Bernie’s Trickle-Down Politics

In the aftermath of the Vermont primary, in which Hillary Clinton failed to reach the 15 percent threashold needed to qualify for convention delegates, there’s been more pressure on superdelegates who back Clinton to switch to Bernie Sanders. Because to vote for Clinton, the story goes, would be to ignore the wishes of the electorate.

Which fails to consider the disenfranchisement of the 13.6 percent who voted for Clinton. I’m not making that complaint; I have said the parties have the right to determine rules for choosing a presidential candidate, and I stick by that. I’m just pointing out the hypocrisy, that’s all. Both candidates benefit, and lose, in different ways that roughly cancel out.

What I am here to say is there are very good reasons for Pat Leahy and Peter Shumlin and Billi Gosh to support Hillary. They may believe she’s the stronger general-election candidate. They might value her long and loyal service to the Democratic Party, contrasted with Bernie-come-lately who has been harshly critical of the party but has also benefited, throughout his political career, from his arm’s-length affiliation with the Democrats.

And here’s another one, a big one, courtesy of the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank:

Hillary Clinton has raised $26 million for the Democratic National Committee and state Democratic parties so far this campaign. And Sanders? $1,000.

That’s no typo. Clinton is doing more to boost the party’s 2016 prospects than Sanders by the proportion of 26,000 to 1.

… Clinton has pledged to rebuild the party and has begun to make good on that promise. Sanders, by contrast, has shown little concern for the very real crisis the party faces beneath the presidential level.

Let me pause here and state, clearly, that I don’t blame Bernie for making this strategic choice. He has a revolution to build, and that costs money. His first priority is fully funding a presidential campaign, which is a very costly undertaking. He is doing what he needs to do.

However, as Milbank documents, the Democratic Party structure is in critical condition.

The dimensions of the crisis: Republicans hold a huge advantage in governorships and state legislatures around the country. This is bad enough now; it will become devastating in just a few years, when redistricting will determine the playing field for another decade. Need I remind you that Republican-dominated redistricting after 2010 has made it almost impossible to take back the House of Representatives? Do we want another ten years of that?

Bernie’s answer to the “shown little concern” argument is that he is fostering a “political revolution” which will bring millions of new progressive voters into the process, thus leading to more Democratic wins in Congress and state governments. Which is a nice theory, and his capacity-crowd rallies make it look plausible; but the returns from this year’s primaries and caucuses reveal no such influx of voters.

Turnout is down, substantially, from 2008 levels. It’s not a precise comparison; there are significant differences between the two campaign seasons. But there is no evidence whatsoever that Bernie is giving the party a fresh infusion of People Power. The Sanders Revolution is pretty much confined to the candidate himself.

The extent of the Democratic disadvantage in state parties is not apparent around here, since the VTGOP is so woefully underfunded and disorganized. But it’s true. And Bernie isn’t doing anything — outside of his ephemeral promises of a “revolution” — to change that. Hillary is doing quite a lot. With her help, the Democrats may be able to return to Howard Dean’s “fifty-state strategy,” which did much to enable the Obama presidency.

That, in itself, is reason enough for the likes of Pat Leahy to support Hillary Clinton. He wants to win the White House, but he also wants to recapture the Senate. He wants stronger state parties so the 2020s will be a much better time for progressive causes than the 2010s have been. Milbank:

A DNC task force after the 2014 midterm wipeout called for urgent action at the state-party level. The task force recommended a “three-cycle plan” with allied groups that “wins back legislative chambers in order to prepare for redistricting efforts.” It is, in essence, an attempt to revive Dean’s “fifty-state strategy” of building up local parties. That was controversial at the time, but a study of the 2006 midterm election by Harvard’s Elaine Kamarck argued that in congressional districts where the DNC had paid organizers in place for at least a year, the Democratic vote was more than double what it would have been.

Paid organizers cost money. Clinton is raising money for the effort. Bernie is doing a lot of good stuff, but he isn’t doing this.

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18 thoughts on “Bernie’s Trickle-Down Politics

  1. Dave Katz

    This would be the same DNC that a)enshrined as the New Soul Of The Party the corporatist Democratic Leadership Council, led primarily by Southern Democrats who scorned the core Democratic constituencies wrought from the New Deal and Great Society, to truckle to Wall Street financiers; b) dumped Howard Dean’s 50-state strategy immediately after the 08 election, thereby ensuring there would be no deep bench of AAA-ball Democratic Party players to create a succession of consistent policy goals to counter the rise of the Tea Party; c) that has consistently backed conservative candidates in state races across the country, even favoring ex-Republican converts, over rising stars with progressive credentials and more appeal to traditional Democratic constituencies; d) the same DNC that’s blatantly a Clinton club with all the cynical, triangulating, ambitious, self-serving treachery that implies–and where do we get the idea that Hillary has been stumping for Democratic candidates to cement all this party unity from, John? I haven’t seen much of that at all; e) that DNC that has failed, on virtually every front, over four decades, to craft a compelling direction and vision for the very Party it claims to speak for; f) Democrat Hillary Rodham, who was a Goldwater Republican when she was younger; h) The Lucy-with-the-football “Here’ a nice 50-state strategy just for you!” which is apparently the only shiny bauble the DNC sees fit to dangle in front of its very disaffected progressive wing.

    Sheesh. Out-republican the Republicans? Never gonna work. It’s about time the Democratic Party gets shaken out, big time.

    Senator Sanders sounds just like any number of straight-line party Democrats I remember from the 60s and 70s, John. In fact, he sounds just like the 1956 Republican Party platform.

    Reply
    1. Dave Katz

      I’d hold that door (or football) for DWS. Love to.
      Didja know she’s right now trying to drum up support for legislation that would buy payday loan outfits a two-year stay on stringent new Federal regulation? Yeah, those 300%-interest- rate/loans-taken-out-to-pay-off-the-original-loans guys, and the money spoor trail leads back, of course, to Wall Street. Great optics, there, Hillary samurai!

      Watch Drumpf tie Madam Electability in knots trying to walk back all the stories(some even true) that’ve stuck to her over the years, and it’s clear to see who walks away the winner of that nasty poo-fight. “I didn’t mean we were actually under sniper fire, I meant striper fishing! on the Vineyard” Now , were it Bernie, he’d just go on with the millionaires and billionaires thing, of which Drumpf is quite obviously one. Hard to squirm out of that scissors hold, I shouldn’t imagine…
      We’re on track to Epic Fail. Why is it again, we’re all gonna pay, to satisfy the Clintonian suicidal ambition?

      Reply
      1. Dave Katz

        UPDATE:
        The New York Times today rolled out a series on Secretary Clinton’s major role in the Libya debacle, which has left that country a failed state, according to the UN. In the audio/video accompaniment to the series, Secretary Clinton is heard guffawing, “We came. We saw. He died!,” referring to Qaddafi’s murder. Laughing! Truly grotesque behavior, by any even remotely civilized standard. Sure, that’s right up Drumpf’s alley, but still–he just says it, and Clinton does it, facrisesake.

        Clinton celebrated that hot mess back then, though she’s certainly not bragging about it out on the campaign trail, nossir. She has to be painfully aware of her responsibility in no small part for the US bumblingly igniting another batch of blowback powder kegs in North Africa and then walking away(today, ISIS has a major Mediterranean stronghold in Libya, 300 air miles from Europe)after the oil leases were secure, of course. Kissingeresque for the win, Madame Secretary.

        Electable, why, again? Oh, yeah. Soshulism.

      2. verplanck

        John, Mr. Katz does have a point with Ms. Wasserman-Schultz. As the head of the DNC since 2011, she was responsible for the abysmal performance of Dem candidates in 2014. She abandoned Howard Dean’s 50-state strategy, and set up a primary schedule tailor-made to Ms. Clinton’s campaign strategy. I have no idea what DWS would do with $26 million, but she has certainly not made the case that she will use it effectively. How about $26 million direct to state legislative races? Congressional races? To me, this just looks like the propping up of a failed institution with no understanding of why it has failed and no strategy of how to change in these times of anti-establishment fever.

      3. John S. Walters Post author

        Still doesn’t change the fact that HRC is trying to rebuild the party and Bernie is not. And from what I hear, DWS may well be on her way out once Hillary secures the nomination.

  2. Dave Katz

    Frantically waved pompoms are often a distraction from the real action taking place out on the field, is all I’m saying, John.

    Reply
      1. Dave Katz

        Oh, no, John. I can tell the difference between analysis and cheerleading, sure. I just never liked dynastic succession or the presumption by some of Inevitability, that tired old cart horse.The Clinton candidacy as rerun is quite chillingly apt as an indicator of the exhausted imagination of the Democratic Party elites. We. Can’t. Find. Better. Really?

  3. Faith King

    “DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz joins hands with GOP in assault on Elizabeth Warren’s consumer protection agency” Ben Norton/ Salon/ March 2nd. Sanders should be faulted for being a Bad, DNC Spear-Carrier, why, now? But what the hell. Pay-day lending hurts the jokers at the bottom of the heap. Not the Party/HNC’s donor class.

    Reply
  4. Sue Prent

    If you have listened to Bernie at all, you will know that he, too, is attempting to rebuild the party. He talks about it quite often. He may not be able to contribute the huge sums that Hillary puts in the kitty, but he is expanding the party base as Hillary is simply unable to do.

    Turnout has been lower so far for Democrats relative to the high-tide of 2008; but it has been particularly low in the states that have gone to Hillary. I would love to see a compilation of raw vote totals because I have a hunch that Bernie is well ahead in that department…and that has value to the party, so long as the end result is not viewed as an unfair attempt to cook the books for Hillary’s benefit. There has already been a little too much of that to pass the smell test.

    Electability? I have seen no polls in which Hillary is better able to challenge any of the Republicans than is Bernie. If the party elite choose to stubbornly ignore that simple fact, they do so at their own peril

    Reply
  5. Dave Katz

    The inestimable Rick Perlstein, who’s written more books then Messr Drumpf has read:

    “The grumpy old man with the disheveled hair has revealed himself a veritable political juggernaut. In Iowa, Bernie Sanders fought Hillary Clinton to a near tie. In New Hampshire, he rolled to a 22-point victory. It is an extraordinary vindication of an argument liberal Democrats like me have been making since the 1980s, when the Democratic Leadership Council leveraged a truism—candidates win by capturing the center of the electorate—into a bamboozlement: that for the Democrats, “moving to the center” meant moving closer to Wall Street and abandoning the party’s populist traditions.

    “Sanders has been proving the counterargument in spades, to the shock of the political establishment. Make full-throated appeals to ordinary people’s economic interests and frame what Teddy Roosevelt called “the malefactors of great wealth” as the enemy, and you could crack the political world wide open.”

    So let’s not cavil about where the Democratic Party is today and who carries the most hod for them, and why. It’s obvious and has been for a loooooong time.

    Reply
  6. Dave Katz

    Jesus F. Christ on a Segway with whitewall tires, this guy nail it. Perlstein:
    “My fear is the fact that, on January 20, 2017, a President Sanders would be inaugurated politically naked and alone—commanding a party apparatus less prepared ideologically, institutionally, and legislatively to do great things than at any time in its history.”

    We have the Clintons to thank for that, in so many ways, who squandered both the high-tech bubble and the post-Soviet Union Peace Dividend–remember that one, dude? Triangulating, Dick Morris-listening-to, avariciously ambitious, small-thinking out-of-Arkansas humps, the both of ’em.

    Reply
  7. Dave Katz

    Arkansas’ First Power Couple were way too busy rakin’ it in during W’s Reign Of Error for any canine carnality, bubby. $109M from 01 to 08, so says the NYT, arduously wrung by sweat of the connubial brow from “book tours and speaking engagements.”. Waddya suppose all that cashola was showered on an ex-president and his wife for? Or, per RP again, “Four of the five top contributors to the $712.4 million (Hillary Clinton) raised for her campaigns since 2000 were banks.” You’d have to be as dumb as Justice Anthony Kennedy thought we all were, writing for the majority on Citizens United:
    “(E)xpenditures do not lead to, or create the appearance of, quid pro quo corruption.”

    Yeah. Right. History tells us Truman, Johnson, and Carter, who, for all their perceived and real faults, didn’t mine the office of President of the United States for grift cash. I guess those pesky Bad Optics Of Fact (BOOFs) won’t register out there in Inevitability Dreamland until Donny Drumpf tosses it in her face at, oh, say, 2:30 into the first debate. “But….but that’s what they were paying!” Rake handle, meet face. Voila! President Drumpf. Get used to it.

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  8. John VanDyke Wilmerding

    Bernie, because of his ‘political revolution’ avalanche, has rapidly become a Democratic Party force to be reckoned with. He has carried issues forward into the public arena with great consistency ever since his earliest days with the Liberty Union Party. He has also become perhaps the most canny politician in the United States, and certainly in Vermont.

    This goes way beyond Bernie having his heart in the right place or his particular brand of charisma. I believe he understands politics, our country, and our geo-political roles in the world well enough to help the USA effect a quantum economic and political recovery. Just the fact that he stepped outside the monolithic AIPAC song-and-dance recently shows how far he can go in revising the American political agenda.

    What I am trying to say is that ALL Vermont super-delegates ought to give Bernie their votes at the Convention on the issues. It is these extraordinarily important issues that have made his candidacy a resounding success thus far, and which promise to bring the USA back to a place where (A) the middle class can at least partially recover, and (B) people with dire needs, the ‘have nots’, will receive both the interim assistance they need for food, clothing, shelter, and health care, and will also have more opportunities to realize the ‘American Dream’.

    Polls indicate that Bernie will already do better against ‘Drumpf’ by at least 5% more than Hillary would. The Democratic Party may be riding a crest of popular support in our beloved Vermont, but nationwide, our local, state, and Congressional candidates could use some real help. I served in the Vermont State Democratic Committee recently (2013-15) and saw many of the weaknesses and strengths of our Party. Dean Corren’s bid for Lt. Governor illustrated a real weakness — the insular, ‘mutual admiration society’ aspect of our ‘old guard’ here in Vermont which foiled his candidacy in the northern counties. At the same time, though, his 2-1 success here in Windham may have given him coat-tails that edged Peter Shumlin back into office, the incumbent having won by only about 2500 votes but receiving 6000 of his total here in Windham.

    I am sure the smartest politicians and observers watched what happened here with Corren, including his recent partial vindication in Federal court after he was “punished” by the Party (you may disagree) with Attorney General Sorrel’s lawsuit. Dean says it was done to prevent him from becoming Lt. Governor in the next contest, which illustrates another ‘Very Vermont’ problem with the Democratic Party … its incestuousness with some prominent Republicans. One would hope that those of us who welcome that kind of give-and-take will work as closely as we possibly can with Bernie so that the Democratic Party here and nationwide will be greatly reinvigorated, if not yoooogely re-born! #nopantsuitcoattails #holdhillaryresponsible

    Reply

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