Tag Archives: Elizabeth Warren

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.

Did the Dems really need more good fundraising news? Well, they got some.

Side note from Saturday’s meeting of the Vermont Democratic Party State Committee: VDP Executive Director Julia Barnes told the gathering that this year’s Curtis Award dinner featuring Senator Elizabeth Warren was a huge success, grossing $146,000. As Barnes pointed out, that’s enough to cover half the party’s total budget for this year. Correction: one-third of the party’s administrative budget for the year.

And there was the collateral benefit of energizing donors and volunteers, Barnes noted, thanks to the enthusiasm generated by Warren’s strong message.

I can’t directly compare the Curtis Award take with the VTGOP’s vaunted Chris Christie event from last December because, as far as I can tell, the party has never publicly announced its total receipts. Beforehand, it was happy to throw around estimates of $200,000 to $300,000.

Funny thing about that. The VTGOP’s campaign finance report filed on March 15, which covered the period from July 2013 to March 15, 2014, listed total donations of $45,567.32. The vast majority of that was given between mid-November and mid-December.

Unless some of the Christie-related donations went directly into other accounts, the Christie fundraiser appears to have grossed a little under $40,000.

If any Republican apparatchiks want to correct my reckoning or, preferably, provide the actual take, please do so in the comments below or contact me directly. At least some of you know how. And I’d really like to know.

In the meantime, let’s stick with 40K. Compare the two high-profile fundraising events, and see which one was the bigger success.

Not to mention that during the March 2014 reporting period (July to March), the VTGOP spent just under $40,000. So the Christie take was pretty much gone by mid-March, leaving the Party once again starved for funds.