SocraticGadfly: Why did Bernie go bust? He's a punch-pulling bad campaigner

April 10, 2020

Why did Bernie go bust? He's a punch-pulling bad campaigner

The New York Times confirms for me a few major issues, none of them new to me. And now that Bernie is out of the race (warning: sheepdogging ahead), we can start deconstructing his campaign.

1. Jane Sanders "wearing the pants," if one will allow a cliche, and if not, it's being used anyway. I've long thought this. The various degrees of both grift and nepotism associated with both Our Revolution and the Sanders Institute? Both are ultimately on her as much as anything. Some of the grift, though, is joint.

2. As exemplified by his refusal to actually attack Biden, even while regularly attacking "the establishment," that he's a bad campaigner. Running in a small state like Vermont, first as the state's lone at-large House member, then statewide as a senator, meant after his first election that he had few challenges to become a better campaigner.

The NYT largely ignored this issue, though, and it's important, I think.

Bernie's not been primaried in 20 or more years. By "primaried," I'm also including his agreement with the Vermont Democratic Party that it would kibosh any registered Dems running against him in the general, to the best of its ability. This was broken once and only once. In a purplish state that's become more and more straight blue, between his House and Senate runs, he's also faced little serious general election opposition. Indeed, per a Wiki page on his electoral history, most his House and Senate general election opponents don't have Wiki pages. Nuff sed.

So, before the 2016 presidential campaign, he'd run all his campaigns in a small-size, small-area, relatively homogenized state. Come 2016, and, while he had a message that appealed to many, he couldn't or wouldn't sell the deal.

Per his "The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails," he proved he was a bad campaigner.

First, on the bad politics, bad strategery version? You're the challenger to a semi-incumbent and you're running behind. You have to throw sharp elbows. Bernie hadn't had to do this in 20 years.

(Update via Gateway Nutbar: Briahna Joy Gray, unlike Sirota or Weaver, actually WAS part of the problem, if she's BOASTING about not going negative on Biden.)

Second, on the bad politics, bad tactics? You also have to appeal to your base, and many Dems, and many independents in states with open primaries, weren't sick of the issue at all.

Third, on the bad politics, grand strategy or political core beliefs or whatever? As the mainstream media sometimes obscured and befuddled, and as Clinton and her allies gleefully helped, the issue ultimately was about her email server, not her emails. Many people knew that, but Bernie never mentioned it. He was either that ignorant, or knowing it and zipping his mouth, he had already gone past bad campaigning to having a few toenails in the sheepdogging world.

Politico, playing catch-up to the Old Gray Lady now that Bernie is officially out, confirms that his refusal to throw those elbows was a problem. It also reinforces that Bernie was not good at taking advice, and that although he has changed political positions over the years, he doesn't like changing political strategies.

And, Politico ties that 2016 video with post-Nevada 2020 and the last Dem debate before South Carolina:
Two of Sanders’ top advisers — pollster Ben Tulchin and speechwriter David Sirota — told Sanders that he should pointedly take on Biden at the Feb. 25 debate in South Carolina. …  
In an email to senior staff, Tulchin said that moderate voters were beginning to unify behind Biden and that the consolidation would intensify if he won South Carolina, according to people familiar with the message. 
But on the stage that night, Sanders didn’t take his aides’ advice. Instead, he largely gave Biden a pass, bashed Bloomberg sometimes — but not over stop-and-frisk — and mostly stuck to his standard talking points. It wasn’t the first nor the last time Sanders eschewed his staffers’ suggestions to be more aggressive with his top rival. Their warnings proved prescient: Biden went on to sweep the day in South Carolina, unify moderates, and then carry Super Tuesday.  
“Knocking out Biden was job No. 1. And even when he was down, no one went for a knockout blow,” said a top aide. “That was the problem.” 
Sanders’ unwillingness to go for Biden’s jugular is just one of the decisions campaign aides are wrestling with since he exited the primary Wednesday. There you go, in spades.

2A. Stereotypical Berners. Yes, every candidate's boosters have their bad apples. Trump the worst. But, Berners have a higher percentage of stereotypical people than anybody other than Trump this cycle, IMO. They had no problem attacking Biden, or others. And, as in 2016, other candidates, and their press staffs, had no problem taking the stereotypes, over-inflating them and running with them. Yes, he had a fair amount of media animosity awaiting, but, he let fuel be dumped on the fire.

The  dueling non-doctors of a week ago, with, in reality, by AP Style, NEITHER Jill Biden NOR Jane O'Meara Sanders being a doctor, is another example of some of the cultism, IMO.

3. (Update): Andrew Stewart at Washington Babylon adds something I didn't think of. If Bernie really WAS running against the Dem establishment, as in 2016, then why did he waste four years without doing any movement building? (Answer, as Andrew should know, is that he was grifting off 2016. And Jane was doing that in spades. Remember, it's about her in the end.) So, in a sense, I didn't so much ignore this, as not stress it because Bernie was busy doing other things. See No. 1.

4. Related to 1, 2 and 2A above, is Bernie's problem not accepting advice. Not "not accepting advice graciously," but just not accepting advice. He's not alone in this in the political world. Trump, of course, has a huge problem.

But Bernie, especially for someone who has changed ideas over 40-plus years (he has, and he has a lot, Berners, and stop peddling legends) is on the upper end of the scale on this.

Other thoughts, from that NYT piece?

Jeff Weaver is an idiot with the Emancipation Proclamation analogy. Lincoln didn't have a sweeping win to work with. It was a minor victory tactically, but per Seward's advice of a month earlier, that's all he needed.

Berners on Twitter are largely attacking Weaver, who isn't all wrong, and David Sirota, who reportedly most wanted to go negative on Biden. And, of course, in doing so, they're perpetuating the cult of Bernie — and continuing to enable his mindset. That's related to point 2A above.

Per my poll at right, when Bernie officially sheepdogs for Biden this summer and fall — and does so with a minimum of 50 percent of the enthusiasm for Biden as he had for Clinton — what will you do next?

Answer, now that the poll is down and we're post-election?

Most of you followed Bernie's sheepdogging.

Shock me.


Meanwhile, Jacobin, which is running an intellectual diarrhea stream of fellating Bernie long after his capitulation, has doubled down by claiming he wasn't a bad campaigner.

First, a LOT of Berners have been making the dumb-ass claim that Bernie "won the battle of ideas." Really? Since Bernie folded, Biden has still not supported single-payer and has even indicated it wouldn't help in the coronavirus.

Second, excusing him for not throwing elbows? That by itself might not have won. But it might have. Had Bernie "contained" Biden's South Carolina victory size, he might have won more Super Tuesday states. At the least, it would have been part of a strategery.

Third? The piece ignores the missing youth vote even before Bernie folded.

Fourth, the "fear of Trump"? Isn't this why Jacobin itself won't call out Bernie for sheepdogging?


Anonymous said...

I'll tell you what we'll do: we'll vote for the Democratic nominee. And so will you.

paintedjaguar said...

"he let fuel be dumped on the fire"
Nonsense. Sanders more than once publicly chastised or renounced surrogates and supporters who were simply telling the truth when Bernie wouldn't. And you're apparently unfamiliar with pigheaded Warren and Tulsi fans, not to mention the Clintonite dead-enders.

If you want Civil War analogies, I rather think Bernie will be remembered as this era's McClellan, except that there doesn't seem to be any Grant waiting to take up the fight.

Gadfly said...

Anonymous: You've obviously clueless about who I am. I've voted Green every presidential election this century. That won't be changing this year. Because I had my Top 10 posts set for last year rather than last month when you commented, you missed that two weeks ago I called out a Berniecrat who just couldn't get why Greens didn't welcome him and the Gospel of Bernie with open arms.

You don't "own my vote." You never have. You never will. That's the polite version.

Gadfly said...

Jags, maybe a bit harsh on my part. And it is my opinion on perceptions of Berners. And I do know that, from things like the Nevada 2016 caucuses, that false claims have been made in the past.

I'm familiar with all the others. Tulsi-stanners are more cultic, that's for sure. Warren-ites are ... meh in spades? But, I don't think backers of either of them contain the same degree of acerbity. That's my opinion; I had the IMO in the piece.

While noting that the language might be a bit harsh, I'll stand by it.

You're right that Sanders reined in people who were telling the truth, with elbows, when he wouldn't throw elbows. That I agree with. But, before they took off at times, he did have social media backers that just threw elbows.

Sadly, many of these were probably the younger people who didn't actually bother to vote.

Gadfly said...

Oh, Jacobin's continued fellating of Sanders only increases some of my take. Plus, it's just wrong in claiming Sanders wasn't a bad campaign; all this does is perpetuate the myth of St. Bernie even as he sheepdogs away.