I’m Not Dead, But Bernie’s Mortally Wounded

It’s been a while, but I’m back. The main problem hasn’t been me, but my computer. It’s been in the hospital most of the last two weeks, but a lovely young man called Benjamin has sorted it for me. He’s been very reasonable with his charging too, but New Zealand’s health system doesn’t extend to laptops so don’t be surprised if a begging button appears on my website in the next few weeks.

(Source: Associated Press)

(Source: Associated Press)

A lot has happened while I’ve been gone, and my head’s full of things to write about. The most obvious today is the result of the New York primaries. Despite looking like he was going to come close, in the end Bernie Sanders was well beaten by Hillary Clinton. The momentum he gained in the last few races has thus come to an abrupt halt, and the states coming up in the next few weeks are mostly looking more favourable for Clinton.

My teenage nephew, knowing his Aunty Heather pretty well, sent me this:

The Democratic Party is now relying on Clinton being vindicated in the FBI investigation into her use of a non-government server for her e-mails. There’s another possibility still poking his head above the parapet every now and then though – Joe Biden.

Dem after NY 2016

(Source: Associated Press)

If Clinton is charged with a crime, the Democratic Convention could be as messy as the Republican one is going to be, and the party is going to want to look like the adults in the room. Enter Joe Biden, who has just given another interview on what he thinks of the current race.

John Harwood of the New York Times interviewed Biden as he took the train he has for decades between Washington DC and his home in Delaware:

“If you notice, I beat every Republican in every poll when they thought I was running,” Mr. Biden said. “You notice that my favorability was higher than anybody that’s running for office in either party.”

He’s right. However, Clinton’s favourability was extremely high before she started running for office too. Her entry into the race meant the attacks started, especially from the conservative super-pac America Rising and they have had a big effect on the public’s perception of Clinton. There’s no doubt that if Biden rode in on his white charger to rescue the party that he would become a target of negative ads as well.

Currently, Gallup has Clinton at 54% unfavourable and 40% favourable (28 March-10 April 2016) but as recently as May 2012, they had her at 66% favourable and 29% unfavourable. She also got similar high ratings at the time she was First Lady. Biden’s most recent poll result (7-11 October 2015) had him at 49% favourable and 37% unfavourable, and he’s never achieved the same highs as Clinton.

Dem Campaign ContributionsThe New York primary result means that Bernie Sanders now has no path to win the Democratic nomination. There’s no reason for him to drop out of the race though. Hr still has a powerful message to present, it’s not him personally that’s doing most of the damage to the Clinton brand, and he has plenty of money. In fact he’s currently raising a lot more money than Clinton. Robert Yoon of CNN reports:

Sanders slightly edged Clinton in contributions in 2015’s fourth quarter, but his fundraising operation didn’t kick into high gear until 2016. His campaign has outraised Clinton’s every month this year by at least 50%. In March alone, “Bernie 2016” received $44.7 million in contributions, compared to $26.3 million for “Hillary for America.”

My impression is that Sanders is so good at playing the poor relation that people think his campaign doesn’t have any money. While abusing Clinton for her big money fundraising dinner with George Clooney, most of which actually went to down-ballot candidates, he’s raking in the millions.

There’s no doubt though that Sanders has raised awareness of USians that most other OECD countries, which they have been told for years they are better than, actually have it a lot better than them in many ways. And, despite being told that things like free healthcare for all would destroy the economy, countries like New Zealand and Australia have economies that are just as good or better than theirs. Socialism is a spectrum, and more of it doesn’t necessarily mean you will go the way of Greece, Venezuela, or North Korea. For all the Fox News rants about no toilet paper (that did happen in Venezuela), it’s just not reality.

In thirty years time, when the United States has single-payer healthcare and everyone wonders why anyone ever thought it would be a bad thing, the candidacy of Sanders will be looked back on as a turning point. True, others have talked about it before, including Clinton during her husband’s administration, but Sanders was the one that talked about it as a part of a whole programme and change of direction. It’s a change that the US actually needs and will occur sooner or later. I hope Sanders is around long enough to see what he achieved.

21 Responses to “I’m Not Dead, But Bernie’s Mortally Wounded”

  1. Ken says:

    Glad you’re back in action, Heather. A very important win for Hillary for sure. It ain’t over until it’s over though. NY turned out to be tough partly because voter registration closed in October, I think the earliest of any state and scandalous too. Of course it blunted Bernie’s surge in that thousands only recently energised to vote discovered they couldn’t. Still he has to get about 59% from here on, which may be impossible as you say, unless he can go back to winning 3-1 as he did in several states recently. This Tuesday’s five primaries will give a better indication of whether his momentum is gone or not.

    As for fund raising, Bernie doesn’t hide that he’s raising the most money; he uses the fact to raise more by highlighting that his comes mostly from mostly tiny donations compared with Hillary’s superpac money. A typical ask is $2.70, contrasted with Hillary’s average at a recent fund raiser of $27,000!

    As for Biden getting the nomination if Hillary implodes, that would be playing with fire. Even if he loses, Bernie won’t be a distant second, and will have a far stronger moral claim to the nom than Biden. Bernie’s growing army of supporters won’t take it lightly if their candidate gets screwed that way either.

  2. rickflick says:

    Welcome back to the inter-webs. I hope Bernie is in his last days and will soon throw his weight behind Hillary instead of chipping away at her. Bernie would be a high risk candidate against Trump while Hillary is the voice of reason. Bernie’s revolutionary program would only have a chance if the Dems captured congress, but that’s very unlikely…unfortunately.

    • Ken says:

      However will we make change if we’re afraid to even try?

      • rickflick says:

        Yes we will have to try. But, in trying, you have to be selective and effective. Progress comes slowly, generally speaking. So, we avoid revolution for evolution. The danger in revolution is that it can meet with strong resistance and cause a retrenchment, thus delaying important goals. To me, Hillary stands the best chance of swinging more house and senate seats and getting changes enacted. For Sanders, the worst case scenario: 4 years of Trump and a firmly republican congress.

        • Ken says:

          Your worst case scenario for Bernie is exactly the same as for Hillary, except more likely due to the huge baggage she carries. Also, she is the establishment candidate in every sense of the word. She doesn’t represent change, but more of the same rule for the 1%. Bernie is the first real change candidate with a chance in literally decades of Democratic decay. You may feel you have to support her out of fear as the lesser of two evils compared to Trump, but don’t fool yourself that you are making change at the same time.

          • rickflick says:

            I’m betting on Clinton. She will push for progress intelligently. Her success will depend largely on the American people readiness for change. Bernie is a great activator and generator of progressive enthusiasm, but if you think the American electorate, about half of whom are republican or independent are going to vote for a socialist Jew, you are, regrettably, wrong. In the general election the Carl Roves of our society will chew him to shreds.

          • I think Clinton would be the more effective president, but I think Sanders might do better than many think if he was the nominee.

            Sanders has generated a lot of excitement, but the problem would be getting his programme enacted once elected and I think he would struggle to do that. On the job, Clinton is better at that sort of thing and I think in the end she would achieve more because she works well with people and negotiates well.

            If Trump is the nominee, it will do a lot of damage down ballot and could see the Dems regain the Senate, but it has to be remembered that most of the rest of the Dems aren’t as far left as Sanders and he could not get their support. The crowds love him, but it real life he’s a grumpy old man. Clinton is not charismatic on the stump, but in a working environment people like her a lot.

          • Ken says:

            Honestly, I don’t even recognise the candidates as you describe them, so different is my experience. And if the fact that the establishment candidates of both parties have had such a hard time doesn’t signal a desire for change, I don’t know what could. But ok, I won’t argue for the sake of it. All I know is that doing the same thing will get you the same result.

          • Ken says:

            Heather, you talk of Hillary’s effectiveness as though she’d be better at implementing Bernie’s programme, but she’ll be doing nothing of the sort and that’s the problem. I’m afraid she and Bill will be just as effective as the last time they were in the White House doing the wrong things. That’s when support for the poor was gutted, the black prison population sky rocketed, the final seeds for the GFC were sown, and a million Iraqis were killed via those vile sanctions. An effective operator with a bad plan is dangerous.

            The Republicans will obstruct any Democrat president, no matter what their programme. At least Bernie will motivate people to get out and demand change, which is necessary if any is to occur. Hillary will inspire more to stay home on election day than to fight for progressive change, because very few believe that is what she will deliver.

          • The biggest problem with the Clintons is not so much their values, it’s that they don’t stick to them in the face of opposition (which to be fair is fairly typical of politicians). The country has moved on a lot since the 1990s and therefore the policies they will try to implement will be more progressive than before. You’re not going to get Sanders’ programme, but you will get progress. And remember, Clinton will be much, much better than Cruz or Trump.

            Watching Fox, groups like Occupy Wall Street just don’t make them think, they just get their backs up and make them dig their toes in more. The protest is valuable because it raises awareness and moves the Overton window, but when it comes to actually getting stuff done, you need someone who plays well with others.

            Not all Republicans are bad. Some are prepared to work with others for the sake of the country. People complaining about the fact that nothing has been getting done, and blaming that on politicians, and saying “we need an outsider,” fail to realize that one of the biggest problems at the moment is actually the outsiders that are already there – the Tea Party. They are not politicians. They refuse to compromise. It’s their way or the highway. They do things like Ted Cruz shutting down the entire effing government because he can’t have what he wants. When people try to work together (like Marco Rubio and the rest of the gang of eight) they get lambasted for it. Politics is supposed to be about compromise, and that’s how the US system is set up, but too many USians don’t seem to realize that, or refuse to accept it.

          • Ken says:

            Needless to say, I agree with Biden here! He’s talking about leadership. The Republicans have succeeded in transforming politics and the economy, because they have set their goals high and then pursued them relentlessly. Meanwhile the Dems have set theirs low and even then failed to achieve them. Most of what Bernie wants to do wouldn’t even be considered revolutionary if our aspirations hadn’t sunk so terribly low.


          • I agree with Biden on the message thing too, but Common Dreams is expressing it slightly differently than Biden did in the original article. Bernie has a great message, but the truth is he can’t deliver on it and Clinton can deliver what she’s promising.

            I don’t think the Republicans have succeeded, and that’s why they’re in so much trouble now. They’ve been promising they’re going to do all sorts of things like repeal Row v Wade, and de-fund Planned Parenthood, and now reverse the SCOTUS decision on same-sex marriage. They’ve been promising to reform the tax system (Cruz tays he will abolish the IRS), abolish the Federal Education department (Cruz is again promising that), get rid of environmental regulations etc. for years, and they never do it. That’s why Republicans think they need an outsider.

            So I don’t have a problem with Bernie presenting a grand vision – I think it’s great. At the same time it’s not realistic that he can achieve it all, and that just leads to problems in the future.

          • j.a.m. says:

            I’m afraid I am obliged to point out that the provocative claim to the effect that “support for the poor was gutted” under Clinton (or Bush or Obama, for that matter) is mistaken. In constant dollars per person in poverty, federal assistance increased between 1990 and 2014 by more than 115%.

            Sanders won’t be nominated for the simple reason that there is not a single state he could win that Clinton wouldn’t, but a bunch he could well lose. In Y2K Nader got less than three percent of the popular vote, and that’s about the extent of Sanders’ natural base. It’s possible he could succeed in dragging Democrats over the cliff with him, but that’s still less than a third of the electorate. That leaves an awful lot of heretofore sensible independents who would have to partake of the Commie Kool-Aid. Moreover, the supposed ardor of Sanders’ naive fans does not compensate for the fact that they comprise a small base heavily concentrated geographically and demographically.

            On the other hand, if Sanders did somehow wrangle the nomination, the Republicans would not be able to stop pinching themselves. A self-avowed socialist kook would be a gift that keeps on giving. It would be great fun to watch.

            Meanwhile, regardless of the circus at the presidential level on either side, Speaker Ryan has made it clear that the Republicans will run a separate and very disciplined Congressional campaign.

          • Ken says:

            It’s just a fact that Clinton’s “welfare reform” threw thousands off support whether or not they could find a job. It doubled the number of black children below the poverty line. Adding insult to injury, Clinton also signed a bill two years earlier to spend $10b on new prisons, as though he knew they would soon be needed. Last year he even apologised for making black prison statistics worse.

            Yes, Ryan has no choice but to put on a brave face in light of the Republican meltdown. There is no circus on the Dems side, as you well know.

            And yes, Sanders would be faced in the general election with a barrage of boldfaced lies from Republicans just like your’s that he is a “Commie”. But unlike the spineless Dems from the past 30 years, Sanders is unapologetic in his championing of the working class. He also has the credibility that comes with walking his talk and won’t be afraid to take on any candidate of the 1%, because he isn’t owned by corporations and lobbyists like they are. As a result, this could be the most clear choice for the public in a very long time. If your lot were so unafraid, you wouldn’t have to depend on disenfranchising poor and minority voters to gain an advantage. I say bring it on and let the people decide. Unfortunately, it looks like the Dem establishment will win out and we’ll be back to picking the least awful candidate. No wonder people don’t vote.

          • Ken says:

            Heather, if you drop your values so easily, they aren’t your values anymore. And compromise doesn’t require the abandonment of values. As I said before, I don’t recognise this Hillary that you describe. You seem to think she will actually do good rather than be the least bad. I’d like that to be true, but very little in the last 25 years tells me so.

            Power gives up nothing without a fight. How Fox responds to Occupy Wall Street doesn’t matter. What matters is that public pressure builds for progressive change. When people stop protesting, it’s all over.

            To argue against the better candidate like this is truly defeatist. It’s one thing to pick the least worst when denied a better choice; I understand why someone would hold their nose and vote for Hillary over the Rep nominee. It’s another thing entirely to support worse when better is on offer.

            The Republicans may be reaching the limits of what they can do, but they certainly have succeeded against the majority. They accept that they will lose battles, but they have won the war over the past 35 years because they didn’t let anyone say their goals were too big. They put up candidates who would fight for change and didn’t give up when they lost. They just kept arguing their case and put the same people forward until they won. The revolt in Rep’s ranks isn’t because they haven’t delivered, it’s because their supporters have finally seen that they are corrupt, have seen that they have been duped just as liberal supports have with the Dems.

            Yet you sound like a Democratic insider. They said the same thing in the 80’s, that it was too hard to fight for their principles; that in the face of Republican successes, their party must move to the right. And so it did, now taking as much corporate money as the Reps, and with no intention of fighting for the election funding reform that’s needed to achieve anything else. All the things you argue for in your posts, things that NZ does better than the states, are the things these Dems will never so. And Hillary is clearly their leader. I despair that you can’t see how disempowering that is. As I’ve said before, possibly the worst thing about taking this stance is that more people permanently tune out with each election.

            Remember that despite what Republicans will tell you, polls show the American population is left of centre on most issues. The problem is there’s never a candidate who will fight for the majority position. No one has enough faith that people will make the right choice if given that clear choice. While we have intellectual debate about who can achieve what, people can see that no one represents them and turn off politics permanently.

          • I think we’re arguing at cross purposes here, so I obviously didn’t explain myself very well. I’m not disagreeing with what you say. I said in another thread that people should vote for who they think the best candidate is – implying there that they should vote for Sanders if they liked him best and not worry about strategic voting. It’s only if he doesn’t get the nomination, which it’s now become clear he won’t, that they should vote for Clinton whether they like her or not because she’s the least bad and not voting is the equivalent of voting for the Republican nominee.

            The Republicans aren’t winning. They are continuing to appeal to the same demographics they always have since the flip in the 60s, and the demographics of the country are changing so that it’s all but impossible for them to win another election ever. The country is now a centrist one, and left of centre on social issues, but the GOP keeps pushing things like their extremist abortion platform.

            And I never said to stop protesting either – I think protest is a good thing.

            I do think though that you are misrepresenting some of what happened in the 90s. You’re correct about the results of the policies, but that isn’t what they thought would happen. Tough love was the fashionable idea. The policy that ended up putting so many black men in prison was one that was actually asked for by the black leaders because they thought it would protect black youth. No-one had thought through the consequences properly. Social reforms were in their infancy and the US just wasn’t that good at them. There were people who knew better at the time, but they were written off as too left-wing. Social policy knowledge has advanced considerably since then – we’ve even got the NZ Nats doing some good stuff these days.

          • j.a.m. says:

            Listening to this quaint talk of the noble working class versus the evil corporations, one has to wonder if you realize that everyone under age 35 has either already started a corporation or expects to, and assumes that the term “working class” refers to the third world.

          • Ken says:

            Ok, Heather, you did come across as a Hillary supporter arguing against Bernie, but if that’s not correct then fine. And it is an entirely different matter, but even as a die hard voter, I take issue with “not voting is the equivalent of voting for the Republican nominee”, because that is just not true. The most you can say is that not voting is not doing all one can to prevent the Rep nominee. Splitting hairs, perhaps, but they are important hairs. People decide not to vote for a number of reasons and some of them are valid. If we lump them all together as bad, we are just providing another reason to disengage from politics entirely. I’ll say again that politicians need to earn votes and if they don’t it is not the voter’s fault that they lose. If you want to give them an unearned vote, that’s your choice, but you’re treating the symptom rather than the cause if you blame others for not doing the same, rather than demanding the politician get their act together.

            I well remember the storm of reaction against Clinton’s various sellouts to the right in the 90’s, but not the wave of support from black leaders that would somehow excuse it. Would like to see what you’ve read to convince you of this if you would provide links please.

            As for Republican success, I’ve also pointed to many reasons why they have had such problems lately and that these will continue. But there is just no denying what they have achieved over decades and that they, until very recently, have hugely had the upper hand, if for no other reason than Democrat politicians have given into their shit even when the public haven’t. And even as the tide seems to be turning, they still control Congress and the large majority of State Houses. We are still many years away from Reagan’s revolution being over. Yes, they called that a revolution too and it was. The point is still that it succeeded because they had determination, leadership and willingness to take a stand, while what we got from Democrats in response (and the Clintons in particular) was triangulation.

          • If I had to choose between Bernie and Hillary, I think I probably would go for Hillary, so you’re not wrong there. That’s not because I think she’s all right, and he’s all wrong, because there are aspects of the platform of each I prefer. I think she would be the better president all things taken into consideration.

            I’d probably agree with you more on the voting issue in a US environment too. However, in our environment (almost) every vote counts, so it’s hard for me to think of any vote as a wasted vote. Even before we had MMP, my protest vote, if I wanted to make one, would be to spoil my voting paper in some way, not to refuse to vote altogether. In the days when we were provided with a thick black marker and used to “cross out the names of the people you do not wish to vote for” I would have just crossed out everyone and perhaps wrote a name in. (I remember someone writing in Fred Dagg when I was a kid.)

            I can’t provide you with links because the info of the laws being wanted by leaders in the black community came from several panel discussions on CNN, mostly AC360, which is on at noon here Tue-Sat and usually worth watching.

            I agree about the Reagan Revolution, and that there was a lot of selling out by the Clintons. I vaguely remember being appalled by the marriage thing in Bill’s term. My criticism of the GOP is basically post 9/11 where they have been over-promising and under-delivering, and I think that is a big part of why they’re in such trouble now.

  3. Glad to see you back! Keep up the good work!

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