Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The two things that will keep Bernie Sanders from the Democratic nomination (part one of two)

(Before I get to Supreme Court decisions from last week -- good overall,  but "pro-life" conservatives still get to keep their hazardous chemicals; the ones they like to inject into condemned prisoners, and the ones they want us all to keep breathing -- this post, drafted a week ago, needs to get published before the march of time updates the topic.  To the premise in the headline, then...)

One of the two things, to the surprise of many I'm sure, will not be the questionable intelligence of the average American voter.  They seem to be coming to the realization that Democratic socialism is, in fact, what they believe; they just didn't know it was called that.

There will be some Red scaring going on.  It just won't be coming from Republicans, unless and until -- my keyboard to the FSM's ears -- Sanders upends Hillary Clinton's all-but-sure-thing and wins the Democratic nomination.
The two significant hurdles he must overcome to do so are practical and procedural.

1. He must begin to draw minority voters to his campaign and message.  He cannot win the primary, much less the general, if Latino and African American voters don't begin to peel away from Clinton.  This is her greatest strength; the two largest minority Democratic voting blocs know her and love her.  In this post a few days ago, I linked to the suggestions that Sanders is not experienced in making appeals to voters of color; Vermont is, after all, 94% Caucasian.  In recent days he has played up his own 'son of immigrants' story, he's always had the right position on their economic concerns, and his appeals are getting a fair hearing and a receptive audience in places like Nevada.  But black voters do not, for the most part, know him nearly as well as they do Clinton.  That may be changing.

Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign is already enjoying success that few could have predicted. Bernie is a big deal. Well, OK, if you’re a white progressive he’s a big deal.
Otherwise, you may have no idea who he is, according to reporting (last week) in the New York Times. The Times‘ Patrick Healy and Jonathan Martin write that “black voters have shown little interest in [Sanders]” and that “[e]ven his own campaign advisers acknowledge that Mr. Sanders is virtually unknown to many African-Americans, an enormously important Democratic constituency.”

But as his presidential campaign gains altitude and attention, Sanders may be on the way to securing the most difficult black progressive endorsement there is: the blessing of Professor Cornel West, one of America’s leading public intellectuals. Celebrity is rare in American academe, but the eccentric West (along with MIT’s Noam Chomsky) is something of a superstar scholar. He’s our Slavoj Žižek, but with far better hair and a sense of fashion.

Speaking with Grit TV’s Laura Flanders in early June, the black academic icon was asked by the host if he will be supporting the increasingly popular candidate for president.

“I love brother Bernie,” West replied. “He tells the truth about Wall Street. He really does.”

There's plenty more there about West's numerous and harsh objections to Obama, his lack of enthusiasm for Sanders's not speaking forcefully enough about the plight of Palestinians in Gaza (the red flag for American Jews of both liberal and conservative inclinations), the distinctions between neoliberalism, actual liberalism, democratic socialism, and the like.  With all of that said and read, West could be the black symbol of economic and social justice authority that Sanders needs.

Though he’s become something of a pariah in black academic circles, West is still a captivating and rousing speaker and Sanders could perhaps use West on the campaign trail. He might not be someone Sanders brings along in Iowa or New Hampshire, but once the campaign trail swings south and to the cosmopolitan coasts, West might be a valuable voice in places Sanders’ unpolished, heavily Brooklynite earnestness doesn’t work as well. And Sanders could be the candidate West thought he was getting in Obama.

There's also the recent endorsement by rapper Killer Mike of Sanders, an encouraging development.  Bottom line reading today: Sanders simply cannot win the Democratic nomination without attracting significantly more minority voters than he currently does.  Update (7/8): Others are picking up on this.   

But even if that happens...

2. The Democratic party insiders/super delegates/elected officials must be driven back from rigging the game in Hillary Clinton's favor.  Bernie has essentially no institutional support -- not a single Washington Democratic elected official has endorsed him -- at the moment.  And the institution is likely to harden against his presidential bid as he gains additional traction.

Update (7/8): No one should operate under the remotest of illusions that, as long as Sanders is building momentum toward the Democratic nomination, his supporters will consider any "what if he doesn't make it" options.  And 'Democratic institution' -- as Gaius Publius at Down with Tyranny carefully dissects -- includes the corporate media, particularly the New York Times.

The clearest example of the ramifications of being an actual outsider in the run for the presidency isn't the extreme party disunity in 1972, nor the retooling of the nominating process after George McGovern was swamped by Nixon that year.  Even when Eugene McCarthy was crowded out in '68, there were so many other dynamics in play that McCarthy as stand-in for the slain RFK was ultimately usurped -- not by Vice President Hubert Humphrey, the ultimate nominee who had avoided the states' party primaries altogether -- but by McGovern himself at that memorable Chicago convention.

Go all the way back to 1944 -- when Henry Wallace was pushed out of the vice-presidency, replaced by Harry Truman in smoke-filled room negotiations -- and reacquaint yourself with how the corporate interests of the Democratic Party react when they feel threatened, and then hope history doesn't repeat itself.  As it did more recently with the TPP trade bills' back-and-forth, down-and-then-up votes.

The Wobblies had it right, more than a hundred years ago.

Here's more from the NYT on what Sanders needs to do to win, and here's HuffPo's Bob Cesca with five "nearly impossible" challenges.  He counts fundraising first.  You should already know how I feel about that; you definitely know how Bernie Sanders feels about it.

In Part Two: What should US progressives do if Sanders falls short of the Democratic nomination and subsequently endorses Clinton, as he has promised to do?  Should we fall in... or fall out?


Unknown said...

"Not a single Washington Democratic elected official has endorsed him" is a big hurdle. It's really insurmountable, in fact.

When is the last time someone that the party insiders didn't like got a major party nomination? I'm not sure it's happened.

As much as I like what sanders has to say - and I'm glad he's saying it! - Sanders is in part a guard against a Nader effect. Sanders keeps the liberals occupied through primary season and no Green ever gets traction. At that point, it becomes a matter of "Well, would you rather have Hillary as President, or Ted Cruz?"

PDiddie said...

The Nader argument, which Sanders himself employs in the words "I will not be a spoiler", is crap, as I have previously detailed. No Republicans I know of spent fifteen years rending their garments and gnashing their teeth over Ross Perot (who actually DID cost Bush the Elder the election, even without winning a single Electoral College vote).

In Texas, our votes matter not a single bit, due to the lead pipe EC cinch for the Republicans (Castro on the ticket or not). It's the same if you're a Republican in California.

Thus the presidency is contended only in those states, in cycle after cycle, since 2000. All of this year-long spin and billions spent on media and polling and consultants and other horseshit just exposes the farce that everyone who is actually paying attention -- a dwindling number of Americans, mind you -- cannot seem to discern.

Lots of things could fix this: eliminating straight-ticket voting would be a good start, NOTA and instant runoff voting another. But the duopoly just won't stand for it; the people must fight for it. It's why Jill Stein is suing the Commission on Presidential Debates for inclusion.

And the deployment of the Supreme Court argument forever been the shit sandwich for progressives, served up by the centrists, DLCers, and orthodox Democrats (they used to be called yellow dogs, with pride I might add). The "monster under your bed" never explains that a vote for Clinton using SCOTUS as a rationale is only applicable in the general election, and THEN ONLY in a few states identified as 'swing'. (Using "SCOTUS", why wouldn't Bernie Sanders' potential SC nominees be even more liberal and better than Hillary's? "Oh well, because Bernie can't be elected; he's a soshulist doncha know". See how stupid that game gets?) There's also the disclaimer that certain Justices picked by Republicans haven't turned out all that well: John Paul Stevens (Ford), David Souter (a 'slam dunk', John Sununu said) and, from a certain POV on some cases, Chief Justice John Roberts.

That's at least a few reasons why one can vote for Sanders as long as he's in the running (in the D primary), and vote for Jill Stein the instant he no longer is. Voting your progressive principles In a non-swing state has no downside whatsoever. Texas Greens, as you might imagine, tell me to stop encouraging Democrats by voting for them. They're never going win anything save for a few gerrymandered enclaves the TXGOP gives them, and those few are going to sell out to the oil companies and banks and call it 'bipartisan compromise' anyway. This has a certain amount of truth to it, but I can't get there yet. Greens have to grow enough themselves to be an actual threat before this leverage can be effective.

But all of this and more is going to be in part two.

PDiddie said...

"has forever been", first sentence, fifth graf

Unknown said...

Dan Morales was the last Democrat to win an election for statewide office in Texas. In 1994. There are people voting this year who were not alive the last time a Democrat won a statewide race in Texas!

But even beyond that, I like the old Eugene Debs quote: "It is better to vote for what you want and not get it than to vote for what you don't want and get it."

Gadfly said...

Oh, so true on the sadness of Bernie seeing himself as a spoiler if he doesn't run as a Dem, and the SCOTUS shit sandwich argument.

That said, he needs inroads into one other block besides Latino and African-American voters.

Feminists in particular and a lot of Democratic women in general, after Clinton's loss to Obama, think "It's our turn now." Sanders has to penetrate that mindset, too.

Gary said...

I love Bernie but think he would be a McGovern in the general election.

Democratic primary voters often fall in love with the most Left candidate who runs a credible campaign but the business interests and the media doom their campaigns.

Look what happened to Howard Dean when the media, the DC insiders, and business suddenly realized he was the frontrunner. And Dean is a lot more centrist than Bernie.

Zacherydtaylor said...

He should ahve much more support among minorities than polls supposedly give him credit for, since Hillary is an obvious corporate puppet and he does much more to address lower and middle class issues. One poll supposedly gives Hillary something like 90% to Bernie's 3%. Sounds a lot like Stalin's polls where he won 99%; I'm not convinced it is credible at all.

It will be hard but if Hillary has to get too dirty which she probably will to rig it then the evidence can be exposed and hopefully used to either backfire on Hillary by nominating Bernie or help Jill Stein.

What we really need is instant run off elections and open debates amoung other things like diverse media.

PDiddie said...

When is the last time someone that the party insiders didn't like got a major party nomination?

1972 and George McGovern. Click on the link in the OP about the campaign that year.

The fact that the DNC has now killed the Texas Two-Step is evidence that the Dem insiders are already working against Sanders, even as he gained more positive traction this past week.

PDiddie said...

(By the way, I just noticed another missing word in the first sentence in the third paragraph of my first reply above: 'those few swing states'.)

Gary: that's certainly a possibility, but that outcome is contingent upon whom the Rethugs nominate. Trump versus Sanders? Most entertaining (and say hello to Pres. Bernie). Almost anyone except perhaps Bush and Walker? Same result.

I see an epically demoralized electorate if the choices are Bush v. Clinton. Maybe you've noticed that Democrats don't usually win in low turnout elections.