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Sep 13

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Hillary Clinton vs Bernie Sanders? Really?!

Hillary ClintonI’ve really been trying to avoid this whole battle between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Well, I say battle. It’s actually just Clinton’s battle. Sanders isn’t taking part of it. But hey: she lost. I understand how that must be hard and how she would want to write an apologia. What I don’t understand is why she thinks it makes any sense to attack Sanders. But given what I’ve heard from Clinton supporters, I’m not surprised by it.

This morning, Clinton was on The View and she said something that made me angry. She said that after she lost the primary in 2008, she endorsed Obama and worked hard for him. “But I didn’t get that respect from [Sanders] and his supporters.”

Well, the fact that she had to work so hard to get her supporters to vote for Obama shows that Obama didn’t get that respect from her supporters either. But here’s the thing: I was paying close attention to the 2016 primary. And after Sanders lost, I remember him giving Clinton a lot of support. And in the end, as many Sanders supporters voted for Clinton as Clinton supporters voted for Obama.

Hillary Clinton Is Confused

Bernie SandersI think that Clinton is confused. You see: Clinton and her supporters wanted Sanders to drop out of the race is February. It was back in April of 2016 that the Clinton camp was so upset that Sanders wasn’t supporting her. Was Clinton supporting Obama in April of 2008? Of course not!

Now, it’s true that the Obama-Clinton race was much closer than the Clinton-Sanders race. I called the race in February 2016. But I don’t blame Sanders for not seeing it the same way. My position was largely based on the fact that the Democratic establishment was determined to have Clinton as their nominee, and nothing other than a clear win by Sanders would change that.

Sanders Was a Good Surrogate

Once Sanders lost the primary, he was quite a good surrogate for her. And I find it petty that Hillary Clinton is now going around complaining that Sanders wasn’t a good enough surrogate for her. What incentive do future primary losers have to play ball when they get such treatment.

But it looks like this treatment happened long before now. As Slate reported, “Bernie Sanders surrogates who extended an olive branch to Hillary Clinton’s staff after the primary and were met with, at best, closed ears and, at worst, mockery.”

My biggest concern about Bernie Sanders winning the primary was always that the Democratic Party establishment would be more interested in tanking his campaign than in winning the election. You can look at George McGovern in this country or Jeremy Corbyn in the UK. In the petty world of politics, the only things worse than your stated enemy are the people in your own party who don’t quite agree with you. Let’s call it the People’s Front of Judea theory of politics: the Republicans may be awful, but not as awful as people who disagree with you about how to provide universal healthcare.

The “Bernie Isn’t a Democrat” Canard

In addition to Bernie Sanders supposedly not supporting Hillary Clinton during the general election, I was treated to one of my most hated complaints: Bernie Sanders isn’t even a Democrat. Look: I wish Sanders would just join the Democratic Party. I’m not keen on this purity nonsense. The truth is that he is a Democrat in every way that matters.

I’m a Democrat. And I’m actually a lot further from the party ideologically than Sanders is. Sanders is a Democrat in the FDR sense of the word. I’m not. But in the US, we have a two party system. Neither Sanders nor I are Republicans; so we are Democrats.

But this idea that Sanders — who is hugely popular among Democrats — isn’t a real Democratic and so shouldn’t be taken seriously is just nonsense.

Are We a Party or Not?

I voted proudly for Bernie Sanders in the primary. And I voted proudly for Hillary Clinton in the general election. But Clinton is really disappointing me with her book tour. The truth is that the future of the Democratic Party is with Sanders, not Clinton. But she’s smart. And she should see that that part of the reason she lost the election was that everyone could see that she was working too hard to thread the needle.

One reason I was proud to vote for Hillary Clinton was that I knew she was real liberal. She was the person in the Bill Clinton White House who was constantly causing problems. If she had run as that authentic liberal, she might be president now. Regardless, that was a bigger problem than that Bernie Sanders didn’t support her enough in the general election.

Hillary Clinton Is Harming Her Image

Complaining about Bernie Sanders just makes her look small. And for those Democrats who can’t see that Democratic voters like Sanders and can’t see why, they’re lost. They need to spend some time thinking about that. Because the problem is not with the majority of Democratic voters who like Sanders. It is with you.

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13 comments

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  1. Elizabeth

    Last week I would have been pretty mad about this but after I wrote out my feelings about Sanders, I don’t care. Clinton has something of a right to be annoyed about how Sanders acted after he lost. After all, he was attacking her long after it was time for him to stop because he lost. Yet it was unrealistic to expect he would ever be as gracious as she was in 2008. That kind of behavior is abnormal for any politician and he was hurting since he went from no where to world wide fame in less than six months to having what was expected to happen happen. That is really hard to process. It really does hurt to lose even when you originally have no expectation of winning. If anyone knows that, I would.

    But what really puzzles me is how you are saying Sanders can’t be criticized, especially on things you know little to nothing about. Half the time when I start complaining about something with Sanders you say you haven’t heard anything about it. Or when you do know, you hand waved anything criticism I have of him regardless of merit away as if he or more likely, since my problem is with his supporters online, they can do no wrong.

    Have you read the book? Or is this based on a few interviews and the published excerpts? Because the book itself isn’t 400 pages of Bernie bashing.

    Finally: This book is not having a negative impact on the Party. Having been to Democratic meetings unlike all of the people sniping on Twitter and even you (since you haven’t reported what is going on with the Santa Rosa county Dems or the legislative district you live in’s local Dem meeting), most of the time people are looking for volunteer opportunities and trainings for 2018. This book is no more going to open the rift then Sanders’ new book will.

    If anything it is a farewell tour to someone a lot of people look up to and care about who after this, we won’t get to see any more. Sanders is still in the Senate-you get to see and hear from him frequently. Clinton won’t be in the public view-it is going to hurt to not see her as often as we were hoping to. You are so angry she isn’t being nice to Sanders you are ignoring that this is what this is. A goodbye. A letting go. And it hurts. Is our pain invalid simply because you like Bernie Sanders more than we do?

    1. James Fillmore

      I just re-read Thompson’s book on the 1972 campaign, and in it he states that the raw thrill of running for office is not something an outsider can ever understand. Thompson ran for county sheriff, and yet he was still able to get McGovern to open up and be honest about things in the presidential campaign that made him angry. (Of course, that might also have to do with Thompson’s large, aggressive presence; he was like a bar bouncer in that respect. I wouldn’t lie to him! But it’s telling that McGovern consented to an interview in the first place.)

      You are correct in that Sanders did not immediately jump on “support the nominee” once his loss was assured. Clinton was faster to do so in 2008. However, the Sanders campaign was far less personally insulting to Clinton than Clinton’s was to Obama. They were pretty horrid to Obama. The most memorable moment of Sanders & Clinton’s debates was when he said “I’m sick and tired of hearing about these damn e-mails.” He stuck to policy disputes, which is how democracy is supposed to work.

      Never having run for office, I’m hesitant to criticize either of them for being angry with opponents once they lost. McGovern was truly pissed off at Eagleton after 72, although I think in fairness that was a failure by him and his staff. Clinton wants to blame her left-wing critics in the party; Sanders wants to blame the Democratic nomination process. I think if you have a goal in mind and just miss it, it’s natural to lash out at others.

      My personal feeling is that the FBI director screwed this all up, but if I’d place one fault with Clinton it would be where she didn’t call out Trump for being a stalker bully in the second debate. For someone who ran as a hyper-competent college professor and somewhat feminist icon, that was when she should have told him to knock it off like the unruly brat he is. She didn’t, and that helped Trump maintain his phony persona of the “tough guy.”

      From the little I know about you, I doubt you would have stood silent for that!

      1. Frank Moraes

        I’d have to research it, and I don’t have the time to do it right now. (I’m helping my father who is having a medical issue, which looks like will be relatively minor.) But my memory is that he continued to fight for the nomination for as long as he had a chance. As soon as he had no chance to win, he dropped out and endorsed Clinton. At most, we are talking about a week or two. In 2008, Clinton pushed a long time because she was much closer to Obama. It is always the case that the person who is winning thinks that the other candidates should drop out right away because they are certain that they are winning. What we are talking about are small periods of time. And they are never a matter of winning or losing in the general.

        Those who win who think less about how they are hurting their chances of winning and how much they are hurting the party by not letting the party process work. In both 2008 and 2016, roughly half of the people supported the losing candidates. They deserve to be heard. If Hillary Clinton had had her way in 2016, I wouldn’t have been able to vote for the candidate I wanted. And in 2008 loads of California Clinton supporters wouldn’t have been able to vote for her if Clinton had dropped out before the California primary. That’s not right.

        Remember: as many Sanders supporters voted for Clinton in the 2016 general as Clinton supporters voted for Obama in the 2008 general. It doesn’t look like dropping out early helps the front runner.

      2. Elizabeth

        James, my podcast has a contest going on if you want a copy of the book. Email me if you want to partake.

        1. James Fillmore

          Ha — I’m no good at contests, and my library has the book. Which I will get to eventually. It sounds interesting. I’m just not reading much since I fell into some personal problems, I hope to get back to reading more soon.

          Cool idea for a podcast though, having contests! That encourages listeners to interact with the creators. Hope you keep enjoying the production process.

    2. Frank Moraes

      That’s not right. I complain about something that I have actual expedience with. And what I get back are focused tested talking points from the Hillary Clinton campaign. I criticized Sanders myself. I think his not joining the Democratic Party is wrong. And it does no good job in pushing his (and my) policy preferences. What’s more, I think continuing to fight for single-payer is a mistake. I think it is time to move on to income inequality. That’s the big issue that we are dealing with.

      But my point in this article is that attacking Bernie Sanders is a mistake in a party that is more positive towards him than I am. The Democratic Party is changing. It is no longer 1992. It’s sad. The Democratic Party has moved to the left. Hillary Clinton has moved to the right. Yet I think she actually wants to move to the left. I think she’s far more liberal than she appears to be.

      Now that she’s lost the presidential election, she’s in the position to embrace who she really is. She’s no neo-liberal She’s a New Deal Democrat. And I think she and Bernie could be a powerful force to move the Democrats in the right direction. That’s assuming that Bernie will stop this nonsense about being an independent. But barring that, the worst thing that can be done is for Bernie and Hillary fighting with themselves. Working together, they can rebuild the Democratic Party. That’s what I want to see.

      And if we don’t see this, I fear that the Democrats are lost.

      As for me not knowing about certain things, I watched the primary race very clearly. And I thought that Sanders lost gracefully and supported Clinton very well in the general election. If Clinton thinks that she wasn’t supported well enough, that’s her right. But I do not think that she was right. I think the people who make that claim just don’t like Sander. And I think they need to get past that. Because another Bernie Sanders is coming along who will be a Democrat and who will be even more popular. The Democratic Party is changing. And unless they are okay with supporting the Republicans, they will have to get used to it. Bernie Sanders was not Ralph Nader. Bernie Sanders didn’t lose the Democrats the 2016 election. Sanders might be an independent, but he works for the Democratic Party.

      I want him to be a Democrat, but there is no doubt that he is part of our caucus.

      1. James Fillmore

        We’ll have to politely disagree on whether health care or inequality should be top priority — but honestly I’d be fine with either. Both issues avoid the false narrative many pundits have pushed on us since the election; that the Democrats have to decide between focusing on economic issues or racial justice issues. Health care and income inequality affect everyone, but affect minority populations hardest. So making advances in either area would be economic AND social justice. Works for me.

    3. Colin Keesee

      Elizabeth, can you acknowledge the fact that the vast majority of those who supported Sanders in the primary voted for Clinton in the general? I believe it was about 83% supported Clinton. In comparison, 75% of Clinton’s primary backers voted for Barack Obama in 2008. The Sanders coalition is more diverse and more savvy than you guys sometimes give us credit for and we knew the dangers of Trump and many of us saw things that we liked in Clinton and we voted for her.

      That remaining 17% of Sanders supporters who did not support Clinton were usually not Democrats or even people who normally voted. It is hard to tell someone who saw a ray of hope in Sanders, hope for relief from student debt, terrible jobs and a bleak future, it is hard to tell that person, okay now you still got to temper your expectations because things could get worse so you must help us defeat Trump in the general election. Nevertheless, the vast majority of Sanders supporters made that pitch to the more truculent minority among ourselves.

      I am glad that she wrote her book and we have her account and perspective on a very interesting chapter in our history. If she felt annoyed or felt like Sanders copied her ideas or acted in a way so as to steal her thunder, then that is her view. I just wish that if she is going to criticize Sanders, she would have been clear that she got a tremendous amount of support from Sanders’ primary voters, including a lot of white and male “Bernie Bros” like myself.

      I like what Chris Hayes said on twitter recently. For the health of the Democratic coalition, we need to decouple the leftist faction and the liberal faction from the personages of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. If we can respect and acknowledge our very real policy differences and never forget our shared commitment to a more just society, the democratic coalition will be all right.

      1. James Fillmore

        I really like that notion of separating policy goals from personalities; personalities are not real democracy, and policy is. JFK was an inspiring public figure to many and LBJ a boorish dullard, yet who did more to improve the country? (Of course, they were both hideously wrong on Vietnam, but America’s pretty much been wrong on foreign policy since Day 1).

        And I agree that people with the same goals in mind are not enemies, even if they strongly disagree about tactics. Look at the civil rights movement. There were so many arguments about strategy, and these were very passionate disagreements. Yet they found a consensus because they shared a common goal. When disability rights activists weee trying to lobby for the ADA, they did the smart thing and consulted civil-rights veterans on how to smooth over some of that infighting. And they got the ADA passed under Bush 1!

  2. paintedjaguar

    Frank, I’m totally mystified by your insistence that Hillary is a secret liberal, in the face of all the evidence of her history and her public and private statements to the contrary. And I don’t know why anyone believes she is somehow going away – ego aside, you can’t peddle influence if you aren’t in the game. But never mind. Re healthcare/single-payer, the tens of millions who were left to rot or actively damaged by the ACA might disagree with you. But never mind.

    I will say one thing about Sanders. Whatever he may have believed he was doing, Bernie did actively betray his base when he chose to capitulate before the Democratic convention and work for Clinton, fulfilling whatever backroom deal he made with her campaign (we still haven’t been told what “leverage” they expected to use to influence him). He had specifically promised to fight all the way to the convention, win or lose, and many of us predicated our support on that pledge. There’s more to politics than just whether you win a particular vote or contest. Long term goals and keeping faith are crucial and I’m absolutely fed up with Dem apologists prattling about “strategic” politics when they really mean strictly short term, tactical maneuvering. Usually to their personal advantage.

    1. James Fillmore

      IIRC, Sanders wanted a more liberal Democratic platform and did get some concessions in that direction in return for supporting Clinton. One may argue that this was a bad decision, but I strongly doubt it was motivated by person gain.

      1. paintedjaguar

        James – Sanders was always going to support Clinton, even though the Dems gave him plenty of justification to renege on whatever agreement had been made. There’s some reason to believe that even after his unexpected success he was never in serious contention for the nomination. I’m talking here about a pledge made to his supporters that was specific, often repeated, and that might have acheived non-symbolic political goals. We can only guess at what motivated him to break it because he neither consulted nor confided in us. And though I hope he will do some good where he is now, for many supporters that was a breach of trust that might be impossible to amend. It certainly damaged his reputation as a trustworthy politician and I’ve seen no sign that his actions were at all appreciated by the Clintonites.

  3. Colin Keesee

    My biggest issue with the center left is that they won’t defend or own the fact that they are liberal but not as far to the left as leftists like myself.

    Own your ideas. Own and defend your belief that coding classes will lift the working class out of poverty faster than demand side economics. Own the $10 or $12 minimum wage instead of $15 or $18 dollars. Own profit maximization in insurance markets and finance versus single payer and nationalizing banks. Be confident that community college should be tuition free but that poor students still need at least few grand in debt upon graduating.

    Instead, the folks on the center left shift the conversation away from policy. We hear how some of Bernie’s supporters are rude on the internet. We are scolded about racial justice (as if Clinton’s 2008 dog whistle tour never happened) and we are told to “let the women speak” (while leftists women’s voices and choice of association are suppressed or dismissed as a chance to find a date).

    Every day there is some new argument used to take attention away from the fact that the Clinton-Obama wing of the democratic Party is all too content to see wealth continue to be controlled by the 1% and the expectations of everyone else are to be continually revised downward.

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