME he was ALL IN – it is that kind of committment that a MOVEMENT requires to maintain momentum. And the simple fact was, he was NOT all in – and when he campaigns for Biden the MOVEMENT will finally die out. The wise guy elites will have stamped out ANOTHER attempt to save American democracy (Obama was their previous Trojan horse!).

    1. Mark Gisleson

      Arbitrarily picking you to respond to and mostly to sort out my thoughts on this now that this page’s traffic has dropped off. You’re wrong but I’m not sure how to explain why you’re wrong.

      We just saw peak DNC. The party has killed itself, the only question is how long it will take to die. They have behaved in horrible ways towards every activist who did not toe their line. They have rewarded their own in narcissistic fashion and in so doing have provided further proof for The Peter Principle.

      To participate in their system, Bernie had to compromise. Before logging off Twitter (trying to quit for a while) I saw a D staffer had blown the whistle on Harry Reid’s role in 2016. To run, Bernie had to sign a contract legally binding him to endorse and campaign for the nominee.

      Yes, the D system is gamed but run by such extraordinary incompetents that it was very reasonable for Bernie to think he had a shot this time around. Politics is viral. There’s no excuse for people forgetting that in this era of social media, but in politics as in social media, you can’t manufacture viral.

      D’s tried with Beto. He had all the ingredients, social media embraced him but there was no there there. His rapid departure heartened me because it meant the news media monopoly and Brocksters were losing control over their audience. Beto was dog food. Well packaged boutique dog food that appealed to many until they took a bite.

      The only opposition Bernie had who actually got some traction on the ground appeared to be Buttigieg but that was based on some very dodgy election results. You can’t win that way. People are not going to dump Trump for Nixon. I’m surprised Buttigieg dropped when he did, but in truth he was an amateur gymnast doing a high wire act. There may have been a there there but small town mayors do not become President and his military service was a joke (to the military and their families).

      KHive doesn’t deserve an explanation (if you have any love for her, you’re a coward who’s never googled her name with Willie Brown’s). I’m sick to death of people who think techs are electable or preferable (show me one with a balanced view of the world — just one would satisfy me). Klobuchar had an old murder trial pop up and it would have damaged her enormously had she not dropped out (far better than KHive AKlo can survive googling as she avoids controversy by not doing anything, but then at some point you have to embrace something beyond gender and there’s nothing to embrace other than swimming pool drain legislation).

      Warren is Warren. Whatever you think of her, she’s the nerd version of Hillary Clinton, electionwise. Unsure how much of that was former Clinton folks clusterhelping her campaign, and how much was her nerdy need for approval from her supporters. You win by appealing to the people not at your rallies. Doing selfies with voters you can take for granted is a real Peter Principle thing. Had there been one experienced campaign hand in the room when that first came up, it would have never happened.

      I forget what Lambert calls it (the night of long knives?) but Obama clearing the table for AccuVote to hand Biden the election was a coup d’etat / deus ex machina / machiavellian dolchstoss / lots of words I can’t use in a family blog.

      They didn’t just cheat to stop Bernie, they changed the rules, put lives at risk, rigged the machines, suppressed the vote and lied. Just to stop Bernie.

      And after all that, you’re telling me this is on Bernie? His staff? He freaking won. He changed the national dialogue and destroyed the Democratic party’s credibility forever. Only a complete purge of their leadership could save that party from going to Whig heaven at this point. You can only win by losing so many times and this is the Democrats’ third strike of this young century. [Gore-Clinton-Biden all resulted in a party paralyzed by those who cannot admit fault or accept blame, so the same mistakes keep getting repeated.]

      But that’s just why I disagree with critics who fail to acknowledge the rules that were place, or the excellence of much of what happened. You saw the crowds. Ever work a MAJOR event? Bernie wasn’t subcontracting that out, it was done by staff and volunteers. I doubt any of his competitors could have handled large crowds without an army of pros by which I mean subcontractors because Bernie’s opponents didn’t hire real pros, they hired the Peter Principle’s graduating class.

      And then there’s the matter of the actuarial tables. I hope the dead pools have been suspended but if not, you gotta think Biden’s on a lot of lists. If he doesn’t make it to the convention, even by all their changed rules, even the most self-obsessed of the DNC’s genius trust is going to realize that Bernie has to be at the table when the unprecedented decisions are made. That or become an absolute laughing stock.

      I doubt I changed your mind. I ‘get’ skipping straight to revolution. But in the world of voting, Bernie just pulled off the greatest challenge to neoliberalism in the history of neoliberalism (name me one American politician who’s done more to thwart the oligarchs). Bernie is still doing damage, he is still there.

      Who else gets to say that? If not Bernie, who are you turning to?

      I’m going to be patient and wait this one out. Far too many variables in play in this most interesting of interesting times.


      1. Barry Fay

        Despite such questionable points such as: 1. “legally binding him (Bernie) to endorse” (were they gonna throw him in jail? Sue him? Nooo! 2. “I’m surprised Buttigieg dropped when he did” when everybody knows he was ordered to, your analysis is very astute. In point of fact I agree that in some ways Bernie accomplished a lot AGAINST ALL ODDS and may have even simply been denied a win through fraud. My point is that he needed to be EVEN BETTER in order to actually win (just like a visiting basketball team can indeed beat the hometown refs with a fantastic performance). And what was indeed missing for Bernie was the OVERWHELMING commitment and energy of the young people that had been the source of his rise in the first place! My comment then explained why I thought that was. And now, given the chance, I would also like to add that in America NICE GUYS FINISH LAST! Always have.

  62. Noone from Nowheresville

    I’m late to the party. Had to turn some of this around in my head. I’m still one foot in the Cult of Personality, one foot out into Sanders is a minion of capital zone just like the rest of them but with better moralizing and grassroot organizing. An aside, I wonder who is responsible for that since he’s really just the talent now.

    1. Knockout punch. Sirota and company wanted Sanders to go after Biden in Sept. There was a bit of space there. However, what we are all forgetting is that impeachment drums were pounding. About a week later Pelosi announced opening an official Impeachment inquiry. A week after that Sanders had his heart attack. These things helped stop the traction Medicare for All had been getting in the media.

    No space at the January debate or the Bloomberg debate. Sanders got it from all directions. I agree Sanders did not rise to the challenge of the last debate. He didn’t have to take Biden out. He needed to show himself as presidential material and why he was uniquely positioned to defeat Trump. Biden did a much better job of that in the first hour then directly faced Sanders outrage without flinching in the second. CNN ran cover for Biden.

    I also agree Sanders needed very practiced responses to the attacks on Medicare for All, Bernie Bros., etc. As well as media training to look into the camera, engage the viewer directly and not slouch.

    What I find odd, and here I find the Bloomberg ad campaign brilliant, is that since Sanders made it all about Trump and his issues, why not just weave his issue messaging into the I’m uniquely qualified to beat Trump. He never had to go after Biden or any of the other primary challengers. All he had to do with say I’m Bernie Sanders, I got your back and I’m uniquely qualified to beat Trump. Attack Trump as a billionaire. Attack Trump through his policies. If you’re throwing your hat into the Democrat’s Orange Man bad spiel then you weave your message into theirs in such a way that your message gets amplified. Of course, then you’re no longer the outsider. Admit it and get off the fence post.

    2. Sanders had 4 years to seed his messaging across the country. He did and didn’t do that. If you want a “revolution” and I’m using that term very very loosely because that’s not what Sanders wants. He, like Warren, wants tweaking around the edges. His tweaks appear much deeper. More moral ideals than Warrens technocratic policy ones.

    Where was the barn storming around the country? Heading to high schools with people like say Michael Hudson, Teachout, Sirota, etc. Why push the European model and not mention that the US was the one who imposed it on Europe after the Great War? Why not just talk about the New Deal directly? All kinds of ways to develop an indirect baseline for the Sanders’ platform since he insisted on the term socialist. Also why not do voter registration rallies at the same time.

    An aside: MSNBC and CNN started the if only Biden had run instead of Clinton meme about 2 years ago. Biden would’ve saved us from Trump. So Sanders’ he’s my friend, a decent guy and he can beat Trump messaging amplified the messages the democratic primary voters had received for at least 2 years. Plus reinforced Biden’s own campaign messaging.

    3. The campaign strategy deploying resources doesn’t make sense to me, especially given how the DNC setup the primary field. It’s there in that Rocha Hill interview.

    4. Sanders messaging changed from 2016 and spring of 2019. I remember him saying that he felt impeachment was a distraction at a small campaign event. At some point, he jumped onto the Trump twitter outrage bandwagon. He needed his 2016 base and to expand into new voters. But he abandoned part of that 2016 base to amplify twitter Orange Man bad outrage.

    5. Bloomberg. I think he did what he set out to do, which was to help stop Sanders’ movement. Running directly against Trump in the fall would’ve been icing on the cake.

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