Thursday, July 06, 2017

The Democratic Party Brand-- Anyone Know What It Is?


Tomorrow, Friday, July 7, I've been invited to participate in my first-ever AMA-- Ask Me Anything-- at the Sanders for President subreddit. It's at 1pm (PT), 4pm back East. If you're a regular reader of DWT you already know that I grew up in the same Flatbush neighborhood as Bernie and that we both went to the same elementary and high schools, PS-197 and James Madison-- although a few years apart. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was at Madison before any of us, then Bernie, Cousin Brucie and Carole King, then me, Chuck Schumer and Norm Coleman. And then Chris Rock, Martin Shkreli and Andrew Dice Clay. Bernie and I grew up on the same streets and came from similar backgrounds and came to similar conclusions about what government and politics is all about. It was the most liberal part of Brooklyn back then. Last year, overrun with a new, Putin-era generation of Russian immigrants, it was one of Trump's strongest areas in NYC.

When I've mentioned to friends I'd be at the Sanders For President reddit, most asked, with some degree of incredulity, if he's running again. I don't know if he will or not-- I hope so-- but I do know his ideas and values will be part of the 2020 campaign. Maybe he'll be the candidate; maybe Elizabeth Warren will, but someone other than a careerist corporate whore on a level of Joe Biden, Cory Booker or Kirsten Gillibrand has to run. Otherwise... well it couldn't have been all for naught, right?

Monday morning Matthew Yglesias seemed certain Bernie would be running-- and as the Democratic Party frontrunner. I haven't heard a single Democratic congressional candidate ask me if I thought they could get Hillary Clinton to come to their district to campaign for them. By far, the political leader everyone wants most is Bernie (followed by Elizabeth Warren, Ted Lieu and Al Franken). No one wants Chuck Schumer or Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Pelosi, Hoyer or Crowley, each of whom would probably be a net negative. I remember how happy I was when Hoyer, with a trainload of corrupt lobbyists, descended on Pennsylvania to campaign for Blue Dog slime bucket Tim Holden against Matt Cartwright. I realized immediately how harmful that was for Holden's campaign-- who was, a few weeks later, ousted by Cartwright 33,255 (57.1%) to 24,953 (42.9%)-- a 20 year congressional veteran and dean of the Pennsylvania delegation. In any case, candidates sense that Bernie's popularity-- the most popular political figure in America-- and his authenticity is something they want rubbing off on them. The establishment stench from the Hoyers and Wasserman Schultzes and Schumers... no one wants that rubbing off on them. Or, as Yglesias put it, Bernie is "by far Democrats’ most in-demand public speaker, and the most prolific grassroots fundraiser in American history."
[M]ake no mistake: Sanders is the real 2020 Democratic frontrunner.

He’s doing exactly what a candidate who fell short needs to do to run a second time. He’s established a national political organization, he’s improved his ties with colleagues on Capitol Hill, he’s maintained a heavy presence in national media, and he’s traveling the country talking about issues.

In subtle ways he’s shifted his policy commitments to the center, making himself a more broadly acceptable figure in the party. At the same time, he’s held on to a couple of signature issues-- Medicare-for-all and tuition-free public college-- that give him exactly the kind of clear-cut and broadly accessible agenda that mainstream Democrats lack.

Of course, if he were to run and win, he’d be 78 years old, the oldest president on record by some margin. And maybe he won’t run. But his recent moves suggest that he is both interested in the nomination and very much the candidate to beat for it.

...[During the 2016 campaign] elected officials were almost uniformly afraid to endorse him, even if their policy views were closer to his than to Clinton’s, and left-of-center think tanks-- including ones that are deliberately positioned to the left of mainstream Democrats ideologically-- shied away from working with Sanders on policy development, for fear that Clinton’s wrath would destroy them if they did.
Goal Thermometer Blue America started an Act Blue page to recruit him months before he declared and we endorsed him on the day he made it official. We never stopped believing as you can probably tell by all the posts that keep showing up with the "Bernie Coulda Won" video. Right now, we're helping him raise money into his federal account-- which he can use for his 2018 Senate reelection campaign or for a 2020 presidential campaign-- and by tapping on the thermometer on the right, you can do the same.
A key Sanders edge next time is that he won’t be underestimated. The bulk of the labor movement backed Rep. Keith Ellison’s bid to be DNC chair in the Obama-Sanders proxy war for control of the party machinery. And throughout 2017, Sanders has worked effectively with his fellow congressional Democrats-- getting on board with a Russia message that his core supporters don’t love, co-sponsoring a minimum wage bill with Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), headlining rallies in support of the Affordable Care Act [which, remember, sure ain't single payer].

The groundwork is laid, in short, for a much more normal primary race in which Democratic Party actors who are close to Sanders ideologically will mostly back him, rather than either backing his opponent or staying neutral, as they did in 2016.

...While Sanders is deepening his team in Washington, his national political organization Our Revolution is diligently working to get Sanders supporters elected to state and local offices. Critically, the list of Our Revolution winners-- a group that includes House members, state legislators, state party chairs, and even city council members-- is quite ethnically diverse. His camp is aware that 2016’s African-American outreach strategy was flawed in both concept and execution, and he’s setting himself up to be able to count on black and Latino elected officials from all regions of the country as surrogates while also courting national leaders like the NAACP’s William Barber.

...Democrats almost all profess admiration for Medicare, and they resist Republican efforts to turn it into a voucherized system for buying private insurance. And when discussing completely abstract policy, they will generally agree that Canadian-style health care systems where the government manages a single insurance pool make sense. Most Democrats even-- sporadically, at least-- endorse ideas like a Medicare buy-in for older people or a public option in the Affordable Care Act framework.

But they are generally unwilling to stand up and campaign on the idea that Medicare isn’t just worth expanding but worth extending to everyone-- generally citing political feasibility as the reason. The call for Democrats to stand up for what most progressives believe in is clear and compelling, and unwillingness to embrace the idea feeds into the assumption that establishment party leaders aren’t quite on the level. Particularly for a younger generation of voters who don’t remember the way big-bang health reform crashed and burned in 1993 and who had their expectations raised and then not quite met by the Affordable Care Act, the idea of Medicare for everyone stands out as an appealingly ambitious but also concrete goal.

The rest of the party, meanwhile, is to a large extent floundering on a policy level-- aware that an opposition party should develop a policy agenda, but not exactly sure what it wants to say.

Of course, just because everyone would see Sanders as the frontrunner if he were 60 doesn’t change the fact that he’s 75. Establishment Democrats I talk to simply assume that Sanders is “too old” and won’t run.

And he might be. Certainly, were he to run in 2020, he would be the oldest person to ever secure a major party nomination. At the same time, it’s far from clear that there really is an age ceiling on presidential politics. Donald Trump and John McCain, who were 70 and 72, respectively, when they secured their party’s nominations, did not appear to suffer for their ages in a way that clearly indicates they were pushing some kind of uncrossable boundary.

Older politicians sometimes suffer, as Clinton did in 2016, from a sense that their politics has become outdated. But the Democratic Party as a whole has shifted its ideological footprint substantially in Sanders’s direction over the past 25 years, so in his case, age makes him look prescient.

And for now, at least, Sanders certainly gives the impression of being healthy and spry. He’s active on the national political scene, barnstorming the country for his Our Revolution candidates, performing at rallies, and making the rounds on Sunday television shows.

Nobody inside or outside of his camp denies that he’s older than would be objectively ideal. But the leap from there to too old to run simply isn’t supported by the facts. And while active Clinton supporters after cite the idea that Sanders is too old as an objection to supporting him next time, one almost never hears this from people who supported him last time around-- indicating, again, that whatever problems Sanders 2020 would encounter, a sequel campaign would be a stronger force than the original.

Sanders sympathizers who are not necessarily fully bought-in Berners typically feel that the most reasonable arrangement would be for Sanders to stand down in favor of Elizabeth Warren. The pair’s views are regarded in Washington as essentially interchangeable, and it’s widely said by people in Sanders’s circle that he would have supported her had she chosen to run in 2016.

And the Warren option is the more appealing one in many ways. Warren is younger (though not young, per se), she would meet the keen desire of liberal women who work in politics professionally to see a woman in the White House, she’s better liked by wonks as a rigorous policy thinker, and, most critically, she would represent a populist ideological viewpoint without picking at all the scabs from the 2016 primary.

But for people inside the Sanders camp, this is arguably exactly the problem.

Any mass political movement becomes, to an extent, self-referential. Warren, pointedly, did not step up to challenge Clinton even when many party actors wanted her to. And when Sanders did step up, she didn’t back him-- opting instead for a studied neutrality. That decision has consequences for how she’s seen by Sanders’s core supporters-- they signed up for an idealistic struggle against the party establishment, and she played a cynical game of power politics. And it appears to have influenced Sanders’s personal view of a natural ally. The Atlantic’s Franklin Foer reports that Sanders “peremptorily dismissed me from his office for asking a question about his political relationship with Elizabeth Warren.”

...The Democratic Party establishment is, in many respects, in worse shape than it realizes.

Sanders’s insurgent campaign revealed a Democratic Party electorate that is fairly eager to embrace an ideological imagine as a progressive counterpoint to the decidedly conservative GOP. The notion of pragmatism continues to carry weight, but having lost control of all three branches of the federal government and blundered to a point of state-level weakness where Democrats don’t control the state Senate in New York or the governor’s mansion in Illinois, party leaders’ credentials as strategic masterminds are in question.

Last but by no means least, relying on African-American voters as a bulwark against left-wingery, as Clinton did, is an inherently unstable outcome as black views on economic policy are generally quite left-wing. Democrats now rely heavily for votes on the large-- and very Democratic-leaning-- millennial generation that lacks clear political memories of the Cold War or the booming neoliberal economy of the 1990s, so “socialism” isn’t a scare word for them, even as it remains unpopular nationally.

Sanders became their champion over the course of 2016 and continues to have that status today. But while in 2016 he faced a unified-- and intimidating-- opponent and launched with a ramshackle campaign, today he has a strong national political organization and a proven fundraising track record, and is moving decisively to address his weak points on international affairs, policy development, and minority outreach. Everyone agrees that in a perfect world he’d also wave a magic wand and scrape 10 or 15 years off his age, but that’s not possible. The movement he’s created lacks an obviously more compelling successor, and he continues to be broadly popular with the public.

Predicting the future is a mug’s game. But if Bernie Sanders runs again, he’ll be hard to beat. And as far as one can tell, he’s doing everyone you would do to set yourself up to run again.
Not everyone sees it the same way as Yglesias. Take a pair of mugs last heard from when they were trying to draft Michael Bloomberg to run, a rich, clueless pair of wankers, Markus Pincus (Zynga) and Reid Hoffman (LinkIn), who call their new centrist venture, WTF, perhaps hoping to persuade young folks who don't know any better that they're hip and cool and worth a second look. Their approach to foisting a Republican-lite party on Democrats is to "rewire their philosophical core, from their agenda to the way they choose candidates in elections." WTF-- Win the Future-- just launched, without much interest. Although they talked about finding a candidate to primary Nancy Pelosi-- though not Stephen Jaffe, the Berniecrat who is challenging Nancy Pelosi-- their current hook is recruiting former Third Eye Blind lead singer Stephan Jenkins. He's from Indio originally and his congressional district is held by an utterly worthless conservative backbencher, Democrat Raul Ruiz, who would be an attractive target were he not exactly the kind of garbage Pincus and Hoffman are actually hoping to populate government with! The 2 of them put a combined half million dollars into WTF and say they are also backed by super-rich establishment Democratic money grubbers Jeffrey Katzenberg, Fred Wilson and Sunil Paul.
As a general rule, Pincus told me in June, WTF aspires to be “pro-social [and] pro-planet, but also pro-business and pro-economy.” The exact direction is up to its supporters, who can steer the organization through the campaigns they choose and promote, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that WTF seeks to push Democrats further to the political left.

“I’m fearful the Democratic Party is already moving too far to the left,” Pincus said. “I want to push the Democratic Party to be more in touch with mainstream America, and on some issues, that’s more left, and on some issues it might be more right.”
Yep... everything that has utterly destroyed the Democratic Party brand and delivered the presidency to Trump and Congress to the GOP. So... just what no one needs!

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At 6:20 AM, Anonymous ap215 said...

Have a good time Howie.

At 6:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please ask Bernie why he did not take his "movement" out on its own after the primary was stolen by the DNC (and its money)?

Ask him why he endorsed and campaigned for the one who defrauded him and who has a long record of DOING against everything he said he was for.

Ask him how much faster and more broadly his new efforts would be going if he didn't have to tote the stench of the democrap party around with him.

Then ask him how it feels to kowtow to the democraps on many "views" just to keep himself relevant as a member of the irrelevant senate caucus.

Bernie should NOT run again. Especially as a democrap who has "moderated" his views to be more in line with donors to scummer and Pelosi. It's also pretty clear that Elizabeth does not relish running for prez (as a democrap). She'd be running as a (so-called) advocate for bank reform as a member of the other party owned and operated by banking. More and more voters are starting to understand.

The democraps, at this point, really have nobody. Jayapal is not eligible and is too brown anyway (thank you obamanation for being so horrible as to set nonwhite candidates back 50 years). Lieu isn't well enough known nationally and also has that nonwhite thing working against him. If I were a betting man, I'd think Cory Booker might give it a try. He certainly has all the corporate and billionaire democraps behind him. But he's just another boilerplate clintonista whore AND there's that nonwhite thing.

Since the democraps are not going to get anyone elected, maybe ever again, what we really need is a republican who runs as a racist, evil motherfucker but then governs along the lines of Lincoln and FDR. I know. more impossible than the democraps accidentally finding someone worth a syphilitic rat's asshole.


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