Bile, Bullshit, and Bernie: 17 Notes on a Dismal Campaign

by Corey Robin on January 22, 2016

We haven’t had much commentary here on the Clinton/Sanders campaign for the Democratic nomination. I hate to disrupt the preternatural calm, but here goes…

For the last two weeks or so, I have been trying to stay focused on my work on Clarence Thomas, but all the liberal commentary on the Democratic primary has gotten me so irritated that I keep finding myself back on social media, posting, tweeting, commenting, and the like. So I figured I’d bring everything that I’ve been saying about the election campaign there, here. In no particular order. And with no effort to be scholarly or scientific. Just my random observations and musings…

1. Clintonite McCarthyism

According to The Guardian:

The dossier, prepared by opponents of Sanders and passed on to the Guardian by a source who would only agree to be identified as “a Democrat”, alleges that Sanders “sympathized with the USSR during the Cold War” because he went on a trip there to visit a twinned city while he was mayor of Burlington. Similar “associations with communism” in Cuba are catalogued alongside a list of quotes about countries ranging from China to Nicaragua in a way that supporters regard as bordering on the McCarthyite rather than fairly reflecting his views.

This is becoming a straight-up rerun of the 1948 campaign against Henry Wallace. Except that Clinton is running well to the right of Truman and even, in some respects, Dewey. It seems as if Clinton is campaigning for the vote of my Grandpa Nat. There’s only one problem with this strategy: he’s been dead for nearly a quarter-century.

As was true of McCarthyism, it’s not really Sanders’s communism or his socialism that has got today’s McCarthyites in the Democratic Party worried; it’s actually his liberalism. As this article in the Times makes clear:

“Some third party will say, ‘This is what the first ad of the general election is going to look like,’” said James Carville, the longtime Clinton adviser, envisioning a commercial savaging Mr. Sanders for supporting tax increases and single-payer health care. “Once you get the nomination, they are not going to play nice.”

A Sanders-led ticket generates two sets of fears among Clinton supporters: that other Democratic candidates could be linked to his staunchly liberal views, particularly his call to raise taxes, even on middle-class families, to help finance his universal health care plan; and that more mainstream Democrats would have to answer to voters uneasy about what it means to be a European-style social democrat.

Raising taxes to pay for popular social programs: that used to be the bread and butter of the Democratic Party liberalism. Now it’s socialism. And that—now it’s socialism—used to be the bread and butter of Republican Party revanchism. Now it’s Democratic Party liberalism.

2. Clinton’s “Firewall”

The new line of argument against Sanders winning the nomination is that African American voters are Clinton’s “firewall,” which will engulf the Sanders campaign once it heads South. There have been God knows how many articles making this claim over the last two days, celebrating the Clintons’ deep and storied relations with the black community—how, whatever the Clintons’ policy positions (support for mass incarceration, welfare reform, etc.), both Hillary and Bill do the kind of retail and symbolic politics that black voters care most about. (I’ll note in passing but not comment on the patronizing condescension of this position). And that we’ll see all of this come into play after Iowa, when the campaign heads to South Carolina.

It could be true.

But first let’s go to the Wayback Machine and see how black leaders in South Carolina responded in 2008 the last time the Clintons worked their magic there:

Black leaders widely criticized Mr. Clinton after he equated the eventual victory of Mr. Obama in the South Carolina primary in January to that of the Rev. Jesse Jackson in the 1988 caucus, a parallel that many took as an effort to diminish Mr. Obama’s success in the campaign….In an interview with The New York Times late Thursday, Mr. Clyburn [3rd ranking Democrat in the US House of Representatives] said Mr. Clinton’s conduct in this campaign had caused what might be an irreparable breach between Mr. Clinton and an African-American constituency that once revered him.

Speaking of Jim Clyburn and South Carolina, he was on NBC recently, talking about Clinton’s firewall in 2016. Start listening at 2:30, where he says that if Sanders wins by ten points in Iowa, that firewall could disappear very quickly. As it did in 2008.

Just saying.

3. Sister Souljah Moment

Remember Sister Souljah? In 1992, Bill Clinton chose to go after her as a signal to white voters that he and the Democrats were no longer beholden to black voters. It was a signature moment not only for him but also for the Democratic Party: they weren’t going to be the party of quotas, welfare, and black people. Which makes the claim that Sanders is bad—and Clinton is great—on race all the more galling. Have we forgotten everything? Well, there’s one figure in the United States today who hasn’t: Sister Souljah. Back in November, she spoke out against Clinton’s campaign.

3. A Little Nutty and a Little Slutty

Speaking of forgetting everything: David Brock, the man who called Anita Hill “a little bit nutty and a little bit slutty,” now says “black lives don’t matter much to Bernie Sanders.” Brock is described here as “a top Clinton ally” who “runs several super PACs aiding her candidacy.” Only in this country could such a charlatan make these sorts of claims and get away with it.

4. Dissolve the People, Elect Another

As Sanders surges in the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire—opening up a 8-point lead in Iowa and a 27-point lead in New Hampshire—and the pundits and party elites get squirmier and squirmier about his possible victory, I’m reminded of this line from Brecht:

Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?

5. First They Came For…

First they came for the Revolution
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Revolution.
Then they came for the Parliamentary Socialism
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Parliamentary Socialism.
Then they came for the Third Party
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Third Party.
Then they came for the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party.
Then they came for the Green Lantern
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Green Lantern.
Then they came for me
but that was cool
because I’m a Democrat.

6. Camera Obscura

Speaking of German writers, in The German Ideology, Marx wrote, “In all ideology men and their circumstances appear upside-down as in a camera obscura.” I was reminded of that quote when I stumbled across this story from the summer. Back in July, while everyone was touting Clinton’s sensitivity and deftness (and Sanders’s insensitivity and tone-deafness) around issues of mass incarceration and Black Lives Matter, this little tidbit was reported in The Intercept. And completely ignored:

Lobbyists for two major prison companies are serving as top fundraisers for Hillary Clinton….Richard Sullivan, of the lobbying firm Capitol Counsel, is a bundler for the Clinton campaign, bringing in $44,859 in contributions in a few short months. Sullivan is also a registered lobbyist for the Geo Group, a company that operates a number of jails, including immigrant detention centers, for profit. As we reported yesterday, fully five Clinton bundlers work for the lobbying and law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. Corrections Corporation of America, the largest private prison company in America, paid Akin Gump $240,000 in lobbying fees last year. The firm also serves as a law firm for the prison giant, representing the company in court….The Geo Group, in a disclosure statement for its investors, notes that its business could be “adversely affected by changes in existing criminal or immigration laws, crime rates in jurisdictions in which we operate, the relaxation of criminal or immigration enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction, sentencing or deportation practices, and the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by criminal laws or the loosening of immigration laws.”

Apparently, the new rule of American politics is: So long as you say the right thing, you can do anything.

Post-script: In October, Clinton was forced to stop working with these clowns from the prison industrial complex. And return all the money.

Sanders never had to return a dime. Because he never took a dime.

7. Reparations

Sanders has gotten a lot of heat from the left for saying he’s against reparations. It’s a complicated issue, the substance of which I don’t want to comment on here.

Instead I’ll just note that in 2008 another presidential candidate was asked about his position on reparations. Here’s what he had to say:

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama opposes offering reparations to the descendants of slaves, putting him at odds with some black groups and leaders.

The man with a serious chance to become the nation’s first black president argues that government should instead combat the legacy of slavery by improving schools, health care and the economy for all.

“I have said in the past — and I’ll repeat again — that the best reparations we can provide are good schools in the inner city and jobs for people who are unemployed,” the Illinois Democrat said recently.

“Let’s not be naive. Sen. Obama is running for president of the United States, and so he is in a constant battle to save his political life,” said Kibibi Tyehimba, co-chair of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America. “In light of the demographics of this country, I don’t think it’s realistic to expect him to do anything other than what he’s done.”

But this is not a position Obama adopted just for the presidential campaign. He voiced the same concerns about reparations during his successful run for the Senate in 2004.

I pointed this out on Twitter to Killer Mike, the rapper who’s supporting Sanders. He retweeted me, which may be just about the biggest endorsement on Twitter I’ve ever gotten.

Killer Mike

Except for that time Morgan Fairchild retweeted me. And that time John Cusack retweeted me. But who’s counting?

8. The Establishment

After Human Rights Campaign and Planned Parenthood endorsed Clinton, Sanders said they were part of “the establishment.” Clinton and her supporters made a big to-do of it. But this response from Garance Franke-Ruta was the most sublime:

No, not really.

Back in 1985, that old dinosaur of a socialist Bernie Sanders was signing a Gay Pride Day Proclamation on the grounds that gay rights were civil rights.

Back in the 1990s, while the Clintons were supporting DOMA and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, that old dinosaur of a socialist helped lead the opposition to both policies on the grounds that they were anti-gay.

And throughout his career in the Senate, Sanders got consistently higher ratings from civil rights organizations than Clinton did while she was a senator.

The only thing this whole episode is a reminder of is how poorly journalists do their job.

Speaking of the establishment, Clinton is now claiming that it’s Sanders who’s the establishment, while she is, I don’t know what. Whatever she calls herself, I wonder what she calls this:

Hillary Clinton’s campaign released a letter this week in which 10 foreign policy experts criticized her opponent Bernie Sanders’ call for closer engagement with Iran and said Sanders had “not thought through these crucial national security issues that can have profound consequences for our security.”

The missive from the Clinton campaign was covered widely in the press, but what wasn’t disclosed in the coverage is that fully half of the former State Department officials and ambassadors who signed the letter, and who are now backing Clinton, are now enmeshed in the military contracting establishment, which has benefited tremendously from escalating violence around the world, particularly in the Middle East.

Here are some of the letter signatories’ current employment positions that were not disclosed in the reporting of the letter:

  • Former Assistant Defense Secretary Derek Chollet, former Pentagon and CIA Chief of Staff Jeremy Bash, and former Deputy National Security Adviser Julianne Smith are now employed by the consulting firm Beacon Global Strategies, a firm we profiled last year. Beacon Global Strategies’ staff advises both Clinton and Republican candidates for president, including Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. The firm makes money by providing advice to a clientele that is primarily military contractors. Beacon Global Strategies, however, has refused to disclose the identity of its clients.
  • Former Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns is a senior counselor at the Cohen Group, a consulting firm founded by former Defense Secretary William Cohen. The firm “assists aerospace and defense firms on policy, business development, and transactions,” including deals in the U.S., Turkey, Israel, and the Middle East.
  • Former Undersecretary of Defense Jim Miller is an advisory boardmember to Endgame Systems, a start-up that has been called the “Blackwater of Hacking.” Miller is also on the board of BEI Precision Systems & Space, a military contractor.

9. Savant

You’ll be hearing a lot in the coming weeks about what a political savant Hillary Clinton is—and what a political naif Bernie Sanders is. You already have. On Sunday or Monday, I counted five such articles alone.

Here’s some information to consider when you hear that kind of talk:

Even though the Clinton team has sought to convey that it has built a national operation, the campaign has invested much of its resources in the Feb. 1 caucuses in Iowa, hoping that a victory there could marginalize Mr. Sanders and set Mrs. Clinton on the path to the nomination. As much as 90 percent of the campaign’s resources are now split between Iowa and the Brooklyn headquarters, according to an estimate provided by a person with direct knowledge of the spending. The campaign denied that figure. The campaign boasted last June, when Mrs. Clinton held her kickoff event on Roosevelt Island in New York, that it had at least one paid staff member in all 50 states. But the effort did not last, and the staff members were soon let go or reassigned….For all its institutional advantages, the Clinton campaign lags behind the Sanders operation in deploying paid staff members: For example, Mr. Sanders has campaign workers installed in all 11 of the states that vote on Super Tuesday. Mrs. Clinton does not.

Even Bill Clinton is questioning the strategic wisdom of the Clinton campaign:

Bill Clinton is getting nervous.

With polls showing Bernie Sanders ahead in New Hampshire and barely behind, if at all, in Iowa, the former president is urging his wife to start looking toward the delegate-rich March primaries — a shift for an organizing strategy that’s been laser-focused on the early states.

Bill Clinton, according to a source with firsthand knowledge of the situation, has been phoning campaign manager Robby Mook almost daily to express concerns about the campaign’s organization in the March voting states, which includes delegate bonanzas in Florida, Illinois, Ohio and Texas.

Many Clinton allies share the president’s desire for more organization on the ground; they see enthusiasm that’s ready to be channeled, but no channel yet in place. “Iowa matters a ton, but it seems to be the campaign’s only focus,” said one person close to the campaign’s operations in a March state — one of nearly a dozen Clinton allies with whom POLITICO spoke for this article. “It’s going to be a long primary, and the campaign seems less prepared for it than they were in 2008.”

10. We Are All Socialists Now

From the great state of Iowa:

Little noticed in this week’s Des Moines Register-Bloomberg Politics Iowa poll was this finding: a remarkable 43 percent of likely Democratic caucus participants describe themselves as socialists, including 58 percent of Sanders’s supporters and about a third of Clinton’s.

And it’s not just Iowa:

Senator Bernie Sanders’s speech on Thursday explaining his democratic socialist ideology carried little risk among supporters and other Democrats: A solid majority of them have a positive impression of socialism, according to aNew York Times/CBS News poll released this month.

Fifty-six percent of those Democratic primary voters questioned said they felt positive about socialism as a governing philosophy, versus 29 percent who took a negative view.

11. The Gender Gap

Another pundit trope is that Sanders is not popular among women. There is a gender gap in this primary, in fact, but it’s not only the one you may have heard about. According to the latest USA Today poll:

There is a gender gap as well — and not the one that favors Clinton among baby boomer women. Men under 35 support Sanders by 4 percentage points. Women back him by almost 20 points. The possibility of breaking new ground by electing the first female president apparently carries less persuasive power among younger women than their mothers’ generation.

Stone is ready to support Clinton, though she prefers Sanders. “He’s actually talking about breaking up the big banks and helping income inequality,” she says, “and given that I’m currently unemployed, income inequality is pretty important.”

A fact that apparently has caught the Clinton campaign completely off-guard:

Mrs. Clinton and her team say they always anticipated the race would tighten, with campaign manager Robby Mook telling colleagues last spring that Mr. Sanders would be tough competition. Yet they were not prepared for Mr. Sanders to become so popular with young people and independents, especially women, whom Mrs. Clinton views as a key part of her base.

12. Chelsea Mourning

Chelsea Clinton, who lives in a Gramercy Park apartment that she and her husband bought three years ago for $10.5 million, says:

I was curious if I could care about (money) on some fundamental level, and I couldn’t.

Reminds me of that old joke: One fish asks another, “How’s the water?” The other replies, “What the hell is water?”

13. The Immense and Shitty Hassle of Everyday Life Under Capitalism…

Arin Dube launched an interesting discussion on his Facebook page the other day. Riffing off of a bunch of Paul Krugman’s posts, which are fairly critical of Sanders’s health-care plans, Arin wondered whether Sanders’s focus on single-payer, after all the drama and struggle over Obamacare and its achievements in terms of extended coverage, really makes political sense.

There are excellent arguments on all sides, and Arin’s voice is always one that I listen to. But I posted this comment on his page because I have this nagging feeling that a lot of the discussion around health care and insurance in the media is missing a critical reality. I’m posting it less as a definitive statement and more as an opening to see if my own intuitions and experiences track with those of others. I recognize that I really could be an outlier here, so feel free to tell me that I am. I just find it hard to believe that my experience of this system is so completely sui generis.

Anyway, here’s an edited version of what I said:

Can I speak to this less from the policy or political perspective or more from the individual perspective, as a way of getting to the political perspective?

My family has insurance: I get mine from CUNY and my wife and daughter get theirs from my wife’s employer. From what I can gather, we have decent insurance. Yet when I think about the mountains of time I have to spend dealing with health care and insurance—the submission of forms, the resubmission of forms, haggling with the insurance companies to make sure things that should be covered are covered (or simply to make sure that forms are being processed at all), getting the doctor to revise forms b/c the diagnostic or procedure codes may not be correct or may have changed (which they do with alarming frequency, it seems)—and the consistent surprises I experience about how much we still have to pay—after the deductibles, the premiums, the co-pays, the out-of-networks are accounted for—before we even get reimbursed, I can’t quite believe the statements that are out there about how there’s just not a constituency for further reform.

Again, we have pretty good insurance. We are pretty healthy and don’t have out-of-the-ordinary needs. We are comparatively well off and highly educated. Yet there’s an inordinate hassle of time, and in the end a lot of costs we have to absorb ourselves (and a tremendous amount of confusion, despite my PhD, about how those costs get calculated and distributed), which I find maddening (and expensive!)

Am I just that sui generis? Or is it that the academic and media discourse is so focused on a certain kind of aggregate data that it ignores that there are huge costs that are being shouldered by individuals—and that if there were political leadership that could really speak to those costs, there might be more of a constituency than we realize?

What I take Sanders to be doing is making these individual costs a public or political problem; what I see mostly happening in the discussion is a shuffling off of those costs onto the individual so that they simply disappear from the political calculus. It’s a classic issue of politics: one side (a very small side, it seems) wants to make what is personal and individual into something public and political, while another side— including, it seems, a lot of reformers—tends to escort those personal and individual experiences off into the shadows.

What I’m saying here doesn’t confront, I recognize, the reality of the institutional intransigence of those who are opposed to reform. That’s a separate issue.

But when I hear that Obamacare has solved this problem for 90% of the population, and I think that my family is up there in the relatively well off sector of that population yet experiences significant costs and burdens that we find very hard to shoulder and understand—well, I just wonder if we’re really seeing this reality whole.

I was building here on an old theme of mine: the immense and shitty hassle of everyday life that is life in contemporary capitalism. I wrote about that in Jacobin a few years ago.

In the neoliberal utopia, all of us are forced to spend an inordinate amount of time keeping track of each and every facet of our economic lives….We saw a version of it during the debate on Obama’s healthcare plan. I distinctly remember, though now I can’t find it, one of those healthcare whiz kids — maybe it was Ezra Klein — tittering on about the nifty economics and cool visuals of Obama’s plan: how you could go to the web, check out the exchange, compare this little interstice of one plan with that little interstice of another, and how great it all was because it was just so fucking complicated. I thought to myself: you’re either very young or an academic. And since I’m an academic, and could only experience vertigo upon looking at all those blasted graphs and charts, I decided whoever it was, was very young. Only someone in their twenties — whipsmart enough to master an inordinately complicated law without having to make real use of it — could look up at that Everest of words and numbers and say: Yes! There’s freedom!

14. Clarence Thomas and Free Speech

This has nothing to do with the election, but what the hell?

I did manage, when I wasn’t tearing my hair out or having an aneurism over the campaign commentary, to read a lot of Clarence Thomas and secondary work on commercial speech. And it struck me in reading all this material that Citizens United and campaign finance law may be a massive sideshow to the real drama around money/speech that’s occurring in conservative jurisprudential circles. Conservatives aim, it seems, to use the First Amendment to strike down entire economic regulatory regimes at the state and federal levels. On the grounds that so much of commercial life is a mode of speech, which should be protected like other modes of speech. In one instance they struck down a licensing law in DC that required tour guides to be registered with the city: violation of free speech. Thomas is at the center of this, and it’s really unclear how far the conservatives on the Court will be willing to go. It raises some fascinating questions because the connection between money and speech—as I’m discovering in this excellent dissertation I’ve been reading—is an old and surprisingly complicated one in political theory, in which Aristotle and Locke play critical roles. (Locke’s pamphlet against the devaluation of the pound may have been, according to this author, the single most influential writing he did up until the 19th century.) Anyway, lots going on in this arena, which we should all be paying more attention to.

15. Politics Without Bannisters

There’s a lot of fretting—both well meaning and cynical—out there about whether Sanders can win.

Here’s the deal, people. For the last decade and a half, we’ve been treated to lecture after lecture from on high about how if you want things to change, you have to build from below. Well, that process has been going on for some time.

Unlike purists of the left and purists of the center (who are the most insufferable purists of all, precisely because they think they’re not), I look at the various fits and starts of the last 15 years—from Seattle to the Nader campaign to the Iraq war protests to the Dean campaign to the Obama campaign to Occupy to the various student debt campaigns to Black Lives Matter—as part of a continuum, where men and women, young and old, slowly re-learn the art of politics. Whose first rule is: if you want x, shoot for 1000x, and whose second rule is: it’s not whether you fail (you probably will), but how you fail, whether you and your comrades are still there afterward to pick up the pieces and learn from your mistakes.

Though I’ve not been involved in all these efforts, I know from the ones that I have been involved in that people are learning these rules.

But at some point, you have to put that knowledge to the test. Now the Sanders campaign is putting it to the test. Is it too soon? Maybe, probably, I have no idea. None of us does.

But you can’t possibly think we got anything decent in this country without men and women before us taking these—and far greater—risks, taking these—and far greater—gambles.

Sometimes I think Americans fear failure in politics not for the obvious and well grounded reasons but because they are, well, Americans, that is, men and women who live in a capitalist civilization where success is a religious duty and failure a sin, where Thou Shalt Succeed is the First Commandment, and Thou Shalt Not Fail the Tenth.

Is it not the right time for the Sanders campaign? The Republicans control the Congress, Sanders might lose to Trump or whomever, we don’t have the organizational forces in place yet? Well, re the first two concerns, when will that not be the case?

As for the third, well, that’s a very real concern to me. But we won’t know in the abstract or on paper; we have to see it in action to know.

Right now, the voters of Iowa and New Hampshire are telling the pundits and fetters: we are reality, deny us at your own peril. (I’m fantasizing a campaign where Sanders racks up more and more victories, and the pundits get more and more hysterical: he can’t win, he can’t win!) Maybe the putative realists—for whom reality seems to be more of a fetish or magical incantation—ought to listen to them.

16. Fame

Oh, and did I mention that I got retweeted by Killer Mike?

17. Speaking of fame

In memory of David Bowie…



Rakesh Bhandari 01.22.16 at 10:43 pm

That’s a long message, and I am not quite sure whether there is a discussion of the differences about US foreign policy in Syria. I think Sanders is making a lot more sense than Clinton, but I would need to see this worked out. My very superficial impression is that Clinton sounds like Robert Gates and Sanders like Juan Cole.


Omega Centauri 01.22.16 at 10:50 pm

They will certainly pin the Socialist label on him, the question is just how radioactive that word still is? It used to sport a million Seiverts (i.e. instant death), but the activity has clearly declined a lot recently. Still I think it is a big risk, as some subset of swing voters might be susceptible.


Rakesh Bhandari 01.22.16 at 10:51 pm

Juan Cole seems critical of Sanders too.
At any rate, I think the differences in regards to foreign policy re: Syria and ISIL are very important for informed US citizens to think about.


Gareth Wilson 01.22.16 at 11:03 pm

Could you tell us how much Levi Sander’s house is worth?


LFC 01.22.16 at 11:08 pm

Re #13 (health insurance): my intuition is fairly similar, i.e., that the current system continues to contain hassles for a number of people, even the relatively privileged (though experiences obvs. vary, and I’m not downplaying that Obamacare was an advance and helpful for many). [Further illustration would require getting into details of my own situation, wh/ don’t esp. want to do here. Will say that if one is good at procrastination it’s easy to put off making needed changes in ins. plans (assuming one is in that part of the insurance market where choice is possible), or such is my own experience.]


js. 01.22.16 at 11:25 pm

This promises to be fun!

#8 is dead on, though. It’s just become one of those things that everyone says as if it’s obvious, when it’s very much not.


Joseph Brenner 01.22.16 at 11:58 pm

And speaking of David Bowie, I was just thinking about sending Paul Krugman a link to “Always Crashing in the Same Car”.


bob mcmanus 01.23.16 at 12:05 am

8 is only sorta right on, because it misses that Garance Franke-Ruta is not of the left, and not really interested in either economic or social justice. She is a bourgeois opportunist.

And that is what the argument should be, in those terms: Krugman, Juan Cole, Yglesias, Klein, Loomis, Lemieux etc and all the other members of the courtier class are the immediate enemies of meaningful social and economic progress.

Robin managed to discuss reparations without mentioning the rich guy in the villa in Paris who posted one of the more mendacious pieces of organization hackwork in the last week. But no bougie, he. So careful Robin. Lines that can’t be crossed.


Placeholder 01.23.16 at 12:22 am

8. I wonder if the best way to riposte the iran-blasphemy she’s putting on Sanders because of using the word “move aggressively” in the debate is that the camera then pans to Hilary to give HER debate response…which is nothing. If he blah blah blah RAACE TRAITOR blah’d, then why didn’t our Secretary of State notice? How can you make Iran an untouchable demon while being the member of the cabinet cutting a treaty with it RIGHT NOW?

11. The gender gap is always under-analysed. Women since the the ’90s have divided sharply by age and much more sharply than men. Young women vote It’s possible Clinton is doing better among all women – it’s just that Sanders is doing better among the women who vote Democrat. Ed Miliband pulled of +16% swing in the 18-24 women’s vote and -3% of the 55+s, achieving a 20-point gap.

13. One of the great silent psychological effects of the NHS is the British have no idea about this. Get sick? Got to the doctor. Break leg? Go to doctor. That’s it. The British aren’t aware you’re supposed to do anything else. The French and German systems still require private plans where you’re actually supposed to do something.

As for getting Corbynized treatment, the NYPost recently tried to
“The Sandinista government has more support among the Nicaraguan people — substantially more support — than Ronald Reagan has among the American people,” Sanders told Vermont government-access TV in 1985.”
And I’m like, didn’t Reagan have to commit TREASON to get his policy on Nicarargua past the American people?

PS Actually we non-fish do say “how is the air”..but we mean “how much water is there in it”.


Happy Jack 01.23.16 at 12:29 am

Could you tell us how much Levi Sander’s house is worth?

Trulia says $200,000 US. Not sure why it matters. He hasn’t acted like a political hack as far as I’m aware.


Ronan(rf) 01.23.16 at 12:32 am

My understanding on women’s voting patterns (as a generality, and I’m more sure that this is applicable across Europe) is that women tended to vote conservative (more so than men) as they got older and had children, but over the past number of decades as women have entered the workforce in greater numbers (particularly in lower paid and insecure jobs) , and have put off/decided against having children/or raised them to a greater extent in single parent households, their voting preferences have drifted to the left, while men’s have drifted to the right.


Ronan(rf) 01.23.16 at 12:33 am

..I meant to finish that with, does this sound plausible ?


Sandwichman 01.23.16 at 12:40 am

“The only thing this whole episode is a reminder of is how poorly journalists do their job.”

On the contrary. It is a reminder of how seamlessly journalist do their job, which is to NOT ferret out the historical facts that contradict the propaganda.


LFC 01.23.16 at 1:01 am

The notion that Erik Loomis (of all people) is a member of ‘the courtier class’ and an “immediate enemy of economic and social progress” is bizarre. Unless you think Loomis should quit his ac. job and instead of writing books and posts about the evils of globalized capitalism do… what exactly? Ditto for some of the other names on mcmanus’s list.

Question: who are the *friends*, in bob mcmanus’s view, of economic and social progress? Is it someone like Jodi Dean, to take one name whom he has quoted approvingly here before? How does an academic like Dean, writing her books on au courant political theory and other matters, count as a friend of social progress, while an academic like Loomis, writing about labor history and labor struggles, count as an enemy? Or to be a friend of social progress, in mcmanus’s view, does one have to refrain from any actual interventions in politics?


Elizabeth 01.23.16 at 1:06 am

On point #13: I’m also reasonably well off and highly educated, and my supposedly good group insurance has involved me in the same sorts of endless hassles and headaches and confusions you describe, and given the complaints I hear from other people in my office, I’m not alone. So I suspect that this is a very widespread problem.


kidneystones 01.23.16 at 1:27 am

@ 14 gets to the nub for both the Dems and the GOP. Who is better equipped to fix things Bernie or Hillary, Ted or Trump? The question is easier to answer for the right – Cruz is hated by just about everybody in Washington on both sides of the aisle. He might as well run as candidate gridlock.

Bernie’s real, or imagined, support for the former Soviet Union is going to matter much less than his solutions for health-care reform and job creation. He needs to get these right. If he does, and if he can bring a few credible economists on board as advocates, Bernie could go all the way. The relationship between Democrats and minorities is strained. Prior to 2008, Democrats could point to an extremely solid record of supporting minorities. The election of a minority to the WH raised expectations, however, at precisely the time when the concerns of minorities mattered far less than limiting the fallout of the second regression, as it has been named. Rich Democrats like Hillary and her pals saw their boats rise. African-Americans saw theirs sink.

Which means the African-American vote is very much in play. Others have noted that Hillary has a very peculiar set of standards when it comes to legal and moral matters. No need to dwell on these here, other than to say it’s hard to see how she wins over a large group of extremely skeptical female voters on the gender card alone.

I very much expect Trump to be the banner for a ‘new’ GOP, patriotic, diverse, inclusive of all Americans, and exclusive of all others. I expect Sanders is going to build something very similar, but less emphasis on patriotism and more emphasis on egalitarianism. If he gets the mix right during the primaries, he mighttake the WH. There’s no question that Trump would much prefer to beat a Bush in the primary to fight a Clinton in the general. Bernie as Corey notes, is a different beast.

Problem is Bernie resembles Corbyn too much. Which means Hillary gets the nod and the benefit of lesser evil support. I hope Bernie does get the nomination and somehow manages to assemble of luminaries to help him get elected and govern. However, if team Bernie looks anything like team Corbyn, he doesn’t stand a chance.


Placeholder 01.23.16 at 1:53 am

Ronan(rf)@12: I think theorising it might be derailing but I should note that media commentary actually prefers to subcategorise us women voters as un/married. Looked at this way the gap is very large.

kidneystone@16: You say “Bernie’s real, or imagined, support for the former Soviet Union is going to matter much less than his solutions for health-care reform and job creation” then “However, if team Bernie looks anything like team Corbyn, he doesn’t stand a chance.”

Why won’t it matter for Bernie but matter for Corbyn? He has only begun to receive the Corbyn treatment because he’s only begun to show sings of pulling of an upset. The key difference might be that Bernie isn’t actually a big rebel on foreign policy whereas Corbyn is but red scares are matters of ‘race treason’ not fact.

“it’s hard to see how she wins over a large group of extremely skeptical female voters on the gender card alone.”
Because she did in 2008 though. That’s why I’m speculating that the 2008 and 2012 elections seem to have shifted the kind of women who vote Democrat into something more left-leaning by driving unmarried (presumably younger and poorer) women into the camp.


Cian 01.23.16 at 1:58 am

I agree on point #13 also. I think this is just yet one more example of where the elite are completely out of touch (presumably they have much better healthcare).

For example, this from Krugman:
“But to get costs down to, say, Canadian levels, we’d need to do what they do: say no to patients, telling them that they can’t always have the treatment they want.”

So no different to the experience of most Americans today then.


Ronan(rf) 01.23.16 at 2:13 am

I think I butchered the argument a little (below is a clearer perspective from Ann wren in the journal renewal “the political economy of the service transition”) . I’ll leave it there as it is off topic

“The good news, however, relates to the other dominant aspect of the transformation of labour markets in service based economies – that is, of course, the rapid increase in the number of female labour force participants. Female labour force participation closely tracks the expansion of service sector employment, and the indications are that causality in this relationship runs in both directions. ..Whatever its roots, the relationship between service sector expansion and female employment is a tight one. The importance of this for politics is that women who participate in the labour market are significantly more supportive of welfare state policies involving public employment and service provision.

Public service expansion serves simultaneously to provide female employment and to facilitate female labour market participation (by supporting women in the caring roles for which they typically share a disproportionate amount of the burden like child and elder care). As a result, women who participate in the labour market now show higher levels of support for these policies, and for the left parties that advocate them, than men; they are also more left-leaning than women who do not participate. And as a result, the size of the gender gap in political preferences is increasing over time in line with rising rates of female labour force participation (Iversen and Rosenbluth, 2010, and chapter 10, PET).

This constitutes a significant change in gender-based patterns of political preferences, which has potentially radical implications for politics: in the past, the gender gap between men and women, if anything, went the other way, with women typically displaying more conservative preferences than men. The close association between the switch to the left in women’s political preferences, and the expansion of women’s employment in service sector jobs, however, means that this new feature of the electoral landscape is unlikely to shift in the near future.”


Cian 01.23.16 at 2:39 am

I don’t understand why people keep telling me Hillary is the safe candidate. She’s divisive, she’s a bad campaigner, she seems to be a poor administrator, she has bad judgement (the email server. Really?), she is not good at dealing with political opposition and a large chunk of the country hate or distrust her.


Ronan(rf) 01.23.16 at 3:10 am

I don’t see the problem with the krugman quote at 18, unless he’s wrong on the claim he’s making. I don’t really understand with any sophistication how cost controls work comparatively in developed health care systems but the US does appear to spend considerably more than other countries . Is this just because of higher administrative, insurance, technological , drugs etc costs, or do Americans tend to opt for more expensive more regular and more unnecessary treatment ?


Bruce Wilder 01.23.16 at 3:12 am

bob mcmanus @ 8

LFC @ 14

It has certainly been a lesson in whose side are you on anyway. I don’t know what “courtier class” means, but the performance of the soi disant liberals has been telling.

Krugman on health care was pretty bad. He gave up a lot of credibility, with hackish analysis.

Loomis was just sad, an illustration of learned helplessness.


Cian 01.23.16 at 3:30 am

I don’t see the problem with the krugman quote at 18, unless he’s wrong on the claim he’s making.

He’s suggesting that it’s an insurmountable political barrier. Which assumes that Americans with insurance get all the treatment they want without anyone ever saying no. This certainly hasn’t been my experience.


js. 01.23.16 at 4:10 am

It has certainly been a lesson in whose side are you on anyway.

What are the sides? Seriously, I am not sure what the sides are supposed to be here.


LFC 01.23.16 at 4:34 am

Bruce Wilder @22
It has certainly been a lesson in whose side are you on anyway. I don’t know what “courtier class” means, but the performance of the soi disant liberals has been telling…
Krugman on health care was pretty bad… Loomis was just sad, an illustration of learned helplessness.

Loomis wrote a couple of recent posts (I read them only v. quickly) expressing some doubts about one or two of Sanders’ policy proposals, suggesting he has yet to work out details and priorities if he were actually to get elected. Then in a still more recent post on TPP, Loomis credited Sanders for being opposed to it.

I don’t agree w everything Loomis writes at LGM, by any means. But I don’t think the mcmanus characterization of him is justified. Lemieux spends much more time in criticizing and snarking at those he sees as being to his left or unpragmatic or whatnot; Loomis, by contrast, mostly writes about U.S. and global labor issues, w some other stuff thrown in.

I think it’s good for the debate, the campaign, and the system that Sanders is running. Rt now I don’t expect him to win the nomination, but if he does that’s v. fine with me. Somewhat less enthusiastic about Clinton, but her superiority to any potential Republican nominee is, to me, completely obvious. (She might even turn out to be a pretty good President if elected; better than her husband in some respects. You never know.)

The health care thing I’m of two minds on. The best system wd be single-payer. Whether what Sanders is proposing can pass even a Democratically-controlled Congress, however, seems a v. open question. Clinton’s position to build on and improve the ACA, rather than start over, is not irrational. On the merits Sanders’ position (which I haven’t read the details of) is better, but the feasibility of his proposal in terms of passage I think is, unfortunately, a v. big question mark.


js. 01.23.16 at 4:39 am

She might even turn out to be a pretty good President if elected; better than her husband in some respects. You never know.

I have very little doubt that if she becomes president, H. Clinton will be a better president than B. Clinton in almost all respects. Not because she’s somehow way more awesome, but because it’s 2016 and not 1992.


LFC 01.23.16 at 4:41 am

yes, good point.


Sebastian H 01.23.16 at 4:52 am

Since I disagree with Corey so frequently, I want to take this opportunity to agree with everything he wrote here about the Democratic nomination race. The game playing on gay and poverty issues is especially galling. Clinton came out against Don’t Ask Don’t Tell at about the same time that a majority of Republicans were polling against it. She deserves Republican level of credit toward gay rights for that. She came out in favor of gay marriage only at the last second after the wave had already built. She has always been a harsh law and order politician, not even coming around to even giving an appearance of caring about police tactics until 2015. Sanders has been well ahead of the Democratic party on both those issues for decades. And the idea that Sanders will have troubles with a Republican Congress that Clinton won’t have is self-evidently crazy. Do you people know Republicans? They DO NOT LIKE CLINTON.


kidneystones 01.23.16 at 5:16 am

@ Thank you for this. Corbyn travels with a number of people who make the Labour leader look like a portrait of restraint. Consider what Volker and Emmanuel did to firm up support for O. Second point is that the Corbyn is the leader of her majesty’s loyal opposition and very unlikely to be elected leader of Great Britain. I’m pleased that Corbyn leads Labour because the party was/is in need of a drastic shake-up. Plus, a parliamentary system allows voters to dump the government any time. Bernie is still running for leader of the ‘free’ world and voters are stuck with their choice for four years. I think, btw, that this fact drives voters toward Hillary, because a lot of voters want safe hands. One doesn’t need to be prescient to discern that candidate GOP will be depicted as ‘crazy’ ‘racist’ ‘uncaring’ and in the pocket of the 1 percent.

@ 28 Yes, yes, and yes. Except, of course, that Democrats rely on homophobia when it suits them:

“…Meanwhile, Obama staff were inside and outside the building, working the crowd and trying to register new voters. Nearly all of the African-American concert-goers interviewed by CNN expressed support for McClurkin. Some referenced the First Amendment, saying McClurkin had the right to say what he pleased. Others agreed with McClurkin and said that homosexuality is a choice. Several more invoked the Bible and said homosexuality is simply wrong.

A September poll conducted by Winthrop University and ETV showed that 74 percent of South Carolina African-Americans believe homosexuality is “unacceptable.”

O played this perfectly. He needed to peel black voters away from Clinton and he used anti-gay bigotry to establish a base in South Carolina. I watched O throw gays under the bus and remember clearly the palpable revulsion I felt listening to O apologists try to justify the tactic.


jeer9 01.23.16 at 5:43 am

Thanks. A very sharp analysis.

We’ll see what happens when the votes get counted, but I have a hunch that the Dem electorate is burnt-out on the Clintons, their scandals, their donor schmoozing, their triangulating and fudging of actual records and accomplishments, their hardball campaign tactics.

Obama was elected precisely because he seemed an outsider in Washington while also speaking to the dreams and aspirations of so many people; and though he has certainly been the lesser evil, the safe centrism he has adhered to (and through which he achieved his major legislation, a giant silver lining) has left a great deal undone through poor appointments, the protection of moneyed interests (failure to prosecute the banksters, HAMP, lack of support for cramdown), and an inability/unwillingness to recognize horrific policy/implementation (NSA spying/chiefs lying, the educational reform grifters, the TTP).

While it’s highly implausible that Sanders would be able to accomplish much given the constitution of the current Congress (and neither would Hillary, for that matter), he would almost certainly make better appointments, push the DoJ to prosecute even the most well-connected and privileged, and fight for the best liberal solutions which improve the status quo, marginal though they may turn out to be.

I may be misjudging the Dem electorate, but I think Obama just whetted their appetite. They understand the obstructionism of the Right … and they want even more strident “socialism” (formerly mainstream liberalism).

When do they want it? NOW.


Meredith 01.23.16 at 6:12 am

Wow. I am grateful for defining the contours of my confusion. I wish we had a different choices to make, but it will probably be between Bernie and Hilary. And then between one of them and god knows who. All this is really helpful.


eric titus 01.23.16 at 7:20 am

I don’t think you need to convince many CTers to like Bernie. The question is really #10. Can he win a general election? Would he have a chance?

I ask this question as a leftist who, like many others, thinks Hillary would also make a good president. Now, Hillary’s electability also deserves scrutiny. But with Bernie it’s really the question to ask.

One reason to be skeptical of Bernie is the socialist label. It still carries weight with a substantial subsection of the population and will be used to paint him as extreme.

Another is his tone. Bernie isn’t the hope and change sort. With Hillary, the goal would be to persuade the country that Democrat policies are leading to positive changes. Bernie (and this is where the Obamacare debate comes in) is much more negative about the direction of the country and the Obama administration in general.

Bernie’s positions are popular, but is his political philosophy popular? Even if voters support many of Bernie’s positions individually, I don’t know how many will go for democratic socialism as a philosophy. For example, many folks may agree with his position on wealth inequality. Does that mean they support free public education? Or maybe they think he won’t stand up to Putin.

I have been watching and waiting for signs that Bernie is able to pitch his positions in ways that will appeal outside his base. He has managed to successfully “pander” on guns, but can he frame his case in a way that seems constructive instead of angry, hopeful instead of idealistic?

The proof, I think, will be in the pudding. If Sanders is able to win Iowa, NH, and some super Tuesday states, then that’s a sign that he is able to marshall support beyond the far left. If not, then I think it’s unlikely that he would have had what it takes for a general election battle.


NomadUK 01.23.16 at 9:42 am

kidneystones@29: Plus, a parliamentary system allows voters to dump the government any time

Since enactment of the execrable Fixed Term Parliament Act, it’s actually extraordinarily difficult, if not practically impossible, to dislodge a Government; we’re stuck with them for five years at a stretch, pretty much regardless.

One would like to think that if Corbyn became PM, that Act might be repealed, but we’ve a bit of a wait for that t happen, if ever.


Phil 01.23.16 at 10:05 am

Only in this country could such a charlatan make these sorts of claims and get away with it.

If you get a moment, google John McTernan.

Good news: the utter, ludicrous, unthinkable impossibility of Corbyn becoming Labour leader has distinct parallels with the utter, ludicrous, unthinkable impossibility of Sanders winning the nomination.
Bad(?) news: the utter, ludicrous, unthinkable impossibility of Corbyn becoming PM has distinct parallels with the utter, ludicrous, unthinkable impossibility of Sanders winning the election. But we shall see.


kidneystones 01.23.16 at 11:46 am

Up yours!

I have no idea, really, how anyone could be happy relying on someone like this to take out the trash, much less lead a country. Factor in the ‘I did nothing wrong’ with the private email server and Trump starts to look pretty good, warts and all. At least he knows how to show up and provide his supporters with a sense that he somewhat interested in their well-being.


Gary Othic 01.23.16 at 12:10 pm

One thing I haven’t seen mentioned a lot (in pieces talking about the success of either Sanders or Corbyn) is the effect the ‘no-Soviet-Union-anymore’ has had. I think it’s fairly important; for the generation of people coming up to vote they’ve never known anything other than the present system, the ‘winning’ system from which There Is No Alternative. In this case I wouldn’t underestimate the power of a grumpy old man saying ‘yes there f*cking well is’.

Also, on both sides of the Atlantic, I think there’s a general fatigue with all the Third Way, Triangulation guff. Certainly in Britain I suspect that a lot of left-types are watching New Labour’s triumphs be unraveled without much effort, with the New Labour types arguing in favour of their unraveling as a sacrifice to the God of ‘electability’ and wondering ‘what was the point of that then?’


Lee A. Arnold 01.23.16 at 1:26 pm

Eric Titus #32: “Can [Bernie] win a general election? Would he have a chance?”

Against Trump or Cruz, yes I think so. For different reasons. Against anybody else in the GOP pack, probably not.


John Garrett 01.23.16 at 2:48 pm

We have a working, effective single payer system in the US without the hassles of private insurance: Medicare. I’ve been on Medicare for 12 years after many different private plans: it’s a different world. I have no forms, I have no hassles, my docs negotiate with Medicare and my supplement, everything gets done promptly and efficiently. I was cured of Hepatitis C in the first month after release (hallelujah) at a cost of several hundred thousand dollars, and paid a co-pay of $90. They can’t terminate me, I have the best care in the world here in greater Boston, it’s the way health care should be. Bernie is right: expand it to everyone. Why do you think seniors in Iowa and New Hampshire endorse him? JG


William Timberman 01.23.16 at 3:05 pm

Re #15: does the pre-Iowa, pre-New Hampshire buzz about the Sanders campaign mean that the worm is finally turning, that all the leftie stuff going on beneath the notice of the major media pince-nez is at last going to erupt into a genuine threat to the status quo? It’d be nice to think so, but having been burned before — McGovern when I was a green kid, Obama when I was damned well old enough to know better — I doubt it. Not yet, comrades, not yet.

Corey’s right, though, or at least I hope he is, that every little bit helps — without anything better to offer myself, I don’t mean to belittle his analysis. I suppose that if we were to keep on keeping on, at some point we might actually be able to have a genuine public engagement with actual issues, rather than the Washington Week in Review bullshit that we’ve been subjected to for decades. As an article of faith, that works as well for me as anything else does. The relevant question is whether or not we’re at that point now. Putting on my Leninist hat for a moment, I’d say no. And if we are, it’s likely we’ll be having a very nasty, very trumpish conversation, at least at the outset, with any potential allies.

And then there’s the fact that Bernie is 74. I know what that feels like, and I gotta say, I’d rather see Corey on top of the barricades than Bernie at this point. (Yeah, I know, you go to war with the army you have, etc.)


Ebenezer Scrooge 01.23.16 at 3:22 pm

Corey’s post is a mixed bag: sharp analysis and fluffy Bernie pom-poms.

The only thing I wanted to comment on was #15, on the art of politics: “Whose first rule is: if you want x, shoot for 1000x, and whose second rule is: it’s not whether you fail (you probably will), but how you fail, whether you and your comrades are still there afterward to pick up the pieces and learn from your mistakes.”

I don’t think that Bernie Sanders would agree with Corey’s first rule. Sanders is a shrewd politician (e.g., his stance on gun control), and isn’t shooting for much more than 2-3x of what he wants, if that. His ultimate goals seem a lot close to social democracy than democratic socialism–a revived New Deal without the racism and with extra environmental sensitivity. Democratically-controlled capitalism, if you want.

If you shoot for 1000x of what you want, nobody will listen. Although I agree with Corey’s second rule–essentially Weber’s slow boring on hard boards.


The Temporary Name 01.23.16 at 3:44 pm

Has anyone seen any of the hours and hours of unedited campaign footage from Ted Cruz?


Garrulous 01.23.16 at 4:05 pm

Point number 13 is spot on. Having, for example, Covered California (the CA version of Obamacare) often involves many hours spent organizing ad hoc conference calls between CC and the insurance company: to coordinate their equally incompetent bureaucracies and correct one of their frequent screw-ups. Imagine the normal frustrating-call-center experience, but with you taking the role of project manager as well as customer. Then repeat the process from scratch weeks or months later.


Lee A. Arnold 01.23.16 at 5:09 pm

Disconnected observations on the pure politics of this, I am not picking a side:

On “Clintonite McCarthyism”: Hillary Clinton is making a big mistake. She should agree with everything that Sanders says. Then say, “I think we should take a look at that.” Then go on to some other issue. (The same thing Trump does). She should also fire her campaign manager.

On Clinton’s “black firewall”: The Clintonites are dreaming if they think they can make this stick.

On “We are all socialists now”: I don’t think Sanders should call himself a “socialist”. Historically that means, “Government ownership of the means of production,” or else, tending to move in that direction. Sanders wants Medicare for all, and to break up the big banks — not even in the same ballpark as true socialism… The GOP will paint Sanders as a closet commie, “he’s a-comin’ to take yer freedum” (indeed, now that Clinton is doing it, you can count on the GOP to use her comments, to do it). Solution? Bernie should head this off now: “Medicare for all and breaking up the big banks won’t lead to a dictatorship, that’s silly!””

Note that Sanders can be rhetorically inept, for purposes of the general election. His locution on single-payer is sometimes mind-boggling: Bernie should simply say:

“Don’t let them scare you about taxes. You will pay 20% LESS than you NOW pay to a private insurer. Right now you pay 120% more to these private insurers. For nothing, they don’t do anything, but unnecessary work!”

Why does this always come out backwards, from Bernie and from everybody else? If I didn’t know the economics, I personally wouldn’t understand Sanders’ explanations of taxes vs. private insurance. Remember, when discussing unfamiliar ideas, most people can connect “A” to “B”, but cannot easily connect “B” to “C”.

The very odd thing is that nobody mentions that Colorado has put a state-run single-payer on their November ballot. It’s not worthy of mention?

On “13. The Immense and Shitty Hassle of Everyday Life Under Capitalism”: I think that Clinton has not fully incorporated into her campaign thinking the obvious: A voter can feel two different things about Obamacare: it’s good to cover more people, and it’s bad because there are huge hassles, it’s confusing, some stuff still isn’t covered, and the insurers are still making it too expensive.


Lee A. Arnold 01.23.16 at 5:16 pm

Rakesh Bhandari #3: “…the differences in regards to foreign policy re: Syria and ISIL are very important…”

I doubt this. There may be rhetorical differences, but there won’t be any difference in reality. ISIS is now losing territory continuously,in both Syria and in Iraq. Due to different actors: In Syria, the Russians are defeating all of Assad’s opponents, not only ISIS but also the rebels the US is/was supporting. In Iraq, the Kurds and the Baghdad gov’t, who don’t like each other, are both defeating ISIS in different locations, and with differing degrees of acceptance of US support. That region has at least 11 different interests involved, by my count). US foreign policy is not going to change much, if at all.


Fuzzy Dunlop 01.23.16 at 6:15 pm

@40 and re Corey’s points about movement-building, something I think might actually (surprisingly…) warrant more attention is Sanders’ fundraising–his reliance on small donations, (relative? complete?) lack of dark money, &c. I guess this was in the news months ago so it is easy to take it for granted now, but even with Citizens United &c., the total amount of money actually in political campaigns is not that large in absolute terms (or rather, relative to what a large, section of the public could muster if sufficiently motivated). Could the fact that he has gotten so many small donations already, and adding up to such a large pool of money, be evidence of things changing? Could the fact that Clinton is relying so much more on the support of organizations with big budgets actually be a relative disadvantage to her in the long run, because Sanders’ supporters would *know* that it’s on them to make this happen, and that could have implications down-ticket? Or will this become less significant in the general election because there will be a much bigger pool of voters to reach with still the same small pool of dedicated supporters? I could see this going a lot of ways…


Rakesh Bhandari 01.23.16 at 6:30 pm

My hunch remains that Clinton and Sanders have major foreign policy differences that have yet to be well-specified. It could be that Sanders welcomes (more?) Iranian troops on the ground to defeat Daesh while Clinton would resist that since it would put a mortal enemy of Israel on its doorstep in Syria. Clinton is more hawkish towards Iran than Sanders is? But Clinton lost the primary to Obama because she was more hawkish, and the American people are more fearful of Daesh (ISIL) than Iran. It probably works to Clinton’s advantage if the foreign policy differences remain obfuscated and she can paint herself as a defender of the health care reform already in place against the pie-in-the-sky health care reform Sanders would attempt.


Lee A. Arnold 01.23.16 at 6:45 pm


Peter Dorman 01.23.16 at 7:02 pm

My rule of thumb for politics in any society with a ruling class is democracy is about how the non-elite population influences which faction of the elite will prevail.

Assume for now this is correct. One corollary would be that there is no scope for democracy in a given decision context if the elites are essentially united on one side. This applies to presidential elections as well as specific policy domains. If Sanders gets the Democratic nomination, and if the capitalist class (those who own or control large concentrations of wealth) are united against him, he will go down in flames. We can debate the specific modalities, but I trust that the folks on top will find instruments to get the job done.

But will this actually be the result of a Sanders nomination? If there were a truly safe (from an elite point of view) Republican candidate, I think the answer would be yes. On the other hand, even the “reasonable” Republicans at this point are running on such an irrational, dangerous platform that many elites will recoil.

So my prediction is this: if Sanders is nominated, and if a Republican crazy is selected to run against him, there will be a crucial phase of negotiation. Important capitalists (probably people in powerful institutional positions rather than billionaires themselves) will hold closed-door meetings with Bernie and his team to see if they can get assurances that certain lines will not be crossed. If Sanders agrees he will be a viable candidate. (Among other things, that would defuse the socialism issue.) What I have no clue about and would very much like to know is what those lines are.


Rakesh Bhandari 01.23.16 at 7:11 pm

@47 couldn’t read link. Is Clinton’s argument also possibly that Sanders would allow Iran to shore up Assad without whose ouster no resolution of the Syrian crisis is possible?


Val 01.23.16 at 7:13 pm

Lee A Arnold, did you see my question above regarding your statement about Trump driving people out of the Republican Party? It was an interesting claim and I’m wondering if it’s a bunch of if there is evidence of it?


Scott P. 01.23.16 at 7:28 pm

We have a working, effective single payer system in the US without the hassles of private insurance: Medicare. I’ve been on Medicare for 12 years after many different private plans: it’s a different world. I have no forms, I have no hassles, my docs negotiate with Medicare and my supplement, everything gets done promptly and efficiently. I was cured of Hepatitis C in the first month after release (hallelujah) at a cost of several hundred thousand dollars, and paid a co-pay of $90. They can’t terminate me, I have the best care in the world here in greater Boston, it’s the way health care should be. Bernie is right: expand it to everyone

First off, Medicare really isn’t that great a healthcare plan. There is a lot it doesn’t cover. Sanders is proposing expanding what is covered, but it’s highly questionable whether the tax hikes he proposes ($15 trillion over ten years) is enough to pay for that.

What I’d like to see is a Medicare-like public option within Obamacare, which I think would be an easier sell.


js. 01.23.16 at 7:56 pm

The question is really #10. Can he win a general election? Would he have a chance?

Actually I have a different question: How much daylight would there actually be between a Sanders presidency and a Clinton presidency? My suspicion is: a lot less than most people imagine. Which isn’t to say that I won’t be voting for Sanders in the primary and hoping that he’ll win.

This is vaguely related and well worth a read.


Fuzzy Dunlop 01.23.16 at 8:02 pm

Peter Dorman @48, I think one of the obvious lines would be Israel, and maybe also reparations. I think Sanders’ reticence and/or ‘lack of imagination’ on those issues may actually be more a reflection of his pragmatism than of his being quixotically single-minded about economic justice. This is why I think Sanders can have wide appeal now. Obama was elected (in the primary more than in the GE) as the Anti-Bush especially WRT foreign policy–a cosmopolitan internationalist, and much better than Clinton or Edwards in that respect, but not much different (maybe even a bit to the right of them both) on economic justice (or maybe people’s xenophobia and anti-intellectualism makes them see a cosmopolitan, educated, ‘foreign’ figure like Obama as less responsive to their economic concerns than he actually is). Sanders is in that sense running as a kind of Anti-Obama, not coming across as cosmopolitan–maybe even a bit provincial–which is not such a big deal now that Obama has somewhat mended fences with Iran and even confronted the Israel lobby–to a limited extent, to be sure, but still… That need to define himself against Obama within the space of Democratic candidates is why Sanders needs to attack Obamacare, wrong-headed as that is. The upside may be, however, that he manages to draw a lot of support from working-class or just less cosmopolitan whites who mistrusted Obama.


Roger Gathman 01.23.16 at 8:15 pm

I think Corey that you have hit most of the notes, but not all of them. In particular, gun control. Clinton has had great fun hitting Sanders about gun control, and frankly, I’ve found his responses rather clueless. The real response is this: gun control is not just a domestic issue but an international issue. It has a double face. And if Clinton has been a relatively consistent supporter of gun control in the US, she has been a gun maniac for the rest of the world. Under her term as secretary of state, the US sold more weapons to the rest of the world than at any point since WWII.

“The numbers are astonishing. In President Obama’s first five years in office, new agreements under the Pentagon’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program—the largest channel for U.S. arms exports—totaled over $169 billion. After adjusting for inflation, the volume of major deals concluded by the Obama administration in its first five years exceeds the amount approved by the Bush administration in its full eight years in office by nearly $30 billion. That also means that the Obama administration has approved more arms sales than any U.S. administration since World War II.”

Surely the idea that the US can seal off arms in its sphere while going on an unparalleled, and plain stupid arms binge with the rest of the world is not only morally indefensible, but surely indefensible as a political policy. The arms that went to the San Bernadino killing might have come from the US, but with the international flow of commodities, they could easily have been smuggled in from the Middle East.

It really is sort of sickening to hear Clinton go on about gun control when she operated under a code as Sec. of State that even the NRA would blanche at.


Rakesh Bhandari 01.23.16 at 8:20 pm

@50. Val raises an important point, and we may be able to find data to support it. It could be that Trump’s favorability rating across the American population is low and stagnant while he enjoys rising popularity among a base of Republicans that is shrinking due, among other things, to the vitriol coming from the top candidates. Both Sanders and Clinton seem to have sizable advantages over Trump. Yet it does not seem that at the Congressional level potential Republican candidates are suffering at the polls relative to their Democratic rivals. In California the Republicans are having trouble at both the Gubernatorial and Assembly level.


LFC 01.23.16 at 8:27 pm

Ze K @54
Except that most of Sanders’s campaign money, as I understand it, has come from individual donors in small amounts.

R. Gathman @55
yes, but question is how much involvement if any did Clinton as Sec of State have w US arms sales abroad — your quote says it’s a Pentagon program. Could she have tried to oppose it? I suppose, but not sure that wd have mattered that much.


Roger Gathman 01.23.16 at 8:36 pm

57, that is a good point. Here’s a Mother Jones article about one sale:
And according to that article, and everything I have ever read about arms sales, the State department has to approve them.

In 2011, the State Department cleared an enormous arms deal: Led by Boeing, a consortium of American defense contractors would deliver $29 billion worth of advanced fighter jets to Saudi Arabia, despite concerns over the kingdom’s troublesome human rights record. In the years before Hillary Clinton became secretary of state, Saudi Arabia had contributed $10 million to the Clinton Foundation, and just two months before the jet deal was finalized, Boeing donated $900,000 to the Clinton Foundation, according to an International Business Times investigation released Tuesday.

The Saudi transaction is just one example of nations and companies that had donated to the Clinton Foundation seeing an increase in arms deals while Hillary Clinton oversaw the State Department. IBT found that between October 2010 and September 2012, State approved $165 billion in commercial arms sales to 20 nations that had donated to the foundation, plus another $151 billion worth of Pentagon-brokered arms deals to 16 of those countries—a 143 percent increase over the same time frame under the Bush Administration. The sales boosted the military power of authoritarian regimes such as Qatar, Algeria, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman, which, like Saudi Arabia, had been criticized by the department for human rights abuses.


Lee A. Arnold 01.23.16 at 8:38 pm

Rakesh Bandari #49: “@47 couldn’t read link. Is Clinton’s argument also possibly that Sanders would allow Iran to shore up Assad without whose ouster no resolution of the Syrian crisis is possible?”

I have no idea what Clinton’s argument is, and at this point I have no reason to believe anything she says. And I’m about as even-handed as they come, so she should worry.

The link is news from the WaPo today. This is obviously up to the Russians, and whoever is President, Washington DC had better coordinate carefully with Moscow.


Lee A. Arnold 01.23.16 at 8:54 pm

Val #50: “…Trump driving people out of the Republican Party?”

Sorry I missed you. Most of the opinion polling is not good enough at this moment in the campaign, though I think we may start to see more results. But the horror in the faces and comments of the Republican establishment tell us a lot about what their internal polls must be showing. Meanwhile, everybody knows that Trump wants to build the Great Mexican Wall so even if you are a legal Latino you won’t vote for him, because the police are going to be looking at you and some of your friends. The anti-Muslim rhetoric greatly offends moderates (if there were any remaining in the Republican Party!) and young professionals including young women, and it horrifies most of the foreign policy community.

Trump is clearly gaining young blue-collar white males, some of who might have voted Democrat, though the Dems had been losing them, anyway. But that is an increasingly smaller block of voters.


LFC 01.23.16 at 8:56 pm

R Gathman @58
Thanks. This is one of the troubling things about having a private foundation to which foreign governments and corps contribute and then holding top govt office; these connections look bad, at a minimum. I still think the charges made in another thread about money laundering etc are likely unwarranted, but the foundation thing does raise some questions.


Lee A. Arnold 01.23.16 at 9:13 pm

Corey: “The Immense and Shitty Hassle of Everyday Life Under Capitalism…”

Corey, please, your “old theme” is much older, larger. This has nothing to do with the election, except my last two paragraphs at the bottom, so why not?

Any transaction is connected, in economics-speak, to a set of additional costs: {transaction costs + external costs + opportunity costs}. The ways to reduce this set of costs include institutions. A new social institution, such as single-payer healthcare, can reduce these additional costs and save us lots of time and money. Even if it doesn’t reduce the price of the healthcare itself.

The hassle, abstractly:
“Transaction costs” = Finding, learning, bargaining, contracting, paying, protecting, enforcing, etc. Every transaction involves these.
“External costs” = Externalities, i.e. secondary effects of that transaction which happen elsewhere, whether good or bad (e.g. environmental damage).
“Opportunity costs” = You might have spent your time, and/or your money, to do something else! And time is a necessary condition of freedom, as you point out.

These are different costs that are connected to a transaction, such as getting healthcare coverage. When you go out to buy anything (or really, go out to do anything at all), you will find that these costs have been reduced or solved — or not! If you don’t feel any hassle, then they have been solved.

A set of rules and processes which solves or reduces these additional costs, in any set of transactions for all people involved, is the economics definition of the word “institution”.

There are only two kinds of things, institutions and transactions. A transaction is covered by an institution of some sort. If two people follow the same rules, then it is easier to trade; it costs them less to engage in transaction. Friendship is in this sense an institution.

Properly this should be the study of 1/2 of economics. Ronald Coase pointed this out. But it is not. The intellectual line jumps intermittently and in little pieces, from Adam Smith chapter 3 –> Alfred Marshall –> Ronald Coase –> Douglass North –> Elinor Ostrom.

It is odd that economics hasn’t developed along this line a lot further, by now. Why is it odd? Because “cost-reduction” probably amounts to 1/2 of total efficiency. The other 1/2 comes from the old standard: “division of labor + trade”, or we could say, “specialization + transaction”.

Perhaps the lack of this development of economics is due to the obvious fact that specialization often leads to technological innovation. It could be that the dazzling cost-reductions by technological innovations outshone and obscured the cost-reduction by institutions.

The cost-reducing aspect of social institutions, their primary and principal trait, is taken as a given trait, but limited and boring.

Instead, current economics still gives the divine priority to transactions, and to only one type, i.e. market transactions. Everything else descends in importance from this mythical Olympian height. Your own connected costs {transaction cost + opportunity cost} are pretty much YOUR problem! Economists place the other cost {external cost} which is sometimes out of your view, into the set of “market failures”. Thus, externalities are alongside monopoly, information asymmetry, etc., to be dealt with by means of markets and market redesign as much as possible, not social institutions.

Economics avoids discussion of further efficiencies that might be gained by non-market means, i.e. by the EXPANSION of social institutions. (Though there is a small literature on “social capital”.)

Instead, insofar as most of current economics deals with institutions at all, it is concerned with when-and-where given institutions GO WRONG. We might call this “institutional failure”. But it is dealt with in terms of private contract problems (in “new institutional economics”; Williamson etc.) or as “government failure”, which is usually taken as endemic and automatic, and not correctable by voting (in “public choice economics”).

Social democrats in the US must remember that institutional solutions to reduce {transaction costs + externalities + opportunity costs} are in conflict, in the public’s mind, with the widely-trumpeted falsehood that government failure is always unavoidable.

This means that your discourse MUST be ready to acknowledge the eternal possibility of all sorts of institutional failures (indeed there are management problems in business firms, too), and be ready to point out how they are to be dealt with (e.g. informed voting + Ostrom’s rules for institutional design.)


Ebenezer Scrooge 01.23.16 at 9:45 pm

I mostly agree with Lee@63. But he’s actually being a little too nice to economists.

Economists have spend an inordinate amount of effort on social institutions. But this doesn’t reflect all that well on economists, because this effort has concentrated on two issues–a useful but limited corpus on corporate governance, and a cartoonish parody of institutional work known as “public choice theory.”


Derek Bowman 01.23.16 at 10:56 pm

“Except for that time Morgan Fairchild retweeted me.”

Yeah, that’s it. That’s the ticket.


Brett Dunbar 01.23.16 at 11:11 pm

The fixed term parliaments act makes next to no difference in getting early elections against the wishes of the government. During the last century it might have delayed the 1979 elections by giving Callaghan 14 days to see if he could win a second confidence motion. Neither of the 1924 defeats were remotely close. In the first the Labour opposition were able to form a government with Liberal support in the second the Conservative and Liberal opposition wanted early elections and had far more MPs. What was abolished was the convention that the PM of a majority government could call an election at any time. If, as has happened in Germany, a majority government wishes to call early elections it can call and deliberately lose a motion of confidence.


Gary Othic 01.23.16 at 11:31 pm

@Brett Dunbar (66)

Yes, it doesn’t really make much difference. Indeed in many ways the act might actually work against the Conservatives seeing as, given the state Labour is in, there would undoubtedly be a strong temptation to call a snap election some time this year and secure a larger majority otherwise.


BBA 01.24.16 at 12:02 am

Re health: ultimately the only way to get rid of billing issues is to move to single-provider, like the NHS, where all hospitals and doctors’ offices are government-owned. And there are far more vested interests that would need to be paid off for that to happen – if single-payer is impossible, then an American NHS is double-super-impossible.


UserGoogol 01.24.16 at 12:28 am

He’s suggesting that it’s an insurmountable political barrier. Which assumes that Americans with insurance get all the treatment they want without anyone ever saying no.

No that doesn’t assume that at all. Political opposition to health care cost controls are not motivated by the comparison to the status quo, but by how psychologically threatening it is. Hillary Clinton learned from 1994 that voters are terrified of government getting in the way of their health care, even if the alternative is private insurers getting in the way of their health care, because the devil you know isn’t as scary as the devil you don’t. She probably overreacted to that lesson, and I think you can build towards single payer without that sort of response, but that seems to be the key difference between Hillary and Bernie.


geo 01.24.16 at 12:32 am

Peter Dorman @48: in any society with a ruling class is democracy is about how the non-elite population influences which faction of the elite will prevail… One corollary would be that there is no scope for democracy in a given decision context if the elites are essentially united on one side. This applies to presidential elections as well as specific policy domains.

Yes, exactly.

ibid.: We can debate the specific modalities, but I trust that the folks on top will find instruments to get the job done.

Identifying the specific modalities whereby elites subvert democracy — electoral procedures (the Electoral College, the Commission on Presidential Debates, gerrymandering, winner-take-all, obstacles to voter registration, computerized vote counting etc., etc); campaign finance rules; the revolving door; concentration of media ownership; undermining of labor and consumer unions; lack of public funding for education; government and corporate secrecy; inadequate or expensive broadband; and many more — seems to me about the most useful thing the left can do.


eric titus 01.24.16 at 3:07 am

js @52

There would be some difference between a Hillary and Bernie presidency. I could see Bernie appointing more “radicals” to head departments and agencies, and generally focusing his political capital more on economic issues.

The bigger difference would about tone, and this could lead to very different potential trajectories for the country in the years after their presidencies. Sanders distrusts the government as controlled by the wealthy/corporations. He will argue for breaking things up, and also direct government controls–and will have to sell the public on a communitarian vision. Hillary, on the other hand, will argue that liberal (democrat) programs work when executed properly. She will try to continue and expand Obama’s programs with the case being that ultimately, the government is limited in how much it can reshape society.


ZM 01.24.16 at 3:20 am

Peter Dorman and geo,

“One corollary would be that there is no scope for democracy in a given decision context if the elites are essentially united on one side. This applies to presidential elections as well as specific policy domains”

I have been reading more about the public trust doctrine, as VCAT said I was calling them to act in a way that was outside the scope of VCAT which means I have to seek leave from the Supreme Court in order to clarify 2 questions of law this decision raises about what the scope and the duties of VCAT are.

Due to my area of concern, I am most interested in the public trust in terms of the governance of common pool resources like the air and the sea and rivers.

But there is also a more general public trust that is created by the relationship between government and the governed.

This is not a theory: this is the law. This means it doesn’t matter if some particular politicians or anyone else disagrees — it’s the law anyhow, and it is a law that can’t be changed by statute either since it’s Common Law in the broadest sense of the term, not statutory law enacted by a parliamentary majority.

A trust is created where there is a relationship where one party is responsible for and must act in the interests of the other party, as in the government and institutions of government like courts being responsible for and bound to act in the interests of the public they govern.

An Australian ruling states that “The repositories of government power under the Constitution hold them as representatives of the people under a relationship, between representatives and represented, which is a continuing one.” A High Court judge explained this as being “Translated into constitutional terms, it denotes that the sovereign power which resides in the people is exercised on their behalf by their representatives…”

Because of this relationship a fiduciary duty arises as the public are placing a trust or confidence and also a vulnerability in the government and its institutions.

Reading Corey’s section 14. Clarence Thomas and Free Speech, I wonder at how some of these judgements that are in favour of freedom of speech are consistent with the government and courts being bound to act for the benefit of the whole public.

The third piece “Adam Smith’s First Amendment” Corey links to raises this issue:

“Commercial speech advocates justify their position by arguing that the First Amendment must protect speech in the marketplace because it protects all speech, wherever and however it occurs.

But this contention does not survive even the most casual scrutiny.

It would lead to the absurd result that constitutional protections extend to those who commit crimes with speech, such as conspiracy or violations of the antitrust laws; to doctors, lawyers, and bankers who commit malpractice or fraud; or to the contracts that make up our commercial transactions. Speech is in fact everywhere. If all speech were to receive the same protections as public discourse, the country would become, literally, ungovernable”


Anderson 01.24.16 at 3:39 am

Well, this blog is going to become unreadable until November.

The tendency of self-proclaimed critical thinkers to fall in behind a messianic figure is bizarre. Must be one of those lizard-brain instincts.

Those of us too realistic to expect any politician to make anything very much better will vote accordingly.


js. 01.24.16 at 4:08 am

I could see Bernie appointing more “radicals” to head departments and agencies…

Yes. This is my biggest hope, and why I’ll be voting for Sanders in the primary. They needn’t even be radicals; non–Rubinites will do.

…and generally focusing his political capital more on economic issues.

I am extremely opposed to this framing. Because: what exactly are the non-economic issues? To take an obvious example, rights to abortion and contraception are absolutely an economic issue, not least for the women who need them. So, if you’re talking about reproductive rights, you’re talking economic issues, and if you’re talking economic issues, you should be talking about reproductive rights. The point generalizes.

The bigger difference would about tone, and this could lead to very different potential trajectories for the country in the years after their presidencies.

I am rather unconvinced by this. I’d like to be convinced, but I am not sure how it’s supposed to work.

Still, the point about appointments stands. And maybe, just maybe, a Sanders presidency would lead to fewer innocent brown people dying at American hands (or “hands”) than a Clinton presidency (tho anyone expecting a Corbynite dove is probably in for a measure of disappointment if Sanders gets elected). That’s enough for me to support Sanders in the primary without getting super excited about the supposed differences between him and Clinton.


kidneystones 01.24.16 at 4:54 am

Bernie voters: (Laura Ingram writing on the NRO attempted excommunication of Trump)

“National Review’s Manhattan-based editors brand Trump as a “menace to conservatism” and even ding him for his “outer-borough” accent. But who really is the menace — the rough-edged Queens native or the smooth-talking GOP Establishment that has brought us open borders; massive giveaway trade deals; monstrous debt; bank bailouts; and a sprawling government that never stops expanding? The failure to ruthlessly oppose and defeat such existential threats to the country — and the passivity in the face of such peril — is the real menace to the credibility of conservatism.

If blue-collar Americans are told that their concerns on immigration, trade, and foreign policy cannot be addressed within the conservative movement, they will look elsewhere — just as they looked elsewhere in the late 1960s after they learned that their problems couldn’t be addressed within liberalism. National Review Editor Rich Lowry and his people will be left preaching their narrow doctrine to a smaller and smaller audience. ” (My italics)

Blairites thought that branding concerned working class voters as ‘bigots, closet-racists, and xenophobes’ for wanting a voice on the EU referendum propelled Cameron into power and effectively made Corbyn the new Labour leader. The same risk applies to Democrats in America. America is very much divided on the role of government and a great many who might go to Bernie, or Trump, are not interested in socialism. Like most, I suspect, these folks would simply like to see limited government that actually serves the needs of the electorate, not the 1 percent. Clinton, like her husband, Biden, Obama, and the rest are going to do nothing to reverse the immense wealth transfer from us to the very, very, very, very few. Indeed, for the last 8 years, during which the Dems controlled the executive and the legislative branch initially, the rich have only gotten richer, whilst the poor have only gotten poorer, especially African-Americans.

How out of touch are Dem supporters? Few here CT commenters here were even aware that O has done done very little to prevent the African-American middle-class from sinking into poverty when the topic was discussed last fall. Clinton is not going to do anything different, that much is clear. Trump might and Bernie will certainly try.

If you Clinton is the nominee the world is guaranteed another 4 to 8 years of Libya, Syria, the Ukraine, divided government and the rich getting richer. Bernie is the best choice, I hope, on getting the balance right.

Given a choice between Trump and Clinton, I’m firmly in the Trump camp.


kidneystones 01.24.16 at 5:21 am

And just to make this clear-if Dems don’t get someone who can promise ‘much better’ instead of ‘more of the same’ I predict a Reagan level wipe-out by Trump.

There are a whole lot of unsupported claims about ‘Trump driving voters out of the GOP’. The opposite is occurring, from what I can see. Nate Silver claims 20% of Dem voters are already leaning Trump. I’ve watched half a dozen of his rallies and he’s bringing all kinds of voters into the GOP fold. Whether they turn up to caucus in Iowa is another question. But unless the landscape changes dramatically he’s the next president.

Why do I support Trump? Probably less interventionist, capable, doesn’t hide from the crowds, or the press, and is clearly protectionist. Manufacturing jobs need to come back to first-world economies. I do believe Trump will focus on infra-structure – fixing roads, public buildings, etc. And I think Trump will re-instill the virtue of pride in simple work well done. I doubt very much African-American voters are going to choose another empty promise from HRC over the prospect of restricted illegal immigration and a good-paying job.


SC 01.24.16 at 6:34 am

Thank you, The Temporary Name at 41. I somehow missed those 15 hours of Cruz family video posted to the Youtubes. I’m not sure they are unedited but they certainly are some of the stranger documents from this campaign.


Ian 01.24.16 at 6:38 am

Re the “firewall”:

Okay, so Clyburn is still pissed about 2008. But clearly his fellow Black South Carolinans don’t feel the same way, given the stable polling to date. Further, for him to suggest that Sanders might suddenly inspire a sceptical African American electorate because Obama did can only be described as trolling.


Bruce Wilder 01.24.16 at 6:58 am

k: I think Trump will re-instill the virtue of pride in simple work well done.

People vote at random. I am convinced of it.


Procopius 01.24.16 at 7:01 am

I think point 13 might be far more important than anyone has yet realized. Yes, it’s good that literally millions more people are insured than were before, but even during passage of the ACA is was admitted that there would remain another 30 million or so who are not covered. The co-pays and deductibles turned out to be a lot more costly than most people expected, and the insurance companies and health providers, after a brief pause, seem to be raising costs again. The very, very smart people over at Naked Capitalism hate Obamacare with the heat of a thousand suns. They’re a pretty specialized group, but I think there are lots of other left-leaning people who have been bitterly disappointed.


Ian 01.24.16 at 7:05 am

A little more on the “firewall,” actually:

The trouble with this metaphor is that it takes agency away from the non-white voters who overwhelmingly support HRC: they are her implement, instead of her being their choice.

The point is less that Clinton has sweet-talked a credulous population into supporting her against their own best interests than that Sanders has done little that has attracted the support of the true base of the Democratic party. The fact that he has only recently realized that this is a problem is itself a problem.


Ian 01.24.16 at 7:09 am

Re the Cruz home videos:

This is a political trick ironically pioneered by Cruz’s nemesis, Mitch McConnell. It’s a way for the campaign to hand over home footage of Cruz to Super-PACs without risking the charge of “coordination.”


js. 01.24.16 at 7:24 am

Ian @81: It’s also historical-political memory. Everyone remembers the bitterness of the 2008 primary campaign (and for good reason), but no one seems to recall that it wasn’t white people that called Bill Clinton the “first black president” back in the ’90s. The piece CR has linked under #2 seems dumb but there was a really good Bouie piece recently on this theme that I’m too lazy to look up just now.


Ian 01.24.16 at 8:31 am

js. @ 83:

Yes, I agree about the Bouie piece–he clearly knows what he’s talking about. He makes a great point in passing about Obama winning Iowa: the reason this mattered to African American voters is because it demonstrated his viability with white voters–he was worth the risk. The idea that Sanders winning Iowa would produce anything comparable is risible.


Metatone 01.24.16 at 9:11 am

Couple of late thoughts:

lee @63 – well said. My own thought is that economics got beguiled by “trade” – they are so desperate to credit trade for growth that every other explanation (institutions, technology advances, increased energy density/exploitation) gets put in the drawer.

@Ronan(rf) I think on top of workforce participation, in the UK at least we seem to be in the middle of a generational realignment around “whether or not your generation got lucky with the asset boom.” Obviously that’s a broad brush, but it seems an important factor.


Dipper 01.24.16 at 9:59 am

what do people look for in a politician? Is it just to have the right ideas? Or is it someone who can represent you and your interests?

I have no knowledge of Sanders or HRC, but it is a lot easier for HRC to adopt Sander’s policies than it is for Sanders to pick up HRC’s experience and political ability.

My personal instinct is to vote for the political who is the best arm-twister and toughest negotiator. Policies are second on the list.


Bruce Wilder 01.24.16 at 10:08 am

d: I have no knowledge of Sanders or HRC, but it is a lot easier for HRC to adopt Sander’s policies than it is for Sanders to pick up HRC’s experience and political ability.

People vote at random.


kidneystones 01.24.16 at 12:57 pm

Here’s a bracing thumb in the eye for all those who prefer HRC to Trump:

Trump says stupid crazy things, HRC, Biden, and O do stupid things like support the invasion – destruction of Libya and Syria, and in the case of Biden and HRC they double-down on the death and the stupid by learning SFA from their participation in the monumentally stupid invasion of Iraq. So be clear about your ‘moral superiority.’

And if you’re anti-Trump, you’re standing next to Jonah Goldberg and company, again.

Saying bad things about people from other countries: bad. Killing innocent people in other countries – sign of political maturity and acumen. Got it?


Lee A. Arnold 01.24.16 at 1:16 pm

Instead of campaign politics, some of you are discussing implementation of policy, after one becomes President. Just 2 points then. I am trying to make these brief:

1. I don’t believe that there would be any differences between the Trump and Hillary presidencies, but two.

Why no differences? Because you must run the gov’t. The people who know how to do this, are the same ones whom you must rely upon.

Thus, if Trump gets the GOP nomination, he will panic and call the GOP establishment, and ask, Golly gee, what do I do next? “Well,” they will reply, “it’s complicated, dude.” So he will start to become like the rest of them, immediately.

And then, if Trump is elected President, he will find out just how complicated it is. He will say to the public, (about some issue), “Well, it’s complicated, people, so we will have to wait on [that issue], because, uh…well, that’s the way it is.” Then, all of his supporters will feel good ANYWAY, for a while. Just like with,…uhmm, let me think:… Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama.

What are the two ways that the Trump and Hillary presidencies would differ?

A. Hillary knows much more about how the internal government works, so domestic things would get done faster. AND she will go much faster through the intricacies of foreign policy. This is incredibly important in a rapidly complexifying world. Further, and even worse:

B. Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric will set-up disastrous consequences for US foreign policy. (It’s probably already doing damage, to judge by the UK Parliamentary debate.) I hope that this issue alone will make the remainder of the GOP primary voters jettison him, before it’s too late.

(Numbers note: Trump (so far) has been leveling-off at 35% of the GOP primary voters, which represents about 16% of the total electorate. Add 20% of the Dems who like him, which is about 9% of the electorate. Therefore at this moment, Trump has about 25% of the total electorate, It will tighten-up by November, but right now this looks like a Dem “landslide” into the Oval Office.)

2. Dipper #86: “…it is a lot easier for HRC to adopt Sander’s policies than it is for Sanders to pick up HRC’s experience and political ability.”

I disagree VERY strongly on Sanders’ experience and political ability.

He’s a obviously a master at politics. He’s been running campaigns since 1972, and winning since 1980.

And on experience and readiness? At least as much as Hillary, if not more. And much more than anybody else still in the race, on either side. He was in the House of Representatives for 16 years and has been in the Senate for 8 years, to this moment. Therefore he KNOWS how Washington is wired. (That he doesn’t show this fact, on stage against Hillary, is another of his rhetorical failures.) Do not believe the vestiges of the old mainstream media narrative that says Sanders is a newbie. On stage against Trump, he will explain it to the public, while he takes Trump to school.

On the other hand, I agree with the first part of your comment: It should be EASY for Hillary to go along with everything Bernie says, and then do him one better. I really don’t understand the rhetorical route she is taking. I still say, Fire your campaign manager!


Anthea 01.24.16 at 1:31 pm

re: healthcare … it is my impression that the ACA reduces rates for those who can afford healthcare by requiring health insurance purchase by those who cannot afford to use the product they purchase (deductibles, co-pays, paperwork, etc.); it also protects hospitals from covering the entire cost of services for those who cannot afford to pay. Re: the difficulty figuring out coverage and reimbursement — my information may be long outdated — in the 90s, we were picking up huge chunks of costs despite having supposedly decent insurance. I asked how the reimbursement was calculated, and was told it was determined as a percentage of the cost determined by the HIAA. I spoke to someone at the HIAA, and was told they determined reasonable and customary fees as 80% of the cheapest fee in an area determined by the first 4 digits of the zip code. (Which meant our metropolitan area bedroom community cost was 80% of the fee charged by perhaps a semi-retired doc in the boonies). The HIAA was then a private organization funded by its subscribers — health insurers. No wonder we still carry significant debt from a medical crisis 20 years ago.


Phil 01.24.16 at 3:57 pm

The use of USAn healthcare as an example of “life under capitalism” is an interesting example of the kind of framing effects Corey talks about in point 1. In the UK we had a long march to the free-market Right between 1979 and 1997, very little rolling-back (and a lot of accommodation) between 1997 and 2010, and then merrily off to the Right again since 2010. But Britain in the 1970s – nationalised industries, government/union pay deals, unemployment benefit for as long as you needed it – was still a capitalist country. And Britain in 2016 – privatised prisons and postal services, strike days at all time lows, “let ’em starve” as official policy – still has a healthcare system which is mostly free at the point of treatment, is reasonably straightforward to navigate and generally looks nothing like the nightmare described in Corey’s comment.

One of the smart things Corbyn has done here is not talking about ‘socialism’ in the revivalist way Tony Benn used to. With Benn, too, the NHS was a key reference point: “when I see people being treated free of charge, rich and poor treated exactly the same… That. Is. Socialism!” This line worked for me when I heard it as a teenager, but when I was a teenager I was rebellious, thoughtful and open to new ideas – three boxes that few people over 20 tick. (I’d also been an anarchist for the previous two years, so if anything Benn was calling me rightwards.) Most of Corbyn’s actual policies are very mild and sensible reforms to a European capitalist economy; he’s selling them as such, ignoring the fact that they’re currently way off the acceptable political spectrum. I think this is going to work better in the longer term than taking a sort of “if wanting affordable healthcare makes me a red revolutionary, why yes I am a red revolutionary, red in tooth and claw!” sort of line. (I just hope Corbyn has a longer term.)


mrearl 01.24.16 at 4:38 pm

Democratic socialism’s all well and good, but to get started could I just have a little democratic capitalism for once?


Roger Gathman 01.24.16 at 6:58 pm

Clinton has done a good job of pounding on her experience without, legislatively, having much experience. She never, for instance, chaired a Senate committee. Sanders of course did. as chairman of the committee on veterans affairs.

I think that Sanders is campagning on a certain rhythm. He has not pulled out the stops. Surely at a certain point, he will emphasize that he has experience of the foreign policy catastrophes Clinton voted for by managing to pass a bill on veterans health.

“Veterans across the country were waiting months on end for appointments and the wait times were being hidden. Up to 40 veterans in Phoenix died while waiting for appointments. Hundreds never even got onto a list. And retaliation was the order of the day for those who tried to blow the whistle.
From the moment the long-gathering scandal broke into public view in April 2014, it took Congress less than four months to produce a new law—a split second by Capitol Hill standards. That it happened at all, and so fast, was a testament to the determination of Sanders and his partners to surmount the red-blue divide in American politics. It speaks volumes in particular about Sanders, who pushes for a single-payer government health system in every speech, that the law introduced a private-care option for veterans.”

Read more:

If Sanders wants to create a vector to take black and Hispanic votes away from Clinton, which is very doable – the idea that Bill Clinton is so warmly remembered in the African American community that his wife will automatically get their votes seems to me to be a D.C. perception of how things are, or in other words, bogus – I think he could very well use that Veterans bill. Since polling shows that Sanders is much more popular among the young than Clinton – even among young women, supposedly Clinton’s lock – I wonder whether this is also true among black and hispanic voters. He’s made a considerable increase among those voters according to the latest CNN poll, but that is just one poll. Still, I think if Clinton continues to shift right – for instance, on foreign policy and health care – Sanders has a larger chance.
Myself, I’d still lay odds that Clinton will win. But the race is becoming much closer than I ever thought it would be.


LFC 01.24.16 at 7:24 pm

kidneystones @88: Biden and HRC did not support invading Syria. HRC was in favor of, iirc, establishing safe corridors for refugees, which would have required some force perhaps, but not anything like a ground invasion, which is what the word “invasion” usually connotes. No one really knows w anything approaching confidence what policies Trump would support in office, domestically or abroad, b.c he’s been campaigning mostly as a demagogue who say’s basically anything that seems to occur to him on spur of the moment. I’m sure he has a website w position papers but I wdn’t think they’re worth most of the paper they’re written on in terms of being predictive of anything. So a vote for Trump, assuming (big assumption) he’s the Republican nominee, is a leap into the dark w a demagogue. No thanks.


LFC 01.24.16 at 7:38 pm

Bruce Wilder @87:
Political scientists have published untold thousands of studies over the years on the determinants of voting in U.S. elections (and other elections, of course, but this thread is mostly about the U.S. presidential election). Is there any substantial evidence in any of those studies to support your assertion that “people vote at random.” Taken literally, and I’m not sure how else to take it, “people vote at random” means they vote by doing the equivalent of flipping a coin: heads I vote for X, tails I vote for Y.

That is, to say the least, a counterintuitive proposition. Voters may not be altogether ‘rational actors,’ many of them may not vote on the basis of much information about the candidates’ positions, but that does not mean that they “vote at random.”

I used to read the Monkey Cage now and then before I got out of the habit when it moved to WaPo, and I gathered that the prevailing wisdom among pol scientists who study U.S. presidential elections is that many people vote in substantial part on the basis of their perceptions of the state of the economy at election time — that’s not the only factor of course, but it’s significant. (Economy perceived as relatively good = vote for the incumbent’s party, and the converse.) That may not be a rational or smart way to vote, but it’s not voting at random. Also, voting in some elections is clearly ‘overdetermined’ — e.g., there were lots of reasons Reagan badly beat Carter in 1980, to take just one example.


LFC 01.24.16 at 7:40 pm

correction @94: “says” (not sure why I typed “say’s”)


TM 01.24.16 at 8:11 pm

A Republican governor is in the headlines right now because it was found out that his government intentionally decided to supply a city of 100,000 residents (majority black of course) with contaminated water in order to save a tiny amount of money, thereby killing several and poisoning many. This is the logical consequence of Republican governance, obvious for everybody to see. After 35 years of right wing dominance, the US is more and more resembling a third world country.

I would expect this to play a prominent role in the political debate. Does it?


Fuzzy Dunlop 01.24.16 at 8:15 pm

I’m having trouble seeing how Clinton has such a big advantage over Sanders in experience and knowing how to run things. Can anyone explain why exactly Clinton has more/better experience than Sanders? It seems like people confuse left-of-center political views with lack of political experience, which is nonsense, isn’t it–aren’t these two completely different things?

re Sanders and black voters, Roger Gathman @93 has it right: “the idea that Bill Clinton is so warmly remembered in the African American community that his wife will automatically get their votes seems to me to be a D.C. perception of how things are, or in other words, bogus

Everybody seems so keen on speaking for black voters, I’m going to assume, until I see evidence otherwise, that they’ve been doing the same thing as the rest of us and waiting to see if Sanders is a viable candidate, and also just taking a while to learn more about him. The arguments for why Sanders isn’t/won’t be viable among black voters because he’s a very liberal white man has an ugly whiff of the ‘outside agitator’ language from days of yore–as if black (and other minority) voters don’t have the same capacity for political imagination as young, educated white men, the so-called “Bernie-bros”.


Keith 01.24.16 at 8:30 pm

TM at 97,
The far right Tory party are in the process of turning the UK into a third world country by destroying council housing, destroying the welfare state, and abolishing civil liberty. So the British cannot wag the finger at the US. All while the opposition party has its leadership stymied by Blarite time servers who are jealous the Tories are in office doing what they were planning on doing any way. Poor dears no Cabinet job for them! May be they should ask Cameron for one?


Collin Street 01.24.16 at 8:46 pm

> After 35 years of right wing dominance, the US is more and more resembling a third world country.

Much of the south was never not third world.

It’s a clientelism problem: economic development offers new opportunities, which means it diminishes the relative value of the clientelism pathway and thus diminishes the social power of the already-wealthy. If the already-wealthy have political as well as economic power, then you get an agency problem, where your leaders are torn between what’s good for them personally [choking down economic development to keep people dependent on them] and for the population they’re acting for [removing barriers to production and consumption]

As, you know, played a large part in US history.


bekabot 01.24.16 at 9:11 pm

Sometimes I think Americans fear failure in politics not for the obvious and well grounded reasons but because they are, well, Americans, that is, men and women who live in a capitalist civilization where success is a religious duty and failure a sin, where Thou Shalt Succeed is the First Commandment, and Thou Shalt Not Fail the Tenth.

I would say that, while Thou Shalt Succeed is indeed the First Commandment, Thou Shalt Not Fail is the Zeroth Law, the law which encompasses, and if need be obliterates, all the other laws. Thou Shalt Not Fail is our great generality, of which Thou Shalt Succeed is but one subdepartment. Thou Shalt Not Fail incorporates a greater infinity than does Thou Shalt Succeed. IOW, you can make it up the foothill and still be defeated by the mountain. And, of course, Thou Shalt Not Fail comes arrayed with a limitless number of ways for even successful people (people who’ve made it up the foothill) to lose out, and is very useful in that way.


Bruce Wilder 01.24.16 at 9:51 pm

LFC @ 95

There’s no contradiction between the notion that there is some central tendency detectable in the behavior of a mass and the idea that individuals in the mass are acting without method or a genuine conscious intent to control. In fact, the general run of political science studies of the determinates of U.S. Presidential elections seems to undermine the idea that voters are well-organized by the political process to act in concert toward goals of their own choosing. Instead, most of the campaign rituals seem almost irrelevant to the outcome, providing rationales to people for their behavior, but not much else.

Close inspection might well lead to the idea that people’s voting behaviors, with the attitudes that support that behavior, are the outcome of emotional manipulation more than intellectual persuasion. From the standpoint of an individual’s conscious understanding, the voting behavior and political identification of an individual are random responses. In the mass, some manipulation (or “treatment” in the language of randomized trials) may produce a predictable tendency for the whole population, but the behavior of any individual is just random variation belonging to the residual.

That people are capable of entertaining themselves with elaborate (and largely ill-founded) rationales for their own attitudes and behaviors, or the attitudes and behaviors of others, is just further evidence of the basic randomness. In the light of the political science, most of the horse-race analysis of political campaigns just kicks up a dust cloud and the arguments around the kitchen table or the water cooler are just as silly.

People’s voting behavior would not be random, if they were socially organized to act in concert, so as to use the institutions of representative democracy to control policy in their own collective interest. That’s what mass political movements are about. You see much in the way of such movements? You see much in the way of such movements that are not instantly subverted by their leadership seeking accommodations for themselves?


Keith 01.25.16 at 4:55 am

BW at 102

Voting behaviour is determined by social class. Most people never revise the way they vote, unless their is some extreme economic collapse. The method of triangulation, Bill Clinton would say, works as it is intended to manipulate the small percentage of the electorate who can be made to switch in a two party system. The reason it is infuriating is that the small segment who can be made to switch are often the most ignorant part who have the minimum or no class conciousness. They are manipulated, but not the rest.

The problem with triangulation is that any economic or social development can move the switchers; including events not under any politicians control. The great depression produced a Democratic landslide and got FDR into office, but that had nothing to do with FDR. He made the best of it, lucky man. Adolf Hitler just the same but in a more extreme form.


Ian 01.25.16 at 6:32 am

The arguments for why Sanders isn’t/won’t be viable among black voters because he’s a very liberal white man

That isn’t the argument. The argument is that he’s a very liberal white man who doesn’t seem to have realized until very recently that he might need to do some sustained outreach to the large majority of Democratic voters who aren’t white men if he wants them to switch their support to him.


kidneystones 01.25.16 at 11:14 am

@ 94 HRC, Biden, and O do stupid things like support the invasion – destruction of Libya and Syria,

“Assad must go” That’s regime change, and supporting proxy troops against Assad isn’t non-intervention, it’s using proxies to fight a war. Pulling the troops out of Iraq created the no-man’s land currently inhabited by that gang of assholes, a decision that could only become a reality after HRC and Biden were stupid and violent enough to believe that sending the US army into Iraq for like, six years, was going to produce a democratic government. It’s frankly mind-boggling to contemplate that anybody could take a page out of the Iraq playbook and support regime change in Syria, Libya, and the Ukraine. I guess the millions and millions of people displaced on top of the dead and wounded aren’t ‘strictly speaking’ living in tents and raising their kids in conditions few can imagine.

A great, great many of us tried to stop the invasion of Iraq. Nobody held a gun to her head or Biden’s to support that piece of evil numb-skullery. According to your telling, the Donkey death machine doesn’t exist – Kennedy didn’t support political assassinations, O doesn’t brag about drone strikes, and the Democrats didn’t entrench and expand the Cheney security state.

The collapse of government and resulting misery in Syria, Libya, and most definitely Iraq are all the result of policies Hillary Rodham Clinton supported or helped shape. Hillary stands before us hip-deep in the blood of countless innocents. And she’s got plenty of company in that very large pool including some here.


TM 01.25.16 at 12:30 pm

It has been argued that in our class society, democratic elections can’t override elite consensus and this is no doubt correct (and has even been scientifically proven with fancy multivariate statistics, Historically, radical change by democratic means has only ever happened when elites perceived a credible threat of revolution. I wonder though why somebody like Sanders should be deemed so unacceptable to US elites. After all, (1) he has been electorally successful for decades, and (2) his actual policy proposals are not radical and would be considered conventional in many other countries – countries with class societies not unlike the US.

The point I made above 97 is related. GOP policies (deregulation and tax-cutting like there is no tomorrow) have certainly benefited the elites – the oligarchy – at least in the short term, but is regression of the country to thrid world status really in their long term interest? Granted we shouldn’t impute too much rationality to these elite actors – they are probably driven by greed more than anything – but they are certainly capable of instrumental rationality. Isn’t there a point at which the marginal utility of a functioning, competent government vastly exceeds the short term benefit derived from yet another tax cut, even from the point of view of the plutocray?


Bruce Wilder 01.25.16 at 1:06 pm

Sanders is acceptable to at least some significant fraction of U.S. elites. Some of the more astute think Sanders’ success will result in a President O’Malley, but the protest against Sanders comes from those who have long carried water for the measured March into the Third World paved by Obama and promised by Clinton. The second tier in the hierarchy of society has a lot of members who benefit from neoliberalism of the Obama/Clinton kind. The plausible deniability afforded them should not be confused with actual liberalism or even humanity.

And, yes, the actual plutocrats are often stupid and even vicious. I have met multi-millionaire entrepreneurs, who sound an uncritical echo of Fox News in private conversation. They may have a nuanced view of politics within their own organizations without having any sense of the good of the country. The narcissism of the very rich cannot be over estimated. Their whole lives are built around the satisfactions attendant on being able to buy their way out of the sufferings of ordinary people, and it is not uncommon that they direct profit from making the suffering worse. It becomes a foundation of self esteem in a sick way.


Stephen 01.25.16 at 1:08 pm

ian@104: I am watching the US presidential campaigns with increasing disbelief, and I do not claim to have a full understanding of US politics. Still, I am somewhat puzzled by your statement that Sanders is “a very liberal white man who doesn’t seem to have realized until very recently that he might need to do some sustained outreach to the large majority of Democratic voters who aren’t white men”.

One possible interpretation would be that Sanders’ proposed policies, though sometimes admirable, will not much benefit women, blacks, etc. How could that be so?

Another: that though Sander’s policies will in fact benefit women, blacks, etc, they won’t support him because these policies come from a white man. If that is so, I despair.

Or maybe, somewhat less depressingly: people don’t vote because of policies, they vote because of “outreach”, whatever that is. What is it?


anon 01.25.16 at 2:04 pm

Stephen, I found that puzzling too. (Or maybe “risible”? But I can never take people who use that word with a straight face seriously. It’s too… something. I can’t seem to remember the word.)

But here’s a perhaps more plausible version: yes, Sanders’ policies will benefit women and minorities, and yes they’ll support him, but only if he effectively communicates to them that fact. And he didn’t try to do that early enough.

There might be some truth to that. I think it’s obvious that Sanders’ (and *only* his!) policies would substantially benefit those groups (compare how badly Obama has served black Americans). But Sanders should have from the beginning said that explicitly and repeated it often, which he didn’t do. He kept it general, talking about working people and the poor and the 99%.

Political communication is lazy listening and bumper sticker slogans, so if he doesn’t constantly say that his is the best way to help women and minorities, the public will assume it won’t or that he doesn’t care. He’s starting to work on this, let’s hope there’s still enough time.


anon 01.25.16 at 2:13 pm

As a side note, I do find it strange that Sanders’ class-centered politics should be interpreted by the public by *default* as not concerned about the women and minorities.

Of course, there’s a good historical reason for this: class politics *was* for a long time relatively indifferent to them. It seems that this has caused a bit of friction, so that many have reacted not by recognizing the shared interest of class and identity politics, but seeing them as potential antagonist, with the contemporary left tending toward privileging the latter at the expense of the former.

So when someone like Bernie comes along with the assumption that the two go hand in hand and you can’t do one without the other, many people misconstrue it as privileging class politics over identity politics.


LFC 01.25.16 at 3:01 pm

Keith @103
Voting behaviour is determined by social class

Too strong a statement. Even for the UK; see McKenzie and Silvers, Angels in Marble, on working-class voters for the Conservatives through the ’60s; in more recent decades, without knowing the research my impression is that, e.g., Thatcher also got some significant number of working-class votes, though that might have diminished over her time in office.

For the U.S., the notion implied in your comment that most people are entrenched Dems or Repubs and only a very small slice of the electorate is up for grabs is no longer the case, as the number of independents (those not registered to vote as either Dems or Repubs) has grown. It’s tricky b/c the rise in number of independents has occurred roughly at the same time as increased polarization of the electorate and hardening of partisan lines; in other words, committed Dems and Repubs are further apart on many issues than in the past and for them party identification is quite important, but at the same time independents do comprise a fairly significant slice of the electorate, and are thus a factor in general elections, at least, if not so much in primary elections. (Again, this is impressionistic and I don’t really follow the pol. science research on the U.S. electorate, but I think what I’ve said is roughly in line w/ it.)


TM 01.25.16 at 3:01 pm

“if he doesn’t constantly say that his is the best way to help women and minorities”

It’s trickier than that. If he talks too much about how he’s going to help women and minorities, he’ll lose a bunch of white men.


LFC 01.25.16 at 3:08 pm

further on independents:
According to a Gallup poll, 43 percent of Americans identified as independents in 2014. I wouldn’t have guessed it was quite that high — and I’m not sure what that poll’s margin of error was — but it basically supports what I said above.


Guano 01.25.16 at 3:33 pm

If Hilary Clinton doesn’t win the nomination, perhaps she will cry on the shoulder of her friend David Miliband. Both ran campaigns that rested on the inevitability of their winning, and when you do that it is difficult to change gear if a strong challenger emerges.


anon 01.25.16 at 3:42 pm

“It’s trickier than that. If he talks too much about how he’s going to help women and minorities, he’ll lose a bunch of white men.”

True. He certainly shouldn’t drop the class slogans about the working poor and the 99% in favor of identity slogans. He has to do both, while continually repeating that they are necessary to each other, one can’t be fixed without the other. I don’t know if it will work, but it’s truth.

That’s his other great weakness. He seems to actually believe what he says, and to be more concerned about the truth than about strategy or winning. It’s weird.


Rakesh Bhandari 01.25.16 at 4:21 pm

Coates’ critique of Sanders is actually generating passionate support for Sanders among many blacks who feel that Coates unfairly singled him out. Sanders also comes across as honest because he has not made false promises in response to the controversy; his civil rights record also turns out to be at least as strong as Clinton’s. The Democrats are probably going to need a high black turnout to win the Presidency and several other offices.
On the issues, Clinton’s best chance to win the primary remains ironically enough that she stands for practical, doable health care reform while Sanders’ proposed reforms will only result in confusion and regress. Sanders has Seth Ackerman defending him against the criticisms of Ygelesias and Ezra Klein on health care. If the focus is on workplace issues or taxation or foreign policy, Clinton will have a tough path to the nomination.


Lee A. Arnold 01.25.16 at 4:27 pm

LFC #113: “…43 percent of Americans identified as independents in 2014.”

I believe that most political analysts would say that this poll is nonsense. Most people who respond that they are “independent”, think of themselves and represent themselves as open-minded, but they vote for the same party in every election. The number of true “swing voters” is probably less than 10%.

I’m not convinced that the 2016 election will change this.


Lee A. Arnold 01.25.16 at 4:29 pm

Speaking about the US, that is. I have no idea how “party identification” manifests in other countries.


LFC 01.25.16 at 4:50 pm

@Lee Arnold
I’m sure you’re right that the number of true swing voters in the U.S. is lower.


Cian 01.25.16 at 5:27 pm

I’d be surprised if Bernie won South Carolina. I would expect him to do well with younger black voters, particularly those in the BLM movement. But I don’t see much demand for Sander’s message among older black voters here.

It’s not impossible though. Clyburn is pretty powerful here and he loathes the Clintons. I can’t see him going against them if momentum is on their side, but if Iowa/New Hampshire go for Bernie in a big way he’s already hinted that might change.


afeman 01.25.16 at 5:31 pm

anon 01.25.16 at 2:04 pm: Or maybe “risible”? But I can never take people who use that word with a straight face seriously. It’s too… something. I can’t seem to remember the word.



Corey Robin 01.25.16 at 5:42 pm

Cian at 120: Check out this follow-up post I did on SC. There is starting to be some movement.

And an important state legislator in SC just came out for Sanders. But you’re right: Clyburn is key.


anon 01.25.16 at 5:52 pm

afeman @120: I lied. I remembered the word, but couldn’t use it without implicating myself. The word was “risible.” ;)


Cian 01.25.16 at 6:47 pm

Justin T. Bamberg switching sides is a big deal.


Stephen 01.25.16 at 8:06 pm

Keith@99: when you describe the current Cameron government in the UK as “far right”and say they are “in the process of turning the UK into a third world country”by “destroying the welfare state, and abolishing civil liberty” you are not doing much to establish your case. Hyperbole is the enemy of credibility.


Doug K 01.25.16 at 11:55 pm

Thank you Corey – some interesting points.

Agree with bekabot: Thou Shalt Not Fail is all the law and the prophets for the new Republicans, as ‘love God and thy neighbour’ is for Christians.

I came to the US from Africa as a moderate social democrat. To my surprise I found myself politically way out on the left lunatic fringe in US terms, with only Bernie Sanders for company. I plan to caucus for him, and vote for Hilary if it comes to that.

Oddly I think Trump is the best R candidate – Cruz is terminally mean with vicious policy proposals, Jeb! is an idiot with vicious ditto, Carson is a dangerous lunatic with vicious ditto, Rand Paul is just another clinically insane (cannot distinguish libertarian fantasy from reality) zombie-eyed granny starver, etc. At least Trump shows a few glimmerings of humanity, amongst the dangerous narcissistic tendencies. In the appalling situation where he is elected, he will find out that the presidency is not nearly as powerful as he thinks. I remember hearing about Reagan’s election in S.Africa and laughing at the risible state of US politics. Now living here, it’s less funny.

#13 – absolutely true. I have degrees in mathematics, physics, operations research, and computer science, but I have never been able to understand the billing, exemptions, options, family and individual deductibles, supplemental co-pays, and other intricacies of medical insurance: it’s beyond me. I switched to Kaiser Permanente some years ago, partly for cost and partly because it’s the best simulacrum of single-payer that we have. KP is both the insurer and the provider. All medical records are available to every doctor in KP, which just by ensures better care. There are still many surprises as to what is not covered, but at least I’m spared the endless wrangling and negotiations between doctors and the insurance company, examining each new bill with a meticulous analysis to see if the doctor/hospital is overbilling or double-billing. It’s a common belief that the insurers are responsible for the high cost of US health care. They don’t help, but high salaries and payments for US doctors and hospitals are the primary cause.
Also note I spent $5000 on necessary dental care last year after the insurance was exhausted. Luckily I could afford it, but it did mean we could not afford a family vacation.


Keith 01.26.16 at 3:09 am

LFC at 119

I always smile at “Independents” as I do at the people who tell the pollsters five days before a British General Election they have no idea who they are voting for. Of course they are voting Tory but are unwilling to say so as they know people will infer, correctly, they are selfish shits, so ignorance is bliss. If people failed to vote based on class no stable political system would be possible, all stable systems coral the public by institutional arrangements to do so or they are unstable and break down.

Stephen at 125, if you are in disagreement with my assessment you clearly pay no attention to British politics. The total of the Tory policy agenda is third world standards of decline from abolishing social housing, to support slum landlordism, destroying legal aid and passing authoritarian laws to destroy trade unions rights, workers rights the access of citizens to justice, the savage attack on social security by redefining eligibility constantly down, secret targets to sanction claimants leading to death of the disabled and use of food banks etc. The privatisation of the NHS to corruptly enrich the tory funders and hedge fund spivs. The sanguine indifference to the collapse of industry outside London and the colonisation of London and the south by corrupt Oligarchs from every continent with the buying up of the land therein financed from who knows what abuses via tax havens.

Or if you prefer we can call it a return to the system of the Ancien Régime of neo feudalism where as Orwell put it all men are equal but some are more equal than others….


Stephen 01.26.16 at 9:11 am


Further hyperbole does not justify initial hyperbole.

And if you have read Animal Farm and interpret it as a satire on ” the system of the Ancien Régime of neo feudalism” you have quite spectacularly missed the point.


TM 01.26.16 at 10:25 am

Re sanders’ chances in the African American community. Just a data point, Philadelphia last year elected a white Mayor, Jim Kenney. Conventional wisdom was that a white candidate couldn’t win the primary in this predominantly African American city. But a plurality of African Americans supported Kenney, who was perceived as the most progressive candidate. African Americans are the most relibale democratic voting block but which candidates they will choose isn’t as predictable as some observers seem to think.


TM 01.26.16 at 10:52 am

“predominantly African American city” is not quite correct, the share is 44%.


kidneystones 01.26.16 at 11:58 am

@ 130 You make the right case, all the same. Right now HRC holds a 15 point lead nationally that means absolutely nothing, as there is no single day that will determine the nominee.

A week is a long time in a primary and right now Sanders supporters need to concentrate all their energies on winning Iowa. Sanders doesn’t need to win Iowa, but Sanders needs the vote to be as close as possible. I agree that time is short to reach out effectively beyond Sanders’ core supporters, but that doesn’t mean Sanders should start planning for failure. Quite the opposite.

Like Trump, Sanders is offering hope, not more of the same. A key component of Palin’s endorsement is that YOU can make America great again. That, I suggest, is the only way Sanders can win – to present his candidacy and this election as a one-time opportunity for minorities to liberate themselves from an elite that is for all intents and purposes indistinguishable from that of the GOP. The onus being on the minority voter – you want something different from Dems as usual? – Get off the couch, take a day off work, and make a new future for America. The key for Sanders is to remind minorities loudly and clearly that it’s more of the same with HRC, or much worse. Best case. Or Trump. One would hope that a close race in Iowa and an ‘in it to win it all’ game plan and game face will start to close the gap sufficiently to attract more allies.

Win the first primary and then focus on the next challenge.


Shylock Homeslice 01.26.16 at 1:25 pm

I starting to wonder if kidneystones is actually @whitegenocideTM.


Tamara Piety 01.26.16 at 5:06 pm

Since you are interested in commercial speech you may be interested in my work and a recent piece in Washington Lawyer in which I am interviewed. I have been writing about this for more than a decade. I wrote about it when Citizens United was new. But I am glad to see that it is becoming more widely recognized, that the real threat (or at least a less well-known threat) is to regulation more generally.

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