RIP DWS. DNC? GFY.

 

“How many times have I failed at this job?” 

 

Well, it took catastrophic stupidity to finally end the DNC tenure of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, but since that’s what it clearly took to appoint her, and to keep her in after 2014, I suppose that’s fitting.  A few quick thoughts.

  • The main take from the emails– that the DNC was pulling for and maneuvering in favor of Hillary– is not surprising. Not surprising in the sense that we already knew this, but also not surprising in tone. Political people think like political people and talk like them. There wasn’t going to be any neutrality. Remember this when you see people talking about the rigged Democratic leadership who were wondering when the Republican leadership was going to step up to stop Trump. It’s always ok when Republicans do it.
  • That said, this is terrible. It’s another example of DWS’s disastrous “leadership”, in which we managed to lose the Senate, virtually every possible statehouse, and fall backward in the House. It’s like she saw Rahm ignoring the successful lessons of Howard Dean, and saying “I think we should do more of this.” The organization followed. Were in not for the once-in-the-lifetime skills of Barack Obama, and the energy of the resurgent left giving new life to the party, it would be total disarray.
  • I’m not worried about this electorally. Bernie will still be speaking tonight, calling for unity. There will be protests, and a lot of #neverhillary people yelping on TV, but these people weren’t going to vote for her anyway. This is cover, not a reason.
  • That they are right– the system was set up against Bernie– should, in theory, give them even more resolve to push the party to the left. Look at what they accomplished with (admittedly incompetent) enemies. And now DWS is gone! This is a great chance to keep pushing one of the only two viable parties more toward their goals. I know that’s what I am hoping for: an actually progressive in the DNC chairperson role. Why not bring back Howard Dean under whom we were, remember, wildly successful. In the short, medium, and long run, this idiocy could be hepful. (It’s Donna Brazille, at least through the election, which is fine.)
  • A lot depends on the speech tonight, and how well the convention goes. The press would love to have a “both parties in turmoil” story, based on the equivalence of jumped-up fundraisers and college interns at the DNC acting like their venal boss and the rise of American fascism. It’s going to take a hell of a convention to turn that tide. If so, and the story is “a week that started in disarray ended with great unity”, that’ll be a rising tide. I think having Bernie and Michelle and Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden and Barack Obama speak makes it a decent bet.
  • Really, the big story is the Russian connection. It looks more and more likely that they were officially behind the hack, in whatever way the Russian intelligence services work. Trump and Putin are clearly sympatico, though I don’t think Putin sees it as a gathering of equals. Trump does a lot of business in Russia, and needs Russian money, since American banks don’t trust him. His top advisors are intimately intertwined with Russia, and its goals of using energy to dominate their regional rivals. They are vested in the dissoltuion or Europe, the weakening of NATO, and an isolationist agenda. And hey, those are all Trump stances! This could get really interesting…
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Bernie Staying In; Hillary’s Savvy, Billionaire Fight, and More Political Quick Hits

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  • There is a trace amount of frustration, and even panic, in Bernie Sanders not taking the time yesterday to drop out and endorse Hillary. But that’s fine. He did the right thing. In not dropping out, he can continue to grow his left coalition, and keep pressure on for the Fight for $15, other labor issues, and everything else related to inequality. He pledged to make sure Trump doesn’t win, which precludes a lengthy run. And by telling his supporters that he knows “we must continue our grassroots efforts to create the America that we know we can become.” This is smart- building on the local and state levels, continuing with that energy, working to make a more progressive platform, and eventually reconciling differences with Clinton that turn into an endorsement. You can see the “We had serious differences, but over the last few months we have made our voice heard, and I can state that I unequivocally vote for Hillary Clinton, etc”.  This makes it seem- correctly!- like Bernie and his supporters will have a big influence. There will be a very small “sellout!” crowd, but those will mostly be people who were attracted to politics as a form of self-expression, a way to show that they were the real rebels, and whom identity as leftier-than-thou was more important than then actual election.
  • Speaking of that, unless something comes out that Bernie backstabbed Hillary, kudos to her for recognizing the passion of the Sanders campaign, and making sure that they can be eased off the hook. If Bernie’s speech was the result of an agreement at their meeting, she played this very well. It’s hard for a politician who has won to not spike the football a bit, but not only is she being gracious, she’s letting Bernie go out on roughly his own terms. This is really smart politics, and speaks very highly of her character.
  • Billionaire fight! Billionaire fight! Writing in The Financial Times, (behind paywall, Re/Code recap here) big-time VC Michael Moritz tears Trump apart for his phony business schemes, his fake narrative, and how he “seems little more than a hustler who takes from the rich (lenders he has short-changed, partners he has sued) and also takes from the poor (hapless students of Trump University, tenants whom he has allegedly bullied).” He praises the same immigrants who Trump has denigrated for being the real winners, people who came with nothing and made something of themselves, like Andy Grove or Jerry Yang. He also picks a side in the Trump/Bezos spat, in which Trump has revoked the WaPo’s access and threatened to use the power of the IRS and other government agencies to go after Bezos. It’s a tribute to Trump’s utter loathsomeness that you instinctively side with Bezos, instead of the normal reaction, which is “fuck Jeff Bezos”.
  • Speaking of jerks, hey guys, John McCain is running for office this year! It means that any reasonableness he might have is completely launched out the window and he once again reveals himself to be the grasping, desperate, unprincipled and self-righteous huckster he is. He can’t side tooooo close to Trump on most issues, because Hispanics do exist in Arizona, but he certainly doesn’t want to get tooooo far away either, because white racists make up his base, so what to do? Oh yeah- ISIS is Obama’s fault for not keeping and indefinite amount of American troops in Iraq indefinitely. This makes him directly responsible for Orlando, which was a devious ISIS plot. That’s the way to show steady leadership, John!  You can deconstruct a lot of right-wing lunacy, and the weird moonscape of their mentality, just from this. Maybe it deserves its own post.

The Times Finds The Worst

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This is the movie where this blog’s name sort of came from! Isn’t that neat? Image from giphy.com

There might not be a lower form of political allegiance than basing your positions against a candidate’s worst supporters. Every candidate has some dumbass people voting for them; it is statistically inevitable. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t disquieting when fellow supporters say really dumb things to the NYTimes. I’m going to caveat that they are young(ish), and the heat of a primary battle makes monsters of us, all, but come on…

(Names withheld- they are in the Times, but it is not my job to call them out further)

(blank) a 26-year-old filmmaker from Glendale, Calif., was not interested in milestones. He said he thought Mrs. Clinton was a crook. “She could be indicted literally tomorrow if the system is not corrupt,” he said…

(blank) an actress living in Los Angeles, assailed Mrs. Clinton for having proclaimed victory before the Democratic Party had formally bestowed it on her at the convention.

“I think it’s absolutely unjust, undemocratic, un-American,” she said. “What kind of example is that setting?”

The first one could easily come from a Trump rally, and I am pretty sure if pushed, the speaker would give no more a coherent answer to the question of “for what” than did Trump (“for the servers!”). The second makes one think she started paying attention to politics approximately yesterday.

And all that’s fine. It is what happens when an exciting candidate comes to the forefront. New people get involved, and that’s great. And again, passions run high. But some of this has to come from the top. Sanders didn’t come close to congratulating Clinton yesterday. He doesn’t have to concede, though he should accede to reality. This isn’t a matter of playing the room. The crowd wouldn’t have booed him if he started to say nice things about Clinton.

I still think he will. I think he’ll take a few days, talk to Obama, and then begin to come around. As many have pointed out, this is the 8-year anniversary of when Hillary conceded eight long years ago, and she became a dynamite surrogate. I don’t expect the same level of commitment from Sanders, who has no real party loyalty, but I think he’s canny enough to know that it is time to roll it up.Maybe one last big, tearful, joyful speech in DC next week. Maybe the Times will find people who are more elegiac next time.

What If They Threw A Contested Convention And No One Came?

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A legitimate thank you for moving the Democratic Party to the left.

One of the stranger political locutions of the last few weeks- outside of every top Republican being shocked that a white nationalist candidate would appeal to naked racism- has been Bernie Sanders saying that he believes “the Democratic Convention will be a contested convention.”  There was a strange passivity there, implying a lack of control. It wasn’t that he was choosing it to be contested in the face of math, reason, and democratic imperative- it just, sort of, was. Life, you know? What are ya gonna do?

That willingness to fight on despite having lost, and despite needing to do a 180 on superdelegates, was laid bare in a Politico article late last night, which demonstrated that it was Bernie Sanders in control of every decision the campaign made, including spending. This was a different narrative, pushed by erstwhile supporters and foes alike, that most of the annoying attacks and counterproductive strategies went through Jeff Weaver, whose pugnacity made him something of a centrist and center-left punching bag, Bernie’s own Mark Penn, except competent and resourceful and more likeable and able to do good for his candidate and understanding how campaigns work and not being unable to find his ass in a phone booth with two hands and a map. So not at all like Mark Penn, except in terms of being a target of loathing.

And, assuming that this article is true, and not just the ass-coverings of sunken ship survivors who realized that they might be playing with fire, and their careers, this doesn’t speak as ill of Bernie as I think people are making it out to. Yes, there is the usual bitterness that comes with a hard-fought campaign, where you focus every day on one person who is keeping you from getting what you want. That’s human nature, and that’s politics.

Some of the bitterness is disquieting for Dems, but also normal human nature, such as his anger at Sherrod Brown.

Aides say Sanders thinks that progressives who picked Clinton are cynical, power-chasing chickens — like Sen. Sherrod Brown, one of his most consistent allies in the Senate before endorsing Clinton and campaigning hard for her ahead of the Ohio primary. Sanders is so bitter about it that he’d be ready to nix Brown as an acceptable VP choice, if Clinton ever asked his advice on who’d be a good progressive champion.

In some ways, that doesn’t seem to bode well- it makes Bernie look like the self-appointed progressive messiah, who positions himself as the only acceptable candidate for the Left, and anyone who doesn’t believe so is an apostate. But really, that’s just politics. Everyone gets pissed when they don’t get an endorsement, especially one they are expecting. This should be fine. But…

But the good and the ill of the Sanders campaign was laid bare in what was, for Politico (as always, obsessed with process) a transition paragraph.

This isn’t about what’s good for the Democratic Party in his mind, but about what he thinks is good for advancing the agenda that he’s been pushing since before he got elected mayor of Burlington.

This campaign started out as an agenda one. It was a campaign that Bernie thought he could win, of course. No one runs for President without thinking that, with a few breaks, they might win (and don’t forget how successful a politician Bernie Sanders has been). He’s pushed a radically (for our post-Reagan times) progressive agenda, and has been able to move the party to the left.

That’s where the bad part comes in. In running a revolution, and not a campaign, Bernie and his most ardent supporters have convinced themselves that the Democratic Party is the obstacles to progressive change, and not, for all its ills the major vehicle for it. Politics work in this country because activists push creaking parties in one direction of the other, and sustain that movement. Sometimes you catch lightning in a bottle, like with President Obama, and sometimes you push party elders toward your positions, like with Hillary Clinton. But this is a good thing. It isn’t a loss.

It’s only a loss, weirdly, if they refuse to treat it like one, and continue to fight at and until the convention. (He’s staying in, for now, but that’s fine.Somehow I don’t think Washington DC is going to give him a boost.)This isn’t contested in any real sense, unless Bernie wants to make it such. But I think that’s what Obama will be telling him when they talk on Thursday, as is being reported. I imagine that it there will be a few major talking points.

  1. Don’t tell your supporters this was stolen. For one thing, that’s super insulting to the millions of people who voted for Hillary. They don’t represent the 1%. If your supporters think this was stolen, it’ll be harder to sustain the momentum you built. Have them keep driving the party. That’s how this works.
  2. Oh yeah- don’t tell them that it was stolen because she’s running against Donald Trump. As my friend BMK said, the conversation should involve the phrase “Donald Trump appearing in the first paragraph of your obituary”.
  3. You did a great and good and amazing thing. This is one of the most positive and remarkable campaigns in American history, and you will continue to play a huge role in advancing your agenda. But there is really only one viable high-level political path for that, and that’s the Democratic Party. We can work together on this. Make up with Sherrod Brown. Get over it. Get back to work.

The Politico article showed what a canny and involved politician Bernie Sanders is, to his great credit. And the race showed that a single-minded focus on the evils of inequality can have a remarkable impact. I don’t think Bernie is going to burn it to the ground. The question is whether or not he continues to push for positive progressive growth, or retreats into bitterness.

Trump and Hillary Poll Numbers: The Bernie Argument

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If Bernie won, you’d be seeing this guy on a lot more GOP ads.

One more political quick hit, and that’s it, I promise.

It’s true that, for the moment, Bernie matches up more favorably against Trump, and has a much higher personal approval rating than does Hillary. I don’t think that would ever change. He genuinely seems likable (though that might be changing a bit), and Hillary has always had problems, partly due to her, largely due to other factors (such as lies, innuendo, and an idiot press). I can’t imagine a scenario where Bernie is less liked than Hillary Clinton.

That said, these numbers, which Sanders supporters use to say he should be the nominee (as opposed to millions of actual voters), don’t take one thing into account: namely, the right wing media has, since Clinton became inevitable, praised Bernie at her expense, and stopped criticizing him. If Sanders was actually winning, and had a shot, you’d hear the word “socialism” 400 times a day. They’d be conflating it with Communism, and calling him “comrade”, and talking about how “it isn’t a coincidence that his rise comes on the 50th anniversary of the Cultural Revolution, and is that what we really want?”, and I promise that you wouldn’t be able to drive through three consecutive counties in this great nation of ours without seeing his face and Stalin’s on the same billboard. If you can’t picture Trump going around saying “Listen, ok, no one knows history better than Trump, and communism was really bad, ok?” then you have a tragic lack of political imagination.

Socialism, thankfully, isn’t as much a poison word for people who grew up after the Cold War. But it still has an emotional sway with millions and millions of people, and if Sanders was the nominee, that’s all you’d be hearing. I don’t know if that would sink him, since he’d also get more airtime to explain himself, and why socialism is not un-American, but a genuine part, the best part, of our economic and cultural heritage. But it’s disingenuous to suggest that polling numbers would be the same if he was closer to the nomination, and the target of the same kind of smear campaign Hillary has been under for 30 years.

Bernie and The California Debate: A Political Quick Quiz

  1. When Fox News wants to help you out, you are doing something
    1. Right?
    2. Wrong?

It’s probably not a stretch to say that the gracious offer of Fox to host a debate before the Democratic primary is not a 100% good-faith gesture.  Turning it down is a very normal part of politics for Hillary Clinton. She has an insurmountable lead, an attempt to flip the superdelgates is antidemocratic. It moves past populism to personality-politics, which is where the facile and ridiculous “Trump and Bernie” comparisons start to make a sliver of sense, very uncomfortably.

What does Bernie expect out of a Fox News debate? A reasoned argument about the policy differences between them? Or an opportunity to savage Hillary Clinton in front of a large audience, and to play into the Fox/GOP narrative of Hillary being untrustworthy and unlikable, dredging up past “scandals”, and thus, doing Trump’s homework for him? If he expects the former, he’s being naive. My fear, and deep regret, is that he isn’t being naive at all.

Sanders and the Kentucky Recount

(Note: I really wanted to do some kind of “Sanders” and “Kentucky Fried Recount” joke, but it’s one of those things that sounds like a joke, but it really isn’t, under any scrutiny. It’s just a collection of words that trigger the referential part of your brain. Scientifically, it’s the Family Guy Correlation.)

As The Guardian reports this morning, the Sanders campaign is “mulling” over calling for a recount in the Kentucky primary, an extremely close race. This is, simply put, narcissistic madness.

There is really no good outcome from this. Even if Sanders doesn’t demand a recount, even mulling one over makes the whole thing seem suspect, like the Hillary team and the crooked Democratic Party are trying to steal things, trying to put one over on Sanders and his supporters, the only ones who have a true passion. Everyone else is a hunchbacked pack of Ralph Steadman caricatures, lurching grotesquely hand-in-hand with blood-soaked billionaires, trying to erase the specter of real democracy.

In short, it’s getting ugly. The narrative that Sanders is now pushing- we’re the real voice of the people, despite being outvoted by the millions- has some validity, but not much. His wins are narrow, not just in delegates, but in total votes. And that’s fine: he’s doing amazingly well, and shouldn’t even still be here. But he has triggered something real and genuine, and something important. It’s why I voted for him. He’s highlighting the ur-issues of American politics, the role of money in distorting any electoral equity.

But this narrative comes with inherent dangers, mostly that anyone standing in the way is a counter-revolutionary. Anything that is messy about voting (and much of the system is bizarre and counterproductive) isn’t seen as a glitch to be fixed, but an enemy to be overcome. An enemy put in place to stop the Voice of the People, the popular tribune, the one man that can save us all. And the number one enemy is Hillary Clinton.

That’s why calling for a recount is dangerous. It doesn’t make sense electorally, as virtually no delegates will shift. But it highlights the dangerous game Sanders is playing. He’s trying to negate the votes of millions of people (largely older and minority) that genuinely want Hillary Clinton to be the nominee, by claiming that the real voters want him to be President. He wants to demonstrate that something is being stolen from him, and his most eager supporters are all too willing to believe it.

That isn’t right, and for such a populist campaign, it is weirdly tyrannical. The nomination is mine, because more people cry at my rallies. Their voters don’t count. Only mine do. Sanders should by all means continue his campaign, and keep pushing for genuine progressive policies. But it is possible to do so in a twilight, accepting that he isn’t being robbed, but that the voters of the Democratic Party chose Hillary Clinton. That’s what happens in elections.

As ugly as 2008 was, Hillary moved toward unity. I believe that Bernie can do so, and that he has to in the face of Trump. But this coalescing idea that if Hillary wins it is because she is a thieving harpy will make it harder to win. Remember, this isn’t about the lesser of two evils. It’s about the greater evil being a genuinely epochal disaster, a country-defining tragedy. Fighting the good fight doesn’t mean imagining yourself Spartacus, and demanding a revolt.