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

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.


23 thoughts on “A Shout Out to the Old Dogs: Better Learn Some New Tricks

  1. Can we teach old blue dogs new tricks?

    Or, are they too yellow, and want the blue and yellow to stay, to keep the green rolling in?

    If I were in charge, the first thing I’d do, is get rid of the DNC’s Debbie Whatsername Shitz, and replace her with someone like Howard Dean, who’s got a 50 state strategy!

    If we don’t capture at least the Senate, and make significant inroads in the House – preferably, winning it – than neither Bernie nor a more liberal Hillary will be able to make much of a dent – outside of some Executive moves.
    See, Obama, Barack H., post 2010.

    And believe me, at the first hint of using Executive actions by a new Democratic POTUS, the GOP will be salivating and frothing at the mouth, and soiling themselves, in anticipation of starting impeachment proceedings!

  2. A structural failing of the Constitution is that Congressional districts are local, meaning local, meaning over-resprented by rural areas, where the poorly educated citizens voted against themselves. That said, if turn out in November is actually good for a change, we will make gains down ticket.

  3. The “Reagan-in-1980” moment didn’t just organically happen, it was the culmination of a couple of decades of hard work behind the scenes to align things so that the ground was prepared for the brand of “change” that he was pushing. Electing Bernie won’t itself accomplish much, and while he fills that with calls for a “political revolution”, there’s little sign that’ll translate into anything (the first couple of electoral contests haven’t shown a notable upsurge, nor are there really a set of ready candidates for lower offices to point to to actually vote for, were one so inclined). Unfortunately, any significant change will require far more effort, patience, and focus since realistically changing a party has to start at the bottom and that’s not even started.

    Pulling the lever for someone every four years is easy, but it’s not going to get them what they seek.

    • Caffinated One — The whole point of this exercise is to make the Democratic Party one that reliably champions leftist/progressive policies. It hasn’t been that since the 1960s. If the young folks don’t turn out for midterms, perhaps it’s because they don’t see a reason to do so.

  4. Maybe the success of Clinton with “older voters” is just a surrogate measure for “old enough to remember George McGovern in 1972.”

  5. Cafinated One – Your argument is basically that Bernie can’t provide the changes he promises overnight, so we should back the candidate who promises that change – never.

    You are either irrational or a troll. Or perhaps an irrational troll.

  6. @Doug What a silly interpretation of what I said.

    First, to be clear, Hillary’s not promising “no change”, she’s just not promising the degree of change that Bernie is. They’re both for making College more affordable, pushing for universal healthcare, campaign finance reform and other areas. Typically, we’re looking at a matter of degree rather than type. Anyway, they’re both pushing in the same direction and agree far more than they disagree.

    That said, neither of them is going to get much through the existing republican congress though, nor do either of them have a particularly realistic plan to address that. So, I don’t think that it matters all that much which one of them is the nominee provided they can beat the republican. My concern, such as it is, with Bernie I have the nagging fear that he’d be shredded in a general election, but I’m curious how the primaries go. He might convince me that republicans won’t turn him into a fine mist should he be the nominee.

    Anyway, the actual point was that fixating on the top of the ticket every four years as the way to make “change” is a recipe for strategic failure and promulgating that illusion is a likely recipe for voter disillusionment and apathy.

    • “So, I don’t think that it matters all that much which one of them is the nominee provided they can beat the republican.” Then you’re not getting why a Clinton II Administration could spell the end of the Democratic Party. Please read all of Matt Yglesias’s essay and also a blog post I wrote earlier this week. I’m not saying Sanders is any kind of savior, but I am saying that the Democratic Party needs to change, and change a lot, if it is going to survive going forward. And Clinton doesn’t get this.

  7. Maybe Sara Netanyahu and Donald Trump could team up on reality TV. That might help her sidestep that undeserved reputation for imperiousness, which, by the way seems to plague so many successful individuals.

    Here’s an old dog learning a new trick.


  8. Caff one – When I hear the argument ‘only different in decree’ I get that smokey feeling up my tailpipe. HRCis a traditional party politician. That means the party selects the candidates – not the voters. Under that formula, change happens never. I stand by my post and my evaluation, my under-the- bridge friend.

  9. @maha

    I’ve seen the article in question and agree that the party does need to change, I’m just not convinced that Bernie winning the nomination is the is the best course to achieve that though. Even were he to win, Bernie’s ability to “change” the Democratic party is quite limited unfortunately, and linked in Matt’s essay is a rather significant electibility concern that I share. So, while Bernie’s great, if he gets turned into a fine red mist in a general election, it’s not going to help the cause all that much.

    We’ll see how the primary campaign goes. I’m certainly open to the idea that Bernie could win a general election, but I’m far from convinced of that presently.

  10. Well it looks like the fat man is out, I’ll have to search for a new avatar now! Oh and poor little Carly has also quit again! I saw this on another site, priceless!

  11. ReTeaVangeliKKKlan hatred of HRC is so strong that I do not see her as being advantaged over Sanders in terms of converting Republicans to voting Dem. I do see the potential for communist hysteria over Sanders. But the myriad lines of oppo that exist on HRC are there, too. So do we think expedient incrementalism will be more palatable to Republicans than a strong shift proposal? Neither will be accepted. The only answer is to develop a real unified Dem party that will GET OUT THE VOTE. We will not win otherwise. We need GOTV 200% in every state to change the legislators, or the top of the ticket will be hobbled. We are not going to win over Republian votes, so let’s not concern ourselves with that. I don’t think Independents are a real thing 90% of the time anyway. They’re just registration hipsters.

  12. Most of us have dealt with a real estate agent or two in our lives. They serve in a home sale as brokers between the buyer and seller. That’s the function of a political party, and to hear either of the two major parties, you would think they are the broker between the voters and the candidates. In actuality they are brokers between the candidates, who are selling and the buyers, that being special interests.

    The parties try to hustle the voters for contributions, and they do shake down the incumbents for money, but it’s Wall Street and K Street they’re working for. At a gut level, voters get this – and the parties don’t give a hoot. Part of campaign finance reform has to bust the power of the parties down to size. They don’t have any status, constitutionally speaking. They authorized themselves power, supposedly in the name of the voters – but they quit working for citizens decades ago.

    Which brings us back to HRC & Bernie. In the grand scheme of things, Bernie is fighting the democratic party machine and Hillary is using the DNC like an extension of her campaign. So who’s gonna bring change? Really? The novelty of having a woman in the Oval Office behind the big desk is great – if it’s Liz Warren. But spare us Hillary – puhleeeze!

  13. Sanders mentioned about being arrested for protesting against housing discrimination while he was involved with CORE ( I assume back in the 60″s). Going into South Carolina, I wonder how much weight that is going to carry with the African-American vote. If anything, it stands as a testament of his sincerity. Hillary mentioned that she had strong support in the African-American community in South Carolina, but I’m not seeing any history other than lip service to secure that vote.

  14. Wow, so much going on in this thread, so many opportunities for me to sound like a goofball.

    Sanders’ involvement with CORE speaks of a clear and enduring commitment to social justice. I’ll support whoever wins the primary. For me, the alternative is unthinkable. But, with Sanders on the scene, we’re getting some of the “straight talk” that has been lacking for years, despite the “Straight Talk Express” or whatever John McCain called his campaign bus. As Swami, mentioned young people today got a pretty raw deal in terms of opportunity and financial security. A lot of us who were the first of our families to go to college wouldn’t have a prayer today, except a prayer to find a well established place to flip burgers. Sanders addresses this directly, but, it will probably take a long time for the message to sink in. Just looking around our locality, I see a lot of people who don’t make the connection between higher education and a better, fuller life, because they haven’t seen examples in their lives to illustrate that connection. So, they don’t share the conviction or the passion about this issue, yet.

    But, younger people today see a broader world via the internet, etc, and they have a strong sense of being shut out when it comes time to leave the nest. The means and methods of production are about to undergo remarkable changes and we have to revisit the structure and purpose of an economy. The “winners” will want to make the economy the master via privatization, deregulation and rehashed “laissez faire” capitalism. The rest of us, who are muddling through or just starting out, would find a better world if the economy were relegated to the servant. I suppose in reality those are two poles, and the synergy of democracy and capitalism falls somewhere in the middle. We have to move it towards the servant role.

    Thanks for the link, Uncle__, I certainly admire your broad musical tastes. I tend to focus in on a narrow style in an effort to offset a considerable lack of talent. But, somewhere in our vast, neglected pile of CDs (how quickly they became like 78s) we have some African music on a very similar, but smaller instrument. I’ll have to dig it out again and investigate more of Ballade Sissoko’s music. It’s beautiful stuff, so many thanks.

  15. 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.

    Unfortunately, the leaders of the party are Debbie Wasserman-Schulz, Steve Israel, Chuck Schumer, Patrick Murphy, all of whom are New Democrats and committed to preventing liberals from succeeding. They are going to fight like demons to retain control of the party, even if it means destroying the party to do it.

Comments are closed.