The Campaign Memo Bernie Never Listened To: Did Sanders Run the Most Clueless Modern Political Campaign?

Lambert here: This is the strongest statement of what I might call “the drawing distinctions thesis” I have seen, here distinguishing Sanders from Warren (as opposed to from Biden, as proposed by Sirota). Looking at the concrete proposals, I think that “3) The Obama years must be discredited” (as often proposed by Stoller) would be an extremely heavy lift even during the extended 2020 primary. I think ideally such necessary work would have had to have begun in 2017 to get traction in the electorate (not to mention reaching out to likely Black political allies more effectively than was done). That is, I think, a difficulty in today’s “party” and “campaign” model, where a campaign is essentially structured like a rock concert, where stars and mercenaries move from city to city, setting up and striking the set each day, and scattering when the season is done. Needless to say, a party — at least a party like the Democrat party — can’t provide such continuity, being almost entirely devoid of the principle, any principle, that would drive such work. (Compare the Republican Party that produced Lincoln, on slavery.) Oh, and the fact that the Sanders camp is actually producing post mortems, even dueling ones, is a sign of health; we might recall that the DNC, after the 2016 Clinton debacle, produced no such post mortem, IIRC against past practice, a sign of decadence and willful refusal to accept accountability

By Anis Shivani, whose recent political books include Why Did Trump Win?, Confronting American Fascism, and A Radical Human Rights Solution to the Immigration Problem. He is the author of many critically-acclaimed books of fiction, poetry, and criticism, including, most recently, A History of the Cat in Nine Chapters or Less 

From: Anis Shivani

To: Heather Gautney, Nina Turner

Subject: The Campaign Has a Warren Problem

Date: Sept. 11, 2019

The upcoming third debate is a crucial moment to reset impressions. It will be the first time all the leading candidates will be on stage together, providing new opportunities for joint interaction. After this debate, significant changes in image will become more difficult to accomplish. Therefore, this debate is key to begin altering some counterproductive perceptions that have set in: 1) Warren and Sanders are indistinguishable on policy; 2) Warren is an acceptable alternative to Sanders; 3) Any Democratic nominee is good enough, because at least they’re not Trump, and at least we’ll be resetting to the Obama years. 4) Trump can be beaten easily, he’s ready to be had (since Hillary already won the last popular vote); and 5) All the Democrats are more or less on the same side, their idealism comes from the same roots, so there is no urgency for any big philosophical issues to be worked out.

To the extent that voters believe these five things, they are more likely to view Bernie as needlessly cantankerous and edgy. If there had been an economic crisis in progress, he would easily be the runaway winner at this point, there would be no contest. It would sharpen people’s minds in a way that no amount of rhetoric can. However, lacking an economic or any perceptible crisis at the moment, the average low-information liberal voter continues to be more easily persuaded by optimism and so-called “moderation.” Pessimism is a tough sell in the absence of a palpable crisis that people can readily understand, yet the kind of big ideas Bernie is pushing presume, by definition, a deep pessimism about current approaches. I think Bernie has to blend his pessimism with an equally great dose of optimism about what can still be possible, given a democratic revolution. Voters have to stop seeing him only as someone who promises to take on the fossil fuel industry and big pharma (which he will), and to see him as someone who depicts a utopian future which they barely dreamed possible before.

1. Warren’s successful attempt to morph into Sanders-lite is potentially fatal. On issue after issue, from Medicare for All to college tuition, medical debt, wealth tax, monopolies, and the Green New Deal, she has played caught-up, brilliantly. Always her plan is a little short, a little less than universal, a little hedged in and qualified, and shy of open-ended public commitment (her statement that there are “many paths to Medicare” is typical). The very use of the term “plans” is meant to imply that she’s practical and pragmatic, knows how to get things done, unlike the woolly-headed Sanders with his grandiose philosophical notions. Therefore, her “plans” need to be contested as being too little, too accommodative, too reliant on the goodwill of the elites and Wall Street.

Her plans need to be brought down a notch: “Senator Warren, the Green New Deal I have proposed fully phases out fossil fuels by 2035, and ends the export of fossil fuels. whereas your plan doesn’t.” Or, “Senator Warren, your plan for student debt relief leaves a large gap, whereas my plan cancels all student debt. Why are you reluctant to cancel all debt?” If Bernie does this with humor, and a good dose of camaraderie, he won’t be accused of misogyny (though some will do it regardless). So far, she’s been careful not to resort to realism, but if she ever does she’s cooked. Bernie should genuinely wonder, as a philosophical proposition, when she lost faith in markets, at what point did that happen? Or does her continued faith in markets, at least when they are regulated, suggest that she’s still basically a believer in markets? Can the market deliver health care? Can it deliver on climate change? Don’t her plans rest on this faith? Yet didn’t markets create the immense inequality she says she wants to reduce? A tough task, to demonize markets in an America that remains bound to capitalism, but they have to demonized, markets can’t defend themselves.

The sharp differentiation from Warren wouldn’t just be on the part of Bernie, of course, the whole campaign should undertake it at different levels, at different degrees of personalization or abstraction, but at the third debate she cannot be seen glued to the hip with Bernie. There cannot be another dominant image coming out of it with her hands on his shoulder, literally leaning into him. She should be presented as a follower, not a leader, when it comes to progressive ideas. Bernie is very grateful for her support, and for picking up the baton at times, but as far as he’s concerned, the time is up for small corrections, and for having any faith in markets to bring about the kind of change we need with even the most expert regulation. “We need a political revolution, empowering the people, not a new faith in regulators.” I see Bernie’s movement as a twenty-first century poor people’s campaign, and this can be a way to differentiate him from Warren, who’s all about boosting the middle-class. This is going to be very difficult, given how Warren has carefully constructed her image in recent years as a defender of the people, but she can’t (like Harris, except in a less extreme sense) go all the way, so pointing out the gap is the only way to do it. As is the next strategy, which is:

2). Candidate Warren must be morally disqualified. There is no other way to win the nomination than to disburden well-meaning liberal voters of the delusion that they can, in all good conscience, vote for Warren over Sanders, and still get something of a progressive (while realizing full well that she’s not as progressive as Sanders on any of the issues), yet someone who doesn’t call herself a socialist, who’s younger, less edgy, a woman, more likely to appeal to the mythical suburban voter, and in their view more likely to beat Trump. But these well-meaning liberal voters, who constitute the majority of the Democratic party over the fully conscious leftist voters, only believe this because these propositions have not been challenged. Warren cannot be beaten, at this point, simply by shedding a little bit of doubt on her; second-best is still good enough for too many primary voters.

Earlier it would have been possible to get past her by noting that her conversion was recent and incomplete and in many ways unsatisfactory, but now she’s too established already in the minds of many voters as a progressive who’s reached a threshold of acceptability. The third debate must at the least convey the point that the Sanders camp does not believe she has crossed this threshold. If this attitude does not come across, yet again, then the game might be lost, and it’s possible that there might be a stampede toward her. Voters might go for her rather than Sanders (in the absence of an economic collapse or other crisis) because it lets them have their cake and eat it too, which is what many of them want. They don’t really want to struggle with the big ideas Sanders is presenting, challenging their very mode of existence, so they think that voting for Warren is acceptable, and perhaps even morally superior, because the fact that she is a woman more than compensates for any superiority Sanders might have in terms of ideas.

So they need to stop thinking that she is progressive enough (by having met the threshold), that she can beat Trump, that she can be an effective leader (in the way Sanders can), and that she even has the experience or charisma to handle the conservative backlash, which Sanders must accept and present as almost an overwhelming obstacle which only his people power movement can overcome. Again, Warren must be gradually disqualified (it can’t be done in one shot), if the present parameters are to change, but this is very difficult to do now, because of her folksy presentation, combined with the well-established perception that she’s been a lifelong fighter against Wall Street and political corruption (even if she has decades less experience than Bernie, her efforts haven’t made much headway, and she’s been a supporter of capitalist markets rather than an opponent).

So how do you take on someone who projects herself as a fighter for the middle class by challenging her credentials? a) By presenting Bernie’s own personal story, such as his experiences with illness in the family and the health care industry (although I’m aware of his deep reluctance to engage in such personalization), as a way to offer a narrative more compelling than Warren’s. b) Again, by making the point that her piecemeal policies haven’t worked in the past, that just regulating Wall Street and expecting the financial and political elites to toe the line because of new regulations or restrictions on lobbying is not good enough anymore. “It may have worked in previous years, but the time for such an incrementalist approach to compromising with Wall Street is over.” It must be made clear that many of her ideas are weak tea indeed compared to the political revolution Sanders offers, and if voters go that route they will be legitimizing inequality and control of politics by the elites. “Senator Warren wants to fight the corruption of political elites. Our movement wants to end their power, we want to stop them from getting the power in the first place. Senator Warren wants to reign in Wall Street and make markets work better. Our movement wants to move us beyond our reverence for markets and toward a new economic system that stays ahead of technological change.” Very difficult task at this point to redefine her, but there’s no other way. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was a good idea, but it had its limits, and saving the middle-class from financial predators is not the same as rethinking our economy for future generations.

To restate, the moral disqualification comes from the idea that Warren’s policies are too mild and scattered to reverse the unacceptable inequality that led to Trump, that putting faith in her regulatory approach would lead to the same kinds of compromises that we have seen with recent Democratic administrations, and that this would lead to a backlash even worse than what we have seen with Trump. Voters must feel compelled to ask, Is Warren’s approach enough to reset the economy on a different foundation? Each of Sanders’s plans, such as for workplace democracy, fits in with all the rest, and empowers people and is driven by their needs, whereas Warren turns every question around to “taking on Washington corruption,” which is just the kind of thing we’ve been hearing forever from Washington insiders who think reforming their own set is the solution. If voters start thinking of Warren as compromised, as going too easy on Wall Street relative to the scale of what needs to be accomplished, then the moral disqualification sets in.

This goes back to the same kind of doubts about Hillary’s character that disqualified her in the minds of many: she’s an insider who’ll do anything to make a compromise and advance her own cause, which is what killed Gillibrand too. Is any particular issue disqualifying by itself? No, Warren is not giving away anything so easily, so it has to be an accumulation of inconsistencies and choices (leaning toward big donors, too cozy with banks to really go after them). She can always say she evolved, but then this evolution language has to be discredited. Her personal story is her fortress, but the way she presents herself as evolving from (Reaganite) capitalist, as she sought at first to prove that people went bankrupt because of their own irresponsibility, and realizing, eventually, that they didn’t do so because of their carelessness, is hard to digest. You have to research that, to realize that poor people are not poor because of bad choices? Past support for school vouchers, present support for bloated defense budgets, all of it together might add up to a character flaw so deep as to be unacceptable. How do we know once you’re elected you won’t become a moderate again?

3. The Obama years must be discredited. I don’t see how the nomination can be won, unless this is done. If voters continue to think that the Obama years were good enough, then why not go with Biden? From that point of view, Warren sounds terrific, because she was a financial regulator under Obama, and she promises to improve upon the Obama years, which were already a pretty good deal. What is the need for political revolution, if we can reset the clock to 2016? This goes back to the previous point, where Warren’s “plans” have to be presented as suitable for what we took as acceptable during the last administration, but far behind where we need to be today. This sure is asking for a lot: to take on not just Warren, and present himself as the only progressive, but also to take on someone who is said to be a very popular Democratic president?

Except he would never take on Obama personally, but restrict his criticism to Obama’s policies: “We were not even-handed in the Middle East, we did not deal with terrorism well by relying on drones and extra-judicial assassinations, we allowed a financial rescue package to go forward that skewed heavily in favor of the big banks rather than reestablishing the foundations of the economy so that it once again works for everyone, and we accelerated the collapse of the working class and the middle class. We can’t go back to that. But guess what, our Green New Deal is a vision for a new kind of economy, where we end the 500 to 1 ratio of corporate executive pay to average workers’ pay, where we end rampant insecurity with regard to jobs and housing and medical payments. Just five years ago, under Vice-President Biden we were celebrating fracking, and the popular debate centered around whether climate change was human-made or not. Our Green New Deal is a new American vision for a good life, moving past the economic anxiety the elites thrive on. And no, we don’t think regulating Wall Street [back to Warren] while accepting their fundamental power over our lives is good enough anymore.”

Taking on Obama-era inequality is a two-fer: it gets both Biden and Warren, to the extent that Warren can (and must be) pinned down as stemming from that era’s mildly reformist reactions. Neoliberalism is not easy to translate in popular terms, but one way to do it is to keep saying, “Markets ruled in the last Democratic administration, and for too many years under previous Democratic administrations too. I’m from the wing of the party that has always believed, like FDR, that the people take precedence over markets.” Critiquing the inequality-enhancing policies of the Obama years, and Biden and Warren by implication, can be done in a profoundly optimistic way, because those were years of shrunken dreams and visions. To the political class, optimism sells. That’s one reason they like Warren. Bernie’s optimism wouldn’t be of the same kind. But it is a kind of profound optimism. Otherwise, why aim for a political revolution?

I believe that every time Bernie leans into the narrative of Trump as an unmitigated disaster, as an existential threat to the country and democracy (which of course he is), he strengthens the relative “moderates,” Warren and Biden and everyone else, because the paramount task becomes to remove Trump, and if voters feel that a less radical candidate like Warren or Biden or anyone else is best suited to remove this existential crisis, then why elect Sanders? Why roll the dice, when doing so might get Trump reelected? So I see this leaning into the dominant narrative of what Trump means (he’s unprecedented, etc., or relying on Russiagate as any kind of an explanation), as really counterproductive. It lessens Bernie’s appeal, and the need for him.

4. Trump can’t be beaten unless there’s a clear ideological contrast. “Only I offer that contrast [or something like that, said more humbly]. Trump won’t be easy to beat. Without an economic crisis, and of course we don’t pray for one, he’ll be very difficult to defeat. Even with one, he has tremendous advantages as an incumbent. His base is firmly behind him. We have to beat him in the electoral college, and this is where I believe I’m the best candidate from the Democratic party, because nowhere does my agenda appeal to voters as much as in the Midwestern states Trump was able to capture because of economic fears and anxiety, and in other places around the country beset by the same problems. By now we’ve had a few years to look at how his actions line up with his promises, and here the picture, for farmers in the Midwest or workers anywhere in the country, is not pretty. Angry trade wars, which only increase the cost of living for American workers, are not the way to go. Neither is throwing temper tantrums at international forums. At the same time, we recognize that Trump came to power because of genuine economic insecurity. Regulating markets [a dig again at Warren, she has to be repeatedly presented as someone who just doesn’t go far enough in taking on the crux of the problem] won’t do it, it wasn’t enough in the last Democratic administration, and it won’t be enough now. What we’re talking about is creating a new kind of economy [with a nod to Andrew Yang, for his keen analysis of technology, and to Castro, O’Rourke, and Booker for their frustration with the racial violence and anti-immigration hysteria that result from an unequal economy], which is what the Green New Deal is. Did you think the original New Deal was a good enough deal? Wait for this one, it’s going to be even better, and the best thing is, it’s not a creation of the elites, but a genuine upsurge by the people. I didn’t write the damn bill, the people did! The more people hear about it, the more they like it and the more Trump won’t be able to beat us with the canards about democratic socialism. What I’m actually proposing is a new way to organize our lives and think of the meaning of work. Nobody here has a bold enough plan as I do with the Green New Deal. Let me give you some examples of how it makes your life better.”

And here comes Warren—not just in the debates, head-to-head, but in other public forums, as though it were all a continuation of an unstated dialogue with Bernie and the radicals—“So, I’ve got a plan for that,” Or, “I’ve signed on to the Green New Deal, I’m with Bernie on that, we need to end the era of fossil fuels, etc.” What do you do at that point? I don’t think there’s any other way to deal with this than to say, “Well, I appreciate Senator Warren’s support for the Green New Deal, but we do have a fundamental difference in approach when it comes to envisioning the economy of the future. Our vision thinks about the nature of employment and health care and education from the ground up, and it’s the only plan that takes us from where we are to where we need to be.” Explain again why Trump got elected for good reasons—it wasn’t just that the electoral college favored him over the popular vote, or that Russia interfered, or it was Comey and the FBI, but that there were, and remain, structural reasons why he was elected and remains popular among his base. “And now I want to speak to every American, including those who support Trump. What if there was a way we could regain security and health and well-being, without indulging in racist paranoia and immigrant bashing? I understand your frustration, and why you voted for him. Now it’s time to move past the anger, and think and dream much bigger than Trump lets us do. If we don’t offer a dream bigger than his, then we surely will lose next year.”

In 2016 the task was easier because it was contesting on the terrain of issues like free trade, which were basic but uncontested. Now we’ve moved to more complex, comprehensive goals like the Green New Deal, which are just being introduced into the broader public sphere for the first time, so moving beyond the basics, like NAFTA, makes it a more difficult campaign to run. Especially when everyone sounds like they’re on board too. But Bernie is the only candidate to stand so clearly for the abolition of private insurance, so he should take on the media for confusing giving up private insurance versus giving up health care. Those are two different things. He can say he’s tried to make that distinction before, and the people understand, but the media doesn’t.

Hit hard on 2035. A number people can remember. It makes things concrete and real and within grasp. It’s within your lifetime. If you’re a kid, by the time you’re a young adult, it will have happened, 100% clean renewable energy. Warren’s past support for market-based solutions to climate change? Or any of her recent changes of heart with respect to the radical parts of the Green New Deal? As for Yang, we do address the problem of technological change, but our proposal, the Green New Deal, goes far beyond playing catch-up, because we want to create millions of new jobs, a permanently sustainable economy. So UBI, and Yang’s approach in general, starts sounding like a reactive idea from the past, compared to the Green New Deal’s futuristic scope (again, without demeaning Yang in any way, but genuinely treating him as a potential ally). Castro’s and Booker’s and O’Rourke’s concerns about incarceration and racial injustice are addressed by the Green New Deal, because it takes on every component of poverty and inequality. What Trump is doing with the trade wars is unacceptable because it only adds to inequality. We acknowledge the existing problems—which, by the way, forty years of both Democratic and Republican administrations helped bring about with trade deals that benefited the wealthy—but go about it differently so that we all come out as real winners. The Green New Deal is the optimistic side of the picture, which people need to see, beyond the curmudgeonly side they have been taught to see in Bernie.

5. Start roping in all the idealistic energy out there, particularly manifested in Castro, O’Rourke, Booker, and Yang, the missing Gabbard, and even Williamson and Gillibrand, the last three of whom represent different types of feminist energy that seems heartfelt and must be part of the big tent appeal reaching beyond hardcore socialists. Castro in particular seems more progressive than Warren on some issues, and is the most promising of the lot as an ally, if Bernie visualizes him as a real partner because of his sincere feelings about migration, poverty, and inequality. Castro says simply to “decriminalize immigration,” which is exactly the right attitude. To some extent all of these candidates are earnest (despite their varying doses of “realism”), especially on incarceration, deportation, and racial violence, and Yang clearly recognizes the impact of technological change, so Bernie needs to do better to connect his own ideas, during the course of honest conversation, as encompassing and enfolding these other candidates, and being fully sympathetic to their legitimate concerns.

This is his opportunity to shine as an insurgent who’s not yet found his métier, but once he does he will take along everyone else on a new journey that Americans have not yet experienced, a journey that was once deferred by the Cold War, and then again by the resurgence of a misguided imperialism after the end of the Cold War, which put the whole project of economic democracy on hold. Here, he can out-wonk Yang on UBI (and present a bolder economic vision), Booker and Castro on mass incarceration, O’Rourke on immigration, and the absent but ever-present Gabbard and Williamson on the anxiety that propels war and violence (though these two are somewhat constrained, Gabbard by her nationalism and Williamson by her ethic of personal responsibility, they do represent opportunities to expand what seems to have settled down as the 20 to 30% ceiling). Potential allies Castro, O’Rourke, Booker, and even Yang, all have to feel that they have more to gain from a Bernie presidency than Warren’s or Biden’s, that they will be able to find their place in the big tent and their favorite causes will be genuinely advanced by Bernie. Bernie needs to convey this sense of lifting them up and appreciating them when they are all together. Again, Warren has done a masterful job of jumping on the bandwagon, but she is only an eager student, not a leader.

Some people are afraid of Bernie. Many people are afraid of him. The media is, the elites are. Warren, as moderate as she is, wasn’t their first choice, they didn’t even dare to move toward her. Bernie can’t be a false optimist. But there’s real optimism on the ground, and has been since 2015, the whole equation of what’s possible has been shifted. If he presents Warren, in a negative light, as being within the old window of possibility, and some of the other more sincere candidates, in a more positive light, as still thinking within that window of possibility, and challenges them outright, in a genial way, to go past all the old paradigms of what’s “politically possible” and who’s “electable,” then we can move not just beyond Trump, which we need to do, but the underlying cynicism and pessimism that has made Trump possible. “Look, we had a great opportunity to realize full economic democracy and human rights including the right to health care and free higher education and affordable housing and the right for each person to live up to his or her potential, especially when the Cold War ended and we didn’t need to have such high military budgets. In a sense, we lost the last thirty years. But the technological capability is there to move to a new economy. I’m not a socialist in the way the demagogues want you to think of me, but I’m a socialist in a very American sense, in the way that FDR was, or LBJ in his best moments, in the way that [name other favorite icons] were. Trump’s xenophobic neofascism, versus our democratic socialism. That’s how we beat him. But Trump’s xenophobic neofascism, versus expectations that capitalism will work for us if only we regulate it a bit more? I don’t think so. That’s not a winning proposition.”

Conclusion: Even many Sanders supporters seem to think that there’s some kind of a deal between him and the Warren camp for a truce. This perception is fatal, because again it makes her acceptable, whereas the idea is to disqualify her from consideration: that’s the only way to win the nomination, unfortunately, there’s no way around this problem at this late stage in the game—and in some senses it is early, but in other senses it is very late. People on the surrogate scene need to dismiss this idea that the two of them can be on the same ticket, one as president and one as vice-president. They are just too different, they have different goals and aspirations, for that to ever work. So don’t even think about that as a fallback. In this campaign season—and the DNC couldn’t be happier about that—many fallbacks have emerged: so-and-so is an acceptable alternative to Bernie, so-and-so can also beat Trump, such-and-such is also a good way to overcome the problem of economic anxiety. Each of these fallbacks needs to be shot down, one after the other—although sometimes they will be in play simultaneously, so that by knocking down Warren’s microscopic plans you also knock down topside regulation as a viable approach to inequality—so that in the end only Bernie remains standing.

For this to happen, Bernie needs to speak as though he can see himself already as president. He sees himself not just as the incipient leader of a burgeoning political revolution, still on the fringes, but in that office, bringing along the people, making it the people’s office again. That’s one way to counter Warren‘s folksy persona, which she’s been able to bring herself to believe, by putting it up against the force of vision of Bernie seeing himself in that office, as the representative of the people who have been left out, and conveying how powerful an antidote to elite cynicism that can be. Warren is defined as a wonkish, isolated, elitist planner (sorry, yes, this needs to be said, because it is the source of her power), whereas Bernie is the visionary leader who’s always been decades ahead of others with his ideas, it’s just that now reality has finally caught up with him.

Raise the bar of acceptability for Bernie. Can people see him as their president? He should directly address that. Can he see himself as president? Does he? He should say, if we don’t seize this moment, and think we can just go back to life before Trump, then all the positive energy will fritter away. This is the time to make a clean sweep, break with the whole last forty years of compromise, and I’m offering that. “I will never change, I give you my word. People change after the primaries, move to the center, move back to the elites, but I won’t.” Implicit in that is Warren as flip-flopper, as we proceed by stages toward her moral disqualification by Iowa. Sow the seeds of doubt about Warren, that she’s going to compromise and change, which will embolden Trumpists more than ever, long after Trump himself is gone. Creating that kind of anxiety about what can happen if Bernie is not chosen is a step in the direction of the moral unacceptability of an alternative to Bernie.

Goal of the next debate: One, only Bernie is the real progressive, you don’t want Bernie-lite. Two, break through the ceiling, which seems to be established around 20% or at most 30%, by way of optimism, by letting people envision him as president, by tapping into Castro, O’Rourke, Booker, and Yang’s idealism. He has to be collegial with Castro and the others. Bring Gillibrand on board, I see hope there. They each represent valid desires (Gillibrand: white feminism; Castro and O’Rourke: fairness to immigrants; Yang: recognition of technological change). Now they’re all liberated to some extent from Clintonism. Just as Bill Clinton redefined what it meant to be a Democrat in 1992 under the DLC umbrella, the same task of redefinition needs to be completed now. It was easier to reach 50% when it was just Hillary, because maybe 30% of the Democratic electorate disliked her personally, but now she isn’t there, and there are a bunch of “likable” candidates, so it sets up a difficult ceiling to cross, with all the split votes. Driving down their favorability ratings (aside from Warren) is not the task, but making policy differentiations is: being able to visualize Bernie as president can lead to a breakthrough in the ceiling.

* * *

Postscript (April 24, 2020). All the challenges bedeviling the Sanders campaign throughout its 2020 incarnation are addressed in this memo: consolidating left-populist opposition and extending a hand to potential allies, breaking through the 20-30% ceiling which confounded them until the end, reaching out to moderate, suburban, technocratic, and African American voters, knocking down both Warren and Biden by way of critiquing the Obama administration’s manifest failures, and expanding on an optimistic vision to counter Trumpian and DNC pessimism—all of it is here in this piece of advice, which I’m sure is representative of a lot of counsel coming their way. None of this is particularly private, because legions of progressives offered similar advice in all sorts of venues for as long as the campaign lasted. The point of publishing this is to show that those interested in the advancement of a genuine progressive movement are by no means playing a hindsight is 2020 game when it comes to our disillusionment with the Sanders campaign. The campaign was well aware of this entire winning strategy from the beginning, yet chose to pursue a diametrically opposite path guaranteed to fail. The question is, why?

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About Lambert Strether

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

105 comments

  1. Mark Gisleson

    I hope this clears the family filter but the word for much of this is “ass-biting.”

    This election is far from over and things haven’t begun to shake out. At this point I would almost call it an even-money bet that neither Trump or Biden will be on the ballot come Fall. That one of them won’t be is a near certainty.

    Bernie’s keeping his powder dry, playing by the DNC’s Calvinball rules.

    I’m cool with waiting this one out.

    Reply
    1. Zzzz Andrew

      Mark, your insights into this primary have been incredibly informative throughout. Could you explain the term a little more, what it is that it’s meant to describe? I’m trying to relate this to the bigger picture that you’ve been drawing of how campaigns work, and I can’t quite parse the comment.

      Reply
      1. Mark Gisleson

        Zzzz Andrew, maybe it’s just this forum, but cynical after-the-fact takes aren’t that hard to come by.

        Cui bono? At this point of the campaign cycle, who benefits from an autopsy? Don’t get me wrong, I love autopsies but the life support is still on. Everyone is still a potential nominee because Biden is an obvious placeholder but his veep pick doesn’t carry weight unless he makes it to the convention.

        It’s too early to be finding blame. Too much information is left to be rooted out (like who won which caucus or primary really). Worst case scenario is that Bernie did everything right but the machines fractionally eliminated him in the vote count. And I for one still want to know how Buttigieg won Steve King’s CD. I accept that he did, just tell me how so we can all learn from his brilliant strategy. Strategies do not improve with age, use them while they’re fresh or forget them.

        Let’s do the autopsies after everything’s done (like we should have done in 2017 which would have spared us much of 2020’s worst campaigns). Even the good analysis is premature. Sharing analysis this early is attention getting for attention’s sake (punditry) or serves other agendas. I don’t think any of it is meant to help Bernie’s movement. This may be an OKBoomerism but I like to think that the serious people who run and advise campaigns talk about these things privately, not in public. In truth, I assume nothing important is discussed in public but I’m old and am probably missing something about how things are done now.

        It ain’t over til it’s over, and this one ain’t over. You never see the rest of that GIF where the guy in a top hat is beating the ‘dead’ horse. After he gets done beating the horse he turns around, the horse gets up and kicks him into the next county. Not often, but I know someone who heard this once so it could be true.

        Reply
        1. juno mas

          The date on the memo is Sept. 11, 2019. That is 9/11. That is months before the 2020 Super Tuesday wipeout.

          I agree that Biden is a placeholder. And Trump may melt down before our eyes.

          Wild times!

          Reply
        2. Hepativore

          Oh, I fully intend to see a surprise convention winner to replace Biden by superdelegate vote. He does not have a majority of candidates, so there is technically nothing stopping the DNC from crowning somebody completely out of left field by their own rules (Which they make up as they go along) as their candidate. Whether or not they win the presidency probably means little to them at this point, all that matters is that neoliberalism remains firmly cemented into place in our political system. If it came to it, they would just get rid of primaries entirely and simply declare their presidential candidates by fiat rather than let the overton window even lean slightly leftward.

          So, come the convention, we might see one of the other generic neoliberal candidates emerge from out of the hat to replace Biden, this could even possibly get us Hillary Clinton. The latter is a bit of a stretch, but the DNC still cannot seem to get over its obsession with the Clintons and they still have their fingers in so many pies within the party.

          Reply
    2. deplorado

      I don’t know what hopium you are smoking. Bernie is done. He is cowed by the DNC, what powder dry? He gave up his leverage and is bleeding core supporters. What are you possibly talking about?

      I wish you would be right, but I don’t believe in Santa Claus anymore.

      The letter is spot on. Only it had no way of knowing Sanders didn’t intend to go all the way and prefers to retain his senatorial seniority rather than go full-on worker movement. That’s why he lost.

      Reply
    3. DJG

      Mark Gisleson: Can you elaborate? Are you saying that these post-mortems are simply too early? That we aren’t yet ready for the graveside service for the Sanders campaign?

      It may be that Shivani is coming off as closing down the campaign. Yet the recent interviews that I saw on Rising with Briahna Joy Gray and Nina Turner were definitely open ended: Both of them kept saying that no one has yet asked for their vote or attracted them with the concrete material benefits that they insist on.

      Reply
      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > Briahna Joy Gray and Nina Turner were definitely open ended: Both of them kept saying that no one has yet asked for their vote or attracted them with the concrete material benefits that they insist on.

        Shocker, huh?

        Reply
    4. montanamaven

      Mark Cuban? “He said a couple days ago that, as much as it hurt his Libertarian heart, American workers need a “living” wage. He will be paying his workers that and will have none of his workers on the “dole”. I don’t even think Trump would mind losing to another business billionaire. A third party win would sure “shake things up a bit”. Interesting times!

      Reply
    5. WheresOurTeddy

      the DNC being described as playing Calvinball is the best analogy I’ve heard in quite some time

      Reply
        1. Laughingsong

          They have become Rove.

          “ . . . when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

          This is what keeps me up at night. I am orders of magnitude more frightened of our leaders than Russia, China, terrorists-du-jour, whatever . . . And this has been growing steadily worse (this fear) since Billary’s second term, when my tolerance to the hopium of a decrepit and compromised Democratic Party overrode my body’s ability to feel the high any more.

          They briefly- briefly- made a stronger, fentanyl version with Obama, mea culpa, I fell for it, even though he was from Chicago, the perfect tell! I knew I fell for another kick of the football as soon as he started picking his cabinet.

          Then again, briefly – so briefly – I fell for it again in 2016, thinking they were actually running real primaries and that Bernie would prevail. I volunteered, I gave, I put up signs, me the introvert sans par, I proselytized.

          Masks are off, f*** me, I thought I was hugely pessimistic but they are so much worse than even I thought. They frighten me. McConnell, Pelosi, Schumer, Trump, Biden, all working hard to put me in the gutter in my old age. And similar things happening in UK, EU, Canada, South America…. nowhere to run.

          I swear there are moments when I just want to go get me this damn virus and get it over with. My world is already gone, killed.

          Reply
          1. JTMcPhee

            Fentanyl is too easily fatal. Difference between therapeutic and dead is pretty thin. And that particular brand of fentanyl now appears to be off the shelf and back to driving the DNC’s CNS (central nervous system) into respiratory cessation.

            Speaking of which, Obama’s net worth per this dated summary was $40 million, not including his primary residence.5 His historic run for the presidency helped him sell millions of copies of his two books, Dreams of My Father and The Audacity of Hope, during the campaign. He sold another 100,000 copies the week following his election. In 2009, the president earned an advance for an abridged version of Dreams for young adults; the deal made him the first sitting president in recent memory to receive a book advance while in office. The real money will be made years from now: Obama could certainly earn tens of millions of dollars a year giving speeches full time. million, (and secondary residence?) or the Nobel Prize money which he “donated to charity.” https://www.therichest.com/celebnetworth/politician/president/barack-obama-net-worth/ Does not say what the charity was.

            And the article also notes:

            “His historic run for the presidency helped him sell millions of copies of his two books, Dreams of My Father and The Audacity of Hope, during the campaign. He sold another 100,000 copies the week following his election. In 2009, the president earned an advance for an abridged version of Dreams for young adults; the deal made him the first sitting president in recent memory to receive a book advance while in office. The real money will be made years from now: Obama could certainly earn tens of millions of dollars a year giving speeches full time.

            And other grifts, too, of course.

            Reply
            1. Felix_47

              I think middle class Joe has earned 15 million in the last two years on speeches and books. That is on top of a million dollar a year pension I think. He pays 20,000 per month for his rental in Washington. He has a few million dollar properties elsewhere. He said he thinks middle class is $400,000 per year. And everything we now know about Tara Reade was accessible last year including the call in to Larry King which is pretty strong evidence. Where was the opposition research? And you know there are others but they are afraid they will get Trump elected if they come out. Middle class Joe should have been slimed over and over by the first debate. He should have been so badly slimed his wife would never talk to Mrs. Sanders again. And if negative ads do not work how come the DNC and Biden are pumping them out? How about that wonderful quote of Lloyd Blankfein saying if Sanders is the nominee he would vote for Trump. What a gift…..put it in an ad!!!! Sanders needed to define his opposition. As long as we do not have campaign finance reform it is the wild west out there. Bernie is just too honest and too nice….his virtue and his weakness. It is a real Greek tragedy. As a matter of principle my wife and I, and all our friends, cannot vote for Biden. Relatives….yes they will vote Blue no matter Who but friends not so much. I guess our friends are self selected or like thinkers.

              Reply
          2. furies

            My feelings exactly…

            at least we’ll have *a lot* of company. That comforts me somehow.

            (this is in response to laughingsong)

            Reply
        2. eg

          I have friends who opine the same where the Canadian Federal Liberal Party is concerned — but they win (and govern) a lot, so maybe not all that highly correlated with your Dems?

          Reply
    6. richard

      from your lips to glob’s ears
      dang that’s dry powder though
      we could have used some of that during the CARE legislation, just sayin’

      Reply
  2. DJG

    Wowsers, as we write around here. This article truly has much to chew on–of substance. Shivani’s assessment of Warren is on the mark, insightful, and deadly (he knows every one of Warren’s now-more-than-evident political weaknesses and character flaws).

    The advice for Bernie Sanders to distinguish himself from the others makes sense. The question is: Did Bernie think that he had done so and hadn’t? Or are we back to (and I am leery of psychologizing, not having much tolerance for psycho-babble) that Bernie is too nice he because wanted to treat his Senate colleagues as colleagues? In other words, it’s all a continuation of his misstep in trying to publicly redeem Colleague “No One Likes Him” Clinton from the consequences of her damn e-mails–and you don’t get to be president by being the Avalokiteshvara of the Senate.

    On the other hand, I’d quibble about Castro (whom I don’t know), the feckless O’Rourke, and the cryptic Booker. I tend to doubt that O’Rourke and Booker were / are natural allies. They aren’t leftists. O’Rouke came off mainly as a failed opportunist–very much as Stacey Abrams is these days.

    Maybe Castro. Can anyone enlighten me about Castro and his politics?

    Reply
    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Booker played a character (they all do, but some are polished versions of themselves) for so long, I’m not sure he is real. He played Obama, the servant of the men in suits, before Obama but less cool. I haven’t watched “Streetfight” in ages, but he had the vibe of a Booker T Washington follower if there was more than a character there.

      Adolph Reed was clearly referring to Obama way back in 1997, but Booker fit most of the description of a “new black” politician.

      Reply
  3. kim

    i would argue that bernie would fail in a different way if he played by these bullet points. this is playbook for third-party candidate and not democratic one. sanders tried to mollify moderates fears and get them in his camp but warren really sabotaged his campaign. not the lack of criticism against biden or obama.

    Reply
    1. edmondo

      this is playbook for third-party candidate

      BINGO! We have a winner. Bernie lost the presidency the day he decided to try to get it through the Dem Party. It didn’t matter what he said, who he talked about or how he said it. Can you imagine if Bernie had stood up at any Democratic Party debate and said that Obama’s terms were “a failure”? The Democrats would have called him a racist as well as a misogynist. Of course, that assumes that the presidency was actually a goal (which I have highly doubted since he ran in 2016).

      Reply
      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        I think we are at the Russia 1905 stage. The peasants and workers thought the Czar was good. “If only the Czar knew,” so they brought their protests to him. Then the Czar’s troops whacked a bunch of ’em, and fast forward to 1917.

        Reply
    2. hunkerdown

      No use fighting moderates when they’ll simply decline to allow you to vote and call it an inevitable and regrettable byproduct of prudent business management.

      Reply
  4. RepubAnon

    Needless to say, a party — at least a party like the Democrat party — can’t provide such continuity, being almost entirely devoid of the principle, any principle, that would drive such work. (Emphasis added.)

    If you use the Republican framing for the Democratic Party, don’t be surprised if Democrats interpret your article as Republican trolling.

    Reply
    1. WJ

      A conscience dark with its own
      Or another’s shame will indeed
      Feel your word to be harsh.

      But nonetheless, putting aside every
      Falsehood, make manifest all your vision, and let them still scratch where the itch is.

      For if your voice will be painful at the first taste, it will leave vital nourishment later, when it is digested.

      This cry of yours will be like a wind that strikes hardest the highest peaks,
      And this is no small claim to honor.

      —Dante, Paradiso 17. 124-134

      Reply
  5. kim

    few talking points:

    biden as a candidate is better at poaching potential sanders voters than HRC.

    it is not just a sham. biden is CLOSER to sanders and more ready to negotiate for his support than HRC.

    biden’s campaign is more savvy than HRC, less narcissistic and more open for building big tent “progressive” politics.

    Reply
    1. JacobiteInTraining

      I’m glad you left in the scare quotes:

      open for building big tent “progressive” politics.

      Because in my opinion, any association of Biden…or his campaign…with Progressive politics/values of any kind falls squarely into the category of ‘don’t mictorate down my back and inform me it is precipitating’

      :)

      Reply
    2. sharonsj

      I disagree. Biden’s policies are nothing like Sanders. Every time I hear Biden claim to be progressive, I laugh out loud. His campaign ads are full of platitudes and have no policy information. And the Democratic party has made it quite evident that they are not interested in having progressives as part of the “big tent.” They are assuming we’ll just fall in line again and vote blue, but you have no idea how many Bernie supporters have finally understood that the Dems would rather lose than have a reformer at the helm.

      Reply
      1. Charger01

        you have no idea how many Bernie supporters have finally understood that the Dems would rather lose than have a reformer at the helm

        Ding, ding, ding!
        We have a winner!

        Reply
    3. curious euro

      The campaign can be as good as it gets, when the candidate doesn’t know what weekday it is or can’t express anything better than Grandpa Simpson, it simply won’t matter.

      Reply
    4. urblintz

      Biden is a better liar than Clinton. Indeed, I finally figured out why I should have a certain respect for Hillary… she’s not a good politician because she doesn’t credibly lie as any good politician must.

      Reply
      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        HRC wrote “It Takes a Village.” I don’t like to judge by off the cuff remarks, but HRC has demonstrated liberal sensibilities in the past. The C Street stuff makes her dangerous like a Ted Cruz, but with Hillary, the downfall was linked to stubbornness and making bad compromises as time went on. She’s also not as smart as she thinks she is (its important to know who you are).

        With Biden, there is just right wing actions and the occasional “moonshot cancer” promise unrelated to anything else. He might play better with an older crowd that doesn’t believe a woman folk can lead, but with Hillary, there was back in ’08 room for her to reject the politics of yesterday. She just surrounded herself with the villains from Bill’s administration (again, you see Biden siding with Obama era villains), and there was more of an appetite to forgive a woman of her era for not being as progressive as she should because glass ceilings and so forth rationales. Biden can’t run on he had to vote for Scalia because they are Catholic.

        A last point about Hillary for whatever else she is she is the country’s most famous cuckold and all that with it. For all of her sins and they are her sins, she’s also a victim by our normative standards. There is the stuff Max Cleland said about Monica, so you can imagine what has been said about Hillary by people she knows.

        Reply
        1. JTMcPhee

          HRC did NOT write “It Takes A Village.” The book was written by Barbara Feinman. HRC did not even deign to credit Feinman anywhere in the book. At least a publisher’s piece touting the work said it right out plain, before the book was even more than a big advance check — that it would be written by Feinman. That credit disappeared, along with a couple of servers and a lot of emails…

          Reply
    5. Adam Eran

      What? After appointing Summers as an economics advisor!? I don’t get that as a progressive move, especially after (Biden ally) Pelosi appoints Shalala to oversee CARE. In fact I see no explicit concessions to progressives by the D’s or Biden… and would welcome the chance to be wrong.

      Meanwhile, in my neighborhood, one car with a “Bernie” sticker now has a (home-made) “F*ck Biden” sticker. So there’s at least one person Status Quo Joe hasn’t convinced.

      Reply
      1. richard

        +1
        I’ll believe what I actually see
        rather fond of my lying eyes
        Summers was a middle finger to everyone who isn’t a banker
        let’s not pretend anything else

        Reply
      2. gc54

        I’ve seen exactly one Biden 2020 sign but a dozen Bernie signs still up (I recycled mine after he folded) in this “brunch progressive” NC college town. Maybe I’ll stun folks here if this registered Dem. votes for Trump (again) to resend the message.

        Reply
        1. Arizona Slim

          I’m still seeing quite a few Bernie signs around central Tucson. Bumper stickers too.

          This time around, I didn’t display any Bernie signs or stickers. Reason: I’m a neighborhood association officer and have to remain politically neutral at the public level.

          Reply
          1. Spring Texan

            I removed my Bernie bumper sticker after he endorsed Joe and substituted an ABOLISH THE PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE “INDUSTRY” sticker.

            Biden is horrible.

            Reply
            1. Arizona Slim

              And where do you get those stickers? Not the Bernie sticker, but the one about the “industry” we all love to hate.

              Reply
    6. nippersdad

      Biden couldn’t get through the SC debate without telling, by some estimates, over twenty lies. Actual Berners caught a large percentage of them in real time, and that in conjunction with his well documented history of plagiarism/lying means there will be no third act for Mr. Biden with them. He is DOA when his actual record is looked into, and he appears to be living down to that record even now with the idea of consulting Summers for anything, so there will be losses there as well.

      I don’t think that he is more savvy than HRC, he is just possessed of a lot more hubris than was even considered possible by her.

      Reply
  6. Tomonthebeach

    All of this analysis seems very accurate – prescient considering what happened when the Corona shit hit the political fan right when DNC was trying to corrupt their own nomination process.

    To me the Trump can’t be beaten unless there’s a clear ideological contrast. assertion is key. As a psychologist, I would add temperamental and even cognitive contrast. Biden is like Trump with a pinch of empathy (and only a pinch). DNC could not have picked a candidate who has the least contrast with Trump. Thus, DNC appears to be betting on a “moral” contrast despite both men being sexist, having histories of immorality and corruption, and regularly demonstrating the impulse control of a 6-year-old – reacting inappropriately when challenged – even by their own constituents.

    Because of this, it is hard for me to believe that Perez and company intend to run Biden, but are cynically using him to vacuum up cash from Wall Street before springing a better alternative not to the liking of neolibs – it’s a hope anyway.

    Reply
  7. NotTimothyGeithner

    Ugh, the banner ad says, “thank President Obama.” I mean if that doesn’t sum up the views of the Team Blue elite towards voters I don’t know what does. Acknowledge Dear Leader.

    Reply
  8. Portlander

    Bernie should have taken on Biden early, not Warren.

    Only Harris took on Biden directly and early, then she stopped. Her brief rise in the polls signaled that she was on to something. But why did she stop? The DNC machine must have gotten to her.

    Throughout the debates I kept wondering: why are none of the candidates taking on Biden? There was a conspiracy of silence on his record. The distinctions could easily have been made without referring to the Obama years and alienating those nostalgic for him.

    In the end, “Us, Not Me” turned out to be a mere slogan. It was always about Bernie. He put his “friendship” with Biden ahead of the movement.

    Bernie is DONE. But the “movement”? Where does it go?

    Reply
    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Too much baggage. The expectation people believe they “know” Biden was the major problem. The other candidates were auditioning. Biden stands in for the narrative of little ole Obama who would have been very nice if not for those meanie Republicans!

      Hillary did this too with the idea she’s been vetted. The reaction to Tara Reade is a threat, not because of Tara Reade but what it likely indicates about Biden. In the public eyes, he exists as a guy who rode the train. Biden exists as a less radical Bernie Sanders. Don’t forget the campaign narrative from HRC about how they agreed on all the big stuff. I didn’t see Hillary running ads about how she was open to a constitutional amendment to ban abortion. She didn’t want that out there.

      Reply
      1. Felix_47

        It may be impossible right now but Nina Turner would get my vote and donations. Perhaps Bernie should have announced after South Carolina that she would be his VP. His major weakness seemed to be the black vote……the older black vote and the younger ones did not seem to vote. Of course, now it is over, apparently.

        Reply
  9. molon labe

    Bernie was never getting past the Southern firewall–the influencers were not giving up their goodies and their followers were always going to follow.

    Reply
    1. Bill Carson

      Yep. The Southern firewall is such an absurd phenomenon. Use a bunch of states that will not influence the general election to winnow the candidates in the primary election. Same thing in reverse with California—IT DOESN’T MATTER THAT SANDERS WON CALIFORNIA because California is going to vote blue in the fall.

      If the Democrats want to win (which is not a foregone conclusion), then they need to structure the primaries around the swing states.

      Reply
      1. Synoia

        If the Democrats want to win…

        And there’s the rub. Why win and get the blame, when one can loose, blame the others, and still get the money?

        What’s needed is a clear definition of “win.”

        Reply
      2. HotFlash

        If the Democrats want to win (which is not a foregone conclusion), then they need to structure the primaries around the swing states.

        They have not done and will not do so, and I think we can conclude from that that Democrats, or more precisely, the Democratic Establishment do not much care whether they win. Team Blue doesn’t need to win to keep raising the funds that pay their nice salaries — from the elected to the apparatchiks, those well-paid “Democratic strategist”, ‘pundits’, think tank fellows and the rest — bullshit jobs, every one. And currently, I think you’ll find Team Blue would rather not have to deal with this messy pandemic business. Team Blue will check back in 2024 when the the dust has settled (no thanks to them), perhaps they will decide that winning won’t disturb their rice bowls.

        Reply
  10. Cambric Finish

    This letter is the kind of “inside baseball” that I have tried to avoid engaging in for the last two years. I am content to leave it to the smart people in Bernie’s campaign to provide all the options, this letter being a great analysis of a strategy. But for me, Bernie had two enormous peaks to climb, the words “socalist” and “free”. I applaud Bernie’s embracing his “socialist” label if for nothing else than authenticity to his past..What I found appalling is allowing the impression that Bernie was offering “free” health care and education to a nation whose American cultural identify is rooted in the idea of hard work. There is no philosophical or cultural basis for “free”. I am surprised he got this far. If I may hypocritically indulge in some of my own “inside baseball”, it seems “free” makes the opponents’ argument that you support free riders and slackers at the expense of the job creators and hard working Americans. The angle taken by Andrew Yang to support a UBI seemed to say to me that we all share and celebrate our productivity as a nation; therefore, it is fair, just and earned that we share a UBI. The fact that there may be free riders and slackers getting this money affirms the belief in our charitable nature. In any event, we now have the crisis this letter says Bernie needed and we also have Joe Biden instead. It’s almost impossible to avoid indulging in the counter-factual of this situation.

    Reply
  11. a different chris

    Yes. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to make of this, Bernie should have done a and b and c against… who again? Elizabeth Warren?

    Maybe he actually did, I don’t know it was lost in the noise of Biden creaming both of them put together.

    Bernie needed a heck of a lot more than Warren’s votes.

    One specific comment: “I see Bernie’s movement as a twenty-first century poor people’s campaign, and this can be a way to differentiate him from Warren, who’s all about boosting the middle-class.”

    Poor people simply don’t vote. Bernie actually struck a chord with a more and more precarious middle class*, but it wasn’t nearly enough.

    *A bit of handwaving at the 18-25 year olds college students, whose tax returns make them look poor but in reality they are temperamentally middle class.

    Reply
  12. Susan the other

    Thanks for Shivani again. I’m a little disappointed he doesn’t see how absurd our politics are in light of our pending extinction. Really. We are witnessing it right now with Corona. It’s every state for itself. And as far as the DNC goes, they are beyond disgusting. Pointless. The only politician in the United States worth supporting is AOC. And that’s an unbearable burden for her. She is young, highly intelligent, good hearted and energetic but her future will be destroyed by everything that is happening. It’s a feeding frenzy. Warren doesn’t even know what’s going on. That’s because it is impossible to interpret. We do not have the vocabulary as a nation, let alone as a species. It would help if she could have understood and stated that the “market” is just another hypothetical (Amy Klobuchar’s word). She could have waved her silly arms and said “I love hypotheticals!” Capitalism isn’t even a hypothetical any longer – it evolved and dissipated into something close to nothing that we are yet to define. We have no words. We have no saviors. There was no way Warren or anyone could ever take Bernie’s place.

    Reply
    1. Shiloh1

      I’ll say this about AOC, at least she called out The Fed’s ability to conjure up $trillions at will for Wall Street and MIC even before it happened.

      Reply
      1. Waking Up

        AOC can scream from the rooftops how unfair a bill is, but, if she ultimately voted FOR the bill, it may have been great for her career in the Democratic party but truly bad for the majority of people in this country. Those TRILLIONS of dollars for Wall Street and corporations will have long term negative consequences with even greater inequality in this country. She is now endorsing Joe Biden which also is great for her career in the Democratic party. At this point, I just view AOC as another careerist politician who uses progressive ideas to further that career and get attention from the media. Would we even know who she was if she hadn’t talked about progressive ideas? Someone may say she has to capitulate to stay within the party. Probably true but also points out why there is so little trust in our congressional members.

        I’m done with listening to “progressive” Democratic politicians who always seem to lose their supposed principles when push comes to shove. If they are always going to vote along party lines, then why even have a “progressive” wing of the party? Is it so they can get before C-Span cameras to lecture us on what is “the right thing to do for people” only to turn around and vote for the very thing they just supposedly were against? If people in this country want real change, we need to find new ways to bring about better outcomes…our politicians are only one piece in a much bigger picture.

        Reply
        1. DanB

          When AOC says she’ll vote for Biden I hear capitulation to a regressive agenda. No matter how well-intentioned or deeply committed to progressivism she and the Squad are, in the end they cannot resolve the contradiction of wanting to be in the Washington political club -which is careerism- while holding these progressive ideals. I’m toying with the idea that the best way forward for AOC’s progressive agenda would begin with her losing the primary for her seat. But maybe that’s my bias. I met Liz Warren in 2011, when she was “deciding” whether to run for the Senate. I told her if she was truly committed to progressive ideals and reforms entering the Senate was tantamount to booking passage on a sinking ship; her voice could be much stronger outside of politics. She shrugged her shoulders and took the next question.

          As for Bernie, he’s a Washington political class loyalist, and he never threatened to exit the club -“I will support the nominee…”. This made his voice (his campaign) flaccid from the get-go and left him supine and subservient despite all the machinations he endured.

          Reply
  13. GK

    Far from running a clueless campaign, I think this memo, if accurate, makes the case that Sanders’ task was virtually impossible. He had to “morally disqualify” Warren by demonstrating that she had “a character flaw so deep as to be unacceptable” (namely that she was a moderate, when many people don’t equate policy differences with morally disqualifying character flaws), while at the same time discrediting the Obama years with Democratic primary voters who strongly supported him (some of them precisely because he was a moderate), selling the electorate on “more complex, comprehensive goals like the Green New Deal, which are just being introduced into the broader public sphere for the first time,” and convincing voters that he was simultaneously in the mold of FDR and LBJ and a root and branch opponent of markets (“they have to be demonized”), and that voters should oppose markets too. And the primary means for accomplishing this was to run a campaign based solely on policy that depended on voters in both the primary and general election to vote their class interest over the identity-based campaign the Republicans have been honing for decades. If he really had to do all that to win, then it would have been a miracle if he had.

    He certainly could have weakened both Warren and Biden, maybe enough to cost one of them the nomination or, if one of them became the nominee anyway, to cost them the general election. But it’s hard to see how he could have persuaded enough voters of all the things the memo identifies as vital to his winning the nomination for himself. As I see it, the Sanders campaign was always premised on the idea that a massive wave of new voters would be motivated to participate for the first time in the primaries, and then in the general election, and would vote for him. I wish that were true, but it seems to me that he was always drawing to an inside straight.

    Reply
    1. a different chris

      >if one of them became the nominee anyway, to cost them the general election.

      And note unlike us here, he personally knows Trump, Biden and Warren.

      Trump is probably such a horror show in person that Bernie just couldn’t take that chance. He could only stay high, because if he took a kill shot and missed then he would feel he guaranteed another Trump term.

      Guy was in an impossible spot. The joke in 2008 was that the economy was so bad “they let the black man be in charge”. I wonder what would have happened if we had had COVID-18 instead of -19 and we were having the terrible economic year so many expect of 2021.

      Reply
    2. eg

      “the Sanders campaign was always premised on the idea that a massive wave of new voters would be motivated to participate for the first time in the primaries, and then in the general election, and would vote for him.”

      This was also my understanding, and I bought it. More fool me, apparently — there is no motivating half of America to vote, far as I can see.

      Reply
  14. Stuart

    There’s a lot of truth in many of the comments here — good old hindsight. But where I disagree with most of what I am seeing here is the idea that if Sanders had run a better campaign, he would have won. Two things are important here: (1) Sanders was done in by the media (first by being ignored, and then incessantly attacked starting about a week before Iowa). In my 55 years of watching the tv media I have never seen anything as overt and unfair and extensive. Most significantly this was the so-called “left” of media, MSNBC in particular, who manufactured the false narrative that Sanders represented catastrophe and would lose to Trump [in effect solidifying their demographic for Biden (2) If all the advice being given here had been followed, still, the stop Sanders movement would likely have found some means or other to succeed in stopping him from securing the nomination. If voters do not know the actual policies of the candidates, they can too easily be manipulated. We need media reform/de-consolidation and a movement away from so-called “debates” that are an insult to the candidates, the voters, and democracy.

    Reply
    1. Spring Texan

      Exactly right. NO MATTER WHAT HE DID, the media and the DNC were going to make sure he lost. The media couldn’t have been changed, and Obama’s intervening to install Tom Perez instead of Ellison made defeat inevitable. I admit I had hope in the interim. I was a fool.

      There is no way forward through the Democratic Party, nor through a third party. Possibly, there is some way forward through strategically targeted labor actions, a la Jane McAlevy.

      Reply
  15. Stuart

    Ack. I left out the most important point: Sanders was not at fault here. It would not have mattered if he had run a better campaign than he did. He ran the best campaign of any of the candidates. I repeat, he ran the best campaign of all the candidates. And, consider what he did accomplish with the people who were within the reach of the information flow that he was allowed. I seriously doubt that a single one of the critics here could have accomplished 1/100th of what Sanders did. Unfortunately, the nomination is not about who runs the best campaign, it is about power, and in particular the power of the media and how far a message is allowed to reach.

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > the nomination is not about who runs the best campaign, it is about power

      Exactly Nina Turner’s point the other day on Useful Idiots. She made the same point in so many words.

      Reply
    2. neo-realist

      +1. The corporate elites with their ownership of media infrastructure and its message as well as a corrupt democratic party establishment that would move heaven and earth to manufacture consent to Biden, and put whatever spike strips needed to be placed in the nomination process to ensure that Sanders would not win, e.g., Slandering Sanders day after day, funny primary vote counts, shorting districts likely to vote for Sanders of voting machines, Clyburn and other establishment black dems paying fealty to Biden, debate moderators constantly hitting Sanders with unfair questions, etc.

      Reply
      1. geoff

        Hell, let’s not forget that the DNC fairly openly rigged the IA primary with their Shadow app. “Who really won the Iowa primary? The Shadow knows…”

        Reply
      2. jaaaaayceeeee

        Many good comments on a worthwhile Sanders campaign autopsy. What’s missing in this autopsy is our ridiculously consolidated corporate media, the Democratic party leadership and strategists. That’s more fatally flawed than anything in the Sanders campaign.

        The whatever-it-takes smears, outright down-is-up lies, whatever it takes nights of the long knives, and pretenses that the crowd of candidates were all progressives too, all of these, are entirely missing from this autopsy. Sanders should have taken on the media for “confusing giving up private insurance versus giving up health care? Give me a break.

        With hindsight that Shivani did not have, we know that Democratic leaders were willing to urge voters in the demographic that gets its news from TV to vote when knowing that Milwaukee had reduced polling places for working class from 190 to 5 and GOP states had achieved peak vote suppression of students and progressives. We know what the misleadership class was willing to do to keep Sanders losing in Southern states that don’t vote Dem in general elections. We know what Dem leadership was willing to do to make Biden suddenly become the front runner in states he never visited. We know far corporate media is willing to go to pretend it is only reporting on what voters vote for and against.

        So this advice/autopsy is fatally flawed more obviously than the Sanders campaign ever was. In fact, I would argue that Sanders knew by the time he decided to run for 2020, or certainly after he decided to keep running after his heart attack, that he had to campaign even if it failed, to make sure that future progressives could learn from the opposition to his campaign.

        The corporate Democrats in New York had to just cancel the 2020 presidential primary, but not their congressional and state-level voting of June!!!!!

        That’s how much fear progressives have put into Dem leadership! And more and more voters will realize this happened, which will not hurt the next progressive.

        Anis Shivani is really smart, strategic, and more articulate than me, though, so this advice to the Sanders campaign is very valuable still. Shivani seemed to think in September that being silver tongued to put down Warren or Biden, like Obama did Clinton in ’08, would work.

        I think Shivani is right, that if you could constantly make news for hitting corporate media lies (that what costs less costs more, that what provides better health care is too risky, that if you lose for-profit health insurance that’s Sanders taking away your health care, that extending unsustainable status quo’s is not moderation and incrementalism, but only makes more room for the next demagogue who lies that he is a populist) it would be worthwhile.

        Reply
    3. Kurt Sperry

      Agree. The thing that I find astonishing is how well Sanders did in spite of having the media doing everything in their power in complete lockstep to kill his campaign. The upside is that a lot of people saw what was/is really happening and the media had to pay a significant cost in ‘credibility capital’ to accomplish it. The demographic of people who trust the corporate media is one seemingly in inexorable decline, we are surely approaching a tipping point. Both 2016 and this year, things at moments got awfully close to it.

      I don’t share the Mark Gisleson’s intuition that

      “At this point I would almost call it an even-money bet that neither Trump or Biden will be on the ballot come Fall. That one of them won’t be is a near certainty.”

      but we won’t have to wait long now to see. Biden, yes, I can perhaps see; but what takes Trump out other than a health crisis?

      Reply
  16. FDR Liberal

    Bernie was never accepted by the DNC establishment in 2016 and 2020. He was bought off by Schumer through committee assignments and threats of irrelevancy in the Senate after 2016. In short, Bernie became an insider because he thought HRC would be president.

    In 2020 he doubled down bragging about his legislative accomplishments on the debate stage which is the quintessential insider’s game.

    You can’t worry about your political career, if you are a true outsider. Bernie wanted to be a player more than a game changer and leader of a political movement.

    The author consistently mentions The Green New Deal. What legislator in the House outlined the Green New Deal? What legislator in the Senate? AOC in the House and Markey in the Senate.

    https://external-content.duckduckgo.com/iu/?u=https%3A%2F%2Ftse1.mm.bing.net%2Fth%3Fid%3DOIP.Rxmkv9vDUrt2Lxi4D2v1ngHaEK%26pid%3DApi&f=1

    Where was Bernie in the photo opportunity? MIA.

    Reply
    1. likbez

      FDR Liberal,

      As sad as it is for me to say that, Bernie was a sheepdog from the very beginning. Actually it was the second time he played this despicable role. The main clue was that he acted as a preacher, not as a candidate. Another is that he claimed Biden to be his friend. With such warmongering neoliberal friends as Biden, who needs enemies ;-). This is how “controlled opposition” typically behaves.

      Personnel is policy — looks at his presidential campaign staff and you will instantly understand who he is.
      https://ballotpedia.org/Bernie_Sanders_presidential_campaign_staff,_2020

      For example, Faiz Shakir, the campaign manager for Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign, previously worked as an aide to Congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, was an editor-in-chief of the ThinkProgress blog. Is not Nanci Pelosi a quintessential neoliberal. a staunch supporter of Clinton wing of the Democratic Party ? And I do not want even start discussing political positions of Harry Raid.

      Sanders betrayed his supporters with such ease that it is clear that was not an accident — this was a preplanned “bait and switch” operation.

      Reply
  17. Matthew Cunningham-Cook

    To all of this, I’d really suggest reading Raising Expectations and Raising Hell by Jane McAlevey. Really good on the nuts and bolts of what it takes to organize to win. Also good is “Secrets of Successful Organizer” from Labor Notes.

    Reply
  18. Jeremy Grimm

    The memo in this post seems mistaken. Much of it worries about dealing with Warren. Warren did not take Bernie down. She did a wonderful job of shooting herself in the foot multiple times. I don’t believe Biden and Obama have so much power to shift the beliefs of the US public. I have trouble believing the Obama years need to be discredited — they discredited themselves. Item #4 … not sure what to say about that. Bernie presented a strong ideological contrast with Trump. Item #5 … Castro, O’Rourke, Booker, and Yang, Gabbard, Williamson, and Gillibrand … are they really examples of idealistic energy? How do you “rope in” idealistic energy? Is that like herding cats?

    Most of the primaries that were held impressed me as part of a remarkably hamhanded but effective effort by the Democratic Party organization to shut Bernie down. I am still unconvinced by Biden’s sudden revival and jump in the polls prior to Super Tuesday and I don’t understand what happened to suck all the air out of Bernie’s campaign after Super Tuesday. The Corona virus didn’t help but I cannot accept that the Corona virus, or Warren, or Biden or Obama took Bernie down — it just doesn’t smell right to me.

    And I do not agree that the Bernie organization will carry on the fight. Where are the younger leaders who might carry on fighting for the cause? Bernie’s coat tails are very short and Bernie is very old. I have read many pundits proclaiming that people put too much faith in a leader — that a movement needs more action on the ground. I disagree. A movement needs a face, a ‘brand’ in Marketspeak, and actually I think a movement needs many faces and a common brand to all. [AOC and the Green New Deal don’t inspire my confidence and what is left?]

    I felt the Berne and now I feel Berne-t. Between dropping Medicare for All and voting for the CARES Act as part of the Senate Kabuki the nicest thing I can say about Bernie right now is that he is full of surprises. But after all is said and done I will be reluctant to send my small checks to any campaign, and after Corona I may need to keep all my small checks to buy things like food and pay rent. As Susan the other says at the beginning of her comment at 3:06 pm noting how: “… absurd our politics are in light of our pending extinction” — I am not sure there will be time for many more Presidential elections before the absurdity of our politics and economics collides with more pressing matters.

    Reply
  19. David in Santa Cruz

    Bernie Sanders has terrific ideas, but he makes a terrible candidate. He lacks the personal charisma necessary to convey bold ideas.

    Obama conned us all, but his con still resonates for too many Dem voters. Obama’s unwillingness to pick a successor in 2016 was clearly motivated by his animus toward the Clintons and their wholly-owned subsidiary the DNC.

    Unfortunately, Obama was never able to do anything with OFA as a counter-DNC — chiefly because his sole vision was delivering goodies and voters to his pay-masters in the FIRE sector, not to raise-up the grassroots. As the con-man who keeps on screwing us, Obama’s evident lack of enthusiasm for Clinton (contrary to conventional wisdom Bernie actually did more for her), and the failure of nearly 10 million 2008 Obama voters to turn-up at the polls in 2016, is what made the difference for Trump.

    Bernie needed to take down Obama nostalgia, and he couldn’t while running as a Dem. That shambolic dotard Biden rode Obama nostalgia to the presumptive nomination. Biden is truly awful as a person and as a candidate, and voters aren’t going to march to the polls in the enthusiastic numbers necessary for Trump to be defeated. He can’t even bring “the first woman President” to the dance — given the non-choice between Biden and Trump, I expect that women will be as allergic to casting votes for Biden as Obama voters were to Clinton.

    The post is way too Inside Baseball. Bernie was Bernie’s biggest problem. Perhaps to his credit as a person, he’s not an attack dog — as his milquetoast response to Warren’s cynical and nihilistic attempt slander him showed us. His unwillingness to take-down Obama nostalgia doomed his campaign from the beginning.

    Reply
  20. ewmayer

    I couldn’t help a sarcastic LOL at reading this bit:

    “If there had been an economic crisis in progress, [Bernie] would easily be the runaway winner at this point, there would be no contest. It would sharpen people’s minds in a way that no amount of rhetoric can.”

    Or perhaps – and as lambert might say, I’m just spitballing here – a once-in-a-century-style global pandemic followed by an economic crisis due to mass-scale shutdowns of large swathes of the economy and global travel and trade? Such a crisis would put into stark relief the brokenness of America’s for-profit sickcare grift machine and and the need for the government to engage in some serious economic restructuring to address the rampant wealth, health and general-welfare disparities that have resultied from 40+ years of unbridled neoliberalism. What better ways to promote Bernie’s signal causes of universal healthcare and more-broadly-shared economic prosperity, and to make the point to voters that lifelong neolibcons like Biden and centrist-elitist DINO wonks like Warren are entirely the wrong kinds of people we need to lead the country out of its ills?

    But hey, what are the odds of such a timely global-pandemic-and-depression scenario actually happening before the Dem nomination? That’s just nutty a-boy-can-dream musing on my part.

    Reply
  21. David R Smith

    That letter was long. Maybe if he had condensed it into 1,000 words or less he might have gotten more traction.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy Grimm

      I agree the letter was over long. But had it been shorter — 1000 words or less — does the letter still have content? I feel compelled to write longer emails and letters and I sincerely hope they have more content than 1000 words condensed from the post.

      Reply
  22. GettingTheBannedBack

    Bernie did not want to win, the evidence is there to see. He just wanted to shift the Party to a more humane position.

    I say that because he did things no candidate has done. He said that Biden was a friend of his. He said that Biden could definitely win against Trump. He stood mute as they robbed him of his votes, again and again and again.

    Someone who wants to lead a country, particularly the USA, and particularly against a powerful cabal of fraudsters and worse of every persuasion, needs strength of character. Bernie did not display that. How could he have negotiated with other countries if he there is no evidence he could stand up to the crooks in his own Party.

    It is said that his weakness is that he doesn’t want to end up like Ralph Nader. Now I understand why Hilary came out and said that no-one likes him, no-one will work with him. That was a psyop, telling Bernie to back off or that is how he would end up. His greatest fear. And he caved.

    The sad thing is that he took the money off millions of people who needed someone to change the desperate situation of the US worker. But then he betrayed them for personal position.

    Reply
  23. Craig Dempsey

    Biden may be drying out Sanders’ powder for him. The Tara Reade issue is slowly expanding, as shown in this Slate article: Tara Reade’s Mother.

    Lurking behind this potential scandal is a deeper issue that has been little explored this election cycle. Shortly after the Kavanaugh hearings, Biden called Anita Hill to ask for her forgiveness. She turned him down. Soon after he declared his candidacy. Biden had just left Kavanaugh’s prime accuser dangling in the wind, without stepping up to call for her additional witnesses, who were waiting. Biden was uniquely positioned to admit he made a mistake a generation ago, and as a result Clarence Thomas is (still) on the Supreme Court, and Anita Hill is still dangling in the wind. I think this may be why Hill refused Biden’s apology. The Tara Reade story raises another dark possibility, that Joe Biden was blackmailed by those Republican Senators so long ago in that Senate gym. Blackmail that may still be keeping him silent. Just what we want in our next President.

    In 2007 Nassim Taleb published a popular book, “The Black Swan.” This winter my local book club began reading the book. Then the book started happening all around us. One section of the book is titled, “History Does not Crawl, It Jumps.” Keep that powder dry. I do not think the jumping is over.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy Grimm

      I do not understand your comment.

      All this Biden did this … Biden did that hanky-panky … Biden might be a serial rapist of women, men, children, prepubescent women … boys … dogs and cats … but what does that have to do with his running a country or running the world? I worry far more about his inability to finish a sentence — to speak coherently — to manifest any form of reason.

      The next President of the US is a ruler of the world. Of course we want a world ruler to scruple the sins of a rapist or child molester … but are those the worst sins our rulers indulge? Do those sins somehow encompass others or … vice versa. I don’t know. I do know that many of our world rulers have … many issues …. Those who would rule us have ‘issues’ … and always have had. Where is the line? Power is a tool for more than good ends.

      But I am concerned about food and water … and keeping somewhat warm in the Winter and somewhat cool in Summer’s heat. I will tolerate a lot of it if it means another year … and promises a year after.

      Disagree, I hope to engage with those who disagree. I very strongly believe issues of sexual ‘politics’ have undermined greater issues of concern.

      Reply
  24. Craig Dempsey

    Thank you for your thoughts. I was not analyzing whether Biden would be a good President, other than with the potential blackmail issue. I was trying to focus on whether he even can get the nomination in this “Me Too” era. It is true that Bill Clinton and Donald Trump survived a fair amount of scandal during their campaigns, and even more after in office. If Biden were already in office, he might well be able to ride out whatever comes of the Tara Reade situation. He is not in office, and he has been a largely lack-luster candidate. That wide but shallow support, in my opinion, could easily collapse. Perhaps I am wrong, and we can next year start finding out if he would be anything more than a lack-luster President. I just want Bernie to be ready, just in case the black swan flies again. I voted for Bernie in the Missouri primary, after it appeared it was all over but the shouting. I would still love to have a chance to vote for him again in November..

    Reply
  25. HotFlash

    ‘Scuse me, people, but Bernie ran an excellent campaign. He twice had a really good chance to on the presidential ballot in 50 states plus territories and Dems Abroad. Greens been tryin’ to get their third party 50 state prez access since 1991, never happened.

    He campaigned widely and deeply. In person he connected with people on an unprecedented level and scale (that’s to somebody’s “not charismatic” whinge — as compared to whom? Joe? Hillary?). He presented a platform that was breathtaking in its scope, promise, timeliness, and humanity. His has been the only voice in my voting lifetime (50 years) that said we could and *should* have nice things.

    He made it work. He raised *$214 million* in campaign funds independently of the Dem apparatus, big donors, and super-pacs — eat your hearts out, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and all the rest. He had more money on hand than any Dem candidate except the self-funding billionaires, Bloomberg and Steyer. That is a *HUGE* breakthrough to independence from the party establishments, either party. And each of his contributors would be a committed voter. He constructed a communication apparatus to end-run the MSM. He asked us how our lives were and he told us we deserve better “as a ‘uman right”.

    He made voters of non-voters, both ones who never had voted and ones who had stopped voting out of disillusion or disgust. He set up satellite caucuses in Iowa, so that shift workers and people who couldn’t book off work could caucus.

    He — and we — were robbed. The Dem primary was corrupt, treacherous, rigged, faked, broken, a lie, and a crime.

    Was he a perfect candidate, did he run a perfect campaign? No. Did he run a campaign that should have been good enough to get him the nomination? Hell yeah. And good enough to get him the presidency.

    Reply
    1. Archie

      All is not lost. He should reverse his campaign suspension and actively campaign based on the Tara Reade allegations. That’s if he really wants the nomination.

      Reply
    2. Spring Texan

      Yep, he ran an amazing campaign. Nobody is perfect but it was first-rate. And he was screwed by Obama and the DNC. Big-time.

      After the abusive tactics I find it very hard to see him endorse Biden, and wish he wouldn’t and would call out the behind-the-scenes kabuki. But I realize those who don’t pay attention would just think he was a sore loser. He has to play his bad hand according to his own best judgment. But he’s kind of left a lot of his supporters, me included, twisting in the wind.

      He still ran a great campaign even though yes I’d change some details and worked so damn hard also. The ending is a tragedy.

      Reply
  26. Lee

    Nope. I blame the voters. If they can’t even vote for the guy who came back after a heart attack for them then no nothing will convince them.. Biden Vs Bernie was a very easy choice.

    Reply
  27. Gavin

    From the very second he was willing to say publically that “Biden could win” – Sanders should have packed it up and gone home. Because he was saying that from the jump, I do not think he was in this to come close to winning. He’s scared of the pushback.. deliberate usage of the name of Aaron Mate’s show.
    Sanders was [unfortunately] too afraid of things that go Bump in the night.
    He’s just another pansy who wanted to be friends rather than to do what it takes to acquire and maintain the power to actually achieve the goals he LIED about desiring. I submit and maintain that he did not actually want to achieve those goals because he did not accurately think through the people he’d have to leave in the dust on the side of the road to achieve them.
    Yes, medicare for all, dude.. and you didn’t think you’d have to stomp your boot on the neck of everyone bought by the health insurance companies? ZERO people are going to magically be convinced by the dulcet tones of your voice — it’s going to be power politics all the way down. It takes a bare-knuckle fighter to get there, and Sanders ain’t it.

    Reply
    1. Hoppy

      Sounds like a manifesto on how to succeed in business.

      Yeah know, maybe he just believed in trying to do things the right way. Some call it having principles.

      Reply
  28. The Rev Kev

    That memo was from seven months ago when things were relatively quiet. I wonder what other memos will be revealed for the month of March of 2020?

    Reply
  29. Fergus Hashimoto

    Why is everyone ignoring one of the most bizarre aspects of the Bernie Sanders campaign? That his campaign staff and most prominent supporters were mostly members and supporters of a small religious sect that comprises 1% of the US population, and they were not typical members of this sect, but instead the most extremist ones.
    Moreover this small religious sect that comprises 1% of the US population causes one half of US terrorism deaths. But nobody seems to mind. Anyone who criticizes Islam is called a bigot. But Islam’s holy book says: “Muhammad is the apostle of Allah. Those who follow him are ruthless to unbelievers, merciful to one another.” (Qur’an 48:29) Is that bigotry or is that not bigotry?
    Furthermore Bernie Sanders represents left-wing ideas and programs, which are ANATHEMA to this small sect and ESPECIALLY to its extremist wing. Ideas like sexual freedom and religious freedom, freedom to criticize religions, equality among religions and non-religions, and equality between sexes, the idea that laws must be made by human beings elected by majorities through democratic elections instead of by some divinity who is obviously merely a social construct invented in order to exert power over society. All of Bernie Sanders’ most prominent supporters opposed ALL of his leftist ideas, because they want a theocratic state where binary sexuality is the norm and criticism of their sect is verboten.
    They hopped onto the Sanders bandwagon and took control of it out of sheer opportunism, because they see Sanders as the path firstly to liquidating Israel and thus achieving one of the primary goals of the worldwide Islamist movement, namely to turn the Middle East into a homogeneous Muslim region, and secondly in order to seize key political positions in the political system of the US, DESPITE BEING SUCH A TINY MINORITY.
    Matt Duss, Bernie Sanders’ foreign policy adviser, is tightly linked through his family to World Vision, a Christian charity that for decades has supported the FDLP, a Palestinian terrorist group that is nominally secular, but in reality is Islamist. This is proved by the fact that when some of its members killed 4 rabbis in Jerusalem a few years ago, they yelled Allahu akbar. It was recently discovered that World Vision has financed Hamas with US government money. Moreover Matt Duss together with Faiz Shakir, Sanders’ Islamist campaign manager, have campaigned in favor of sharia law.
    By contrast, 20% of Americans are secularists who—at least in theory—strongly oppose the reactionary and obscurantist program of Bernie Sanders’ principal supporters. But no prominent secularist appeared among Sanders’ most important backers. Now why is it that Sanders relied principally on people who wholeheartedly oppose his program and ignored the vastly greater number of Americans who support freedom and equality?

    Reply
    1. Donald

      Bernie’s criticism of Israel, while it didn’t go far enough, was one of the things that many of his supporters found appealing about him, including me. We also applauded his opposition to US support for the Saudi war in Yemen. Bernie opposed fanaticism where it counted. We don’t want people who use their supposed love of “ freedom” as an excuse for yet more war or support for oppressive governments.

      If you want kneejerk support for Israel you have plenty of other choices and with Biden and Trump you have just what you seem to want. You weren’t going to get that from Bernie or his movement.

      Reply
    2. Spring Texan

      Wow, what a hideous and anti-Muslim post. Yucch ugh. I was proud that Bernie had Muslim support and that he welcomed it. (And I’m a secularist.)

      Reply
  30. Extinct Species

    The Democratic Party just did not want Bernie as their nominee. They either didn’t believe in what he was selling and/or didn’t believe he could win.

    Much of Bernie’s strength in the 2016 primaries was an anti Hillary vote. He went from getting near 50% to getting around 25%. There were more candidates in 2020 to divide the vote but with the possible exception of Warren (who was quickly revealed as second tier once the primaries started) none with Bernie’s agenda. If 2016 Bernie voters switched to Pete or Biden or Amy they didn’t believe in his agenda and/or that he could win.

    The surge of new voters Bernie touted never came. I thought odds were good it could happen but it didn’t.

    Hypothetical – Let’s say Bernie wins Nevada but with Pete, Warren and Amy in a close dead heat for second with Biden a very distant 5th. If so, maybe Biden doesn’t win so big in South Carolina because those other candidates remain viable and maybe they don’t drop out and endorse Biden because they still think they have a chance to win it. With 4-5 way races still in play maybe Biden doesn’t run Super Tuesday. (That’s how Trump won his nomination. Early on he was getting 25-35%. Almost everyone was amazed but saying that was his ceiling. He had a hardcore base (like Bernie) that guaranteed he would be competitive in a 3 way or more race. The other viable candidates took turns being competitive, they did well in some states and stumbled in others, while Trump scored relatively well in pretty much every state. Then as the ancillary candidates and the once viable candidates dropped out Trump as a front runner became an “acceptable” option and his once perceived ceiling disappeared. If Trump had won fairly big early and looked likely to take the nomination the Party might very well have coalesced around a more traditional option.) Wouldn’t it be twisted if Bernie’s big chance to win the nomination was derailed because he won so resoundingly in Nevada.

    Reply
    1. russell1200

      Finally, somebody makes the obvious point. So I don’t have to type out the whole thing! LOL

      Bernie did well as a protest candidate to Clinton. At a time when it wasn’t clear that Trump was going to wind up being president and where exactly that would take us.

      I supported Bernie this time: I am one of the non-left folks who did. Primarily as some here have noted, because Warren imploded herself. It is also noteworthy that a number of the candidates started out running to the left, but were pushed back to the center by Sanders-Warren.

      The typical non-ideological Democrat didn’t want a Democrat-Socialist, and was concerned that Bernie would lose. To the extent that the non-ideological folks watch the news, it is is here that the MSM had its effect. But Bernie only had a chance if the middle vote stayed divided. Something the South Carolina firewall and Obama made sure didn’t happen.

      Reply
  31. stefan

    In a little hilltop village, they gambled for my clothes
    I bargained for salvation and she gave me a lethal dose
    I offered up my innocence I got repaid with scorn
    Come in, she said
    I’ll give ya shelter from the storm

    If you want to be President of the United States, you’ve got to really, really want it.
    Should of run as an independent.

    Reply
  32. Richard

    Democrats exist to protect Republicans from the people-

    That is the lifted veil brought to those willing to accept reality during a period where what is actually and always in CNTRL , cannot be readily seen by those discovering facts n o w-

    The five fairy tales in the beginning, and the asinine approach to counter folly prove that the DNC exists solely to protect all RNC\GOP labeled and typed, from people and taxpayers who must adhere to state budgets while the free health care class is allowed to pilfer trillions anytime the capitalism wrecked welcome wagon fails to support their never ending and all expansive national fear motive-

    Prediction n o w is GOP by landslide in 2020 signaling an OJ verdict pissintheface like never before and that is if the ruling class faux elections are even allowed to be-

    NakedCapitalism indeed!!!

    Reply
  33. Claudia

    I found the Liz bit here somewhat insulting- as if progressive-lite makes someone morally repugnant? She is certainly better prepared and intentioned than Joe, who is going to have a very hard time if he doesn’t pick her for VP. And will we ever get past DNC opting for the runt of the litter? “better safe,… always sorry”

    Reply

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