Saturday, March 26, 2016


Even though I often defend Hillary Clinton, I can understand why Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi rejects the endorsement of Clinton by his boss, Jann Wenner. Taibbi writes:
The failure of George McGovern had a major impact on a generation of Democrats, who believed they'd faced a painful reality about the limits of idealism in American politics. Jann sums it up: "Those of us there learned a very clear lesson: America chooses its presidents from the middle, not from the ideological wings."

But it would be a shame if we disqualified every honest politician, or forever disavowed the judgment of young people, just because George McGovern lost an election four decades ago.

That '72 loss hovered like a raincloud over the Democrats until Bill Clinton came along. He took the White House using a formula engineered by a think tank, the Democratic Leadership Council, that was created in response to losses by McGovern and Walter Mondale....

In 1992 and in 1996, Clinton recaptured some of Nixon's territory through a mix of populist positions (like a middle-class tax cut) and the "triangulating" technique of pushing back against the Democrats' own liberal legacy on issues like welfare, crime and trade.
I know, I know: This is the original sin of Clintonism. I heard that endlessly from Naderites a decade and a half ago and I'm hearing it now. I understand why it's dispiriting to a lot of voters, especially when Taibbi gets down to specifics (although I'm not sure I agree with this list -- racism? LGBT rights? climate change? immigration? voting rights?):
For young voters, the foundational issues of our age have been the Iraq invasion, the financial crisis, free trade, mass incarceration, domestic surveillance, police brutality, debt and income inequality, among others.

And to one degree or another, the modern Democratic Party, often including Hillary Clinton personally, has been on the wrong side of virtually all of these issues.
But that still doesn't lead me here:
... the millions of young voters that are rejecting Hillary's campaign this year are making a carefully reasoned, even reluctant calculation about the limits of the insider politics both she and her husband have represented.

... Young people don't see the Sanders-Clinton race as a choice between idealism and incremental progress. The choice they see is between an honest politician, and one who is so profoundly a part of the problem that she can't even see it anymore.

... they're voting for Sanders because his idea of an entirely voter-funded electoral "revolution" that bars corporate money is, no matter what its objective chances of success, the only practical road left to break what they perceive to be an inexorable pattern of corruption.
This is where the Sanders pitch loses me. Everything is the result of "corruption" -- not just policies that favor big banks or multinational corporations but military adventurism, excessive imprisonment, and heavy-handed policing.

Completely absent from this picture is a populace, or at least a white majority of voters, that actually favors what cops do in urban neighborhoods, what judges do to indigent defendants, and what politicians do -- rattle sabers -- when terrorists attack or international bad guys take territory. The worldview of the Bernie-or-bust crowd presumes that if you overturned Citizens United and instituted public financing of campaigns, the public would never again respond favorably to war drums or to the phrase "Blue Lives Matter."

I will never stop reminding you that -- as Gallup demonstrates on a regular basis -- liberals are the smallest ideological group in America; they're greatly outnumbered by both conservatives and moderates:

The Clintons are far too eager to tack to the center (or right-center, or sometimes the right) on many issues. But there is a large slice of the non-conservative electorate that is primed to respond to conservative fist-shaking on a wealth of issues -- taxes, crime, terrorism. I don't blame the Clintons for acknowledging this reality. The Sandersites are naive for ignoring it. That doesn't mean they have to respond to it the way the Clintons do. But they shouldn't pretend it's all an artifact of "corruption."

Yes, the Clintons are too eager to embrace the suck. But hardcore Sandersites think there is no suck. Regrettably, the suck is very, very real.


retiredeng said...

Good grief. The hand-wringing on the left is astounding.

... there's a lot of brutal rhetoric directed against Hillary Clinton from Sen. Sanders's more impassioned supporters, many of whom appear ignorant of the fact that they are recirculating propaganda fomented by the right-wing industry dedicated to slandering both Clintons for going on 25 years.

It was the American Spectator that first dubbed Hillary "The Lady Macbeth of Little Rock" — that is, an accomplice to murder — back in 1992.

-- Gene Lyons

AllieG said...

Left or right, the candidate who says "there's a shortcut" always finds a large and enthusiastic audience.

Ten Bears said...

'72 was my first vote, we thought we could change the world. I would venture much of my bad attitude stems from that.

Matt Taibbi, as usual, nails it. If Sanders is denied the nomination it will alienate for a generation the largest voting demographic not just for a generation but qiite possibly forever. Those of you who remember as much as I remember think about it.

I have four Millennial, they want change, not more of the same.

Ken Grant said...

The biggest problem I have with Sanders is the implicit (and often explicit) belief that President Obama has gotten nothing of value accomplished, that the Obama administration hasn't moved the ball one lousy inch in the last seven years on anything of value. If what Obama has done isn't regarded as changing the status quo, nothing can be regarded as changing the status quo.

AllieG said...

Anyone who's alienated from politics because their candidate/side lost one election wasn't into politics very much in the first place.

Ten Bears said...

Do you have millennial kids? Nieces, nephews? I would venture they are for more politically sophisticated than we ever were.

You dismiss so readily out of hand the largest voting demographic ever at your peril.

AllieG said...

FWIW, I have millennial children, nieces and nephews.

Victor said...

Ten Bears,
I wish I had a chance to vote for the WWII hero and anti-war liberal, George McGovern, but sadly I was too young.
Carter, in '76, was my first vote.
I wasn't too keen on his Evangelical Christian background, or his innate basic conservative nature, but giving Ford a vote was unthinkable - he pardoned that unpardonable MFing SOB, Nixon!

In '80, I was all set to vote for John Anderson.
And then when I was at the poll and ready to vote for him, I saw Reagan/Bush, freaked-out, and voted for Carter/Mondale.

I was 22, and had had no chance to vote for change, like you did.

But I've felt comfortable enough voting since then for the slow incremental change that everone but Mondale (who, naturally I voted for), offered.

And, of course, I love Obama - warts and all. I never was under the impression that he was my kind flaming peace-loving liberal. Our first black POTUS couldn't possibly be.
And, while I'll vote for Bernie in NY's primary - as will my Mom - I'll accept and support Hillary if she's the candidate, and help do what I can to ensure that she and other Dem's win, and whichever socio/psycho-path is the GOP candidate, loses.
Our first woman candidate also won't be my ideal POTUS. She couldn't be, lIke Obama couldn't be..

I'll take the changes they do bring, over another replay of the disasters of Reagan, "Papa Doc" Bush, and "Baby Doc" Bush.

I am a flaming liberal, I too wanted radical change.
But I grew up, and realized that in this country, "you can't always get what you want... But sometimes, you get what you need."

The younger folks will grow-up too.
And hopefully, in the future, they'll put in the work to make some real change.

Obama was someone whose campaign I worked hard for, and I feel I made some change by helping get a black Democrat with the unlikely name of Barack Hussein Obama, elected POTUS.

Feud Turgidson said...

10B, I'd say, grow up and try to get a grip; I don't mean YOU, I mean, like this nation was founded on a rotten deal with slavery we're still nowhere over and authoritarians, which abound in our SPECIES (forget Americans or western Indo-Europeans, neither of whom have succeeded in denying their propensity for abusing their own children and 'nuturing' them into magical-thinking messianic militaristic religiots. FCOL, Abe Lincoln didn't gain the Republican nomination for president based on the full emancipation, he got it by championing the idea of letting Dixie keep people as property why building some self-deluding horseshit beautiful tall impregnable legal barrier over the spread of it into more newly stolen territories.And at the very moment our other greatest of presidents was first being sworn in, he was not only a full-blown child of inherited plutocrats, he was still then a true believer in its bent belief system.

And when Obama first announced for the presidency, he had no plans at all for radically reforming health care insurance; in fact, his main primary AND general election opponents pretty much FORCED him into choosing up sides in the matter. Similar arguments can be made for Teddy Roosevelt, LBJ and whatever the formerly appalling Bobby Kennedy would have become if he hadn't been assassinated not long after picking up the burden of MLK.

Taibbi's pre-Clintonian ideal apparently overlooks, AO disgusting weirdos and tools, Nixon and Reagan. F.U. and the imaginary pony you and your evolution-and-history-deprived generation was actually never born to ride up and down Big Rock Candy Mountain on, Matt, but HUMANS ARE EMOTIONAL MONKEY DESCENDANTS, closer in behavior to war-mongering chimpanzees and flower-laden 24/7 sexy-time bonobos.

We've had 4 great presidents, including the current one, and all were two things: HUMAN, with all the expected flaws, and MEN, so with even more. We've also had maybe a dozen or so decent shits in the White House some of whom tried with good intentions to make things better and still somehow managed not to make things all that much worse. But fully forty percent of our presidents were horrible or misguided or tools, and starting in earnest with Jefferson a string of legalized bigoted land thieves, war mongers and tools of the oligarchs - most spectacularly, Monroe, Jackson, Buchanan, the first Jackson, Taft, Nixon, Reagan and the second Bush.

If you say, God damn that Obama and his accomodaters and that of his related ilk, you're also cutting out Lincoln, both Roosevelts and LBJ. The number of presidents first sworn into office not already burdened by being human and connected to the ugly parts of what that means is exactly ZERO.

Also, look: we go thru this every single presidential election without fail, with idealists and profoundly ignorant youth making horseshit threats about sitting this one out. Al Smith was going to lead his disgruntled work-class down-trodden into crushing the Dems in 1932. Mob-connected political hack Harry Truman was going to be a freaking disaster. Hillary's army would NEVER vote for Obama in the fall. But POLLING, and I mean PEW polling, says the distance the 19-32 vote has to travel to go from feeling the Bern to humping for Hillary is the width of a feather.

Do you even want to RISK Trump or Cruze? Get real.

Never Ben Better said...

Thanks for this, Steve. Booman tried to raise the topic today and the Clintons Are Devil Spawn crowd went wild. I'm pretty close to bailing out of BT given the toxic groupthink spreading there lately. You're rapidly becoming the only political blogger plus comments I can read without succumbing to despair at the left's ability, even as it trumpets itself as reality-based, to blindly regurgitate its own cultlike dogmas.

flipyrwhig said...

Agreed, Steve. The EVERYTHING IS CORRUPT AND LETS END CORRUPTION TOGETHER thing is stupid. Sanders thinks everything bad in America has been imposed on it by elite brainwashing. Just talk to your neighbors and see what their opinions are about timely political issues. I'm pretty confident what you WON'T find is that they're disappointed liberals.

StringOnAStick said...

I caucused for Bernie, went to his first big campaign event ever (Denver, last fall) and I'm a hard core liberal, but if Hillary is the nominee, I will vote for Hillary, period. The damage a tRump or Cruz would do the the US and the world is simply mind boggling, and to not be able to even see a hint of that is truly the ultimate in middle class privilege, of any color.

Ten Bears said...

If one, Vic, Feud, were to endeavor at carving additional eighteen meter sculptures of presidents in the four hundred million year old basalt of the Dakota Badlands I wouldn't at all be uncomfortable with Frank, LBJ, and Obama. 'Course I'd like to see the twenty-odd meter sculture of Crazy Horse completed as well.

In all our deliberations we must consider the consequences of our actions unto our grand-children's grand-children. With seven grandkids, one in the oven, and a great grandkid in the oven, I'm all for a wall: from Eureka Montana to Eureka California.

There's nothing east of The Rockies we need.

Good luck!

retiredeng said...

@T.B. Also with six grandkids and a great grandson debuting late summer. I care a great deal about their future in this all too often cruel world.

DC is certain to continue to make almost unpalatable sausage but the GOP needs a time out and made to stand in the corner until it can at least say convincingly that it's not trying to set the place on fire.

I'm lucky to eek out another 15-20 years on this planet and then it's up to the youngsters.

KenRight said...

Obama is certainly very far from a peacenik. Dennis Kucinich would have been a decent president.

"U.S. (and Obama's) support for the Saudi-led war on Yemen continues to be a disgrace for our country and especially for the president that approved it."

AllieG said...

I have nothing against Sanders and I think his campaign is doing some good by reminding the party that white liberals are also an important part of its coalition who shouldn't be ignored as often as they are. But I wish his supporters online would keep the debate in the damn ballpark. They are running against Hillary Clinton, who was a mainstream Democrat in 1996, 2006 and now 2016. If the mainstream has moved left, and it has, so has she. This is not good vs. evil. Even if you accept Sanders as good, it's good vs. the usual muddle of good and bad, but mostly good.

Ten Bears said...

The quote of the day goes to Zandar, a Bernie Basher, and while I'd like to dedicate it to Bernie Bashers, it really applies to both:

This is not how you convince people to come around to your side, this is how you convince people to ignore you.

Davis X. Machina said...

I will never stop reminding you that -- as Gallup demonstrates on a regular basis -- liberals are the smallest ideological group in America; they're greatly outnumbered by both conservatives and moderates:

So many Democrats, so much false consciousness -- for there is no other possible explanation.

Ken_L said...

Taibbi's list of "the foundational issues of our age" appears to be his personal list, because there's no data to support it. Indeed the data that is available contradicts it comprehensively (e.g. When a majority of millennials would be willing to send ground troops to fight ISIS, for example, it's unlikely they regard the Iraq invasion as a "foundational issue".

Sanders has a large, enthusiastic following amongst young people eager to believe that a 75 year old maverick can execute a top-down "political revolution". But they're far from typical of all young voters, as Taibbi claims. They're as naive and unrealistic as the mob that believes Trump can do the same thing, their progressive ideals notwithstanding. Should Bernie manage against the odds to win the presidency, they'll stay home in 2018 just like the last two mid-terms, except this time they'll whine about how Bernie has let them down by being a politician.

Steve M. said...

Should Bernie manage against the odds to win the presidency, they'll stay home in 2018 just like the last two mid-terms, except this time they'll whine about how Bernie has let them down by being a politician.

Yup. In fact, all Democrats will stay home -- that's what Democrats do in non-presidential years. And no Bernieite revolutionaries will run -- only the usual ward heelers. Which may be why Dems will stay home. Meanwhile, the GOP will gin up new strains of rage, and Republican voters will turn out to vanquish whoever the new Antichrists are. Because that's what they do.

Ten Bears said...

I'm not a democrat. I won't stay home.

I wonder, if Sanders were to secure the nomination, will all of you stay home?

This is not how you convince people to come around to your side, this is how you convince people to ignore you.

Any idea what would happen to someone who spoke to me like this on the street?

Unknown said...

AllieG: Hillary has not moved left. She is currently making lefty noises to deal with the unexpected threat from that irritating old man who threw away the memo from Debbie Wasserman Schultz that this was going to be Hillary's year. That will stop one second after she clinches the nomination.

For there is no policy conviction in the world that she values more than her lust for power. And there is no betrayal she can commit that will not be excused by Democratic partisans.

Blackstone said...

I voted for Hillary earlier this month. Come fall I will vote for Sanders should he be the nominee, no problem, few regrets.

Sometimes it's really that simple. I identify a lot with what Victor's voting history.

Would I like a big turn election* (left) ala1932, 1964 or 2008? Ya you betcha. Do I expect them. Sadly no due 40 years voting experience.

*2008 was the weakest of the 3. 64 was killed by Vietnam and the 64 civil rights act. It might have survived 1 but not both - though almost pulled it out. 32 survived the longest a fortitiou chain of calamities kept it from rolling back, but the seeds of economic conservatism were in place by 1940. The gains were consolidated but war clouds in Europe kept the GOP from dismantling the new deal for another decade.

I think Hillary has a better shot of consolidating Obama's gains.

That's why I voted for Hillary. I'll vote Bernie in November ,should he pull it off.

CH said...

As you pointed out, Steve, the D curse has been (2006 notwithstanding) that except in presidential years, its base is AWOL. If that persists, the most we can hope for is divided government at the federal level and mere survival, if that, at the state and local levels. Either we settle for that (a quite dangerous policy), or we find a way to effectively counter the off-year R motivation of rage, resentment & delusion with an opposite-but-at-least-equal D motivation. I happen to think that Sanders' consistent emphasis on economic redistribution offers the possibility of such a motivation, for one reason because it is not dependent on targeted appeals to fragments of the D base, but is broad enough to appeal to most if not all sectors of the base. Is it guaranteed to work? Of course not. But it might, and so far as I can see, no one in the HRC camp or elsewhere has offered an alternative of equal promise. Moreover, although its potential effectiveness would certainly be furthered were Sanders to be nominated and elected, it is not wholly dependent on his fate, as he himself has made clear. The point is to realign, and hopefully thereby to revitalize in off-year elections, the D party as a whole. That's why I, at least, support Sanders, and will continue to do so regardless of the odds against his being nominated.

Li'l Innocent said...

McGovern was my first vote, too. But I was in my latter 20s, because the debacle of '68, which should have been my first, happened while I was far from home, and I wasn't organized enough to send for an absentee ballot. The "change the world" outlook had taken pretty serious hold of many in my college cohort by '66. It intensified as the desperate quality of Vietnam intensified, exemplified by the Chicago convention riots.

In hindsight, I think many strongly suspected that Humphrey wouldn't win, and though we hoped and worked for McGovern, that honorable man, the predominant feeling on election night at our county campaign HQ as the Nixonian landslide was reported, was sorrow and anger rather than shock and disillusionment.

We probably had fewer illusions going into that Fall than many other young Dems did, as we were campaigning in a historically wealthy suburban/exurban county in northern NJ, an area noted for its elitism since the Revolution, when George Washington had a hard time getting food for his starving, freezing troops from the local big farmers and merchants.

But aside from that, in 72 you wouldn't have had to travel much beyond any college campus, urban or otherwise, to experience the angry hostility of ordinary fellow citizens to the idea of ending the War. Lots of people were conflicted about it, even sick of it... but "the US has never lost a war", and "do you want the Commies to win?", "Are you a Communist? You're shit-scared to defend your country. Are you one of those hippies? Why don't you cut your hair? Are you on the Pill? Do you take drugs? Why don't you support our President/troops/generals? You're undermining our country. If you don't like it here, why don't you leave?"

The variations on this litany show that antiwar efforts, including the McGovern candidacy, were tangled in millions of minds with the simultaneous cultural upheavals, which had been accumulating and swirling around each other since the upsurge of the civil rights movement a decade earlier.

Maybe Taibbi's right that the 72 loss made Dem professionals conclude that only non-lib, MOR candidates can be elected -- but I think any general conclusion about the voting behavior of Americans drawn from the events of that extraordinary period is likely to be full of holes.

CH said...

Agreed, Innocent. (McGovern was also my first presidential vote.)

Roger said...

This may be a bit trivial, but I don't like the term "Sandersites." It's clumsy; it doesn't roll off the tongue. I'd rather the term, "Sandernistas." I've seen it used elsewhere and it just seems appropriate.