Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Unlearned Lesson of 2010 And What The Bernie Sanders Campaign Really Means

There should be a rule of thumb in American presidential politics that says a state which holds a caucus tells you nothing about the mood of the body politic.  Caucuses never have as big a turnout as a primary election, they discriminate against independents in many states and members of the other party who might, possibly, vote for one of the candidates in either of the parties.   In this year's election when the Republicans' choice might be either the dangerously ill prepared and ill suited Donald Trump or the model of a successful, amoral sociopath, Ted Cruz, I can imagine a lot of less insane Republicans might vote for the Democrat in November.   There are still a few who are registered as Republicans who, whatever other personality flaws that maintain them as Republicans are not totally insane and evil.

Caucuses are not democratic, they are not constructed for maximum voter participation, they are the opposite of that.  Yet, when Bernie Sanders wins Washington - assuming the Bernie or Bust folks are right about who will show up - it will be touted as him having proved he could win a general election, when that is almost certainly not true.   Sanders won my state caucus, Maine, by about at two to one margin, it was touted as a huge win for him and was represented as proof that he could win the general election.  The reality is that Maine is in the second term of a Republican governor who is, beyond measure, the opposite of virtually everything that Bernie Sanders stands for.  He won over two candidates, Libby Mitchell and Mike Michaud who were certainly closer to what Sanders advocates than Paul LePage.

The idea that Bernie Sanders would win Maine in the general election as he so handily won the Democratic caucus is almost certainly delusional.   Maine progressives couldn't get Paul LePage out of office even after the first four years, a lot of them split between a Democrat who could have won and the vanity millionaire candidate who had helped install LePage four years earlier.  My bet would be that the vanity millionaire candidate may have won more of the non-committed voters who voted for Bernie in the caucus than stalwart Democrats but there is really no way to know that.  The record before LePage is a list of moderate Democrats and conservative Republicans with the one independent, Angus King (now one of our Senators).  Angus King used to be a Democrat who left the party when he found he was too conservative to get the nominations he ran for, I would say he was a bit to the right of John Baldacci, who was governor for two terms before LePage.

If Bernie Sanders were the nominee of the Democratic Party, as some Republicans are openly wishing for, his identity as a socialist from New York would be used to scare voters in other regions in an unprecedented campaign of vitriol.   His identity as a Jew would be used, albeit covertly, in much the same way that Barack Obama's race and Hillary Clinton's gender have been used against them, continually and with the thinnest of coding.

I doubt, very much, that Bernie Sanders would win Washington in a general election or, in fact, any of the states he won in a caucus or, in fact, many of those which he won through a primary.

What Bernie Sanders' campaign really means only becomes politically important if Hillary Clinton wins the general election.  What it means is that her party and whatever voters she can attract from those who are not registered as Democrats include a very large percentage of people who like what Bernie Sanders is saying.  Mostly, his success in the nomination fight has been a vote on economic justice.  It is saying that the policies of Barack Obama on that are not enough, that for a Democrat to succeed in office they will need the full support of the Sanders voters if they are not to suffer a repeat of 2010 and onward.

I strongly suspect that Hillary Clinton would govern to the left of Bill Clinton, her voting record in the Senate was to the left of Obama's and not all that far from Sanders'.  First, I think she's smarter than he is, second, I think she is more capable of understanding what is happening in this nomination fight.  As an aside, she isn't a jock or addicted to the macho attitudes that have diminished whatever liberal habits Obama or Bill Clinton may have begun with.

But any politician who wins office has to do it under the rules as they are and the rules we have been saddled with favor oligarchy. 

All Democrats, all politicians, are at the mercy of the billionaire favoring rulings of the Supreme Court which has bent over backward, twisted words in knots and lied to hand the government of the United States to the oligarchs who they serve.  That is the political reality that any politician who wants to be President of the United States faces,  Bernie Sanders' small-contribution campaign is impressive at this stage of the election cycle, it would be snowed under by Republican money in a general campaign.   There is nothing that a Democrat can do but wait for appointments to the Supreme Court who will overturn those things.  If I were president and I had appointments to make, in my search process I would never even consider anyone who had not expressed opposition or at least skepticism about corporate person hood and other such devices invented to corrupt democracy.  I would be very reluctant to appoint anyone to any relevant position who held that the media has a constitutional right to lie with impunity.  I am extremely skeptical that Bernie Sanders would apply the second of those conditions but without that I don't see the slightest glimmer of hope that democracy will stand.

You see, I am to the left of Bernie Sanders because I think that ANY conditions that make real government OF, BY AND FOR THE PEOPLE  are wrong, no matter what Jefferson or the fat-headed Voltaire said in the 18th century.  I don't think he and I am certain most of his most vocal supporters really believe that. 

I don't think that you can know a lie and that the lie will make you free,  I don't believe a society fed lies by the free-press will be free, they will, through believing those lies make choices that serve the liars.

I don't think democracy has the slightest hope of surviving if lies are privileged as they have been in the United States in the last half century.   And without democracy his dreams of economic and social justice are fantasies..  If the billionaires were going to give us democracy and justice, we'd be up to our eyebrows in it.

I strongly suspect that a president Bernie Sanders would enable the billionaires through appointment of justices who share the philosophy which has enabled those things,  they will be called "liberals" though the results of their theories are not.  His base buys the lie that those things result in freedom when they result in the corrupt political system we struggle against.
I would guess and sincerely hope that Hillary Clinton, who would come to office as, likely, the most lied about person who had ever beaten the liars and won the presidency,  might have learned a thing or two about the political liability that the regime of lies has been for liberals, for leftists, for Democrats and for the formula for democracy given to us so succinctly by Lincoln.   Hillary Clinton, if she succeeds and becomes president will have been the most lied about, the most vilified, the most embattled person to have ever won election.   She will know, better than anyone who has ever sat on the Supreme Court, any president who had preceded her, what being the object of a full media driven hate campaign really means.   She may make the crucial changes needed to protect democracy from lies.  And that will require that she make enough changes on the court to do that.

Update:  Oh, and, in light of what I pointed out about TV having sold both Reagan and Trump to America,  Angus King also became widely known in Maine through his TV show on Maine Public Broadcasting.   I suspect that's what he has to thank for his political success, here.

I should also point out that the other independent governor we had, like King, had been a Democrat until he found he couldn't get nominations because he was too conservative.  But James Longley didn't have King's TV skills and he was voted out after one term.  Independents in Maine would seem to fall between the two parties, I would call the millionaire mentioned above as another example of that,  they aren't anything like a progressive alternative to Democrats.


  1. Clinton isn't addicted to macho attitudes? "We came, we saw, he died." You didn't see her laughing response to Qaddafi's death? She is well known as a hawk and her speech to AIPAC was disgusting.

    I can understand people judging Sanders by the standards he has set and finding that he doesn't live up to them, but the Clintons are indicative of most of what has gone wrong with the Democratic Party. I will vote lesser of two evils in November, but have no illusions about what sort of foreign policy we are likely to get from Clinton.

    As for the left, I think much of the supposed moral outrage about the Iraq War was partisan hypocrisy. People who claim to have been horrified are enthusiastic supporters of Clinton. Nobody is talking about the war crimes we support in Yemen, including Sanders, though in his case I suspect it might be lack of knowledge or else the realization that if he criticizes Obama with our partisan Democratic idolaters his meager chances go down the tubes. With Clinton, given her enthusiastic defense of Israeli brutality why should she object?

    1. You can find similar things that Eleanor Roosevelt said during WWII as first lady, I don't think anyone would accuse her of being addicted to macho attitudes. Though, I hate to tell you, that what we are electing is the president of a major superpower and they will not be pacifists. Considering what others have said to AIPAC I don't think what she said stood out as one of the more belligerent statements.

      I have no illusions that we are voting for the leader of Sweden or even Canada, the kinds of choices that people get when they vote in governments there are not part of our range of choices. I do think that she will be less inclined than Obama to be wowed with technology, which I think is behind his enthusiasm for drones.

      Israel is an ongoing disastrous choice made in the early decades of the last century. It was always destined to be constantly at risk of attack I am convinced that the choice to do it had as much to do with the racism of Westerners as it did anything. That is another thing which we in the United States are stuck with, there is no prospect that any president of the United States, including a President Bernie Sanders who will not support the government of Israel to a greater extent than we might like. I think Barack Obama has certainly been less automatic in that support which is one of the reasons that the fascist, Likud leader of that soon to be former democracy hates him, he knows he'd get a lot more from a Republican.

      People on the left had better realize that in 2016, with a half century of leftists being out of power, both as a result of attacks by the corporate oligarchs but also through some of the stupidest legal theories that were promoted and adopted by putative liberals in the 1960s, that no one who wins the Presidency is going to be someone we like. If we did start out liking them and expecting they would rule from the left we like, we would soon find out that they are not going to do that because they have to deal with the congress who are not going to be liberals until we change those stupid court rulings and laws and regulations and allow them to run for AND RETAIN office without having to deal with televised and electronically transmitted lies paid for by billionaires. An American president is also not going to surrender the role of superpower, which carries with it inherent requirements to do evil things. Mark Twain said you could either have a democracy or an empire, you couldn't have both. That is true, what we are doing is trying to find the least bad government we are going to have, that is what an American election in 2016 consists of if it is not going to consist of the worst government we could have. We had a good taste of what that was like from 2001-2009. I am in favor of the left facing that awful reality and doing what is responsible. Bernie Sanders is almost certainly not going to be the lesser evil that holds the presidency a year from now and if he did the congress and Senate would not let him put an agenda we would dream of in place. Hillary Clinton might, might, prevent real fascism from being installed in the United States, and that is the choice between retaining a quasi democracy, possibly extending that through overturning the reign of the oligarchs, or allowing them to install corporate fascism over us.