Monday, March 9, 2020

Panicked Bernie Supporters Plead With him to go on the attack - but why expect Bernie to change his stripes?

Popular democracy to Sanders is a relationship where everyone gets a chance to be heard. Even though the aide worried that Bernie wasn’t optimizing his use of time, he admired his dedication. “At the end of the day, he’s a good man,” the aide says. “He cares about poor people. How many people really care about the poor?” But as Bernie’s popularity and influence grew, it seemed all he wanted to do was scale up the regime of town meetings.... Matt Tiabbi, Rolling Stone
Let me state straight up I'm a Bernie supporter and will vote for him in the NY primary at the end of April. But I'm also a realist and get annoyed when I hear magical thinking from the Bernie crowd, especially the socialists who always seem to think the fall of capitalism is about to occur (there is a case to be made for that) and the socialist nirvana will follow (I don't see that case). So let's look at some reality and also consider the case of what if it's Biden vs Trump? I know some people on the left who actually would prefer Trump because he would hasten the fall of capitalism. They probably don't see themselves ending up in a detention camp for their political activity as laws are passed to not allow any demos or rallies and the Trump courts say OK to everything - including a third term.

So I've finally been convinced - that the most important issue right now is not medicare for all, it's beating Trump. And a divided Dem Party makes that extremely unlikely. And I also don't love the attacks on Biden as being senile and mentally messed up. As one who also misses words and forgets things when distracted, I still see myself as competent --probably as competent to run this country as Trump is. So it's time to face facts. If Biden is the one I will most likely vote for him - unless he goes so far right I can't. Someone said to me Biden won't get anything done and I replied I don't care -- at the very least he would restore things on the environment, etc and probably move the needle on health care.

The key is the other elected officials and the left/progressive just don't have enough of them - yet. The infrastructure is still weak on the left, though growing - but not enough to have kept pace for Bernie growth. The movement will have to pass on to others with a different face - younger and not white.

The revulsion Trump inspires has become the dominant force and most democrats seem covinced that even a hampered Biden has a better chance to defeat Trump than Bernie. As many Dems seem repulsed by the label socialist as those who don't seem bothered by it. That's not enough.

I also want to toss in that if Bernie were the one to win the nomination and the election the reality is that he too would have trouble getting things done. The argument on the left that there would be a rising up to force the electeds to do the right thing is somewhat doubtful. We know that young people have a lot to do outside politics and they can get very busy fast.

I have some to think that Bernie's attacks on the Dem Party has created a serious backlash - not at the top but at the bottom. I see it from old colleagues on FB.

Go take a poll in your own schools -- where does Bernie stand vs Biden vs Trump. Take that pulse and pool it with other schools.

With Michigan seeming to be slipping away from Bernie, the pleas from the Matt Tiabbi, Chrystal Ball (Rising, The Hill), Michael Moore crowd are growing more intense for Bernie to slash and Bern Biden. They almost express outrage at Bernie for saying Biden is a friend and a nice guy and by doing that Bernie is killing his chances for making a comeback. Matt and his podcast partner Katy Halper seemed to think Bernie was satisfied to start and build a movement and doesn't want the nomination enough to do whatever it takes  and that if he doesn't go nuclear he is letting his supporters who have given him so much money down. I actually admire Bernie for being honorable even if it hurts his chances. It is that feature that has made him a different politician.

Let me say this again - if you can't win the black vote, especially the women, you can't win. Bernie seems to turn off the traditional black vote -- could be cultural - the way he comes off - or could religious people don't cotton to socialist ideas or to non-religious people, especially when they are not even Christian. I'm sure its complex and at some point we will know why. Would an AOC get the black vote? Probably do better but I'm not so sure.

My narrow experience has been in the UFT where a considerable number of black teachers (mostly a bit older) have  on the whole rejected the left-wing opposition groups who have remained mostly white over the decades.

To expect Bernie to go on the attack (like talk about Hunter or question Biden competence) is sort of funny coming from Bernie supporters who brag about Bernie sticking to his guns on so many issues. Taibbi described Bernie as not aggressive personally and a counter puncher -- he will respond if attacked but not go on the attack. Bernie genuinely seems to like Joe from what we hear and personal issues count and that is one of the reasons I like Bernie.

While we may see an increase in intensity from Bernie why expect him to be something he is not? And I also think Bernie needs to think practically. What if he doesn't get the nomination and slash and burn tactics create so many divisions in the Democratic Party, it doesn't recover for the challenge to Trump. Biden does not look like a great candidate and I always thought Bernie had a better chance to beat Trump. Given the outcomes of the past two weeks I'm not so sure. We have learned that you can't win without the black vote and despite Bernie people pointing to young black people favoring Bernie - well you saw the outcome -- massive rejection of Bernie in the black community. Also stories that suburban women are not for Bernie.

I've had some personal experiences with white women of a certain age who despise Trump so much they start spitting and sputtering when his name comes up. What surprised me was how much they dislike Bernie - there seems to be a gag reflex for them - Bernie seems to call up something visceral and they attribute all kinds of things to him -- aggressive, ego-driven, selfish -- no matter how much I try I can't dent them.

And then there are the older voters generally who reject Bernie by heavy amounts.

So to me things are looking pretty bleak. Michael Moore on his podcast made the bogus case that if the western states had reported first Terrible Tuesday would have been reported differently in the media while ignoring that many ballots in California and Colorado were mailed in before the Biden surge. There's too much stacked up against Bernie but I will root for him hard in Michigan.

If you want to hear some podcasts, look up Matt Taibbi with Katy Halper - Useful Idiots, Michael Moore - Rumble, and The Young Turks. If you want to understand the revolutionary left position in the Dem Party and Bernie I heard an excellent analysis on REVLEFT Radio blog on March 2. I learned a lot about why some Bernie or busters will sit out the election.

Here is the Taibbi piece in Rolling Stone:

To Rebound and Win, Bernie Sanders Needs to Leave His Comfort Zone

Current and former staffers say Sanders has run a great campaign — except when it comes to taking on Democrats like Joe Biden by name. Can he fix that?


A former aide to Bernie Sanders tells a story about the old days, when the little-known House Independent used to crisscross Vermont holding town hall meetings.
“It was morning to night, and we’d hit every corner of the state,” the aide recalls. “They would go on and on. I’d say to him, ‘Bernie, it’s okay if we leave a little bit on the table in some of these places. But he wouldn’t hear of it.”
Popular democracy to Sanders is a relationship where everyone gets a chance to be heard. Even though the aide worried that Bernie wasn’t optimizing his use of time, he admired his dedication. “At the end of the day, he’s a good man,” the aide says. “He cares about poor people. How many people really care about the poor?”
But as Bernie’s popularity and influence grew, it seemed all he wanted to do was scale up the regime of town meetings.
“It’s like the Steve Martin movie, The Jerk,” the aide says. “He’s born in a shack. Then, when he hits it big, he builds a shack-mansion.”

In the 2020 presidential campaign, Sanders has done fantastically well. Even after a disappointing Super Tuesday, when Joe Biden surged past him in Texas, Massachusetts and Minnesota to re-seize frontrunner status, Bernie remains very much in the hunt. Heading into contests in states he won in 2016, such as Washington and Michigan, the self-described “Democratic Socialist” at this writing trails Biden in estimated delegates, 670-589. He’s behind, but no one with his politics has ever been this close to the presidency.
But Rolling Stone spoke to multiple current and former Sanders aides who worry the Senator’s personality — he’s phobic about personal confrontation and retains traces of an inferiority complex from his days as an Independent straggler — might lead him to miss a chance at history. They say the campaign, which declined to comment for this story, has, among other things, declined to aggressively confront Joe Biden on issues like Social Security, trade, and the bankruptcy bill.
“Bernie is conflict-averse,” says Matt Stoller, who worked for Sanders for two years. “His staff has always had real trouble getting him to criticize any Democrat by name.”
“Bernie is always better on the counterpunch, on the rope-a-dope,” says Mark Longabaugh, who was chief strategist for Bernie’s 2016 campaign. “When he lands, it’s usually a counterpunch, like ‘I wrote the damn bill.’ It’s hard for him to go on the attack.”
“I always said, if he learned anything from 2016, it’s that in order to win the nomination, to beat the political establishment, you have to take it from their cold, dead hands. You have to go to war with these people,” the longtime former aide says. “But Bernie is acting like he’s running for State Senator in Burlington.”
As a result, even as a staggered Democratic Party political establishment scrambled all year to undercut him, openly signaling a willingness to overturn voter will at this summer’s convention in Milwaukee, Sanders seemed content to keep giving the same speech he’s been giving for thirty years, what some current and former aides affectionately call the “Berniefesto.”
The 2020 primary race is not over. The delegate gap is not that big, Sanders has favorable states upcoming (Michigan will be a key test), and a March 15th debate in Arizona will test Biden, who’s struggled to use all his time in earlier contests. Elizabeth Warren blew up Mike Bloomberg’s candidacy in thirty seconds of a January debate. Bernie should be able to do the same to Biden, a man who leads with his face in verbal combat. But he’ll need to step out of his comfort zone, and soon.

Springfield, Virginia, a chilly February 28. Three hours before Sanders is set to speak, a crowd of seven or eight thousand huddles in an entrance line. There is nowhere to park for a half-mile out. The World Bernie Tour is here.
“Baby Yoda!” a salesman of Bernie merch cracks with a smile, when asked what his top-selling product is. A t-shirt showing a small green alien Bernie, telling all THIS IS THE WAY, has been a popular meme on the 2020 campaign.
For years now, mere conferral of Bernie’s presence creates a box office event. Bill Clinton reached this rare air, as did Sarah Palin of all people, and Barack Obama. Donald Trump is the standard-bearer: If Led Zeppelin sold time-share, it might approximate what Trump rallies look like today. But Bernie is a political star in his own right.
Sanders is an anti-showman. Obama sold looks and verbal brilliance, Palin was Roseanne, and Clinton tried to mate with his crowds. Bernie is an old man talking about Medicare. In an era when America is tired of the bullshit, the absence of a come-on is a smash hit.
“Ice, Ice baby!” says Wilson Johnson, a third-grade teacher from Woodbridge, Virginia. He’s nailing Vanilla Ice in Bernie voice. “I think the one percent doesn’t deserve all the oyce!”
Sanders supporters often tell stories about frustrations with the system that led to epiphanies. In Virginia, one described a lifetime of seeing corruption working for the Inspector General of the Department of Agriculture. Another tells told a story about the devastation that $40,000 in student debt wrought in his life. Everyone has a story. “I had a major surgery last year,” said Fabio Moreiera, of Fairfax. “My insurance company told me for about six months, yeah, we’ll cover it, we’ll cover it. Three days before I got the surgery, they said, ‘oh, it’s not going to be covered.’”
The stories cut across demographics. Bernie crowds, in contrast to reporting clich├ęs, are full of ex-conservatives (and also former non-voters). You’d never guess that a campaign with this reach would be capable of losing anywhere by thirty points or more. But it happened, both that same night in South Carolina, and days later in this same state.

 While Sanders barnstormed across the country in what one staffer describes as “the rock concert,” the tectonic plates of the 2020 primary shifted. Tongue-tied, Iraq-war-supporting Joe Biden crushed Bernie in South Carolina, blowing past poll expectations with a 48.4-19.9% primary victory. Two nights later, Biden proved South Carolina was no fluke, winning nine states in devastating fashion, including an amazing 53%-21% rout in Virginia.
Overnight, Sanders went from clear frontrunner to a candidate with a major problem. With rival Democrats no longer doing him the favor of fracturing the field — Pete Buttigieg and Amy “Snow Woman” Klobuchar both threw in with Biden after South Carolina — the Sanders trajectory looked like it might end at the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, unless he found a way to expand beyond his base.
The Sanders campaign earlier this year suggested Bernie was about to go after Biden on Social Security and other issues in an Iowa debate, but Sanders ended up in a dispute with Elizabeth Warren instead. As understandable as this was — Bernie had to respond to Warren’s charges that he’d told her a woman couldn’t win — it mirrored a year-long pattern of reluctance by Sanders to engage “Scranton Joe.”
Ask people in and around Bernie’s orbit why this is the case, and you’ll get some depressing answers.
“I think Bernie likes Joe Biden,” says Longabaugh.
“I think Bernie has a really hard time going negative,” says Stoller.
“So much of what informs his relationship with people like Biden,” says the longtime former staffer, “is that experience of being the lone independent and outsider. Back then, if any one of those people treated him with respect, as a colleague, that was enough to ingratiate them with Bernie.”
The former aide sighs. “He doesn’t like Rahm Emmanuel, he doesn’t like Hillary Clinton,” he says. “But he’s okay with Biden, because Biden is nice to him.”
What’s troubling about this is that Biden has long been a central figure in building the modern, corporate-dominated model of the Democratic Party Sanders spends so much time deconstructing.

Biden led cheers for the Iraq War and repeatedly lied about that record (“Yes, I did oppose the war before it began,” he said just last year). On many occasions he’s expressed willingness to cut Social Security and voted for the insidious bankruptcy bill. He championed NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, helped write the atrocious 1994 crime bill, and even bragged that George Bush’s infamous Attorney General John Ashcroft got the idea for the PATRIOT Act from him.
Bernie has gone after some of this, but even on issues like the Iraq invasion, where Biden has an extensive record of damning statements, he’s let his rival off the hook, propping up Biden’s weak excuse of being deceived by Republicans.
“Joe and I listened to what George Bush, Dick Cheney and Rumsfeld had to say. I thought they were lying. Joe saw things differently,” was the strongest statement Sanders could muster, in a recent debate.
Bernie is now using more confrontational language like “Which side are you on?” with regard to Social Security, but it may be too late. (Why did he wait until after Super Tuesday to feature an ad about Biden’s Social Security record?) For most of the campaign, on key issues like this, Bernie seemed anxious to pick “a line of attack that will bring the least amount of blowback” from within the Democratic Party, as Stoller puts it.
Reluctance to cut the cord with Democrats who are “trying to put a bazooka to his head” is part of what finally disillusioned the unnamed longtime aide, who notes that Bernie’s unwillingness to engage people like Biden is “self-sabotaging, but also selfish. It’s not comfortable for him to call out people he likes, but it’s not about him anymore… He has millions of people who’ve put their hopes in him.”
There is a legend being circulated now in the press that the Sanders campaign was somehow sunk by “negativity,” that online rancor and divisiveness placed a ceiling on Bernie’s rise. That this is transparent pundit gaslighting is made clear by the trajectory of Warren. Having built her brand as a progressive years ago by attacking none other than Joe Biden over the bankruptcy bill, Warren as a presidential candidate holstered those attacks against her onetime chief intraparty rival, stressed “unity”, and — got crushed at the polls. If you want to see where a progressive platform without aggressive distinctions goes, it’s proven to be nowhere.

However, as Longabaugh points out, attacking rivals in a multi-candidate field can have unpredictable results.
“People don’t realize how hard this is, standing onstage with someone and sticking a shiv in,” says Longabaugh. “I actually think Bernie has played this pretty well,” Longabaugh says. “He may find it easier to draw contrasts with Biden in a two-way race.”
The reluctance to engage strongly with Biden speaks to the larger issue of Bernie’s attitude toward the Democratic Party. Sanders clearly sees the Party’s flaws and rails against its susceptibility to corporate influence, but has trouble understanding that the current leadership will never truly accept him and his message, unless forced. He’s been reluctant to use his mass appeal as a cudgel, preferring to focus on making a case to the public — a strategy that has served him extremely well, but still.
“You gotta weaponize this shit,” says the longtime aide. “You’ve got to go to these people in the party and say, ‘You can either accept it, or be killed by it.’” The aide notes there’s an obvious example of how to use a populist pulpit. “Trump is crazy, but there are things you can learn from him.”
Sanders staffers speak of the Senator with great admiration. Even those who’ve parted on bad terms indicate that at one time or another, they would have have taken a bullet for the man. All are amazed by the size of the movement he’s been able to build.
The issue is converting phenomenon into victory. There is a passionate debate within Bernieworld over the best way to get there. Drawing stronger contrasts with Biden is only part of the picture.
Some for instance wonder if the candidate has done enough on the inside. The “rock concert” has been miraculously effective in building popular support despite a near-total absence of institutional or media backing, but that doesn’t preclude “walking and chewing gum at the same time,” as one source puts it.
Bernie could have been on the phone every day for the last four years, back-channeling figures like Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and even Barack Obama even as he blowtorched traditional Democrats like Biden on the trail. Would that have produced a different result?

Others wonder about the mechanics of a presidential run: Did Sanders do enough? He raised a ton of money, hitting $50 million per month, a massive sum for this kind of candidate. Did he spend it in the right places, in the most delegate-rich regions and media markets? Was/is there enough focus on who will serve as delegates? Was/is enough attention being paid to questions like the bureaucratic structure of the Milwaukee Democratic convention?
Sanders himself clearly views his campaign as an effort to rescue and restore the Democratic Party, at least as he understands it — the party of F.D.R., and the working-class voters it traditionally represented, dating back to his youth. He’s been burning up air miles in an effort to replace the corporate-funded political model with one backed by a movement of millions of people. As he put it to Rolling Stone four years ago, “Our future is not raising money from wealthy people, but mobilizing millions of working people and young people and people of color.”
Some part of Sanders seems to hold out hope that something is left over in the DNA of the Democratic Party from those F.D.R. days, something that can be saved and restored. He seems to have a nostalgic fondness for it, as he seems to for Biden himself.
But this version of the Democratic Party that now has Biden as its face wants to bury him. They’ve smeared him as a racist, sexist dupe for Putin, an amateur and back-bencher who doesn’t understand power and can’t “get things done.”
By getting as far as he has, and raising as much money as he has, Sanders has already demolished half of that argument. To finish the job, he has to show he understands the difference between doing well and winning, against an opponent who pathetically, insultingly beatable. For all of the institutional obstacles before him, despite the wall of media sycophants and the waterfall of fresh Wall Street money against him, Bernie should be offended to be losing to the likes of Joe Biden. But he’s running out of time to get angry.


  1. Great post. I still think Bernie has a chance to win the nomination and if he does he’ll beat Trump. Not so with Biden. Sad to say there’s more going on with Biden mixing up words.

  2. I guess we will have to wait for AOC to turn 36. Maybe the Democrats can take the Senate and keep Trump's damage to a minimum. I seriously doubt Joe can beat Trump.

  3. Unlike many Bernie supporters, I was never convinced he could defeat Trump, even if he could win the Democratic nomination (which the #McResistance TM would go to any lengths to deny him, even if meant reelecting Hair Furor, since that, not Trump's reelection, might shatter their golden rice bowls).

    But while Sanders might have lost to Trump, Biden will be destroyed by him: the accelerating cognitive decline (which Ds are gaslighting the public about), the hypocrisy about his truly horrendous legislative record, the corruption of his brothers and son. Trump will go medieval on him, and it will work...

    And if corona virus and the economic crisis it's causing do allow Biden to eke out a (highly doubtful) victory, then we will be virtually guaranteed Trump 2.0 in the near future. Unhinged liberals and the #McResistance TM have convinced themselves that Nobody Can Be Worse Than Trump, but they are again wrong, as always: a strong case can be made that we "lucked out" with Trump, who is undisciplined, largely incompetent (though still mis-underestimated by hysterical liberals), focused mainly on his own boodling, and is relatively non-ideological. When the Next Trump emerges - some people predict it will be Senator Josh Hawley from Missouri - he will be far more clever and competent, and evilly effective.

    In that case, if/when Stephen Colbert tells another grossly homophobic "joke" (which was OK Because Trump, right?) about Trump 2.0 and Putin, the guys with ski masks and automatic weapons may actually rappel through the windows of CBS, which the McResistance TM has been falsely predicting for 4 years now.

    If the Center/Left refuses to offer working people tangible improvements in their lives (which is precisely what a Biden nomination constitutes) then that void will be filled by the Right, no matter how dishonestly.


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