Saturday, February 13, 2016

A turning point

... for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination seemed to have occurred in the wake of last Thursday night's debate.

All day long I was antsy about it, and when debate night finally arrived, it was -- as they have all been -- substantive, snappy, a little snarly, certainly contentious, and finally a bit agreeable.  It was important for Bernie Sanders to do well in the debate (but that alone isn't good enough); overall I really thought it was going to be the pivotal moment in the primary contest, and it looks as if I was more correct than even I thought.

Uh oh.

As Mark Kleiman, Leon Neyfakh, John Pfaff, Chris Hayes, Tim Murphy and German Lopez all noted, this is not simply a very ambitious goal. It is absurd, outlandish, ridiculous, disconnected — you name it. And not for the usual reasons that people say such things about Sanders’ promises, either. Not because it’s hard to imagine, but because it is impossible, full stop.

Read Kleiman in particular, or if you only have time to read one.  Update: More on Kleiman's POV from Socratic Gadfly.

Unlike his promises regarding health insurance and secondary education, then, Sanders’ promise concerning mass incarceration doesn’t irk because it refuses to grapple with “political reality.” It irks because it refuses to grapple with reality, period. 
As much as the idea of a “political revolution” may strain credulity, you could at least imagine how a mass movement might usher in a new Great Society. A liberal Congress is swept into office, one itching to make good on the promises of the new democratic socialist president. It’s extremely unlikely, granted, but at least you can conceive of it. With all due respect to the power of popular democracy, though, there is no movement — no matter how massive — that can defeat the stubborn insistence of basic facts. 
So is Sanders’ campaign doomed, now that he’s revealed himself to be either disingenuous or ignorant when it comes to mass incarceration? No, not remotely; Clinton, too, has made promises it is incredibly hard to imagine her being able to keep. What the strong pushback his proposal’s received from many sympathetic pundits does suggest, though, is that their patience for his idealism is not unlimited. 
And if the press decides that it no longer sees Sanders as America’s cranky but lovable socialist grandpa, and that it no longer sees his promises as ambitious rather than demagogic, then it could turn on his remarkable presidential campaign — hard and fast.

Hillary's also 'found her voice', according to her very large support network in the media.  So no matter the DNC stacking the deck against him in terms of both superdelegates (Nate Silver gives a glimmer of hope here) and lobbyists and super PACs, no matter Hillary's own truly wretched and severe shortcomings, the potential for Sanders being undone by his own hand is now very real.

The Clinton Machine is grinding hard in South Carolina.  It may be hitting a wall in Nevada (Crooks and Liars, in Susie Madrak tradition, throws cold water on that poll showing them tied) but the Hillaryians have an ace card up their sleeve there.  And then comes the SEC primary on March 1.

Clinton is eyeing the large group of southern states that vote that day, including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, and Tennessee. BIll Clinton is heading to Memphis Thursday and will travel to Atlanta again soon. These states, along with South Carolina, are part of her much-discussed Southern Firewall. But Clinton will need to frontload delegates at the beginning of the month, because there are only two southern states – Louisiana and Mississippi – left after March 1. 
Meanwhile, Sanders is eyeing whiter and more liberal Super Tuesday states, like Minnesota, Colorado, Massachusetts, and his home state of Vermont. Both candidates will appear in coming days in Minnesota and Colorado, two states where Sanders is strong. Clinton dominated Barack Obama by 15 points in Massachusetts in 2008, and this year she has widespread support among elected officials. 
With a whopping 222 delegates, Texas will also be major battleground, with an outright win being perhaps less important than claiming as large a chunk of delegates as possible. Clinton recently picked up the endorsement of the largest Latino group in the state and has deployed surrogates like the Sec. Julian and Rep. Joaquin Castro to campaign on her behalf. 
Sanders this week reserved TV advertising in Minnesota, Colorado, Massachusetts, and – surprisingly for one of the reddest states in the country – Oklahoma. Both campaigns seem to be targeting Oklahoma and its 38 delegates. Sanders sent his scrappy Iowa organizer Pete D’ALessandro to the state, while Clinton’s campaign set their Iowa press secretary.

Clinton's lined up almost every elected official in Texas, and some formers, including Wendy Davis, who's been onboard for the past six months.  Davis needs a job that provides a path back into electoral politics, after all, and a stint in a Clinton 2.0 administration is just the ticket.  Fresh polling from the TexTrib's YouGov is in the field (I have been polled), and that is likely to show Clinton still in control here in Deep-In-The-Hearta.

Sanders isn't in big trouble yet but he's swimming against the tide, and I don't think he's strong enough to overcome it.  We'll keep watching and waiting, but it sounds like the bell has tolled.

1 comment:

Gadfly said...

Good roundup. I note this, from the Kleiman:
>>And if the press decides that it no longer sees Sanders as America’s cranky but lovable socialist grandpa, and that it no longer sees his promises as ambitious rather than demagogic, then it could turn on his remarkable presidential campaign — hard and fast.<<
They're working the refs hard.

Other people at that blog, which drops with centrism, are also probably working the refs to some degree.

Did Bernie goof by being too specific? Yes. Is he being demagogic? No.

Fuck Mark Kleiman.