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All “X Woulda Won” Arguments Are Essentially Useless

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BALTIMORE, MD –5/15/10– Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley gives the thumb up right before the start of the 135th running of the Preakness Stakes. PHOTO BY:Kenneth K. Lam [Baltimore Sun staff] #2477 MANDATORY CREDIT: Baltimore Examiner and Washington Examiner OUT ORG XMIT: BAL1005152007330720
Jeremy Corbyn’s impressive performance in the snap election has led to another round of “Bernie woulda won” assertions. To state the obvious, this is a taunt, not an argument. A narrow defeat by the out party in a completely different political and media context says absolutely nothing about what tactics or candidates would have won the 2016 American presidential election. And nobody really believes that it does.  Is anyone making “Bernie woulda won” arguments going to argue that Macron — who actually won the presidency and whose new party won crushing legislative majorities — is evidence that neoliberalism is the best weapon against fascism and the Democrats should emulate him? Of course not. And they’re right! But this is because of substantive policy reasons, not political reasons. And I wish people would just say that, rather that this bad faith Mark Halperin crap about how my policy preferences are always the best politics in every election in every jurisdiction.

Well, almost nobody. Ygelsias tries to salvage the argument by taking it out of the realm of the pundit’s fallacy:

I think this is entirely possible, particularly with a generic white guy Dem like Biden or O’Malley. Sanders I dunno — I have a hard time imagining political reporters for whom deficit and entitlement cuts are some of the view things where Views Do Not Reasonably Differ warming up to Bernie, but then compared to Clinton media treatment is pretty much all upside. And presumably the Director of the FBI would not have baselessly implied than any of them were crooks less than 2 weeks before the election. And if Bernie might have got less favorable media treatment than a generic candidate he also has base mobilizing potential that they didn’t.

Having said that, this line of reasoning still doesn’t strike me as very useful:

  • The logic here — a candidate with higher favorability ratings would have done better — is solid. But nobody knows how another candidate’s favorability would have held up during a campaign. Hillary Clinton was popular before she started running for president too.
  • The argument has an implied ceteris paribus condition. The election came down to less that 100,000 votes. Take away the director of the FBI baselessly implying that Clinton was a crook and generating a massive wave of negative coverage less than two weeks before the election, and the Democratic candidate almost certainly wins, all else being equal. This is true as far as it goes.  But you can’t just assume a Democratic candidate is ahead on October 27.  This suggests that there’s nothing that Clinton did well that a generic candidate wouldn’t, and I don’t think that’s true. In particular, she’s the best debater of any major Democratic candidate of my lifetime — Obama very much included — and her pasting Trump in the three debates and winning the media spin on them set her up to win had Comey not decided to go Jim McAllister. A lot of people seem to think that beating Trump in the debates was a no-brainer, but (and ask Rubio, Jeb!, Cruz et al.) that’s really not true. As anyone who’s done it knows, debating a bullshit artist/insult comic is not easy, at all. I think Bernie and especially Biden might not have shown her discipline and preparation. O’Malley who knows, but…sorry, I just nodded off trying to remember him trying to speak. But at any rate, you can’t just use an alternative candidate to change one thing about the campaign — a different candidate has their own mix of strengths and weaknesses, and in a structurally close election you can’t make an assumption that holds everything but one event constant.
  • Still, given Clinton’s high negatives I don’t think the first two points are the biggest problem with the counterfactual. The real problem, as I’ve mentioned before, is that when you posit a Sanders (or O’Malley or Biden or Webb) who can beat Clinton, you’re positing a different and non-existent candidate.  A Bernie Sanders had spent decades cultivating relationships with major Democratic constituencies and done well enough to hold his own in Southern primaries would be a very strong candidate — but Bernie didn’t actually do that. Speculating about how Martin O’Malley would have done had he won the Democratic primaries rather than getting roughly six votes strikes me as about as useful as speculating about how Wonder Woman or Abraham Lincoln, Vampire-Killer would have done in the general. Sure, an O’Malley who could win the nomination would probably be a pretty strong candidate, but he also doesn’t exist. A Joe Biden who was committed to running, disciplined, persuaded Obama that he was the better candidate, and didn’t have two zero-delegate primary runs under his belt…you get the idea. It’s OK to discuss alternatives as a parlor-game hypothetical, but it’s really not a very useful exercise either retrospectively or prospectively.

One error people are making in analyzing the British elections is conflating beating structural limitations with beating expectations. In the abstract, it’s not all that surprising that Labour would pick up ground in a snap election called by a weak leader of a party that had just committed a massive political blunder. The outcome was surprising because a lot of people thought Corbyn was an even worse candidate than May. Granting that for a while polls seemed to reflect this, the conventional “wisdom” turned out to be completely wrong.  But if the lesson you take from this election is that we should be very confident about who would or wouldn’t be a good candidate ex ante, I would suggest you reconsider.

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  • DamnYankees

    The other point about this that you don’t mention is that even if you say “Other candidate X would have won”, it’s not remotely clear what *about* that candidate would have made them perform better than Hillary.

    Like, Bernie is different from Hillary in many ways. If you want to claim that Bernie would have won, that’s fine, but I wish people would be more transparent about what *specific* differences would have enabled him to win. Because I can think of a *lot* of differences, and deciding which ones are important are the critical questions when it comes to figuring out how to win next time. Just to pick a few where Bernie differs from Hillary:

    1) Bernie is more liberal on economic issues.
    2) Bernie was more of the “good government” candidate.
    3) Bernie did not have a history of being hated by Republicans.
    4) Bernie was a man.
    5) Bernie is nor married to a polarizing figure among Republicans who stirs shit up.
    6) Bernie is more of a foreign policy dove.
    7) Bernie did not have a personal history with the opposing candidate.
    8) Bernie was not ratfucked by the FBI.
    9) Bernie shouted more.
    10) Bernie was a less wooden public speaker.

    Which of these (or other differences) were important? Because depending which way you come out, you can basically choose *any* 2020 nominees who will fit at least some of these criteria.

    Without specificity, the “X would have won” argument is just resentfulness and pique. But with specificity its useful. The problem is that once you’re specific, the consensus breaks down.

    • aab84

      The argument being made is that Bernie would have won because left-of-center voters (particularly the young) respond to unabashedly progressive messages. The evidence is that young and diverse people seem to have genuinely turned out in unusually high numbers for Corbyn, leading to things like Labour taking Canterbury.

      In my view, there’s a good chance this gets the causal factor wrong. It’s true, at least according to polls, that Corbyn did a fantastic job motivating people who don’t usually vote. But so did Barack Obama, who ran a fairly liberal campaign, but was also to the right of Hillary on health care.

      Rather than specific policy proposals, it seems to me that the unifying thread of Obama, Bernie, Corbyn, and Macron — and their ability to motivate the young — is their anti-establishment message and references to hope and change. I completely buy that current young people have more progressive views than prior generations. It’s still not clear to me that it’s the policies motivating their turnout, rather than “change” messages more generally.

      • Murc

        The argument being made is that Bernie would have won because left-of-center voters (particularly the young) respond to unabashedly progressive messages.

        It is sometimes, but I regard this argument as being super weak.

        My argument for Bernie is this: he couldn’t have been believably outflanked by Trump on economic populism, he didn’t have Clinton’s baggage, and he was running as an angry, pissed-off outsider in a year in which that was really, really important. Combined with other structural factors, I think that gives him MI, WI, and PA, plus holds all other states Clinton held, and that’s the game.

        I can never, ever prove this conclusively, of course. I admit that freely.

        During the primary I also argued that when she’s in a real race, Clinton tends to underpreform where someone with her resume and skills “ought” to be because she’s, well, Hillary Clinton, and in addition to some powerfully bad luck, otherwise rational people hate her and want her to die. I took a lot of shit for that but I kinda think the election vindicated me there.

        Rather than specific policy proposals, it seems to me that the unifying thread of Obama, Bernie, Corbyn, and Macron — and their ability to motivate the young — is their anti-establishment message and references to hope and change.

        Sadly, this seems quite correct. I mean, my god, Macron. His actual policy platform would have been 100% at home in the Republican (the French one) Party ten, fifteen years ago.

        • aab84

          To be clear, I think there’s a pretty good case to be made for BWHW, on exactly the basis you set forth. But so much of this debate seems to focus on the policy content of Bernie’s campaign, rather than the symbolic and rhetorical aspects of his message. Some very loud voices on the internet have latched onto Bernie because of his policies, which is great. But they’re also very committed to those policies being the explanation for his popularity.

          Basically, if any loud-and-proud outsider would have beaten Trump — if an Obama or a Macron would have won too — then there’s no obvious political (as opposed to policy-based) reason to adopt Bernie’s agenda.

          • Murc

            But so much of this debate seems to focus on the policy content of Bernie’s campaign, rather than the symbolic and rhetorical aspects of his message. Some very loud voices on the internet have latched onto Bernie because of his policies, which is great. But they’re also very committed to those policies being the explanation for his popularity.

            Sanders policies weren’t irrelevant, and wouldn’t have been irrelevant in a hypothetical Sanders vs. Trump showdown, but they also, as you say and I 100% agree with, aren’t the whole story. Sanders doesn’t get any initial “heat” at all without his policy platform, after all, and it was actually relevant to the world we live in and especially to the election that was conducted.

            It just isn’t the whole story. It can’t be. Barack Obama demonstrated that in 2008 when he cleaned Clinton’s clock running on basically an identical platform. But him running on that platform wasn’t at all irrelevant to his win; in fact it was vital to it.

            • nemdam

              Obama winning by less than 100 delegates is an interesting definition of cleaning someone’s clock.

              • witlesschum

                No doubt, but given that Clinton started as the overwhelming favorite I think it’s fair to credit Obama and his people for running a good campaign, both tactically and strategically. Strategically, they identified the path for their candidate to beat Clinton (and Clinton helped by hiring some real ignorami to advise her) in a way it did not appear to me that the Sanders campaign ever did.

                • nemdam

                  Correct, but I would hardly call that cleaning Clinton’s clock. More like eeking out an upset. Not diminishing the accomplishment. But hardly a dominant victory.

                • CrunchyFrog

                  Moreover, eeking out an upset in large part because his campaign managers understood a) how delegates were allocated and b) that they needed to optimize to get every one they could, including making sure that all odd-numbered delegate allocations broke in their favor and of course putting every on-the-ground resource they could in the caucuses – while Clinton’s campaign manager a) didn’t have a fucking clue how delegates were allocated, assuming winner-takes all was the norm, b) treated caucuses the same way they treated primaries, and c) assumed that in the end they’d get FL and MI counted in their favor so it wouldn’t matter anyway.

                  I know it’s popular on this blog to call Obama the greatest campaigner of his generation (this is usually done these days to explain that Clinton’s loss to him wasn’t a big deal because he was so great). But that doesn’t really wash. He is a special fund-raiser, having the unique ability to appeal to both the very rich donor and the average donor. This got him into the state senate on his second attempt and got him the party’s nomination for the Senate. The Senate race itself is evidence of nothing regarding his campaign ability given the GOP’s total self-destruction after their incumbent flamed out in a sex scandal. The 7 point victory in the general election in 2008 isn’t evidence of being a special campaigner given a) that 6-7 points is what was predicted by the unusual economic conditions of that election, b) his opponent was revealed to be a buffoon by his choice of VP, who while she inspired the GOP base flamed out with everyone else, and c) Obama had a massive funding advantage, which allowed for carpet-bombing the advertising air waves. And, of course, Obama is the only Democratic presidential candidate in the past 25 years to not be given the Clinton/Gore/Kerry treatment by the national media, because they actually did like him.

                  That last point is probably key regarding the utter idiocy of nominating Clinton. “I know, let’s pick as a candidate the one person who is far and away the most despised by our national political media!” As much as they also hated Trump he was at least entertaining. That’s like playing a 7 game series against a team and picking as refs members of the that team’s fan club.

        • mongolia

          My argument for Bernie is this: he couldn’t have been believably outflanked by Trump on economic populism,

          the key way trump could flank him on populism is if “economic” really means “fuck those mexicans and chinese taking our jobs,” in which case it’s more of a right-wing populism that our side really can’t do. obviously counterfactuals can’t be run on this, but the answer of “is the main driver of shift to trump from dems economics or racism” appears to be “both,” but there’s no certainty that if the wwc get the economic message they want from dems without race appeals, that it would lead to them voting for, say, bernie over trump.

          he was running as an angry, pissed-off outsider in a year in which that was really, really important.

          was the outsider thing real though? obama had a positive approval rating spread, and most incumbents retained their senate/house seats, even endangered ones like toomey and johnson. hillary did better than most congressional candidates in the same state/district, which tended to have republican incumbents, and most of the people bernie endorsed did worse than hiilary. so i’m not sure if the evidence shows that “outsider” was necessarily useful this year, unless that’s shorthand for “being the outparty tends to increase support towards you”

          • Murc

            but there’s no certainty that if the wwc get the economic message they want from dems without race appeals, that it would lead to them voting for, say, bernie over trump.

            You’re absolutely right; there isn’t.

            But I would argue, as initially proposed by Erik and as a position I wholeheartedly adopt, that we have to try this anyway. Aside from relying on structural factors (the longer a party is out of power, the better it looks, Republican governance is a disaster, etc.) we don’t really have another path forward.

            Moving to the right is a complete non-starter either on social or economic policy, and we’re about as left as the general electorate will stomach, I think, on social policy, which means that offering the robust populism that seemed to resonate is the only substantive shift we can make. It might not work, but I don’t see another option aside from either “double down” or “wait for the Republicans to destroy themselves.”

            • Justin Runia

              Yeah, this is the part I don’t get; how Bernie was going to convince people that his anti-trade-deal nationalism was a better solution when Trump absorbed that plank and added the other half of the nationalism deal–kicking out brown people. I mean, labor participation by undocumented immigrants does drive down wages, I don’t get how you can make the case that the goods / soft power we get in exchange for participating in trade deals with low-cost-of-living countries comes at too high of a cost, but maintaining wage slavery in agriculture and meat-packing was an acceptable trade-off. I can’t have been the only person to note this inconsistency, right?

              • Q.E.Dumbass

                Plausible rebuttal: “I don’t have to outrun the boar, I just have to outrun you.”

                • cpinva

                  “Plausible rebuttal: “I don’t have to outrun the boar, I just have to outrun you.”

                  if you’ve never seen nor heard of a boar before, you’d have no reason to think you needed to outrun either it, or the person standing next to you. Sanders did very well in all whitebread America, in not so whitebread America, not so much. having had no reason, in his 40 years in politics, to have to appeal to other than all whitebread America, he never took the time to figure out what issues were important to them. this is why HRC beat him consistently, in those states with a high level of diversity. I’ve seen no tangible evidence to convince me he would have done all that much better, in those same states, were he to have run in the general. he would have been only marginally more aware of the issues important to non-white people, than he was during the primaries. Trump wouldn’t know either, but he’d have just bs’d his way through, knowing in advance he wasn’t going to get those diversity votes.

                  with 40 years of public service under his belt, Sanders can’t (believably, anyway) lay claim to being an “outsider”. oblivious to what’s going on around him maybe, but an actual outsider, no.

                • Justin Runia

                  Social Security has the distinction of being “the third rail” of politics, but I think cheap food is the real deal; not only is it universal, but increasing the cost of living with higher food prices would jack-up existing entitlements.

                • Murc

                  I’ve seen no tangible evidence to convince me he would have done all that much better, in those same states, were he to have run in the general.

                  … wait, what?

                  This is lunacy. The primary and the general are very different elections. Sanders weakness among those demos in the 2016 primary is no more dispositive than Clinton’s weakness among those demos in 2008 was.

                  I mean… my god, man. You’ve literally just contended that Sanders would have lost the black vote in the general. That should be self-evident nonsense.

                  with 40 years of public service under his belt, Sanders can’t (believably, anyway) lay claim to being an “outsider”.

                  Of course he can. Sanders political and policy preferences have been outside the mainstream of the Democratic Party for ages.

                  And even that notwithstanding, Macron over in France was literally part of the government he then ran against! He managed just fine.

            • mongolia

              i agree that we should try in areas that it makes sense, but to me it seems that the easier path forward is to peel suburban r’s that clinton was hoping to sway – there was some romney -> clinton shift according to some analyses i’ve seen (that i don’t have bookmarked…), but also seems to fit in better with the direction both parties are moving towards (white ethnonationalism vs. technocratic cosmopolitanism). this is why ossoff is such an important test – if a bland cosmopolitan fiscal moderate message can win in republican leaning suburbs in the age of trump, that will likely spawn a number of imitators in similar districts around the country, which will make it harder to run on an economic populist message nationally.

              now, would that be what i want to see? not really. however, you go for the votes that you can get, and the best evidence we have of winning over wwc voters nationally in my lifetime involves stone mountain, sista soulja, welfare “reform”, and the crime bill, so color me sceptical that with the demographics of the current democratic party the easiest path to increase dem vote share runs through wwc voters shifting from dem in ’12 to republican in ’14/’16.

              • humanoid.panda

                The one lesson to be learned from the Corbyn campaign is that populist appeals are not necessarily incongruent with attracting affluent suburbanites. In fact, I’d argue that Warren style populism, focusing on the power of banks, college loans, healthcare, monopolies, can easily bridge the gap.

                • mongolia

                  really hope we get good analysis on what happened in the uk, in terms of how and when the minds of voters shifted from tory -> labor, but from what i’ve seen and heard about what was going on in the uk, the shift was caused more as an anti-tory vote rather than a pro-labor vote, and that there was a similar dynamic to the us in that whichever candidate was more prevalent in the news saw their poll numbers drop. essentially, in the us in ’16, when the news was about trump (the khan’s, grab ’em by the pussy, alicia machado), hillary’s lead expanded, and when it was about hillary (e-MAILZ, fainting episode) her lead dropped quite rapidly. my understanding is that this dynamic was essentially what happened in the uk – the labour manifesto was pretty standard, whereas the tory manifesto was further right than usual, and theresa may made the campaign about her vs. corbyn, which especially hurt her when it became may + trump vs. sadiq khan in terms of the manchester and london attacks.

                  not arguing that warren (or brown or whomever else)-style populism can’t work, but not sure if the odd circumstances of both the us ’16 and uk ’17 elections really point to that style being particularly beneficial compared to a standard center-left campaign with a charismatic & intelligent standard-bearer

              • xq

                the easier path forward is to peel suburban r’s that clinton was hoping to sway

                If president was decided by popular vote this would be a good strategy. There was a substantial Romney->Clinton shift among educated voters. The problem is that the states with the highest percent of white educated voters are already solid blue, except for CO and VA, which are headed that way.

                • mongolia

                  that wasn’t all though – there was also “keep black vote similar to obama ’12, and improve among hispanics,” which brings into play NC, GA, FL, and AZ if you include an educated suburban voter shift from r -> d

                • humanoid.panda

                  “If president was decided by popular vote this would be a good strategy. There was a substantial Romney->Clinton shift among educated voters. The problem is that the states with the highest percent of white educated voters are already solid blue, except for CO and VA, which are headed that way.


                  Eh, that’s some retroactive thinking. Back before November, everyone considered FL and “NC As more important states than WI,MI,PA. And in all 3 states, HRC’s strengths with suburban voters came thiiis close to saving the day.

                • Q.E.Dumbass

                  I’m still petitioning the state legislature to have the Redneck Riviera nuked from orbit ceded to Alabama.

                  Fuck the Panhandle.

                • xq

                  FL and NC both have below average non-Hispanic white percent with college degree according to ACS. Obviously, improving with any demographic is good in every state if it comes at no cost, but trading whites without degrees for whites with degrees will increase the structural disadvantage for Democrats in the electoral college, I think. We waste so many voters in CA….

        • Rob in CT

          This is basically my take (though I think it’s possible Bernie might’ve lost a state like VA that Clinton won. FL stays red?).

          • Sebastian_h

            This reminds me. Why do theses discussions never ever talk about a Florida? Obama did well and really well in Florida. He made great inroads into the Cuban population. Why did Clinton lose Florida, and what have Democrats done to make it such that any time we talk about these scenarios it is just obvious to everyone that it is off the table?

            • Rob in CT

              Just off the top of my head:

              One possibility is that Obama’s policy towards Cuba cost Hillary Cuban-American votes in FL, reversing their Dem shift.

              Another is a surge in white voters for Trump in FL.

              FL should not be off the table, nor should NC.

              • Rob in CT

                http://cookpolitical.com/story/10174

                FL raw vote total up 11.2% from 2012.

                Obama won FL by .9% in 2012 (so I question your “really well” – Obama barely won it). Clinton lost it by 1.2% in 2016 (2.1% shift).

                FL population in 2016 – ~20.6 million. In 2012, my googling tells me it was about 19 million. So 8.4% pop growth between elections (wow). Though I don’t know if eligible voters increased by the amount.

                Anyway, the 11.2% raw vote increase is above pop growth.

                This suggests the possibility that Floriduh man was really excited to vote Trump. County-level data would tell us more.

        • Spider-Dan

          My argument for Bernie is this: he couldn’t have been believably outflanked by Trump on economic populism, he didn’t have Clinton’s baggage, and he was running as an angry, pissed-off outsider in a year in which that was really, really important. Combined with other structural factors, I think that gives him MI, WI, and PA, plus holds all other states Clinton held, and that’s the game.

          Two things:

          1) I think whatever Bernie gains in goosing the youth vote (and some otherwise-low-turnout voting groups), he loses among the liberal on social issues, but has kids in private school group.

          2) I refuse to believe that places WI/PA/OH were won by “economic populism” as Russ Feingold is sitting on his couch and Johnson/Toomey/Portman are reelected. The economic populism argument is an excuse that people use to evade the conclusion that plain old racism and xenophobia decided the election; i.e. it was only “economic populism” in the sense that “They’re takin’ our jorbs!” is an “economic” argument.

      • xq

        Obama didn’t really increase youth turnout. It was up slightly in 2008 relative to 2004, but not by much more than the general population. Then it fell by a lot in 2012. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/05/08/six-take-aways-from-the-census-bureaus-voting-report/

        He did increase black turnout by a substantial amount in 2008 and even more in 2012. That was Obama’s main effect on turnout.

        It’s an interesting question whether Sanders would have had a large effect on youth turnout. I tend to think yes, and that Corbyn does provide evidence for this, though not determinative.

        In the primaries, age was a much stronger predictor of Sanders support than ideology (I wonder if there’s anything similar with Corbyn support?), so I agree that “unabashedly progressive messages” is probably not the full story here.

        • nemdam

          I don’t have the data in front of me, but wasn’t it the case that Dem 2016 primary turnout was basically average and that youth turnout was basically average just that it basically all went to Bernie? I recall it was a myth about Bernie that he actually increased turnout for any demographic as opposed to just winning the youth by huge margins.

          • xq

            That seems correct. Turnout definitely declined in the Democratic primary relative to 2008. What that means about the general election I’m not sure.

        • Ronan

          I think the main swing to Corbyn was 35-44 year olds who were turned off by the Tory’s hard Brexit posture

          http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/election-2017-labour-won-50-per-cent-vote-35-44-year-olds-conservative-poll-jeremy-corbyn-a7786056.html

          • StellaB

            My recent, entirely anecdotal experience talking politics with some 20-something British people has been that they didn’t like Corbyn much more than May, but that they really hated Brexit.

          • xq

            They use Lord Ashcroft’s data. When I look at 2015 vs 2017 vote in that data, I get these swings (2017 Labour vote – 2015 Labour vote):

            32%, 22%, 15%, 6%, 6%, 3% in age groups ranging from 18-24 to 65+. 35-44 is the third group.

            So, monotonic decrease in swing with age.

      • None of them are important, because this election was about race, and Bernie wasn’t about to pledge to make America white again.

    • encephalopath

      We’re also just supposed to assume that everyone who voted for HRC would still show up and vote for Candidate X in exactly the same numbers. Then anything that Candidate X brings is nothing but upside.

      Nothing works like that… ever, anywhere.

      • Scott Lemieux

        We’re also just supposed to assume that everyone who voted for HRC would still show up and vote for Candidate X in exactly the same numbers. Then anything that Candidate X brings is nothing but upside.

        Nothing works like that… ever, anywhere.

        Exactly. I think it’s very likely that Bernie would have increased youth turnout. But you can’t just assume that he would have done equally well with every other group, including the constituencies Clinton did better with in the primaries. We don’t know if Bloomberg runs. We don’t know if Bernie being on the ballot would have motivated some suburban Republicans to vote for Trump instead of Johnson. You can’t just cherry pick one strength for Bernie and assume everything else stays the same.

        • Q.E.Dumbass

          C’mon Scott, if there’s anything I learned from years of reading comic books and working on the set of the Jacobin and TYT’s upcoming Netflix rom-com series Girl Meets Tractor, it’s that having the leftmost positions in a political race works exactly like Killgrave’s pheromones, generating an anti-chickenfucking forcefield that is negligibly penetrable and also paves the way for the inevitable electoral college victory of 4 jillion+.

        • tsam

          Yeah–I don’t know where they get this idea. You have to spot Bernie all the states Hillary won, plus one or more of certain others, and assume that every mitigating factor along the way has roughly the same outcome.

          So with about 30 million variables, it’s totally safe to assume that Bernie woulda won.

      • sam

        We’re also supposed to assume that the GOP doesn’t do a massive hit job on Bernie (or Biden, or O’Malley, or whoever) in the general election.

        They would have ads running 24/7 with that scary voice calling him a “socialist” (and not in the nice, scandinavian socialist kind of way).

        They would dig up whatever they could find about his past – political and personal (I know there’s some weird stuff about the finances at the college his wife ran, but not enough to go into detail here – but you can bet your bottom dollar that THEY would make all sorts of hay about it).

        And, of course, they would simply make shit up, like they have about everyone else.

        Of course MOST committed democrats and liberals wouldn’t buy that nonsense, but to the extent that that stuff ever works, it works to depress turnout and at the margins – like, say, enough to swing a couple thousand votes in some midwestern states.

        • Wamba

          yes

        • mongolia

          and i’m sure trey gowdy and jason chaffetz would be subpoenaing every thing related to jane and burlington college if it looked like bernie had a chance in, say, march or so, so they might actually have something *real* to attack him with.

          again, just because real oppo didn’t surface doesn’t mean it’s not out there. and these are the people that made a fucking sigh, a purple heart, and e-mail server management into successful hatchet jobs

          • StellaB

            The oppo research was out there, but Sanders was never anywhere near winning the primary and therefore HRC had no reason to use it and every reason to avoid it. Smearing and ginning up dirt is the GOP’s best skill — much easier than governing.

        • witlesschum

          No, it’s assumed the Republicans and the media do a massive hit job on Sanders because that’s what they do, especially to someone like Sanders. It’s just also assumed it’s going to be less effective because it hasn’t been going on for 25 years like the one against Clinton has.

          Sanders would have been attacked, but he’d also have had the chance to define himself to voters not previously familiar with him in a way so as to deflect those attacks.
          How that all comes out, I don’t claim to know and anyone who tells you they do is expressing a hope, not a fact.

          • randy khan

            That is a lovely theory, but you might want to chat with Michael Dukakis about it.

            • witlesschum

              I did. He said it’s not 1988 anymore and hasn’t been for some time.

              They tried it with Obama and it didn’t work, so we know the GOP slime machine isn’t omnipotent.

              • randy khan

                They also tried it with Gore and Kerry, and it did work.

                Obama was a special candidate in a lot of ways, so saying something didn’t work against him is not proof it won’t work against others.

                And Sanders had a big fat target that he painted on himself – it’s not like he could deny that he’s a socialist (among other things).

                • EliHawk

                  Yeah. The idea that the most talented politician of his generation beat the smear machine, so we’re invincible doesn’t actually work. Just because the Tories couldn’t lay a finger on Tony Blair from 1994-97 didn’t mean they couldn’t get any licks in on Ed Miliband, for example.

                • rea

                  And really, it did work with Obama, but not enough to prevent him from winning twice.

                • Sebastian_h

                  If you’re positing that the Republican slime machine is powerful enough for everyone but Obama to replicate in four months what they did with Clinton in twenty years–yes you’re right. Also you might as well just give politics completely. Also it doesn’t justify nominating Clinton, just in case you’re wrong and they can’t replicate it in four months.

                • sam

                  Seriously. John Kerry was a decorated war hero. There was zero question about his service, right up until the moment he decided to run for president.

                  They literally invented “swift boating” for him.

                  It’s not to say that any individual (democratic) politician *couldn’t* survive such treatment given the right counterfactuals, but to blindly assert that Bernie *would*, is as disingenuous as anything else.

                  In fact, I’d posit that the mere fact that Hillary has survived TWENTY FIVE YEARS of these lies and smears and managed to still remain sane, much less willing to participate in public life in ANY way, is a remarkable testament to her strength, and the idea that people would want her to retreat into the shadows shows just how little they understand about the kind of strength we need to see in the face of such attacks.

  • liberal

    In particular, she’s the best debater of any major Democratic candidate of my lifetime…

    LOL. She certainly wasn’t a bad debater, and was certainly better than the median AFAICT, but “best”?

    • Hogan

      Who do you like?

      • N__B

        Jed Bartlett.

      • Dilan Esper

        I’m with liberal on this. She was great in the debates. Maybe Lloyd Bentsen was as good but we only got to see him once.

        • kped

          Then you aren’t with him, since he didn’t say she was great, he is saying “she isn’t bad”.

      • wjts

        It’s gotta be Dukakis.

      • NonyNony

        Thinking about it – she probably is the best. Neither Obama nor Bill Clinton were great at debate, they were better on the stump. Hillary Clinton was worse on the stump but better at debate. John Kerry and Al Gore sucked at debate as did, IIRC, Dukakis (just a bit too young to remember how well Mondale did).

        Which just brings me back to my theory that the debates don’t really matter except as political theater.

        • tsam

          I’d say Trump demonstrating his complete inability to be president, or to even be trusted to feed your dog while you go away for the weekend makes your theory more of a law than a theory.

        • cleek

          after debates, or any situation where people actually got to contrast the two (ex. the conventions) her poll numbers rose and his fell. after a week or so, they always converged.

        • Wamba

          Al Gore didn’t suck at debates – he was very good. He sucked at not being hated by the media whores who framed the results of the debate.

          • tsam

            He was terrible at debates. He went with protecting Social Security. WHAT KIND OF FUCKIN NERD DOES THAT?

        • mpowell

          I think it was Nate Silver who had an article a while ago on how the swing towards Clinton during the debates was the largest ever observed. There’s plenty of evidence she completely crushed him during the debate… and then Comey intervened in the last moment.

        • Manny Kant

          Kerry was really quite good in his debates with GWB, especially the first one. That was more or less the only good moment in the campaign for him.

          • Scott Lemieux

            I agree. Kerry is the other possible answer to the question.

            • EliHawk

              Yeah: Kerry’s first debate was like Romney’s: A decisive victory that made the race close again after a successful convention gave the incumbent President a steady lead.

              I would add Bill Clinton though: Of Ford, Reagan, Bush, Bush, Obama and him, he’s the only incumbent POTUS to actually win his first debate.

    • yet_another_lawyer

      I think it’s a really tricky claim, because the more you follow politics the less qualified you are to comment on this. The debates, like the rest of the campaign, are irrelevant if you have already made your voting decision… which, surely, 99% of people nerdy enough to read political blogs have done. The mythical swing voters are the only ones competent to really judge this, because they’re the target audience of the entire process.

      • so-in-so

        And they decide, the last week, based on what some random commentator or their neighbor or that guy at work says…

        • Q.E.Dumbass

          Evergreen photoshop.

          Marvel Comics’ portrayal of its citizens was far too optimistic.

      • Hogan

        The fact that you’ve made up your mind makes you unable to judge debate quality?

        Swing voters watch debates?

        • yet_another_lawyer

          If you view the purposes of debates as “winning the election,” then surely those are still persuadable are the most competent to judge who is and is not a good debater. They’re the target audience. If the debate won’t change your decision no matter what, then it doesn’t matter how good you think it is.

          Some do, although many also rely on the post-media spin.

          • Hogan

            The target audience is the media and other opinion makers. They’re the ones who’ll tell the swing voters what happened.

            • Scott Lemieux

              And in this case, the debates were a rare case of Clinton receiving positive coverage, because she destroyed Trump and was widely perceived as having done so.

              • randy khan

                Exactly. It was roughly even for about 10 minutes of the first debate, and then after that it was a complete crush job.

                Clinton has a bunch of skills that are very important for debates, but probably most important she is the kind of person who reaches the point where other people think they’ve over prepared and zooms right past it until she actually knows everything she needs to know. People like Christie or Rubio memorize a couple of lines; she memorized whole briefing books. And she probably doesn’t take a minute off.

                And, of course, it’s worth noting that Trump dominated all of the Republicans. Clinton learned a lot from what happened in the primaries, and applied it in her debates.

  • mentally_eel

    One thing that’s definitely different about parliamentary systems is that the leader of the party is selected a reasonable time away from actual elections, so there’s at least theoretically time for factional wounds to heal. Besides a Bernie could win the primary being a different candidate, I think it’s worth considering that a Democratic primary that Sanders wins is a different primary; a party that had just seen Sanders come in and beat a candidate with deep ties to a lot of important constituencies might still have some enthusiasm issues when the election rolls around.

  • Rob in CT

    Winning the popular vote by 2% < Losing by 2% It is known.

    ;)

    I happen to think Bernie mighta won (similar or smaller pop vote win, better distributed?), but confident assertions of it just reek of bullshit. It's not analysis. It's a demand for submission.

    • Dilan Esper

      Confident anything with respect to election counterfactuals reeks of bullshit.

      • Rob in CT

        Agreed.

      • efgoldman

        Confident anything with respect to election counterfactuals reeks of bullshit.

        Most of the arguments (and all of them to this far down in the thread, so far*) ignore the obvious facts that (1) HRC, properly confident of winning the nomination easily, was EXTREMELY gentle with Bernie. I’m sure her campaign had all kinds of oppo research which they never bothered to use, because they didn’t need to. (2) But had he been the nominee, the RWNJ noise machine (and probably the NYT as well) would have gone into full howl, with true things (mrs Bernie’s financial problem) and made up bullshit.
        Would it have had the same effect of 25 years of CDS? Who knows. It wouldn’t have helped. Would he have won CA by three million votes after getting swamped there in the primaries? Who knows; But he definitely wouldn’t have gotten a free ride, no matter what the bots think.

        *THEN I scrolled down. Day late, dollar shirt.

        • Dilan Esper

          I agree with 2.

          1 is actually quite wrong. First of all, negative campaigning is actually tremendously overrated. If it worked as well as strategists claim, fundamental models couldn’t predict presidential elections, yet they do.

          Second, it matters the kind of dirt there is. There’s surely plenty of silly left wing things in Sanders’ past, but this is 2017, 26 years after the fall of the USSR, and it’s absurd to think that that sort of thing would work on a Democratic primary electorate.

          Hillary’s team knew this, and THAT’s why they didn’t use it.

          • nemdam

            Aw, this is cute that you think both that negative campaigning doesn’t work and the attacks on Bernie would’ve been silly so they would not have worked. Did you not see Trump’s campaign? Are you not aware that the number one attack on Hillary was about email management? If the RWNJ can make attacks about email management work, they would have no problem roughing up Bernie.

            I also find it amusing that you think Hillary barely attacked Bernie basically because there was no valuable oppo. That’s just… wow. And he still couldn’t beat her!

            • humanoid.panda

              “Aw, this is cute that you think both that negative campaigning doesn’t work and the attacks on Bernie would’ve been silly so they would not have worked. Did you not see Trump’s campaign? Are you not aware that the number one attack on Hillary was about email management? If the RWNJ can make attacks about email management work, they would have no problem roughing up Bernie.

              Dilan is overstating his case, but negative campaigning in a presidential election when all sides are well-funded is not as efficient as we think. To wit: Republican attacks on Obama didn’t really work, and even Republican attack on HRC in the context of Benghaaaazi didn’t do much damage. It seems that to work, a good negative attack needs to be at least two of the three:
              1. Based on a narrative that people already accept (Romney is an asshole, Hillary is secretive and untrutworthy).
              2. Get assists from the general media (Emails!).
              3. Be waged when the opponent is either unable or unwilling to engage. (Kerry in 2004, Romney’s temporary lack of funds in Summer 2012).

              In Sadnders’ case 1) doesn’t work, as he got the “adorable Jewish guy” image stuck to him 2) is an open question and 3) would be a problem, as he is not so good in taking fire.

              • ColBatGuano

                Both Kerry and Dukakis were victims of 3) and on grounds far more specious than the attacks on Sanders would have been.

              • Redwood Rhiadra

                (1) works fine. When the GOP runs the video of him praising the Sandanistas while they are yelling “Yankees will die”, that strongly reinforces the pre-existing narrative that Sanders is a socialist – only the GOP doesn’t say “socialist”, they say “Communist” and “supporter of terrorism”. And gets further reinforced by his praise for Fidel Castro (also on tape) and honeymooning in the Soviet Union.

                And I guarantee the media would be more than happy to play along with that. The issue of his past support for full-blown Communism would be an absolute DEATH KNELL to any Sanders campaign in the general.

                But of course the Bernie-or-bust types will never see that, because they are all certain – CERTAIN that Communism is about to make a comeback and the Proletariat Revolution will be any day now.

  • Dilan Esper

    You might say that X would have won arguments suck the oxygen.

    https://www.yahoo.com/news/van-jones-hillary-clinton-disastrous-130808010.html

  • aab84

    Hot take: the importance of ideology is massively, massively overstated in electoral outcomes.

    • StellaB

      Do you mean that Trump isn’t going to bring us cheaper, better health insurance that covers more people. I’m shocked.

  • Mike in DC

    2 foot thick OPPO files should be factored into any such hypotheticals.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks

      Sort of. One of the things I’ve heard from Democrats involved in oppo research last year was that they were running to catch up with themselves because they’d done no opposition research on Trump until the fall of 2015. Good oppo research takes time and, ceteris paribus (no it never is), a surprise nominee will have less oppo research against him or her than an expected one.

    • Captain C

      Given what we already know about him, I think Bernie would have been devastated by negative ads. I wrote this at Balloon Juice a few days ago, and I think that anyone who claims that Bernie would have won has to explain how he overcomes these lines of negative advertising:

      Once again, any two or three of the following lines of attack ads would sink any Dem candidate. Likely, all would have been used, plus, I’m sure, other things I haven’t thought of:

      1) Vox Tax Calculator: We would have been saturated with ads pointing out how working class families would pay $500 more/month (if honest, much more if not) so that those people could get free stuff.

      2) “I don’t know”: Bernie’s Daily News interview answer to “how would you break up the banks?” Plus every other time he gave that answer to a policy question.

      3) “Bernie walks away”: Every time he walked away from a tough question. Probably put into a montage, and implied that he can’t take the heat and quickly leaves the kitchen.

      4) Tax Returns: Lots of ads along the lines of “Bernie claims to want transparency in politics, but refuses to release his taxes and finances. What is he hiding? How can an honest politician afford 3 luxury houses and estates?”

      5) Crooked wife: Ads along the lines of “Bernie claims to be against golden parachutes, but his wife got a $200K one for leaving a college which she ultimately bankrupted. And now she’s under investigation for fraud.”

      6) Communist/America-hater: Ads pointing out his past criticisms of America from Cuba and Nicaragua (select demographics only) and his running as an elector for the SWP, “a party so extreme Lenin and Stalin rejected it.”

      7) Freeloader: Ads about how he didn’t have a real job until his mid-30s, how he stole electricity from his neighbors, got kicked out of a commune for laziness, and how he ran a carpentry business while not knowing the first thing about carpentry and had to ask the hardware store how to do jobs he contracted for.

      8) Pedo perv: Ads distorting his ’70s writings on child sex and rape fantasy to make him seem like a pedo rapist.

      If I can think of these, I’m sure the Rethugs could have as well.

      Politics ain’t beanbag, and no one laid a finger on Bernie during the primaries.

      • Dilan Esper

        The problem with this analysis is that if this were how presidential politics worked, Trump would have never been elected.

        • Captain C

          Because vs. Bernie, the MSM would have absolutely ripped Trump the same way, and not glossed over all of his flaws and crimes like they did in the actual election.

          Seriously, are you saying the Rethugs wouldn’t have run these ads? Or that they wouldn’t have worked?

          Have you not paid attention to any U.S. elections ever?

          • Captain C

            Likewise, are you saying that the press wouldn’t have had a feeding frenzy over these lines of attack?

        • MyNameIsZweig

          “The problem with this analysis is that if this were how presidential politics worked, Trump would have never been elected”

          The problem with your response is that you are ignoring the fact that presidential politics works differently for both major parties. Republicans can get away with all the shit Trump pulled because the media lets them, and because their voters are awful people. Democrats can’t.

          • Captain C

            This. The MSM humped the emails non-story relentlessly (and essentially conflated several non-stories into one). The list above contains actual stories with some meat in them, albeit ones that would be completely distorted by the Rethugs.

        • nemdam

          The proper response is if Hillary’s top weakness was email management, then Republicans could definitely get something to stick from the list above. Your response assumes both parties are held to the same standard which… no.

        • mongolia

          evangelicals convinced themselves that trump was a devout christian sent by god to save america.

          that’s why we can’t convince the republican base – they’re beyond gone and insane. democrats are held to a higher standard because they are much more scrutinized by the rank-and-file, by the media, and by rwnj’s. so it’s important to make sure that our candidates don’t have real issues that can be used to introduce intraparty cleavages, since people that will plausibly vote democrat have a much greater likelihood of punishing known unethical behavior.

      • Wamba

        exactly

      • Manny Kant

        I don’t think a “he won’t release his taxes” attack would have worked very well coming from Trump.

        • Q.E.Dumbass

          You mean Sanders.

        • Captain C

          One would hope, but given that Silver Star, Bronze Star, and 3xPurple Heart winner John Kerry was turned into a cowardly and traitorous war criminal by, or at least on behalf of deserter-of-the-Air-National-Guard Shrubya back in ’04, I’m not confident that our media wouldn’t be susceptible to a line of “Well, I’m a huuuuugely successful bigly businessman with hideously complicated tax returns that are getting audited so I can’t release them now, but I promise I will in good time. What’s Wacky Bernie’s excuse?”

      • rea

        Crooked wife: Ads along the lines of “Bernie claims to be against golden parachutes, but his wife got a $200K one for leaving a college which she ultimately bankrupted. And now she’s under investigation for fraud.”

        Comey explains to the public in mid-July why the FBI is not recommending that she be indicted, despite her incredibly reckless financial shenanigans. A few days before the election, he announces that the investigation is being reopened . . .

  • cleek

    two grumpy old white guys with NY accents shouting at each other for six months would’ve made for an awesome election. so much enthusiasm.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks

      It doesn’t tell us how it would have worked out, but both of those two grumpy white guys with NY accents did actually generate a lot of enthusiasm.

      And Michael Bloomberg might have decided to become a (less grumpy) white guy with a NY accent alternative had Sanders won the nomination. I doubt he would have generated much enthusiasm, but (as I keep saying in this discussion) who the hell knows?

      • Bricked

        Quite likely Bloomberg would have picked up at least 15% and hurt Sanders a lot more than Trump, given there was a SCOTUS seat up for grabs.

      • cleek

        but both of those two grumpy white guys with NY accents did actually generate a lot of enthusiasm.

        polling showed that Clinton’s supporters were more enthusiastic than Sanders’ supporters.

        • Incontinentia Buttocks

          I wasn’t making a comparison. I was just noting that Sanders, like Trump and Clinton, had enthusiastic supporters.

      • Rob in CT

        Bloomberg as the wild card, yeah, forgot that one.

        I wonder. Would he have drawn more liberal-leaning votes? Maybe in certain places (like NY) but what about in the key states – MI, WI, PA, FL?

    • Gordon Schumway

      Not to mention all the Red- and Jew-baiting hurled at one of them.

      • Bruce B.

        The antisemitism in particular is something I don’t see BWHW arguments taking up.

        • Incontinentia Buttocks

          What about the misogyny that wouldn’t have been a factor?

          I am not at all in the BWHW crowd. But I do think that the BWHL crowd is operating on just as shakey ground. I’m a proud member of the IDKANDY (I Don’t Know and Neither Do You) crowd.

          • Bruce B.

            I don’t really trust my memory on this to be fair or comprehensive, but haven’t charges of bad masculinity, fake masculinity, feminized masculinity, and the like been stables of Republican campaigns against Democratic guys?

            I’m not so much agnostic as unconfident, myself. I’m aware of how badly I mis-called things last time and respect the power of stuff I don’t know. Anything beyond “it seems to me that this is an important consideration” is beyond me, right now.

    • SatanicPanic

      I think this is the only way that election could have been more irritating.

  • sibusisodan

    Tangential: the difference between the actual UK election result and one with a Conservative majority is approx. 400 votes (in the relevant constituencies, naturally).

  • Quaino

    Bernie woulda won certainty basically precludes Bernie from having to run a general campaign. He was super popular under the following assumptions/scenarios:

    1. Hillary basically didn’t touch him; she let him run roughshod on her because she knew she had it won and didn’t want to ignite things
    2. Every minority would jump from Hillary to Bernie. He got CRUSHED among non-whites; I’m not saying they hated him, but that’s not really a good sign given his campaign’s focus
    3. Republicans let him alone because they knew he was a nobody in the election. Trump basically jerked him off as a way of going after Hillary. I’m going to guess it’s not because there’s just no avenue of attack against him

    So yeah, if Bernie got to show up on November 1st, announce he was actually the Democratic candidate and the Hillary thing was a joke, and get put on the ballot, he probably stood a good shot. That’s unfortunately not how elections work… maybe he would win, but you can’t just take things as they stand and copy paste it over wholesale.

    • Dilan Esper

      Without disagreeing with your broader point, Hillary lost minority votes too off of what Obama achieved. Minorities’ “affinity” for the Clintons has always been overstated. Hillary had the exact same problems with minorities that Sanders did when she ran in 2008.

      My suspicion is Sanders gets about the same minority vote totals that HRC did in the general.

      • kped

        That’s not really fair – she lost votes from Obama because of who Obama was, but minorities liked her plenty. It may be reasonable to ask whether Sanders would have led to more black people staying home, on top of the actual results. And if they did, you still likely lose Florida and Ohio and probably Pennsylvania too, and then, that’s the ball game.

        But who really knows? Maybe he does do better with whites to counter that? IT’s all unknowable.

        • Dilan Esper

          Black people have never stayed home. Dem candidates before Clinton also got lots of black votes.

          The Clintons weren’t anything special on that. Obama was.

          • nemdam

            Clinton returned to pre-Obama levels of black voting while marginally increasing Latino voting. This is in the first election without the full protection of the VRA. And one of the reasons pre-Obama levels of POC voting was so strong was because Bill Clinton actively courted them. Increasing turnout and margins among black voters was a deliberate strategy by Bill. Democratic margins with POC is more than just the Civil Rights Act.

            This is a long way of saying there is no guarantee Bernie would’ve done as well with POC as Hillary. A little bit of slippage in this area and quickly the electoral map starts to look a lot different.

            • humanoid.panda

              The obvious counter-argument to this is that the minority people who went most heavy for HRC are older and more female, i.e reliable voters. Bernie almost equalized her among younger minorities, esp. men – who tend to be sporadic voters. So, hard to see how he would have done worse on the balance. And that’s really the one lesson we ought to learn from all this: people who excite marginal voters are better Democratic candidate, ceteris paribus. (which was not necessarily the case this time.)

            • Dilan Esper

              Carter got plenty of black votes.

              Bill Clinton didn’t actively court black voters. He actively courted white racist voters, with Sister Souljah, the death penalty, welfare reform, “superpredators”, and all the rest.

              Blacks voted for Clinton because they knew that the Republicans would harm them more, not becuase Bill– who was a white Christian good old boy bigot from Arkansas– was their friend. He wasn’t.

              And Hillary did the same thing running against Obama in 2008, too.

              • nemdam

                No, Bill Clinton actively courted black voters in a way no Democratic candidate had since the Voting Rights Act was passed. It’s not an accident that he is the most popular politician among black voters after Obama. It’s just not true that they don’t think he is their friend. Yes, he also got Southern whites to vote for him. Whatever you think of his politics, that is why he is such a good politician because he got both POC and Southern whites to vote for him.

                Yes, Carter, Dukakis, Mondale got black votes, but Clinton drove both turnout and margin higher than they had. Just like Trump and rural voters. He was always going to win them, but he drove their margins higher than any Republican before and without driving up the margin as high as he did he would not have won.

                The “Bernie woulda won” argument assumes that POC, and other Democratic base votes, were in the bag no matter who was nominated and there’s just no reason to assume that. The Clintons do things other than have a D next to their name to get people to vote for them.

              • EliHawk

                “Bill Clinton didn’t actively court black voters. He actively courted white racist voters, with Sister Souljah, the death penalty, welfare reform, “superpredators”, and all the rest.

                Blacks voted for Clinton because they knew that the Republicans would harm them more, not becuase Bill– who was a white Christian good old boy bigot from Arkansas– was their friend. He wasn’t.”

                1956 called, it’d like its Southern Politicians back. Clinton by 1992 had been winning reelection with black support because that’s the way Southern Democratic politicians from the early 1970s (time enough for the VRA to work) onward got reelected: Teaming up black voters with the Yellow Dogs. But yeah, keep Yankee-splaining Southern Black voters to the Democratic Party about how terribly racist their elected officials are.

                • rea

                  +1 for “Yankee-splaining”

    • Spider-Dan

      It’s unfair to say that “Republicans let him alone because they knew he was a nobody in the election.”

      They were actually running ads FOR him.

    • Sebastian_h

      First, Clinton lost ground on minority votes–even in the face of Trump.

      So you’re positing that even more POC would look at Trump and see someone with risking? That’s hard to believe. Then you’re positing that it would change things enough to lose key states that she won? Which ones? I’d be surprised. And anything that wins Florida is likely to win for the Democrats. Clinton lost massive ground in Florida.

  • Karen24

    Let’s think about this a little broader — it is my impression, vague though it is, that the rest of the world has reacted to Trump’s election by veering back toward liberal internationalists and away from the evil white guys. I recall when Thatcher was elected, that people at the time suggested that the world was rejecting liberalism. Now that France and England, the latter quite unexpectedly, have rejected the White People Parties, I feel a great deal more confident about the world. I am not going to praise heightening the contradictions, but I will say that Trump is the most perfect target for scorn of any elected official in my lifetime, including any number of guys who resigned in disgrace after sex and financial scandals, and that other people have noticed.

    So what does this have to do with this post? For one thing, I completely disagree that Sanders would have won. He woud have suffered an even more catastrophic drop in PoC support — black women sharply preferred Clinton — and probably would not have made those inroads into suburban districts that Clinton did. When he lost, as I think he would have, he would have taken the left with him. Clinton did not have that effect. I agree that she can be fairly described as “Establishment,” even if I have some sharp criticisms of those who find that label a problem. Sanders, on the other hand, was a defiant leftist. His loss could not be blamed on a rejection of the “Both Sides” Washington establishment; his loss would have been a rejection of the left. (I also think he would have really lost, both popular and EC vote, thus depriving us of the essential “We Was Robbed” narrative.) He loses and we really do become demoralized, as does the rest of the world. Precisely because he was more ideological, his loss would be a more emphatic rejection of our ideology. Clinton, for all her many advantages and genuine public service, really is connected to Wall Street and therefore we can fairly ascribe her loss to a rejection of the 1%.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks

      The liberal internationalists in the UK were and are the LibDems. And they utterly failed to catch fire, despite presenting themselves as the one anti-Brexit party.

      As for what would have happened if Sanders had been the nominee, we don’t know and have no way of knowing. The resistance from so many Sanders and Clinton supporters alike to accepting this fact remains amazing to me.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks

        And it’s not simply that a world in which Sanders is the nominee looks necessarily different in complicated and ultimately unspecifiable ways. It’s also that the results of presential elections in our bitterly and closely divided country are highly contingent. Literally any major party nominee can win (and, needless to say, that includes Hillary Clinton, who could have won without changing any major facts about the campaign). And if you still don’t think that after last fall, I just don’t know what to say.

    • Murc

      Now that France and England, the latter quite unexpectedly, have rejected the White People Parties,

      England… didn’t?

      I mean, May still won. In fact, her coalition is even more vile when it comes to being the White People Party than her previous majority was.

      • tsam

        Taking into account that May was expected to expand her majority and ended up losing most of it is something, though not an outright rejection.

        I don’t think the result of this election was meaningless in the context of public opinion toward racist policy…?

      • ASV

        The number of people I’ve seen describing this as a victory by Labour, full stop, is astonishing. None of these people want to hear about Hillary winning the popular vote. BTW.

        • Q.E.Dumbass

          STALEMATE IS VICTORY

        • Murc

          It’s absolutely all right to talk about Labour’s performance as a victory in some ways, but not as, you know… the “won the election” kind of victory.

    • kped

      England didn’t reject the white people party, May still won with nearly 1M more voters, and were only 8 seats away from a majority (and were only 400 votes in a variety of ridings from getting that http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/06/12/theresa-may-just-400-votes-short-majority/)

      On the flipside, Labour was 100K votes away from a similar majority.

      And the big turning point in the election had nothing to do with Corbyn, it was the Conservatives announcing tax increases on old people a few days before the election. But I’m sure Corbyn did some things right to help his party drive the vote, only saying it wasn’t really a “rejection” of the conservatives the way you presented it.

      • Denverite

        May still won with nearly 1M more voters,

        Without addressing your larger point, this assertion really gets my goat. The Tories got more votes than last time because the UKIP collapsed, largely because it was absorbed by the Tories. It’s like a world in which the SNP ceased to exist — Labour likely would pick up millions of those votes.

        • FOARP

          Actually UKIP’s collapse was a tide that lifted all boats. The Tories only gain marginally more than Labour as a result of this.

          The difference was that the Tories only really gained from UKIP, whilst Labour received part of the vote from every party.

          Oh, and the world where the SNP ceased to exist? Well were most of the way there. They lost more than 200,000 votes to the Conservatives. Labour only increased their vote in Scotland by a few thousands, though it was spread much better because of tactical voting.

    • Murc

      Also, I feel like I should say: Karen, I don’t always agree with you, and we slung a lot of fire back and forth during the primary and the election, but I never ever feel like I’ve wasted my time when I read your posts and they always give me a lot to think about. I’m not sure I agree with this angle, but it IS one I hadn’t considered before and now I absolutely have to.

      (I also miss Abbey.)

      • Q.E.Dumbass

        Honestly, what Karen wrote – that a Sanders loss would’ve been worse than Clinton’s – was the main reason why I voted for the latter candidate in the primaries, even though I was generally closer to him politically.

      • Karen24

        Thank you! You always give me something to think about as well.

    • I am firmly in the “who knows if Sanders would have won, but I’m glad if someone lost it was Clinton” camp. Sanders winning the primary and losing the general to Trump is the true Darkest Timeline.

      • witlesschum

        Same.

        • Q.E.Dumbass

          In said timeline, Jacobin turns into a Counterpunch clone the week after the election, TYT changes its name to Herrenvolk, and Republican officials go back to wearing Klan and Nazi uniforms.

          (That is, a Sanders loss would both delegitimization the left and resurrect “outni**ering” as a serious/legitimate strategy.

      • Scott Lemieux

        Agreed. Witless “Bernie woulda won!” trolling can be irritating, but the amount of chicken-fucking from the Fourniers of the world if Bernie had lost would be much worse.

    • humanoid.panda

      “Now that France and England, the latter quite unexpectedly, have rejected the White People Parties, I feel a great deal more confident about the world”

      Let’s keep in mind that both in the UK and in FRance, the electorate is somewhere between 85-95% percent white (and in Britain especially, Poles and Romanians are as much target of bigotry as non-white people..). We really should not blindly copy American politics onto totally different contexts.

      • Q.E.Dumbass

        C’mon, we all know you know what Karen means.

        • humanoid.panda

          Yeah, that was a bit knee jerk, but I’m kinda getting tired of every single election being pushed into the Hillary vs. Bernie vs. Trump debate. The Britons in particular, do an admirable job of being bigoted in ways that don’t work here in the US..

          • Q.E.Dumbass

            Per Orwell:

            All peoples who have reached the point of becoming nations tend to despise foreigners, but there is not much doubt that the English-speaking races are the worst offenders. One can see this from the fact that as soon as they become fully aware of any foreign race they invent an insulting nickname for it. Wop, Dago, Froggy, Squarehead, K**e, Sheeny, Ni**er, Wog, Ch*nk, Greaser, Yellowbelly — these are merely a selection. Any time before 1870 the list would have been shorter, because the map of the world was different from what it is now, and there were only three or four foreign races that had fully entered into the English consciousness. But towards these, and especially towards France, the nearest and best-hated nation, the English attitude of patronage was so intolerable that English ‘arrogance’ and ‘xenophobia’ are still a legend. And of course they are not a completely untrue legend even now. Till very recently nearly all English children were brought up to despise the southern European races, and history as taught in schools was mainly a list of battles won by England. But one has got to read, say, the Quarterly Review of the [eighteen-]thirties to know what boasting really is. Those were the days when the English built up their legend of themselves as ‘sturdy islanders’ and ‘stubborn hearts of oak’ and when it was accepted as a kind of scientific fact that one Englishman was the equal of three foreigners.

            –”Charles Dickens,”.Essay II

            • humanoid.panda

              Imagine how different world history would be if England was a peninsula, not island, and thus immune from illusions of grandeur..

              • rea

                Imagine how different world history would be if England was a peninsula, not island, and thus immune from illusions of grandeur.

                Oh, like Spain is lacking in delusions of grandeur, not to mention Italy, and Greece

            • muddy

              “Wogs begin at Calais.”

            • rea

              the English built up their legend of themselves as ‘sturdy islanders’ and ‘stubborn hearts of oak’

              Well, Orwell is confused there. the song goes:

              Heart of Oak are our ships,
              Jolly Tars are our men

              Which you must admit makes more sense than the notion of Englishmen flattering themselves with their own woodenheadedness

    • humanoid.panda

      “So what does this have to do with this post? For one thing, I completely disagree that Sanders would have won. He woud have suffered an even more catastrophic drop in PoC support — black women sharply preferred Clinton — and probably would not have made those inroads into suburban districts that Clinton did.”

      People keep repeating this argument, but its’ enormously fallacious. To be blunt, black women are reliable voters. Young men, espeacially Black young men, much less so, and Bernie did much better among this category of voters. There is simply no reason to assume that people who vote in every election would not turn out because the candidate who they didn’t vote for, but didn’t pick any fights with them, won’t show up. Unfair as it sounds, the party ought to think about marginal voters before reliable voters..

      • UncleEbeneezer

        “There is simply no reason to assume that people who vote in every election would not turn out because the candidate who they didn’t vote for, but didn’t pick any fights with them, completely ignored them won’t show up.”

  • Murc

    I think there’s a problematic ambiguity in BWHW rhetoric even though I agree with the claim.

    I would like to formally endorse this view and this phrasing as precisely mirroring my own.

    In particular, she’s the best debater of any major Democratic candidate of my lifetime — Obama very much included

    This is only true substantively, I think. Clinton is better than Obama at debating if we’re using metrics of substance.

    You know who else was better at debating on substance than their opponent? Nixon when he went up against JFK. That didn’t matter one bit, because JFK’s personal attributes meant that people ascribed to him the win anyway, and that’s what really matters. I think Obama surpasses Clinton here, in the same way that Trump’s Bart Simpson (“More asbestos! More asbestos!”) surpassed the other Republican’s Martin Prince.

    The real problem, as I’ve mentioned before, is that when you posit a Sanders (or O’Malley or Biden or Webb) who can beat Clinton, you’re positing a different and non-existent candidate.

    Eh? You are?

    It would seem to me that what you’re doing is positing that the primary electorate and the Democratic Party in general made a bad decision, and that you’d like them to learn from this and make better ones. It’s about controlling the narrative in ways that are politically and ideologically congenial to your aims. It’s got nothing to do with positing an alterna-Bernie. I mean… what would even be the point of that, besides as one of your mentioned parlor-game hypotheticals?

    Sure, an O’Malley who could win the nomination would probably be a pretty strong candidate, but he also doesn’t exist. A Joe Biden who was committed to running, disciplined, persuaded Obama that he was the better candidate, and didn’t have two zero-delegate primary runs under his belt…you get the idea.

    This assumes that the only relevant actors here are the candidates themselves, as opposed to the Democratic Party and its membership. Saying “hey, maybe you guys were wrong about O’Malley/Biden/Sanders/etc., and you should incorporate the fact that you were wrong in how you evaluate actually-existing candidates and facts on the ground going forward” might be an argument that is wrong, but it is not, as I’m fond of saying, risible.

    If you would like the Democratic Party to make different decisions going forward that allow candidates more to your liking to win primaries, it seems perfectly useful and legitimate to try to craft narratives and lobby the party in ways that make this happen.

    To boil this all down, Scott, it seems like you’re focusing purely on the candidate side of things, saying “well, the candidate you want doesn’t exist, so if you want them you’ll have to create them.” Sure. You could do that. You probably should do that. But it isn’t the only option. Another option “make the party more willing to chose a candidate who DOES exist and is to my liking.”

    Is anyone making “Bernie woulda won” arguments going to argue that Macron — who actually won the presidency and whose new party won crushing legislative majorities — is evidence that neoliberalism is the best weapon against fascism and the Democrats should emulate him? Of course not.

    Oh man, I’m super glad you brought this up, because some people are REALLY embarrassing themselves over Macron and France!

    Let’s take a look at our dear friend David Atkins over in the Washington Monthly:

    In the aftermath of Labour’s surprising success, the usual suspects are trying to claim that rather than an authentic surge for an economic populist left, the result represents an overseas backlash against Trump. But that would only explain why far-right candidates are underperforming–not why left-populist politicians like Melenchon in France and Corbyn in Britain are doing so well.

    Emphasis mine.

    Atkins is seriously arguing with a straight face that Jean-Lun Melenchon, whose party is on the verge of imploding and who ran significantly behind Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS in the most recent presidential election, is a left-populist politician who is doing “so well.” He has to do this, because Macron represents an enormous threat to the narrative he’s trying to craft. But we’re supposed to be the reality-based community.

    I love Atkins but good god he can produce some howlers at times.

    • Ronan

      caveat; not an expert on french politics.

      Argument, people are missing the point. Macron was not the triumph of neoliberal centrism, but an example of the anti establishment wave.

      Hypothesis, Bernie would have won.

      • aab84

        This is much more plausible to me than the “Bernie would have won because socialism!” takes. Of course, the implication is that any Democrat running even an Obama 2008 style campaign probably would have won, which doesn’t fit the narrative some of the loudest voices on this are looking to put forward.

        • Ronan

          antiestablishmentarianism as a political identity (saw it argued somewhere recently, though not sure where)

          eta: saw the concept elaborated on. But im claiming the naming of it

        • StellaB

          I can easily see the MSM/GOP cheerfully convincing everybody that Bernie Sanders, after nearly 40 years in government was not an outsider to, uh, government. Trump’s big selling point was that he had never held office, not that he had held office for 40 years and done nothing remarkable in that time.

      • Murc

        Argument, people are missing the point. Macron was not the triumph of neoliberal centrism, but an example of the anti establishment wave.

        Hypothesis, Bernie would have won.

        This is a perfectly cromulent argument, but Atkins (as well as many, many others) are making explicit “these people are popular mostly because of their policies” arguments, and that requires them to completely overlook Macron.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks

        Melenchon’s party is not imploding. The Socialist Party is imploding. Melenchon’s party, France Unbowed, is brand new and did ok in the parliamentary elections. Depending on how they perform in the second round, they may have enough deputies to form a parliamentary group, which was their goal going into these parliamentary elections.

        • Murc

          Ugh, yes, I got my wires crossed there. You’re correct to point it out, but I believe my larger point re: Atkins pointing to Melenchon as a left-wing populist who is succeeding popularly still stands.

          And I’m not sure anyone but En Marche can be said to be doing anything other than disastrously in the parliamentary elections. Isn’t En Marche on track to get something like 400 seats in the Assembly? That’d be an over two-thirds majority.

          • djw

            Yeah, the notion that Unbowed France “did OK” could only come from a position of radically lower expectations that I would have thought reasonable.

            • Incontinentia Buttocks

              I’m basing my sense of their expectations on pre-election stories I read, which emphasized the goal of electing 15 deputies.

      • nemdam

        One problem with the “Bernie woulda won because he was anti-establishment” ignores that fact that if Bernie becomes the nominee, he either becomes the establishment by being the successor and defender of Obama’s legacy, or he distances himself from Obama which is a surefire path to defeat. This sounds weird, but I think Bernie could’ve been portrayed as both “the Obama/Democratic establishment” to people who hate that (base Republicans) “socialist/anti-corporate outsider” to people who hate that (swing suburban voters which Clinton did relatively well with).

        And we can’t forget that the Establishment candidate won the popular vote and would’ve won the election without FBI interference. And Russia still would’ve interfered if Bernie was the candidate. And I have a hard time believing the media would be appreciably better to Bernie.

    • Scott Lemieux

      1)I don’t know of any metric on which Obama is a better debater than Clinton. There’s nothing in Clinton’s history like Obama’s disastrous first debate with Romney. And she didn’t just win the debates with Trump, she was perceived by both the public and a hostile press as having won them.

      2)I think I’ll do a follow-up post on this, but the problem with the “think of the voters” argument is that it’s not how politics works. You can’t just go to voters who take their cue from leaders another candidate has a long relationship with and say “vote for me, I’m more electable.” And even if you could, nobody actually knows what a good candidate is. Presumably, if Labour voters (especially the second time around) were voting on “electability” they would have rejected Corbyn, which would have been a mistake.

      3)That Atkins point, ouch.

      • Murc

        I think I’ll do a follow-up post on this, but the problem with the “think of the voters” argument is that it’s not how politics works.

        I… what?

        Politics doesn’t work by convincing people that you’re right and that they should follow your lead?

        If you really believe that, why have you spend nearly a decade yelling at the “Obama could have implemented Glorious Socialism, but he didn’t. Even. Try” Green Lantern crowd? I had always assumed you were doing it to convince both sitters fence sitters and, hopefully, some members of that crowd themselves that they were wrong, and you were right, and that perhaps they should change the way in which they evaluate politics and make political choices in the future.

        If that wasn’t what you were trying to do I have to wonder why you spilt so much ink on it.

        You can’t just go to voters who take their cue from leaders another candidate has a long relationship with and say “vote for me, I’m more electable.”

        Then it’s a good thing I didn’t advocate for this. I’m legitimately curious why you think I have, and I’m struggling to see how it is germane.

        … actually, even if I had, isn’t this basically what Donald Trump did last year? And to a lesser extent what Barack Obama did in 2008? I mean, doesn’t every single “Vote for me!” argument carry with it the implicit argument “I’m more electable.” I suppose a candidate in a primary could argue “oh, no, my opponent is TOTALLY more electable than me, but you should roll the dice on me anyway” but that would certainly be… unique.

        • nemdam

          I think Scott’s point is voters don’t care about electability. They vote on who they like more and who they think would be better for the country. If a voter doesn’t like you, electability arguments go right over their head.

          • Scott Lemieux

            Right. I just don’t see how this argument is going to persuade anybody. People who like candidates will assume they’re electable. 2016 might convince people that Hillary Clinton is unelectable, but that will be of zero use to voters trying to pick between Gillibrand, Booker, and Bernie.

    • Murc, I think you’re conflating Melenchon and Hamon. Hamon is the Socialist Party candidate who came in a distant fifth. Melenchon was in the second tier with Fillon and has his own party/movement thing. Both Melenchon and Fillon were less than two points short of Le Pen, while Macron got a lousy 6%.

      • Murc

        Murc, I think you’re conflating Melenchon and Hamon.

        Only a little bit, but yes, I 100% did this. You are correct to point this out, especially because…

        Both Melenchon and Fillon were less than two points short of Le Pen, while Macron got a lousy 6%.

        … I am pretty sure it was Hamon, not Melenchon, who got a lousy 6%. Thus, you have committed the precise error you called me out for, which is just about my absolute favorite kind of irony. :)

        • Actually, it looks like I accidentally wrote Macron instead of Hamon, not Melenchon. It think we should just chalk this up to “French people need to be more creative with their last names” and call it a day before we end up talking about bonbons and lardons.

    • tsam

      Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS

      I tried to watch this but just ended up hating myself for wanting to watch it in the first place.

    • Gareth

      “I think Obama surpasses Clinton here, in the same way that Trump’s Bart Simpson (“More asbestos! More asbestos!”) surpassed the other Republican’s Martin Prince.”

      But Martin Prince won that election. All down to turnout.

      • Murc

        He won the election, not the debates. Which is what we were talking about.

    • Sebastian_h

      Yup. Clinton and the Democratic Party sculpted each other into being the perfect complements. However that was done, this loss should cause reevaluation about the wisdom of doing so.

  • mongolia

    one other thing that isn’t discussed is whether either of the main 2016 candidates have ever shown the ability to run competent national campaigns? both are from tiny, single-cd states, and have been defeated pretty roundly nationally – biden in ’88 and ’08, bernie in ’16 where he had no plausible route for victory by 03/01/16 despite running even in terms of money spent. both of them have faced off against hillary and lost badly, so not sure why we should assume that they are great candidates, especially since neither have really had any sort of oppo campaign against them – biden being too insignificant to care about (and useful for republicans as “old white guy we can contrast muslim black dude against”) and bernie being useful as a cudgel to divide dems against hillary/barack, sort of like republican ratfucking against gore using nader in ’00.

    though to be fair, i’m rooting for both to run for ’20. mostly because they’re both at the point where i’m irritated every time they speak because they make the same banal talking points every time, a whitewashing of the racial animus of voters that voted for trump, and would love to see harris or gillibrand vanquish them in the primary. petty, i know, but it would be nice if two major dem figures would at least attempt to use facts to back up their analyses of the failures of ’16.

    edit: the other elephant in the room is the ny fbi office, which appears to have been closely aligned with rudy giuliani types and hoping for a trump win – is it guaranteed that they wouldn’t dig dirt against bernie/biden/other dem candidates and “force” comey to leak his october surprise? this is is why i’m sceptical of bernie would have won style hypothesis – the election was really complicated.

    • Murc

      one other thing that isn’t discussed is whether either of the main 2016 candidates have ever shown the ability to run competent national campaigns?

      I mean… to be fair, there is only one candidate who can ever demonstrate this, and only one time: a president running for re-election. Anyone else running a national campaign will either have a record that is 100% losses, or be doing it for the very first time.

      • StellaB

        Grover Cleveland.

        • Murc

          Dammit, Cleveland!

          He’s made me look foolish for the second non-consecutive time!

      • randy khan

        Well, both Biden and Sanders had the chance to show that they could run successful national primary campaigns, and neither one managed it. I think that’s relevant to the main question.

      • free_fries_

        Teddy Roosevelt 1912

    • Dilan Esper

      On your last point, we are no longer in the days of J Edgar Hoover. The FBI is full of right wingers (there needs to be a purge), but they can’t just “dig up dirt”. There are significant penalties for FBI agents who use their surveillance capabilities in matters not under investigation. They can’t just tap Sanders’ phone or surveill his activities.

      They could do what they did to Hillary because they had a legitimate investigation going.

      • mongolia

        my point there was more about how, if bernie looked like he had a good chance of winning in early ’16, that republicans would start bullshit witch-hunts into something in his record – my guess is it would be a whitewater-esque look into jane’s issues with burlington college, but the point is that with the krazy kaukus in the house starting bullshit investigations we can’t assume that far-right fbi agents wouldn’t start snooping around bernie to try and damage his would-be general election campaign

        • nemdam

          Exactly. Once Bernie becomes a real threat, then it’s Republican investigation time, and then well, whaddya know? Looks like we found something the FBI should take a look at (like Burlington College) and now we are back to where Clinton was. Seems imminently plausible.

          To think Clinton did something uniquely bad to make email management the top issue of the campaign is to ignore that the issue was really about finding something, anything to smear Clinton with as a crook. If email management can do the job, it’s not hard to find something else that will for another candidate.

          • mongolia

            iirc they found out about the emails through the benghazi witchhunt – sort of like how they got her husband lying about blowjobs because of the whitewater witchhunt.

            the one common thread is that republicans will do whatever they can to ratfuck dems, and that we have to make sure that, provided they didn’t actually do anything wrong, that we make sure we attack the media for bullshit bothsiderism against our candidates and that we make sure that low-info “independents” get the message that our person is basically not corrupt, and whatever shitstain the republicans put out is a a vile corrupt piece of garbage

            • humanoid.panda

              “Exactly. Once Bernie becomes a real threat, then it’s Republican investigation time, and then well, whaddya know? Looks like we found something the FBI should take a look at (like Burlington College) and now we are back to where Clinton was. Seems imminently plausible.

              We all remember all the investigations that totally felled Gore, Kerry and Obama..

              • nemdam

                They certainly tried with Obama. And the did with Bill. And they swiftboated Kerry which I consider an investigation. It’s not like Republican investigations can automatically destroy a candidate, but they have usually figured out how to get something to stick.

                I guess Al Gore was sparred, but there were different problems with him.

  • petesh

    What happened in the UK and France was significantly affected by what had happened in the US in November and since. In an election held now, I’d bet my house on a Democrat (and maybe even an Independent carpetbagger). But it’s not now, not soon, not guaranteed for 2020 and … this BWHW rubbish makes no sense.

    • FOARP

      “What happened in the UK and France was significantly affected by what had happened in the US in November and since.”

      This is almost as ridiculous a claim as me claiming that the Brexit vote significantly affected the US presidential elections. Sure, there’s always some cross-talk between the political establishments of different countries, but no, most people just see the election of Trump as an incredibly stupid thing the Americans did to themselves.

      • Nick never Nick

        Actually, Trump opening his gaping maw and slagging the Lord Mayor of London in the final week of the UK campaign did not help Prime Minister May one tiny little infinitesimal bit — it reminded everyone that she and Trump stood together and that she was certainly not going to take him to task, just because he insulted a British politician dealing with a violent outrage (who coincidentally was Muslim). Wasn’t a good look for her at all.

        Neither did Trump’s support help Le Pen. People in other countries know what they’re voting for, and a lot of people on the Right in those countries are allies of Trump. For some reason, they’re not winning. Not in the Netherlands, not in France, not in Britain.

  • D.N. Nation

    The Bernie Twitterati have convinced me. If he runs in 2020, I’m writing in “Bernie Would Have Won” in the GA Primary in lieu of any other neoliberal sellout candidate, which is all of them, including perhaps Bernie Sanders himself.

    • EliHawk

      Maybe Sanders will even win a second county in Georgia this time. At that rate of improvement, he’ll the the state’s unanimous choice for POTUS in 2648.

  • Quaker in a Basement

    O’Malley’s thumbs are bigger than Hillary’s OR Trump’s.

    It’s irrefutable.

  • Epicurus

    Herewith, the three most useless statements in the English language: “Coulda,” “woulda,” and “shoulda.” You didn’t, you can’t, and it’s too damn late now. Let’s stop fighting the last battle and look ahead to the one coming; how do we convince a majority of the House and Senate that Drumpf must be impeached and removed from office and/or get a majority of the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment? (Not that I expect either of those scenarios to come to fruition, I’m hoping for Mueller to get indictments or for the forces of Mother Nature to take care of the problem.) I’m rooting for a nice myocardial infarction or a stroke.

    • John F

      “Let’s stop fighting the last battle and look ahead to the one coming”

      The argument ain’t over until either the Lemieux side or the Esper/Cilliza side says, “I concede, you’re right, let’s move on”- and the heat death of the universe is likely to intervene before that happens.

      At this point LGM seems locked in a cycle, a Bernie Bro or HDS sufferer write SOMETHING and SL feels obligated to respond…

      Let’s all let it go

      • SatanicPanic

        Seconded. This subject is up there with whether or not Melania is living in the White House on my don’t care list.

      • Spider-Dan

        OK, let’s let it go.

        Now how do we proceed with Democratic Party policy? Should we throw women/minorities/gays overboard as we abandon “identity politics” in favor of unadulterated economic populism? Oh, look, we’re right back at the primary battle again.

        Bernie Would Have Won is merely a proxy for the discussion of the hour: is pure economic populism the golden ticket to victory as the Berniecrats insist, or was the Obama coalition undermined by extraordinarily unique ratfucking in a one-off result?

  • NewishLawyer

    The thing about the Bernie Woulda Won crowd is that I think they are largely frustrated about their lack of power within the party. And maybe the nation.

    The Senate puts huge structural barriers aganist liberalism because the Democrats need people like Jon Tester to maintain a Senate majority. We also need Chuck Schumers. Sanders can win in a place like Vermont but very few other states.

    Even in deep blue areas, the progressive candidates have a hard time moving beyond the City Council. Every city wide election in SF results in the more moderate candidate winning. Werner v. Kim, Chiu v. Campos, Ed Lee v. His opponents.

    • Murc

      The structure of the Senate and the electorate isn’t the only game in town, though. Internal party culture and politics play a huge role.

      Republican moderates fall in line with their arsonist colleagues even when it is catastrophically risky to themselves. I’d like to see a similar culture built on the Democratic side of the aisle. In fact, I would argue that it is more important for us precisely because of the way structural factors are against us; we only get a bite at the apple one every twenty years or so, which means we need people who are willing to get elected and then wiped out after passing a giant raft of legislation.

      • SatanicPanic

        The Democrats mostly fell in line in 2009. Lieberman was a pain, but I imagine he didn’t really want to vote for any healthcare plan.

        • efgoldman

          Lieberman was a pain

          And he would have been a pain if he was in the Kosher Rastafarian Party. It’s in his nature.

      • NewishLawyer

        Democrats fall in line when it counts, almost all the time.

        We still lotta get Tester be Tester to keep Montana Democratic.

        Progressive/Liberal love for Biden did not come until he was the Veep and seem to delight in the Onion headlines.

        • wjts

          I would not be terribly surprised to learn that several of the people who tout Biden as a real leftist alternative to Hillary Clinton actually believe he’s just like the character in the Onion stories.

      • efgoldman

        I’d like to see a similar culture built on the Democratic side of the aisle.

        Now I KNOW you’ve read your Will Rodgers….

        we need people who are willing to get elected and then wiped out after passing a giant raft of legislation.

        Easy for you to say; you’re not running.

        Where do you get these paragons of virtue? And how do you get 67+ or more of them in the senate?

        • Murc

          Where do you get these paragons of virtue?

          I dunno. The Republicans keep finding them? What’s so different about us we can’t do the same?

          • tsam

            It’s a lot easier to sell the small government/deficit hawk/kill all those evil Iranian ISIS guys than actual sound government policy that makes the US a better place to live for everyone instead of just a Wall Street parasite.

      • Hogan

        If you can get my employer to pay me for a year of campaigning, and then give me a two-year unpaid leave with a guarantee of a job when I come back, I’ll sign up. Otherwise fuck no.

        • tsam

          According to the rando political scientists all over Facebook, they get free medical, dental, 20 million/year salary and criminal immunity for life. Is this not true?

    • D.N. Nation

      David Klion (who I like, mind you) had an argument the other day that broader leftist dissatisfaction with the Democratic candidate in GA-6 is less about Jon Ossoff himself and more about the realities of the district itself. Which, fine, be disappointed. But what do you intend to *do* about these 700,000 people? Thus far the answer is “put up no one and gripe after the fact.”

      • Justin Runia

        Hey, it works for the Greens.

      • NewishLawyer

        I agree with you.

        Though another big issue is that there are a lot of really well-off people (and often Democratic voters) who say they are middle class when they are really wealthy and the Democratic Party has to let them get away with it.

        There was an interesting essay in the Times on Sunday about how even David Cameron couldn’t get away with sending his kids to a posh private school in the UK but here many liberals feel perfectly okay with spending huge amounts of money on private school tuition.

        I don’t fully agree with Erik’s hardcore stance against this but there is a point. But how we are going to change this is beyond me.

        • That was an interesting article. It was also interesting that the writer is a transplanted Brit. He may overestimate the number of people who put their kids in private school here. Or maybe he underestimates the relative poshness of his personal circle, in US terms. I get the sense also that Brits tend to feel that their state-subsidized church or other non-profit schools are actually “state run” and thus “not posh” where that would not fly here, as well. I think I’ll wait for someone better qualified than him to weigh in on the issue, much as he strokes some of my own prejudices.

          • LeeEsq

            The boundaries between state and private regarding schools and other cultural institutes tend to be a lot blurrier in European countries than they are in the United States. A lot of this is because many of the institutions are very old and different relationships to the government for centuries.

            • Right. I know one lefty guy online who’s said he chose an “academic” school for his kids instead of the “local comprehensive” and AFAIK the arguments used against Corbyn are not considered relevant. There’s really no equivalent choice an American could equally comfortably make. Maybe the local parish school, I guess.

              • That last sentence was meant as a dig at Joe from Lowell, who went on quite a bit about the moral imperative of attending the local public high school, and it was well known to be better than the alternative anyway, but never did say what grade school his own kids attended.

              • LeeEsq

                In the UK you have lots of schools that started off as charitable endeavors during the Middle Ages, Tudor, or Stuart period and still exist today. They aren’t quite private schools in the American sense because they were subjected to legislation about their governance and funding many times but they aren’t public in the American sense either. Similar things seem to exist in other European countries. You don’t really have private tertiary education like you do in the United States but lots of the older and more prestigious institutions act the same way as HYPS do in the United States. They act as private institutions in all but name.

          • NewishLawyer

            Possibly. I think the issue is split among liberals because you also see a Big Sort split usually between the Move to the Burbs crowd (which tends to send their kids to public school) and everyone else. I didn’t really know anyone who attended private school until I went to college. Most of those kids who attended private school were not from wealthier families than mine. Their parents just made a choice to stay in cities and send their kids to private schools.

            60 percent of my undergrad went to public high school but we still had a reputation for being a private school mecca because that 40 percent had an outsized influence on campus in many ways.

            • I’ve been meaning to read (I’ve read excerpts) Sandra Tsing Loh’s book on trying to be one of those moms who tries to help out at a less comfortable school in LA. In big cities with a lot of choice you do get some parents who stay with the public schools for moral or political reasons if they can.

              The article you mention suggests, vaguely, that people at the 80th percentile mostly send their kids to private school, which is probably not quite the case, as tuition for one kid would eat up an entire person’s after-tax income at something a bit above 80%, unless tuitions are much, much lower in higher-density locations.

              • LeeEsq

                I think around 90% or more of American kids going to public schools and traditional public schools at that. The rest go to private schools, mainly religious rather than elite secular/semi-religious or are home schooled.

                • Some number also go to military academies or schools that serve kids with special needs, and most religious schools have tuitions equal to that at a regular private school anyway. At any rate, it seems fair to assume that leaves well under 10% of households using private schools that have some claim to be “posh.” I suppose if that’s the worst flaw in the op-ed, it’s still probably pretty helpful, and this doesn’t detract much from the general argument.

      • EliHawk

        The thing is, there doesn’t actually seem to be any relevant opposition to Ossoff: He’s raising tons of $ from liberal small donors, getting like 100% of Democratic Voters (and got 99% of them in round 1. The left, right, and center of the party are all on board, as are the blacks and whites in the state party.

        The New Republic had an article about it today essentially getting quote after quote from pundits and Professional DC Activist Group types, all of whom were essentially saying “We thought there was going to be an ideological civil war, and no one showed up!”

        Basically: There may be a certain number of leftists at Jacobin, or at the Bernie Wouldastock this past weekend, but in terms of actually being a force in the party, they’re writing checks their body can’t cash.

    • NeonTrotsky

      To hell with that, the Senate puts a huge structural barrier against Democracy. A person voting in wyoming is 66 times more powerful than someone in california and infinitely more powerful than someone voting in Washington DC or Puerto Rico.

      • Justin Runia

        Here here. Not to mention that the same sort of House of Lords system is replicated in most state governments as well.

        • Aexia

          States aren’t allowed to have a structures like the Senate. They have to be representative of the population.

      • so-in-so

        And yet, the nuttiest RW stuff still comes from the House.

      • Murc

        A person voting in wyoming is 66 times more powerful than someone in california and infinitely more powerful than someone voting in Washington DC or Puerto Rico.

        Tangentially, Puerto Rico keeps kinda shooting itself in the foot here.

        They just had another referendum yesterday, and it was deliberately sabotaged by the two anti-statehood political factions. They know that they can’t actually win, so they resorted to de-legitimizing the election with conspiracy-mongering and then a boycott. And that’s contemptible.

        I have a great deal of sympathy for the good people of Puerto Rico, who have been legitimately hard done by the United States for many decades. But they can’t keep surfing on our couch forever; they want us to be responsive to their demands and needs, and they want the advantages that come with US citizenship and close association, but they also don’t want to take responsibility for fully participating in politics either as an independent nation or one state among fifty others.

  • AlanInSF

    Okay, fair enough, but Jeff Lebowski would have won.

    • tsam

      DEEZ NUTZ WOULDA WON IN A FUCKING LANDSLIDE, PEOPLE.

  • Bruce B.

    A couple more things I genuinely would like to see BWHW arguments address:

    #1. Incompetence and/or graft in ad buys. Sanders’ campaign was paying a lot more for ads than anyone else. (That’s a story about New York state in particular, but it’s completely representative.) No campaign spends money perfectly, but it’s clear that Sanders was getting much less bang for his buck than Clinton, and without drastic overhauling, would have ended up able to do less than Clinton did. And a drastic overhaul imposes various kinds of costs of its own.

    #2. In August, the appointment of Sanders’ campaign manager to head a post-primary organization to keep up the work led to mass resignation, and arguments over funding and such. It’s not clear to me that the Sanders campaign could have avoided comparable splits if it had had to keep functioning on through the general campaign season. What’s the argument for confidence that it would avoid all that?

    • xq

      #1. Isn’t there a basically identical argument people make on Trump vs Clinton spending in the general? Ads do not have large effects, but if you have tons of money what else are you going to spend it on?

      • nemdam

        In hindsight, I think it’s fair to say Trump didn’t worry about traditional campaign spending because he had help from his foreign comrades.

        I’m not kidding. I think this is why Trump didn’t bother as much with ads/GOTV because he knew Russia was going to make up for it.

        • muddy

          His peeps get all the info they need from his Twitter feed.

      • Bruce B.

        My understanding – which is limited, and I want someone who knows more to come along and tell me how much I’ve gotten wrong, really – is that they were overspending on all kinds of stuff, with the ads as emblematic.

      • Aexia

        Trump got billions of dollars worth of “earned media” from a press that would breathlessly cover his plane landing or an empty podium at a rally over Clinton actually speaking.

  • Q.E.Dumbass

    OT, but linked here because these threads always turn into tire fires after a while: Presidential* cabinet, kneel before Grodd!

    https://newrepublic.com/minutes/143276/donald-trump-just-publicly-humiliate-entire-cabinet-worries-end-near

    • wjts

      Zod, surely? I was never really a D.C. reader, but I don’t remember a whole lot of Grodd-related groveling.

      • Q.E.Dumbass

        Grodd has intermittently adopted it from Zod, as they rhyme; incidentally, comics Zod only got the submission tic from his movie counterpart late last decade — before that, Dru-Zod was generally just a generic military villain. (Plus, using Zod would undermine the implicit joke of Trump being a “great” ape – obviously an orangutan).

        Somewhat related: Any opinions on John Byrne’s Superman #22?

        • wjts

          Orangutans noble beasts etc. don’t deserve etc.

          And no, never read any of the John Byrne Superman stories. The only DC stuff I can claim anything more than passing familiarity with are the Giffen/DeMatteis era Justice League, some of the original Vertigo titles (and their pre-Vertigo runs), and Silver Age Doom Patrol.

    • davidsmcwilliams

      Some things are too painful to watch … I just can’t. Is the video as bad as it sounds from the blurb?

      Also, Geraldo is still on TV?!?

      • so-in-so

        Also, Geraldo is still on TV?!?

        That in itself is part of why Dump won.

    • tsam

      I made to Sessions and shut it off. Fucking southern accents make we want to destroy.

  • cpinva

    Sanders couldn’t have possibly won the general, because he couldn’t even win the Democratic Party’s nomination. therefore, Sanders the Democratic Party’s nominee in the general election never exists. the same goes for Rubio/Huckabee/etc.

    I’ve been pointing this out for months, and it’s as though I’m talking to the proverbial brick wall. oh, wait…………..

    • so-in-so

      Of course, it only works in tandem with “Hillary and DWS STOLE the nomination”. Not that that stops a lot of people.

      I guess the new group are all on the “look – leftism total wins, suck it centrist-neo-libs” train rather than the HRC + DWS = corrupt train, but …

    • Nick never Nick

      That doesn’t make any sense at all — the electorate for the general election and the electorate for the Democratic nomination are extremely different.

      Trump won the general election, and he couldn’t have won the Democratic Party nomination, right?

      • Spider-Dan

        But Trump did win the Republican Party nomination.

        The implied logic is that Bernie, Rubio, Jeb, et al could not have won the Democratic OR Republican nomination, while Hillary did win the former and Trump did win the latter.

  • Quite Likely

    This seems to be ignoring the main factor behind the whole BWHW meme: the Clinton campaign’s argument against Bernie was 130% about him being unelectable. Just anecdotally this was a huge factor among many Clinton voters – “America’s never going to elect a socialist! We’ve got to vote for Clinton to keep Trump out!”

    Obviously no one can peer into hypothetical timelines and no for sure what would have happened, but there really are some strong reasons to think that Bernie would have done better in the key states that ended up costing Clinton the election. So it’s important to keep blaring out “Bernie would have won” to ensure that next time around people people don’t make the same mistake and conflate establishment centrism with electability. And that’s what the Corbyn race is all about: he showed that being the kind of leader the left has been yearning for all this time doesn’t actually rule out political success like everyone thought, and that it may actually be an asset.

    • I spent a lot of time watching both Clinton and Sanders supporters online, and I really don’t recall electability being a huge point of contention. Clinton/Sanders was already very contentious before people had really come around to the idea that Trump would be the GOP nominee.

      • randy khan

        There was a ton of “Bernie would be the stronger general election candidate” from his supporters, and certainly there was pushback from Hillary supporters.

  • Davis

    Would O’Malley have won with that photograph in the hands of the opposition? I’ve lived in Maryland for over 40 years, and he’s never looked like Mortimer Snerd. Photo courtesy of Baltimore and Washington Examiners.

  • Nick never Nick

    It’s certainly strange to take the defeat of the Bernie-type candidate in the UK as evidence that the American Bernie would have won . . .

    Obviously, the two elections are completely different, the parties are different, the electorates are different, the political cultures are different, and the political milieu is 100% 100% different. What I think is interesting about the UK specifically is the way in which ‘narrow victory’ in the UK can actually translate into ‘crushing loss leading to total lack of governing ability’, whereas in the American system, ‘narrow victory’ can lead to ‘hegemonic power’ (e.g. Trump), and ‘substantial victory’ can lead to ‘substantial loss of governing ability’ (Obama). And yet, it wasn’t until I moved to Canada that I came across an analysis that suggested the American system of checks and balances might not be an unalloyed good . . .

  • AMK

    Compared to Clinton, media treatment is pretty much all upside

    I don’t think this should be assumed with Bernie. One candidate is a fascist, yes, but the other gives every indication of being committed to substantially raising taxes on the senior media people and their employers and owners. The chorus line would have been months of “Trump and Bernie are both so extreme!!!!”…and that’s without factoring in the GOP oppo library on Bernie and all the red/Jew baiting that goes along with it. Certainly Trump would not have gotten any more critical or serious coverage than he got with Clinton.

    • xq

      What the media views as negative coverage isn’t necessarily negative from the perspective of voters. Trump’s negative coverage during the primaries is probably responsible for his victory, because Republican primary voters and the media don’t agree on the traits that are desirable in a candidate.

      So I wonder whether the media’s criticism of Sanders in a general election campaign would be worse from an electoral perspective than their attacks on Clinton, even if from the media’s own perspective they would be harsher on Sanders. “This candidate is so extreme” has upside as well as downside. I don’t think the media complaining about deficits would hurt Sanders, for example, and it could even help him if it increased awareness of his more popular policies.

      Also, the media might not have been so ready to assume Sanders would win….

      • AMK

        It wouldn’t be couched in talk about deficits, which nobody actually cares about anyway (the GOP base only cares to the extent that “debt” and “defecits” are code for “money for those people.”)

        CNN previewed how it would be done in the primary debates. Anderson Cooper constantly circling back to his own talking points about socialism and higher middle-class taxes and how America Is Not Denmark. It would be like that, but taken up about 50 notches in the mainstream press and 700 notches on right wing media.

        And lots of them would not want Sanders to win period and act accordingly, forget about assuming.

  • Wamba

    Bernie would have gotten killed in the general with the most outrageous redbaiting campaign in the history of American politics — and it would have worked because he has “socialist” right next to his name. Sorry, you’re dreaming if you think Sanders could win a national election.

    • Nick never Nick

      Counterfactuals in opposition to counterfactuals are no more convincing than the original.

      • Wamba

        all counterfactuals are equally plausible…got it

  • nemdam

    Good article. Two points.

    And if Bernie might have got less favorable media treatment than a generic candidate he also has base mobilizing potential that they didn’t.

    Sure, his base is loud and passionate, but I see no evidence that his base could mobilize better than Clinton’s or any generic Democrat. He would inspire white progressives and the young, but not POC, women, and moderates. Yes, I understand these overlap, but you get the point. Just because the failing NYT pretended passionate Clinton voters didn’t exist doesn’t mean they didn’t actually exist. And except in NH, which is kind of a home state advantage, Bernie never mobilized better than Clinton during the high profile primary battles (IA, NV, SC, both Super Tuesdays, NY and CA primary).

    A Bernie Sanders had spent decades cultivating relationships with major Democratic constituencies and done well enough to hold his own in Southern primaries would be a very strong candidate — but Bernie didn’t actually do that.

    I’m basically agreeing with you, but I don’t think the point can be made strongly enough. Did you see the People’s Summit this weekend? A Bernie which cultivates relationships with Democratic constituencies is like a Republican which cultivates relationships with black voters. It’s a fictitious person completely at odds with who they are. If anyone had any doubts left, Bernie has gone all in on being an outsider that is trying to tear down the Democratic Party. He would no longer be Bernie if actually tried to win over and persuade Democrats.

    • Nick never Nick

      I think the argument would be that Bernie would perform at generic-Democrat level with POC, women, and moderates, and outperform with the young and White Working Class (TM). It’s possible but it’s a counterfactual and not really worth discussing; there’s no way to settle it, and bringing in Corbyn and the UK doesn’t get you any closer.

      I think the final point of “Bernie’s a big jerk” isn’t that compelling, either.

  • Alex.S

    My main preference would be if the “Bernie would have won” crew could also explain if “Getting rid of employer-based health insurance is a winning issue” is included in that stance or not.

  • blackbox

    I think anyone who wants to indulge in woulda-coulda-shouldas like BWHW should also be prepared to accept that if it weren’t for pissed off Berniebros and the RWNJ trolling they so easily fell for and got behind, 100k more votes could have easily gone to Clinton and she would have won. How much responsibility Bernie has for the behavior off his diehards, and what percentage of the apparent Bernie diehards were actually just alt-right trolls, are up for debate, but I don’t think the answer re: Bernie’s accountability is “none.”

  • wengler

    Bernie might’ve won the general but didn’t win the primary. All we know is that Hillary won the primary and lost the general.

    Also appealing to people’s humanity doesn’t seem to work.

    • Q.E.Dumbass

      Also appealing to people’s humanity doesn’t seem to work.

      Anymore, in MURICA, because far too much of the populace are a bunch of spoiled fucking asshurt crybaby douchebags.

      • wengler

        I still think the most effective attack on Trump is that he destroyed an entire sports league.

  • priceyeah

    Let’s talk probabilities. Nate Silver stated before the election that there was a nontrivial chance that Trump would win, on the order of 25-35%….. The fact that in the world we live in, Trump’s chances later blossomed to 100% doesn’t actually mean that that calculation was in any way incorrect. Similarly, it’s not a contradiction to say that Clinton was the strongest candidate (wins in strongest majority of scenarios, etc.) and also to say that there is SOME delta where it breaks down that Sanders wins and Clinton wouldn’t. In some universes. The Sanders diehards can dwell on those plausible outcomes as much as they want, it probably doesn’t change the brute probabilistic math that Clinton was probably the candidate with the biggest chance, who got a lot of votes, etc. There’s no universe in which Sanders is not a risky bank shot — as Trump was. Saying that Trump got the wingnuts and polarized the rest of the field etc. is not actually an argument for Sanders. The Sanders argument has to come from Sanders (not that people have been unwilling to make that argument). But Trump’s lucky break doesn’t make moderate pro-Clinton Dems cowards either.

  • Claims that Bernie would have won because Corbyn didn’t lose by much are indeed useless as an attempt to understand either the US Presidential election or the recent UK election, but there is a truth lurking behind this link.

    One argument made against Bernie Sanders was that a socialist was “unelectable” in the US. Far safer, then, to choose someone who was a capable member of the Democratic establishment. Likewise, Corbyn’s brand of socialism was seen as a guaranteed vote loser in the UK. Most of the media was dead set against him. Much of his party was, too. People speak here of the attacks that would have been made on Sanders in a general election, but of course those attacks were made on Corbyn during the UK campaign and yet he almost overcame a twenty point deficit in the polls even while that was going on.

    So, one might think, the conventional wisdom that being socialist is electoral suicide in a modern liberal democracy isn’t quite as sound as many of us thought.

    None of this guarantees that Bernie would have won. Corbyn didn’t. And socialism has never had wide acceptance in the US the way it did in the UK. We know why Hillary Clinton was vulnerable to the factors that led to her defeat. We know she was personally unpopular and widely distrusted, however unfair that was- and it was, especially when one considered the alternative in the general. Sanders might have won because he didn’t have those vulnerabilities, but he could have lost because of his own vulnerabilities.

    Still, we see the potential for a left-wing politics that might actually resonate more with people than the technocratic center-left that has been taking such a beating of late. And I think that’s what people are pointing to, albeit often rather clumsily and dogmatically.

  • FlipYrWhig

    IMHO the mistake people make is thinking that a Trump vs. Sanders election would have been all about economic populism. But it wouldn’t. It would have been all about terrorism/war/defense/national security/etc. And Trump would run on kicking ass, and Bernie would run on how Henry Kissinger is still real bad, or something. And it would not have been close. Bernie Sanders can do honest, Bernie Sanders can do righteous, but Bernie Sanders CANNOT do steely-eyed rocket man, and Republican strategists know this, and it would have been a debacle like Dukakis.

  • jim, some guy in iowa

    jesus. I wanted to like Sanders, and I do, sorta kinda, but after watching and listening to him and seeing that he was maybe a mile deep but only a foot wide, was a poor listener, not terribly able to roll with punches *or* capitalize effectively on opportunity and seemingly not very well organized (come *on*, what the fuck was his problem with releasing his taxes and campaign finance documents on time? this is a basic good government thing any liberal leftist should be able to do) I came to the conclusion he had no business whatsoever being President. He just simply doesn’t have the temperamental or intellectual horsepower for the job, and where his age shows is in his inflexibility. I am endlessly and utterly amazed at how little any of that seems to matter to *anyone*. It’s all horserace sportswriting and Christmas wish lists

    • muddy

      I’ve been voting for him for decades, and happy to do so. But I will say that I like him less since late last spring. Not that he wastes his time around Vermont much anymore.

      • Murc

        This seems like a rock and a hard place. I see an enormous amount of “Why won’t he go back to Vermont?” along with an equally enormous amount of “He want back to Vermont when there’s work to be done against Trump!”

  • Gregor Sansa

    Post: BWHW is a pointless debate.

    250+ comments: We agree. Let’s do this.

    • blackbox

      Did you read the post? It started out by calling out BWHW as often not an argument, just a catchphrase, trolling. That’s the problem. And Scott gives several argumentative points about it himself.

  • nixnutz

    I thought the Labour manifesto was really good so if we’re going to take any lessons from the UK election I’d prefer that it’s that maybe Bernie should have run on a genuinely leftist platform. In our timeline he ran one that was 95% identical to Clinton’s, plus the insistence that Medicare-for-all was a huge ideological difference. This made it real easy for somebody like me who thought that Bernie was a little bit better ideologically to decide that Clinton’s being manifestly much smarter and more capable mattered more.

    He couldn’t have won without winning the primary so maybe look at how he could have gotten that done. “You have to vote for the hippy next time because BWHW” isn’t going to be real persuasive going forward because absent Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump it’s meaningless.

  • Scott Lemieux

    Well, this sure shows me up for suggesting that 99% of “Bernie woulda won” arguments are just rote trolling.

    • Q.E.Dumbass

      Has anyone come up with a corollary to Cleek’s Law as applied to leftier-than-thou purity wankers (i.e.: pissing off “centrists” is at least as important as actually accomplishing ideological goals)?

    • Murc

      I worked out awhile back that a big difference between me and many other Sandernistas is that I think voting for Hillary was a mistake, but not a forseeable-at-the-time one, while they view it as the equivalent of deliberately drinking three-week-old milk under the principle that it’s probably still good.

      That said, I try and forgive people for doing things that have no other purpose than a hearty “fuck you!” to their ideological foes, especially in circumstances where the stakes don’t matter, like a c-lister mouthing off on twitter, the drunk tank of the internet. If only because my lizard brain has a lot of folks it really wants to raise that middle finger towards.

  • shah8

    One quibble:

    Hillary’s problem wasn’t quite so much that she had high negatives. That can change as time went on. Hillary’s problem was that she had such a high initial percentage of unconvincables going in. She was well known in the way that mayors and other municipal figures are, and which contributes to difficulties rising to higher office, tho plenty do succeed.

  • Chuchundra

    First off, anyone who seriously want to argue the BWHW line needs to at the very least give us some plausible way that he ends up beating HRC in primary. Hillary crushed Bernie in the primary and the race wasn’t even as close as the numbers showed. Unless you posit a wizard did it, you’re pretty much SOL.

    Second, and something I haven’t seen anyone address here, if by some magic spell Bernie ended up beating Hillary in the primary, there would be a fairly significant block of pro-Hillary, Democratic women who would have beyond pissed off and that’s a narrative that would have been dominant throughout the rest of the election cycle.

    Seriously, does nobody remember 2008 at all? The PUMAs? My wife and her sister were very very angry about Hillary losing the primary and there was all this talk about how the Democrats take women for granted, etc. This was something that carried into the first couple years of Obama’s term where the question everyone kept wanting to ask him was, “What have you done for women?”.

    • John F

      “Seriously, does nobody remember 2008 at all? The PUMAs?” Yes what I remember is that the 2008 election demonstrated that they either didn’t exist or amounted to rounding error.

      “My wife and her sister were very very angry about Hillary losing the primary and there was all this talk about how the Democrats take women for granted, etc.” I had an aunt like that, she ended up voting for Obama.

  • CrunchyFrog

    I can’t believe no one has commented on how that picture looks like it is from the Upper Class Twit of the Year. I swear that is Simon Zinc-Trumpet-Harris.

  • sk7326

    Bernie lost in the semifinals … to rail that he would have won neglects 1/2 of the test!

    Obama faced approximately the same challenge (Clinton with a strong resume and all of the institutional backers) and won.

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