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Tom Rinaldo

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Member since: Mon Oct 20, 2003, 06:39 PM
Number of posts: 16,778

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“The Fix” is in with new political spin: “predominantly non-black states”

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.

Simple truth and common sense, if "the Math" proved Hillary has it won:

If so then Hillary supporters have nothing left to worry about, except for the Fall campaign against the Republicans. Sure her team has to follow through and not totally drop the ball, do their home work on voter turn out and the like, but that stuff is basic. She has a highly professional team in place. If they can't handle simple basics like that in what is being claimed is now a mop up campaign against an already defeated Democratic opponent, then God help us all in November if Hillary is our candidate.

If the Democratic race is really over then it is time for the winner to prioritize unifying Democrats. Not only is it much easier to be gracious when one comes out on top in a primary contest, it is also supremely self serving to be so. A winner needs the support of the loser at that stage, not the other way around. This is not a controversial thesis, it is Politics 101. In 2004 John Kerry knew he had the Democratic nomination well sewn up early in the race, once voters actually started voting. You never heard his camp calling on the Edwards team to throw in the towel though and "accept reality" - even though Edwards had only won one of 31 contests by the close of Super Tuesday.

That is not what politicians who are confident of victory do. They are in no hurry to force anyone out of a race that they are confident they have won. All the talk is about respecting the Democratic process and the importance of letting everyone vote. Political surrogates and campaign staff bend over backwards to quash negative statements being made by anyone associated with their campaign against their defeated primary foes.

That is what happens when a race is already decided. But that is far from what is happening now.

"But Sanders hasn't been attacked by Republicans yet!"

Yes, he may be polling stronger against all of the Republican candidates for President than Hillary Clinton does, but wait until the Republicans attack him. Yes, Sanders may have the highest favorability ratings of any major candidate for President, but you know, Republicans haven't attacked him yet. Yes, Sanders appeals strongly to Political Independents, who are more numerous than either Democrats or Republicans, but only because so far the latter haven't attacked him. Yes, the Presidential campaign has been going on now for almost a year, and the more the public finds out about Bernie Sanders the more they tend to like him, but just wait for those Republicans attacks. The fact that Bernie's won hundreds of thousands more youth votes than Hillary and Trump combined so far means nothing before Republican attacks. And the fact that Sanders wins sky high approval ratings from the voters in his home state where he repeatedly wins easy reelection, well that's only because Republicans there have never attac... umm, scratch that last one - everyone knows that Vermont doesn't really count.

Sanders hasn't been attacked by the Republicans yet? Oh, really? Bernie Sanders has spent his entire political career to the left of the Democratic Party. It's not exactly a secret. And the mainstream media was positively gleeful about introducing Bernie Sanders to those Americans who didn't already know him as "the Socialist Senator from Vermont." Bernie Sanders is the living breathing representation of the Republican sponsored Red Scare that's run nonstop for the last half century, that cat is already out of the bag, and you know what? Bernie doesn't scare anyone except the Super Rich.

If the Presidential election were held today in the neon red state of Utah, UTAH, Sanders would beat Trump there by double digits, while Clinton would be locked in a statistical tie. Bernie doesn't have sex scandals, he doesn't have money scandals, and he can't be ridiculed as a flip flopper because he's been so damned consistent for so damned long. You can't catch Sanders saying one thing to voters and another to his financial backers, because they are actually one and the same, and Bernie proudly says the same thing to everyone. He spins about as much as a Pre Global Warming glacier. AND Bernie opposed the Iraq War, damned straight he did.

But he'll melt when Republicans attack him. Uh huh.

How to Rig a Horse Race: Momentum as an Antidote to Full Democracy

There are two basic parts to this equation: timing and coverage. We see political analysts talk about this all the time but it tends to go in one ear and out the other. How many stories have you seen about how the DNC and/or the RNC tries to set up their primary schedules to predetermine the outcome of the nomination process? Usually it gets covered by pundits when something goes horribly wrong. So this year for example, the talk was about how the primary process was front ended by the Republican Party in an effort to unify the party around an acceptable main stream candidate early in the game - to avoid the messy situation the Republicans had in 2012. And how it all backfired when Trump jumped off to such a possibly insurmountable early lead before the establishment woke up to how much of a threat Trump was to walk away with the Republican nomination

A lot of insider thought goes into trying to line up which states vote when in the process in order to increase the likelihood of an overall outcome deemed acceptable. On the Democratic side the push for the original Super Tuesday early primary schedule was about maximizing the influence of centrist "New Way" Democrats in the overall nominating process; to give a leg up to moderate candidates over more traditional "New Deal" type liberal Democrats who it was reasoned would have more difficulty winning in the South. Not only would that give an early boost to centrist Democrats, but it would push all Democratic candidates toward more moderate messaging during their early campaigning in order to remain viable for Super Tuesday which was always designed to winnow out the Democratic field to at most two "acceptable" candidates.

South Carolina recently being moved up to vote alone one week after New Hampshire was always a separate story (as well as Nevada following a few days after SC). That was a much needed correction to the fact that the first two contests were fought in overwhelmingly white states that underrepresented African American voters, a key constituency. In 2004 for example South Carolina helped keep the John Edwards candidacy viable after he only came in fourth in NH. Super Tuesday however was designed to be primarily a defacto regional primary for the South.

The strategic timing of primaries used to have, as a result, funding drying up for most candidates who couldn't notch up multiple victories on Super Tuesday. With billionaire personal funders now in place for well connected candidates after Citizens United, and with the emergence of mega grass roots funding support for a populist candidate like Bernie Sanders, that part is less true now than it used to be. What remains fully intact and potent though is the effect of perceived momentum.

Maybe it would be different if we had a different media climate in America than the one we live with today. Maybe it would be different if we had major media committed to covering the substantive issues raised by different presidential campaigns rather than the latest polls and predictions about which ones were most likely to win. Today our press, in all of its mainstream manifestations, mostly covers the horse race rather than substantive debates. And all the oxygen tends to flow towards whoever is running ahead of the field. In truth actual media coverage of literal hose races is far more nuanced than the coverage of political ones. When it comes to the Triple Crown of Horse Racing pundits are less likely to overlook significant changing variables from one race day to the next, like differing lengths of the race tracks and changes in weather/track conditions that shift the advantage from one horse to another.

Does anyone seriously doubt that he entire tenor of the current Democratic Presidential race would be significantly different had the first Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses been centered in the Pacific and Mountain States rather than the Deep South? Had Colorado and Washington and California voted early in the process instead of Alabama and Georgia and Louisiana would we be looking at the race for the Democratic nomination the same way that we are today? Momentum drives coverage and coverage drives results and results then drive momentum and so forth. The timing of who gets to vote first is the hidden hand that helps determine the initial momentum.

Given the way that cycle has played out to date Hillary Clinton is now heavily favored by most to win the Democratic nomination for President. But a funny thing is about to happen on her way to the nomination convention. For the first time since the race began the primary schedule is about to tilt strongly against her favor. Starting on Saturday at the latest the terrain becomes much more hospitable to Bernie Sanders, and stays that way for weeks on end. What will happen when election victories stop going back and forth between the candidates, but potentially instead come in as a potentially unbroken long string of Sanders victories? We saw how the media narrative picked up on Clinton sweeping five contests in one day, even if two of those victories were extremely close. What happens if Sanders wins six or seven contests straight by significant margins, starting no later than in Washington State, in an unbroken run that lasts for several weeks?

The slope of the playing field has overall not favored Sanders so far this year, the Deep South put him in a deep hole that the Clinton camp is eager to keep pointing to. Is part of that eagerness due to a desire to call the contest now, in the minds of the public at least, before the double edge sword of momentum begins to cut in a different direction?

Of Course I Still Support Bernie

Why wouldn't I? I believe in the man, I believe in his message. I remain thrilled with every opportunity he gets, as a Democratic candidate for President, to deliver his piercing indictment of the status quo to a national audience. I will help him continue to do so in every way I can.

I think it highly unlikely that Bernie will win the Democratic nomination, but Hell, that's what I thought back when I was among those urging him to enter the race. Frankly I think his chances are still higher now than they were when he first declared: The man just lost Illinois by less than 2% - how many of us believed that was possible last spring? Bernie Sanders, Democratic Socialist candidate from the small state of Vermont, has shown the world that he is a viable candidate to be President of the United States. The fact that Hillary Clinton seems likely set to win that nomination instead doesn't change that reality.

The campaign that Bernie Sanders is running continues to be a constructive one. If at times some of the themes he focuses on point to weaknesses in his Democratic opponent, trust me, he hasn't exposed anything that the Republicans aren't fully briefed on, and unlike them, Bernie doesn't get personal and nasty. If anything, being challenged from the left has helped Hillary shore up some of her arguments and positions to better be able to compete in a year when a strong populist fever is sweeping America.

To me it doesn't matter how small a chance Bernie has to actually win now. Yes it is very small, though it's far from inconceivable. Bernie has moved the political debate in America so remarkably far in only a few short months. That is what once seemed inconceivable. Let's keep this show on the road, I like where it has taken us so far, and look forward to miles to come.

Each day this race goes on helps build a progressive future.

I keep watching the flood of inspirational campaign ads and powerfully progressive campaign speeches released by the Sanders campaign daily, and pinch myself to see if I'm dreaming, then happily wince to know that I am not. No, this isn't a dream, it is really happening, my dream for America starting to actually come true. To finally witness an election campaign fought over the issues that fundamentally matter to the vast majority of our citizens, with wealth inequality for example not merely referenced in passing as an ill that we must improve on, but instead forcefully condemned as the malevolent goal of an economic oligarchy is, frankly, mind blowing. So is the Sanders shout out to all of America's better angels; peace, compassion, inclusion, justice, equity and fair play,

Bernie may be a Democratic Socialist but there is nothing foreign about his appeal. His belief in what makes us great is as American as apple pie, and people across our political spectrum are buying it, socialist label and all, which is frankly, yes, mind blowing.

Myths get shattered daily. Is a Super PAC essential to a Presidential campaign? Not when you appeal directly to the public. Is a major media news blockade fatal to a Presidential candidate? Not when social media goes over, under, and around it. Does it take a powerful political machine to take on a powerful political machine? Not when a powerful message and a movement is on your side. Are the young too flaky to propel a political revolution? HELL NO!

Can we make it over the top this time around? Stay tuned, To Be Announced, but the trend line now is unmistakable. The battle has been engaged and the demographics have spoken; America's future will be progressive. With every day that the Bernie Sanders campaign surges the message it carries propagates further. The progressive genie is out of the bottle and is out there pressing flesh. Issues are boldly spoken of on a national stage that are usually confined to PBS documentaries: Institutional racism, universal access to higher education, single payer health insurance, poverty rates in America, climate change, retirement with dignity, corporate friendly trade polices, the list goes on and on.

If Hillary Clinton's progressive supporters are so certain that she already has the Democratic nomination securely in the bag, what with delegate math and all, then they too should be hoping that this primary contest doesn't wrap up any time soon - because it is changing America in ways that few of us dreamed possible.

Hillary is having a very bad weekend.

Her comments about the Reagans having been leaders in opening up a public discussion on AIDS were inexcusable, but in some ways even worse; they were bizarre. As Dallasdoc pointed out in his extremely powerful Daily Kos Diary The Wound Has Been Reopened: " Imagine if Barack Obama had presided over 7 years of an Ebola plague which killed over 40,000 Americans without giving a speech on it — even now." Hillary Clinton wasn't just an average American while the AIDS epidemic exploded during the Reagan Presidency - she was living in the Governor's mansion in Arkansas where her husband was a Democratic Governor responsible for helping protect the health of millions of its citizens. An adequate government response to a lethal epidemic, or a lack of same, should very much have been on Hillary's mind then - daily. How do you get totally twisted on the facts regarding something like that when the lack of an adequate federal response once was killing you own constituents?

But it doesn't stop there. Polls show a number of state races starting to tighten, including one CBS poll showing Sanders edging into a lead in Illinois. Bernie drew a crowd to his rally in Tampa Florida more than 10 times larger than the one Hillary attracted on the same day in the same city. And it looks like Clinton is doing what she often resorts to when she starts getting nervous about upcoming results; she goes negative, but she did so this time in a way that made herself look foolish rather than Bernie looking bad. Where was Bernie when she fought for health care she asked? Standing right behind her comes one piece of photographic evidence - to go with another personal gift photo that she had signed to Bernie thanking him for his support on health care. at the time. When Hillary goes negative on Bernie she ends up driving up her own negatives, something she can ill afford to do given her high unfavorables, but she just can't help it it seems.

And then there is that other thing she does when she starts worrying about losing an upcoming primary. She tries to wrap herself in the issues that Bernie is running on, hoping to steal some of his thunder. But Saturday Night Live just called Hillary out on that brilliantly, in a spoof political ad that literally had her morphing into Bernie Sanders. Ouch. To make matters worse the real Hillary only offered up a pale imitation in real life, and the real Bernie promptly raised the ante on her. Hillary wants to tweek a provision of the TPP related to auto imports, but Bernie challenged her to join him in fully rejecting yet another disastrous international trade deal. And the once industrial Mid West seems to be resonating with Bernie's stance on that. To complicate things even further for Hillary, Bernie is also challenging Hillary to distance herself from unpopular Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, something she can not easily do which puts her at a disadvantage in the Democratic primary.

But that's not all. Just when Clinton most needs to blunt any momentum for Sanders going into the Tuesday races, suddenly the daily news cycle coverage has expanded beyond "all Trump, all day" to include, you guessed it, Bernie Sanders. Bernie is on message, standing strong as he turns aside a fresh slew of attacks on him now from a rattled Donald Trump, who is trying to blame Sanders for the ugliness his own crypto-fascist behavior at rallies has spawned. That drama should take us at least into Tuesday when the actual voting begins. Until then the optics are mostly Trump vs Sanders in the Presidential race - not exactly the type of framing that Hillary Clinton needs right now.

I can accept that Hillary "mis-spoke", got her memories confused, or whatever.

I can also accept her impulse to look for nice things to say about Nancy Reagan on a day while our nations flags were flying at half mast in her honor. It's not plausible to me that Hillary was intentionally and knowingly telling a lie, even though her statement was untrue. The potential upside from saying nice things about Nancy Reagan and the AIDS epidemic was minimal when virtually any "nice" compliment about Nancy would have served just as well. The downside potential over this with some of her supporters, in the middle of a heated campaign, however is serious. This was a mistake on her part, the question then is this; how could Hillary make it?

I'm a boomer same as Hillary, just a couple of years younger than she, and I was in my prime as an activist during the 1980's. Ronald Reagan winning the Presidency was, to take a phrase from our Vice President, "a big fucking deal". So was the AIDS epidemic in the Gay community. AIDS was first clinically observed in the United States in 1981. By September 1982 the Center for Disease Control started referring to the disease as AIDS. Rock Hudson became one of the first high-profile Americans to die of the disease in October of 1985, after publicly announcing he had it in July. It was impossible to have cared about the AIDS epidemic at the time and not be furious with Ronald Reagan. It wasn't until October 1987 that President Reagan publicly spoke about the AIDS epidemic.

His refusal to address the health crisis killing tens of thousands of Americas was a major topic of national discussion in activist circles in the mid 1980's. For those who either were gay or cared about gay people in their lives, it was absolutely infuriating. I'm straight and I only knew a few gay men personally at the time but I sure as hell knew that NOTHING was coming out of the Reagan Administration back then that addressed the AIDS epidemic. Some details can slip in your memory over time. The dates I mention above had grown foggy to me until I looked them up again. But you don't get the essential narrative totally confused if you were angry about it at the time. Hillary Clinton, unlike me, wasn't a grass roots activist during the mid 1980's. She was the First Lady of Arkansas from 1983 to 1992. I can only conclude that the AIDS epidemic wasn't high on her personal agenda prior to when President Reagan acknowledged it in 1987. You don't forget something like his unconscionable delay if it was.

Either Hillary's a Weak Candidate and/or Bernie's a Strong Candidate and/or his Message is Powerful

Usually I post long OP's. Not this time. Clinton started out this campaign with every advantage conceivable, at least among Democrats, while Sanders was snickered at by the establishment. Unlike Donald Trump, Bernie wasn't lavished with near infinite hours of free Network television coverage either. Standard Politics 101 had Hillary winning this in a laugher. So why hasn't she, and what does that mean for November? Draw your own conclusions.

Advantage: Sanders

Looking toward November, our choice is becoming clearer. Democrats can pick Bernie to run against Trump, or we can pick Hillary. Each candidate has shown differing areas of strength in the Democratic contests so far. The numbers vary from state to state, but overall Bernie has done better with male voters, with white voters, with young voters, with working class voters, with Independents, with strong progressives, and with voters outside of the South. Hillary has done better with minorities (African Americans in particular - Latinos somewhat less so), with older voters, with moderately liberal voters, with women, and with Southern voters.

Bernie always does better with voters under 30, but often he triumphs with all voters below 50. Plus he's held his own with women in some contests. The Southern blow outs for Hillary tend to skew the overall results somewhat when looking at general demographics - for example her overall strength among women is buttressed by massive support for her by African American women who voted for Clinton in southern states.

When it comes time to run against Trump, what are the implications for the trends that we've seen so far? It's simple: Sanders is the candidate best able to win demographic groups that Democrats need but can't reliably count on. And he does so in the sates that we must carry to win the electoral college, without losing the votes of typically reliable Democrats in the process.

With the voter groups where Hillary has an advantage so far, her support tends to be genuine and heartfelt - they are pro Clinton voters, and that reflects well on her. But there are few anti Sanders voters in those ranks. Sanders isn't overtly being rejected by Clinton voters, it is much more a matter of them just preferring Hillary. This is in stark contrast to what we find on the Republican side, where strong ideological disagreements and personal animosities divide them. By and large, outside of feverish activist enclaves, registered Democrats feel positively toward both of our candidates, and simply are more strongly drawn to one or the other as the case may be. Notably both Hillary and Bernie have strong platforms and voting records that resonate with minorities and women.

So let's look at the swing factors that will determine whether Donald Trump wins or loses to a Democrat come November. No matter who we run we can count on African Americans, and especially Latinos, tuning out in force to defeat Donald Trump. The same is true for women who understand that reproductive rights, to name just one major concern, are at stake in the fall election.

Young voters have a lot to lose if Republican win in the fall, and a case can easily be made that they should turn out in force regardless of which candidate Democrats run, except that history says otherwise. Repeatedly voters below 30 have been under represented in the electorate, often dramatically so. That was less true in 2008 than usual, when Barack Obama inspired a whole new generation of voters to participate. That type wave of enthusiasm is evident again during this election cycle, but only for one candidate; Bernie Sanders.

Progressives too should be counted on in force to vote Democratic against Donald Trump and I believe they will no matter who we nominate. But progressives traditionally have been among the most fervent grass roots activists and volunteers working in the trenches to elect Democrats during the heat of a campaign - in that sense we fight above our weight class. Progressives will vote Democratic in November regardless, but how much blood sweat and tears they invest in the struggle is partially a by product of enthusiasm. And the progressive base, as evidenced by Move On and Democracy for America endorsements among others, tends to be far more enthusiastic for Bernie Sanders.

When it comes to other demographics however, an overall Democratic advantage is far less assured in the coming fall campaign. Independents are a much larger voting block than either registered Democrats or Republicans. Two candidates have so far shown a consistent ability to attract excitement and interest from that critical mass of voters: Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. If nothing else is clear this year one thing should be; establishment candidates like Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Hillary Clinton have not been wining the Independent vote.

Donald Trump has already articulated his game plan for a victory in November, he will be going after (white) working class voters in the Mid West and North East. He will be trying to flip some blue states red while pulling purple ones like Ohio into his column also. He will specifically be appealing to male so called Reagan Democrats who have swung both ways in recent decades. Trump will campaign against Free Trade. Trump will campaign against adventurist wars. He counts on winning the Deep South no matter how impressive Hillary Clinton's primary wins were there.

Hillary Clinton is vulnerable to Trump's strategy in ways that Bernie Sanders is not. That truth has been bubbling up for weeks now, and with her loss in Michigan now it can no longer be ignored.
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