Sunday, February 21, 2016

Bernie, Hillary and the Democratic-Republican intensity gap

The last few days, I've found it hard to feel engaged with the mutual insults between Bernie's supporters and Hillary's and with sorting out dumb mistakes from ratf*****g by the other camp.

Here's a pro-Hillary attack on the "Saderistas" from Tom Hilton at No More Mister Nice Blog, No, Bernie Sanders Is Not Electable 02/20/2016.

Aimai, who I'm glad to see has been back to blogging lately, makes a more sober pitch for (pro-Clinton) caution at the same blog in Why I'm Voting For the Nominee 02/21/2016:

If I imagine that the Presidency is like being King for four years, I'm excited for Bernie. When I remember that a far more skillful political actor, a deeper political thinker, and a younger and stronger person named Barack Obama just tried to run the actual office of President for 7 years, and what happened to his attempts, I despair for the Bernie victory. I think he can win. But I don't think we can afford him. But I don't think he has the temperament or the skill to work with the party apparatus, state by state, congressional district by congressional district, to get anything done. Not a few limited things. Anything. [emphasis in original]
I think Aimai's pessimism is overblown in light of the fact that Bernie Sanders has been a Member of Congress since 1991 with more direct Congressional experience than Hillary. But she is making an argument about effectiveness, not about the chimera of "electability."

Salon's headlines in recent months have been more heated than the articles accompanying them. I've found some of the articles boosting Bernie to be a bit too simplistic for my own taste.

But others make a more straightforward case. Former Alaska Democratic Sen. Mike Gravel of Pentagon Papers fame in This is the key to Bernie Sanders’ political revolution: Here’s how we beat GOP obstruction Salon 02/21/2016:

These attacks on Bernie will attempt to marginalize him as a naive idealist, with an agenda he will be unable to get enacted in the next Congress. The possibility of a Sanders presidential administration will motivate Wall Street and its acolytes to pour record-breaking campaign contributions into congressional races to guarantee Republican control of the Congress, or at least to extend their control of the House of Representatives. Democrats should not count on Sanders’ coattails.

This anti-Sanders theme was addressed by a recent Op-Ed piece by Sen. Elizabeth Warren in the New York Times, stressing the importance of the president’s executive powers to effect some changes. She concluded, by alluding to Bernie’s broader agenda, that the people would simply demand its enactment.

Bernie knows the problem and clearly stated it in his baseline speech on Jan. 5, 2016: “No president, not Bernie Sanders or anyone else, can effectively address the economic crises facing the working families of this country alone. No president can do it alone. … What this campaign is about is building a political movement, which revitalizes American democracy, which brings millions of people together. ... [W]hen millions of working families stand together, demanding fundamental changes in our financial system, we have the power to bring about that change.” Bernie has said repeatedly that the people will storm the Congress and demand change under a Sanders administration.
I think this is a political/emotional dividing line between Bernie's supporters and Hillary's. People who are actually comfortable with building a mass political movement to demand a new New Deal for the 21st century are more comfortable with Bernie's rhetoric that breaks with the tired neoliberalism the Democratic Party adopted in response to - or rather imitation of - Reagonmics and Reagan's political success. People who think more in terms of preserving what we can of past progressive victories, like the badly-eroded but still remaining abortion rights and access to safe medical abortions, are more open to Hillary's appeal.

Unfortunately, the fact that Team Hillary put such emphasis on "electability" and on poo-poo'ing Sanders proposals as unrealistic and not able to be enacted gives her campaign a central message that sounds an awful lot like this parody version:

It's part of any primary campaign to project an image for one's own candidate that "my candidate can win." But I find the "electability" debate tedious. Whoever the Democratic nominee is, the Democratic Party is going to have to turn out its supporters at a strong rate. If they decide to go the route of Alison "I'm Not Barack Obama" Grimes, Kentucky's unsuccessful Democratic Senate candidate in 2014, we'll likely be watching the inauguration of President Donald Trump in 2014 (Alison for Kentucky TV Ad "Skeet Shooting" 09/15/2014):

Since this is part of the deeply-entrenched Establishment Democratic approach to general election strategy, closely identified with Democratic National Committee Chair and Clinton supporter Debbie Wasserman Schultz, I'm very afraid that this is the approach a Hillary for President campaign will favor in the general.

Tim Donovan also has some sensible comments on "electability" in What Bernie’s liberal critics miss: Attacking him as “unrealistic” is making a huge error Salon 02/21/2016. He doesn't mention Alison Grimes, who has already faded from national attention and will probably never return. But what he analyzes is the intensity gap between the Establishment Democrats and the Republicans

Chris Matthews, who has been one of the worst in trashing the Clintons irresponsibly, has been obviously more sympathetic to Hillary than to Bernie in this run. Cenk Uygur gives an intriguing account, including this, as summarized in the YouTube notes: "Chris Matthews has a show called Hardball but he seldom asks hardball questions of establishment politicians that he likes. It turns out his wife also has ties to the same donors Hillary Clinton has." Hey Chris Matthews, Your BIAS Is Showing The Young Turks 02/21/2016:

Matthews' wife Kathleen is described by here Wikipedia entry this way (text only; in-line links omitted):

Kathleen Ann Matthews (née Cunningham; born August 9, 1953) is the former chief communications and public affairs officer for Marriott International (NYSE:MAR), the leading global hotel company based in Bethesda, Maryland. Prior to joining Marriott International, she was a reporter for 25 years at WJLA-TV. She is a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives for Maryland's 8th congressional district in the 2016 elections.
According to, Kathleen herself contributed $2,700 to Hillary Clinton in April 2015.

Bill Turque reported on Kathleen Matthews's fundraising last fall, In Md. congressional race, scrutiny over who is donating money Washington Post 10/19/2015:

Matthews, the former WJLA (Channel 7) news anchor and Marriott executive, has raised just over $1 million since announcing her candidacy for Maryland’s 8th Congressional District, federal campaign filings show. That includes $564,220 in contributions for the quarter ending Sept. 30.

She has drawn on support from two worlds she knows well: A-list Washington and the hotel and hospitality industries. Major donors include Clinton family friend and political troubleshooter Vernon Jordan ($2,000); Wizards, Mystics and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis ($5,400); and Loews Hotel chairman Jonathan M. Tisch ($2,700). ...

Some of the names on Matthews’s donor report read like a class reunion of Clinton administration figures, most of whom remain active in law, lobbying or business. They include former chief of staff Thomas F. “Mack” McLarty III and his wife, Donna ($5,400); former White House counsel Jack Quinn ($1,000); former commerce secretary and later Obama chief of staff William M. Daley ($2,700); campaign adviser Mandy Grunwald; former White House special counsel Gregory Craig ($2,700); former deputy attorney general Jamie S. Gorelick ($2,700); and Melanne Verveer, adviser to both President Bill Clinton and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton ($500).

Matthews, who is married to former Democratic congressional staffer and MSNBC “Hardball” host Chris Matthews, also drew support from some of the District’s biggest corporate names, including Leonsis, AOL founder James V. Kimsey ($1,000); and former Washington Post publisher Katharine Weymouth ($2,700).
A more recent report on her finances (Louis Peck, Matthews, Raskin Continue to Lead in Fundraising as Trone Launches TV Ad Blitz Bethesda Magazine 02/01/2016) says:

Of the more than $460,000 in contributions from individual donors that Matthews collected during the fourth quarter of 2015, nearly 40 percent of those dollars came from about 60 donors who each gave $2,700—the maximum amount an individual can donate to an individual candidate per election. In fact, a half-dozen of these donors gave more than the maximum allowed by law for the primary election, leaving Matthews with about $18,000 that she can use only if she makes it to the general election in November.

While about one-quarter of the recent group of $2,700 donors to Matthews had Maryland addresses, the majority of these donations came from Washington, New York and the West Coast. One smaller West Coast donation of note came from actress/singer Barbra Streisand, who gave $500 to Matthews.

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