Home / General / How To Build A Strawman: Learning From the Master

How To Build A Strawman: Learning From the Master



Jamelle Bouie made an anodyne point about the mix of support for the Sanders campaign yesterday:

The point is neither difficult to understand nor should it be remotely controversial. Sanders voters are, on balance, more liberal than Clinton voters. But many Sanders voters (like Clinton supporters) are ideological moderates or don’t have coherent ideological views. Sanders’s margins in West Virginia, for example, were essentially identical among Democrats who ID as “very liberal,” “somewhat liberal” and “moderate,” and as has been widely discussed Sanders won among both voters who wanted policies more and less liberal than Barack Obama, although his margins among the former were larger.

The point is simply that you can’t impute a single, collective worldview to Sanders voters. It would be ridiculous to say that Sanders’s unexpectedly strong campaign doesn’t reflect an increasingly liberal Democratic electorate (which is reflected in the party moving to the left, even if to Freddie it’s always 1996.) It would also be ridiculous to claim that each and every Sanders voter — including those whose candidate preference order is Trump > Manchin > Sanders > Clinton > Obama — is screaming for MOAR SOCIALISM.

No point, however, can be simple enough to stop Freddie deBoer from what now occupies virtually all of his time on the internets, arguing with imaginary liberals:

This is a misreading in almost farcical bad faith. Bouie does not deny that there are people to his left. He does not deny that there are supporters of Bernie Sanders who are to his left. He does not deny that Sanders is to Clinton’s left. Bouie did not make the argument that deBoer attributes to him, for the obvious reason that nobody believes these things. It’s about as pure a strawman-burning as you’re ever going to find. He’s arguing with literally nobody.

And, of course, this is a close cousin to the argument that if you make the (unambiguously true) observation that white supremacy is a significant factor in explaining Trump’s capture of the Republican nomination, you therefore oppose policies that would help working-class voters. Needless to say, Freddie is also a big fan of this argument, and also needless to say has identified a grand total of zero liberals who have the views he attributes to them. He’s become so obsessively focused on arguments that everyone on the left of the American political spectrum he perceives as being to his right is Doing Leftism Wrong or is a closet conservative I’m not sure he would be capable of engaging with an actual argument with an actual liberal even if he wanted to. It’s all strawmen, all the way down.

And now, the punchline:

Projection is one hell of a drug.

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  • Amanda in the South Bay

    I love it when Freddie himself left bashes. The irony!

    • sharculese

      I deny that Freddie is to Jamelle Bouie’s left.

      • DrDick

        I deny that Freddie is to any Democrats’ left, though he is definitely orthogonal to reality.

        • brad

          I think one way of saying it is he’s on an increasingly Althousian trajectory where it’s less about political belief than how he’s personally received.
          In a way Freddie isn’t wrong. The left is slowly, individual by individual, rejecting him and turning him into a punchline. It is personal to him because he argues in willful bad faith out of a toxic narcissism and people tend not to like that.

          • sharculese

            Althouse has genuine political beliefs, she’s just indignant about people pegging those beliefs as being those of a fire-breathing reactionary.

            I feel more and more like Freddie’s beliefs are a shifting sand, and that the most important thing about politics for him is the status symbol.

            He rolled his character Left Good, and he’s not going to let something as trivial as every player in the game telling him he’s not conforming to his alignment get in his way.

            • brad

              Yes, but my uninformed view of Althouse is that the personal reception helped to reshape the politics, which I suspect will slowly happen to Freddie as well as he finds himself draw ever closer to publishing at Breitbart.
              Althouse, to my knowledge, still will call herself a Democrat sometimes, when she’s feeling especially trolly. Not that I or anyone else have looked in the last half decade to check.

            • DrDick

              Absolutely. It is quite clear that Freddie, in contrast to Althouse, has no coherent belief system and it is constantly shifting.

              • petesh

                Constantly shifting belief is a kind of ethos, no?

                • The Dark God of Time

                  If he was a Founder, that would explain a lot.

          • Loofah

            I had completely forgotten that Ann Althouse even existed. Curse you for reminding me.

            • brad

              Just for the record, I still am not her.

            • ChrisTS

              I had forgotten that her last name is not, in fact, Outhouse.

              • sonamib

                Alt house sounds like a music genre. Tropical house is too mainstream, all the cool kids are dancing to alt house!

        • I deny that Freddie exists. He is simply a useful fiction for Scott’s arguments, as in the illustration at the top of the post.

          • I’ve been saying that for a couple years. I mean, there can’t be a real person who’s that much of a nincompoop.

        • The Dark God of Time

          And the scalar is in the complex plane.

  • DilbertSucks

    For those who haven’t seen it, this old Eric Alterman article from 2000 on the poison of Naderism, third parties, and purity/therapy politics holds up well. He even mentions Bernie Sanders in the first line!


    Nader’s candidacy, moreover, manifests some of the least attractive aspects of the sectarian left. It demonstrates the old faux-revolutionary tendency to focus fire on one’s natural allies on the center-left rather than one’s genuine enemies on the right. Some Naderites have also displayed a streak of leftist McCarthyism in their attacks on those progressives who question their strategy of abandoning the Democratic Party to the corporations. And Nader has demonstrated extreme carelessness with his words in this campaign, calling the choice between Gore and Bush a choice between Tweedledee and Tweedledum. Given the obvious differences between the two parties (see “Bush or Gore: Does It Matter?” October 16), this posturing comes at considerable cost to the man’s once unquestionable reputation for intellectual honesty and political integrity.

    • Davis

      Reminiscent of George Wallace’s “not a dime’s worth of difference” in 1968. Nice company, Ralph.

      • Webstir

        You guys need to pop on over to the Naked Capitalism blog, and check out all the “not a dime’s worth of difference” between Clinton and Trump commenters. Normally, I have a lot of respect for Yves and Lambert. But they’ve either created, or attracted, a monster on that sight.

        • I had a number of annoying arguments recently with people making that argument. They applied the classic Gish Gallop, moving from argument to argument as each one was refuted. Eventually the claim ends up slumping from “Trump would be no worse than Clinton, if not better” to “neither Clinton or Trump are acceptable to me, so they might as well be the same.”

    • Philip

      Reading that and seeing how many of the “Nader is going to risk causing x” things came true is so depressing. And then there are the things no one could have predicted, like the even-more-total destabilization of the Middle East.

    • Ask Me Gently

      Eric Alterman article from 2000

      Or we could look further back at the German liberal/left refusing to coalesce in the early 30’s, helping allow Hitler to seize power from a minority position.

      Or is that too Godwin-y?

      • Schadenboner

        Godwiny and difficult to support. The KPD hated the SDP like poison, and since their frame of reference was the SPD’s collusion with the freikorps after the 1918/19 revolutions it’s difficult to say that this hate was not justified (at least partly). Likewise, the SDP saw the KPD as a bunch of armed and dangerous terrorists who would as soon line SDPers up against the wall as bargain with them, and they were probably right too (given the direct-from-Moscow positions of the KPD).

        With historical perspective we can say that they should have made common cause because: Hitler, but at the moment, on the ground, it’s difficult to honestly say I would have done otherwise. It’s a bit whigish to judge yesterday’s actions by what happens tomorrow.

  • postmodulator

    Jamelle Bouie: (Detailed argument with statistical evidence)

    Freddie deBoer: “Nuh-uh.”

    • alex284

      Maybe “detailed argument with statistical evidence” is going a little far there.

      His argument is that Sanders’s campaign was about a ideology “as much as” it was about hating Clinton. 3 very obvious and basic problems with that:

      1. It assumes that the “sanders not clinton” is around half of sanders’s supporters. The survey can’t find what percentage of Sanders supporters are Sanders-not-clinton because the survey takers were self-selected and then adjusted for demographics but NBC can’t adjust for the demographics of the sanders-not-clinton group because there’s no reference.

      2. The survey wasn’t even looking for “Sanders supporters,” it asked people who they were going to vote for in the general and then found numbers about the sanders-not-clinton group. So that means that most of the registered voters who responded to the survey probably didn’t support anyone in the primaries. I don’t think Bouie can make statements about what the Sanders campaign was “a vehicle” for from a survey of mostly people who never gave any time, money, or primary votes to Sanders’ campaign.

      3. The ideological labels are self-identification. Bouie doesn’t seem to know this when he mentions and averaging of positions, but positions weren’t even asked about according to NBC’s statement on the polling methodology.

      I don’t think that justifies deBoer’s reaction, but then what do I care about what he has to say.

      • sharculese

        tbh, I find Bouie’s argument a little hard to parse, although that may be a result of it being on twitter.

        But hey, It’s Saturday afternoon. I can go run errands or I can gawk at the latest disaster from America’s Bestest Leftist. Decisions, decisions.

        • alex284

          yeaaaaahahhhhhhhh… me too. Sometimes I get caught up in internet discussions that I forget that my kim chi is getting plenty sour so what am I staring at a screen for?

      • Ronan

        Ah, I now see you made the argument I was trying to make below, but better.

        So, +1

      • You can extract a meaningful, though not properly adjusted, approximation out of the data. The survey did ask about Sanders vs. Clinton primary support among Democrats and Democrat leaners.

        Sanders voters equal 42% of Democrats (out of 33% total) plus Democrat leaners (out of 10% total) or 18% of the total sample. The Sanders-not-Clinton voters were 5% of the total sample, a little less than two thirds of them Democrats or Independents, so the Sanders voters who would rather vote for Trump than Clinton come to about a sixth of the Sanders support, or just under 3% of the total. And 5/6 of Sanders voters will vote for Clinton. That’s a number I saw someplace yesterday, so I’m not the only one who’s come up with it (alas I can’t remember).

        In fact–can’t put a number to it, but it’s notionally clear–a vast majority of those who regard themselves as being to Clinton’s left, the 5/6 of the Sanders vote plus some very substantial portion of the Clinton vote (including me), will be voting for Clinton. That’s what’s got Freddie and so many others so upset, the looming implication that they aren’t as left as they think they are.

      • Manju

        Yeah, there’s a problem with Boule’s argument.

        “Sanders not Clinton” refers to the groups of voters who say they’d vote for Bernie over Trump while simultaneously saying they would not vote for Clinton in a Hill v Donald matchup.

        NBC News is trying to explain “Why Does Sanders Do Better Than Clinton Against Trump?”. There’s a gap here in Bernie’s favor. But the gap is small. The vast majority of Bernie voters would vote for Clinton over Trump.

        Boulle appears to be reading “Sanders not Clinton” as voters who prefer sanders over clinton in a head to head against each other. But its not that.

        It’s the small group that support Bernie but would nonetheless vote trump (or at least not vote for clinton) in a head to head against Trump. It’s Freddie and Cornel West and maybe the “integrity in gamer journalism” crew.

        • It’s a bad poll question. But here’s an easy way to make Jamelle’s point: in the exits, Sanders consistently won among those who said Obama’s been too conservative, but he’s ALSO won among those who say Obama’s been too liberal. The latter group is significantly smaller, but he won it solidly.

          I know Michigan really well, and I spent hours looking at results down to the precinct level. Bernie won mainly because he outspent Clinton 2-1. But the details are that she did OK among African-Americans, but not as well as she should have. He, as expected, did great with students, but only pulled in the 55% range in Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti and Lansing/East Lansing (which I think had a lot to do with her support from AFSCME. SEIU, NEA, and AFT). He did well in areas with a lot of younger professionals without families. She had solid margins in Jewish areas. Despite the uninformed nonsense on election night, she won the only majority Muslim community in America, and there’s no clear evidence he won among Arabs, and she almost certainly won among Chaldeans. She won the areas with lots of UAW members, and she won the areas with a lot of white collar workers with auto or in connected industries.

          But where he slaughtered her was in the most Republican rural areas with few UAW retirees (essentially the OH/IN border, and up through the western Lower Peninsula and most of the Upper Peninsula, and where he amassed a margin greater than his statewide margin was Kent and Ottawa counties, the GOP’s donor and vote base, and the heart of the Dutch Bible Belt, with the highest concentration of white evangelicals outside the South.

          Bernie won with lefties, but not as much as people think. He won big among young voters, and probably not just white young voters. He didn’t run up wins in places heavy with unionized manufacturing. But he rocked in Repub areas, especially among men.

          • Manju

            It’s a bad poll question.

            Well the poll is designed to answer the question; “Why Does Sanders Do Better Than Clinton Against Trump?”

            Boule in contrast wants to knowthe ideological makeup of Bernie supporters. But he’s looking at data (“Sanders not Clinton”) that represents only a fraction (maybe 5%) of those supporters.

            • Ask Me Gently

              “Why Does Sanders Do Better Than Clinton Against Trump?”

              There is so much that is hypothetical in this question it’s almost not worth considering. As the underdog, Sanders has been given a very soft rhetorical ride from GOP opinion-makers. Clinton, not so much.

              Sanders winning the nom would have opened multiple spillways of toxic bilge.

          • marduk

            It’s been my anecdotal observation that democratic voters in rural areas are really, really liberal on environmental and economic issues, extreme isolationists or pacifists on foreign policy, fairly liberal on human rights issues like racial justice, gay rights and abortion, and very conservative on gun rights* and private property/land use. Basically exactly what you’d expect if a bunch of hippies bought land out in the middle of nowhere and raised a family.

            Then again I grew up in New England so the rural liberals I know are all basically Bernie’s idealized target demo made flesh.

            * as in “I need my guns to hunt game and kill pests”, not “I need my guns because I fantasize about shooting minorities”

            • very conservative on gun rights*

              I’m skeptical about that. Dems in the West generally tend to be softer on gun issues than in the East, and I know a number of people who characterize themselves as “liberal gun nuts”, but when it comes down to it they virtually always support things like background checks, mandatory registration, and sometimes even handgun bans.

              The gun debate is really heavily monopolized by a small minority in control of the NRA, which promotes conspiracy theories about gun-grabbers, and a small minority of liberals who support complete firearms bans. Polling shows that even NRA members favor the moderate gun control policies of national Democrats.

              (I agree with my lefty gun nut friends that the assault weapons ban is mostly security theater; some of the more anarchist-leaning of them, though, argue that citizens need guns to protect themselves from government oppression, and that’s an argument I cannot accept.)

            • I’m from Michigan, spent a lot of my time in rural Michigan, and in addition to numerous campaigns in Michigan, I have done campaigns in Connecticut, rural Louisiana, statewide in Kansas and Minnesota, and in half of New Hampshire, including he entire western and northern parts of the state. People in rural New England are unlike rural people anywhere else in the country. They’re by far more liberal than anywhere else in America.

              BTW, when I was discussing Michigan, I’m fairly certain a lot of those rural areas where Bernie did well, he did well because of Indies and some Repubs.

              • LFC

                Your comments about Michigan interesting. I know very little about MI (I assume it was an open primary), but I can’t understand why Sanders beat Clinton so soundly in those rural Repub evangelical areas, unless the Dem turnout there was very low, in which case my hypothesis wd be that there are some disgruntled voters there who wanted to cast what they thought of as a protest vote and didn’t like Trump.

                Sanders also won some states in the primary/caucus that are heavily Repub states in a general election, e.g. Utah, Idaho, Montana, if I’m recalling correctly. Same kind of dynamic at work there? Maybe, though I really don’t have a handle on why — Sanders does represent a rural state, but he really didn’t talk much on the stump about problems specific to rural areas and small towns, or if he did I missed it.

      • Manju

        It assumes that the “sanders not clinton” is around half of sanders’s supporters.

        Well, NBC News is saying that Clinton beats Trump by 1- 2%. But Sanders beats Trump by approximately 12 points.

        There’s like a 10% gap.

        So if approximately 5% of the Sanders Voters flip to the republican side, we would get the results we see in Clinton v Trump. 50% is ridiculous.

        • Manju
        • UserGoogol

          Saying that Sanders supporters were motivated by opposition to Clinton doesn’t mean that in the general election they’ll continue being motivated by dislike of Clinton. People have both ideological beliefs and personal dislike of Clinton simultaneously. And if they have ideological beliefs, anyone with any coherent set of ideological beliefs who finds themselves in the Democratic Party is going to find a lot of ideological reasons to not want Trump to win.

          X voted for Sanders because they oppose Clinton for personal reasons, but will vote for Clinton in the general election because they oppose Trump for ideological reasons is a completely coherent position.

          • Manju

            But the group Boule is looking at (“Sanders not Clinton”) is composed of those who have specifically said they’d vote for Bernie in an imaginary matchup against Trump…but not Hill.

    • It’s more like ‘Nuh-uh, because of some belief or characteristic that makes you part of the power structure that has kept the world from knowing my genius, but you’re kinda prominent, so maybe picking a stupid fight with you, and getting you exasperated, will make everyone realize I’m a genius and then I can move in next to Katrina Vanden Huevel”

      About a month or so ago he tried to bait me on Twitter. I told him I was quite certain I wasn’t prominent enough to get him the attention he craved. He didn’t respond.

      • ChrisTS

        I remember that. That was hilarious.

      • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

        Bingo. Freddie’s problem is he hasn’t been ignored enough.

  • cpinva

    if you scream out in a vacuum, can anyone hear you? mr. deBoer has created his own little bubble world, insulated from the reality the rest of us inhabit (well, most of us anyway), and he rails against the imaginary, not quite leftist enough demons populating this nightmare world. in other words, he’s kind of an idiot.

  • DilbertSucks

    Sanders’s margins in West Virginia, for example, were essentially identical among Democrats who ID as “very liberal,” “somewhat liberal” and “moderate,”

    By the way, can people stop citing West Virginia’s exit polls as proof of anything? A large % of “Sanders voters” in WV said they’d vote for Trump over Sanders himself in the general election. That means they were in reality Trump voters trolling Clinton rather than representative of Sanders voters. By that time, Trump had already clinched the nomination and his supporters were free to troll the Democratic primaries if they wished.

    • sharonT

      I don’t think those voters were Republicans per se. Some of these voters supported Clinton in the 2008 primary vs. Obama. I think these are Democrats or former Democrats who’ll vote for the candidate that doesn’t have a coalition that includes African Americans and Hispanics.

      • DilbertSucks

        “Sanders voters” in WV saying they’d vote for Trump over Sanders or Clinton in the general election is pretty clear cut trolling. You didn’t really find that in any states which voted before WV.

        It’s not as if this kind of hijinx never happened in primaries before, especially when one party already had their nominee:


        Since Michigan allows primary voters to declare their affiliation at the time they vote, Santorum campaign paid for robo-calls inviting Democrats to cross over and vote for him.[10] Romney called this tactic “outrageous” and “disgusting” but Santorum defended himself as not doing anything wrong but getting people to vote in an open primary.[11]

        Some Democrats also urged their supporters to vote for Santorum in the Republican primary, in hopes of forcing the Republican candidates to use more resources and help make it easier for Barack Obama to win the general election.[12] This is similar to Rush Limbaugh’s “Operation Chaos”, where Limbaugh urged voters in the 2008 Democratic Presidential primaries to vote for Hillary Clinton, whom he saw as being a weaker candidate than Obama.[13] Michigan has a long history of such crossover voting; in 2000, strong Democratic crossover votes helped Senator John McCain win the Michigan Republican primary.[14] In 1972, Republican crossover votes propelled Governor George Wallace to victory in the Democratic primary.[15][16]

        • random

          They aren’t trolling, sincerely prefer Sanders to Clinton, and they showed up in plenty of state primaries other than just WV. In fact there were plenty of articles detailing the existence of these people prior to any of the primary contests.

          Among the white voting population, there’s a right-leaning subgroup who were considering whether to support Trump or Sanders, but who would never vote for Clinton.

          • guthrie

            Well in that case surely the question is, did they vote for Obama last time? Because if he could win without them, I think they would be irrelevant to this election.

        • It’s not quite the right analogy. Michigan doesn’t have party registration. There’s no procedural way in which according to voting rules and laws that a voter is a known Republican or Democrat. But in places like West Virginia and Oklahoma, they do, and a lot of people retain their Dem partisan ID to vote in local and legislative elections for people like that bigot clerk in Kentucky who squawked about SSM, who was a Democrat.

          In Oklahoma in 2012 Obama only got 59% of the primary vote. Randall Terry won enough of the vote to qualify for delegates to the national convention…something Martin O’Malley couldn’t pull off.

    • Alex.S

      Oklahoma also had this result.

      It had nothing to do with the primary being over. It’s an effect of a closed primary that has a lot of older voters who are still registered Democrats but will vote for the Republican.

  • Ronan

    As a question to someone who might know, would this data be skewed by the differences in self identification in each group? Ie someone defining themselves ideologically in the dems might say they’re left liberal relative to the norm, whereas among Sanders they might identify as moderate when within a more leftist coalition ?

    This data seems to say on actual policy preferences Sanders supporters are more left, or perhaps more specifically are more concerned with economic issues


    Edit: actually, I assume my first question is what bouie meant by”averaging of ideological positions”?

    • Ronan

      Deleted. Posted to early

    • DrDick

      His supporters are also significantly younger, and younger voters today trend strongly left.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Nobody is disputing that Sanders’s voters are, on balance, to the left of Clinton’s voters.

      • Ronan

        Well Bouie, at least, is ignoring it, by those tweets anyway. Is it clear, from his data, that ‘the Sanders campaign was as much a vehicle for non-ideological anti-Clinton discontent as it was ideological discontent.’? Im not sure how his bar charts show that?

        • sharculese

          I don’t think he’s ignoring it, he’s saying that ‘yes, that’s a part of it, but the whole story is more complicated.’

          • Ronan

            How is he saying that? And if indeed that’s what he’s saying, (or as per SL The point is simply that you can’t impute a single, collective worldview to Sanders voters), who exactly is he responding to? And how is it not responding to a strawman?

            • sharculese

              I don’t know. As I said upthread, I’m not sure I completely understand what Bouie is saying, but to the extent I do understand it he seems to be pushing back against the idea that Sanders success is wholly due to a leftward lurch of the Democratic base.

              • random

                The middle column is people who would have voted for either Hillary or Sanders in November. i.e. the ‘base’ of the Democratic Party.

                On the right is people who would vote Sanders but say they will not vote for another Democrat. Their support for the party is contingent on who the party runs, they aren’t the ‘base’ and they aren’t terribly liberal.

                The right column does not represent a majority of BS’s support, but subtract them from his totals and he’s stuck somewhere in the 30’s in national polling instead of 40’s.

              • gmack

                One of Bouie’s ongoing arguments, at least if one reads his Slate columns, is that it is incorrect to read the Sanders campaign as the manifestation of leftist movement that is the vanguard of a new leftist push in the Democratic party. In making this argument, he tries to refute the ways many on the left read the Sanders campaign (Corey Robin, for instance; joe from Lowell, iirc, also made that claim). Part of the leftist case for Sanders-campaign-as-vanguard is the idea that the campaign won big among the young (who are taken as representatives of the next generation of the party), and the these young people are very liberal.

                Anyway, I read Bouie’s tweet as a contribution to his critique of this leftist interpretation. In trying to show that a significant number of Sanders supporters are not actually all that leftist, he’s trying to reinterpret the campaign as, more or less, yet another Democratic insurgency (like Dean, or Hart, or Jesse Jackson) that lost and will likely fade away.

                I personally do not have much interest (or an opinion) on the question at stake here, but that’s what I take to be the context of the tweet.

              • The natural experiment that the laws of nature forbid us from running is: what would have happened if Clinton had decided to withdraw in September 2015, perhaps for health reasons, and Biden had entered in her stead?

                Biden and Clinton are ideologically almost impossible to distinguish, other than Biden being rumored to have been somewhat more dovish than Clinton in the Obama administration. Biden has historically been as much in the tank for the credit industry as Clinton is accused of being for Wall Street, so the same general arguments would work against him. So ultimately any difference in success between the two would be heavily personal: male vs. female, Clinton vs. Not Clinton, avuncular and gaffe-y vs. cool and controlled, and of course popular vs. not popular.

                My hunch is that Biden would have crushed Sanders, because a significant subset of Sanders voters were motivated by specific dislike of Hillary Clinton, famous ball-busting feminazi, warmonger, neoliberal, killer of Vince Foster, etc. These supporters are probably concentrated in the states Sanders won.

                • ColBatGuano

                  I would subscribe to your newsletter.

          • Ronan

            I mean the place Ive most often seen the argument that Sanders supporters were a collection of leftist idealists (outside of morons like FDB) has been from their opponents; for example, an article by K Drum that wrote Sanders coalition off as naive leftists who would become disillusioned with politics after defeat. Objecting to this, as I did, on the basis of its evidence free conjecture got me scorned and vilified.

            • brad

              I think the underlying argument is that a significant portion of the noisy “or bust” contingent are not actually on the left by any reasonable definition. Not all, but a meaningful amount. Many are Ron Paul fanboys, or would have been if this weren’t babby’s first election, and their attachment to Bernie isn’t so much about his actual policies and chosen issues so much as the perception that he is not part of and against “the system”.

              • sharculese

                I’ve actually been thinking recently about how much the Bernie or Bust crowd’s arguments remind me of the terrible arguments I was hearing from Ron Paul fans in 2008, right down to “well, Congress wouldn’t let him do most of the stuff he wants to do, so what does it matter.”

                Granted, there are obvious differences, like the lack of white supremacy and the fact that nobody’s tried to buy Bernie a blimp, yet.

                • The Golden Age of Ballooning, part 88: Ron Paul’s Blimp Airship.

                • Somebody just explained to me that the stat that Hillary and Bernie voted together 93 percent of the time is irrelevant because the Senate is so conservative that although Bernie’s votes mean he’s a progressive her votes mean she’s a conservative.

                • UncleEbeneezer

                  @Amai- Wow, who knew the delineation between the two would fall conveniently right in that 7% difference. It’s almost like someone drew it there just for Bernie’s sake!

                • Hogan

                  Aimai: So which one is Cervantes and which one is Pierre Menard?

              • nixnutz

                It seems a little off to me that Bouie is using that graph to make a point about Sanders’ support in general, but it is interesting as to the Busters. But I’m always conscious that HA Goodman’s first choice was Jim Webb so it’s not surprising, even if they do tend to frame their arguments as Clinton should be unacceptable to the left.

                • random

                  I think the point he’s making about Sanders supporters in general is that you can’t make points about Sanders supporters in general.

              • Ronan

                Right, it does seem Sanders supporters are more “libertarian” minded, or another way of putting it less authoritarian/conservative


        • Scott Lemieux

          Well Bouie, at least, is ignoring it

          Christ. Bouie cites two factors. One of them is “ideological discontent.” So, in conclusion, he is not ignoring that which he specifically cites.

      • FlipYrWhig

        I would dispute it anecdotally and I haven’t seen many statistics to confirm it more empirically–the link you have to FiveThirtyEight doesn’t seem to me to say much about Quien es mas liberal.

        My sense is that Clinton supporters and Sanders supporters would agree almost uniformly about the hallmarks of an ideal American polity. Clinton supporters may be marginally more supportive of market forces and regulated capitalism; Sanders supporters more sympathetic to forms of anarchism and collectivism, although I would hasten to add that the most vociferous Sanders supporters I know are college professors and hipsters, who would fare very poorly as communards.

        The biggest divide between them ideologically is how to get from where we are now to where we’d like to be and on what timetable: incrementally or uncompromisingly/confrontationally. The much bigger divide is not ideological but personal: Sanders supporters believing that Hillary Clinton is a malefactor of wealth and a warmonger who uses liberalism as a smokescreen and affirmatively seeks to reinforce the status quo. I don’t think that’s a sign of being “more liberal.” It’s the sign of being an asshole.

        • Bingo.

        • Ronan

          Well, what you see in my link above


          is that there is the greatest divergence on issues like inequality, trade and the enviornment (and Id assume foreign policy)
          So ‘Sanders supporters believing that Hillary Clinton is a malefactor of wealth and a warmonger’ is probably more an outgrowth of policy preference difference, rather than divisions on the best way to achieve political change.

          • nixnutz

            The really striking thing there though is how small both the blue and green bars are for most of the questions. Yes, Sanders supporters are to the left of Clinton supporters but on 8 of the 9 questions a majority of them agree with, or are to the right of, Clinton herself. And on the 9th, “Oppose Free Trade Deals,” it’s still only ~30% for Sanders supporters vs. ~20% for Clinton’s.

            On the whole it’s a depressing picture of Democrats in general.

    • alex284

      Averaging of ideological positions is a known problem with identifying moderates in polling. If someone wants to round up all immigrants and deport them (extreme right) but they also want to have a 100% tax on high incomes (extreme left), the poll will record them as a moderate. Usually people like that just don’t follow politics, although some of them might be informed oddballs.

      I don’t know what it matters here since this poll just asked people what they identified as in terms of ideology. A quick way to label people’s beliefs is to just ask them if they’re liberal, moderate, or conservative, but of course it’s not all that accurate.

      • Ronan

        Ah, thanks for the explanation.

  • bobbo1

    To the extent it exists, “new spasm of unhinged left-bashing” is probably people being mean to Freddie on Twitter

    • “new spasm of unhinged left-bashing” is probably people being mean to Freddie on Twitter

      Well, either that or a band name. (THE LOWER-CASE INITIAL LETTERS ARE SIGNIFICANT!!! ANTI-CAPITALISM R00LZ ok!!!)

    • Bruce B.

      I have seen Clinton-supporting friends on Facebook unleash some amazingly hateful rants against anyone who favors Sanders because of his stances that are to the left of Clinton’s, up to an including them actually favoring Trump and/or the religious right and yearning to see their mutual friends who are gay, disabled, not white, etc., driven into the ovens.

      I’ve also seen Sanders-supporting friends of friends unleash some amazingly hateful rants at Clinton supporters, including two recycling the right-wing claim that Soros started his fortune in 1944, helping the Nazis loot Jews being loaded into trains for the extermination camps, and that since he’s a prominent funder of Clinton’s campaign, she’s running with the help of blood money.

      So it’s not just Freddie. But he certainly does his bit to make himself a good target for anyone wanting to rage a while.

      • Really?


        Sanders because of his stances that are to the left of Clinton’s, up to an including them actually favoring Trump and/or the religious right and yearning to see their mutual friends who are gay, disabled, not white, etc., driven into the ovens.

        I’m having a hard time processing this. “yearning to see their mutual friends who are gay, disabled, not white, driven into the ovens?” Is this an argument your pro hillary friends are making about their ideal type Sanders supporter?

        • ChrisTS

          This really does seem …odd. I don’t know any Hillary supporter who would wish for such things.

        • brendalu

          The closest I’ve seen to what I *think* this is saying is a claim that the Or Busters who are threatening Trump/Stein/no vote are by doing so declaring themselves a-ok with the considerable harm that those groups will suffer.

          Which is not entirely unfair, in my view, but it’s different than saying they want those things.

          • Halloween Jack

            OK, that makes more sense.

      • Thlayli

        FTR, Soros was 14 on V-E Day.

        He must have been some kind of prodigy if he figured out a way to make money out of collaboration at that age.

        • It was mostly how he invested the loot as he got older, with the help of his Paraguayan Nazi bankers.

          Sheesh, I thought everyone knew this…

    • It’s also the de facto defense of bad arguments, as being under attack for posing a political threat to the status quo.


      “Uh, no, it’s 4.”

      “Oh, I see the alert went out for all the neoliberals to rally and stomp down any attempt to advance a leftist dialogue in this country.”

      • Scott Lemieux

        It’s also the de facto defense of bad arguments, as being under attack for posing a political threat to the status quo.


        “Uh, no, it’s 4.”

        “Oh, I see the alert went out for all the neoliberals to rally and stomp down any attempt to advance a leftist dialogue in this country.”

        This, precisely. Cf. also how “hippie punching” is now used to mean “disagreeing with my shitty argument.”

        • I’ve wanted to defenestrate “hippie punching” through the Overton Window for a long, long time.

          • petesh

            +500 mikes and an ounce of sinsemilla

            [In several of my grassroots political organizing efforts, the actual and obviously former hippies (my quondam peers) were the easiest to convince. That includes early support for a local minimum wage increase and early work against the first Gulf War.]

  • NeonTrotsky

    This is probably a good time to point out as well that there are a number of people who self identify as conservative and moderate also are know to hold consistently liberal or liberal leaning views.

  • NewishLawyer

    Anecdotal evidence time, I have seen two things from the BernieBros this week following Tuesday’s primaries and the Obama-Sanders meeting:

    1. A slow drift towards must defeat Trump; or

    2. Articles on how there are 2.5 million California ballots that still need to be counted and something else on how 2/3rds of Millennials want Sanders to run as a third party candidate.

    Michelle Goldberg got it right. Bernie or Busters are not progressives, they are nihilists.

    • Amanda in the South Bay

      Its amazing how an old white guy from a very white state has captured the minds of millennial BernieBusters.

      Michelle Goldberg got it right. Bernie or Busters are not progressives, they are nihilists.

      Not just BernieBusters, but people on the left who identify as being far left/communist/etc and who despise the party system (though they largely overlap). Its especially annoying when such people have massive amounts of class privilege, but I digress…

      EDIT: The amount of conspiracy theory nonsense spouted by them is fucking ridiculous. Its like… you could have a contest, die hard Bernie supporter who thinks the DNC conspired against him, or late 90s Limbaugh caller. Not much of a difference.

      • has captured the minds of millennial BernieBusters.

        I don’t think many of the obnoxious Bernie people are millennials. Almost every time I see photos of Bernie people being assholes at some event it’s disproportionately old guys with beards and crazy-looking women in their 40’s. It’s the same crowd that defends Nader, or insisted Kucinich be treated like a legitimate candidate for President, and who wanted Obama defeated in 2012.

        • And they still hate Obama.

        • gmack

          That’s been my experience too. This is purely anecdotal, but the Bernie or Busters I know are all older Gen-Xers (in their upper 40s and 50s), and the Bernie stuff is just the latest manifestation of the conspiracy thinking and pseudo-radical politics that they’ve been engaging in for decades: They were all Kucinich/Nader people, and they all dabble (or wholeheartedly embrace) all of the classic conspiracy theories (JFK, aliens, com-trails, 9/11 was an inside job–that sort of thing). And as Aimai notes, they all tend to hate Obama.

          • Before they blocked me on FB, a friend of a friend was saying that we should aim for Trump because we can vote him out in 4 years while with Clinton we’d have 8 and that was too much.

            She clearly was older, maybe somewhat older than me. She was going full conspiracy on a lotta things.

            • kped

              Any story that begins “before they blocked me on FB” is fantastic!

            • sonamib

              Hey, Bijan, remember when we talked in April about trying to estimate the number of cross-over voters in the primaries (aka “ratfuckers”)? Well, all the speculations above about the nature of the Sanders West Virginian voters revived my interest in this question. And now I’ve finally got some free time, so I could work on it!

              If you’re interested and want to help me out, send an email to [my username] (dot) lgm (at) gmail (dot) com.

          • jim, some guy in iowa

            about the same here in general though the “bust-ers” seem to be more 60-ish

        • ChrisTS

          Yup. See: Nevada.

        • Amanda in the South Bay

          I’m thinking of my former social circles in the Bay Area. Def under 40 and not male.

      • Ronan

        Well this gives some insight into the politics of bernies younger voters


    • ChrisTS

      On DK I see [purported] Berners saying they will vote for Johnson. How does that work? I know I'm just an old philosopher, but how does one go from supporting a leftist to supporting a libertarian?

      • The libertarian-Freddie/Greenwald-left alliance is old old old. It mostly rests on civil liberties and isolationism.

        • Amanda in the South Bay

          YEP! Don’t forget a sprinkling and a dash of alt-right.

        • ChrisTS

          I get the civil liberties connection, but how is isolationism ‘leftist’?

          • kped

            “You are supporting killing brown people!”

            That’s how it is isolationist. Anything that isn’t isolation is neoliberal murder and you have blood on your hands you dirty right wing monster!

            • Amanda in the South Bay

              The far left has come full circle with 1990s talk radio.

  • sharculese

    Also, HR-Compliant Freddie really is just peak Freddie petulance.

    • wjts

      Is there some context behind that?

      • sharculese

        It’s almost certainly a sneer about the Breunig firing and the Rensin suspension.

        Which is funny because if there’s anyone who HR needs to keep an eye on to make sure they’re not harassing people on Twitter, it’s Freddie.

        • the Breunig firing

          Speaking of which, he took down his website. I wonder what’s up with that.

          People still schmucking about the incident on Twitter.

    • I don’t think Freddie petulance has a peak.

      • ChrisTS

        Yeah, it’s a bit like asking how much crazier Trump can get.

  • Steppanhammer

    It is so fitting the “Sanders not Clinton” graph is a giant middle finger.

    • keta

      At first glance I thought that was the entire point of the exercise.

      On reading through, I’m convinced.

  • a_paul_in_mtl

    Ironically enough for the Bernie or Bust folks, many of the folks who voted for Sanders did so not because they are social democrats but because they saw him as the “lesser of two evils”. Basically, they see Sanders as someone who seems genuine and down to earth compared to most politicians, and who is relatively untainted by extensive involvement in the often horrendous machinery of state power. That is also why he is more popular among the general electorate than Clinton- certainly not because the general electorate is to the left of the average Democratic primary voter.

    • FlipYrWhig

      I think this is correct, and agree that it needs to be taken into account before presuming that we know much about the overlap between preferring Sanders and preferring greater liberalism and/or populism.

  • Amanda in the South Bay

    Freddie is by far the most prominent of the “I’m a true leftist but not into SJW/identity politics/the Democratic Party” leftists online. He criticizes other leftists/progressives/liberals for not living up to his ideals, and almost never goes after any rightists/reactionaries. Is it any wonder he gets quoted by people who blog at Status451 *and* BernieBusters? In fact I bet he publishes first at Status451 (or some other alt-right/NrX friendly site) before Breitbart.

    • kped

      and almost never goes after any rightists/reactionaries.

      To be honest, I’ve never seen him go after them at all. Maybe nutpicking some random twitter person once, but actual right wingers and their beliefs? Never. Actual right wing leaders? Not a single time.

      But he has a mad hate-on for any black journalist/opinion writer. In that same thread he said Jamelle is teh person he lost the most respect for this election https://twitter.com/freddiedeboer/status/741471788320837633 (and for the life of me, I cannot figure that one out. Seriously, go through his slate page for the entire campaign, please tell me what makes him uniquely terrible: http://www.slate.com/authors.jamelle_bouie.html

      Hint: It’s the same thing that made TNC “not ready for the big leagues” when The Atlantic signed him (and the same thing that makes Freddie occasional throw passive aggressive shade at TNC now, randomly quoting people attacking him at times since his book came out).

      It’s the same thing that made him attack Imani Gandi about her 7 month as a law clerk at a bank that specialized in mortgage modifications…and then made him pay someone money for legal document (that he didn’t read or understand) to try to attack her publicly on twitter again months later.

      (for the slow: It’s because they’re black).

      • Lord Jesus Perm

        At least I’m not the only one who’s noticed that Freddie’s special brand of leftier-than-thouism also contains a pretty blatant strain of anti-blackness.

  • K

    interesting charts i dont really like either party the republicans are all like the biggest threat facing this country is gay people we should have police storm the peoples bedrooms but then the democrats are like pay more taxes and fork over all your guns. i don’t really like either party much we should have a party that doesnt regulate how people do sex but also doesn’t tax people too much or take away everyones guns.

    • That would be the Libertarian Party. As you can see from their typical election performance, it’s not actually a popular platform.

    • ChrisTS

      Dems are not asking to take away anyone’s guns – unless the person with said guns is a domestic abuser, mentally unstable, or threatening to kill people.

  • K

    jeremy w the liberarian wants to do a bunch of crazy stuff they want to legalize drug like crack and meth and they want to make it illegal for people to get drivers licenses. thats crazy stuff ive been around people on drugs and they tend to act crazy and people need to be able to drive if we got rid of drivers licenses people would have to go back to moving around by horses and it would take a lot longer.

    • One morning K woke up and found he had become a giant cockroach. Or liberarian.

      • Just read the newest post on your own blog, and it was really good.

        • keta


      • The Dark God of Time

        According to Nabokov, who was an amateur entomologist, K was(or is) a beetle.

        Next question: what insect? Commentators say cockroach, which of course does not make sense. A cockroach is an insect that is flat in shape with large legs, and Gregor is anything but flat: he is convex on both sides, belly and back, and his legs are small. He approaches a cockroach in only one respect: his coloration is brown. That is all. Apart from this he has a tremendous convex belly divided into segments and a hard rounded back suggestive of wing cases. In beetles these cases conceal flimsy little wings that can be expanded and then may carry the beetle for miles and miles in a blundering flight. Curiously enough, Gregor the beetle never found out that he had wings under the hard covering of his back. (This is a very nice observation on my part to be treasured all your lives. Some Gregors, some Joes and Janes, do not know that they have wings.) Further, he has strong mandibles. He uses these organs to turn the key in a lock while standing erect on his hind legs, on his third pair of legs (a strong little pair), and this gives us the length of his body, which is about three feet long. In the course of the story he gets gradually accustomed to using his new appendages—his feet, his feelers. This brown, convex, dog-sized beetle is very broad. I should imagine him to look like this:
        In the original German text the old charwoman calls him Mistkäfer, a “dung beetle.” It is obvious that the good woman is adding the epithet only to be friendly. He is not, technically, a dung beetle. He is merely a big beetle. (I must add that neither Gregor nor Kafka saw that beetle any too clearly.)


    • PohranicniStraze

      “ive been around people on drugs and they tend to act crazy”

      You don’t say…

  • Realitybites

    more anecdotal – from my workplace. ALL the Bernies were Rand Paul supporters at one time. Highly interested in the plan for free college. They have kids, and no pensions, and few opportunities to make “enough” money to both save for retirement and send kids to college. All are men, all have wives that want to stay home with the kids but they need two paychecks. One of them has worked two jobs himself from time to time. He told me that “even NPR” – that he thinks is left-leaning – says Hillary is a crook. All of my co-workers that are for Trump. 2nd amendment and Charles Murray and “those people” game the system are the basis for their “reasoning”. These are all white guys. The company has African American employees but I do not have regular interactions with them at my workplace. The next 6 months at work will be reeaaallly stressful. Plus all the Trump yard signs and confederate flags I drive by daily on my way to work. :(

    • ColBatGuano

      Highly interested in the plan for free college

      I have been trying to be charitable this primary, but have come to the sneaking suspicion that this is by far the most popular of Sanders positions for younger voters.

  • I don’t think Bouie’s argument works unless “Bernie Busters” are a substantial proportion of Sanders’ supporters. My understanding is that this is not the case.

    However, this just adds to the (conclusive, in my opinion) case that “Bernie Busters” are not generally leftist. I think it was on Vox that I recently saw the results of a poll showing that Sanders supporters who said they would not vote for Clinton had a 8% approval rating for Clinton and (I want to say) 27% for Trump, but well over 50% for Obama and something ridiculous like 65% for Joe Biden. Someone who approves of Obama and Biden but not of Clinton is probably not motivated by unshakable leftist priors.

  • kped

    It’s funny how this from Gawker stil holds up 4 years later:

    Freddie de Boer
    Freddie de Boer, a graduate student in rhetoric and composition at Purdue University, writes for the New Inquiry and operates a blog named after a Camus story. He is lefter than you, and he doesn’t hang out with other bloggers like you do, so he hasn’t been corrupted like you. He is honored to be on this list, and his inclusion here likely proves some point of his.


    “And his inclusion here likely proves some point of his” may be the best distillation of Freddie. He’s having an argument in his head, and dammit, he is right!

    • Warren Terra

      For me, nothing will ever top de Boer – a man signally unable to write well or to make a case convincingly – getting a PhD in composition and rhetoric.

  • BartletForGallifrey

    Sady Doyle is my everything right now.

    • wjts

      Barlet’s a neoliberal sellout; I’m voting for Borusa.

      • BartletForGallifrey

        This is the single greatest response I’ve ever gotten to anything I’ve ever posted anywhere on the internet.

        • wjts

          Meh. If I were clever, I would have written “#BorusaOrBust”.

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