Monday, November 14, 2016


Newsweek's Kurt Eichenwald tells us that he's seen what the GOP would have thrown at Bernie Sanders if he'd won the Democratic presidential nomination. Eichenwald believes it would have been devastating:
Here are a few tastes of what was in store for Sanders, straight out of the Republican playbook: He thinks rape is A-OK. In 1972, when he was 31, Sanders wrote a fictitious essay in which he described a woman enjoying being raped by three men. Yes, there is an explanation for it -- a long, complicated one, just like the one that would make clear why the Clinton emails story was nonsense. And we all know how well that worked out.

Then there’s the fact that Sanders was on unemployment until his mid-30s, and that he stole electricity from a neighbor after failing to pay his bills, and that he co-sponsored a bill to ship Vermont’s nuclear waste to a poor Hispanic community in Texas, where it could be dumped. You can just see the words “environmental racist” on Republican billboards. And if you can’t, I already did. They were in the Republican opposition research book as a proposal on how to frame the nuclear waste issue.

Also on the list: Sanders violated campaign finance laws, criticized Clinton for supporting the 1994 crime bill that he voted for, and he voted against the Amber Alert system. His pitch for universal health care would have been used against him too, since it was tried in his home state of Vermont and collapsed due to excessive costs. Worst of all, the Republicans also had video of Sanders at a 1985 rally thrown by the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua where half a million people chanted, “Here, there, everywhere/the Yankee will die," while President Daniel Ortega condemned “state terrorism” by America. Sanders said, on camera, supporting the Sandinistas was “patriotic.”
I dunno. I'm unimpressed.

Let's start at the top. That fictionalized rape? We knew about it last May -- you can read the entire 1972 essay here. It never stuck to Sanders, I think, because a lot of very mainstream entertainment is sexual, violent, or both. If you read the Sanders essay, you can see that he's arguing that cultural forces make both men and women sexually unhealthy. He doesn't make a convincing case, but he clearly isn't saying "rape is A-OK."

Republicans tried a similar line of attack against Jim Webb in 2006 when he was running as a Democratic Senate candidate from Virginia. Sexually provocative passages from Webb's novels were splashed all over the Drudge Report and elsewhere, including one passage, set in Southeast Asia, in which a man picks up a young boy and puts the boy's penis in his mouth. Webb defended his writing, noting in particular that he'd actually seen an incident like the one with the young boy in a poor part of Bangkok.

The attack failed. Webb won the election.

As for the rest of this, much of it falls into the category of "stuff Sanders did years ago that's irrelevant to America's future." We just spent months watching Donald Trump endure one devastating revelation about his past after another -- and approximately 47% of the voters decided they didn't care because they thought he could bring their old jobs back.

Some of this might have stuck -- the environmental racism attack might have hurt Sanders with Hispanic voters (although, after all, he would have been running against Donald Trump). The vote for the crime bill might have hurt Sanders with African-American voters. Eichenwald says that the section of the GOP's oppo file "calling [Sanders] a communist with connections to Castro alone would have cost him Florida" -- but Hillary Clinton lost Florida, too, and she wasn't supposed to need it to win.

Eichenwald says that "the opposition research folder was almost 2-feet thick" -- but we were also told that the Clinton campaign's anti-Trump oppo was pretty awesome, and that didn't work out.

I agree that some of what Eichenwald describes would have cut into Sanders's popularity. But none of it seems devastating enough to have knocked him out.

I continue to believe that Republicans would have just fallen back on the tried-and-true: Sanders believes in big government and will raise your taxes to stratospheric levels. I think that would have hurt him more than any of this oppo. So I still think it's unclear how Sanders would have done in a general election. I'm just surprised at how little the GOP had on him.


Victor said...

Yeah some baggage...
But not quite the 25 years of bullshit propaganda that Republicans/conservatives had on Hillary.

It was a year of backlash from angry (mostly male) white people.
And Bernie is Jewish, so t-RUMP and his anti-Semitic new BFF would have played that up to the max!

Ken_L said...

He's a crazy old man who's stuck in the 1960s. An old man with crazy hair who thinks he's still protesting the Vietnam War. Oldest man ever to run for president, who yells a lot and can't even get along with the Democratic Party. A crotchety old independent pretending to be a Democrat but who's really still a communist like the Russians he palled around with in the 1960s. Which is where his old brain is stuck.

He wants to weaken the military so the Muslims can take over. America will become like France. And did we mention how freaking old he is?

Vasyl said...

bullshit hysterics about Clinton foundation show that there is nothing that is safely "unconvincing" - Republican can cry long and loud until you see the polls in which Democratic candidate is "not trustworthy "

Unknown said...

You forget something important in this Steve: "tried-and-true: Sanders believes in big government and will raise your taxes to stratospheric levels." NO. That would read this way: "Small state Socialist Jew Sanders believes in big government and will raise good Christians taxes to stratospheric levels." Oh you dont think "Socialist Jew" would be in quite a few GOP attack ads? I refer you to that if Gore had not chosen Lieberman but had chosen, lets say for example Joe Biden, as his VP pick he would have won his home state of Tennessee and FL would not have mattered. Terrible? Sure. Trump is even worse.

Steve M. said...

"Socialist Jew" wouldn't have appeared in a campaign ad, though you would have seen it a lot at Breitbart and Reddit.

Yastreblyansky said...

Or something more dogwhistly like "Soros-financed socialist". They would have made a huge deal of his support for Palestinian rights, too, frail as it is.

If you remember that the object of this kind of campaigning isn't to get Democrats to vote Republican but rather to discourage them from voting and fire up your own base, I think the material on Cuba and Nicaragua could have had some real effect.

Also, it strikes me that if Sanders had been clearly winning the Democratic primary the Republican primary could have come out quite differently--Republicans would have wanted to counter the wild man outsider on the other side with some solemnity and solidity on theirs, favoring especially Cruz, who would be best at exploiting that oppo material.

Anonymous said...

I think the special-to-Bernie attack would have been that Bernie Sanders is an America-hating wuss who can't keep us safe from terrorists. They couldn't do that to Hillary Clinton, so it dried up as an attack among everybody but the Benghazi diehards. They could have done it to Bernie Sanders, good and hard. They damn sure did it to John Kerry, who had medals for bravery.

Stella B. said...

They would have thrown a bunch of crap at him -- made up crap as well as actual incidents from his past -- and looked to see what stuck. It might not have been e-mails, but it would have been something.

Green Eagle said...

"We knew about it last May -- you can read the entire 1972 essay here. It never stuck to Sanders"

Yeah, it never stuck to Sanders,because "we" have known Sanders for years, and know who he is. That doesn't mean that it wouldn't stick to Sanders with all of the rest of the millions of voters he would have to win to be elected.

In any event, I think the Republicans wouldn't have bothered with things like this, but stuck to the time tested "Jew Communist" approach, if Sanders had been nominated. That one is a proven winner.

Riverboat Grambler said...

He might have won. We'll never know. The media and the DNC did their best to put their thumbs on the scales and he still had a much stronger-than-expected showing. I know the prospect of actually pushing back against right-wing rhetoric and labels makes the Dem centrists shit their pants, but it's possible that he could have pulled it off.

Oh well!

Unknown said...

We'll never know if Sanders would have won. One thing is clear however. The DNC failed, utterly, because of their decades long obsession with electing HRC. It blinded them to the obvious fact that she was a terrible candidate, who ran a terrible campaign. In the end she lost to what most consider the worst candidate to ever run. No mean feat that. In their efforts to cast blame they look everywhere but in the mirror. Expect more of this blame Sanders bullshit in the future.

The wise men running the Clinton campaign ran a campaign right out of the 90's. They didn't understand that this was not an oppo research election, it was a throw the bums out election. The media would not talk policy and team Clinton was happy to go along with that. Run against Trump the monster. Funny thing is, whenever they talked about Trump wanting to grab women by the pussy, too many peoples first thought was about Bill. Sanders would not have taken this approach. There was no need to spend so much effort telling us Trump was a monster. He showed that every time he opened his mouth. Stick to policy. She never did. Sanders would have.

It was political malpractice and the folks in the bubble are never going to learn.