Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Bernie Sanders Campaign - Don't Get Carried Away

Collectors Item in the Making
Would I like to see Bernie Sanders win the Democratic nomination for President? Well, yeah. Sort of. Mostly. See, there are reasons why this might not be a good thing - things we'll get to in a bit. But in general, with the same relentless Republican obstruction in congress, one could assume he'd do about the same domestically as Hillary Clinton - very little, but with an overt progressivism that would probably be good for America in general. And I think - although not with certainty - that he'd probably be more resistant to American military interventions around the globe and to authoritarian/surveillance state growth domestically. Of course I had those same expectations for constitutional scholar Barack Obama, and look how that turned out.

And now the networks are starting to buzz with a steadily evolving view of his chances of winning the nomination. He's drawing big crowds, he's raising a lot of money from individual donors, he's getting media attention - and people are evolving from "it'd be nice..." to "hey, maybe?" to "FEEL THE BERNMENTUM! WE CAN WIN THIS THING". Of course, it's months before the first Primary and a year before the convention. A lot can - and will - happen in that time, not the least of which is the basic structure of the American electoral system will assert itself.

There are two reasons why Bernie Sanders won't be the Democratic nominee. One is a pragmatic political reason, and one is more of a question of electoral math. To look at the second reason first, the Democratic nominee will go into the General Election with a structural advantage of somewhere between 3 and 8%. Now, it should be noted that this is for the popular vote. The electoral college and the way it depends on the geographic distribution of voters will negate some, perhaps even most of that. But the Democrat has won the popular vote in five out of the last six Presidential cycles, and there's no reason to think that would change in 2016.

But here's the thing - Bernie is benefiting from a lot of excitement and energy from the left wing of his party. If Ms. Clinton were the nominee, these same people will vote for her, albeit with many of them holding their noses. What, are they going to vote for Scott Walker? So Sanders doesn't gain much in the way of voters on the left, and he will certainly lose some center right Democrats who would vote for a Clinton but would NEVER vote for a communist like Bernie Sanders. Now, how many Democratic votes he loses as the nominee is unclear - we'll see better polling in six months or so - but between the electoral college and the right wing of the Democratic Party, it's perfectly legitimate to question his electability vs. the Clinton campaign.

While that loss of electability numbers will be - and should be - of concern to the national Democratic elite, there is a larger set of issues that basically make 2016 Hillary Clinton's year. The national party is deeply invested in a perceived inclusive 'centrism'. Bipartisan politics is their dream, even in these highly polarized times. Bill Clinton famously pulled the Democratic party to the right, gaining the advantage over the republicans on issues such as welfare reform, crime and punishment and NAFTA. Obama won the nomination over Clinton in 2008 by promising to work WITH the Republicans in the legislature, in a way that didn't seem possible with the history of 'Clinton Derangement Syndrome' and the vast right-wing conspiracy. Sure, we're a lot wiser now, understanding that ANY Democratic President will be obstructed and de-legitimized from the right, but if you listen to the national party elites and donor class, this is what they continue to demand.

Additionally, as odd as it sounds, after 2008 and 2012, it is considered Hillary's turn. She's the default leader of the Democratic party going into 2016, the standard bearer and it's her nomination to lose. She'll lead in fundraising, and she'll get all the advantages the national party can provide. That's what the party is seeing - the electable, reliable centrist vs. the bomb throwing socialist that frightens flyover state Democrats. And remember the key point: The people don't decide on the nominee, the Party does, so even if Bernie wins the popularity contest he still won't get the nomination.


  1. I remember Obama running against Hillary over NAFTA, it was a reason he got my vote instead of her in 2008.

    Of course, he secretly resumed negotiations on NAFTA-on-steroids in the fall of 2009, and finally got FAST TRACK for it (not to mention the TTIP and TISA) thanks to the fact that the Democratic majorities in Congress are long gone.

    I didn't vote for Obama in 2012, and I won't vote for Hillary in 2016. If I wanted to support cynical, corporatist war-mongers, I'd go ahead and be a Republican.

  2. Remember, there's still more time than the entire Iranian hostage crisis lasted between now & the general.