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Chris Railey

I think it's commendable of you to cut through all the polling and speculation and come to terms with a hard truth that not a lot of Clinton supporters in mourning like to admit: that although she worked her ass off for decades to be in a position to become president, she didn't work nearly hard enough to get those voters in the key Rust Belt states she lost. And Bernie would have. Maybe he would have got enough of them to the polls, maybe not. But he wouldn't have taken those states for granted. You're totally right there.

In the immediate aftermath of the election, it blew my mind to learn exactly how little time Clinton spent shoring up those votes. But I think back to the early primary season and recall how many Clinton supporters (I voted for her in November, by the way) not only pledged their support to her but downright took offense at the notion of anyone else running for the nomination. Entitlement was ingrained in the Clinton campaign long before she ever blew off Wisconsin.

Still, I'm not so sure that Bernie would have won (notwithstanding your mean-spirited closing statement implying that Clinton supporters would have perhaps saved the day for the Bernie supporters you so despise). But it's interesting to imagine that alternate reality in which the invective from Trump and his minions would have been very different, I assume. And that's what the campaign to beat Bernie would have been. This was not an election about issues, after all.

DWhite

I think the influence of right wing talk shows and internet "news" sites cannot be discounted. Not only on traditional broadcast radio, but also on services such as Sirius XM. There is a 24 hour stream of conservative talking points being promulgated that no amount of campaigning could have overcome.

Henry Salvia

There's a lot of things comingled in the ongoing re-litigation of the primary (which is what the "Bernie coulda been a contender" is all about). Many American voters see politics as transformational, you vote for a candadate to "change" things and that's it. Politics is not about attending meetings, going door-to-door, manning phone banks, and all the other boring implementation details, its about voting for somebody who will "make things happen" after they are elected. I think most Americans also have a longstanding distrust and contemptuous view of politicans, from the famous Mark Twain and Will Rodgers quotes to Fred Allen's Senator Claghorn and every politican in an Al Capp comic or Frank Capra movie. Bloviating bureaucrats who are corrupt, incompetent, or both. They're all the same, after all.

I think Bernie could have won. I think Ted Cruz could have won too. But conflating who could have won with who would have won is a fool's game with no end. No one knows who would have won, only who did. I can accept the Monday morning quarterbacking analysis that Hillary didn't "try" hard enough (even though I don't agree) but not one of Bernie woulda mopped the floor with that bum. I think we would have learned a lot more about America from a Bernie vs Trump contest, but we didn't get that. We only learned that a technocratic liberal won't prevail over a populist demagogue in a national vote weighted against densly populated areas that are favored by a technocratic political philosophy (unprecedented electioneering by federal law enforement doesn't hurt, though).

FDChief

I think the problems Sanders would have had that we just can't really quantify are:

1. The "socialist" thing. Because it's been a while since we had a real Red-baiting sort of race I think we tend to gloss over how freaky a hell of a lot of people in this country are over "socialism". They don't know what it is, when you DESCRIBE the goals and tenets of the movement to them they usually like it...but use the ooga-booga word "socialist" and suddenly 8 out of 10 Americans is seeing a bearded anarchist with a smoking bomb crawling out from under the bed. And that goes for the news media corporations; they'd have amplified every GOP talking point about Bernie the Wild-eyed Commie Liberal. And...

2. The "cranky old ranty grampy" thing. Bernie doesn't suffer fools gladly and he doesn't play politics well. He tends to lecture rather than persuade. And, surprisingly, he doesn't do well countering arguments against him; I was surprised how poorly I thought he did in that post-election "town hall" where Trumpkin after Trumpkin got up and spouted off teabag talking points and Bernie didn't or couldn't respond, let alone simply inform them that they were talking bullshit. I think that he'd have gone over poorly where he couldn't stick to his script.

That and, as Chris pointed out, this was pretty-much an issue-free election. I mean, when you think about it (and if all those "economically anxious" Trumpkins had...) Bernie offered all the populism of Trump with 100% less racism, sexism, and xenophobia. If those voters had wanted that...why weren't they knocking down the party walls to feel the Bern in the open primaries, or caucusing with the Democrats?

Selfishly, I wish that the Democrats had run a genuine liberal - because that's really what Sanders is in a lot of ways, an old-school New Deal liberal - but I'm not sure that would have won this.

Libby Spencer

Anything could have happened. Bernie could have won. He could have lost. But I continue to believe that even if he lost, we would have gained a lot of new progressive voters willing to engage in the process over the long term. He partly lost the primary simply because there were so many first timers on his team and they didn't understand how the primaries work. I saw the same thing happen with Robert Reich when he ran for Mass governor. And the same aftermath. New voters who were excited by his candidacy felt cheated and stayed home during the general. Thus we ended with Gov Romney. 2016 was not a normal election.The electorate was tired of political dynasties. They voted for change. Less informed voted for donald because he appeared to offer the best chance of shaking up the status quo and they didn't have enough historical knowledge to see through his lies.
I said from the beginning Hillary's biggest weakness was her last name and the years of GOP black ops against her that became embedded in the public knowledge as accepted truth, no matter how provably false. I'm sorry to have been right about it.

El Jefe

@FDChief,

"Selfishly, I wish that the Democrats had run a genuine liberal -- because that's really what Sanders is in a lot of ways, an old-school New Deal liberal"

This. (You did an excellent job of dissecting Sanders' major flaws, too.) Sanders' platform really wasn't anywhere to the left of the 1976 Democratic Party platform (fun fact, I think it's UC-Santa Cruz that has among other things all of the two major parties' platforms up on their presidential studies website dating from around FDR's time), and probably not quite as left (though leaning that way) as the 1972 one. Which is to say what was once the left-hand side of the American political mainstream. As part of a fundamental realignment of the two main parties (in which the real "third party" of American politics, the authoritarian, reactionary white populists, finally abandoned the Dems) the "New Democrat" phenomenon was really the absorption of money-men and political staffers (and their elected banner carriers) who were, ideologically, on the left end of Rockefeller Republicanism into the Democratic Party as the unions faded and the Southern populists left. To bring Bill into it because from a historical and structural perspective he matters, his politics always more resembled Winthrop Rockefeller's than those of his mentor and dear friend Dale Bumpers (who was one of the real semi-liberal good guys of that generation of New South politicians, like Florida's Reubin Askew and North Carolina's Jim Hunt), and the last of the actual liberal Republicans (those to the left of the Rockefeller crowd on both social and especially foreign policy where Rocky was quite the hawk) like John Chafee and Mark Hatfield were to Bubba's left on a number of issues. It really has been since Mondale (although Dukakis had some tendencies) that we truly nominated a candidate who was "liberal" in the vein of New Deal/Johnsonian American social democracy. (Although despite his vocal critics I believe Obama is a genuine moderate-liberal of the old school and on issues like civil rights, climate change, and over time gun control has stepped up to the plate as much as a visibly insane and nakedly racist Congress would let him.) That's been due in large part to the long term institutional control of the New Dems, who in practice ran the party into the ground structurally (with the exception of when they briefly lost control to Dean and he was able to implement the 50-state strategy just in time for the political window opened by Katrina and the decline and fall of Iraq), rewarded money and loyalty far above competence, and generally hip-checked the party platform to a trimmed-down Rockefeller Republicanism with a lot of Rocky's reliance on public pump-priming and social programs pared down. In many ways Hillary brought that back (in terms of her "liberalism" or no, bringing back the willingness to emphasize some social programs and a public hand in improving Americans' lot) restoring the original version: I could care less about the "Goldwater girl" nonsense, but her time interning with Rocky and John Lindsay really shows through, her politics haven't moved much since then, it's the massive realignment of the two parties that has brought her to land at the epicenter of the modern Democratic establishment. Which is to say there's a lot that Sen./Sec. Clinton has been part of that is part of the long-term story of what's turned out to be a largely failed remaking of the Democrats, one happily interrupted by the relative liberalism and graceful competence of the Obama era, but that in turn of course met by the raging, unchained fury of the Third Party -- pure white-populist id.

For all the reasons FDChief and Lance have listed I don't know that Bernie would have done better than Hillary: I do agree he would have focused more on the places she lost but also that he would've had liabilities elsewhere. He had purpose and narrative, circumscribed by his own flaws and limitations -- he was really the B-team option for someone running from the left at Hillary -- and how close he got, actually, was close enough that the Clinton team should have opened their eyes and been scared to goddamn death that they spent months actually having to run and losing a number of primaries to this guy, not because of the guy himself but because his message sold. There is still a substantial Democratic component, of the old school, to the Democratic Party. And as in 2008, just as when Dems opted for Dukakis and Gore, a fair portion of Hillary's primary support was not so much dedicated to her as determined to pick a "safe" option, someone with a minimum of liabilities (although, in our political and media culture, how anyone thought anyone named Clinton would be treated as though they had few liabilities baffles me) so as not to just up and lose again, as ever learning the wrong lessons from McGovern and Mondale. (There was an excellent problem that summed up McGovern's real problems: Nixon was headfaking the public very well on the war coming to an end which neutered his core message, and McGovern really only won just over a quarter of the primary vote, hardly a popular mandate.) That whole mentality -- choosing the "safe" option, and then taking things for granted like the very rules of the primaries themselves in 2008 which lost her the delegate count and then the "Blue Wall" where too much groupthink among internal pollsters and too many people giving the public too much credit (those "undecided" won't really vote Trump, the third-party vote will die away, we have good enough lawyers to keep a few Republican governors in the Midwest from keeping hundreds of thousands of minority Democrats from voting) cost her in the end.

Alternatives? Not sure Bernie could have done it. I do believe Joe Biden could have, especially if Elizabeth Warren accepted his grand bargain to be Biden's apprentice during a one-term presidency and then run in her own right. Biden's a proud son of Scranton which has always made him Pennsylvania's third senator as well as Delaware's senior one, he is an actual, physical son of the culture that turned on Hillary and narrowly went Trump deciding the election. And running as "Obama's third term" in a much more direct way than Obama's implacable '08 opponent would have done him good with minority voters (much as "Lyndon's man" Hubert Humphrey actually carried Texas in '68 on the strength of that association.) Clinton's own hubris in running, in not seeing the dangers in front of her, and really the Clintons' own frankly adolescent approach to the media's naked, clumsy, stupid, ever-present lust to destroy them -- if you hate us anyway, why should we bother making sure everything we do is meticulous and above any reproach because it's not like "no-drama Obama" was in any way effective -- and not learning from '08 that her team's consistent tendency to both overestimate its situation and overthink its choices to the point of making her look like, well, an insincere politician because they've wargamed every syllable of every statement -- all that contributed too. As did the party establishment she and her husband built who have been such a structural failure for the party (again, the Dems' greatest successes of the last twenty-five years -- the '06 and '08 cycles with Dean helming the DNC, and Obama coming out of the Iowa weeds to dominate '08 and retrieve '12 with his particular, personal gifts -- where interruptions in the story of that establishment, not examples of it.)

Who would have won it? The woman who, like many people throughout history, made the most reasonable and forward-looking decision that was also entirely wrong: Liz Warren. Faced with the massed money and power of a party structure scrambling to line up behind Clinton, and with the only big chink in the armor of her extraordinary merits -- her belief that, since she's basically senator-for-life given her home state, she could somehow stick around until that deeply broken institution finally rights itself and be in a position to run it by then -- she likely bought an unspoken agreement that Clinton would back her play in the Senate -- the Senate? Really? One of our most broken federal institutions since at least the Nineties? That was somehow going to turn around and work again in the next few cycles? -- in return for quiet and then support for the presidency. And it was the worst thing possible. She, like Obama, brings very particular, very rare gifts to her political life, and the lack of a political resume as long as Clinton's hurts her no more than it did him: while Obama came from political obscurity to the center of power very suddenly, she came to her natural métier late in life, but both of them have qualities that simply cannot be matched by ninety-nine percent of the people, and that's the people *in* the business, you could put them in a room with. Her Twitter account alone was the most effective anti-Trump campaign anyone in either party launched last year. She would have brought the A-game of Bernie's ideological take. She would have neutralized Clinton's claim that "it's time for a woman" (and it is) necessarily meant it was time for Hillary. She would have lived in the places the Clinton campaign overlooked. And she would probably be ordering her furniture for the White House right now, ready to beat Obama like a drum at the game of being the most liberal Democratic president since Johnson, and tougher than nails. But she didn't. She didn't want to overreach. She has a touching faith in making the senior house of Congress work that is utterly misplaced. And she missed the chance to not only lead but realign the whole party (of course she would have scared the Manchins and the Schumers to death for their different reasons but there you go) for years to come. But she may yet have that thrust upon her so we will see. God knows somebody needs to keep that snake Cuomo (how many RPMs is Mario doing in his grave? Got to be redlining the tach by now) from keeping the zombie New Democrats alive. Wish it had been Zephyr Teachout too, her loss was one of the ones that hit me the hardest. But, hey, if it comes to it we out here on the West Coast can negotiate our way into becoming Pacifica anyway (the notional CA/OR/WA nation-state, possibly absorbing the urban counties of western Nevada) and we'll have ultra-liberal immigration policies :)

Chris the cop

In an election that featured so many unbelievable events and just plain weirdness ending with Donald Trump winning the Presidency, Bernie Sanders certainly could have won against any Republican candidate. And unlike Hillary and Trump, Bernie was ethically fit to be President of the United States. I just think he would have been the worst of the three. (My other problem with Hillary, Trump and Bernie is that they're all too old. Just look at President Obama if you want to see how the Office can age you.) If Bernie had been successful in what he wanted to accomplish with spending, health care and taxes he would have fundamentally weakened the foundation of the national economy and I think he would have made an even bigger mess of foreign policy than President Obama did for the same reasons - flawed world view and sheer ineptitude.

I voted for Bernie in the primary and for Hillary - more or less - in the general. I think Trump won because of the vagaries of the electoral college (I’ll be the first to admit that losing the popular vote by three million at least partly delegitimizes it) and because he was able to inspire - not to only pander to fears - but flat out inspire millions; that Bernie might have won because he did the same and that Hillary never did or could. (Hillary’s ‘deplorables’ comments - just like Romney’s ‘47%’ didn’t help) What scares me most about Trump is that unlike any President-elect I can think of, you really don't know on so many levels what the state of the country is going to be 4 years from now with him at the helm.

I do not “sincerely like and admire Hillary” and I certainly have no use for Trump. And my most salient memory of the 2016 general election cycle is just how appalling the major party candidates were, the worst in my lifetime.

Lance Mannion

Chris the Cop, seems I need to keep reminding you, your lifetime includes Richard Nixon getting elected President twice!

And your equating HRC and Trump requires the kind of moral leveling that makes me glad that when my time comes you won't be helping separate the sheep from the goats.

Chris the cop

Speaking of reminders, Nixon as a candidate was so awful that the Democrat's choice in 1972 was able to sweep...Massachusetts. And setting aside the criminality that caused him to resign, as a candidate in the weeks and months leading up the elections, he was never under active investigation by the FBI nor was he being investigated civilly by a federal judge and state attorney general for perpetrating a multi million dollar fraud.

Now I am very confident that push comes to shove I can tell sheep from goats, but your unwillingness to consider just how poor a candidate Hillary was (an opinion shared by nearly two thirds of the general public per an Oct., 2016 Washington Post poll) strikes me as typical (not to say sheep-like) of so many on the left.

Lance Mannion

Chris the cop, don't know how much of a typical leftist sheep I am, but I suspect you of trying to get my goat. You're pulling a bait and switch. We're not evaluating political skills. You wouldn't hate Hillary if all that you thought was wrong with her was she can't give a rousing stump speech. Nixon was a terrific politician, McGovern was awful. But Nixon was a monster, and McGoven was a good man. And as far as awful politicians go. Dukakis and the first Bush were pretty bad. Neither one though was the bastard that Trump is.

Lance Mannion

Also, C the C, this whole post is about me considering how she wasn't a good candidate in the sense of being the best at politicking and selling herself on the campaign trail.

Lance Mannion

El Jefe, Me, back in June:

I like a lot of Bernie’s politics. Of course I do. It’s the kind of liberal politics I learned at the knee of that great old-style Democrat Pop Mannion. That’s why Bernie’s never stuck me as particularly new-style. As far as I’ve ever been able to tell, he’s a throwback. Much of his “socialist” rhetoric was old-hat when he came of age politically in the 1960s. As far as what he’s actually stood for, he’s not much to the left of Walter Mondale, Ted Kennedy, George McGovern, Hubert Humphrey, Eugene McCarthy, or, for that matter, Lyndon Johnson. I’m not criticizing. That he’s in their company is high praise and I’m glad he’s there helping to renew the spirit of their old-style politics.
Net Denizen

I realize I'm a little late to this party (pun intended) but I wanted to say I agree that Bernie probably *would* have fought harder to win than Hillary did. I made the case to some co-workers and my wife how Hillary never really won a campaign before*, and she would have issues with the presidency, but it was probably good she was up against an inept amateur like trump. In hindsight, I should have known that there is a substantial portion of the populace who will vote for the R no matter how terrible, offensive, and terribly offensive they happen to be as long as that R is on the ticket.

* When I say "never won a campaign", I mean she pretty much cake-walked her way to elected office. This does not bode well for someone looking to "climb the ladder" of political office and work their way up to president. John Kerry, for all his weaknesses as a presidential nominee, at least had the political battle scars of campaigning for office and winning and the experience to know how to handle himself in front of the public. If we could all have predicted that the nominee this time around wouldn't even bother showing up to the states they needed to win, I think that might have changed more than a few minds during the primaries. At least, I would hope so.

It's also worth considering that the D's put up literally the most hated person on the planet for all those R voters, going back 25 years now. It is incredibly difficult to overcome a 25 year irrational hatred, and it looks to me like nobody tried to counter this narrative other than to point out how totally awesome having a woman president would be. Not exactly a winning combination, both literally and figuratively.

Chris the cop

Hillary's political skills are fine - she wasn't a good candidate because she isn't fit for the job (ethically) - just like Trump isn't only not quite as awful. You're not a sheep - my bad.

FDChief

Actually, Chris, Trump is an order of magnitude more awful. Ignorant, spiteful, crass, mean, greedy, and foolish; he's like a sort of walking "Seven Deadly Sins Plus Derp". His staff selections have been a combination of ill-informed greedy plutocrats with a side-eye for more loot (like DeVos) and radical reactionary nutjobs like Carson and Flynn.

But His Fraudulency is, personally, perhaps the worst specimen of a human being we've seen as Chief Executive since Nixon, and in terms of his nepotistic and corrupt worldview perhaps worse than anything since the Gilded Age. Harding, at the latest.

Combine him with the Forward to 1889! Congressional GOP and We the People are looking at a resurgence of the sort of society, economics, and politics we haven't seen since 1932. The regression of the Democratic Party from its New Deal roots has been saddening. The dissolution of the Republican Party into something that Jay Gould and John D. Rockefeller would have recognized and applauded (Yes, yes, the public be damned! old Rocky would be crowing with glee...) is a true tragedy, and I grew up Republican in the Sixties...

And what worries me is that neither Trump (too ignorant) nor people like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell (too ideologically rigid) have any idea what they're doing. The United States of 1899 was an almost Trumpian hellscape of social strife, labor-versus-capital hatred, economic misery for the many (that typically resulted in some pretty ugly class warfare) and ostentatious wealth for the few. It's not really surprising that the totalitarian movements of the early 20th Century (communism and fascism) emerged from the Gilded Age. Hell, if I'd have been some miserable mill hand living in a shitty company town getting my overpriced food at the company store knowing that my labor was earning Andy Carnegie another velvet-upholstered armchair I'd have happily seen him and his family decorating lampposts, too.

But that's where they want to go; the Homestead Strike with a side of Flaming Cuyohoga River...just so the Walton Family is freed from the tyranny of having to pay an estate tax.

And His Fraudulency is the ride they're counting on.

I'd call that Pretty Damn Awful.

Net Denizen

FDChief -- Yeah, but ...Hillary had a private email server, so.... aren't they flip sides of the same coin? [/sarcasm]

El Jefe

@FDChief,

Nicely put.

El Jefe

@FDChief again,

And, somewhere Earl Warren, William Scranton, Mac Mathias, and Charles Percy are weeping quietly as they spin in their graves at speeds no ordinary transmission can handle.

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