Messy Choices

Last night at the convention went better than I had feared. At least, little of the rancor was noticeable on the teevee.

Later today will come the roll call vote to nominate Clinton. Maybe. CNN reports,

The Sanders campaign is asking the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign to allow the Vermont senator to help deliver the formal nomination — a symbolic gesture that would allow the majority of Sanders’ delegates to be tallied in the convention while also showing that Sanders is behind Clinton.
Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs said Tuesday that all sides have agreed to let Vermont offer up Clinton’s nomination by unanimous consent but he would not say whether Sanders would be the superdelegate to propose her nomination.

If “unanimous consent” means they’d skip the roll call, IMO that would be a huge mistake. The die-hards still think the vote might magically favor Sanders. The votes need to be public, or else they’re going to forever suspect they were cheated of a victory. And that would be true even if Sanders makes the nomination.

Vice President Joe Biden, who was doing a walkthrough of the Wells Fargo Arena Tuesday morning, said that Democrats need to “show a little class” to Sanders supporters who are still stinging from his loss.
“We have to show a little class and let them be frustrated for a while,” Biden told CNN. “It’s OK.”
I so wish Biden had run. I think he’d be the nominee now, and most people would be okay with that.
We have a seriously difficult thing ahead of us, and I don’t mean just keeping Donald Trump out of the White House. Elect Hillary Clinton, yes, as she’s pretty much what we’re stuck with. But the DNC still needs a thorough flushing out, and having her in the White House is going to make that more difficult. I don’t see how that can be done without hurting her administration, frankly, but that’s how it’s got to be.

Not a Good Start

Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced her resignation as chair of the DNC yesterday, although it’s not clear to me if the resignation took effect immediately or after the convention. In any event, the news this morning is that she tried to address the Florida delegation and was robustly booed. That she is still being allowed anywhere near a microphone at a Democratic Party event indicates the DNC is still out to lunch.

By now you’ve probably heard that Wikileaks published a ton of hacked DNC emails. This revealed that DNC staffers on the whole were the kewl kids from high school who were snots to everybody else. They were snots about Sanders and his supporters (examples) and clearly had their thumbs on the scale for Clinton. But they were also bratty about some Clinton donors who weren’t kewl enough, or something.

In a May 16 exchange about where to seat a top Florida donor, Kaplan declared that “he doesn’t sit next to POTUS!” — referring to Obama.

“Bittel will be sitting in the sh—iest corner I can find,” responded Shapiro. She also referred to other donors as “clowns.”

It is now manifestly clear that DNC staff were derisive of Sanders and sought to undermine his campaign.

Several messages show how the DNC, which is supposed to be neutral during the Democratic primary, undermined Bernie Sanders’ campaign while supporting Hillary Clinton’s.

In one email, the DNC acknowledges, “Super PAC paying young voters to push back online on Sanders supporters.”

Another details how DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz furiously pressured MSNBC after it criticized her “unfair” treatment of Sanders.

Several other messages show how the DNC worked with journalists in a way that favored Clinton.


Any chance of “unity” at the Dem convention is close to gone.

If Democrats expect the Republican Convention clown show last week to automatically make the DNC look like a smooth, unifying parade—they better look out the window real soon.

What they’ll likely see is a sea of protesting progressives who stood behind Bernie Sanders throughout the primary and are now standing against Hillary Clinton and the Democratic establishment.

Why wouldn’t they in the aftermath of the recent WikiLeaks dump of nearly 20,000 DNC emails—which show the supposedly neutral arm of the party campaigning to discredit and mock Bernie Sanders; a fact that Sanders and his legion of supporters have been railing about for months, only to be knocked down as “conspiracy theorists.”

To save face, the Democrats forced Debbie Wasserman Schultz to resign as party chairwoman. But unfortunately for the establishment, the gasoline has already been poured onto the ever-growing fire of revolt against the Democratic Party—and there’s no sign of those flames dwindling.

Shockingly, their tone deafness struck again as Clinton decided to name Wasserman Schultz as an “honorary chair” of her campaign.

Throughout the primaries, several times on this blog (example), I commented that if Clinton wanted a “unifying” convention she and her supporters had damn well better change her tone toward Sanders and his supporters. That didn’t happen.  If the Dem convention is a mess, that’s on the DNC and the Clinton campaign.

Bernie Sanders is doing his best to calm things down, but when he told his delegates that it was imperative to support Hillary Clinton to defeat Donald Trump, they booed him.

I’m not happy about the leaking of the emails, however. Wikileaks is not operating in good faith. People are accusing Wikileaks of being a front for Vladimir Putin, who is said to prefer Trump. And given the timing of the leaks, I can’t say that’s a bad guess.

I have more to say on this, but am short of blogging time. Maybe later.

Off the Lawn, Off the Boat, Out of the Party

Matt Taibbi gives me some assurance that I’m not crazy.

This was no ordinary primary race, not a contest between warring factions within the party establishment, á la Obama-Clinton in ’08 or even Gore-Bradley in ’00. This was a barely quelled revolt that ought to have sent shock waves up and down the party, especially since the Vote of No Confidence overwhelmingly came from the next generation of voters.

Taibbi goes on to quote various pundits who are still reading from the standard post-nomination script.

The classic example was James Hohmann’s piece in the Washington Post, titled, “Primary wins show Hillary Clinton needs the left less than pro-Sanders liberals think.”

Hohmann’s thesis was that the “scope and scale” of Clinton’s wins Tuesday night meant mainstream Democrats could now safely return to their traditional We won, screw you posture of “minor concessions” toward the “liberal base.”

I wrote yesterday that Clinton supporters are angry and frustrated with Sanders for not following the proper script. He’s supposed to drop out now and endorse Clinton! She won!

In short, they’re like people enjoying a dinner party in a burning house, or maybe the Titanic.

If they had any brains, Beltway Dems and their clucky sycophants like Capeheart would not be celebrating this week. They ought to be horrified to their marrow that the all-powerful Democratic Party ended up having to dig in for a furious rally to stave off a quirky Vermont socialist almost completely lacking big-dollar donors or institutional support.

They should be freaked out, cowed and relieved, like the Golden State Warriors would be if they needed a big fourth quarter to pull out a win against Valdosta State.

But to read the papers in the last two days is to imagine that we didn’t just spend a year witnessing the growth of a massive grassroots movement fueled by loathing of the party establishment, with some correspondingly severe numerical contractions in the turnout department (though she won, for instance, Clinton received 30 percent fewer votes in California this year versus 2008, and 13 percent fewer in New Jersey).

I’ve said this before, too.

People are sick of being thought of as faraway annoyances who only get whatever policy scraps are left over after pols have finished servicing the donors they hang out with at Redskins games.

Democratic voters tried to express these frustrations through the Sanders campaign, but the party leaders have been and probably will continue to be too dense to listen. Instead, they’ll convince themselves that, as Hohmann’s Post article put it, Hillary’s latest victories mean any “pressure” they might have felt to change has now been “ameliorated.”

And this:

The maddening thing about the Democrats is that they refuse to see how easy they could have it. If the party threw its weight behind a truly populist platform, if it stood behind unions and prosecuted Wall Street criminals and stopped taking giant gobs of cash from every crooked transnational bank and job-exporting manufacturer in the world, they would win every election season in a landslide.

This is especially the case now that the Republican Party has collapsed under the weight of its own nativist lunacy. It’s exactly the moment when the Democrats should feel free to become a real party of ordinary working people.

But they won’t do that, because they don’t see what just happened this year as a message rising up from millions of voters.

I’ve been saying all along that the Dems need Sanders and his supporters more than Sanders and his supporters need the Democrats. I’m not talking about winning the November election here, although that might be part of it. I’m talking about the even more fundamental question of why a person should be loyal to a political party, support it, and vote for its candidates even when you’re not crazy about them.  As I also keep saying, the percentage of Americans who self-identify with one party or another is at an all-time low. Although I understand a lot of people have registered as Democrats this year, are those people who are going to stay Democrats? Or are they people who wanted to vote for Sanders in a primary, or who want to vote against Trump in November? Do they have any real interest in the Democratic Party, as a party?

See above about Clinton getting 30 percent fewer votes in California this year than in 2008.  See also Dear Democrats: Please Face Reality.

Instead of offering a competing vision for the future or debating policy ideas, Clinton ran against Sanders by dismissing him. But perhaps that’s the only way she could beat him, with “loyal Democrat” dog whistles and painting her opposition as racist and sexist white guys, which was never true.

One constant narrative throughout the primaries has been that Sanders just can’t gain the support of women or people of color, and that his supporters are overwhelmingly white males who back him for the simple reason that he is a man (e.g. Walsh’s “angry white male cult”). But again, this is complete hogwash. Sanders has actually done better with young women than young men — a USA Today poll taken in the midst of the primaries found that Millennial women backed “Sanders by a jaw-dropping 61%-30% while the divide among Millennial men is much closer, 48%-44%.” Similarly, while Clinton has dominated with African American voters overall, young black and Hispanic voters have a more favorable opinion of Sanders than Clinton, according to a Gallup survey from May. Indeed, Sanders is viewed even more favorably among black millennials than white millennials. The survey also found that Sanders is viewed more favorably among millennial women than millennial men, and that millennials were the most left-leaning generation.

It’s one thing to smear your opponent, but when you smear your opponent by smearing his supporters, don’t expect those supporters to not notice, or to forgive you. Still quoting Conor Lynch at Salon,

Roughly a year after launching her campaign, Hillary Clinton has now locked up the Democratic nomination. But her campaign and the DNC establishment have also done a great job at alienating young people and the left.

Partisans have been reluctant to acknowledge that a formidable progressive movement fueled by millennials could challenge the neoliberal status quo in the coming years, and have instead tried to tarnish the reputation of the entire Sanders movement. But Sanders isn’t going to fight until the convention because of “sexism,” as Clintonites have started postulating, but because of politics and ideas; his entire campaign has been about combating “establishment politics” and “establishment economics,” which, unfortunately, Clinton epitomizes. Of course, partisans don’t want to debate ideas or address inconvenient truths, like the party’s close ties to Wall Street and corporate America. It’s much easier to make generalizations and accuse everyone who disagrees with you of trolling or harassment.

Like the guy I quoted yesterday said, “Hillary people seem to have become (and maybe always were) more about keeping Bernie people off the boat than they are about rowing past Trump.” So, yeah, the Dems just shoved a whole generation of people off the boat. It remains to be seen how many of those young people will continue to try to reform the party, or how many just quit in disgust.

IMO the Dems will have a fight on their hands, but probably not so much from Donald Trump. Donald Trump is nothing but an ego with bad hair. His “business success” reminds me of an old saying — the easiest way to make a small fortune is to inherit a large fortune.  I keep reading articles about how shrewd he is and that he knows what he’s doing, but I don’t think so. I think he’s gotten into something that’s way over his bizarrely coifed head.  Especially once we get past the conventions I think his campaign will be a train wreck.  We’ll see. He’ll probably get more electoral college votes than he ought to based on his total unsuitability to be POTUS, but I still think she’s going to win.

I think the real fight will come later, and it will be a fight the Democrats, apparently, do not expect. It will be a fight to win back the generation of voters they just kicked off the boat.

Just as one more example of how oblivious they are, I was reading this morning that the Democrats want very much to get their hands on Sanders’s email list.

Bernie Sanders has built more than just a following. He’s amassed the mother of all email lists. Some estimate it contains more than 5 million contacts, which is big, even by presidential standards. That database has allowed Sanders to raise thousands of dollars at the click of a button. …

…The Sanders campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment about the future of the supporter list. Speculation abounds. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reidreportedly asked the campaign last month to deploy the list to assist Democrats in Senate races, but was rebuffed by Jeff Weaver, Sanders’s campaign manager. Liberal groups have said they’d love to take a peek at the Vermont senator’s data.

People affiliated with the campaign have pushed back. On Monday, a fundraiser manager for Revolution Messaging, the D.C.-based firm Sanders has employed to manage his campaign data, tweeted that the senator’s list was like King Arthur’s Excalibur: “Lots of people might think they can use it, but it takes someone special for it to work.”

I think all the Dem establishment could raise from that list are a bunch of FUs. If they don’t know that, they’re not smelling the smoke or seeing the iceberg or whatever metaphor works for you.

The Coming Together Thing

Andrew O’Hehir (emphasis added):

For many Sanders supporters, and not just the younger generation for whom his campaign was a political awakening, deferring the dream of “political revolution” — or at least major reform, which is really what the Vermont senator has proposed — will be exquisitely painful. But Hillary Clinton herself is not the problem, although she clearly stands for and stands with the Democratic establishment Sanders sought to overthrow. …

… Clinton is correct that the primary race between her and Obama in 2008 was closer than this one, and that she trailed by fewer pledged delegates (about half her current margin over Sanders) when she threw in the towel in June of that year. She pronounced it “perplexing” that Sanders might push on to the convention in the face of obvious defeat, and that he might yet attempt to sway superdelegates to defy the decision of a clear majority of the Democratic electorate. “That’s never happened before,” she said, “and it’s not going to happen this year.” All that is true, but what it tells me is that Clinton fails to understand the point of the Sanders campaign or, more likely, is deliberately choosing to ignore it….

… Bernie Sanders, who came closer to pulling off an internal coup within the Democratic Party than anyone would have believed possible a year ago, needs to push on just a little longer, in order to bring his own bargain with his supporters to a conclusion.

Sanders needs to assure his followers that this race was not like the 2008 race, or any other in recent memory, and that if it ends with an inevitable defeat and an inevitable truce, it does not end in capitulation. Hillary Clinton’s 2016 victory is not the victory of Clintonism. If the fight for the future of the Democratic Party is suspended for the moment, at least at the presidential level, it is not over. Indeed, it has barely begun. The final stage of the Hillary Clinton bargain lies not in surrender, or in accepting a return to politics as usual. It lies in the resolution to stop fighting now, in order to fight on another day.

Clinton supporters want very much to believe that this race really is like the 2008 race, except that Clinton won this time. And they want the old man who lost to capitulate and throw his wholehearted endorsement behind Clinton, the way Clinton eventually supported Obama, albeit probably not before she pried a promise of a cabinet position out of Obama. A man’s capitulation is a vital part of the payback scenario they expect and dearly desire. They are absolutely clueless why he can’t play out the standard script without betraying both his principles and his supporters. O’Hehir gets it, and explains it about as well as anyone can.

This primary campaign wasn’t just about two people competing for a presidential nomination. It wasn’t nearly that simple. This is something that a lot of Sanders supporters need to understand also, especially the ones calling for Sanders to run as a third party or independent candidate, which would accomplish nothing. This campaign was not so much about making Bernie Sanders the POTUS but more about “retaking the party from the pro-corporate center-right forces that have controlled it since the Bill Clinton era,” in O’Hehir’s words.

Sanders was just the vehicle to carry that demand forward. The demand itself has not been retracted.

Those of us who have watched beltway Democrats betray one principle after another for the sake of hanging on to their cozy niches in the Washington political power grid are damn tired of it and want it to stop. Last October Matt Yglesias wrote that the Democrats had grown smug and complacent.

The presidency is extremely important, of course. But there are also thousands of critically important offices all the way down the ballot. And the vast majority — 70 percent of state legislatures, more than 60 percent of governors, 55 percent of attorneys general and secretaries of state — are in Republicans hands. And, of course, Republicans control both chambers of Congress.  …

… Democrats have nothing at all in the works to redress their crippling weakness down the ballot. Democrats aren’t even talking about how to improve on their weak points, because by and large they don’t even admit that they exist. … The GOP might be in chaos, but Democrats are in a torpor.

Yglesias goes on to explain that the Dems have no actual plan for taking back states and appear to be perfectly content for having achieved what seems to be a lock on the White House, thanks to the Electoral College map. And yes, I still expect Hillary Clinton to win in November.  What might happen in 2020 is too far away to speculate about.

As I’ve been writing in many recent post, voter demographics are telling us that most voters under the age of 50 — and a whopping 80-something-percent majority under the age of 30 — are nearly frantic to pry the smug, complacent Dem establishment out of the Democratic party so that it might wake up and get a clue. Although there are some great individual Dems, the party itself has become a repository for soulless apparatchiks who appear to run as Democrats more out of habit than conviction. It’s been a very long time since working-class people especially could count on the party, as a party, to stand up for and actually work for policies they need. They did manage to pass the ACA, yes, but much of the demand for watering down the original bill — which was itself far short of what is really needed — came not just from Republicans but from Blue Dog Democrats.

In short, we need Dems with fire in the belly. Instead, mostly their bellies are full of foie gras and lobster, or whatever they serve at $353,400 fundraiser dinners.

In this primary season, instead of engaging with the concerns of Sanders supporters, “Hillary people seem to have become (and maybe always were) more about keeping Bernie people off the boat than they are about rowing past Trump,” wrote a guy on Facebook.

Establishment/Clinton Democrats seem like the party of Eisenhower with a dash of Nixon and a sprinkle of identity politics now — part careerist apparatchik, part hippie puncher, part Prius owner with a rainbow bumpersticker — who apparently believe that a ‘sore winner’ vibe and yelling at the kids to get offa their lawn is the righteous, best way forward.

That’s definitely the vibe I’ve picked up from the Clinton people all along. They haven’t so much been disagreeing with Sanders, inasmuch as they are able to accurately address his concerns at all, which they don’t. They simply dismiss those concerns as somehow having been generated by Karl Rove. From the beginning they’ve been outraged he’s challenged Her Majesty at all.

Clinton is definitely the candidate for complacent people who have given up on the idea that Washington can accomplish anything useful (see “The Can’t-Do Nation“). They rarely express hope of Clinton doing anything in particular except appointing pro-Roe v. Wade Supreme Court justices, which is something I want, too.  But too many of them seem to just want payback — for the endless Whitewater investigations, for Bush v. Gore, for the time in 1974 they lost a job to a less-qualified man.

Getting back to capitulation — Sanders absolutely cannot just stand up next to Clinton at the convention and throw his support behind her. At the core of it this was not about the two of them competing for a job. It was not about the individual Bernie Sanders versus the individual Hillary Clinton. It’s about a schism on the Left that’s still getting wider, and the fight to resolve what’s wrong with the Democrats has to continue.  For Sanders to wholeheartedly endorse Clinton would be surrendering that fight, which has barely begun.

At some point I expect him to suspend his campaign and tell his supporters that it’s better for the nation to have Clinton in the White House than Trump. I believe he’s said as much a couple of times already. But if they want him to give a speech puffing up Clinton as a great future president and as just what the nation needs, no. He cannot do that. It would betray everything the campaign was about.

O’Hehir is right about “the resolution to stop fighting now, in order to fight on another day.” I keep hearing about vast hoards of Sanders supporters who plan to protest in Philadelphia and demand he be given the nomination, which is a stupid demand. That battle is over.

Many of these people sincerely believe the election results in many primaries were not honest, and some of them have some pretty good arguments back that up. But by the time these claims are thoroughly investigated and proved (or disproved), Cliinton will be giving her first State of the Union address. Possibly her second or third. As we learned in 2000 and 2001, recounts after the inauguration don’t count.

It may be that Hillary Clinton will turn into a great, visionary, progressive POTUS, but I see no indication she’s got it in her (see Jim Hightower on that point).  And she’ll get no passes from the Left just because she’s got a “D” after her name. If Clinton supporters are still looking for the fairy-tell ending that rights all the the ways they feel wronged, they’re going to be disappointed.

Superdelegates in the Twilight Zone

Yesterday the Associated Press decided to scoop the world and declared that Hillary Clinton had crossed the critical 2,383 delegate threshold needed to “clinch” the Democratic Party nomination.  This must have been disorienting for people who realized no votes were cast yesterday, but whatever.  The AP came to this conclusion by counting the superdelegates for Clinton, even though they don’t vote officially until the convention and are free to change their minds. The superdelegate count keeps shifting, as does the pledged delegate count, but at some point yesterday the stars aligned and the threshold was crossed.

In theory, it could cross back again. I keep expecting to hear Rod Serling doing the voice over —

Many people are angry about this, as it could potentially suppress the votes in the primaries today and change the outcome, and not just of the presidential primaries. Thereisnospoon writes at Daily Kos,

At a practical level, California’s terrible top-two “jungle” primary means that a high turnout is crucial to the success of Democrats downballot. In California’s Dem-majority 24th district where I live, turnout among the overwhelmingly Sanders-supporting college students at UC Santa Barbara could make the difference between whether a Democrat even advances into the November general election or whether we will be forced to choose between two Republicans. Calling the race for Clinton in advance of the primary doesn’t just hurt Democrats at the hyperlocal level: it might actually mean fewer Democrats in Congress after November, too.

Just how did our election system get this screwed up? Well, let’s go on …

Maybe I’m mis-remembering, but I don’t recall that in 2008 presumed superdelegate votes were reported in media as delegate “wins” to the extent they have been in this election. There was a lot of arguing and grumbling about superdelegates, yes, but as I remember the superdelegates tallies were more often kept in the background, separated from the pledged delegate count. And the superdelegate votes changed as the primary wore on, anyway. But in the current primaries, there have been times I’ve had to do quite a bit of searching to find current pledged delegate numbers that did not include superdelegates as part of the tally.

I found this history of Democratic Party superdelegates on the Bill Moyers site yesterday, and it’s very much worth reading. Among other things, it says,

The corporate media’s early inclusion of the superdelegates in the delegate count created the impression of an inevitable Clinton nomination. Seventy-three percent of superdelegates — 520 of the 712 — have pledged their support to the former secretary of state, but superdelegates are free to change their minds any time before the Democratic National Convention in July.

By Feb. 20, when only three states had held nominating contests, such reporting had conferred on the Clinton campaign an aura of insurmountability, leading some voters to question whether their votes truly mattered. Even as Sanders won a string of contests at the end of March to narrow Clinton’s lead, superdelegates in those states stubbornly clung to Clinton. Despite the second-biggest victory ever in a contested New Hampshire Democratic primary, Sanders was credited with the same number of total delegates as Clinton, thanks to superdelegates.

This has rubbed many the wrong way. …

… The attitude of Democratic Party bigwigs hasn’t helped. When a Sanders supporter criticized superdelegate Howard Dean for sticking with Clinton despite Sanders’ landslide victory in Vermont, Dean tweeted back: “Superdelegates don’t ‘represent the people’ … I’ll do what I think is right for the country.”

The author of the superdelegate history, Branko Marcetic, says that the  superdelegates were the creation of a commission that met in 1981 and 1982. Their purpose was to keep the primary process from being unduly influenced by single-issue factions, so that the Dems weren’t stuck with a nominee who didn’t appeal to general election voters. They had Jimmy Carter in mind as such a nominee.

The very democracy of the primary process appears to have made the commission members nervous. They felt they had to give party elites — elected officials and high-ranking party members — a greater hand in choosing candidates, or as Xandra Kayden, a member of the Center for Democratic Policy (now Center for National Policy), put it, the power to “to regain control of the nomination.”

This was partly couched in a belief in elites’ superior judgment. “They bring to the convention a certain political acumen, a certain political antenna,” explained Connecticut state Sen. Dick Schneller, a liberal member of the party. …

… “Our decisions will make the convention more representative of the mainstream of the party,” the commission’s chair, North Carolina Gov. James Hunt, told the press shortly before the commission finished. “We lost a lot of people in the last few years. Our actions should make mainstream Democrats feel better.”

And how did that work out for ya?

The Democrats’ new rules were put to the test during the 1984 election, when Mondale, the superdelegates’ overwhelming choice, received the worst drubbing in the history of the Democratic Party. If the commission’s most important criterion for success was winning, the superdelegate strategy had failed.

It’s often pointed out that the superdelegates have yet to go against popular will, which begs the question why have them at all? By now it should be obvious that if they did ever go against popular will, all hell would break loose.

But the other flaw in this system is that it assumes party insiders really do understand what the “mainstream” wants. Seems to me this election has revealed that the Dems are dealing with two mainstreams, largely separated by age, and the Dem establishment is completely and totally out of touch with the younger mainstream voter.

And from what I’ve read, currently the pivotal number is “50,” which is not that young. The Los Angeles Times reported a few days ago that in California,

Among those under 50, Sanders held a 27-point advantage among all Democratic primary voters and a 21-point edge among likely voters. Among those over 50, Clinton led by 32 points among both groups.

Clinton would have more easily defied Sanders’ onslaught if his inroads among the young had been limited to white voters, as happened in some of the states that voted earlier in the process. But he has expanded his reach in California; his diverse crowds here were reflected in the poll.

Among Latino voters under age 50, Sanders led, 58%-31%, not much different from his 62%-27% lead among younger white voters. The views of other ethnic and racial groups were too small to break out separately by age, but when all younger minority voters were considered, Sanders led, 59%-32%.

On the other side of the age divide, Clinton’s lead was no less impressive. She led by 56%-32% among white voters over 50, 69%-16% among older Latinos and 64%-20% among older minority voters.

The same generational splits apply to men and women, this article says.  And in this primary season the Clinton campaign and the Dem establishment have catered entirely to older voters and dismissed younger ones. See also this.

This is not a smart strategy for building toward the future.

As I’ve written earlier, the party power brokers and insiders had determined Clinton would be the nominee more than a year ago. The only way Sanders or anyone else could have stopped her is by winning a decisively greater number of pledged delegates, and Sanders hasn’t done that. But in winning as she has, Clinton has burned bridges the Dems will have to rebuild in the future if they want to survive as a party.

The Democrats may assume the hard feelings will go away when Clinton wins in November — I expect her to win, anyway. But I don’t think they will. The 29-and-younger voters in particular are being taught that the Democratic Party doesn’t care what they think. These are the up-and-coming liberal voters making up the “emerging Democratic majority” that is supposed to rescue the Democratic Party from Republican dominance. This group has little representation among the superdelegates, apparently.

Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Speech

Hillary Clinton gave a foreign policy speech in San Diego a couple of days ago that got some good reviews. Indeed, her supporters seem to think it was the greatest  foreign policy speech since Winston Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” address, assuming they know about Churchill and the Iron Curtain.

The speech largely consisted of calling out Donald Trump for being an idiot.  In her next appearance she’s going to go for broke and shoot some fish in a barrel.

If you read the speech, most of it is pretty banal.  Here’s a representative sample:

Trump says over and over again, “The world is laughing at us.” He’s been saying this for decades, he didn’t just start this year. He bought full-page ads in newspapers across the country back in 1987, when Ronald Reagan was President, saying that America lacked a backbone and the world was – you guessed it – laughing at us. He was wrong then, and he’s wrong now – and you’ve got to wonder why somebody who fundamentally has so little confidence in America, and has felt that way for at least 30 years, wants to be our President.

The truth is, there’s not a country in the world that can rival us. It’s not just that we have the greatest military, or that our economy is larger, more durable, more entrepreneurial than any in the world. It’s also that Americans work harder, dream bigger – and we never, ever stop trying to make our country and world a better place.

I’m so done with the American exceptionalism rhetoric. Rah-rah doesn’t fix the potholes.

I can’t argue with anything she says about Trump. It’s when she wanders into her own ideas that she gets into trouble.

Steve Chapman wrote for the Chicago Tribune,

Hillary Clinton has been wrong on one foreign policy issue after another, from the war in Iraq to the war in Libya to the war in Syria. She is secretive, averse to transparency, habitually deceptive and arguably corrupt. She is a risk to lead us into another messy conflict.

Donald Trump has said some things that don’t sound bad. He recognizes the invasion of Iraq and the bombing of Libya as mistakes. He vows to refrain from nation-building. He says he’d make our allies do more to defend themselves.

So let me be clear: If I had only these two choices of whom to be in charge of U.S. foreign policy for the next four years — or five minutes — I would pick Clinton in a heartbeat.

Clinton is a bad option, in the way that Salisbury steak at a roadside diner is a bad option. Trump, however, resembles a tuna sandwich left out on the counter for days: definitely harmful and possibly fatal.

Yeah, pretty much sums it up.

I also like these comments by Ian Bremmer in Time:

First, her remarks were intended for the foreign policy establishment, the people who care about foreign policy details and America’s role in the world. These are not the people she needs to reach. She must speak directly to those who feel globalization has stolen their livelihoods and don’t see why Americans must carry heavier and more expensive burdens than others do. Some of those people are persuadable.

Second, she spent too much presenting herself as the plausible alternative to disaster. Her own foreign policy record is not sterling. She was an active secretary of state, but President Obama didn’t deliver his finest foreign policy accomplishments—striking the Iran nuclear deal, lifting the embargo against Cuba, negotiating the Transpacific Partnership—until Clinton had moved on. She deserves credit for helping to bring Iran to the nuclear negotiating table, but it fell to her successor to complete the deal. Her attempt to “reset” relations with Russia was a farce from start to finish. The “pivot to Asia” and agreement on the Transpacific Partnership were her biggest successes, but she has backed away from both while running for president. In short, Clinton is long on foreign policy experience, but short on foreign policy successes.

But she’s so qualified! And she has all those accomplishments (that few can name if you put them on the spot to name any)!

Patrick Smith wrote at Salon:

Clinton’s people advised the press beforehand that, major or not, this presentation was not intended to break any new ground—no new positions, no new policy initiatives or ideas. This hardly had to be explained, of course: Hillary Clinton has no new ideas on American foreign policy. That is not her product. Clinton sells continuity, more of the same only more of it because it is so good. In continuity we are supposed to find safety, certainty and security.

I do not find any such things in the idea that our foreign policy cliques under a Clinton administration will simply keep doing what they have been doing for many decades. The thought frightens me, and I do not say this for mere effect. In my estimation, and it is no more than that, the world is approaching maximum tolerance of America’s post–Cold War insistence on hegemony. As regular readers will know, this is why I stand among those who consider Clinton’s foreign policy thinking, borne out by the record, the most dangerous thing about her. And there are many of us, by the evidence.

The critique that most needs to be read, though, is by William Astore at Huffpo.  (Astore, a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF) and history professor, blogs at Bracing Views.) Really, read the whole thing. Here are the juiciest bits:

1. The speech featured the usual American exceptionalism, the usual fear that if America withdraws from the world stage, chaos will result.  There was no sense that America’s wars of choice in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, etc. have greatly contributed to that chaos.  …

2.  Hillary mentioned we’re electing “our” next commander-in-chief.  No, we’re not.  The president is a public servant, not “our” commander-in-chief.  The president serves as the civilian commander-in-chief of the military, and the military alone.

3.  Hillary mentioned the US has a “moral obligation” to defend Israel.  Why is this?  Sure, Israel is an American ally, but why is Israel the one country we’re “morally” obligated to defend? There’s only one country we’re morally obligated to defend, and that’s the USA, assuming our government is actually honoring the US Constitution.

4.  The speech had no new ideas.  It was a laundry list of neo-conservative principles about making America stronger, safer, and so on.  As a friend of mine put it, “Nothing that I heard her say deviated in any way from her hawkish record of recommending bombing at every opportunity.”

And here is the grand finale:

Hillary Clinton reminds me of the grey leaders in the USSR before Gorbachev.  She’s like a Brezhnev or an Andropov. A cookie-cutter product of the system with no fresh ideas.

For many people who are leery of a Trump presidency, Hillary’s hawkish and colorless conformity to the Washington system is more than enough to qualify her.  If she wins the presidency, she will be much like Brezhnev and Andropov, senior apparatchiks of an empire in denial of its own precipitous decline.

Wow. Hammer, nail, head.

But according to Clinton supporters this was a brilliant speech, and it got very good reviews in a lot of the media. Rave reviews, says Business Insider. I’ve said before that she got lucky with Trump as an opponent. The polls don’t reflect it now, but she’s going to take him apart like a cooked crab. And media will have so much fun watching her do it she’ll get a pass on her own record and policies.

Liberal, Neoliberal and Progressive: What Words Mean

Much of our current political discourse suffers because so many people are using words without fully appreciating what they mean. For example, some use progressive and liberal as synonyms, although they really aren’t (although there’s a lot of overlap). There’s also confusion about the difference between liberal and neoliberal. And there’s tons of confusion about socialist.

Note that what follows are standard definitions; I am not making these up. However, this is just a brief overview. I don’t have time to write a book. So if I’ve left out a detail you think is important please just add it to comments.

Liberal. The meaning of liberal as a political term has changed over time, and in the United States it came to have a slightly different meaning from how it is used elsewhere.  But let’s review:

Classical liberalism, which originated in 18th century Europe, emphasized civil liberties — the old Rights of Man — and political freedom. Classical liberals were also the original free market capitalists.  Adam Smith and his Invisible Hand were classical liberals.

Social liberalism, which evolved later, is classical liberalism with the added belief that government really needs to address poverty and joblessness and that sort of thing rather than wait around for the Invisible Hand to fix it. This is basically the European view of social liberalism.

FDR took American liberalism in a different direction, basically injecting a whole lot of American progressivism into it (see discussion of progressive below). I recommend this essay by Eric Alterman, “How Classical Liberalism Morphed Into New Deal Liberalism.”

European liberalism is essentially a centrist political philosophy, but under FDR it was pulled leftward, putting it somewhere between social liberalism and European socialism as it existed at the time. And, of course, FDR pretty much kicked the free-market, laissez-faire aspects of classical liberalism to the curb. By steering a course between pure European liberalism and pure socialism, FDR found a way to maintain capitalism without allowing it to become oppressive and exploitative of the people. Well, of a lot of people.  FDR liberalism was very much about making robust use of government to give working people a hand up so they could make a better quality of life for themselves, with the acknowledgment that nonwhites were left out of much of this, to appease southern politicians.

In the 1960s, liberalism took up the cause of equal rights for all people, and in doing so sometimes worked against New Deal liberalism. Much of the New Left was against unions, for example, because of racial discrimination by unions, and New Deal liberalism was very pro-union.  Although some of the leftie-leftie fringe of the New Left was Marxist, most new leftie liberal 1960s-era hippies weren’t that tuned into economic issues, as I remember it.  Equal rights and civil liberty, yes; Vietnam, no.  And marijuana. That’s about it.

Until Vietnam there had been nothing intrinsically anti-war about liberalism, note. FDR certainly hadn’t been anti-war.  Indeed, a lot of Cold War liberals were on the hawkish side, promoting a robust military buildup to fighting the threat of global communist takeover. Democratic party insiders were opposed to nominating the anti-war McGovern in 1972, and when he lost big– partly because he got little help from his party — the lesson Democrats took from that was that pacifism is for losers.

But one of the ghosts of the Vietnam era a lot of us still have clanking about in our heads is that liberalism is pacifistic and conservatism is militaristic, and while that might be true most of the time these days, that’s a relatively recent development. And a ghost clanking around in the heads of many American conservatives is that liberalism is communism, which is nonsense on steroids.

Neoliberal. Neoliberalism is a reactionary sort of liberalism that repudiates social liberalism and tries to go back to something like classical liberalism. As Europeans use the word neoliberalism, Ronald Reagan was a neoliberal. See especially this essay by George Monbiot, “Neoliberalism — the Ideology at the Root of All Our Problems.”

American neoliberals tend to be social liberals but economic conservatives. They’re fine with equal rights and civil liberties for individuals, but they lean toward conservative and libertarian ideas about economies and markets.  It is argued that a neoliberal’s commitment to civil liberty is entirely for the individual and ignores social reality. Basically, neoliberals are people who champion your right to live your life as you wish while they favor trade policies that will devastate your community and ship  your job to China.

Another way to put this is that neoliberals are liberal but not necessarily progressive. So let’s look at progressivism.

Progressive. Progressive as an American political term was born in the late 19th century. The original progressive reform movement focused on three foundational positions:

  1. Getting the corruption of money out of politics, especially in regard to political machines and bosses.
  2. Getting more people directly involved in politics; making political processes more transparent. For example, the direct election of senators (17th Amendment, ratified 1914) was a progressive accomplishment.
  3. Using government regulation to protect the people; for example, enacting child labor laws and providing for safety regulations for food and drugs.

Progressivism in America from the start tended to go hand in hand with social liberalism. Women’s suffrage was a progressive cause. The Great Migration was encouraged by progressivism. But while white progressive reformers called for putting a stop to lynching, I’m not aware they did much to address segregation or racism generally. Maybe they did, and I missed it.

Teddy Roosevelt, one of the original patriarchs of American progressivism.


Teddy Roosevelt was both a product and a patriarch of the original Progressive Movement. Teddy worked to get the corruption of money out of government, you’ll recall, and he also worked to protect the environment and was opposed to the business monopolies that he saw as blood-sucking parasites. A lot of Teddy’s ideas were folded into FDR’s liberalism. Those Roosevelt boys did a lot of good for America.

But while, in America, progressivism and liberalism tend to run in the same circles, they aren’t exactly the same thing. In America, traditionally, liberalism is mostly about equal rights and civil liberties, while progressivism is mostly about social and government reform and economic justice. As we see with the neoliberals especially, a person can be all in favor of your rights to an abortion or the right to get a cake made for your same-sex wedding, but still not be particularly progressive.

Socialism. While we’re at it, I might as well bring up the “s” word.  The word socialism refers to a whole range of political-economic ideas; I don’t think there is any one form of “socialism.” There are, instead, a bunch of different socialisms.

American right-wingers will never get beyond the abecedarian (yeah, that’s a word; look it up) notion that socialism is the same thing as communism, and of course all communism is Marxism. This is right up there with saying dogs are mammals, so all mammals are dogs. Tell that to a wingnut, and he’ll assume you mean all mammals are dogs. But I digress.

Because of right-wing idiocy we haven’t been allowed to have a sensible conversation about socialist views and policies since about, well, ever. The Big Lie we’ve been taught is that socialism is all about central control of the economy, which of course is the road to totalitarianism, per the Austrian School economists. But most socialisms don’t advocate central control of the economy. And most socialists are fine with democratic representative government and with civil liberties and personal freedom and all that. But, as I said, there are many socialisms.

Even if you pull out the “democratic socialists” from the rest of the “socialists,” there’s still a continuum. While Bernie Sanders calls himself a democratic socialist, some political scientist types says he’s really not, but more of an FDR-era Democrat Party liberal. See “What Does Sanders Mean by ‘Democratic Socialism?'” and “Bernie Is Not Socialist and America Is Not Capitalist.” So there’s that. But at least he’s helping to take the stigma out of the “s” word so that we can have conversations about it.

I’m bringing this up because I keep seeing people use these words very sloppily. In particular the conflation of liberalism and progressivism covers a lot of sins, since it’s very possible for a politician to score high by standard liberalism measures while being weak on progressivism. This is basically where we are with the mostly neoliberal Hillary Clinton. Sanders is both liberal and progressive. Trump is neither. So let’s try to keep this straight.

Stirring Up the Pro-Israel Status Quo at the DNC Convention

Proof that perhaps the Sanders campaign has not been in vain, whatever the outcome:

A bitter divide over the Middle East could threaten Democratic Party unity as representatives of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont vowed to upend what they see as the party’s lopsided support of Israel.

Two of the senator’s appointees to the party’s platform drafting committee,Cornel West and James Zogby, on Wednesday denounced Israel’s “occupation” of the West Bank and Gaza and said they believed that rank-and-file Democrats no longer hewed to the party’s staunch support of the Israeli government. They said they would try to get their views incorporated into the platform, the party’s statement of core beliefs, at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July.

According to a contributor to Juan Cole’s site, Sanders “will be allowed to name five members to the 15-member committee that writes the platform at the Democratic Party’s national convention in late July in Philadelphia even if he is not the nominee. Clinton will name six.” Debbie Wasserman Schultz will name the other four members, who no doubt will be Clinton sycophants. Although the DNC will deny that.

So the Sanders appointees will be outnumbered. But they aren’t going to be quiet. The New York Times continues,

The presence of Dr. Zogby and Dr. West on the 15-member panel, which also has six appointees of Hillary Clinton and four from the party chairwoman, does not guarantee their views will prevail. But it raises the prospect that one of the party’s most sensitive issues will be open to public debate while Mrs. Clinton is in a fight to unify her party and appeal to voters turned off by Donald J. Trump.

It also laid bare a steady shift in the Democratic Party, whose members have been less willing to back Israel’s government than in years past. According to a Pew Research Center survey in April, self-described liberal Democrats were twice as likely to sympathize with Palestinians over Israel than they were only two years ago. Forty percent of liberals sympathized more with Palestinians, the most since 2001, while 33 percent sympathized more with Israel.

Clinton surrogates, on the other hand, vow that the platform will reflect the Secretary’s views, which appear to be to allow Bibi Netayanhu to dictate our foreign policy.

Although Cornel West is a bit too much of a provocateur for my taste, I hope that at least some Dem insiders wake up to the fact that their slavish whatever-Likud-wants position is growing increasingly unpopular with Democratic voters. And if so, somebody should memo Chuck Schumer.

The Fuse that Fizzled

The big news today was that the State Department inspector general issued a sternly worded report critical of Secretary of State’s email use. Paul Waldman explains this about as well as anybody. In short, yeah, she broke rules; no, it doesn’t appear there were any harmful consequences. The report didn’t include any new bombshell information.

And this is about what I’ve expected from the email thing. I’m not seeing the word “criminal” in any news stories. I expect the report to be the end of it. Well, as far as the government is concerned. Politics are something else.

Some Sanders supporters are still eagerly waiting for the indictments that will never come. And, of course, Republicans will be all over it. The problem is that there really isn’t any new information here, I don’t believe, and unless there are unexpected further developments I doubt they can keep the public interested in the emails all the way until November.

Clash of the Unpopular Titans

Or, what if they gave an election and nobody voted?

It says in the Washington Post:

Never in the history of the Post-ABC poll have the two major party nominees been viewed as harshly as Clinton and Trump.

Nearly 6 in 10 registered voters say they have negative impressions of both major candidates. Overall, Clinton’s net negative rating among registered voters is minus-16,  while Trump’s is minus-17, though Trump’s numbers have improved since March.

It takes some real talent for our two major political parties to  (presumably) nominate two people most voters don’t like.

At this point, the two candidates are in a statistical dead heat among registered voters, with Trump favored by 46 percent and Clinton favored by 44 percent. That represents an 11-point shift toward the presumptive Republican nominee since March. Among all adults, Clinton holds a six-point lead
(48 percent to 42 percent), down from 18 points in March.

This data about the close race between Clinton and Trump have gotten a lot of attention, but as many rightly point out, these numbers are likely to shift significantly before the election and don’t mean that much now. I still think Clinton will beat him.

Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who has given Clinton a stiff challenge in the contest for the Democratic nomination, enjoys the most positive rating of the three. Among registered voters, Sanders is net positive — 49 percent to 41 percent — and has seen his image improve steadily the longer he has been a candidate.

He needed more time and public exposure to introduce himself to people before the primaries started. The Democratic establishment and mass media denied him that.

But what I really want to write about is, it appears the general election campaign will be between two unpopular candidates. How did that happen? And what does that say about the status of democracy in America?

First, this tells me the political system is being played, and not by the people. An honest competition actually decided by the people ought to have given us more popular candidates. What we’re seeing is a symptom of managed democracy, a term usually aimed at Vladimir Putin’s Russia but which, many argue, describes the United States.  In a paper about managed democracy in Russia, we find,

According to Tretyakov’s definition, managed democracy is a democracy (as there are elections, voters have alternative options, there is media freedom, leaders are changing), but it is corrected by the ruling class (or rather that part of it that holds power).

Put another way, this is why we can’t have nice things. We aren’t really in charge.

See also Ted Morgan in Salon, “This Isn’t How a Democracy Should Work.”

But the managing is happening in different ways in the two parties. If anything, Trump is a management failure.  He is not the guy the ruling class wanted. The faux populism the Right has cultivated so well all these years got out of control; thus, Trump.

Clearly, the Republican Party also has lost control of the nominating process; they barely controlled it in 2012.  Relaxed campaign finance laws allowed any clown into the race who could talk a few wealthy people into bankrolling him. Candidates on the Republican side more or less were independent franchises who didn’t need the RNC.

However, it’s also the case that the guy with the biggest fundraising chops, Jeb Bush, couldn’t sell himself to voters. One does wonder if he would have done much better with fewer, and saner, competitors.

With Hillary Clinton, we’ve got the candidate the Democratic Party elite chose over a year ago, and as I’ve said many times already, if she loses in the fall, that’s on her. And on them. She is a monumentally unwise choice. Not only is she unpopular, but as Queen of the Status Quo she is just plain wrong for the public mood. Her only advantage in this election is Trump; she may be wrong for the times; she may be a bad choice; but he’s absolutely appalling.

I hope the lesson the Democrats take from this is that competition is good. In the future, please don’t presume to choose the candidate for us. Give us a slate of candidates, and let us choose.