Monday, April 04, 2016

Sanders Wants to Reform the Democratic Party. Will He Play His Ace to Do It?


Sanders shows he knows he has an ace. Will he play it?

by Gaius Publius

Sanders has more leverage than he's ever had in his life. He has the right vision and the right goal. He's also holding the right cards — all he has to do is play them. In particular, he has an ace. Will he play it if he loses to Clinton?

To understand what I just wrote, listen to the short video clip above. It's 3½ minutes of the candid interview Sanders gave on a recent episode of The Young Turks (full interview here).

"What Do You Do If You Lose?"

I want to direct you to two answers from Sanders. First, to the question, What do you and your movement do if you lose the nomination?
Q: If you were to lose, and the Democratic Party comes to you and says, "Take this movement, that is full of energy and against the Establishment, and make sure they vote for the Establishment candidate," what do you say?
Answer (at 0:53; my emphasis):
Sanders: What we do together, as a growing movement, is we say, "If we don't win — and by the way, we are in this thing to win, please understand that — [what's] the Democratic Establishment going to do for us?"

For example, right now, you have a Democratic Establishment which has written off half the states in the country ... and they've given up on states in the South, the Rocky Mountain area.

Are they going to create a 50-state party? Are they going to welcome into the Democratic Party the working class of this country and young people, or is it going to be the upper middle class and the cocktail crowd and the heavy campaign contributors, which to a significant degree, it is right now? ...

In other words, if I can't make it, and we're going to try as hard as we can until the last vote is cast, we want to completely revitalize the Democratic Party and make it a party of the people, rather than just one of large campaign contributors.
Shorter Sanders: We want to remake and reform ("revitalize") the Democratic Party. That's his goal, and it's been his goal all along. Notice that this means that he knows he's running within the Party and against the Party, meaning against its current leadership, simultaneously.

That's two points, not one — first, he's running against the Party, and second, he knows he's doing that. This is what I've been calling "Open Rebellion" — refusing to play "Follow the Neoliberal Leader" — taken to the next level. It's a direct challenge to the culture and methods of corruption that thread throughout the Party like green mold through Gorgonzola.

A nice fresh chunk of Gorgonzola cheese. In Gorgonzola, the richly threaded mold is a feature (source).

This is open rebellion at the very highest level. It's not a challenge in the Senate against Antonio Weiss, for example, or against the Citibank Rider. It's not a challenge in the House to Pelosi's support of Fast Track and TPP, the next job-killing neo-liberal trade deal.

This is a challenge to the Party for control of the presidency, of the entire Executive Branch of government. No wonder people are so enthusiastic about supporting it. And no wonder the Democratic Establishment so desperately want Sanders gone. As has been documented many times before, the leaders of the Democratic Party want two things — first, to control the Party; second, to win elections. And in that order.

They may not all be happy with Hillary Clinton, but not one of them wants to deal with a Democratic Party and presidency controlled by Bernie Sanders.

Sanders Has an Ace. Will He Play It?

I mentioned that Sanders has an ace he can play if he loses the nomination. I also suspect he knows it, based on his answer to the next question. Would he play it?

Here's the question:
Q: [If you come in second, let's assume you're not going to ask for an appointment, something for yourself.] If you're going to ask for policy positions, what are the policy positions that you would want?
Before you read the answer, think about what the question really asks. This is tantamount to the following:
If you come in second, what policy changes do you want in exchange for your support?
And that's his ace. The Establishment wants his supporters, badly. Sanders can withhold his support, or trade it for something. What's that something? Here's his answer (at 2:36):

I want Secretary Clinton if she is the nominee, to come out for a Medicare-for-all, single-payer health care system. I want $15 an hour as a minimum wage. I want to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure — Flint Michigan is not the only community in America that doesn't have safe drinking water. Our roads, bridges, rail system is in disrepair.

I want a vigorous effort to address climate change. I mean, I am very worried. I talk to these scientists. This planet is in serious danger. And you can't cuddle up to the fossil fuel industry. You've got to take them on.

And also what is resonating, and I think very important, making public colleges and universities tuition-free, Wall Street tax on speculation to pay for that, ending all these corporate loopholes.

Those are some of the demands we make.
If you read that list again, you'll see how stunning it is. Three things to notice:
  1. He calls these "demands," not requests.
  2. He wants Clinton the candidate to endorse them, presumably on the campaign trail, not just the Platform Committee in a document that can later be ignored.
  3. Clinton is on record as running against most of these policies.
Once more, the policies he wants Clinton to "come out for" are these:
  • a Medicare-for-all, single-payer health care system
  • $15 an hour as a minimum wage
  • rebuild our crumbling infrastructure
  • a vigorous effort to address climate change 
  • no "cuddling up to the fossil fuel industry"
  • making public colleges and universities tuition-free
  • Wall Street tax on speculation
  • ending all these corporate loopholes
In effect, he's asking for her to be Bernie Sanders, at least in policy. Yet I think she would agree with only one of those policies (note that a "vigorous" effort is a part of his climate change demand). She would support infrastructure repair — though in her world that likely means creating an ACA-like profit opportunity via "public-private partnerships" and corporate friendly sweetheart deals. In Sanders' world, infrastructure repair means doing the job without enriching corporate campaign donors in the process.

If he really "demands" that Clinton herself campaign in September and October on these policies as a condition for his continued support, he's basically saying, "I want to handcuff you to my policies every time you speak." Which makes it a whole lot harder for her to reverse herself in office and not be toxic in 2020.

That's why this is his ace. Because if he really suggests he would withhold his support from her if she doesn't meet these conditions, she's helpless.

If he makes this demand in public, and she's seen to reject him, she will lose a significant percentage of his supporters; this could easily cost her the election. Yet if she accepts and campaigns on Sanders' platform, the leverage on her for the next four years will be much greater. The "liar" label is already an albatross, deserved or not. Betraying a set of explicit Sanders-forced campaign pledges could turn the albatross into a boat anchor.

Bottom line —Clinton's best shot at capturing the enthusiasm and the votes of Sanders supporters is to get Sanders' vigorous support after the convention. If he really does intend to play hardball with his endorsement, as the above indicates, he's in a very strong position, even in defeat. If Sanders follows through with what he told Cenk Uygur, Clinton could have a very difficult choice to make after the convention.

"But ... Republicans!"

Of course, Sanders understands that a Republican would be worse than Clinton as president. So at some point he will endorse her even if she refuses his demands, and many of his followers will agree, again, to vote the "But...Republicans!" party ticket.

But in fact, if he makes the above demands and she publicly refuses — even if later he does support her (and he will) — she would still lose a large percent of his supporters simply because they are supporting his policies first, and only secondarily his candidacy. Again, she's helpless if he makes this demand. That's a very nice card to have in your hand if it's the very last card in the game.

The 2016 election is not just the most consequential of our lives. It's also the most interesting. Stay tuned.

How You Can Help Sanders 

The meaty parts of the contest are upon us. Blue America has endorsed Bernie Sanders for president.
Seems so to me. And thanks!


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At 10:45 AM, Blogger Chris Bergsten said...

"Bottom line —Clinton's best shot at capturing the enthusiasm and the votes of Sanders supporters is to get Sanders' vigorous support after the convention."

What the bottom line is, is this: The Democratic Party's best shot at capturing the enthusiasm and the votes of Sanders supporters is to nominate Sanders.

That's it.

Every day that Clinton keeps running is another day she spends fracturing the party and weakening it in the general. If she really cared about the country or the party she'd take her bow and let Sanders start concentrating on the general and on downticket support, instead of forcing him to fight and spend to the bitter end. And every day the DNC and the super delegates continue to support her instead of cutting her campaign off at the knees with a concerted move to Sanders is another day they're playing to lose.

At 10:54 AM, Blogger Gaius Publius said...

Completely agree, Chris.


At 11:25 AM, Anonymous willf said...

Pubiius, given the recent history of Obama's campaign promises (and how he worked so diligently to not keep them), why should we believe anything an establishment candidate says? Won't Clinton toss these "demands" aside as soon as the election is over (if they last that long)?

At 11:55 AM, Blogger Elizabeth Burton said...

The problem is the "Bernie or Bust" movement is growing in direct proportion to the level of attack the Clinton campaign throws at him. The disgust expressed by her appearing at the signing of New York's $15 minimum wage is a case in point. The utter cluelessness of the Clinton campaign with regard to the mindset of Sanders supporters will do more to doom her in November than any lack of his outright support.

As he says in the video, he doesn't like the idea of being a leader, and most if not all of those who support him don't see him as one. They see him more as an example of what a leader should be, and understand (all the condescending media reports to the contrary) that he's not going to plunk his magic twanger and make everything right. They know we're in for a long haul, and they're prepared to work.

This past weekend, some of the protesters outside CNN were phone-banking. In Wisconsin, there was a competition to see who could make the most calls. These are committed people, and they are committed to what Bernie Sanders stands for.

At 12:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well stated. I agree with all of the above.

At 12:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Consider how or if history would have been different if Nader had made the same demands of Gore.

At 2:04 PM, Blogger jeer9 said...

Big Sanders supporter, but your analysis leaves Sanders looking like a sore loser if he doesn't get everything he wants from HRC, as if such disagreements over policy or campaign promises would be enough for him to ask his legions to step down, that a Trump (or Ryan) presidency would be preferable to four or more years of Clintonian neoliberalism. I don't think that happens. The Lesser Evil argument in the end triumphs. HRC, for all her myriad flaws, remains better than any Republican creep.

And even if Clinton promises and campaigns on Bernie's message (as she's pretty much been drafting off him so far), she's highly unlikely to follow through on such political calculations. Obama had OWS, enormous lefty enthusiasm, and public outrage over the financial meltdown pressuring him, yet he still failed to prosecute the banksters, foisted upon homeowners a terrible HAMP program which precipitated many defaults, and refused to fight for cramdown.

If you think Clinton is going to face anywhere near that sort of intensity and anger upon entering office, you're delusional. It's sad to say but most Dems are not interested in electing the most progressive candidate who would in fact change a great deal about how the Party apparatus operates. A Sanders match-up with the Right is a general election winner, but I don't see us getting past the Kissinger-loving, Reagan-misremembering Establishment candidate.

At 2:51 PM, Blogger lukeness said...

"No wonder people are so enthusiastic about supporting it. And no wonder the Democratic Establishment so desperately want Sanders gone.

Reminds me of the way the Democratic establishment took the opportunity of a weakened and failing-health Roosevelt in 1944 to force a switch of VPs from Henry Wallace to Harry Truman. They saw Truman as someone they could control.

At 6:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Or the Green Party and other progressive parties could consolidate, nominate Bernie Sanders and have Jill Stein run as VP

At 8:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Chris and GP: It is not hillbillary that is fracturing the "party". It is Bernie. The "party" has sold out in total to the money for over 30 years (with bill being central to that sellout). It is Bernie who is trying to "tip" the cash cow.

To Elizabeth: while I agree that the "B o b" thing has coincided with the desperation shown by the money, I firmly believe that the VOTERS feel it's "B o b" because anyone but Bernie is simply unacceptable. period. It's not a reaction. It's a principle.

to jeer9: right on! If Bernie does not endorse hillbillary (which he should absolutely **NOT** do), he won't seem like a sore loser so much as someone sticking to his principles. It's the inverse of Elizabeth Warren NOT endorsing Bernie (indeed, REFUSING to... even as she endorses his entire platform)... thereby looking like she's been corrupted... since she and Bernie are philosophically simpatico while she and hillbillary are philosophically opposed.
And, a point that cannot be stressed enough, even if hillbillary veers to Bernie's part of the spectrum, she cannot be believed. Her entire CV is full of money-whoring and warmongering (et al) over the past 50+ years going back to her work for Goldwater. If obamanation can campaign on things he'd already vowed (to the money) he would not do... and voters are fooled... certainly hillbillary think they can also lie with their fingers crossed behind their backs... and get away with it.

If the D "party" allows hillbillary to "win" the nom, I would personally like to see Bernie bolt for the greens and continue his atypical campaign. The Greens would instantly have far more credibility than they'd ever get on their own and it would give Bernie's voters and millions more someone to get behind.

But with voter suppression and fraud, unchallenged by Ds, one wonders whether it matters if Bernie runs as a D or a G or whatever. A million lefty voters have been illegally stripped of their voting rights; millions more will have their voting availability suppressed; and 54% of votes will be counted by archaic, easily hacked (proven) and unverifiable e-vote machines and software.

**AND** even if Bernie/Stein win, the house and senate will still be 500 money-whores and about 35 others. Will it matter? Probably very little save for being able to veto the worst that the likes of Pelosi (TPP), Ryan (SS) and the rest will try to do. By the time the next unitary is sworn in, we'll be in a $20T debt crevasse with zero policies to fix it. They can't steal $20T from the bottom, there isn't enough there. And they won't tax it from the top because that's who the 500 whores are servicing each and every day. There will be more war because that's what money does.

There is a failure on the horizon. It might be the next bubble bursting... or one war too many... or a self-inflicted banking freeze... or more likely just a continued hollowing-out of society until demand falls enough to cost the waltons or mr. immelt's company a lot of their profit. We have a half-billion guns... will we use them?

At 4:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But he Already Holds a FULL HOUSE!


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