Sanders’ Popularity Does Say Something About the Rising Left-Wing

Ryan Cooper - Rising Left-WingWhat is needed, I think, is a retreat from endless parsing of The Data and a little common sense. Bernie Sanders has been for years the most left-wing member of the Senate, from the second-smallest state in the nation. He ran on extremely aggressive and easy-to-understand left-wing policy. In contrast to the other white man in the race, the young, handsome, and (before the primary started) much more famous Martin O’Malley, Sanders stubbornly embraces one of the most toxic labels in American politics. But he completely blew O’Malley out of the water, and gave Clinton a serious run for her money, on the strength of colossal margins among young people — most of whom have come of political age in the worst economic environment in 80 years.

Surely some of that support is due to raw anti-Clinton animus or other distasteful characteristics, just as some of Clinton’s support can be chalked up to a selfish refusal to pay the higher taxes that Sanders’ program would require. But anyone who can talk themselves into thinking that his candidacy does not represent a resurgent American left has another thing coming.

—Ryan Cooper
Clinton Supporters’ Newest Delusion about Bernie Sanders

Update: Comments

I’m on the road and cannot comment at length regarding the comment thread here. I do however think that things are a bit extreme in both directions. I believe that most of the people in the party are of goodwill. And from a policy perspective neither Clinton nor Sanders are that different. What Sanders has as an advantage is a clear and consistent message. That doesn’t make Clinton disingenuous. I admire both candidates.

The point of posting this comment was to make a point about the people in the Democratic Party not the leaders of it. I do believe that the Democratic party is moving in a liberal direction. And that is not just a matter of the young people. If Bill Clinton were to become president now he would be much more liberal than he was then because the party itself is much more liberal than it was then.

Finally I want to say that James is my Digby. As you may know she got her start as a commenter on Atrios’ blog long before going on to start her own that greatly surpassed his. I appreciate his role as peacemaker even while remaining opinionated and interesting.

But as ever: play nice!

10 thoughts on “Sanders’ Popularity Does Say Something About the Rising Left-Wing

  1. Aside from black folks who supported Clinton out of risk aversion (which is totally understandable given their history), Clinton supporters have the same motivations as Republican voters. They seem to mostly be affluent retirees or near retirees who are affluent because they were born long enough ago that they could attend college at an affordable price, they could get good jobs out of college, they could buy a home in a blue State back when it was affordable to do so and they could get a decent pension lined up for life.

    They are conservatives who have slightly more sane views on homosexuality and pot. While it is unfair to say that Sec. Clinton is indistinguishable from a Republican, her supporters tend to have the exact same mentality as GOP voters, they want to imagine their affluence as a result of merit when it is largely an accident of their date of birth. Clinton supporters do not want to hear it but the root causes of Sandersism are not going away any time soon.

    Clinton supporters simply do not want to talk about social class and economics because as the article stated, they are unaccustomed to being on the conservative side of things. However, they need to talk about it or risk political ruin down the line. Hillary Clinton can claim that Sanders is a single issue candidate and that only she can “break down ALL the barriers,” but the fact is that Sander’s youthful supporters are more liberal on issues of LGBTQ rights, feminism and anti racism.

    A mutual fear of a Trump Presidency will compel us to vote for Clinton but I anticipate that future Democratic nominating contests will be much more contentious and rancorous since younger liberals are poor and wealthier liberals are not poor and one faction refuses to even address that fact head on.

    • That “risk aversion” observation is a new take (to me), but I like it. It makes a lot of sense. Also Clinton’s tenacity to overcome all the personal attacks she’s been subjected to in her career is probably something that resonates strongly with voters who have suffered from systemic discrimination. Sanders has a similarly inspiring story (to me), but you have to be something of a full-time politics junkie to be aware of it.

      The social liberal, economic conservative voters you describe do exist, and I agree they aren’t helping the party move forward in the direction I think it needs. It’s probably not accurate to paint the majority of Clinton supporters that way, though. Some are excited by the significant triumph for feminism a Clinton presidency would represent (hey, it took us only 28 years to catch up with Pakistan!) Some, again, identify with her story. Others believe (incorrectly, IMO) that the “socialist” label would doom Sanders in November. Or remember the economy being stronger during the Bill Clinton era. Lots of reasons.

      I think you’re describing more the party leadership than anything else. And I hope you’re right that their influence will wane in the future. There’s also the possibility that voters passionate about economic issues will feel hopeless and disengage from politics, or switch to the other side.

      After all, while Trump’s main appeal is racist, sexist, and fascist, some of it is economically based. Trump would, of course, do nothing for the working class except screw them blind, but some Trump supporters actually believe he will raise taxes on the rich, bring back manufacturing jobs, etc. It’s the old “What’s The Matter With Kansas” problem. As Democratic leadership turned away from economic issues, many justifiably frustrated people began shifting their frustrations to matters which, at least, some politicians were willing to speak up about; the “social issues.”

      If you’re familiar with right-wing-Christianity, for example, you’re aware that many believers think our country’s tepid economy is God’s judgment for our immoral ways. They don’t JUST want prayer in schools, creationist teaching, bans on abortion & same-sexuality because they want to impose their faith on everyone (although they do!) — they also think these things will please God, and He will reward us with lower unemployment / better fourth-quarter housing starts. Fundamentalists in Israel and tyrannical Muslim countries basically believe the same thing.

      Well, this reply is too long … but essentially I agree with you that the young people who are passionate about economics are a very hopeful sign. Now we have to figure out how to keep their passion for party reform alive!

  2. Clinton won the nomination with 56.01% to Sanders 41.4%. She won with 16.6M votes to his 12.5. She crushed him. Sanders, in the end, really didn’t give her a run for her money. Especially since he spent 30% more than she did.

    And the biggest reason isn’t because the Democratic party primary voters are a bunch of risk adverse semi-conservative affluent people. It is because the primary voters know, like and agree with most of what Clinton wants to do. They know, like and respect what Obama has done.

    The voters may agree that there is a serious problem with Wall Street but that won’t stop the cop from pulling over a black teenager in his dad’s car for the seventh time in two months. They may agree that it would be great to have a single payer system but that won’t solve the problem of a woman being denied abortion care because her state governor decided to strip it from the ACA. They may agree that wars are bad but that won’t stop an employer from firing someone coming back from their honeymoon with their same sex partner.

    When Clinton talks about barriers she isn’t just talking about one aspect, she is talk about how it all intersects. She gets it. She can think in the 12 dimensional impact that a simple change in child care access would have. Sanders never could nor would he.

    And he really angered a lot of people by his refusal to show up for the filibuster about guns that Senator Chris Murphy started. Here was a major chance for him to effect change that he is always ranting about. Where was he? Even vulnerable Senator Michael Bennet showed up from a state that recalled their legislators for passing gun control. Where was Sanders?

    • I would love to see Hillary Clinton give a major policy speech about Economics and how it intersects with other issues. I want to know how her moderate economic policies will combat institutionalized bigotry. I am curious how student debt that is a little less crushing will help trans folks. Can she tell me how slightly less impotent bank regulations will reduce police brutality. Perhaps she can explain how a lame and piddly little jobs program can check sexism in a way that a big and robust jobs program will not. Maybe she can enlighten us as to how we fight racism by maintaining a mid sized reserve army of labor rather than a large reserve army of labor.

      As I said, Clinton supporters are so accustomed to their positions being considered radical that they never have to defend them from the left. Although it seems like Clinton supporters have used the same defense mechanisms that Conservatives have used for years. Dismiss complaints from your left as baseless. Slick to preapproved talking points. Most importantly, go and vote and take advantage of our electoral machinery that is designed to insure an electorate that always more affluent and leisured than the population at large.

      Hillary did not outright cheat but she used the exact same system that the tea party used in 2010 and 2014 in order to win. She is the Mitch McConnell of the Democratic Party and she has about the same degree of alacrity when it comes to alleviating the many economic hardships suffered by ordinary Americans. Clinton voters, with their no-wait polling places in their retirement communities and cul-de-sacs, are not looking to break down barriers, they are acting as barriers. They have joined the Fed, the Courts, The Filibuster and the Veto Pen as part of plutocracy’s multi layered defense strategy.

      • Your observations about voting obstacles made me think of a recent interview given by a former Republican governor of my state, about why he left the party. He still agrees with Republicans on economic policy (???) but was incensed at other ways the party has moved far right: “they got into one of the ugliest things you can do in a democratic society, and that’s restricting the rights of people to vote. To me, that’s very close to treason.”

        Right on, guv! Not EVERY Republican is unreachable by reason. Most of ’em, sure. But sometimes a few take steps towards the light …

      • I would love to see Hillary Clinton give a major policy speech about Economics and how it intersects with other issues.

        You mean like the one she did on July 13, 2015?

        Where she talked about most of what you mentioned and how one part of the economy affects another.

        How about when she wrote this op-ed where she talked about the change in how we view drugs (which is a major reason why police interfere with minority communities): Which is entwined with her push to end police routine stopping of men of color (getting the gender disparity in stops is going to take a different tactic, if for no other reason then there is less evidence to show that women drive dangerously.) Doing both kinds of reform frees up money which normally would flow to the states to pay for more police to be re-directed to the dept. of justice so they can beef up their white collar crime units so they have the resources to go after the banks that do in fact commit fraud and to be able to pass judicial muster when the government attempts to break them up like it did MetLife.

        Regarding transgender issues and student debt-I think the community is a bit more concerned with other priorities-like not getting arrested when they use the restroom. Or not getting fired for being transgender. Or worse-murdered. They care about their student debt yes-but I don’t think I am out of line in saying that they are fine with her reforms on it as long as she pushes a lot harder to make sure they don’t get fired, murdered, or otherwise harmed by society for the mere fact they exist. I even checked with some of my transgendered friends and the tiny sample size didn’t consider it in the top ten.

        I don’t think any of her policies are radical. I do think they are mostly things she can implement even if she has a 100% hostile Congress that is trying to impeach her while she changes regulations. Taking one of my favorites:
        “Hillary Clinton’s plan will build on the Affordable Care Act by requiring insurers and employers to provide up to three sick visits to a doctor per year without needing to meet the plan’s deductible first.”

        Covered under the ACA 42 U.S.C. 18022 which gives the Secretary of Health and Human Services some leeway in creating the regulations on preventive care and having something that isn’t your annual wellness check up (covered) but that does let you see the doctor if you are feeling like your lungs are trying to leap out of your chest when you are sick means that you are less likely to be ill longer.

        If anything is radical it is she has layers of plans in place for when something goes wrong. I never saw any of that kind of thinking from Sanders and I definitely don’t see it from the Orange One.

    • For some reason this comment infuriates me. I’ve deleted at least four responses to it. I did this out of concern for your feelings. So I will leave it there as I hope you will too.

  3. Please see my update in the article above. I mean no offense to anyone. I understand we all get excited about these matters. But I think everyone here is on the same side. I’ll comment more when I am back home which should be several hours.

      • You can make that case internationally. You can’t make that case domestically. The US is really screwed up politically. There are a lot of people who I consider — in an absolute sense — to be centrists and even conservatives, who fit in the Democratic Party. And the Democratic Party is the only leftist party in the US. You can’t say that the Green Party is a leftist party, because it isn’t even a party. The Reform Party was more of a real political party than the Green Party has ever been. I don’t even think the Green Party thinks of itself as a party. It serves a function, but it is not interested in building a coalition. And that’s not even taking into account how small it is.

        What we cannot do, is fragment like the leftist movement of the sixties, so brilliantly satirized here:

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