Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Wednesday, February 10th, 2016.

A Shout Out to the Old Dogs: Better Learn Some New Tricks

Sanders and Clinton

I’ve spent the past hour just cruising around skimming post-New Hampshire commentary.  All the Smart People are saying Sanders doesn’t have a prayer with the rest of the primaries, so enjoy the win now, Berniebots.  Nate Silver is giving Clinton a 95 percent chance to win South Carolina; no predictions yet on the Nevada caucuses.  Most national polls are still putting Clinton way ahead of Sanders. The exception is Quinnipiac, which has Clinton at 44 % and Sanders at 42 %.

That said, I’m wondering if the pollsters are really on top of this election.

Before the results of yesterday’s primary, a lot of news coverage focused on the gaps in Bernie Sanders’s support. He captured Iowa on the backs of young voters, but didn’t perform as well with older voters or voters who weren’t white.

But last night, according to New York Times exit polls, Sanders swept nearly every demographic on the way to his 22-point rout over Hillary Clinton.

Sanders won 83 percent of young voters, virtually identical to the percentage of young people he attracted in Iowa. But he also won the next two age brackets, finishing eight points ahead of Clinton among voters ages 45 to 64. This age range is Clinton’s sweet spot, and losing it really bruises her mantle of popularity. Clinton did win among one generation, though – voters ages 65 and up swung 11 points in her favor.

Sanders scored strongly among men (66 percent), an unremarkable outcome given repeated polls showing men warming to him more than Clinton. But he also won women handily, 55 percent to Clinton’s 45, taking the demographic that formed the core pitch of Clinton’s campaign.

And, perhaps most remarkably for Sanders, he swept the ideological spectrum, winning over both voters who called themselves “very liberal” and “moderate.” He won the latter category by 21 points, despite pitching his campaign as one that would not bend to the forces of moderation.

I take it this is a crushing blow to the Clinton campaign, even though they were expected to lose New Hampshire. Hillary Clinton won New Hampshire in 2008, after all, keeping her candidacy afloat.  I think they were expecting to at least make it close.

Among other things, I get the impression the girl-shaming she tried to do to get the votes of younger women backfired, big time.  “Vote for me because I’m a woman” is just not a compelling message even to most feminists, sorry. It might have worked if Sanders showed any anti-feminist inclinations, but he doesn’t. You’ve basically got two feminists competing for the nomination, and just because one is a man doesn’t make him any less reliable on women’s issues, IMO. But maybe now the Clinton campaign will try something else.

I really like what Matt Yglesias wrote in Bernie Sanders Is the Future of the Democratic Party.

Whether the first Sanders-style nominee is Sanders himself or Elizabeth Warren or someone like a Tammy Baldwin or a Keith Ellison doesn’t matter. What’s clear is that there’s robust demand among Democrats — especially the next generation of Democrats — to remake the party along more ideological, more social democratic lines, and party leaders are going to have to answer that demand or get steamrolled.

Amen, Brother Matt. At the very least, the old dogs had better learn some new tricks.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign — and, frankly, many DC journalists — has been repeatedly taken by surprise by the potency of some of Sanders’s attacks, because they apply to such a broad swath of the party. But this is precisely the point. Sanders and his youthful supporters want the Democrats to be a different kind of party: a more ideological, more left-wing one. …

…. But though Democrats are certainly the more left-wing of the two parties — the party of labor unions and environment groups and feminist organizations and the civil rights movement — they’re not an ideologically left-wing party in the same way that Republicans are an ideological conservative one. Instead, they behave more like a centrist, interest group brokerage party that seeks to mediate between the claims and concerns of left-wing activists groups and those of important members of the business community — especially industries like finance, Hollywood, and tech that are based in liberal coastal states and whose executives generally espouse a progressive outlook on cultural change.

Sanders’s core proposition, separate from the details of the political revolution, is that for progressives to win they need to first organize and dominate an ideologically left-wing political party that is counterpoised to the ideological right-wing Republican Party.

I think that is exactly right.

Sanders’s most significant legacy, win or lose, is going to be what his campaign has shown about the ideological proclivities of younger Americans. Specifically, he showed that the hefty liberal tilt of under-35 voters is not a question of Barack Obama’s cool-for-a-politician persona or simply an issue of being repulsed by this or that GOP stance.

Clinton tried hard to make waves with superficial appeals to youth culture, include selling Yaaas Hillary T-shirts, appearing with the cast of Broad City, and campaigning in Iowa with Katy Perry.

Even I thought that was pathetic. It was right up there with the pathetic dweeb who launched “the can kicks back” promotion, or the Republican hipster guy.

The problem is that the young progressives the party is counting on to deliver them to the promised land are, as Sanders has shown, really quite left-wing. They aren’t going to be bought off with a stray Snapchat gimmick or two. To retain their loyalty and enthusiasm, party leaders are going to need to change and adapt to what it is these voters want — even at the risk of alienating some of the voters and campaign contributors they already have.

I fear that if Clinton wins the next few primaries, as she is expected to do, she will not change. And when she wins the White House, the opportunity of this moment will be lost. There will be no remake of the Democratic Party; there will be no left-wing party to carry forward the hopes and needs of future Americans.

After all, mainstream Democrats have no real plan to win Congress or state offices, so in terms of big schemes for change it’s a choice between two different flavors of wishful thinking, not between realism and impracticality.

More fundamentally, the Sanders contention is that if liberals want to change America in fundamental ways, they need to start by creating an ideologically liberal political party. Once you have control of a party, the chance that your Reagan-in-1980 moment may arrive is always lurking out there in the mysterious world of unpredictable events. But if you don’t have control of a party, then you are guaranteed to fail.


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