Tag Archives: Elizabeth Warren

The Cardiac Kid

Bernie Sanders has been battling bad news lately. He’s stuck in the polls, or maybe even losing ground. He’s lost the “left/progressive” lead to Elizabeth Warren. He’s had to shake up his campaign organization in crucial states. Key supporters, like the Working Families Party, have abandoned him.

But this morning brings the worst possible headline for Sanders 2020: “Sanders Has Heart Surgery.”

It may well be a blip on the radar, and Bernie may live to be a happy, healthy 120 years old. But he’s the oldest candidate in the race and would be the oldest sitting president at the beginning of his term in office. Medical issues have always been the hidden shoal that could sink his campaign.

And health-wise, he’s on a bad run.

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Bernie’s in trouble! No wait, Bernie’s doing great!

Yesterday, VTDigger reporter Kit Norton posted a story that seemed to indicate flagging support for America’s most senior junior senator, Bernie Sanders. Norton reported that “nearly 200” (he never provided the exact figure) of Sanders’ biggest 2016 donors were instead giving their money to Elizabeth Warren this year. The takeaway, I guess, is that crowds of Bernie backers have fled his campaign.

We’ll get to the story’s flaws in a bit. Right now, we move on to a story posted by Norton today, that shows Sanders doing extremely well in the fundraising department. In fact, during the just-concluded third quarter of 2019, Sanders received $25.3 million — as Norton reported, “the largest quarterly fundraising haul of any Democratic candidate in 2019.”

It was a sharp increase from Sanders’ second-quarter haul of $18 million, and shows that, in spite of recent bad news on the polling and campaign organization fronts, Sanders continues to inspire supporters to put their money where their opinions are. It also shows that Sanders is doing just fine, thank you very much, without those big donations from the faithless “nearly 200.”

Which brings us back to Norton’s first piece. It involved a lot of digging through campaign finance reports which, I can tell you from personal experience, is a depressing slog. I always start doing campaign finance pieces with a sense of optimism and purpose, which at some point turns into my inner voice shouting “Why the hell am I doing this?”

So, good on Norton for doing the spadework — and for reaching out to quite a few of the ex-donors for comment.

And now, the bad news. There is no context whatsoever in the story. Nothing to tell the reader how serious a loss this is for Team Bernie.

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Nothing has changed for Bernie, and Bernie has changed nothing

There’s been a tsunami of bad news this month for The World’s Oldest Junior Senator, Bernie Sanders. The political media reported on shakeups at the top of his presidential campaigns in New Hampshire and Iowa, which is never a good sign. The Working Families Party, which heartily endorsed Sanders in 2016, gave its nod to Sen. Elizabeth Warren instead. He was bedeviled by a throat thing which limited his effectiveness in the most recent debate and caused him to cancel appearances in the early primary state of South Carolina.

And the Sanders campaign’s response to all of this: Crack down on leaks and blame the media.

Also not a good sign. Don’t shoot the messenger, folks.

Then there’s the biggest and most inconvenient truth for Sanders: He isn’t making any headway in the polls. If anything, he has slipped back a bit from his uncontested second place standing at the beginning of the year. Warren, the other contender for the left/progressive vote, is the only candidate who’s climbed significantly. In most polls she’s taken second place away from Sanders, although he’s still a close third — often within a poll’s margin of error.

In truth, all this bad publicity doesn’t matter very much. The political media like to pile on when there seems to be a trend forming.

The worst news for Team Bernie is that, after all these months and all that organizing and speechifying and social media activity and Ben Cohen ice cream socials and the million-plus unique donors, the Sanders campaign is stuck in the same position it’s been in since day one.

Back in January, FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver assessed all the Democratic candidates’ prospects. His take on Vermont’s hometown hero: “Sanders looks like a candidate with a high floor and a low ceiling.” By which he meant that Sanders had a strong and solid base of support, but relatively little opportunity for growth.

His floor hasn’t fallen, but his ceiling has yet to rise.

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Well, that didn’t take long

In recent weeks, I’ve tried my damnedest not to comment on the Democratic presidential race. After shooting my keyboard off a few times earlier on, I began to realize that I was overreacting to the latest development instead of focusing on the bigger picture.

Political coverage encourages this kind of short-term thinking. The media have an interest in hyping up the news, to keep you tuned in or reading or clicking or However You Are Accessing Our Content. But in the long run, most of this stuff washes out.

If you needed any proof, just look at a roughly 48-hour period in the middle of this week. On Tuesday, there was a good chance of continuing deep division sparking a battle-marred convention that could have paved the way for a Trump presidency.

And then, not necessarily in this order, we got:

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What Bernie should do now

There are signs the Bernie Sanders campaign is nearing a bitter end. Which would be a shame, because he has come so far and has the opportunity to do so much more.

More high-level staffers have left. The fundraising momentum has slowed. Bernie’s sounding a little cranky on the stump, and some of his supporters are moving from denial to anger in the Five Stages of Grief.

I’m not here to litigate the details of the Nevada thing or any other offense against human decency slash blip on the radar screen. I’m here to lay out a productive way forward for the Sanders campaign.

He can stay in the race until the convention. Got no problem with that. He should, however, spend his time on the positive message that’s inspired his millions of followers, rather than focusing on the minutiae of process.

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Peter Shumlin, Tough Guy

One of my least favorite things about our incumbent Governor* is his tendency to adopt Republican talking points, thus giving them a validation they don’t deserve. It’s sometimes called “kicking the hippies” — talking tough about Them Damn Liberals, in an attempt to self-position as a reasonable centrist.

*Same is true of many Democratic politicians, including Barack Obama and the Clintons, which is why Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren can seem so refreshing.

"If one more person says 'G'day, Mate' to me, I swear, they're gonna get such a punch."

“If one more person says ‘G’day, Mate’ to me, I swear I’m gonna ball ’em up.”

So here he comes, by way of Administration Secretary and Hatchet Man WIth An Adorable Accent Justin Johnson, doing a little light sparring with the public-sector union punching bag.

Secretary of Administration Justin Johnson issued an edict to agency and department heads Tuesday that all new hires within the executive branch must be approved by his office.

The move, according to a memo Johnson sent to agency and department heads, is the result of signals from the Vermont State Employees Association that it is not willing to work with the administration on finding $5 million in personnel savings called for in Gov. Peter Shumlin’s budget proposal.

Yeah, really. How dare the VSEA react exactly how you’d expect them to react?

100 times out of 100, a union is going to balk at reopening a signed contract and acceding to personnel cuts. That’s What They Do. It’s the first round in the dance: management takes hard line, union takes hard line, they get together and work things out.

Johnson knows this. But he very publicly reacted to VSEA’s predictable “Fight Back” petition with a summary judgment: “The petition indicated that the union will not deal with the administration on labor savings.”

The petition indicates no such thing. VSEA is simply staking out a strong opening position for the inevitable deal-making. The administration did the very same thing by incorporating cuts in pay and staffing into its budget.

So why is Johnson going straight from the opening salvo to the dreaded Declaration Of Impasse? Because it makes the administration look serious about cutting spending.

Most of the conversation around the Statehouse these days is about tax and fee increases. Shumlin’s budget called for a mix of new revenue and spending cuts. The last thing he wants is for the public debate to center on the former and ignore the latter. So he sent out his H.M.W.A.A.A.* to stomp on the other end of the seesaw.

*pronounced “HIM-wah.”

He could just as easily, and more productively, said something like “We understand the VSEA’s interest in protecting its members. We do not welcome making cuts, but we believe that Vermont’s budget situation requires it. We look forward to working with the union to find ways to save money while preserving a strong, vibrant state workforce.”

But that wouldn’t have accomplished the mission, which was to make the administration look tough.

This would be nothing more than a harmless bit of political theater, except that it provides tacit support for a Republican talking point: that public sector unions are the enemy of the taxpayer. Shumlin does the same thing when he insists that Vermonters are Taxed Enough Already, or when he tries to cut social service programs, or when he frames health care reform not as a social justice issue, but as an economic growth initiative.

In doing so, he cedes the rhetorical ground to the Republicans. It gets him a bit of short-term shine as a Tough Guy and an Unconventional Democrat, but it hurts the liberal cause in the long run.

Plus, it makes me grind my teeth, and my dentist says I should stop that.

Postscript. Just in case there’s any confusion, I made up the quote under Mr. Johnson’s picture.  

BREAKING — Bernie Sanders Announces A Timetable For An Announzzzzzzzz…..

One of the things that makes me long for a parliamentary democracy is the blessed briefness of election seasons. Call an election, a couple months later you’re done.

America, on the other hand, suffers a severe case of Campaign Bloat, especially in the Presidential sweepstakes. I may be a politics nerdboy, but I couldn’t be more bored by the early maneuverings of would-be candidates and their dutiful swings through Iowa, New Hampshire, and other self-appointed bellwethers of national opinion.

The Collegiate Bernie. (From his own website.)

The Collegiate Bernie. (From his own website.)

Even the endless travels of our own Bernie Sanders bore me. I don’t care where he’s eating rubber chicken and giving the same speech he’s been giving throughout his career. I feel no desire to keep up with Seven Days’ attempt at journalistically justifiable clickbait, “Bernie Beat.”

And I don’t care about the latest Hot News (came out during my Xmas vacay), as reported by Dave “The Hat” Gram:

SANDERS: I’LL DECIDE ON PRESIDENTIAL RUN BY MARCH

“I don’t want to do it unless I can do it well,” he told The Associated Press. “I don’t want to do it unless we can win this thing.”

Yuh-huh. Well, if that’s the deciding factor, I think the decision is all but made. Especially when…

Sanders said he is weighing whether to run as an independent, as he has done in Vermont, or as a Democrat.

Oh yeah, running as an independent. That’ll work.

Now look, I appreciate Bernie’s dedication to his role as a progressive firebrand. I like the fact that he talks about issues in a way that connects with working Americans, unlike many of us who are too darn academic and literary for our own good. But he will never be a serious candidate for president.

He can be a useful part of a presidential campaign, focusing on issues and themes that “mainstream” Democrats often avoid. Roughly speaking, he’s the Ron Paul of the left: a true believer who attracts attention through the raw power of ideas boldly expressed.

As such, I’d welcome his candidacy, if only as a foil for Hillary Clinton. Which is about all he could reasonably hope to be.

Now, Elizabeth Warren, she’d have a chance. But in her absence, sure, Bernie, take a rip. Just don’t expect me to pay attention to your three-month-long Final Decision Tour. And don’t expect me to believe your insistence that you’d only be in it if you can win.