Tom Rinaldo's Journal
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In defending herself against the argument that it is inherently problematic for a Democratic Party candidate for President to raise millions of dollars from Wall Street interests; through speaking fees, bundled campaign contributions, and through Super PACS, Hillary Clinton likes to bring up and compare herself to President Obama. "President Obama took more money from Wall Street in the 2008 campaign than anybody ever had,” she says, “and when it came time to stand up to Wall Street, he passed and signed the toughest regulations since the Great Depression, with the Dodd-Frank regulations." True enough, as far as that goes.
For the record, I am sympathetic to President Obama. For one thing, our economy was going under for the proverbial third time when he took office, and Obama saved us from the abyss. For another, in the immortal words of pollsters, I do believe that he cares about “people like me”, folks who are barely getting by. But Barack Obama got himself elected President, in part, by playing ball with a rigged campaign finance system.
Sarah Silverman, comedian extraordinaire, talked about playing ball in a crooked system on an episode of “Real Time with Bill Maher”:
“You know, all the baseball players use steroids... so they can compete. And, that’s how I think of Citizens United. You know, Hillary takes money from banks and big business and Super Pacs. So did Barack Obama. She’s no different than anybody else. She was the best choice, I thought, considering they all do it.
Then someone came along who doesn’t take steroids, who is not for sale” (that someone, of course, was Bernie Sanders).
So there we have the crux of the matter, neatly presented in a baseball metaphor. Big money has become to winning political campaigns what steroids was to winning baseball championships. But the question remains, does it really matter? What about Hilary’s point that Wall Street gave Barack Obama tons of money and he still “signed the toughest regulations since the Great Depression, with the Dodd-Frank regulations"?
Well for starters the Great Recession was, after all, the biggest economic downturn our nation and the world has suffered since the Great Depression. It would have been blatantly irresponsible to have done nothing about the circumstance that caused it. After the latter, our government responded with the since repealed and not yet restored Glass-Steagall Act which prohibited commercial banks from engaging in the investment business, after the failure of nearly 5,000 banks during the Great Depression. It worked pretty darned well until it was repealed under the Clinton Administration in 1999. So how does Dodd-Frank stack up? The Web site bankrate.com actually issued it a report card in December 2015, as part of a report: “Dodd-Frank rules: Late and watered down” wherein it says:
“Enacted in mid-2010, Dodd-Frank was part of the government's response to the 2008 financial crisis and Great Recession. Four years later, the law is still controversial.
Dodd-Frank encompassed 2,300 pages and required 398 new federal rules. Of that total, 231 rules have been finalized, 83 have been proposed and 94 have not yet been proposed, according to law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell.”
Overall they gave Dodd-Frank a grade of “C”, saying in way of summary: “Dodd-Frank has tightened controls on U.S. financial companies, though many of the provisions were watered down or late in coming”. Specifically regarding the often cited Voicker Rule, that limits bank's involvements in hedge funds, private equity funds, and trading in the stock market for their own profit, bankrate.com gave that a grade of “C Minus”, writing: “several major exception have been written into the rule for banks and other financial institutions.”
Do a Google search for "watered down" "Dodd-Frank", and you will get over 17,000 hits, many of which are quite substantive. While some focus on weaknesses inherent in the original legislation, much of what comes up concerns what has become of it's regulations since original passage. David Primo, a professor of political science and business administration at the University of Rochester, had this pithy observaion.
"If Congress really wanted to deal with the problems in the financial system, it would not have a disjointed regulatory process with competing and unclear jurisdictions," said Primo. "Big banks will be able to maneuver around the complex rules with the aid of very smart lawyers and financial wizards, But I'm concerned that with all these exceptions being put in place for some of the rules, it will be easier for rogue bankers to create problems at the bigger banks."
When Professor Primo expressed concern over “all these exceptions being put in place for some of the rules” he was talking about those “398 new federal rules” referenced above that regulate Dodd-Frank, where it was noted “231 rules have been finalized, 83 have been proposed and 94 have not yet been proposed”. Those rules aren't in the domain of Congress, those are in the realm of Obama Administration appointees to draft and oversee. Any Administration that starts out having “friends on Wall Street”, ends up with “friends of Wall Street” in that Administration. Friends refer friends, that's simply how politics works.
I accept the more or less consensus that having Dodd-Frank, even in a watered down version from what was initially touted, is better than not having Dodd-Frank. I also appreciate that a Republican President, unlike Obama, would not have signed Dodd-Frank, warts and all, unless it was watered down even further. What I do not accept however is that a deluge of millions of dollars in special interest funding simply washes off the backs of fine Democratic Presidents, leaving absolutely no trace. To accept that requires more than a suspension of disbelief, it requires placing your brain in cryogenic storage.
Why is it, do you really think, that after the entire world economy was brought down to it's knees, and tens of millions lost their jobs, their homes, and all of their retirement savings, that no high level Wall Street or banking executive went to jail over the underlying fraud involved? There was a legal and political precedent to policing the aftermath of the Great Recession, it happened after the S&L crisis of the 1980s and 1990s, when 1,043 out of the 3,234 savings and loan associations in the United States failed between 1986 and 1995.
Joshua Holland of Moyers & Company, interviewed William K. Black about that. He is a former bank regulator who played an integral role in throwing a number of high-level executives in jail for white-collar crimes during the savings and loan crisis. Read what he has to say about the legal response to that economic crisis compared with the legal aftermath to the Great Recession.
“The savings and loan debacle was one-seventieth the size of the current crisis, both in terms of losses and the amount of fraud. In that crisis, the savings and loan regulators made over 30,000 criminal referrals, and this produced over 1,000 felony convictions in cases designated as “major” by the Department of Justice. But even that understates the degree of prioritization, because we, the regulators, worked very closely with the FBI and the Justice Department to create a list of the top 100 — the 100 worst fraud schemes. They involved roughly 300 savings and loans and 600 individuals, and virtually all of those people were prosecuted. We had a 90 percent conviction rate, which is the greatest success against elite white-collar crime (in terms of prosecution) in history.
In the current crisis, that same agency, the Office of Thrift Supervision, which was supposed to regulate, among others, Countrywide, Washington Mutual and IndyMac — which collectively made hundreds of thousands of fraudulent mortgage loans — made zero criminal referrals. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which is supposed to regulate the largest national banks, made zero criminal referrals. The Federal Reserve appears to have made zero criminal referrals; it made three about discrimination. And the FDIC was smart enough to refuse to answer the question, but nobody thinks they made any material number of criminal referrals ”
And what are the implications of the lack of any high level criminal prosecutions looking forward? According to Black:
“...The failure to prosecute under any theory of economics and any theory of criminality means that the next crisis is far more likely, and that it’s going to be far larger, because this accounting control fraud recipe is a sure thing that guarantees that you will be made wealthy immediately as the controlling officers, and there will be no risk — zero. Not a single elite banker who caused this crisis is in prison, period. “
The causes of the Great Recession didn't happen on Obama's watch, but the failure to criminally prosecute a single CEO who made obscene profits while fraudulent housing schemes destroyed the American economy, most certainly did happen on Obama's watch. And that was all after, in the words of Hillary Clinton: "President Obama took more money from Wall Street in the 2008 campaign than anybody ever had,”
Let me make this as clear as I possibly can. I actually like President Obama. I think he has tried to, and in many way has succeeded at, doing a good job for the American people. I assume that Hilly Clinton would try to do the same. But I will not subscribe to the fiction that obscene amounts of campaign donations from America’s most powerful business sectors, corporations, and individuals, have no tangible effect on how political policies and priorities are set and pursued by our political leaders. The only way to avoid what I believe is an inevitable and corrosive effect on our democracy, is to have political leaders who are beholden to the American people, not to America's oligarchy, for the funding they need to run their campaigns. Unfortunately that did not include Barack Obama then, and it does not include Hillary Clinton now.
I'll close by quoting Sarah Silverman again talking about her choice this year, talking about Hillary and why she is backing Bernie: “She was the best choice, I thought, considering they all do it. Then someone came along who doesn’t take steroids, who is not for sale”.
I am proud also to here note that the above quoted William K. Black is now an official economic adviser to Senator Bernie Sanders
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Tue Apr 12, 2016, 02:57 PM (30 replies)
It is a real and substantive event. Yes politics is swirling around, maybe on two continents, but there is a world beyond politics also, and this conference is about that world. It wouldn't surprise me if there were some located at the Vatican who are profoundly suspicious of the motivation of all politicians - having no doubt met quite a few of them. And yes there are ideological divides that play out in Rome as well, where some American Cardinals might express strong feelings. We should not let that obscure the purpose of this conference.
I am proud that a candidate who I support for President wants to be in attendance there. But that doesn't mean that Hillary isn't supportive of the conference goals just because she won't be there also. I would be proud were I a Hillary supporter if she were attending an international conference on Woman's Rights now, which I know is something she has done before and no doubt will do again in the future. Should she do so without Sanders also being present I would not employ that as evidence that he didn't care about that cause either.
Yes Bernie is in the middle of an election campaign, but he is not running just to win elections. He has his own sense of his life mission, and attending this conference is consistent with that. Should he become our next President or even if he doesn't he needs to extend his personal connections to other leaders, both political and otherwise, in the world who also care deeply about the issues that most concern him. He should attend events like this, and I have no problem admitting that Hillary Clinton at this stage in her career no doubt has a wider web of international connections than does Bernie Sanders. So it is appropriate that he make this trip and advance his process of hopefully becoming a world and not just national leader - whether or not he wins the Democratic nomination for President. I believe he will come home profoundly moved by this experience, and that will be to the betterment of all of us.
This stuff is all too important for Sanders supporters to try to make political hay over, or for Clinton supporters to try to denigrate because it involves her current political rival. It may or may not help or hurt Sanders for him to be outside of New York during a critical day and a half in Europe when he could be staging rallies and talking to local media. That's not the point though - it is good that he is going there either way. It only cheapens the meaning of this event for Bernie supporters to act elated over it thinking he can score some political points, or for Hillary supporters to look for a way to play this all to her advantage instead.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Fri Apr 8, 2016, 04:14 PM (12 replies)
Is Barack Obama a Christian? "As far as I know" Hillary replied.
That is her style. So while others in 2008 portrayed Obama as somehow alien and not American enough to be President, while literally disputing his self professed faith - no Hillary didn't go there - not exactly. But did she accept Obama's own word on his own faith, well no - not exactly. As far as Hillary knew Obama was a Christian but, you know, there just might be some other information out there that she didn't know about yet that could prove he was a secret Muslim. Feel free to look into it further if you want to, maybe Google "Obama Secret Muslim" for leads, but as far as Hilary knew just then, Obama was Christian. Other opinions may differ, but Hillary wasn't the one who flat out called him Muslim. Nope, not her style.
Is Bernie Sanders qualified to be President? Hillary couldn't even bring herself to say "As far as I know" this time when she was asked that question directly. Let the voters decide, she opined, “but he's been talking for more than a year about doing things that he obviously hadn't really studied or understood, and that raises a lot of questions".
Questions about what? About whether Sanders is qualified to be President one has to imply because that is what she was asked to comment on. But did Hillary flat out call Bernie unqualified to be President? Nope, not her style.
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are both running to be the Democratic candidate for President. In so doing Sanders officially declared himself to be a Democrat, and he affirms that he is a Democrat now to anyone when asked. So is Bernie Sanders a Democrat? There's that nagging doubt again. Hillary just doesn't know:
“He’s a relatively new Democrat,” Clinton said. “I’m not even sure he is one. He's running as one. So I don't know quite how to characterize him. I'll leave that to him.”
God forbid she take him at his word, or even accept the legal filings that now certify Sanders as a Democrat. Nope that's not her style, at least not when she thinks she can gain votes by sowing doubt. Of course if she thinks there might be votes to gain, she takes a different tack, like she did here:
Clinton to campaign for Crist
09/22/14 07:56 PM EDT
“Hillary Clinton will headline a fundraising dinner for Florida Democratic gubernatorial Charlie Crist next month, putting her in a key presidential state in the midterms battle, according to an invitation.
Crist, a Republican turned Democrat running for his old job, is in one of the toughest gubernatorial races in the country.”
Maybe Hillary was somehow unclear about Crist's full throttle Republican past when she fully embraced him as a Democrat. But then what about Arlan Specter, who Hillary Clinton served with in the United States Senate for eight years; she in the Democratic Caucus (alongside Bernie Sanders for part of that time), he in the Republican Caucus. Then one day in 2009 Specter declared himself a Democrat instead, and the entire Democratic Party – Hillary Clinton included, rushed to embrace him as a Democrat with arms fully extended. One thing you did not hear Hillary Clinton say when Specter sought reelection to the Senate as a Democrat in 2011 was anything remotely akin to: “He’s a relatively new Democrat. I’m not even sure he is one. He's running as one. So I don't know quite how to characterize him. I'll leave that to him.” No, that would not have served her interests, so that would not have been her style.
On the very night when Clinton suffered an electoral setback in Wisconsin, CNN broke with an anonymously sourced CNN report claiming her campaign was planning to "disqualify him, defeat him”. Now that is more Hilary's style, no one heard her say that. No one heard Hillary repudiate that report either. True, Hillary Clinton did not technically call Bernie Sanders unqualified to be President, but she persistently refused to shoot down that meme after her own campaign injected the belief that Sanders will soon be disqualified into the political discussion. She didn't technically say it but that's what she wants people to believe.
Well, it's not Bernie's style to stand down before innuendos, or third party character assassins who ply their trade in acidic talking points from a Super PAC's short arms length away - to allow for plausible deniability. There is no real debate about who is literally qualified to be President, the United States Constitution settled that matter centuries ago, both Hillary and Bernie are “qualified”. The debate is over who Americans should entrust with that high position, and why. That is what this rhetorical argument is about except that Hillary, as usual, is being circumspect while Bernie, as usual, is straight forward.
It was Hillary Clinton who started on this path of playing with political fire. Even after that anonymously sourced CNN report became public she could easily have snuffed out almost all the resulting flames by simply answering that fellow Democrat Bernie Sanders, who millions of Democrats have supported over her, was indeed qualified to be President. That is not a significant point for Hillary to concede while reserving the right to argue that she is the more qualified of the two. But no, that's not her style. She somehow couldn't bring herself to say that, and so she invited this fire storm upon us.
Bernie now is cutting to the heart of the matter, he's not artfully hiding behind technicalities. The latter is the Clinton brand, not his. If Hillary wants to go beyond the constitutional requirements and debate what it takes for someone to qualify as a good President for the United States, the response Sanders gave her was 100% fair game.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Thu Apr 7, 2016, 12:50 PM (40 replies)
Full credit where credit is due. When the experts came back to President Obama and his advisors, including Secretary Clinton, with a detailed plan on how to kill or capture Osama Bin Laden in his Pakistan compound, Hillary supported that approach, and it worked. That is called a specific judgment call and in that instance she made the right one. The decision to make targeting Osama Bin Laden a top national security priority of the United States was of a different order. It was a policy directive approved by two American Presidents, first Bush and then Obama. No offense to either man but frankly it was a no brainer, most policy decisions are not such obvious calls.
It appears less obvious to some though whether the United States needs to break up some banks that have become too big to fail. If either the current or a future president determines that mega banks pose too great a risk to our economy in their current form, breaking them up will become a policy directive that will set some actions in motion.
In the case of Bin Laden, the objective of eliminating the threat he posed was tasked by President Obama to experts in the appropriate arms of government. Those experts in turn assessed the means at their disposal to accomplish that goal. When the time was right, specific plan options were presented to Obama and his security team for review. The choice was made, the deed was done.
Hillary Clinton has many skills but she didn't know in advance exactly how the United States would actually get Bin Laden until specific plans were prepared and presented to Obama for review and approval. She is not, for example, a Special Forces planner. The United States government is pretty darn large and it employs thousands of specialists in virtually all fields. Our President doesn't do their jobs for them, he or she does his or her own; assess threats, set policy, engage policy experts to develop plans, review plans and then finally approve one.
Bernie Sanders has a better grasp now on specific methods to employ to break up too large to fail banks than Secretary Clinton did then on how to catch Bin Laden when she became Secretary of State. The Senator's level of understanding is made clear in this piece from the Roosevelt Institute:
"Let’s Dispel Once and for All With This Fiction that Sanders Doesn’t Know How to Break Up Banks
Bernie Sanders gave some fairly normal answers on financial reform to the New York Daily News editorial board. Someone sent it to me, and as I read it I thought “yes, these are answers I’d expect for how Sanders approaches financial reform.”
You wouldn’t know that from the coverage of it...
...Sanders has a clear path on how he wants to break up the banks which he described. Breaking up the banks doesn’t require, or even benefit from, describing the specifics on how the banks would end up, neither for his plans or the baby steps Dodd-Frank has already taken."
There's much more at the link:
The first job of a President and top administration officials is to recognize what is in the interests of the American people, and then set policies consistent with that recognition. Beyond that they must employ the best experts possible to develop policy implementations options, and finally they need the wisdom and judgement required to choose the best plan available from those options ultimately presented to them. And that is exactly what President Sanders will do regarding the American banking industry.
Until we have a President willing to break up too big to fail banks, the rest is academic.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Wed Apr 6, 2016, 02:19 PM (5 replies)
Like in every presidential election I suppose, there are many issues in play this year when it comes to deciding who to support for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016. Both Hillary and Bernie have long records of public service. Far as I'm concerned, at the very least, each of them more or less agrees with me on most of the major issues at least most of the time. Granted, that leaves a lot of wiggle room, but that's how it's always been for me when it came to presidential politics so far. I look for the Democrat with the best record of those who have a decent chance of winning, knowing she or he will have many flaws, knowing she or he will still serve my interests more than will any Republican in the race. A lot of people who I know are fed up with that type of decision making process, and I get it. I am fed up with it too, though I still use it when I have to. I'm glad that this year I don't have to.
It's easy to get lost in the granular detail of competing policy proposals when they all speak toward promoting similar laudable goals, just via different means. The devil it, is said, lies in the details. Well, while the people who generally say such things have a good record of usually being right, for the sake of discussion here I'm going to differ. I think vision, motivation, and conviction mean a whole lot more than the details. Ultimately details matter of course. If the final blueprints get it wrong than a structure can collapse. But blueprints can and usually do change. Just like this essay that you're reading, my first draft used many different words than these.
That's almost always the case with legislation introduced in Congress. Coming and going it almost never looks the same. There are these things called hearings, and the amendment process. There is horse trading. And pig trading. Hillary Clinton has proposals to achieve goals that I support. Bernie Sanders has proposals to achieve goals that I support. Between proposals and final legislation a whole lot of other people will have their say in it too. The Obamacare we ended up with is different than how it started. Bernie and Hillary both understand how it works, neither of them are exactly rookies at this.
But before any blueprint comes the vision, and I'll take that one step further. Before the vision comes the visionary. One can only see what one is open to seeing. The eye picks up more data than the mind can ever use, so the latter screens out most of it. Put it another way. If the eye takes information in that fails to fit with preconceived notions the mind tends to sort it until it does. By and large our government views reality through the mind of the status quo. The leader who we need now, at this point in our history, needs to view things differently. The status quo is failing almost all of us.
I believe it is true to say that today we must see the forest far more than the trees. There are two huge issues plaguing the world we know, and each fundamentally impacts almost every problem facing us: Climate change and income inequality. They may not always be the root of all our social ills, but when not they exasperate them. National Security? What threats are we protecting ourselves from, loss of life and limb? Cancer from a polluted environment and diabetes from poor nutrition are invading us, taking that toll already. Greed and concentrated capital are driving both of those, when decisions that benefit the few take precedence over the many. When those at the top hoard resources needed by all, famines and wars tend to occur, triggered directly or indirectly by the inability or disinterest of governments to ensure all citizens receive the essentials of life.
Even wars in distant lands cascade across borders now effecting us here in America when the global village convulses. As our climate warms catastrophic weather events multiply, destabilizing whole regions and threatening all coast lines. Floods of refuges come on the heels of tidal surges. Only a tiny fraction of one percent of humanity profits from the practices that cause all this, and they keep pushing fossil fuels.
The hyper wealthy cross all national lines. They can outsource their wealth as easily as they can outsource our jobs. Right wing paranoids have it all wrong. The one world government they fear is seated in the international banking system, overseen by interlocking corporate boards. They are a law onto themselves and increasingly governments exist primarily to serve them. Today we fight to preserve the original mission of the government we are poised to elect the President of. That is what the Democratic primary fight comes down to for me. Who is embedded in the status quo and who is not?
The massive leak of the Panama Papers is only just starting to play out, but they only reveal details of a pattern we already know to be true. We are about to elect a president, we need one who is not only free from the tentacles of world wide concentrated wealth, but one with a dedicated life long record of fiercely opposing it. We don't have the luxury to wait any longer for that.
And in regards to the climate? The New York Times published a story today called ‘Fractivists’ Increase Pressure on Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in New York.
Here is a small exert from it:
“Since the start of the campaign, Mrs. Clinton has moved strikingly to the left on climate issues, including opposing the Keystone XL pipeline, offshore drilling and, indeed, most forms of fracking, a drilling technique also known as hydraulic fracturing.
In a debate last month in Flint, Mich., she said she would severely regulate fracking.
“By the time we get through all of my conditions,” she said, “I do not think there will be many places in America where fracking will continue to take place.”
But Mr. Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, had a snappy retort: “My answer is a lot shorter. No, I do not support fracking.”
The absolutism of Mr. Sanders’s position on this and other climate issues — as well as the fact that Mrs. Clinton arrived at her views under pressure from the left — has made many activists mistrustful of her and supportive of Mr. Sanders.”
You can count me among them. On climate. On income inequality. On the future of America.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Mon Apr 4, 2016, 12:49 PM (19 replies)
This was originally written on April 1st and posted on another site. I just got permission from the author to share it on Democratic Underground as well:
"I live in Oregon. Here we vote by mail, and we can check and update our voter registration online (not sure if you can register online, but once you are registered you can access & change your file ). We also have to be registered as affiliated with the Democratic party to vote in the Democratic Primary.
On 3/28/2016 I checked my registration because I was concerned after hearing reports of party affiliations of Bernie voters being changed. My registration listed me as affiliated with the Democratic Party as it should. I took a screen shot, half in jest, but just to be sure.
Today, 3/31/2016, my Voter Notification Card arrived in the mail. It has me listed as unaffiliated.
Now, there is still time, and I have updated my registration to list me as affiliated with the Democratic Party. But, it seems clear that something odd is happening..."
OK that is the clearly objective information part of what was posted, along with a warning that everyone needs to check their registration status prior to any upcoming primary or caucus as soon as possible.
The full post also contains speculation on what might be going on behind the scenes:
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Sun Apr 3, 2016, 06:36 AM (23 replies)
Seven million, one hundred and forty five, and eleven citizens. That's how many Americans cast their ballots in the 2016 Democratic primaries that were held this year in the following eight states: New Hampshire, Georgia, North Carolina, Vermont, Michigan, Arizona, Illinois, and Massachusetts. Those 7,145,011 citizens in those eight states collectively got to decide how to divide up 716 pledged delegates, between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, to the Democratic Convention that will be held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania this summer.
Somewhere between 715 and 719 unpledged delegates (commonly known as superdelegates) will also cast a vote at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. They get to decide for themselves who they want to elect to be the Democratic Party presidential nominee. Each one of them has roughly as much say in that decision as ten thousand regular voters who went to the trouble of voting in the eight primaries listed above. Ten superdelegates will collectively have more influence choosing the Democratic nominee than everyone who voted in the New Hampshire Democratic Primary. One hundred and twenty of those individuals will collectively have more influence in that decision than everyone who voted in the Michigan Democratic Primary.
Of those 715 to 719 unpledged delegates, 435 are elected members of the Democratic National Committee (including the chairs and vice-chairs of each state's Democratic Party). Those 435 individuals, who did not have to run for any public office in order to earn their upcoming power at Philadelphia, will have more power at the Convention than the delegates selected by all of the primary voters of Illinois, Georgia, Massachusetts, and Tennessee combined.
Here is how the race for the nomination currently stands with delegates pledged to one of the Democratic candidates:
Hillary Clinton 1,243
Bernie Sanders 980
Here is how the race for the nomination currently stands with unpledged superdelegates:
Hillary Clinton 469
Bernie Sanders 31
Aren't you glad that we are talking about the Democratic Party?
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Sat Apr 2, 2016, 02:23 PM (23 replies)
First, the obvious: Clinton is mixing apples and oranges by conflating caucus totals with primary totals. Sanders has been winning most of the caucuses to date and Hillary has won most of the primaries. For many reasons caucus vote totals are always suppressed by that specific format compared to voter participation in a primary, starting with the fact that voters must be present at their caucus site at a specific hour rather than having the entire day to make it to their polling place during a primary. We actually have a good case in point of the difference it makes in turn out: Washington State.
For some reason, Washington actually holds both a Democratic caucus and a primary. The caucus comes first and that's where delegates really are won, the primary comes later and is only a "beauty contest". In 2008 Barack Obama won both of them. But even though the 2008 Washington State Primary was essentially meaningless, Obama still collected ten times as many popular votes in the Washington primary than he did in the Washington caucus. Obviously Clinton got more popular votes in the primary than she did in the caucus there also - but factored in sheer raw numbers Obama defeated her by far higher popular vote numbers in the primary than in the caucus - in the same state. Though his ultimate winning percentage may have differed, either higher or lower, had the states that Bernie won in caucuses held primaries instead, there is no plausible reason to believe that the outcomes would have been different - Sanders has been winning those states in massive blow outs. Had they been primaries instead Sanders raw popular vote victory margins in them would have been much higher.
Second, the actual math. We are about mid way though the nominating contests, and the first half of the schedule strongly favored Clinton with its emphasis on Southern states voting early. In 2008 Hillary Clinton picked up over a million more popular votes than Obama won in the states that will be voting this year on April 19th alone. And no, one can not simply assume she will have an advantage in those states this year also. If one were to predict Clinton's 2016 results based on 2008 outcomes, she would be the one well behind in popular votes now based on Obama's 2008 performance in Southern states. Every election cycle is unique.
And of course the overall popular vote count doesn't include Wisconsin either, or a slew of other upcoming states including, for instance, California and Oregon. In 2008 Hillary won California - our most populous state. This year I believe it will be Bernie piling up the votes there instead.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Fri Apr 1, 2016, 09:03 AM (34 replies)
So far analysts covering the Clinton - Sanders fight for the Democratic nomination have poured a lot of effort into viewing the race through some now standard prisms in an attempt to explain both candidate’s shifting fortunes. Patterns that emerge are used to forecast likely outcomes in upcoming primaries and caucuses. Some of those patterns have held up better than others. Once it was said that Bernie Sanders only performed well in states that were small, rural, and overwhelmingly white. That prognosis now has been battered. Washington and Michigan are neither small nor rural, for example, nor are they overwhelmingly white. Alaska and Hawaii are among the most racially diverse states in the nation in fact, with whites accounting for less than 22% of the Hawaiian population. While the Hispanic vote has favored Clinton overall, Sanders has come out ahead in that demographic on a number of occasions, so Clinton's advantage there has not yet proven decisive. Her strong showing with African Americans to date however has been pronounced and constant, even though Sanders has cut into her margin with that group somewhat in northern states.
So the presence of large numbers of Black voters in a state does indicate a clear advantage to Hillary Clinton as we move forward on the election calendar. Clinton has also been dominant in the South, but the bulk of Southern contests are behind us. Sanders has done well in the West, with California and Oregon still yet to come. First though loom a slew of states that don't allow early voting. Why that is significant I'll explore more below.
Basic election variables that have gotten close attention lately focus on how varying states select their convention delegates. Most notably whether that occurs through primaries or caucuses, and whether those contests are open or closed. Many have correctly noted that Hillary Clinton tends to do better in closed contests where only registered Democrats participate, while Sanders gains an advantage when Independents are able to take part too. Hillary Clinton has also run up a pretty good track record of victories in primaries, and Bernie Sanders has done the same in caucuses.
The election variable that seldom if ever gets much analysis is whether a State makes it easy or hard for voters to vote early, rather than wait for election day. All caucuses, it should be noted, are essentially election day only voting contests. The reason why the early voting variable matters so much for Democrats in choosing a candidate during the 2016 primary season can be boiled down to a pair of critical dynamics and the natural interplay between them: Voter Familiarity and Momentum.
Hillary Clinton has been a dominant force on the national political stage for decades now. She occupied the White House for eight years and is now campaigning in her fourth presidential election - twice for her husband and twice for herself. This is a first for Bernie Sanders however, who previously was known as the little known Democratic Socialist Senator from the small state of Vermont: A David vs Goliath type match up if ever there was one. For the whole campaign Sanders has been playing catch up with Hillary Clinton. In every contest in every state, be it a primary or caucus, Bernie has started out far behind. And in every state that he has seriously contested (with New Hampshire, and to a lesser extent Iowa, being the only exceptions) it has taken Sanders until the last week or so to significantly close that gap with Clinton, and in some cases actually surge ahead, in the final waning days and hours.
A hallmark of a long shot underdog insurgency candidacy is a difficulty in being taken seriously, first by the media and then by the voters. It's a cause and effect lethal dance that dooms most such efforts to failure. The only way out of that viscous circle runs through two long retail politics slogs. The fore mentioned Iowa and New Hampshire stand out as being unique, not just because of their rural white demographics, but also because for up to a year they are the only election games in “town” preceding the commencement of actual voting. Sanders was able to devote almost his full attention to those two states for months, and thereby break through a virtual media blockade against him through scores of personal appearances.
Bernie Sanders needed strong early showings in his race for President not only for the delegates they netted him, but also for the credibility they won him. Unlike Hillary Clinton, Sanders had no firewall to count on if the media narrative and perceived momentum turned strongly against him after New Hampshire. Fortunately for Bernie, he virtually tied in Iowa and won resoundingly in New Hampshire. Unfortunately for him though he would no longer have the luxury of ample time to introduce himself to voters in upcoming states before their own election days came due.
Lets look at what happened subsequently, when the pace of the elections began to accelerate rapidly. Nevada was up next, a caucus state where Clinton was always strongly favored. Though there was little early polling for Nevada, whatever polling there had been before the Iowa and New Hampshire contests put Clinton up by strong double digits. With his attention freed to devote to the Nevada caucus, plus some positive momentum behind him, Sanders closed that gap, ultimately losing Nevada by only five and a half points - after Clinton got a last second tactical assist there from Harry Reid. Sanders contested Nevada hard until the caucuses closed their doors. There was no early voting to help Clinton bank an early lead there fully weeks in advance. But with his narrow Nevada loss, most of Sander's momentum was blunted heading into South Carolina and the Super Tuesday multi-state marathon that followed, terrain that was always more favorable to Clinton.
Sanders concentrated on five states that day where he thought he stood a chance. He didn't have the resources, with time being the most precious of them, to stretch further than that. Bernie ultimately won four contests; three caucuses and the primary in his home state of Vermont. Sanders lost the Massachusetts primary by a whisker. Some questioned why Sanders didn't try harder to narrow Clinton's margin of victory in the Southern states that she swept, if for no other reason than to deny her some delegates. The answer to me is obvious. At that point his viability as a candidate depended on being able to put some W's on the board. Sanders emerged from Super Tuesday stronger, having won four states, than he would have with an extra 25 delegates gained through more strenuous losing efforts in the South, if winning those added delegates came at the expense of two or three of his victories that night.
Momentum is a critical and frequently underestimated aspect of this Democratic primary season. It is anything but intangible, it is as concrete as it gets. Momentum for Bernie Sanders is an ability to show that he can defeat Hillary Clinton, one on one, in elections. When it starts to seem like he can't, virtually all serious media interest in him starts to dry up immediately. When he shows that he can, Sanders lives to fight on for another week in the media mind. And when a previously virtually unknown politician attempts to overtake the most famous woman in the world in 50 states, over a concentrated few months time span, then being taken seriously by the media, at least nominally, is an important aspect of that. Adding extra Town Hall meetings just will no longer cut it. Here is an example of how momentum works:
8:21 AM. PDT March 29, 2016
“NBC NEWS POLL: Bernie Sanders closing gap on Clinton
Fresh off three victories on Western state caucuses over the weekend, an NBC News National Poll of Democratic voters shows Bernie Sanders closer than ever to Hillary Clinton.
The poll shows Clinton at 49% support nationally while Sanders has risen to 43%. The 6% gap between the two candidates is half of what the difference was just a week ago, when Clinton had a 53%-41% lead nationally, according to the poll.
The NBC News/Survey Monkey poll surveyed over 6,500 adults nationally from March 21 to 27.”
Some might note that the polling period indicated above included just 3 days that followed the 3 Saturday contests referenced, but it is important to also note that Bernie Sanders also won three of the four contests held the previous week as well, netting more total delegates than Hillary Clinton during that week also. Perhaps more important than the literal polling period though is the changing media narrative here on display. While this story goes on to mention that Clinton still holds a “huge” overall lead in delegates at this stage in the race, that message is buried below a Sanders friendly lead, and the descriptive term “nearly insurmountable” is nowhere to be found.
The media attention that Bernie Sanders received after the March 1st Super Tuesday was not anywhere near as positive as that above. Just one week later though, Sands pulled off probably the biggest upset of the year so far in the primary state of Michigan, where he campaigned strenuously up until the vote, overcoming a strong double digit deficit in the process. Fortunately for Bernie Sanders there were just two contests up that week, and he ignored the one in Mississippi so that he could spend more of his time in Michigan. Fortunately too for Sanders, Michigan didn't allow for early voting. If it did he would have lost that primary too and with it any remaining chance to win the nomination. Bernie was able to generate a very late surge in Michigan that narrowly carried him across the finish line. Virtually all of Michigan's voters voted on election day.
So what happened the next week when five more states came up in the rotation? Sanders lost all of them, though two of them only narrowly. Sanders entered that week polling far behind in each, prior to reaping some momentum rewards from his surprising showing in Michigan. Of those five states however just one of them did not allow early voting; Missouri, where Sanders only lost by one fifth of a percentage point. In OH, voting began 28 days before election day, in IL and FL it was 15 days prior, and in NC twelve. Voting was already going on in those states when the national media was filled with reports of Clinton victories and Sanders losses, before Sanders had a chance to campaign inside of them in earnest . Think that didn't matter? Think again.
Consistently Bernie Sanders outperforms expectations among voters who experience the full campaign inside their states before voting on Election Day itself. Hillary Clinton only won North Carolina among voters who voted on election day by four points – she won that state overall by almost 14 points. The same pattern held true in Arizona. Bernie Sanders came out ahead there with election day voters (those who managed to have their votes cast and counted in all of that confusion), while losing by 17 and a half percent overall – because of early voting. There are other examples but those sufficiently make the point: Sanders closes strong. Where Hillary Clinton eked out her narrowest victories they were in states, with the sole exception of Illinois, that don't allow early voting: the Nevada and Iowa caucuses and the Missouri and Massachusetts primaries.
Where does all this leave us now? When viewed though the prism of momentum and early voting the next phase of the struggle between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party presidential nomination begins to look more favorable to Senator Sanders than most analysts have previously recognized. The Wisconsin primary falls a full 10 day after the Western Saturday caucus states that Bernie Sanders swept in massive landslides, after he had won three of the four contests in the week prior. For only the third week this year momentum now is clearly favoring Sanders (the others being the short one week windows after his New Hampshire and Michigan primary wins). So although Wisconsin allows for early voting, that does not work against Sanders in the same way that it has in prior contests.
Perhaps of greater significance though the primary calendar has suddenly become less frantic. Only Wisconsin will be doling out delegates on Tuesday April 5tth. Wyoming follows with a caucus on Saturday April 9th which should be favorable to Sanders, and no other states will vote again until Tuesday April 19th when New Yorkers will be the only ones going to the polls. That means that Bernie Sanders won't have to constantly hop scotch from one state to another in the run up to the Wisconsin and New York primaries like he had to during the crowded Super Tuesdays that happened in March. Bernie can more narrowly target his campaigning now to each state next up on the calendar – and that is when he always surges.
New York does not allow for early voting (though like virtually all states it maintains specific provisions for absentee balloting). Of the states that vote a week later on April 26th, neither do CT, DE, RI and PA. Only Maryland allows early voting for its primary held on that date. It begins on April 14th well after the Wisconsin results are in. But even though it's likely momentum will favor Sanders during the first days of early voting in Maryland, it still means voters will begin casting ballots there before Sanders finds much time to campaign in their state. Which is why it overall still favors Bernie Sanders that, aside from Wisconsin and Maryland, all of the contests in April are ones that are decided on Election Day only. If Bernie soundly beats current expectations in New York, the surge will be on. Just when Hillary's surge protector will largely be disabled.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Wed Mar 30, 2016, 11:34 AM (27 replies)
Leave it to the Washington Post for the latest in anti-Sanders political spin. In an effort to stay one step ahead in declaring the resilient Bernie Sanders political campaign still dead, they have updated the political lexicon with an innovative new term to describe Sanders favoring sates. After Bernie swept Western Saturday with three monumental landslides, their regular political feature column “The Fix” characterized two of those battleground states, Alaska and Washington, as “states with smaller black populations” in its headline. Fair enough far as that goes, but that phrase must have proved a little clunky for use as a snappy adjective, and so by the second paragraph it came to this:
“But Alaska and Washington had two characteristics that made them very friendly terrain for Sanders: They were caucuses in predominantly non-black states. And there aren't many more of those on the calendar.”
I believe that may well be a first in American political reporting, a piercing new demographic insight. No one else, far as I can figure, has thought to differentiate American states in that manner before. How many predominantly non-black states do you figure there are in the United States of America? Without crunching all of the numbers, my own rough guess would be approximately 50.
It's not that I can't understand the point that “The Fix” was trying to make there which, simply put, is that Bernie Sanders has been losing most of the African American vote to Hillary Clinton so far, and that he has beaten her most consistently in caucus states that don't have high percentages of black voters, and there aren't many places like that still coming up. OK, that's a valid argument to advance, one that I will take on more frontally soon in a subsequent essay that will look at the overall contest between Clinton and Sanders from an important different angle. There I will address the argument that “The Fix” is tying to make. But what interests me here and now is what their careful and awkward twisting of words says about a shifting political narrative. It wasn't so long ago that pundits who routinely wrote off Bernie Sanders talked about how he only tended to do well in states with overwhelmingly white electorates. If fact that was conventional wisdom up until last week, if my memory serves me well.
Now for the first time we see a naked new political formulation (one that I predict won't “grow legs” because of how patently dumb it is). Yes friends behold! It's the predominantly non-black state! And Bernie Sanders it is said is having trouble winning them. Previously it was said that Bernie didn't do so well with minority voters in general – just with (younger) whites. But Hawaii is only 24.3% white and Sanders won 70% of the vote there. He won 73% of the Washington vote which is over a quarter non-white. Sanders also won over 80% of the Alaskan vote which has a one third non-white population. But it is true that all three of these states have “smaller black populations”, it's just that none of them are “overwhelmingly white”, and thus it is no longer such a simple sell to say Bernie Sanders struggles to attract “minority voters”. Minorities, it turns out, is far too inclusive a term. It's those predominantly non-black states that Sanders still needs to work on.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Sun Mar 27, 2016, 05:16 PM (87 replies)