Thursday, May 05, 2016

Why Bernie didn't win

I dunno....

I'm looking at the delegate count per, and while I can't accurately back out the number of super delegates pledged to either candidate, other sources tell me Sanders has about 32 in his column.  I've also read that the number needed to cinch the nomination includes the pledges of super delegates (they aren't lagniappe when all the counting is over), so they are still a legitimate part of the selection process.

Either way, Bernie Sanders never won enough delegates to win the nomination, and going forward in the big races left (California, New Jersey), there's no reason to think he's going to sweep those with majorities that would put him in striking distance of the nomination.

Which means the system worked the way it was expected to.  It also means Sanders never had an insurgent campaign that was going to net him the nomination.  He got as close as he was going to get, with or without super delegates.  The demand for a contested convention is the demand for the most undemocratic outcome of all:  a group of delegates pledged to no one, representing no one, and voting what they think are the best interests of the party.  I don't know what improvement that is over the mythical smoke-filled rooms.

Hillary Clinton has been working for and in the Democratic party for decades.  Seniority earns some privileges, even if Millenials don't like to learn that.  I can remember chafing at the power of the elders when I was 17 in 1972, a year too young to vote for McGovern.  Boomers didn't really take control of the party, or the "establishment," for that matter, until the turn of the century (you don't really displace the powers that be when you are 30), and by then, Boomers were the "powers that be."  This is a simple fact of life, just like Boomers didn't really fight the Civil Rights Struggle; that was fought by people like Dr. King, who was 39 when he died in 1968 (the same generation as my father, although a few years younger, and when the oldest Boomer was 23.  16 years really is a lifetime.).

Hillary has shown loyalty to the Democratic party, and the party is returning the favor with the pledges of super delegates (as well as votes from primary voters).  Bernie has caucused with the Democrats in the Congress because without them he really would be useless as tits on a boar hog (as we say down here), but he's never wanted to be a Democrat, until it was the easiest way to get on the ballot in all 50 states (independent candidates face obstacles to ballot access that make voter ID laws look like open invitations to anyone with a pulse).  And now he complains that the party that didn't nominate him is unfair and undemocratic, and his solution is to predict a contested convention where he can woo the super delegates to his side and win in the convention what he couldn't win in the primaries.  Which is probably the most undemocratic strategy of all.

So I don't really see that Bernie Sanders has changed the party and the super delegates should be shown the door.  Want to see a party facing an insurgency that's shredding it at the top?  Just look over at the GOP right now. (and yes, that link is old already; for the past two days Huffington Post has run headlines about GOPers refusing to support Trump.  Yeah, the Dems need an "insurgency" like that.) Yes, the Dems have had an "existential terror" of insurgency candidates sine 1972, when George McGovern lost his own home state, and carried only the state of Massachusetts.  If the same thing happens to the GOP this year, expect them to develop a horror of insurgencies, too.  Or, as they did after Goldwater, they could just double down.  Either way, why should Democrats emulate them?

I know there are calls for a leftist Tea Party, but seriously?  The best idea we have is to ape the worst excesses of our political opponents?  Who do we nominate for our left-wing Louie Gohmert or Ted Cruz?  When the late liberal lion of the Senate, Ted Kennedy, could work with Orrin Hatch in order to pass important legislation that helped people, do we really want to elect our own left-wing contrarians insisting on their way or no way?  Why?

That's part I.  This is part II:  the NPR interview.

INSKEEP: It's interesting — when you travel in that region, as we did just a few weeks ago, for Morning Edition here — you're in coal country, you hear people bring up Hillary Clinton in a specific way. She was criticized for saying that "we're going to make coal jobs go away," even though she was going on to say, "and we want to help people who lose their jobs." But she was criticized for that one part of the statement. Would you be any better from the perspective...

SANDERS: Yeah I would...

INSKEEP: ... of people in Appalachia who are concerned about that history? 
SANDERS: Look, I have spent my whole life fighting for working people. I have a 98 percent voting record with the AFL-CIO. I have opposed disastrous trade agreements — and I think there is perhaps no candidate in the United States Senate who has a more progressive record than I do.

But I also believe, and understand, as a member of the Senate Environmental Committee, that climate change is real, it is caused by human activity, and it is already causing severe problems in our country and around the world. And we have to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy.

Now, I have introduced the most comprehensive climate change legislation ever introduced in the U.S. Senate. And in that legislation — because we understand it is not the fault of the coal miners, or people included in the fossil fuel industry, they have a right to want to feed their families, and live in dignity — we have $41 billion in that legislation to make sure that those workers who might be displaced as a result of the transition away from fossil fuel get the extended unemployment benefits they need, get the education they need, get the job training that they need. And also we are going to invest heavily in those communities.

You will notice his answer is basically the same as Clinton's.  I defy you to slip a piece of paper between them, and the same objection applies to both (I'm not saying it's a legitimate objection):  people stop listening after you tell them you're going to take their jobs away.  Which is a perfectly rational response: as someone who has to "retrain" every time the college I teach for changes the textbook, I can tell you it gets a bit tiresome.  And coal workers have seen mines shut down (I knew people 20 years ago in southern Illinois who had been through it); they've seen what happened to Detroit.  "Re-training" is not the "nothing will change" answer politicians deliver it up to be.  And shutting down a coal mine won't affect Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders one whit.

INSKEEP: How do you speak to people in a community like that, who have deeply mixed feelings about government? You may run into the same person who says "I'm on Medicaid, I get various kinds of assistance, but I really don't like it. I don't like living like this, I don't like depending on government."

SANDERS: Well, I think it raises a fundamental issue about politics in America today and who we are as a civilized society. I understand that the right-wing has done a very good job in suggesting that "freedom" — and this is the Koch brothers' line — "freedom" is about ending social security ,and Medicare and Medicaid, and actually abolishing the concept on the minimum wage. So Steve, you can be a free guy and work for $4 an hour — aren't you a lucky guy?

But you know what, most Americans don't believe that, and one of the things I'm really proud of in this campaign is that in election after election — in primary and caucus after caucus, right here in Indiana where we won last night two-thirds of the people 45 years of age or younger. ... And the reason I think is they understand that in a democratic, civilized society, government has a very important role to play.

And the word has gotta get out — it doesn't get out all that often in the media — that the United States is the only major country on Earth, for example, that doesn't guarantee health care for all people. Life would be a lot different in McDowell County if all of the people there, and all of the people in Vermont, and all of the people in Connecticut, had health care as a right, which is the case 50 miles north of where I live, in Canada, for example.

INSKEEP: What do you say then, to people who just say — "regardless of my own situation, it bothers me that government has to do so much for people, or is doing so much"?

SANDERS: I think that that is mythology that has been effectively perpetrated by the big-money interests in this country. To say that every other country in the world guarantees health care to all of their people, every other country has paid medical and family leave, a number of countries provide free tuition in public colleges and universities, most countries take care of their elderly and their children a lot better than we do...

I think what you have seen in the last many years in this country is a very coordinated effort of the part of corporate media, and the wealthiest people in this country, to perpetuate an ideology, which says that government is terrible, government is awful — oh by the way, except when we can get some corporate welfare.

I point out in all of my speeches, Steve, that Walmart — which is owned by the Walton family, the wealthiest family in this country, worth some $149 billion — they get a huge subsidy from the taxpayers of this country, from you, from me, from every working people, person, because the wages they pay their employees are so low that many of those workers have to go on Medicaid or food stamps in order to survive. I don't think the middle class of this country should be subsidizing the wealthiest family in the United States of America.

So I guess if it's OK for the Walton family to get billions of dollars of support from the taxpayers of this country, maybe its OK for working families to get health care and paid family medical leave.

And here, already, we go completely off the rails.  Starting at the bottom and working my way back up, there is no populist working class sentiment in this country for getting rich at the expense of the wealthy.  Did no one learn that lesson from the Great Depression?  When did Hollywood put on it's splashiest, most outrageous, most over-the-top depictions of wealth and luxury, but in the '30's?  Yes, Capra made films with more ordinary people in them, but Busby Berkeley and all the huge ballrooms with fabulous people in fabulous clothes dancing the night away?  That was in the Great Depression.  People went to those movies to immerse themselves in a world they would never know, not to dream of attacking the penthouse with torches and pitchforks.  There is no latent American desire to emulate the French Reign of Terror.  We are too British for that, for better or worse.

American exceptionalism, too, isn't some recent creation of Pat Buchanan and Ronald Reagan.  As I've noted before, you find it alive and chauvinistically well in the mid-19th century.  It isn't a creation of the "corporate media" or any other sinister and shadowy cabal (and can we stop with the conspiracy theory language, please).  It's as American as violence and cherry pie.  So telling Americans they should wake up and be more like Europe is pretty much a non-starter with the vast majority of the American electorate; and especially of the working class in West Virginia.

Note, too, how Sanders never answers the question:  "What do you people who just say 'regardless of my own situation, it bothers me that government has to do so much for people, or is doing so much?' "  Like it or not, that's a legitimate question, and it doesn't come from the "corrupt corporate media" (must Sanders talk like an ignorant commenter at Salon?  Really?) or the evil machinations of the Koch Brothers (who are not the national Svengali, no matter what Sanders says). And the idea that such thought is simply "mythology" is the most arrogant of all.  In other words, people who think that way are stupid and ignorant and listening to fairy tales, when they should think like me and reason like me and listen to me, and then everything would be fine in the worker's paradise I will lead them to.

Or something.  Hell, I agree with the guy's policies, and I stopped listening after "mythology."

Doesn't anybody in his campaign understand how these things work?


  1. I couldn't listen to the interview Inskeep did with him, though it's clear that Sanders and Hillary Clinton aren't that distant from each other on most issues.

    I'm feeling ever more foreboding of another disaster from the play left. I wouldn't have thought so even a few weeks back but the longer this goes on the worse the or Busters are getting.

    It is scary how many people haven't learned a single thing from the Bush II regime.

  2. I couldn't listen to the interview Inskeep did with him, though it's clear that Sanders and Hillary Clinton aren't that distant from each other on most issues.

    I'm feeling ever more foreboding of another disaster from the play left. I wouldn't have thought so even a few weeks back but the longer this goes on the worse the or Busters are getting.

    It is scary how many people haven't learned a single thing from the Bush II regime.