January 30, 2016
But, is that really true?
First, the basic math of the Democratic nomination process. The party has 4,764 delegates, requiring 2,383 for nomination. Of these, an estimated 713 are superdelegates, or 15 percent of the total.
And, so far, many of them have already committed to Clinton. NPR, two months ago, said she already had 359. But, does she?
Well, for now.
But, is this guaranteed?
H.A. Goodman addressed a number of questions about superdelegates already last October.
The biggies are that superdelegate endorsements are not "locked in," and that superdelegates, as head honcho types, like a winner.
In relation to Iowa, yes, Sanders winning the caucus delegates is the bottom line, per NBC. But, winning the popular vote over Clinton, even without that, is big enough. That's doubly true if he can get Republican and independent cross-overs in New Hampshire.
South Carolina, two weeks later, will be his first real test with black voters. But, even with Clintonista black surrogates like Ta-Nehisi Coates already focusing heavy fire on him, if he wins the popular vote in one or the other of the first two states, let alone both, he'll be getting better known by South Carolinians. And, in Nevada, the Democratic side skews younger, which will help.
That leads to "Super Tuesday," the single biggest day of the primary calendar.
Clinton is already on record as having little ground operation in most these states, even to the point of saying she'll be depending on the likes of union officials. Given that several unions have endorsed Sanders, and that some that have endorsed Clinton seem to have gone against their rank and file's wishes, this is kind of dicey.
Colorado, Minnesota, and Massachusetts, let alone Vermont, all look favorable to Sanders. Virginia might be, if party regulars in the Beltway are unenthusiastic. Georgia might be.
Two weeks later comes a semi-Super Tuesday. Five states here put the Dems at the halfway mark on non-superdelegates. Sanders' goal, at a minimum, is to win enough on both these dates to at least keep any more superdelegates from going Clinton. If he can get some of them to actually endorse him, all the better, in addition to actual delegate wins.
Beyond the momentum of some wins, the increased visibility of some wins can't hurt. Nor can it hurt when more and more people recognize that Sanders, not Clinton, is the "can-do" candidate. (Eventually, even a few superdelegates may admit that.)
Brains may still be right. But if Super Tuesday plays out as I note, especially if Sanders gets, say 30-35 percent of South Carolina's black vote (still a high "get" at this point, I'll admit), this race is going to be a definite contest through semi-Super Tuesday at least.
Jacobin tackles the minority support, or relative lack of to this date, for Sanders, in a definite read. It's basically saying in terms of minority voters what I say, and what Goodman has said about superdelegates. Sanders wins, he'll get more attention. Plus, Jacobin adds that Sanders has had to focus on the leading two states so that he can get those wins, and that bounce. Related? Though he's not yet caught her nationally, nationwide, Sanders has steadily been closing the polling gap.
Nate Silver tries to throw cold water on this, but take note that with all of his accuracy, Nate also has a whiff of Inside the Beltway cologne about him at times.
Throwing shade back at Nate, per NPR, Clinton had a 100-plus superdelegate lead on Obama early in the 2008 cycle. Yet more on that, with specific numbers, here. We know how that ended. Clinton's lead is bigger now because she announced earlier to what seemed less formidable opposition. (Remember how 2004 VP nominee John Edwards was the big tout before Babygate hit.)
Meanwhile, Silver's main polling analysis rival, Sam Wang, is claiming Iowa is must-win for Sanders. He not only doesn't make that claim for Clinton, he makes it for no GOP candidate, either.
And, he goes beyond that to claim that Sanders must win by "a fairly large margin," essentially rejecting everything that Goodman and Jacobin state will happen, especially with good performances in both states.
Rather, let's say Sanders wins Iowa. Just wins it, but not by a huge margin. And then strongly wins New Hampshire.
Suddenly, South Carolina is must-win territory for Clinton.
Finally, throwing further shade at both Silver and Wang, it's arguable, per a bar graph about halfway down this piece, that there's been big media coverage bias against Sanders in some ways.
(Brains believes I'm too optimistic on Democratic superdelegates. I noted back to him that my angle is they "may" shift somewhat to Sanders. It's not a "will." No, I'm not that naive. I added that this is just part of another medium-small blogger's efforts at, to use a hoops analogy, working the refs. And there's two sets of refs here — the Democratic establishment where the supers are, and the MSM.)
January 29, 2016
Well, it's time to put this to an empirical test.
And, the survey says?
Bernie Sanders. And, it's not really close, to be honest.
Many of these Clinton backers have made "pragmatism" into a shibboleth, in place of substantive, consistent campaign positions, while at the same time thinking that "pragmatic" always,and "magically," whether with or without substance behind it, translates into "efficacious." And, as far as their claims to pragmatism, they ignore that Sanders as mayor, AND also as Representative/Senator, whether pragmatic or whatever, has gotten a lot accomplished.
There's yet more here from Vox, of all places, on the "can-do" spirit, or the efficacy, of Sanders.
The story, if you will, by Matt Yglesias, comes largely from a Facebook post by Nevada State Rep. Lucy Flores, who is now a candidate for Congress.
It bears extensive quoting. (I won't quote quite as much as Yglesias):
I was a junior in college when the reality of today’s economic and social injustice hit me squarely in the gut with soul crushing force. After managing through my own set of difficult circumstances – escaping the cycle of poverty and dysfunction that included abandonment by my mother, gang-involvement, a stint on juvenile parole, a teenage abortion and becoming a high school drop-out - I was working several jobs to get myself through school at the University of Southern California.
One of those jobs was assessing kids involved in a long-term study on the impact of early learning on brain development.
And then it struck me: this bright kid, this happy, starry-eyed kid, this kid with all the potential in the world, had nothing. …
I gave it all to him. Then I said, “Ok, I have to go now. Have fun coloring your sheets. And remember to read at school every chance you get!” He happily nodded as he walked back into his filthy apartment. I walked to the sidewalk, sat on the curb, and sobbed uncontrollably. I sobbed with despair I hadn’t felt, well, ever. I knew as soon as I walked away what was likely in store for that kid – I knew the odds were against him, just like they were against me. …
And I knew I was powerless to do anything about it. Until I realized that I wasn’t.
Until I realized that change is achieved one person at a time, one day at a time, and one vote at a time.
I think about this boy all the time. I wonder if he beat the odds. I wonder where he is. I wonder if he’s still alive. He still makes my heart hurt. I thought about him when I first heard Bernie Sanders speak. …
(O)nly one of these candidates makes me think of that young boy in South Central Los Angeles– and that’s Bernie Sanders.
I believe that Bernie Sanders will lead the charge, with many millions of Americans behind him, against the unfettered Wall Street greed that has threatened the very existence of the middle class and shackled so many more to permanent poverty.
And then says she supports a political revolution.
Yglesias, of all people, then brings out the efficacy angle:
(S)he connects Sanders and the Sanders campaign not to a particular policy proposal but to a sense of personal efficacy. … She discusses the merits of both candidates a bit, but she closes again on the efficacy issue.
In the House and Senate, especially when he entered the House, his potential for effectiveness was again doubted, per that second link. Instead, he helped get bills passed for restitution for white collar crime victims (sounds logical?), funding community health centers, expanding low-income heating assistance, "greening" federal buildings and more. Click that link to see the whole list.
In contrast, Hillary Clinton as senator has a relatively thin track record. (Not as thin as Barack Obama, but, Clinton wasn't making the "pragmatism" or "get things done" in 2008.) Twenty Dems responded to a "takedown" rhetorical question from Carly Fiorina about what Clinton had done in general. Almost all talked about her time as either Secretary of State or as First Lady. Few talked about her time as Senator, and even when they did, it was more in terms of platitudes than actual legislation.
And, as for her Secretary of State accomplishments, trying to give her majority credit for things like the Iran deal that were wrapped up under John Kerry? That's a stretch. It's a huge stretch to claim that she had any real role in taking down bin Laden. Claiming that she made the State Department better than it had been under BushCo? Per one of Shrub's few statements that are often true, that's "soft bigotry of low expectations," the same phrase that explains why her warhawk, drone-loving boss got a shiny prize from some folks in Norway.
It's an even bigger stretch, is Ed Kilgore's comment at the end of the second page, that she's had a formative influence on universal health care. First, we don't even have that yet. Second, Hilarycare was an even greater clusterfuck than Obamacare, something only a true neoliberal could love.
Speaking of that, most the commenters on that page? Mainly neolibs and insiders. Bill Burton, as noted, ran an Obama Super PAC. Howard Dean? Ugh. Harry Reid? Better, but also the top Dem in Congress. Anita Dunn? Dear Leader's first communications director. Chuck Schumer? A Dem who fellates Wall Street even more than Clinton. Bill Richardson? Suck-up extraordinaire who's been out of the political spotlight for years. Chris Dodd? Another fellator of the Street. Paul Begala? Clinton consigliere.
Bill Scher? Left-neolib at best and apologist for Dear Leader's Spy State. Patrick Leahy? Not horrible, OK. David Alexrod? Puhleeze. Neera Tanden? Neolib of neolibs, working at the shop run by Clinton's campaign chair. Center for American Progress and Center for America's future show why the word "progressive," the way it comes out of their mealy mouths, is worse than the word "liberal." Tracy Sefl? Noted as a Hillary Clinton adviser. Hillary Rosen? Lobbyist. Doug Schoen? Identified as the Slicker's pollster.
Barbara Boxer? Other than in-state enmity against Fiorina, especially since she's retiring, why is she letting herself be quoted? Because she's a gender feminist who endorsed Clinton way back in 2013. Less left than she tries to give the impression of being. Howard Koh? Clinton's legal counsel at State. Probably gave her back-door advice about private emails.
Dennis Kucinch? Has become a fucking laugh who long ago crapped his own bed. Donna Brazile? Clintonista and Inside the Beltway media hack. Ed Kilgore? Neolib who calls himself a Bull Moose Democrat.
In all of this, to me, that response list to Fiorina was kind of an embarrassment for Clinton, if anything. If another Democrat had raised her rhetorical question, many Dems on that list probably wouldn't even have answered.
It's also kind of an embarrassment to the Democratic Party. A dog's breath of ward heelers and hangers on, for the most part. Beyond those are that, this also shows that most elected, or election-connected, Democrats, like Republicans, think their constituents are more conservative than is true.
Beyond that, per Adolph Reed, since Bill Clinton ran for president pledging to "end welfare as we know it," his record of actual accomplishments is kind of thin.
Hell, Bernie's even got better rockers and rappers fronting for his appearances than Hillary does. Let alone the fact that he's got Spin writing about it, which I am sure will NEVER happen with her.
And, speaking of, as for whether Sanders "can do" in this year's Democratic primary slate, along with issues of superdelegates, possible coverage bias and more, I take a look at all of that right here.
January 28, 2016
That said, while he himself may or may not be angling for a potential Clinton Administration II job, the Atlantic has Clinton 1.0 alums, and they and other younger people are surely Clinton 2.0 wannabes. I mean, the magazine, and the broader foundation, reeks of centrism, largely already known by me.
That said, to look more at Coates' second piece, since he took a focus beyond America there. He asks, in the middle of a flurry of rhetorical questions, if the social welfare state of western Europe, above all, Scandinavia, has "vanquished racism" or not.
First, that full blurry of questions:
Across Europe, the kind of robust welfare state Sanders supports—higher minimum wage, single-payer health-care, low-cost higher education—has been embraced. Have these policies vanquished racism? Or has race become another rubric for asserting who should benefit from the state’s largesse and who should not? And if class-based policy alone is insufficient to banish racism in Europe, why would it prove to be sufficient in a country founded on white supremacy? And if it is not sufficient, what does it mean that even on the left wing of the Democratic party, the consideration of radical, directly anti-racist solutions has disappeared? And if radical, directly anti-racist remedies have disappeared from the left-wing of the Democratic Party, by what right does one expect them to appear in the platform of an avowed moderate like Clinton?
Next, a critical, gimlet-eyed view of this.
First, Coates' questions are all rhetorical ones. Not actual. Coates doesn't try to see if there are answers for any of them.
Second, they're all straw men. Let's take the "vanquished racism." Coates knows that racism can include individual attitudes. He also knows that he's setting up a polarity of "vanquished-unvanquished."
That's why he didn't ask, even in a rhetorical way, let alone in a way seeking an answer, whether the social welfare state has lessened racism. (It's his essay, though, not mine; it's not my "job" to go googling for something to refudiate him.)
If it has, that's an answer that he probably doesn't want to hear, for the reasons the likes of Adolph Reed presents below, on career advancement, as much as anything.
On to this paragraph, then:
Here is the great challenge of liberal policy in America: We now know that for every dollar of wealth white families have, black families have a nickel. We know that being middle class does not immunize black families from exploitation in the way that it immunizes white families. We know that black families making $100,000 a year tend to live in the same kind of neighborhoods as white families making $30,000 a year. We know that in a city like Chicago, the wealthiest black neighborhood has an incarceration rate many times worse than the poorest white neighborhood. This is not a class divide, but a racist divide.
I, and non-guilty white leftists of some sort don't deny that.
However, reparations will do nothing to fix that. And, Coates, YOU know THAT. What will fix that is a robust U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division. YOU know THAT as well.
And, speaking of non-guilty white leftists
Anyway, besides my own thoughts, here's a very good, real, insighful, takedown of Coates, primarily of his first piece and, it's by "don't call me a liberal" skeptical, sometimes curmudgeonly, leftist Doug Henwood, interviewing Adolph Reed. Reed starts by saying "it's so utterly empty and besides the point."
Having read the original, I might not go quite that far, but I'd come close enough to wondering if Coates, like other Atlantis, I mean Atlantic, denizens, doesn't have ulterior motives.
I do agree with his biggest premise — unlike single-payer national health care, where a broad outline is sufficient for a starter because we know where we're starting, what do the likes of Coates have in mind for reparations? Straight cash grants? Double-down on affirmative action? Something else?
Speaking of that second, I'd be OK myself with a "grand compromise": some sort of more explicit reparations, but in exchange, affirmative action programs get an explicit class-based factor added. However, I suspect Coates would not; read below for more.
Also damning for Coates' angle that Bernie, as a more radical candidate, should be radical on reparations?
The NAACP agrees with "the traditional liberal argument," per my second rhetorical question, that affirmative action and related programs, such as environmental justice, with improvements, are de facto reparations. Per Coates' Twitter feed, we have him saying "Yup" to:
So, how is this different than the NAACP supporting more aggressive affirmative action?@tanehisicoates Do you feels like reparations could be payed in different ways like college tuition and all that?— paulo (@spacierarcher) January 27, 2016
And, although Hispanic Americans largely chose to move to the U.S., and thus arguably should not be considered for reparations, except for families in New Mexico and a few in California cheated out of land grants, there is another ethnic group that has as much claim as African Americans, and that's American Indians. (It should be noted Coates agrees with that idea. And, even with the possibility of the British needing to pay reparations to the Irish, etc.)
But let's go back to Reed with Henwood, because the takedown gets better, for an interlude from the seriousness. He accuses Coates of having the primary goal of wanting to be James Baldwin 2.0. Henwood then says (accusingly) that this is the type of stuff that plays to "guilty white liberals."
That said, if you like takedowns, Reed, especially, gets even better from there, snarking on Coates' literary aspirations otherwise, and how they might tie into Henwood's comment.
On the more serious side, he says that reparations are themselves a form of class-based politics. I agree, at least somewhat, especially with my observation that Coates seems to be using the word "reparations" as a symbol.
Beyond that, he says the reparations issue, once it becomes class-based, can at times become a career path. Reading that, I'm surprised that neither Henwood nor Reed mentioned Jesse Jackson; I had big old light bulb go off with his name inside, when I got about two-thirds through.
Coates leaves himself open, on his Twitter feed, to exactly that, with this:
Without guns, the likes of a Jackson accepted money to "hush," though.Country has never need to pay black people anything to get them to hush. What you think all the guns was for? https://t.co/MXgHmhmSuU— Ta-Nehisi Coates (@tanehisicoates) January 27, 2016
There’s a sense in that these people are the black shock troops for neoliberalism.
I'm guessing that he would like a position as some sort of official explainer of a potential Clinton Administration to the public. On teevee. Maybe CNN, but more possibly MSNBC.
That said, related to this, Reed has long been writing about this issue. See his 2000 piece, originally at The Progressive, here.
And now, as of Feb. 3, Jacobin has weighed in with an even longer piece than this, or the Henwood/Reed text transcript. Cedric Johnson reaches the same basic serious answer, though, ultimately: Coates is a left-neoliberal who won't think outside that box.
That said, why "should" he, if he's angling for "skin in the game" within the neoliberal market capitalism world?
Unfortunately, the arrival of the black intellectual as gadfly and conscience of the nation in the television era bore a new set of problems. Too many well-meaning whites mistook their guilt and pleasure of self-flagellation for genuine unity with blacks and authentic antiracist political commitment — in other words, solidarity.
Like Baldwin, I think Coates fulfills a similar historical role in assuaging white guilt. What we need instead is solidarity.
I do not have any illusions about what Sanders or any other presidential candidate can accomplish, especially given the Republican control of Congress. Popular struggles and mass pressure have been the most effective means for advancing the most progressive changes in American society. But I’m also not so young and naïve to think that elections do not matter. We cannot expect to achieve greater equality through an election cycle, but elections can shape the political arena in meaningful ways and create openings for progressive social movements.
To his credit, though this was a layup, Coates did (along with hundreds of other media outlets) call out Clinton for promoting the Lost Cause version of Reconstruction at the Monday Democratic town hal
Meanwhile, if we call Coates, oh, say a left-neoliberal, he's not the only one trying to do a takedown of Sanders. The Jacobin calls bullshit on two leaders of Inside the Beltway Brat Packers, Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias, for their cheap shots on Sanders' health care plans.
Update, Feb. 9: Coates now has a rejoinder up. And, early on, I'm calling disingenuousness. Coates said his original claimed that democratic socialism alone couldn't address racism:
I asserted that western Europe demonstrated that democratic-socialist policy, alone, could not sufficiently address the problem of white supremacy.
"Sufficiently address" is far different from "vanquish(ed)." And, he's sticking by his strawman of "alone."
Second, I didn't find Johnson doing a "bait and switch." Related, I think Coates is raising the housing issue precisely because he didn't raise it in his original and Johnson didn't raise it in response.
Third, housing is arguably a red herring. It's an issue that, if social-democratic policy is focused on wages, labor issues and economic class, is outside its purview. But, unless Coates is proposing to expropriate houses owned by white people, it's outside reparations' purview as well.
It is, though, firmly within affirmative action law on fair housing standards. Which, again, per the NAACP, vigorous enforcement of such laws is the best de facto reparations.
So, when Coates says:
When an argument is divorced of this clarity, then deflection, subject-changing, abstraction, and head-fakes—as when Johnson exchanges“laborers” for the victims of white supremacy—all become inevitable
I'm willing to offer him a mirror for self-examination.
I await seeing if Johnson has a follow-up back to Coates.
Update, Feb. 10: Despite those three pieces, and especially his busting Sanders' chops in the first, Coates is now publicly endorsing Sanders.
January 26, 2016
Unfortunately, to the degree he has extended his 1-note trumpet beyond the shores of the United States, he's hit some sour notes so far.
On ISIS, this thinks in terms of old-fashioned wars with definite ending points. Even if one buys into establishmentarian ideas about the "War on Terror," the idea that it has a definite finish line is a false note. One contains and controls ISIS, like the Red Brigades or Provisional IRA, while hoping and waiting for internal quarrels and factionalism to help.
To me, this is in part a carry-over from the wrongheadedness of the War on Drugs, preceded by a few years by the War on Cancer, and the War on Poverty.
In traditional views of wars, with winners and losers, NONE of these things are "wars." None of them should have been called such.
It was scientific hubris over the War on Cancer; the others were all political grandstanding, as is the War on Terror. (And yes, liberals and even left-liberals can grandstand just like rightists.)
In other words, this isn't about "beating" ISIS. It's about not investing too much political, or military, energy into dealing with ISIS at all.
Sadly, though, one Sanders follower, with the name of Bernie Press but purely unofficial (I don't know if Sanders' staff has grounds to pursue a Twitter account issue) buys into the same, in spades:
I hope such ideas aren't held by a large number of ardent Sanders supporters, let alone dyed-in-the-wool Berniebros. I also hope they're not held as ardently by Sanders himself as by some of his followers. But, I know they are held to some degree..@SocraticGadfly @rebleber Am I the only one seeing Obama using int'l coalition like #Bernie2016 said, and is kicking ISIS ass big time?— Bernie Press (@BernPress) January 20, 2016
And, I'll venture they are strongly held by a fair number of "Berniebros."
To put it bluntly: Sarah Palin's also talking about "kicking ISIS ass." If that's what you want, I want no part of you.
(Sidebar, with note that I'm thinking about a full blog post just on stuff like this now. We now have, as of late last week, a new Sanders campaign ad. Nice, but not "astounding," contra the Upworthy-style breathlessness of a site that calls itself the Bernie Post, and says, as when showing that campaign ad:
The Bernie Post is the only media outlet dedicated to covering Bernie Sanders’ presidential election campaign. Please consider making a donation so we are able to continue our efforts.
Bullshit. As I said back, Burlington, Vermont's alt-weekly has a 'vertical," as the Kool Kids say, devoted to Sanders, as one example. Another issue is, what is a "media outlet" and what is "covering"? Some Berniebro starts a blog and claims he's a "media outlet" who is "covering" Sanders on a dedicated basis. This looks like a huckster shilling for money. Maybe that Bernie Press, on Twitter, will be looking to sell swag.
Anyway, Sanders-themed charlatanry will be that blog post's theme, if I write it.)
A recent extensive interview by 2012 Green Party presidential nominee Dr. Jill Stein, in the section on the Paris terrorist attack and following, explain more about why I'm not interested in "kicking ISIS ass" and certainly not interested in the mindset behind it.
I've talked elsewhere in this blog about the difference between stereotypes and generalizations. I think what that portmanteau says about younger male Sanders supporters is a generalization, not a stereotype. I suspect that in some degree they're like a hipster version of "rugged Christianity" young male backers of Teddy Roosevelt.
Also, per Mondoweiss, we're reminded that Sanders lived on a kibbutz and may well have a romanticized view of the creation of Israel.
On Assad, I am once again reminded of Abraham Lincoln's comment when told he had to get rid of Gen. George McClellan.
He asked who he should replace McClellan with and was told "Anybody!"
Lincoln responded that he had to have "somebody," not "anybody."
But for the man who lusts for the F-35s for the Vermont National Guard and other warhawkery, this is nothing new. Yes, the ISIS issue, we might call throwaway. Even there, though, you're not going to outrhetoric Hillary Clinton; she's already made that clear. But, the Assad issue is pandering to establishmentarian foreign policy. Sy Hersch has shown that Dear Leader may have cherry-picked anti-Assad info on chemical warfare. Since then, he's shown that the Defense Intelligence Agency, during the period Gen. Martin Dempsey was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, undercut Obama's own stance on Syria, worried about its fallout.
And, I don't agree a lot with the scrambled eggs and braids folks, but on this, they were right. Half the anti-Assad opposition was pro-ISIS or close. And, otherwise, getting rid of Hafez Assad is a repeat for the clusterfuck of what happened after we got rid of Saddam Hussein.
Plus, Bernie, the only way we're getting rid of Assad is "boots on the ground."
How many do you want to kill?
For me, the No. 1 foreign policy issue is killing the TPP.
No. 2 is coming to some sort of accord — with necessary Russian buy-in — on Assad, if possible. Unlike some Green-leaning types, I will practice Realpolitik in foreign policy.
No. 3 is devising the best reasonable ISIS containment policy.
No. 4 is restarting the Palestine-Israel talks in a meaningful way, including expanding BDS to the degree it has teeth, and also following on the EU on labeling products made in Israeli factories in occupied Palestine
See how different that is? (Ted Rall has vaguely and broadly similar critiques in a shorter, broader overall critique.)