Wednesday, April 20, 2016


I'm encountering a lot of theories about Hillary Clinton's big win over Bernie Sanders in New York. Politico's Gabriel Debenedetti sees the Sanders campaign in New York as a series of gaffes. I agree with Debenedetti that the Daily News interview in which Sanders seemed uninformed was a real stumble, but I disagree with him on the importance of the trip to the Vatican -- I'd need to see numbers, but I question whether most New York voters had an opinion about the trip one way or another, and I imagine quite a few were barely aware that it happened.

(By the way, only losers' gaffes ever make their way into analyses like this. Why doesn't Debenedetti mention Bill Clinton's embarrassing defense of the 1994 crime bill? Because Bill's wife won. If she'd lost, that would have been cited as a key factor, whether or not that was true.)

My feeling is that it just came down to tone. As the campaign went on, Sanders increasingly seemed to despise Clinton. His anger seemed personal. I wonder how many voters felt as if they were watching a rerun of every attack on Hillary Clinton since the 1990s. You can say what you want about her policy preferences and the choices she's made in her career, you can argue that she's too conservative and too compromised, but when someone pounds on her, she seems human and vulnerable -- and unless you loathe her, it's hard not to feel something in response to that kind of pounding.

The race seems divisive, but polls show that the vast majority of Democrats would vote for either of the candidates in November -- yet the Sanders message seemed to be that Clinton is history's greatest monster. If you were an older voter who'd ever felt solidarity with Hillary Clinton at any time in the past quarter century, Sanders was asking you to repudiate yourself. If you'd ever been inspired by the thought of Hillary breaking through the glass ceiling, you were being told that you were a dupe and a Wall Street pawn, so snap out of it. Sanders has a vision of a better America, but anger was pushed into the foreground. That might work with Republicans. It didn't work with New York Democrats.


Tom Hilton said...

This is spot-on. I think the killing unforced error (besides his ineptitude in the Daily News interview) was calling her "unqualified", which is appalling on so many levels (on the question of whether it was a gendered insult, I'll just note that it was immediately preceded by Sanders saying he was "making her nervous", which also plays on gendered stereotypes) and completely incredible to anyone who respects her abilities.

More broadly, I think running against the Democratic party in a closed primary was not the brightest strategy.

Anonymous said...

Or maybe Bernie Sanders is an irascible sort who doesn't play well with others and can't stand it when people disagree with him or get in his way and gets frustrated and lashes out, and for that reason wears out his welcome even among people who might otherwise sympathize with his views!

mlbxxxxxx said...

I think if the visit to the Vatican did anything, it hurt him. It seemed so not-Bernie. It appeared to be an an attempt to pander to the Catholic voters in the Northeast -- maybe trying to nab some Trump Democrats. If so, it seemed really out of character. Bernie as much as told us not too long ago that he was an atheist, or at least an agnostic and suddenly he's got to run over to see the Pope for 5 minutes like a star-struck altar boy? Weird. I would love to know the true story of how that all came to pass. Maybe a Tad Devine Hail Mary?

Whatever the reason, I was glad to see a decisive victory for HRC. Here's hoping for some more of the same.

Never Ben Better said...

The three folks posting above me nailed it, I'd say; they've each got a part of the mosaic of reasons for his failure. I'd add that the arrogance and vitriol of Sanders' more fanatical supporters probably also played some part in giving some voters sufficient disgust with his campaign to push them into voting for Clinton, even despite reservations about her.

Chris Andersen said...

Sanders has run into the force that takes down most would-be reformers: their own negativity.

When you want to reform something, you first have to convince people that it is broken and needs reforming. That is an inherently negative message. To sell it politically, you have to translate it into a positive message.

Obama did in 2008 with "Yes We Can".

Sanders is failing in 2016 with "She's screwing you."

CH said...

Those nasty Sanders people! Such vitriol! Tsk, tsk.

Unknown said...

I just copypasted your closing paragraph on Facebook. That was damned well said.

Steve M. said...


StringOnAStick said...

I'm pretty far left, so originally I was a rabid Bernie supporter mainly because I wanted to see a push to the left, not because I thought he'd have any chance of winning. Then I read a few things that disturbed me, like a plugged-in Vermonter explaining how prickly Bernie has been in Vermont politics with people he doesn't agree with, and saying that while he likes what he stands for, someone else would do a better job of it. Bernie's age has always given me pause.

The one that would make sure he loses worse than McGovern did is the one thing the repubs are barely mentioning because it would be so easy for them to win with it if he's the nominee: his tax plan. I ran through that calculator that WP had; just a few questions: single/married, kids/no, annual income. It spits out what each candidates proposed income tax plan would do for you (we're lucky and have a combined income of $140,000); the 2 repubs would had hubby and I back a few hundred bucks, Hillary will cost us about $600, and Bernie's will cost us $16,000. Hubby and I would gladly pay an extra $16,000 in taxes if it would bring about Bernie's vision, but you have to realize that once the Repubs start running 24/7 on "LOOK AT THIS TAX INCREASE OMG" that Bernie would go down in flames, period. I don't want a Supreme Court packed with tRumpers or Cruzifiers, and that to me is the single most important issue of this election.

Barbara said...

Yes, this is exactly right. In fact, every time I hear another baseless attack on Clinton, I become angrier and more supportive, rather than less.

I'm sure I'm not alone in this.