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Bernie and His Fans

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supersanders

Good take on the problem with Bernie Sanders: the cult of personality his fans are erecting around him that make any criticism an attack on their hero.

It’s time for Sanders supporters to relax a little. It’s great that we’re fired up. But fired up to the point of alienating potential allies with our unwavering and, to be frank, ever so slightly cultish support of Sanders? That’s harmful, and it needs to stop.

The thing is, we’ve been through this once before, back in 2008. Everyone got all fired up and excited for Barack Obama and he was going to magically make everything better and then he was elected and the air went out of the room. Now, I’m not saying a hypothetical Sanders would follow the same path. Obama was always too fond of bipartisanship and compromise, even when it had become painfully evident that those who he was seeking compromise with hadn’t managed to stay awake in class. Sanders is of a different mold, and I very much doubt he will seek compromise for the sake of compromise. At the same time, a hypothetical president Sanders will not be able to do all the wonderful things his supporters think he can. Beyond that, Sanders isn’t perfect. Sorry, but it’s true. On Israel, while he’s less hawkish than most, he is still too far to the right for my tastes. Some of his statements on gun control are a little questionable. He’s a human being, and I don’t expect to agree with him 100% of the time. And there is nothing wrong with that, save when his supporters deify him as the best candidate in the history of everything. That a) sets yourself up for disappointment and b) creates a weirdly cultish atmosphere that doesn’t exactly welcome new recruits.

This course is counterproductive and, if something is not done to change it, downright harmful. I like Sanders. As far as I’m concerned he’s easily the best candidate out there. But he’s not the messiah. He’s not perfect. It is long past time for those of us who support Sanders to come to grips with that. If every criticism of Sanders, every action that his fans deem harmful, every question about his polices is met with an unthinking and reflexive attack, his campaign is in serious trouble. Maybe not now, but in the long term. No one wants to join a cult of personality. If we want the Sanders campaign to succeed it is time we stopped acting like one.

It continues to be striking to me how much liberals want to believe in That One Candidate Who Will Change Everything. Like Obama in 2008 (who admittedly stoked these fires for himself), many liberals are turning to the next Great Man to solve our problems. They would have preferred the first Great Woman, i.e., Elizabeth Warren to do this for them, but with her refusing to run, Bernie is good enough. The problems here are manifold, but far more so if Bernie was actually elected. Were that to happen, he’d face the exact same structural problems Obama does with Congress and the courts, the same corporate lobbying system, and the same inability to change the system on his own. It’s true that he would not have some of Obama’s weaknesses, like the believe in bipartisanship and the terrible education and trade policies. But then again, Bernie’s gun and Israel policies are bad. So progressives would quickly see their hero thrown against the rocks of the system and make some mistakes of his own. They’d call him a sellout and look for the next Great Man to solve all their problems.

The inability of so many liberals to think structurally is really exasperating.

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  • joe from Lowell

    The inability of so many liberals to think structurally is really exasperating.

    What makes it extra-special exasperating is that this shortcoming is so pronounced among people who pledge their allegiance to an economically-leftist viewpoint, where we should be able to expect people to engage in systemic (instead of individualistic) analysis.

    • Jordan

      I doubt most (many?) liberals pledge their allegiance to an economically-leftist viewpoint. They have various specific policy proposals that they like for one reason or another that may coincide with positions leftists might take, but damn it, THEIR president is the one who can make those policies reality.

      • joe from Lowell

        But we’re not talking here about “liberals” in the broad sense, but the subset backing Sanders. That’s what the post is about.

        And I’d go further and say that the people engaging the Superman fantasies are from the most stridently economic-leftist segment of the Sanders coalition.

        • petesh

          Yes, and with a tendency to think structurally in economic analysis but not in political terms, which both affects chances of making economic change and deeply alienates people concerned about structural racism … which alienation of course has political effects that of course tend to scupper the chances of addressing structural issues in the economy. Ouroborus, anyone?

          • ThrottleJockey

            Most people tend to be optimistic, and like ancient storytellers, prefer to believe in Great Heroes. Optimism isn’t a bad trait, far as it goes. Ergo, this belief isn’t a product of intelligence, or learning, so much as it is of basic emotion.

        • Jordan

          Well, sure, although I doubt the subset backing Sanders differs a *huge* deal on that score.

          As for the second paragraph, I have no idea, but even if so its not like stridently economic-leftists have been immune to personality cults, of course.

          You are right, of course, that it *shouldn’t* be like this, but …

    • ThrottleJockey

      The inability of so many liberals Americans to think structurally is really exasperating.

      FIFY. Its not a liberal thing. Its an American thing. And, truth be told, a people thing. Most people aren’t historians, sociologists, or political scientists. Can you blame them for being optimistic and hopeful?

      • Hogan

        You know what “trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results” is called, right?

        • jim, some guy in iowa

          “life”?

          • Hogan

            Touche.

        • Richard Gadsden

          “Generational replacement”?

          They aren’t the same people doing it every time!

  • MilitantlyAardvark

    The inability of so many liberals to think structurally is really exasperating.

    Seems like a general human problem to me, rather than a feature of liberals in particular. Most people prefer a good, dramatic hero story to a sober appraisal of life in the political trenches.

    I also think that Sanders’ biggest problem isn’t his supporters, but the fact that he seems to have a fairly limited “natural” constituency of white liberals and doesn’t look entirely comfortable when trying to reach beyond it.

    • MAJeff

      One of the things I’ve noticed recently is that a lot of those white liberal fans are really fucking invested in their whiteness.

      • NewishLawyer

        I don’t know if it is that they are invested in their whiteness per se but perhaps they just feel more comfortable thinking about things like structural economic inequality than systematic racism. Or they feel like they can talk using economics more because of their white privilege and not feel sheepish about it.

        I went to a Bernie event in SF and the crowd had a lot of age diversity but was very white.

        • Davis X. Machina

          Part of it is the socialist tradition.

          If you change the prevailing late-capitalist mode of production, all social relations change — must change — as a consequence.

          It’s the ultimate in addressing the ‘root causes’ of our present ills.

      • You’ve got to keep your whiteness white than white. No putting it in the spin cycle with other colors.

        I learned this on TV.

      • Lee Rudolph

        really fucking invested in their whiteness.

        Well, you know, it historically pays pretty good dividends!!!

        • MAJeff

          And folks are banking on it.

      • wengler

        really fucking invested in their whiteness

        Meaning they are white? Are there some KKK Bernie supporters that I am unaware of?

    • endaround

      Bernie Sanders is the Bill Bradley of today.

      • Davis X. Machina

        Unfair to Bernie, who is identifiably to the left of most of his party.

        Bradley, not so much. He walked point in the Senate for Kemp-Roth, for example…

        “The best income tax system is the one with the lowest rates and the fewest loopholes. That way, equal incomes pay about equal tax, and those who have more pay a little bit more. The closest we’ve ever been to that is 1986, when we got tax rates down to 28% and 14%… “

        • socraticsilence

          You’re discounting the value most leftist place on a jumper from the Elbow.

      • Marek

        That’s fucked up. You should take that back.

    • Brett

      It’s a huge problem, too, because realistically Sanders – or any Democratic candidate – will probably not get more than 40-45% of the white vote, even during Democratic wave election years where they win everything (in 2008, they got 43% of it). Any Democratic candidate is going to need high turnout among minorities, particularly black and hispanic minorities.

  • Barry Freed

    My support for Sanders is structural. Though I would love for him to win the nomination and the presidency I’d also like a pony and a unicorn. Rather I support him because I pretty much support his policy positions (same with Warren) and I want him to pull Hillary, who I believe will win both the nomination and the presidency, as far to the left as possible.

    • mbxxxxxx

      I feel you but the problem is that Bernie won’t be running in the general and Hillary is just as capable of “shaking up the ol’ etch-a-sketch” as anyone else. I hope Bernie just keeps her from sliding right but I’m not sure we really need Bernie for that this year. I think the times are with us on the left. The issues of income inequality, mass incarceration, etc. are ascendant and I think actually have more momentum than the noisy rightwing initiatives. Not saying we can rest easy, but I think even when the flow may look against us, there is an leftward undertow.

      I do think that “want[ing] to believe in That One Candidate Who Will Change Everything” is a problem of human nature and not the left, per se. It’s not just that both sides do it, everybody does it. We all look for heroes and expect too much of those we find.

      • jim, some guy in iowa

        re: your second paragraph- that’s certainly what we’re seeing with the Trump thing over on the republican side. I wonder who would be more disappointed in a Trump presidency- the people who vote for him or Trump himself

      • Davis X. Machina

        Everywhere I go I keep hearing how right-wing the Democrats have become…

        The DLC folded in 2011.
        The Blue Dog Caucus’ membership is down to 1/3 of its high — fully 1/2 of its membership was defeated in 2010.
        The Congressional Progressive Caucus is the largest Democratic membership group in Congress.

        It’s not 2003-04-05 any more, never mind 1994-95. It will take a while for the reflexively applied stereotypes to change, though.

        • Scott Lemieux

          I saw Matt Taibbi tweet recently that Democrats have put donors over voters “since the late 80s.” Yes, if only we could return to the Golden Age of Jimmy Carter and Robert Byrd, when the Democratic Party was uncompromisingly left-wing.

          • Davis X. Machina

            Anyone old enough to remember individual representatives should pull lists for the House Democratic caucus in 1975 — complete with Watergate Babies — and 2015, and compare them.

            Some of the class of ’75 were pretty liberal, and pretty noisy. But there weren’t more of them. They just got more famous, or at least well-known, with time.

            Our Ron Dellums is in there, someplace. We just don’t know who he — or she — is yet.

          • sharonT

            The problem going forward isn’t the caucus as a whole, but the leadership of the campaign committees. Both committees are lead by people who have been recruiting candidates that are more conservative than their districts would support if the committee leadership didn’t interfere in the primary races.

            A good source for information about the Demcratic primary races is Down With Tyranny.

            • ajp

              See, e.g., Patrick Murphy in my old Florida district.

            • Davis X. Machina

              The leaders of campaign committees are always bigfeet — their #1 job is fundraising.

        • Matt McIrvin

          What’s happened is that the Overton window has shifted left faster than the Democratic Party. More liberals now feel free to advocate positions left of where people like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are.

          • Theophrastus Bombastus von Hoehenheim den Sidste

            I think this is an important point: coming on the heels of Bush and the nastiness post 2001, Obama’s victories made it safe for people to attack Obama as being too far to the right.

            Now maybe he is, but I find it amusing that many of the people who understood in 2007 that Clinton and Obama were virtually indistinguishable on policy matters and either one would make an exciting candidate are now deriding the both of them as some kind of right wing monsters.

            In the long run this may be a very good thing, especially if socialism becomes detoxified as an element of our national discourse, but in the short run it is stirring up an awful lot of mud.

            • Matt McIrvin

              I saw a lot of people in 2008 who already regarded one of them as the true liberal and the other as a Republican lite. But which was which, nobody could agree on.

    • Liberals are looking for a leader who will lead us where we need to go. Obama looked as tho he might be that leader…. mmm..maybe. He wasn’t. Now Sanders looks like he might know how to lead. Clinton sure doesn’t. She’ll continue Obama’s policies.

      • Malaclypse

        I dub this comment eoP’s Law.

      • NonyNony

        A leader who leads with leaderly leadership! That’s what we need!

        • Malaclypse

          We could call it a Leader Principle. Maybe find some fancy-sounding German word for it.

        • That green lantern won’t raise itself.

          • Hogan

            But it would if Obama really wanted it to.

            • Malaclypse

              Clinton, however, Won’t. Even. Try.

      • witlesschum

        I’m not. I’m looking for a craven asshole of a politician who’s too afraid of not being reelected to not at least try to enact my policy preferences.

    • DrDick

      I would also agree with all of this. I will vote for Hillary in the general, but not in the primary for this very reason. I also think Sanders will be better for minorities than Clinton will, despite his unwillingness to acknowledge that structural racism is not reducible to class.

  • Docrailgun

    There may be a small group of Sanders cultists, but I doubt that they are most progressives or even most Sanders supporters. What he seems to be doing is at least be willing to say the things other potential candidates won’t. If he can’t deliver policy and results based on those ideas… well, that’s no surprise. No Democrat can so long as the Tea Party wing nuts run the Party of No.

    One upside to President Sanders is that the racist and misogynistic conservatives in the GOP have to find another reason to hate him rather than their knee-jerk loathing of the Pinko Commie Islamofascist Feminazi Uppity Brown Kenyan Traitor (TM) in the White House they hate so much. That’s not by itself a reason to nominate him, but it’d be a bonus.

    So long as President Obama becomes Justice Obama at some point, I don’t care that much if we have President Clinton or Sanders.

    • endaround

      Yes, the Republicans will have to go so far out of their comfort zone to attack a man who self identifies as a socialist.

      • ajp

        That’s actually one of the things I like about Sanders. We need to take back the s-word. Show what it really stands for-it’s been appropriated by the right wing to describe anyone who’s even slightly to the left of Attila the Hun.

        If the right wing is going to call you a socialist anyway (look at Obama) you might as well embrace it (if you actually identify as a socialist, that is).

        I’m not really seeing the harm. You think they wouldn’t call Bernie a socialist even if he insisted he wasn’t? The Limbaugh listeners and Fox viewers will think Bernie is a socialist even if he insists he’s not, I don’t see what difference it makes.

    • Gregor Sansa

      Justice Obama? Try Justice Warren. (I know, she’s a good senator, but SCOTUS shows that there are at least 9 jobs that are more important than senator).

      What would the concrete difference be between President Clinton and President Sanders?

      I really think that slight differences in the dogwhistles in rightwing freakouts is not even worth mentioning.

      In terms of major legislative accomplishments, it’s probably a wash. The president isn’t really that important on that stuff. In terms of SCOTUS, also equal; they’d both do just as well.

      I think Sanders would be noticeably better on stuff like TPP and KXL, while Clinton would probably be better at political wrangling. That’s a difference, but a pretty balanced one.

      But I’m pretty sure I’d be happier with the DNC under Sanders. He’s not a crazy purist, but he would put somebody in (I know, it’s not technically the president’s choice, but c’mon) who wouldn’t be pulling in the wrong direction in primary battles. And yes, that’s worth supporting, just for that.

      • Davis X. Machina

        What would the concrete difference be between President Clinton and President Sanders?

        Bombing Iran. Because everyone just knows Hillary will bomb Iran.

        • joe from Lowell

          Reductio ad absurdum is always fun, but “There would be a major difference in foreign policy” is actually a very good answer to this question.

          Which is ironic, because neither of them are running on foreign policy.

          • DrDick

            I think there is also a very significant difference in economic policies, which is why I support Sanders.

            • joe from Lowell

              That’s a considerable difference between Candidate Clinton and Candidate Sanders. But as Gregor says, “In terms of major legislative accomplishments, it’s probably a wash. The president isn’t really that important on that stuff.”

              The constraints on office make the differences between them on domestic policy much less important than on foreign policy. On the former, it would be Democratic President A vs. Democratic President B. On the later, we’d be getting Hillary’s foreign policy vs. Bernie’s foreign policy to a much greater degree.

              • Brien Jackson

                Another way to put it is that in the realm of economic policy Clinton and Sanders would probably end up being indistinguishable once you factor Congress into the equation.

                • joe from Lowell

                  It’s difficult to overstate the degree to which modern politics smooths out the differences between individuals of the same party when it comes to the Presidency, but I’d have to say that “indistinguishable” manages to do so by a good bit.

                  There would still be some pretty meaningful differences.

                • Brien Jackson

                  Not with respect to legislation passed I don’t think. If we assume Democrats have enough seats in Congress to pass an agenda, then either one is going to end up basically at the point of the middle of the Democratic caucus. Sanders didn’t vote against the PPACA because it wasn’t libera enough, after all.

                  I’d say Sanders might be more aggressive with executive actions, but I can’t remember him actually saying as much and it wouldn’t surprise me if he was something of a formalist like a lot of other older Democrats who have been in Congress a while.

                • joe from Lowell

                  With respect to legislation that gets to the point of going to Congress – that is, agenda-setting – I’d expect to see the difference.

                  They’d each pass a recognizably-Democratic agenda, and one that the other could wholeheartedly support, but I’d expect each to prioritize different aspects of the platform.

                • Brien Jackson

                  I don’t know how important that is, especially early on. The campaign will create expectations for voters as to what issues will be important, intervening events will conspire to create new priorities (like the 2009 stimulus package) and Congressional Democrats will have their own priorities they want to push (there was no way any Democrat was going to be able to not do healthcare reform in 2009). Really, if the President is having to use his agenda setting powers, it probably means she’s got an uphill battle on the issue (I’m thinking Obama and energy policy for example).

                • joe from Lowell

                  Presidents often have uphill fights.

                  What would the difference have been between President Obama and President Schumer on health care legislative strategy circa early 2010? And those two are a lot closer ideologically than Hillary and Bernie.

                • Brien Jackson

                  A difference in strategy isn’t necessarily the same thing as a difference in positions or prioritizing, and it’s also a bit abstract. Note that Obama’s strategy ended up being dependent on Nancy Pelosi going along with it, and if she or a large enough group of House Democrats had refused to pass the Senate’s bill it wouldn’t have made any difference at all.

                • joe from Lowell

                  No, it isn’t necessarily, but that is one rather notable example of a difference in individual values and priorities resulting in a different agenda and a different outcome.

                • ajp

                  Not with respect to legislation passed I don’t think. If we assume Democrats have enough seats in Congress to pass an agenda, then either one is going to end up basically at the point of the middle of the Democratic caucus. Sanders didn’t vote against the PPACA because it wasn’t libera enough, after all.

                  I don’t subscribe to Green Lanternism, but I suspect that with a Democrat less devoted to healthcare reform, the ACA might not have passed. That took quite a bit of time and compromise and negotiating and arm-twisting. Most of it in Congress, but I think without the President’s support and encouragement in negotiations, it doesn’t get passed. So, if you have, say, a President Jim Webb sworn in on January 20, 2009, I don’t think you get the ACA. Chafee? Nah. Lessig? LOL. Clinton? Probably, I think she learned from her earlier mistakes. O’Malley? I want to say probably, but maybe he listens to advisers telling him to focus politic capital more on another stimulus (which I believe Rahm did) and buckles. Sanders? I want to say probably.

                  And given Schumer’s comments, yeah I think he would’ve buckled if he were President.

                • Brien Jackson

                  A) Your original premise says it all, really: A Democrat less committed to healthcare reform than the Congressional caucus that passed Obamacare would have had no chance of winning the nomination in 2008 in the first place.

                  B) That said, I still don’t think one follows from the other. If we go back to the primary campaign, I think you’d have to concede that Hillary came off as a candidate who put a higher priority on healthcare reform than Obama did, and Obama was probably more personally interested in energy policy than CLinton. Obama put HCR over the hump because a) he was a good tactician, b) he knew how to tune out the beltway media bullshit and ignore the conventional wisdom that everyone had to drop everything because Scott Brown won an election, c) he had the trust of Congressional Democrats to get them in line with his strategy.

                • ajp

                  A Democrat less committed to healthcare reform than the Congressional caucus that passed Obamacare would have had no chance of winning the nomination in 2008 in the first place.

                  This is just idiotic. I don’t mean less committed in terms of campaigning-no fucking shit you had to campaign on that to be a viable Democratic candidate. But there’s a difference between saying what you need to in order to get elected, and putting your ass and a lot of political capital on the line for an extended fight to pass a bill. This is obvious. Don’t be a fucking idiot.

                  I actually think it does come down to tolerance for a hard fight and temperament. Would Clinton have listened to advisors telling her to give in on health care to focus on something else? It’s a counterfactual, but we know that there were advisors close to Obama suggesting that.

      • matt w

        A 66-year-old Senator from a solidly blue state with a Republican governor is not someone I want appointed to the Supreme Court. There are tons of younger lawyers with good views out there.

        (Obama would be a hilarious choice just for the wingnut freakouts, but he’s a bit older than I’d like and a possibly former smoker, plus I’d be concerned about his views on executive power.)

        • ajp

          Yeah, we need good people in the Senate. Let’s draw our Cabinet members and Justices from elsewhere.

        • I so wanted Bill Clinton to appoint Justice Anita Hill.

      • Scott Lemieux

        Justice Obama? Try Justice Warren.

        This is crazy. 1)As a senator, Warren is unique and effective. As a Supreme Court justice, she’d cast the same votes as virtually anyone else a Democratic president would appoint. 2)She would be pushing 70 when the new president is inaugurated.

        • Gregor Sansa

          I forgot about 2. Goes for Obama too, not as much. Forget I said it.

        • sparks

          Ah, A Warren’s place is in the Senate.

        • UserGoogol

          Yeah, and although she presumably has the chops to be a perfectly good Supreme Court justice, the area she specializes in (legally and politically) is personal finance, which seems like an area where getting things done at the legislative level (and overseeing the executive level) is more important than interpreting law in creative ways.

          • DocAmazing

            This is why, even though I’m voting Sanders, I don’t really want him to win: I feel he can do his best work in the Senate, even as Warren does her best work there. The Presidency has its own skill set. I’m not convinced that Clinton is the possessor of that skill set, but I can say that Sander has the Senate skill set down pat and does good work there.

            • ajp

              I don’t think Sanders will win the nomination either. I think if Hillary implodes early enough, someone like Warren or Gillibrand will swoop in (maybe Biden-I’ve heard rumors that he’s considering a “one term presidency”-please don’t waste our time with that shit, Joe) as opposed to the nomination automatically falling to Bernie as the most viable candidate left standing (for all the criticism Bernie gets for not being a great campaigner, O’Malley is…let’s be generous and say uninspiring).

              It sure would be nice to not have to hear about Benghazi! or Vince Foster or email servers ever again, even though I know there would be new manufactured scandals to replace them.

              But anyway, back to Sanders-I don’t think he can beat Clinton, but I think he can come close. Not as close as Clinton came to beating Obama in 08, but close enough to demand being taken seriously for another year.

    • joe from Lowell

      There may be a small group of Sanders cultists, but I doubt that they are most progressives or even most Sanders supporters.

      Sanders is scoring around 25% in the national polls. He’s up around 50% in New Hampshire.

      There aren’t that many Fire Baggers in the party. Heck, there aren’t that many fire baggers at Daily Kos.

      • He’s up around 50% in New Hampshire.

        I had assumed that was because of the love New Hampshirers have for all things Vermontish.

        • joe from Lowell

          New Hampshire residents live in a perpetual state of awe and gratitude towards their western neighbor, owing to the superior maple syrup imported from there.

          You all know it, NHers. Your denials just prove I’ve struck a nerve.

          • wjts

            I have no opinion on the maple syrup question, but the beer in Vermont is objectively superior.

          • witlesschum

            We, they did try to make Vermont part of New Hampshire by force and failed.

    • StellaB

      One upside to President Sanders is that the racist and misogynistic conservatives in the GOP have to find another reason to hate him rather than their knee-jerk loathing of the Pinko Commie Islamofascist Feminazi Uppity Brown Kenyan Traitor (TM) in the White House they hate so much.

      In 2008, we were promised that the attacks wouldn’t happen, if we selected the bipartisan guy with the wife who would keep her head down unlike you-know-who. In 2004, we just needed to select the Vietnam vet to avoid nasty, partisan attacks. Sorry, but if Jim Webb gets the nomination, he’ll become Limbaugh’s great satan.

      • wjts

        That was one of the minor reasons I preferred Obama to Clinton. Having lived through the Great Conservative Freakout of 1993-2001, I didn’t want to go through it again. Of corse, we all know what we got instead. Hypothetical President Sanders wouldn’t be treated much differently.

    • Scott Lemieux

      hat’s not by itself a reason to nominate him, but it’d be a bonus.

      This has to be the worst justification for advocating preferential treatment for old white guys I’ve ever heard.

      • Lee Rudolph

        hat’s not by itself a reason to nominate him, but it’d be a bonus.

        This has to be the worst justification for advocating preferential treatment for old white guys I’ve ever heard.

        I don’t think of SEK as “old”.

      • Pat

        OTOH, the heads of ISIS will naturally explode when their organization is taken out by a female CIC.

    • DrDick

      I would generally agree with this and think there are just as many Hillary cultists, even if they pretend to be “strategic”. We saw that when she ran against Obama (who attracted his own cult). I will always vote for the candidate whose positions are closest to mine (and I have voted in every election since 1972), both in the primary and the general. Given that I would burn in Hell before voting Republican and know that third parties are Quixotic at best, that means the Democratic candidate in the general.

    • Marek

      Harrumph. I haven’t met any of these cultists. The Sanders supporters I know are enthusiastic but not building him up to be something he’s not.

      • Matt McIrvin

        I’ve seen some hitting back very hard on his electability with arguments that tend to boil down to “clap harder for Tinkerbell”. It’s only our negativity that’s hurting him in the polls and if we truly believe, he’s going all the way!

      • joe from Lowell

        That’s what I said in 2008. “Obama cultists? What do you mean? That’s just an ugly smear by his political opponents. Obama supporters are, uniformly, realistic, level-headed, informed sorts. We sure are!”

        Um no. I had met plenty of Obama cultists; I just didn’t recognize them as such because I wasn’t one of them, and didn’t want to believe.

        Three or four months after Inauguration Day, the Obama cultists were now belligerently-former Obama cultists. Shortly thereafter, they became Greenwald cultists.

        The Bernie cultists are there, Marek. I’m sure you’ve met plenty of them.

        • Greenwald cultists are my very favorite people.

          I just can’t wait until 2016.

  • NewishLawyer

    Semi-related, the Slate Political Gabfest was talking about Lessing’s political bid this week. Jamelle Bouie vented his frustration about how good chunks of the left are too vested in national politics and he wants to see them care more about local and state elections.

    I think he has a point here. There are large chunks of the left that are seemingly disinterested and bored by local and state politics and also by retail politics in general.

    The right has used local elections as a farm league for years.

    • Gregor Sansa

      +.01, +.01, +.01, …

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      Lessig himself said something to the effect that he finds politics the way it works is “boring” compared to the way he wants it to work

    • Derelict

      Very true about local politics. Even aside from getting your party favorites installed at the local level, there’s the fact that local politics have a much more immediate and direct effect on your day-to-day life.

      I’ve been trying for years to get people more interested in the doings of their town governments, but it’s been a Quixotic venture. Nobody pays even slight attention to what the local zoning board is doing until AFTER they find out that a new high-rise apartment building is being built next door. And then it’s panic mode.

    • Yankee

      The famous “writing on the wall” read “nickel, nickel, dime, quarter” … and this is the way the world ends. Or at least, the way Israel was going to get crushed as an independent kingdom by Babylon.

      • Yankee

        Well, brain fart. It was Babylon overturned by the Persians … different lyrics, same tune.

    • LeeEsq

      Liberals have a big problem on local and state level politics in that there tends to be a bigger divide about what to do about local issues among liberals than among conservatives. Look at the fights about how to solve the housing shortage problem in Democratic voting cities. You have people like me on the just build anything you can side and than you have the various people opposed to building or at least a particular type of building for a variety of reasons. In conservative cities, the decision to build and sprawl is a no-brainer. It might not be the best solution but housing does get built more easily because of a consensus on the housing issue.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Yes, absolutely. He could make some real progress by focusing on the state level, but self-nominated Great Men like Lessig tend not to see that as worthy of their efforts. They’d rather convince themselves that their SUPER MANDATE SUPER-PAC will convert a critical mass of Republicans to campaign and electoral reform, and when this inevitably fails move on to the next self-aggrandizing failure.

      • joe from Lowell

        There are college towns all over New England that have benefitted from having academics who work at local universities serve in municipal posts. Biologists on conservation commissions, economists on finance committees, all sort of professors on boards of selectmen.

        Has Lessig done any of that before running for President?

        • Lee Rudolph

          Has Lessig done any of that before running for President?

          I’m sure that once Freddy deBoer becomes a Professor of Rhetorical Questioning and Uptalk, he’ll be right on it?

    • Linnaeus

      Case in point: Todd Courser. It would be difficult (not impossible) for a Democrat to win that district, but in the meantime, you might get at least a slightly less offensive Republican.

      • witlesschum

        His lady love Cindy Gamrat only got elected because the Republican establishment in her district couldn’t unite behind one of the other two non-Tea Party candidates running. It’s one of the safer Republican districts in the state.

        One solution to this would be to require everyone election in the state go to the system used by Detroit, where the two highest vote getters in the primary regardless of party face off in the general election.

    • Brett

      Democrats and liberals have gotten better about taking an interest in city-level politics, considering that we’ve seen a wave of cities (even in red states) passing progressive legislation. It’s the state level politics where they suffer, and that’s a hard nut to crack because state representation systems tend to have structural biases against the liberal voters heavily concentrated around particular metropolitan areas.

      That said, state elections still often tend to be low turnout affairs when they’re not in the same year as big national elections, so there’s room for activism and mobilization to make a difference both in voting and in lobbying. Just ask conservatives – they’ve been doing that for years.

      • ajp

        That’s a good point-urban areas lean Democratic, right? So that makes sense.

    • Phil Perspective

      I think you are 100% wrong. It’s not that liberals don’t care it’s that they have no money. You do realize that the party’s big donors are pretty far to the right of the party’s voting base, right? And of course there is an endless supply of wingnut welfare in one way, shape or form.

      • joe from Lowell

        This doesn’t fly when we’re talking about local politics. Local politics, with the exception of the handful of largest cities, is relatively cheap.

        And even in expensive cities, guys like Marty Walsh and Bill DeBlasio can win.

        It’s funny, Phil – you say he’s 100% wrong about progressives being too focused on national politics and not thinking enough about local politics, but then you make this progressive argument that comes from and applies so well to national politics, and apparently assume it applies equally well to local politics.

    • Richard Gadsden

      I don’t know how to translate it from Britain to America, but the Liberal Democrats have been really good at caring about local politics for decades.

      This campaign booklet produced in 1980 repays some reading http://www.crosenstiel.webspace.virginmedia.com/aldc/commpol.htm

  • Gregor Sansa

    Think structurally, you say? This looks like a job for… Voting System Reform Man!

    • Gregor Sansa

      Faster than saying “vote for one or more”! More powerful than Arrow’s Theorem! Able to leap tall comment threads in a single self-reply!

      • Davis X. Machina

        Intellectually I know it’s dumb, but part of my resistance to thinking hard about voting systems is the names. “First past the post” is bad enough, but they all sound like Ludlum novels (Condorcet ballot, Borda count), or exotic bets (“I have an unbeatable Two Round System”).

        • My problem is the uncontrollable giggling when someone says “polling the electorate.”

        • Gregor Sansa

          For single winner races (president, senator, governor, mayor): approval voting.

          For multi-winner races: the named system I like best is called PAL representation (stands for “proportional, accountable, local” but that’s not actually very descriptive). But actually there’s a slight twist to that system that’s been designed and is still nameless. Perhaps it will be called something like “Delegated Proportional Voting”.

          Of course, I could talk your ear off about the advantages and disadvantages of at least a dozen other systems. Naming is hard, and when I have a choice, I tend to go for pronounceable acronyms (such as “SODA voting”.)

          • Jordan

            PAL representation: slight giggle.

            DPV: sounds possibly dirty

            SODA voting: now your just making things up.

            But seriously: did that worldcon proposal pass? Or is that still coming?

            • Gregor Sansa

              That’s next week.

  • Davis X. Machina

    Given the intellectual heritage of at least some of the left, the inability of so many liberals to think structurally is really surprising.

    At least in the orthodox Marxist tradition, everything depends on supplanting the prevailing mode of production, at which point everything else changes.

    That’s ‘thinking structurally’ with a vengeance.

    You’d think that’d have some dampening effect on Great Men.

    • LeeEsq

      I think one reason why Thomas Piketty became such a big deal was that he was engaging structurally about economics from a leftist perspective in a way that wasn’t done for decades. We finally had a numbers guy that could argue against rightist economics.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Yeah. Doug Henwood identifies as a Marxist economist, and yet if you had commissioned Maureen Dowd to write a Hillary takedown for Harper’s you would have gotten essentially the same result. The fact that leftier-than-thous tend to be particularly invested in the idea that the right Benevolent Daddy in the White House would make all the difference is deeply odd, although does in a sense have roots in structuralist thought (i.e. they don’t take electoral or legislative politics seriously, and it shows.)

      • Linnaeus

        I like a lot of Doug Henwood’s stuff, but not when he goes off on paths like that.

        • witlesschum

          His podcast is great, because of the guests if nothing else, but I have to roll my eyes when he gets whiny about Democrats or quote unquote identity politics. The recent one with Adolph Reed was a hell of a slog through them not liking Black Lives Matter basically for not being something else.

      • Richard Gadsden

        Democratic centralism.

        It’s the thing most wrong with post-Lenin Marxism; decentralising modes of Marxism have a lot more to be said for them, but they’re very much not the types people learn about.

    • JL

      Regardless of ideology, the average person is just not that well-grounded in political theory or ideological intellectual tradition.

      At least in the orthodox Marxist tradition, everything depends on supplanting the prevailing mode of production, at which point everything else changes.

      If anything, that seems like a problem for the Sanders campaign – the “Don’t focus on racism and sexism now because things will be better once we address the economic issues!” supporters are a potential hindrance to building a coalition.

      Though, having observed the weird Sanders trolls on Twitter, I don’t think most of them are orthodox Marxists. More like a subset of Daily Kos commenters. Or fervent MoveOn supporters. Or the middle-aged white people who showed up to Occupy General Assemblies to listen to themselves talk, but didn’t do anything to help sustain the camps or plan actions.

      • ChrisTS

        There’s someone doing a #BlacksforBernie thing who is so incredibly condescending to any black woman who responds to him that I wonder if he’s a plant.

        He keeps flaunting his [purported] Marxist bona fides and telling them all to get schooling before they dare to speak.

        I’m an old white woman, and it pisses me off.

    • Jordan

      I mean, everything depends on supplanting the prevailing mode of production, sure. But how do you supplant it? Well, by following the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist teachings (or whatever, fill in your own blanks there)!

      • I look forward to the Leninist/Stalinist/Trots smackdown.

      • Davis X. Machina

        By having a fiercely dedicated vanguard party, for starters…

  • sleepyirv

    This argument seems, frankly, bizarre. Enthusiastic supporters grow around personalities, and it takes enthusiastic supporters to make a grassroots campaign work. Every candidate (besides Mitt Romney) create a bunch of craze supporters who refuse to believe their candidate can do no wrong. But, those are the people who make up the vast majority of door knockers and phone callers. They’re the ones creating the spin on the ground necessary for a candidate to survive miscues. They’re the lifeblood of a functioning campaign.

    And where is this actual harm? The writer couldn’t even say he won’t support Sanders because of his supporters. All this really shows is that the progressive blogosphere has nothing better to do than get into a factional in-fight among themselves without wondering what’s going on in the larger Democratic race.

    • joe from Lowell

      The actual harm is that support for Sanders needs to grow beyond people like the author for him to have any shot or be of any significance.

      Ask Howard Dean about his Orange Hat door-knockers, and where the harm comes in.

      • sleepyirv

        Yeah, Sanders needs to attract more than just progressives – but that’s his problem with messaging and policy, not his supporters.

        The difference between Obama and Sanders/Dean was not the level of enthusiasm of their biggest supporters, it was that Obama had more supporters because his platform was larger.

        • joe from Lowell

          No, Howard Dean’s problem in Iowa was certainly not a lack of enthusiastic door-knocking supporters.

          Again, there is real history here we can look at. The orange hat people hurt Dean among the voters. His message and policy had put him into the lead in the Democratic primary contest…and then he released his ground game into Iowa, and boy did John Kerry start looking attractive.

          • Jordan

            Do you have more on that re: the Dean supporters? Thats not something I’m familiar with.

            • joe from Lowell

              I don’t want to go through every story to find the one I can endorse in all its particulars, but here is a Salon story on the topic.

              • Jordan

                Thanks!

              • Brien Jackson

                That’s one of the most ridiculous pieces of political analysis I’ve ever read. It’s like it didn’t even occur to the author that Iowans consistently work at trying to keep their caucuses ahead of everyone else’s contests because they like the attention.

                • joe from Lowell

                  Sure, they like the attention. They like very important, respectable politicians to humiliate themselves at the state fair.

                  That’s probably why the writer didn’t write a piece about Iowans getting attention being the problem, but rather, the particular phenomenon of Deaniacs.

                • Brien Jackson

                  Eh, I still think it’s largely missing the boat, and ignores the more obvious problem with Dean’s ground campaign (like relying on so many out of state volunteers who, by definition, couldn’t participate in the actual caucus and basically ignoring precinct captains and important local political leaders). It could be right, but I can’t assume as much without seeing some actual evidence to back it up given how many other, larger, problems Dean had in Iowa.

                • joe from Lowell

                  My point here isn’t that The Perfect Storm was the reason, or even the main reason, for Dean’s loss. I don’t think they were.

                  Going back to the top of the thread:

                  And where is this actual harm?

                  The actual harm is that support for Sanders needs to grow beyond people like the author for him to have any shot or be of any significance.

                  Ask Howard Dean about his Orange Hat door-knockers, and where the harm comes in.

                  They didn’t cause his loss, but they didn’t help. Your door-knocking volunteers are supposed to help you. They either very minimally helped him or actively harmed him. That’s the harm of not being able to appeal to people who aren’t already your people.

                • Brien Jackson

                  I’m not seeing that argument though. If the orange hats were the problem, that would be a bad decision by organizers, not the mass of volunteers themselves.

                • Ahuitzotl

                  I’d reluctantly have to agree, it was amazingly data-free spouting off, based on the profundities of outtamyass thinking.

              • Phil Perspective

                Edward W. Lempinen? Really? There is a reason he didn’t write, again, for Salon after early 2004.

                • joe from Lowell

                  And what’s particularly unfortunate is that Edward W. Lempinen, whoever the hell that is, is the only person ever to write about Howard Dean’s volunteers alienating people, and wasn’t merely the first out of a zillion links to come up as I googled something to answer Jordan’s question.

                  I like the way you don’t even come out and say he was wrong. We’re just supposed to sort of ignore the point if you act snotty enough.

        • Brien Jackson

          When Sanders’ supporters are booing BLM activists and calling for them to be arrested during a moment of silence for Michael Brown that Sanders agreed to…then yes, I would say it’s pretty easy to see how his supporters may actually be a liability in attracting those voters.

          • DocAmazing

            Eh, while the crowd was out of line, so to were the Seattle BLM Two, who frankly engaged in a lark the looked for all the world like a ratfuck. Hitting a Sanders appearance for the second time in a row, well before any actions against Jeb Bush or any other candidate, and coming from n00bs with easily-traced histories of support for Sarah Palin? No coordination with any other BLM organization? If, say, EarthFirst! activists had done this, they’d have gotten the very same response.

            A lot of this conversation is people who are tired of being called Obots going “See? See? We’re not the ones who play follow-the-leader!”

            • joe from Lowell

              A lot of this conversation is people who are tired of being called Obots going “See? See? We’re not the ones who play follow-the-leader!”

              This conversation on the internet, yeah. This is another good moment to remember that blog comment threads aren’t real politics. The whole BLM vs Sanders war and contra-revolucion are only really happening on the internet. It’s not coincidental that the first hit “on Sanders” was actually an interruption of a Netroots Nation panel. You know who decides they need to take their activism to Netroots Nation? Internet people. The anniversary of Michael Brown’s death was buried in BLM-vs-Firebagger flame wars on the Daily Kos Rec List; it certainly wan’t in the rest of the country.

              Hitting a Sanders appearance for the second time in a row, well before any actions against Jeb Bush or any other candidate

              Though it was unfortunate, I have to admit was pretty interesting watching in real time as internet-BLM collectively figured out whether to retroactively endorse or deny a strategy of singling out Bernie Sanders. Those three in Seattle pulled a Biden on the national movement, except that they ultimately decided to demur, and point to an unfortunate coincidence that created a misleading impression of Bernie Sanders being singled out. Bernie’s just like every other candidate, they’re all fair game, nothing personal about him, BLM isn’t going soft on Hillary at all – that’s how it ultimately came out. It left a few of the loudest anti-Sanders voices out on a limb, but that’s how it always goes when there’s a messaging scramble.

          • djw

            The BLM activists’ tactics there left me cold, but the audience response much, much colder (and that’s obviously the bigger story here, it seems to me). That was a nasty display, and something someone who presumably aspires to build a primary winning coalition very rightly ought to be concerned about it.

          • wengler

            People came there to see Bernie and his message, and then the BLM protesters took the mic. Bernie let them have their say, no one pulled them off, and then they didn’t leave. It is in fact possible to be rude and off-putting even if your message is important.

      • FMguru

        The incorruptible candidate who sweeps in an ushers in an enlightened new age of progressive policy goes back even further than Dean 04 – that was the animating impetus for Nader 2000. It’s a hardy perennial (quadrennial?) on the left.

        Heck, it may go all the way back to Kennedy 1980.

        • jim, some guy in iowa

          It goes back to Kennedy 1960 at least- Garry Wills spends a lot of time on that in “The Kennedy Imprisonment”, which is more about Ted but explains how attractive (and yet ultimately a handicap) the ‘outsider’ mentality is. It’s a book I highly recommend. there could be a line drawn from that to ‘creative destruction’ types I think

          • joe from Lowell

            Heck, we can go back to Henry Wallace, even Eugene V. Debs.

            But I wasn’t comparing Dean to Sanders as candidates, but Dean supporters and Sanders supporters as representatives.

            • Richard Gadsden

              Abraham Lincoln. Perhaps even Andrew Jackson.

    • oneslyfox

      I follow several black people on twitter who find some of Bernie Sanders’s supporters to be condescending to say the least and are being turned off from the candidate. Seeing as how I don’t think he’s going to win anyway, I’m not exactly being persuaded to help in the effort if people are telling me I don’t know my interests or I should behave because Bernie has the answers. Ya know, he’s my best friend. So, anecdotal blah blah blah and might not matter but there you go, some potential harm.

      • Nick never Nick

        The exact same issue arose between Obama’s and Clinton’s supporters in the 2008 primary — in that case, it was framed as a battle between racial and gender sensitivity, and you could make a very strong case that Obama was personally more dismissive of ‘women’ than Sanders is of black people.

        Personally, I think choosing a candidate based on the behaviour of a random, small subset of their supporters is a bit of a unique approach to politics.

        • dr. fancypants

          Personally, I think choosing a candidate based on the behaviour of a random, small subset of their supporters is a bit of a unique approach to politics.

          This is way oversimplifying what’s going on with Bernie and his supporters. To paraphrase a post from one of my Facebook friends, the issue with his supporters is their lack of concern over the fact that he’s way more popular than white people than people of color, and his supporters are not interested in understanding why that is.

          • Gregor Sansa

            “His supporters”? I think it’s just, “the subset of his supporters who have no compunction about nosing into other people’s conversations and talking about him”, and when you put it like that, it’s not surprising that it correlates with white privilege.

          • Brien Jackson

            Nah, it’s not that they’re disinterested, it’s that they’re just assholes who don’t care. THese are the leftier than thou types who screamed “but there’s no public option!!!!” at the healthcare reform bill that contained a truly massive expansion of Medicaid. Seriously, at no point in the entire debate did it ever occur to them that Medicaid was a form of public health insurance. As I’ve said before, these are a bunch of white people (mostly dudes) who imagine themselves as THE BASE of the Democratic Party and think this gives them something like a controlling stake in internal party decisions. To them, SAnders is their candidate who is going to run their campaign bashing Wall Street and calling for them to get totally free insurance, college tuition, etc. What’s at issue here is that they’re pissed off that these interlopers are coming in, disrupting their campaign and forcing Sanders to address issues they don’t want to waste time with and puncturing their illusion that they’re about to finally cement their control over the party or whatever.

          • oneslyfox

            Yes, I’m sure black people vote for Democrats in such high numbers and has nothing to do with Republicans and their supporters respond to black political interests.

            Also, let’s game this out. Two candidates, both release a platform speaking to your interests. You now have a question as far as which coalition to join. One candidate’s supporters are self righteous, entitled and think they know what’s best for your (when you see elements of their interests and yours in some measure of competition). The other candidate’s supporters may actually think the same but managed to not show their asses. Boy, which coalition would I choose to join?

            I know your point was, “it’s all about the policies, bro” or some other stupid variant of this because you clearly don’t interact with people so social interaction is a foreign concept but before you decide to start dismissively labeling things as “unique approaches” maybe game out the argument a little bit. If for no other reason than to give that ol’ thinking cap a bit of play. Don’t want it getting dusty.

      • JL

        I follow several black people on twitter who find some of Bernie Sanders’s supporters to be condescending to say the least and are being turned off from the candidate.

        This, and also, I’ve run into some of the diehards myself, and they’re obnoxious as hell. I’ve had them up in my Twitter mentions before simply for saying something positive about Black Lives Matter in a Sanders-supporting tweet. And I’m a white Sanders supporter who went to one of his organizing meetings, so I can only imagine how obnoxious they come off to a black or brown person still learning about Sanders. We’re not talking about usefully enthusiastic supporters here.

        • MAJeff

          And it’s usually coupled with some kind of #NotAllWhites or “if you black folks would just listen to meeeeeee you’d be successful” or “You just lost an ally.”

          • Linnaeus

            There was a lot of that going around at certain other blogs that I will not name here.

          • ChrisTS

            Yes to all of this. Assuming that (a) none of these black women (and they are mostly women) know anything about socialism and (b) that such knowledge is required to have an opinion on the relation of economics to race is insulting.

            And thinking that people don’t or shouldn’t decide to support a candidate based on their interactions with said candidate’s supporters is naive, at best.

            • Pat

              And thinking that people don’t or shouldn’t decide to support a candidate based on their interactions with said candidate’s supporters is naive, at best.

              Well, yeah, because supporting a candidate is about joining a community. If you feel that community doesn’t welcome you, you’re not joining it.

          • UncleEbeneezer

            Yup. For anyone who wants evidence just go check out the comments in this and the earlier two pieces linked therein:

            In the wake of the white progressive think pieces decrying the Black Lives Matter activists as rude, stupid, immature, idiots, bullies, participating in a circular firing squad, or alienating allies—as well as similar sentiments expressed on Facebook, Twitter, and in the comments of my previous articles (here and here)—the parallels between the white moderates whom Dr. Martin Luther King criticized in 1963 and certain white progressives whom many Black activists are criticizing in 2015 are clear.

            • DocAmazing

              While we’re at it, maybe we can get a quick acknowledgement of all of the protest groups that have been accused of being rude, stupid, immature, idiots, bullies, participating in a circular firing squad, or alienating allies. I think we can all think of more than a few. Even as Sanders should not be held above criticism, neither should small groups claiming to represent BLM.

        • witlesschum

          Imani Gandy lays it out here:
          http://rhrealitycheck.org/ablc/2015/08/11/blacklivesmatter-hurt-feelings-white-progressives/

          It really does seem like a subset of Sanders supporters really think he’s owed black voters’ support and are angry as fuck that the Black Lives Matter folks are daring to question him and by extension, them. It’s not the most harmful display of white supremacy we’ll see this week, but it is one.

          • Brien Jackson

            Oh, absolutely. I said this at another place: You can sum up the response a lot of Sanders’ supporters have had to BLM as simply “why are all of you black people too stupid to see that Sanders is the best candidate for you?” The idea that black voters actually get to decide which candidate is best speaking/listening to them and who they trust the most to address their particular areas of need just doesn’t register at all.

            And it will be even sadder/funnier when the same dynamic switches to gender issues, where Clinton is actually clearly better than Sanders.

            • DocAmazing

              Without downplaying the racism displayed in the presumption of those Sanders supporters, it is funny as hell to those of us who demanded that mainstream Democrats actually earn votes from the left (looking at the Gore and Kerry camps here) now enjoy the spectacle of those Democrats vocally demanding that an actual leftist earn votes.

              Uh huh.

              • Brien Jackson

                Well, that seems like it took longer than it should have to arrive.

                In any case, your quip is as stupid as it was predictable: If BLM activists or black voters more generally don’t turn out in the general election, whether it’s to vote for Clinton or Sanders, and the result is a Republican President that would be incredibly stupid of them and disastrous for their goals. This is rather obviously not the same thing as a primary campaign.

                • DocAmazing

                  Uh huh.

                  So please, tell us poor dumb leftists that we didn’t get an earful of this shit while stumping for Edwards or for local Greens.

                  Protests are tactical events. They are either tactically successful or they are not. How successful Seattle was tactically is open to debate; it might have resulted in a good nomination of a smart woman, or it might have been a wedge driven in an otherwise manageable coalition. It was in any case not much better planned than a visit from the Giant Puppet People. For the Respectable Liberal types to jump in and lecture the left about our unacceptable response to that tactical event is, a previously mentioned, hilarious.

                • Brien Jackson

                  What’s Edwards got to do with anything? You’re like moving the line between primaries and general elections in mid sentence here.

                • DocAmazing

                  Actually, I hadn’t specified either–just commented on the idea that one group’s paternalism was racist and presumptious and the other’s Just Logical and Appropriate.

                • Hogan

                  Actually, I hadn’t specified either

                  tell us poor dumb leftists that we didn’t get an earful of this shit while stumping for Edwards or for local Greens.

                  If you were stumping for Edwards in a general or for Greens in a primary, you were doing it wrong.

                • Brien Jackson

                  Well…yes. It rather obviously makes a huge difference whether we’re talking about a Democratic candidate running against George W. Bush or two Democrats roughly within the mainstream of the party competing for a nomination. If Sanders win the primary and BLM activists decide they’re not going to vote for him and let Scott Walker win in protest, I’ll certainly be happy to grant that that’s a terribly stupid strategy for advancing their goals as well.

                • Brien Jackson

                  Yeah, I was going to let the stupidity of trying to back out by pretending everyone couldn’t tell the difference between a primary and general election within the context of those comments speak for itself.

                • DocAmazing

                  Should we get specific? When I bring up things like, say, SF mayoral elections, I get told that There Is No National Democratic Party. When I bring up strategic voting in safe states, I get all manner of blarrgh. How specific would you like to get in your paternalism?

                • Brien Jackson

                  Well, you specifically mentioned Kerry and Gore which would only makes sense in reference to a general election since they, ya know, won their primaries. So, yeah.

                  ” When I bring up things like, say, SF mayoral elections, I get told that There Is No National Democratic Party. When I bring up strategic voting in safe states, I get all manner of blarrgh.”

                  The fuck does this argle bargle even mean?

                • DocAmazing

                  References previous conversations you and I (and others hereabouts) have had. Again, the kind of stuff that makes me rock with laughter when Respectable Liberals accuse leftists of paternalism.

                • Brien Jackson

                  I have no idea what the fuck you’re talking about. I don’t give a shit who you’re supporting in San Francisco’s mayoral elections, and I don’t know what you mean by “strategic voting in safe states.” Is that the “get the Greens to 5%” thing? Because yes, I think that’s fucking stupid too.

                • DocAmazing

                  Oh, yeah, no paternalism there, either.

                  Look, you’ve provided many good laughs, and I’m grateful, but I’ve got to get to work.

                  Remember, it’s only fucking stupid if it wasn’t proposed by a Respectable Liberal.

            • wengler

              This is kind of stupid though, because BLM isn’t disrupting Bernie events based on policy, they are doing it because he draws massive crowds and has no security.

  • Nick never Nick

    I think this post assumes too much — is there actual evidence that people are constructing a cult of personality around Bernie Sanders? It seems much more likely that, like most politicians who run successful campaigns, his supporters are a mix of enthusiastic and loud, and passive and quiet.

    Everyone wants to believe in The One Candidate Who Will Change Everything. I bet that a lot of black people thought Obama was that guy. Now a bunch of young white people without jobs thinks Sanders will be that guy. Good for them! Sometimes if enough people believe something, it becomes true. The message ‘Vote for me and I’ll try to overcome the prohibitively steep structural factors that inhibit meaningful change’ is not actually that awesome a slogan.

    • Pat

      Except Obama did change a lot of things. He turned the second Great Depression into a Great Recession. He got health security for a very large number of people. His administration has been allowing experimentation by the state on marijuana legalization. And white Americans are finally starting to realize that black children shouldn’t be shot in the streets for no reason.

      Things have changed, even though the plutocrats and their minions have been fighting every step of the way.

      • Marek

        Not before he was elected he didn’t. Even if one assumes argumendo that he changed those things.

  • llamaspit

    IMO, Sanders is articulating the positions and attitudes regarding finance and government that I have been advocating for a long time. It’s rewarding to hear a national candidate do it so consistently and logically, without trying to make it palatable to the mouth breathers on the right. He’s not trying to be all things to all people, nor should he.

    I know he is unlikely to be nominated, and even more unlikely that he would be able to win, but at least he forces the conversation in the race to include these issues front and center, and Hillary must deal with them if she wants to add his supporters to hers. At least we no longer have to give lip service to the nonsense of the trickle down theory, and we are accepting income inequality as a reality which must be addressed.

  • LeeEsq

    I think that the structure of American politics makes looking for a savior inevitable for many people regardless of political ideology. American conservatives are also looking far and wide for a savior. The federal political system, which is also replicated in all fifty states more or less, favors the status quo unless the political stars are aligned perfectly. This status quo bias usually hurts liberals more than conservatives but conservatives haven’t been able to role back the New Deal entirely despite trying to do so for generations. Large parts of the Great Society and more recently, the ACA, were also able to withstand conservative attacks. Because American politics favors inaction over action in many circumstances, people will look for a hero that can get things done. In a parliamentary system, hero worship is less necessary or likely because the winning coalition could generally do want they want as long as they aren’t a heavily in debt European Union country.

    Another reason why American liberals might be looking for a hero more than the American right is that American liberals heavy focus on federal rather than state or local politics and a tendency towards theatrical politics makes even minor, local victories less frequent on socio-economic issues. This creates a climate of frustration that causes savior searching and worship because people want to get things done.

    • Brett

      I think there’s also the selective memory factor regarding periods of great progressive triumph. People without extensive historical knowledge tend to focus on personalities rather than structural factors, so you end up with folks talking about how “FDR did this” or “LBJ did this” when in practice they were heavily dependent on having a very dominant Democratic coalition in Congress interested in working with them.

      It’s like how Erik is always complaining that popular accounts on history focus on the “Great Men” rather than the rest of the folks who actually did the things. Which is not the say that the Great Men weren’t important – they certainly were – but they tend to draw all the credit.

      • LeeEsq

        The other thing is that periods of great political change of the liberal and conservative variety to occur in short bursts because people don’t like constant change. Most people want stability and prosperity. In the United Kingdom, you had Clement Atlee building the post-war British Welfare state and than various Conservative and Labour governments playing around the edges until Thatcher became PM and did her great changes. After Thatcher, the various Conservative and Labour PMs that followed her played around the edges of her policy changes. Even though the Social Democratic Party of Sweden was in power for decades, I think that a close examining of Swedish government activity will show maintenance and playing around the edges than doing something new policy wise despite near continuance Social Democratic control.

  • Drexciya

    When the activists initially got on stage, they called for 4.5 minutes of silence in remembrance of Michael Brown. This is not exactly an unreasonable request, and one might think that the crowd, being progressive Sanders supporters, might honor it. Except they didn’t. The 4.5 minutes of silence was punctuated with boos and catcalls. Think the activists were “rude” for rushing the stage? What the crowd did was worse. If you want a living, breathing example of white privilege, the Sanders crowd in Seattle is a perfect example.

    People need to stop using “white privilege” when “racist/racism” is more accurate and appropriate. “White privilege” has some limited descriptive value and that value is undermined when it’s being deployed to obscure and water down behavior that warrants considerably more direct condemnation. The Seattle audience was openly racist and deployed that racism to shout down and violently intimidate black women who ripped the script off of the expected supportive silence and spoke up to highlight that – behavior that’s since been repeatedly used against black people elsewhere. Being “one of the most progressive cities in the country” as Sanders said wasn’t sufficient for stopping that from happening. Neither was being in the north.

    While much can and should be read into the layers of racist entitlement the white liberals who support Sanders exhibit, Sanders bears a large responsibility for neither properly organizing his supporters, for doing insufficient coalition building in a party that requires multi-racial coalitions for victory, and for broadcasting passive aggressive churlishness under circumstances that visibly demanded more of him. The only thing that was more telling than the audience’s reaction was that Sanders sat through it, completely silently and then walked off. There’s a gap between presentation, lip service and commitment for Sanders and it shows in the most damning ways when he’s forced to confront black women.

    I think there’s considerably more at play here than mere hero worship or structural ignorance. This is a class of voters that felt that the black vote was already won and that “earning it” required no more than centering their own priorities in white spaces. They not only felt that there wasn’t more to do for black people and that blackness conferred no specific political emphasis, they felt chastened and insulted that black people could or would dare assert otherwise. What’s being superficially viewed in the linked article as overzealous protection of a candidate should be situated in a political context where racism is defined externally from white liberal action. In uncritically defending Sanders and trafficking in the most hoary conspiracy theories and associations about both the protesters and the movement they belong to, they’re not so much defending the candidate as they’re defending the sense that white liberalism has a purifying quality that removes the moral weight of being white in a white supremacist society from their shoulders and meaningfully absolves them of any responsibility they bear for carrying it and benefiting from its fruits.

    There are problems here that precede the existence of Bernie Sanders as a candidate, there are problems here that exist outside of his candidacy, and these problems will succeed him until a concerted effort has been made to recast the substance of what anti-racism entails in white liberal spaces and to stop making white people the primary determiners of what meaningfully anti-racist means. But neither can be done if people default to their analytical comfort zones and play “not me!” games even when such dynamics are central to what’s taking place.

    Also, Imani Gandy and @docrocktex26 have done excellent work on this topic on twitter. As has Elon James White and Roderick Morrow.

    • Nick never Nick

      Sanders bears large responsibility for not sufficiently preparing a crowd that he was invited to address to respond respectfully to a random, badly-planned protest by a couple of people who could plausibly be identified as provacateurs?

      When you have thousands of people, you will get the full distribution of responses to anything. People who want a good response need to prepare the ground for it — and the BLM protesters were in the best position possible to prepare the ground for that event. What steps did they take?

      • Drexciya

        If you claim to care about racism, dislike police brutality and wish to present yourself as some bold, truth-talking leader that’s speaking for the working class against Wall Street, then it shouldn’t be much of a problem to speak up on behalf of two black women and say “This is not what we should do, this is not what we’re about” when people are exhibiting racism and booing their way through a four minute silence for someone that was shot by the police. But that’s only correct if the exhibited behavior is against either him or his campaign. It’s certainly possible that I’m being overly charitable.

        Edit: It should be noted that this happened a day before Michael Brown was shot. You can determine for yourself whether that should move you to think he had other options than silently sitting through the crowd’s harassment and walking off.

        • Nick never Nick

          You might be right, and I regret my initial comment since I don’t feel like getting into the weeds of an event I wasn’t at. In that situation, if I was the BLM activists and interested in evoking a positive response from either the crowd or Sanders, I would have contacted his people and told them that we were going to disrupt the event briefly, and that we would like him to support us in what we were going to do. If I was Sanders, I can’t say how I would have reacted, everyone behaves differently when put on the spot.

          Edit: I support activism like that, but I feel that it has to be done in such a way that it builds coalitions, not disrupts them. I thought Charles Pierce’s take on the event was a good one.

          • Drexciya

            I thought Charles Pierce’s take on the event was a good one.

            What happened in Seattle was an embarrassment to the tradition of public protest. It was a hysterical piece of performance art that accomplished absolutely nothing toward whatever goals its performers sought to achieve. Rage is not an excuse. Frustration is not an excuse. This was a simple act of public vandalism, aimed (again) at the wrong target. I have been to a bunch of rallies already in this godforsaken campaign. If the two principals here had tried this at any Republican rally; if they had tried it at any rally for any candidate of the party that largely has supported the militarized state of American policing, that more than any other political institution has worked to create the climate of The Other by which Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin are thugs while the people who killed them are blameless victims; if they had tried this at a Republican rally, they’d have been hauled off in handcuffs within five minutes, if they were allowed into the hall at all. This is taking advantage of the openness of a campaign that is overwhelmingly sympathetic to your goals, instead of bringing your fight to the politicians who actively oppose you, because it’s easier to do. Consider me unimpressed by the courage involved.

            Color me unsurprised.

            • MAJeff

              Pierce then went on to praise ACT-UP, completely neglecting that ACT-UP challenged Clinton and Gore on the campaign trail.

              I ended up in a Twitter convo with someone who worked at NIH who talked about ACT-UP chaining themselves to the desks of Queer workers, demanding changes in how research was performed.

              Folks conveniently forget how confrontational, and not polite, ACT-UP was, even to “friends.”

              Disruption is a tactic. Disrupting folks whose positions are closer to one’s own is often more productive than disrupting opponents/enemies, because the latter don’t give a shit while the former can be pressured.

            • wjts

              I don’t care much for Pierce in general, but the Head-Shaking Weary Old Soul routine he trots out whenever the Kids Today try to talk about issues he has no real interest in is by far my least favorite thing about him.

        • Gregor Sansa

          How exactly should he have said “this is not what we do”? When? They had the mic, not him.

          There were in fact Sanders people on stage gesturing to be respectful pretty much throughout the time they were talking. Sanders himself chose to get out of the shot, and given that they’d clearly demonstrated that they were not interested in dialogue, I think that was clearly the right thing for him to do.

          With 20/20 hindsight, I could wish Sanders had said:

          “I’m going to give you the mic in a moment, let me say one thing first to the audience,

          “Let’s hear these out. They have an important point, black lives do matter! If you’re white, you’re not going to help my cause by booing them.”

          But without hindsight, it’s not realistic to think he’d get that exactly right in the moment.

          • jim, some guy in iowa

            I have a feeling not too many of us instinctively know the right thing do to do at all moments

            • Lee Rudolph

              I have that feeling all the time, instinctively!

            • It’s hard to think of a response to that comment other than “Fortunately, some of us know of ways to dispose of the physical evidence.”

          • Drexciya

            Even if I agreed with this, which I don’t, I don’t see much point in pretending that Sanders lacks the ability or responsibility to organize his supporters around talking points, norms, and priorities that don’t involve harassing critics on the internet, flooding dissenting comments sections from black writers with invective and booing black activists them when they speak up at predominately white events. Instead, he chose to leave. Both times. I weigh this in precisely the same way I weigh the responsibilities Republicans had when Birtherism came up during townhalls.

            Semi-relatedly I don’t think “this is not what we do” is “getting it exactly right”. Dialogue isn’t the point. And Sanders weaknesses aren’t even close to being the primary thing such incidents (and aftereffects) are implicit commentaries on.

            • Gregor Sansa

              I think this is another version of the “great man” fallacy. What leader in history has been able to change the cultural norms of a large number of geographically-diffuse supporters within the first few months of becoming an acknowledged leader?

              Republicans candidates who flirted with birtherism are culpable. If it was just their supporters, while they explicitly rejected it, then it’s their supporters who are culpable. Same standard for Sanders.

              (And I didn’t suggest “this is not what we do”. If “we” is the crowd who’s there to see Sanders, then it included many times more black people than there were protestors. I suggested: “If you’re white, shut up and listen.”)

          • wjts

            How exactly should he have said “this is not what we do”? When? They had the mic, not him.

            By tapping the woman on the shoulder and asking her if he could take back the microphone for a moment to talk to his supporters about their behavior? Granted, this would mean doing something other than standing sullenly off to the side, which Sanders doesn’t seem particularly interested in doing whenever BLM protestors show up.

            • ajp

              I’m not really convinced that would be a good idea. At least the optics would be terrible: old white man physically touching young black woman who is trying to saying something? Yeah, no. Old white man trying to interrupt young black woman who is trying to speak about BLM? Yeah, no. The best thing to do was probably give them a wide berth and let them speak their piece. Walking off the stage was a mistake though, he should’ve addressed the crowd afterward and emphasized that they should support BLM and that there is plenty of room for racial justice in their campaign. But keep in mind, we’re looking at this from the ex post perspective-let’s remember to judge it from the ex ante perspective.

              As for sullenness: when is Sanders not sullen? I say this not to be a wise acre, but Sanders has never been known for his sunny disposition.

              I don’t think it’s lack of concern, I think he’s not as talented a politician as we’ve been led to believe. This is the first time he’s really been tested on a national stage. Look at his recent press secretary hire-he’s taking this stuff seriously. I don’t know if we should tie the metaphorical noose after Seattle, I think he’s trying to develop on this issue.

              • DocAmazing

                I think he’s not as talented a politician as we’ve been led to believe

                He’s a very talented legislator. He’s just not much of a national campaigner.

                • ajp

                  I agree, I did not phrase that very well.

              • Brien Jackson

                I mean, the guy seems legitimately unaware that the white working/middle classes are the fucking base of the Republican Party not because the Democrats are too cozy with Wall Street but because they’re racist shitheads, and when someone doing a profile on him gently pointed this out his response was “I’m right and everyone else is wrong.” Literally. There’s not a ton to suggest that Sanders is a good politician outside of Vermont at all.

                • DocAmazing

                  He’s got a Marxian/Homo economicus worldview. Not uncommon. A bit like some people see racism very clearly but can’t seem to grasp that better-off people of color are a bit more insulated from its effects. Everyone has limits to his or her vision.

                • Brien Jackson

                  Which means he’s not a bad person, but I certainly think it suggests he’s not a good national poltician and wouldn’t make a good leader of the party if he a) is so ignorant of political science research concerning the voters he wants to build his campaign around and b) proudly doesn’t want his wrongness to be corrected.

                  Let’s put it more bluntly: Another way to view Bernie’s “cantankerous” personality is that he’s a full of himself old, reactionary, incurious white guy who thinks he has all of the answers and isn’t interested in you pointy-headed sellouts and your “research” telling him he’s wrong.

                • joe from Lowell

                  Lol, Brien.

                  We spent literally months talking about how Sanders is running to focus attention on a set of issues related to income inequality.

                  But clearly, the emphasis in his message on economic inequality is probably best understood as ignorance about politics and racism.

                  Sure it is.

                • Brien Jackson

                  “We spent literally months talking about how Sanders is running to focus attention on a set of issues related to income inequality.”

                  I don’t think there’s any evidence that this is Sanders’ intention, at least at this point, whatsoever. If nothing else, the hefty expansion of his ground game in New Hampshire would seem to argue that he is very much interested in winning the nomination. Oh, and the fact that the Sanders campaign has been trying in earnest to take the BLM issue on head on and expand their campaign’s focus to take up racial injustice issues.

                • joe from Lowell

                  A Sanders campaign aimed at messaging and agenda-setting would be just as interested in an early primary win and inroads into important voting groups as a Sanders campaign aimed at winning, though. It would also seek to attenuate any messaging problems interfering with the already-palty level of attention he’s getting from the media.

                • Brien Jackson

                  Maybe, and maybe that was the idea at one point. Right now though I think he’s very much in it to win it.

                • ajp

                  Brien, you criticize Sanders (not unfairly) for his limited and stubborn perspective on economic and racial issues, but then you acknowledge further down:

                  I don’t think there’s any evidence that this is Sanders’ intention, at least at this point, whatsoever. If nothing else, the hefty expansion of his ground game in New Hampshire would seem to argue that he is very much interested in winning the nomination. Oh, and the fact that the Sanders campaign has been trying in earnest to take the BLM issue on head on and expand their campaign’s focus to take up racial injustice issues.

                  I’d say Sanders is now taking the issue seriously (look at his recent press secretary hire). Maybe that’s only because he’s being pushed, although that’s always an uncertainty with dealing with politicians. As Scott and Erik regularly point out, I don’t really care what my politicians actually believe, I only care that they can be dragged to support what I believe.

                  Another way to view Bernie’s “cantankerous” personality is that he’s a full of himself old, reactionary, incurious white guy

                  He may well be those things, but the “cantankerousness” is more of a regional thing, and the way he’s been his entire career. Assuming arguendo that he is reactionary and incurious and full of himself ( I’ll stipulate that he’s old and white, since Jews are now “white”), I see no correlation between those qualities and his cantankerousness.

                  and isn’t interested in you pointy-headed sellouts and your “research” telling him he’s wrong.

                  If you read about Sanders’ history with the Liberty Union party in Vermont (and his leaving it in the late 70s), you see a man who learned the hard way that purity politics only gets you so far. Granted, he still ran as an Independent and not a Democrat during his Congressional career, but given how he caucuses with Democrats and is in line with the party very frequently I think he’s hardly the “herp derp Gush and Bore” type. The Independent thing always struck me as a little bit of a gimmick, but Vermont seems to eat it up.

                  Bernie is pretty well-informed. I wouldn’t say he’s as impervious to “research” as your average Republican. But we all have our beliefs, and confirmation bias is a thing.

                • ajp

                  A Sanders campaign aimed at messaging and agenda-setting would be just as interested in an early primary win and inroads into important voting groups as a Sanders campaign aimed at winning, though. It would also seek to attenuate any messaging problems interfering with the already-palty level of attention he’s getting from the media.

                  This is an excellent point, joe. It would certainly validate the issues Sanders cares about if he actually wins some states. It keeps him in the race, and shows that his concerns resonate with voters.

                  And even if he’s just running to raise awareness for his pet issues, he needs money to do that. Of course he’s going to take it seriously and build a decent ground game. If he doesn’t take it seriously and has to fold early, that sort of sends the message that his issues aren’t popular (at least that’s how the media, which leans right, will easily frame it). So optics-wise it ends up being worse than not running at all.

                  He’s got a Marxian/Homo economicus worldview. Not uncommon. A bit like some people see racism very clearly but can’t seem to grasp that better-off people of color are a bit more insulated from its effects. Everyone has limits to his or her vision.

                  As for DocAmazing’s comment, I agree. I think racial justice issues have been in vogue a little longer and a little more skillfully than economic justice issues. Not that either is unimportant, but I think class issues have always been given short shrift (even in the wake of occupy), so I’m not too sore on Bernie focusing on them. But I think there’s plenty of room for both. And I don’t think one is more important than the other.

                  He could definitely do a better job on racial issues-I know he’s made some key hires and is talking about them, but the way he’s come off in interviews has done him no favors.

                • Jackov

                  the guy seems legitimately unaware that the white working/middle classes are the fucking base of the Republican Party

                  he’s not a good national poltician and wouldn’t make a good leader of the party if he a) is so ignorant of political science research concerning the voters he wants to build his campaign around

                  psssh (see Larry Bartels, Andrew Gelman, Elizabeth Jacobs and other recent actual political science research)

              • Gregor Sansa

                I agree that there’s no way he could have gotten the mic without creating a horrible photo. He’s like a foot taller than either of those women are. Anything he does is going to look like creepy looming, especially if the women wanted to make it look that way, and there’s every indication they did have it in for him and did want to make all the white people there look bad (which turned out to be as easy as they knew it would be).

                As for “not as talented a politician”: to me, this is veering close to horse-race trivia. Sure, to run for president, you have to have some serious skills; to make a speech, to take a question, to work a crowd. He may not be in Obama’s league on any of those, but he’s better than 90% of the country on all of them. So he meets the basic prerequisites as a candidate; and from there on, what’s important are his positions. Which are not perfect, but noticeably better than Clinton’s, and I-can’t-even-laughably better than any Republican’s.

                • Hogan

                  He may not be in Obama’s league on any of those, but he’s better than 90% of the country on all of them.

                  Which makes him one of the 33 million people with the best skills to run for president. If that praise were any fainter . . .

                • Brien Jackson

                  How good politicians make gains with people whose votes they need:

                  Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said on NBC’s Meet the Press that he doesn’t believe that he owes the #BlackLivesMatter protest movement an apology, even though his own staff already apologized to them.
                  ADVERTISEMENT

                  Host Chuck Todd began by asking about a Buzzfeed piece revealing that his campaign had reached out to #BlackLivesMatter protesters after they stormed the stage of a Sanders rally and took his mic. “I apologize it took our campaign so long,” the campaign’s African-American outreach director Marcus Ferrell told them in an email.

                  “Well, that was sent out by a staffer, not by me,” Sanders said. “Look, we are reaching out to all kinds of groups. Absolutely I met with folks at Black Lives Matter.”

                  “I understand that you said a staffer put it out, but you felt an apology was necessary?” Todd asked.

                  “No, I don’t. I think we’re going to be working with all groups. This was sent out without my knowledge,” Sanders said.

                  http://www.mediaite.com/tv/bernie-sanders-i-dont-owe-blacklivesmatter-an-apology/

                • joe from Lowell

                  If that praise were any fainter . . .

                  …we’d be talking about how he’s better than Hillary?

                • Gregor Sansa

                  Somewhere between 330 thousand (if those skills were totally uncorrelated) and 33 million (if they were effectively the same).

                  But if that’s faint praise, that’s my point. This primary should be about issues and outcomes and movements, not personalities. We’re deciding a direction for the country, not running American Idol.

                  I’m not saying “my issues are Issues and yours are just preferences”. If BLM supporters think Sanders supporters are being privileged so-and-sos, then that matters; although frankly I think both sides in this are getting epically trolled by the worst elements of the other side.

                • Brien Jackson

                  The Presidential nominee is the de facto leader of his coalition and inherently affects the direction of that coalition going forward. That isn’t relevant to primary voting how?

      • Gregor Sansa

        In fact, I’ve watched several videos of the brouhaha in Seattle, and in the part of the crowd near the video I saw that included the “moment of silence”, the large majority of the crowd were being respectful.

        • DocAmazing

          Worth repeating.

          • Gregor Sansa

            To clarify: when she initially asked for a moment of silence, some asshole tried to start a “Bernie! Bernie!” chant, which was picked up by a minority but quickly shushed by active “be respectful” comments (don’t remember exact wording, but it was pretty good). Then she said “the moment of silence starts now”, and after that is when I’m saying the majority behaved well. The video I saw only had about 60 seconds of the “silence”.

            I saw another video that had just the end of it. She said something like “if I don’t hear perfect silence, you are never going to hear Sanders today.” That is when Sanders left. I think that, given that (as far as I can tell) the majority were being respectful, he judged that statement as saying that she didn’t intend to let things work out. I’m not sure leaving was his only choice at that point, but it was certainly better than hanging around quietly waiting for the mic, because things could certainly have gotten uglier than they did, and without a mic, he didn’t have a lot of obvious power to prevent that.

      • Phil Perspective

        Does anyone remember that the Seattle event wasn’t even a Sanders campaign event? It was to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Medicare!!

    • ajp

      broadcasting passive aggressive churlishness

      From what I’ve seen of Sen Sanders (speeches, interviews), this just seems to be his personality. Some people love it, it seems not to do him any favors in other circumstances.

      Sanders himself seems to be taking racial issues more seriously now (or at least, seems to be interested in appearing to take them more seriously, although that’s always an uncertainty with politicians). http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/bernie-sanders-press-secretary_55c77941e4b0f1cbf1e54fec

      Now, merely hiring a black woman doesn’t completely absolve him of any accusation of racism or lack of interest in racial issues, but looking at her resume he seems to realize he needs to be better on this stuff.

      Sanders obviously can’t control what his supporters say or do. But he could at least tweet/say something to the effect of “There’s plenty of room for racial justice in our coalition, let’s not attack BLM, but support them” etcetera.

      I’m not going to hold Seattle against him too much. Sure, he could have done better, and he deserves demerits for that. But I’ll see if he’s learned from his stumbles and if/how he improves.

      As for shifting my support to another candidate, I don’t know, the big campaign news recently seems to be: Trump is a loudmouthed jackass, Sanders is drawing rly big crowds zomg, and Hillary Clinton is a filthy liar and the emails will bring her doooooowwwn! So it’s hard to tell.

      • joe from Lowell

        this just seems to be his personality. Some people love it, it seems not to do him any favors in other circumstances.

        The word we use in this part of the country is “taciturn.”

        New Englanders vote for people like John Kerry, Bernie Sanders, Joe Lieberman, Chris Dodd, and Judd Gregg. And Elizabeth Warren. Woo hoo, everyone, let’s get this party started!

        It’s sort of like people in New Jersey and NYC voting for abrasive guys like Chris Christie, Andrew Cuomo, or Rudy Guiliani, while the rest of the country says, huh?

        • ajp

          My mother is from just outside Boston (Dedham) so I know all about this! Indeed, I live in New York now (and work occasionally in Hudson County in Jersey), and while the New Yorker abrasiveness is a bit overblown (most people are not as assholish as Christie), it is interesting to note the differences between that abrasiveness and taciturnity.

          I grew up in Florida, and my friends always wondered why my mother was such a “sourpuss” or “aloof.” She’s got nothing against you guys, that’s just how she is.

          I remember back in the day my father almost took a job in a couple of southern states (it was in research, places like Alabama), and when we visited my mother absolutely could not stand it-the feigned politness, etc. My father told her to “cheer up” and “not look so surly around these people” and she said that after 45 years she couldn’t just revamp her personality. So I empathize with Bernie-raised in Brooklyn, lived in New England for 40ish years.

          I myself am often accused of being aloof. Blame my mother! I’m more comfortable around the taciturn types, because that’s how my mother and most of her family were. Although my taciturnity only needs slight modification to fit in here.

          • joe from Lowell

            when we visited my mother absolutely could not stand it-the feigned politness, etc.

            So then you start to look a little uncomfortable, and they respond by cranking the politeness up a notch. It’s only when a southerner reaches the level of barely concealed rage beneath a minimal facade of chilly courtesy that the New Englander feels comfortable.

            • ajp

              That pretty much describes her to a tee. There’s something deeply unsettling about the friendliness facade to me. I need to crack it to get comfortable.

              • joe from Lowell

                So then they conclude that we’re not only assholes, but stupid assholes.

                “That guy was rude to me for ten minutes, and then when I was rude back, it was like he had no idea, bless his soul.”

            • It’s only when a southerner reaches the level of barely concealed rage beneath a minimal facade of chilly courtesy that the New Englander feels comfortable.

              And the New Yorker says “What the fuck is wrong with you people?” and they all talk behind his back about how rude he is.

              Or so I hear.

    • sharonT

      This.

    • DocAmazing

      Yeah, no. The Seattle BLM Two might well have been a provocation; a pair of who-are-these-two unaffiliated with any larger group that show up at a rally about Social Security and grab the mic wouldn’t have pulled it off if they were white either. Name-checking O’Malley as someone who responded correctly to BLM really didn’t show them being too tuned-in, either.

      As to Imani Gandy: even as Sanders has large blind spots about racism and white privilege, Gandy has blind spots about wealth and classism. As several people on Twitter and elsewhere have pointed out, she used to make her living as a foreclosure attorney. Gsndy’s done very good work, but let’s not lose sight of her problems as a spokesperson.

      • UncleEbeneezer

        She pretty openly acknowledges that she has class privilege and is aware of that (as wells as Straight and Cis-privilege), as she explained in an interview with Nicole Sanders after the Patricia Arquette fiasco. I’m not sure how those privileges have caused any errors in the stuff she’s written about BLM (though you can point them out if you see any.) And while she covers these topics very well, I don’t see her claiming to be a spokesperson. She signal-boosts the words of the actual BLM activists pretty regularly.

        • DocAmazing

          Her interview with Flashpoint had her dancing wildly around the Seattle BLM Two’s very brief history of activism (with some cute bits about how the root of “progressive” is “progress”, so a person shouldn’t be held accountable for any history they may have since they’ve progressed beyond that), and her own er, problematic employment history. This in turn caused her to downplay the observations made that the Seattle BLM Two had backgrounds that made speculation about their motivations quite reasonable.

          • ajp

            Yeah, seriously. I’m not saying that Sanders deserves no criticism, but it seems like a lot of people on here are overcorrecting.

        • ajp

          She pretty openly acknowledges that she has class privilege

          So no criticism allowed because of that? Somehow I think you’d still feel entitled to criticize Sanders if he openly acknowledged his white privilege.

          • Marek

            So no criticism allowed because of that?

            Who said that?

      • Jackov

        Lawyers who represented Chase, WaMu and other banks with horrible mortgage practices in foreclosure cases during the Great Recession are not going to be friendly to a movement that thinks of them as ‘team bad guy’ or ‘capitalist dog.’I would be skeptical of these lawyers views on capitalism/class critiques but there is no reason to think their writing on BLM or racial justice are in any way compromised.

        Lawyers’ and bankers’ thoughts on how their work perpetuates white supremacy in various ways through ‘normal business’ could be very interesting and beneficial to anyone working for racial and economic justice.

  • Bruce Vail

    So the argument is that if you support Bernie’s policy positions then you should vote for somebody else, because Bernie won’t be able to deliver overnight?

    • joe from Lowell

      I didn’t see anything about “vote for somebody else.” What part of the linked story, or the post, did you read that way?

      I think, rather, the actual argument is Don’t Be A Dick.

      Which, seriously, is a point that Sanders supporters ought to embrace as their own.

      • Bruce Vail

        Oh, okay. I’ll try my best….

        • joe from Lowell

          I wasn’t accusing you of anything, Bruce, just stating what I though the guy’s point was.

          And noting that Sanders supporters have as much reason as any to oppose dickish behavior, regardless of how important their cause genuinely is.

          • Bruce Vail

            No, Joe, I didn’t think you were accusing me personally.

            Probably true, though, that have a lot more dickish moments in general than I am reasonably entitled to….

    • Um.

      No.

      The argument is that we shouldn’t think of any leader as being able to solve our problems because those problems are structural and that by seeking the next Great Man to do so, we are constantly disappointed and disillusioned rather than fighting to solve said structural problems.

      • Bruce Vail

        Okay, I’m fine with that.

        It seemed to be that the argument pointed to “Since we can’t have Socialism, we should vote for Clintonism.”

        My mistake.

        • I have no idea how you would come to that conclusion based upon this article or anything else I’ve written.

    • djw

      What the hell? Did you read the post? Where’s the faintest suggestion you shouldn’t vote for him, let alone for such a silly reason?

      • Bruce Vail

        Yes, I did read, but I guess I added 2 plus 2 and got 5. My bad.

  • Nick never Nick

    It looks like we are in for another replay of the Puma/Obama-ite wars . . . Perhaps those of us who consider structural factors important in politics should reflect that these factional battles are a structural probability in a ethnically and culturally diverse coalition — and refrain from aggravating them with ‘control your supporters’ trolling . . .

    People who support the party and the platform will vote for the ticket; just like Hillary’s followers did. Why focus on all the various opportunities for butthurt 15 months from election day?

    • joe from Lowell

      Perhaps those of us who consider structural factors important in politics should reflect that these factional battles are a structural probability in a ethnically and culturally diverse coalition — and refrain from aggravating them with ‘control your supporters’ trolling . . .

      The people engaging in such trolling have been quite forthright in stating that they don’t consider themselves a faction of a diverse coalition, and consider aggravating their would-be coalition partners to be an important objective.

      Their means are, indeed, quite destructive to what you think of as their end – but that doesn’t seem to be their end.

      As they say, “Shh. Listen.” They’re not exactly keeping this a secret.

  • synykyl

    I accept LGM and its comments section as the ultimate source for pragmatic progressive wisdom, but do you seriously believe that the over-enthusiasm of a few young Bernie Sanders supporters is a manifestation of racism, or that it’s as important a problem as ketchup, vodka, or the unjust suspension of Tom Brady?

  • Billy Shakes

    So progressives would quickly see their hero thrown against the rocks of the system and make some mistakes of his own. They’d call him a sellout and look for the next Great Man to solve all their problems.

    “Crashing the Gates” will always be sexier than “Holding the Line”.

    Just a fact.

  • SausalitoSurfer

    The point is that, assuming Sanders wins in November 2016 (I give that 35% odds at the moment), it doesn’t end there. Following his win in 2008, Obama told his supporters “Thanks. I’ll take it from here”. The biggest mistake made by anybody interested in progressive policies was believing him.
    Progressives need to mobilize all constituencies in 2016, make sure that people get registered and get to the polls, and follow-up with the mid-term elections. In every state.

    Obama’s people kept control of his organization following the 2008 election and we got less change as a result. If Bernie is elected, I would like to see his campaign spin-off into something completely separate that would continue to agitate from the outside. I could even see Bernie supporting that.

    • djw

      assuming Sanders wins in November 2016 (I give that 35% odds at the moment),

      Welcome to the silly season.

      • Brien Jackson

        Eh, what the hell. It totally seems possible if he can keep gaining momentum and do well enough in Iowa/win New Hampshire and convince some fence sitters that he actually CAN challenge Hillary. It might be more like 25%, but it’s definitely feasible, especially with the possibility of Clinton making a mistake in a debate (although Sanders is probably more likely to do that, I’d say).

        • joe from Lowell

          If we give Sanders even a 90% chance of beating Jeb! or Trump in a general election matchup, he’d have to have about a 40% chance of beating Hillary to end up with a 35% chance to win in November. If we lower his chances of winning a general, we have to bump up his chances of winning the primary.

          Unless the 35% is only supposed to represent the general election, in which case it is far too low. Anyone who wins the Democratic nomination will be the favorite to win the general.

          • SausalitoSurfer

            Or 70% odds of beating the Republican in November and 50% of winning the nomination. There are infinite permutations.

            The point of my 35% number is that the odds of him winning are long but not insurmountable. Hillary isn’t looking that good right now. I like the fact that he feels so confident with his message that he is taking it to a lot of places that you might not expect.

            I wouldn’t bet a lot of money on Bernie winning the nomination or the presidency but I wouldn’t bet a lot of money against it either.

            • joe from Lowell

              50% is obviously too high. My 40% is obviously too high; I only threw it out to demonstrate that even a ridiculously-high number for the general election doesn’t get you to a 35% chance.

              • SausalitoSurfer

                Joe from Lowell–My 35% number anticipates some continued (positive) changes in perceptions of Sanders as he continues to get his message out.

                If the nomination contests were held tomorrow he would lose. No question. The primary season is a dynamic process.

              • SausalitoSurfer

                Joe from Lowell–Continuing my previous comment, it is very early in the nomination process. I wouldn’t be surprised if Hillary eventually racks-up 90% of the delegates. But, based on what is known now, I don’t think her odds of being the nominee are much better than 50%. There are some plausible scenarios in which she would not win and Sanders has a reasonable path to the nomination.

                I could also see her getting swift-boated in the primary season by right-wing groups on the theory that Bernie is more easily beaten in the general election.

                • ajp

                  Bernie is more easily beaten in the general election.

                  I don’t buy that Bernie is that vulnerable in a general as so many people assume. So I welcome the right-wing’s help in making Sanders the Democratic nominee.

                  Especially if the Republican nominee is Walker, or, we should be so lucky-Trump.

                  Good economic indicators + anybody but Rubio or Bush = pretty good shot, even for a self-described socialist. Hell, I think Sanders can beat Rubio or Bush.

            • djw

              The point of my 35% number is that the odds of him winning are long but not insurmountable

              What? A 35% chance of winning the general aren’t long odds, they’re favorite odds, and they’re not remotely realistic. Move the decimal place one spot to the left and that’s about the upper limit of a reasonable assessment of his chances right now. At any rate, the betting markets are making him something in the range of a 12-1 shot. I wouldn’t touch that, myself, but if you’re confident in your prognostications you’ve got a great opportunity.

              Hillary isn’t looking that good right now.

              Based on what? The utterly predictable decline in her favorability once the campaign actually started? A media desperate for an interesting story?

              • Pat

                These guys are suckers for a meme, djw.

                You can tell because of the lack of evidence.

          • Brien Jackson

            Without taking into account the things that can happen in a campaign that hurt one candidate or another*, 40% doesn’t seem too outlandish to me right now. The longer Sanders keeps up a strong campaign, the more the “he can’t win” narrative slips, and if he can pull off an upset in Iowa suddenly he actually can win. If Hillary’s support only runs as deep as the notion that she’s the only serious candidate in the race, it’s entirely possible they’ll melt off quickly in such an event.

            *Of course these are going to happen, and given Sanders’ temperment I think he’s going to be the one who implodes this fall. If I had to wager on it, Sanders is going to have a huge gaffe on the topic of gender issues in a debate and that’s more or less going to lock things up for Hillary.

            • joe from Lowell

              I don’t think that Hillary’s support only runs as deep as the sense that she’s the only candidate in the race, though. I think she has deep pockets, deep institutional support, a well-known brand, and other concrete assets, of the sort described in the poli-sci textbooks, that make her an actually formidable candidate, despite her problem with the whole getting-people-to-like-and-trust-her thing.

              And that’s why I think 40% is outlandish. Look, anything can happen – the Patriots could go on a Super Bowl run after Bledsoe gets hurt and some guy has to fill in – but it’s that level of improbable.

              • Brien Jackson

                I don’t really think it does either, fwiw, but it’s certainly not outside the realm of possibility given how strong the Sanders campaign has been.

                • joe from Lowell

                  I can’t really tell what I’m looking at when I see Sanders’ spectacular rise.

                  Is he growing his ceiling, or merely growing into it?

                  I guess we’ll find out.

                • Brien Jackson

                  Oh absolutely. I don’t have any idea how high his support can go at this point either.

                  Maybe the best explanation I saw somewhere (forgetting where) was this: Sanders is the guy telling you the truth everyone knows, and it turns out that his “wacky” and “socialist” policies everyone knew weren’t supposed to be serious are, in fact, pretty damn popular with the electorate. Mix in the fact that he’s got the credibility factor of being a Senator and the people who assumed he’d be laughed off as a sideshow were just wrong.

                  Now that said, Clinton’s in a much stronger position than she was in 2008 as well, in that she isn’t running against Barack Obama, and she’s not so far out of the moment, so to speak. She can easily co-opt a lot of his economic message, blunt some of his sharp edge by being cordial and respectful of his movement and, frankly, outflank him on gender issues and build up a big enough bulwark to still win the nomination with relative ease. I’m just saying I won’t be surprised if Sanders hits a critical mass at some point in November/December that convinces enough people he has an actual chance to make things really interesting, at least in Iowa.

                • joe from Lowell

                  ‘Zactly.

                  Though I’d add, his wacky socialist Vermont image also creates some outsider cred, and everyone in politics wants to be the outsider running against Washington.

                • Gregor Sansa

                  After seeing Trump defy expectations so spectacularly so far, I’m going to say that anybody who tells you they know with 97% certainty who the Democratic nominee is is wrong. I wouldn’t bet on Sanders at 3:1 odds, but I do think that the 12:1 that Vegas is giving him right now is just as likely to be too pessimistic for him as it is to be too optimistic.

                • ajp

                  Though I’d add, his wacky socialist Vermont image also creates some outsider cred

                  It’s interesting, isn’t it. My father, like a good right-winger, hates the Clintons with the fire of a thousand suns (and like any good right-winger, he hates Hillary 1000x more than Bill because she’s uh, a shrill ballbuster or something).

                  He has actually spoken well of Bernie even though he hates “commies.” He thinks he’s honest (for a politician) and doesn’t pander-he’s consistent and tells you what he believes and doesn’t put on a show. His words. My father would never vote for him, but that’s not a terrible image to convey.

                • Phil Perspective

                  He thinks he’s honest (for a politician) and doesn’t pander-he’s consistent and tells you what he believes and doesn’t put on a show. His words. My father would never vote for him, but that’s not a terrible image to convey.

                  Almost exactly the same thing is happening over in the U.K. re: Corbyn. Except the Labour Party elite is apparently planning a palace coup because Corbyn has a really good shot at winning right now. I’m sure the coup will go over well with Labour voters!!

            • djw

              If Hillary’s support only runs as deep as the notion that she’s the only serious candidate in the race, it’s entirely possible they’ll melt off quickly in such an event.

              As Joe notes, the “if” here gives away the show. There’s no reason to think her support is that shallow.

              • jim, some guy in iowa

                if you’d have told me in 2008 how easily people would forget the democratic primary season I would have laughed at you

                • Some of us – cough Edwards supporters cough – tried hard to forget the primary season.

                • Matt McIrvin

                  Maybe not in the real world, but on the political blogs I see people who definitely never got over the 2008 primary season.

            • ajp

              If I had to wager on it, Sanders is going to have a huge gaffe on the topic of gender issues

              He doesn’t talk much about gender (which is much to his discredit, to be honest), but I don’t see the link between this and making a “huge gaffe.” He needs to get better on messaging. It’s not a good look for women and people of color to be questioning why he doesn’t devote much of his platform or speeches to race or gender issues.

              I think he is learning that he needs to make at least a nominal effort at appearing to care about these issues to survive as a candidate. I don’t think he’s so stubborn that he’ll refuse to talk about them if it means defusing criticism he’s getting from liberals and surviving as a candidate. He’s to the left of many, but he’s a pragmatist-I don’t see him making a huge gaffe.

              given Sanders’ temperment

              Eh, I’m not so sure about this. We’re not talking about McCain-esque meltdowns/temper tantrums. He’s a guy known for, as joe described it upthread, being “taciturn.” I would note that while Sanders is not all that inspiring a speaker, there really is no one in the race who is as good a speaker as Obama or Bill Clinton (who both had once in a generation speaking skills). Hillary Clinton is not a bad speaker, but I think the contrast between Bernie and Hillary’s temperaments is not so pronounced as if he were running against Bill or Obama.

              I guess it’s a bit of a sore point because there’s nothing “wrong” with Sanders’ temperament. Some people see it as an affectation, but I see it as lack of affect. We’ll see.

              • Brien Jackson

                “He doesn’t talk much about gender (which is much to his discredit, to be honest), but I don’t see the link between this and making a “huge gaffe.” He needs to get better on messaging. It’s not a good look for women and people of color to be questioning why he doesn’t devote much of his platform or speeches to race or gender issues.”

                So, in other words, he’s probably going to be confronted by a frontrunner who’s stronger on his left on an issue he hasn’t spent much time talking about and probably doesn’t have much of an interest in. That doesn’t sound like a recipe for a “taciturn” politician saying something stupid to you?

                “Eh, I’m not so sure about this. We’re not talking about McCain-esque meltdowns/temper tantrums. He’s a guy known for, as joe described it upthread, being “taciturn.””

                Erm, did you see his “no I didn’t apolgize to BLM” riff today?

                • ajp

                  That doesn’t sound like a recipe for a “taciturn” politician saying something stupid to you?

                  I don’t see the relation between Sanders’ temperament and saying stupid things. The problem with him is how he says things (i.e. sounding cranky and impatient), not what he says. It’s more likely that his tone alienates people who aren’t a fan of New England temperaments.

                  I don’t think Bernie is stupid, and I think he’s learned (if he’s smart, which I think he is) that he has to address these issues to avoid being outflanked. I think he got into this thinking he could only focus on economic/class issues, and he’s learned via experience that to remain viable he needs to put at least nominal effort into the issues he’s not as passionate about.

                  I see Hillary trying to bait him into looking bad on gender. But if he’s learned anything at all from BLM (which he seems to have, given his press secretary hire and reaching out to BLM to speak with them more) I don’t see this happening. Go ahead and bookmark this and tie the noose around my neck in a few weeks/months if I end up being wrong.

                  Erm, did you see his “no I didn’t apolgize to BLM” riff today?

                  I’m not sure he owes Black Lives Matter an apology. Maybe people of color generally, but not BLM itself. I read the email-it was one of his staffers reaching out to establish more communication between the Sanders campaign and BLM. I didn’t hear Sanders object to that aspect, only that an apology was necessary. I think it was lack of message discipline internally-Sanders didn’t want to come off as being on the defensive, which I think is justifiable, although it looked bad on TV.

                  I don’t necessarily disagree with Bernie, but that was not the smartest thing to say. Still, that in itself is not going to sink him, and I see evidence that he is taking racial justice messaging more seriously.

                • Brien Jackson

                  “I’m not sure he owes Black Lives Matter an apology. Maybe people of color generally, but not BLM itself. I read the email-it was one of his staffers reaching out to establish more communication between the Sanders campaign and BLM. I didn’t hear Sanders object to that aspect, only that an apology was necessary. I don’t necessarily disagree with Bernie, but that was not the smartest thing to say. Still, that in itself is not going to sink him, and I see evidence that he is taking racial justice messaging more seriously.”

                  Whether he does or doesn’t owe them an apology isn’t really the point: Most people apologize to other people multiple times a week for no reason other than to smooth things over, even if they know they don’t need to apologize or aren’t really sorry. A professional politician trying to court voters certainly ought to be able to do so, or at least not act as though a staffer who did it was out of line for it. That’s just being an asshole.

                • ajp

                  I don’t think he was being an asshole, I think he was worried about looking on the defensive. Anyway, given his other work to take racial justice issues seriously, it seems like you’re just grasping at straws at this point. We get it, you don’t like Sanders. That’s fine, but you don’t have to read “Sanders is doomed/an asshole” into every single tiny media-inflated occurrence. If I wanted to, I could do the same for Clinton except 1) I think you’d flip your shit and 2) I’m not an unreasonable asshole.

              • Phil Perspective

                He doesn’t talk much about gender (which is much to his discredit, to be honest), but I don’t see the link between this and making a “huge gaffe.”

                Two things that you can take them for what it’s worth. Sanders doesn’t toot his own horn very much. He has like a 99 or 100 career rating from the various groups(Planned Parenthood and the like), meaning a perfect rating.

      • Malaclypse

        Seriously. Everybody knows Akavian has a lock on the superdelegates.

        • I thought Ron Paul had figured out how to get the delegates to abandon their pledges at the convention.

      • SausalitoSurfer

        Almost as silly as the idea that a Muslim from Kenya, without a birth certificate, could become president.

        • Malaclypse

          Let me know when anything like that actually happens.

          • SausalitoSurfer

            The Republican front runner says it’s true!

            • Malaclypse

              Yes, but they are liars and/or idiots.

          • ajp

            Perception is reality.

        • djw

          At this point eight years ago, Clinton was clearly the favorite but a) in a much weaker position than now, and b) facing a far more formidable candidate in Obama than Sanders could ever hope to be.

          • Pat

            Plus, Clinton has acquired Obama’s organization people, who have two successful presidential campaigns under their belts.

  • Sebastian_h

    “The inability of so many liberals to think structurally is really exasperating.”

    This may be a serious problem with human beings, but it doesn’t seem any more or less so than with Sanders voters. Interestingly the critique seems much stronger as deployed against Clinton. She is THE candidate of the New York monied interests who are deeply invested in keeping the financial structure exactly the way it is.

  • pseudalicious

    It continues to be striking to me how much liberals want to believe in That One Candidate Who Will Change Everything. Like Obama in 2008 (who admittedly stoked these fires for himself), many liberals are turning to the next Great Man to solve our problems.

    We’re glorified chimps. It’s all about trying to do an end-run around our worst impulses. Problem is, you have to start in kindergarten. And get everyone on board.

  • Woodrowfan

    Sanders vs Clinton reminds me of the Dean vs. Kerry wars on Democratic Underground in 2004. Whichever one you prefer, they’re both lightyears better than even the best republican.

    • witlesschum

      Yeah, the main thing I’d like to happen would be for their not to be any lasting scars from Sanders versus Clinton. Especially scars in the way of alienating black voters from the left wing of the party. That’s a more important outcome than whichever candidate wins, even though I agree with Sanders about most things.

      Hopefully, this is only ever an activists on twitter thing and it dies down soon.

      • joe from Lowell

        Well, the RCP national poll aggregator had Sanders at 17.2 on the day of the Netroots Nation immigration panel. Two and a half weeks later, on the day of the Seattle Social Security event he was at 19.3. Today, he is at 22.0.

        There’s really no evidence of any damage to Sanders. If you look at the graphs, you can’t even see a slight inflection on his trend line. It’s like they never happened, as far as the primary goes.

        • Brien Jackson

          Sanders’ numbers with non-white voters are so low that there’s not a ton of room for it to hurt his polling in the immediate term (obvious caveat for making him look bad with white voters, but year). I think it could help him if he manages to use it as an opening to campaign directly to voters of color, but if it’s going to hurt him it would be by permanently alienating voters who weren’t already supporting him.

          • joe from Lowell

            Or, third option, it could completely meaningless, getting no attention outside of internet blog threads full of already-committed people.

            • Brien Jackson

              Of course.

          • SausalitoSurfer

            I get the feeling that Sanders thinks he can turn the BLM incident in Seattle to his favor. He has little recognition among African Americans and, done right, this is an opportunity to make some inroads.

            This is very early in the campaign and anything could happen. At this point, changing perceptions can have a profound influence on the trajectory of things.

            I don’t expect Bernie to make a serious gaffe as he is good with facts, argues well, and knows what he believes. Hillary’s weaknesses are her slipperiness with the truth and her tendency to be a shape-shifter. Her public speaking style is stiff and she comes across as too calculating. If Sanders outperforms expectations in the early states, the media will jump on the meme that Hillary’s time has past (they love a horse race).

            All of that said, I will vote for her if she is the nominee.

            • joe from Lowell

              I will be very interested to finally see some debates when the DNC decides we’re allowed to.

              I have a lot of respect for Hillary as a debater. She was much better than Obama. But that was against regular politicians. I can also imagine a scenario in which she manages to come off as both too awkward, and too slick, compared to Bernie Sanders.

            • Brien Jackson

              Well Sanders’ problem is that he’s a full of himself old white guy. I’d say that odds are at least 50-50 that some contentious moment in a debate ends with him mansplaining to Hillary why he knows more about her than the gender pay gap or something like that.

              • joe from Lowell

                Same thing as above: I can imagine Sanders giving an A performance, or a D.

                • SausalitoSurfer

                  He needs it to be an “A”. Even a “B+” might not be good enough. An “A” could be a game-changer, especially if Clinton stumbles (which isn’t out of the question).

              • ajp

                Well Sanders’ problem is that he’s a full of himself old white guy.

                That certainly makes him unique among politicians. Call me crazy, but there seems to be more animus than substance in your comment.

                debate ends with him mansplaining to Hillary why he knows more about her

                I mean, he’s got his blind spots on race and gender, but he’s not *stupid*. He knows that Hillary is the first serious female candidate for President, and that the base is not really cool with that type of shit anymore, and he’s playing with fire if he condescends to her. Of course, I could very well be proven wrong. But if he’s as smart as I think he is he won’t walk into this very obvious trap (which the Clinton camp will certainly try to bait him into if they’re at all competent).

              • Jackov

                Sanders can watch some of the 2008 debates to learn what not to do. Also avoid the phrase ‘likable enough’ and whatever the folk equivalent of the brush off is.

            • ajp

              Yeah, that’s basically what I believe. Stylistically, Sanders is not as inspiring a speaker as Slick Willie or Obama, but he’s not running against them, he’s running against Hillary Clinton. Who is not a bad speaker, but is not considerably better than Sanders.

              Sanders comes off as a tell-it-like-it-is guy, which a lot of people like in a politician. He also, as you said, argues well. Hillary has a very negative perception among a lot of people (I won’t opine on whether it’s justified so as not to invite needless argument, only acknowledge it) in the ways you describe.

              So I don’t see it as clearcut that Bernie’s “temperament” will sink him vis a vis Clinton.

              Still, Slick Willie is in Hillary’s corner. But I don’t know that a few great speeches from Bill will make up for any of the other stuff.

              Also, how entertaining would a Sanders-Trump presidential debate be?

  • Riggsveda

    “But then again, Bernie’s gun and Israel policies are bad. So progressives would quickly see their hero thrown against the rocks of the system and make some mistakes of his own. They’d call him a sellout and look for the next Great Man to solve all their problems.

    The inability of so many liberals to think structurally is really exasperating.”

    Thanks for this masterpiece of mind-reading and fortune-telling; now I guess I don’t even need to vote. Eric, I have great respect for you and your work, but the disdain in these sentences is beneath you. Your assumption that many of us on the left can’t reason our way out of a paper bag is anecdotal and wrong, but worse, it feels like you and (especially) Scott are always setting up doofus leftist straw men to knock down, even when there are none on the horizon. It’s tiresome, and worse, divisive, and it does not one bit of good.

  • Gregor Sansa

    It’s an interesting feeling, as a White guy who of course always has all the answers, biting my tongue about the debate within BLM. I mean, I have opinions about the NN protest and the Seattle protest and whether they were good strategy (hint: plural “opinions”). But if I started trying to tell Black people what they should think about those things, that would make me a clueless asshole at best. So I shut my mouth. This debate is not going perfectly, but even if I happen to be exactly right about everything, another guy whitesplaining this is not going to help.

    And I don’t want to overdramatize this, but there have been precious few situations in my life where other people are saying what’s on their mind and I don’t get to say what’s on mine. Interesting feeling.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      I learned about that some years ago on a different kind of blog. I try not to be someone who takes his own opinions too seriously but it was still an adjustment that I’m better off for having made

  • Mike in DC

    Changing Everything involves winning the Presidency and Congress in the same election, nuking the filibuster immediately, winning the midterms, winning the next presidential election, and winning the following midterms. Basically, you have to sweep 4 elections in a row, and implement progressive policy in the face of massive resistance. That’s a very tall order under the best of circumstances. Might be impossible in the present circumstances. Re-implementing the 50 state strategy and pouring massive resources into GOTV would help a lot, though.

  • wengler

    These types of posts make you out to be one crabby commentator, Loomis. Even symbolic change matters sometimes.

  • rdennist

    My very quick Ctrl-F turns up NO references to Reagan supporters? Or the rightwing echo chamber? They were the first things I thought of, as cautionary tales.

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