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Tom Rinaldo

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Member since: Mon Oct 20, 2003, 05:39 PM
Number of posts: 22,218

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Maybe, just maybe, it's not about emails

Maybe it's just the times that are a changing. Maybe the public has grown increasingly tired of politics as usual and a tipping point has finally been reached. Maybe being an establishment backed candidate has become the virtual kiss of death. People just might be as mad as hell and they aren't going to take it anymore, at least while there is any other option available.

I know we are sometimes loath to give the Republican base credit for having any fundamentally sane instincts. And yes the Republican "outsider" candidates who are doing so well this year really are "out there' in more ways than one. But they decidedly are not establishment backed, and that may ultimately prove to be a far more important attribute than any particular rant they may be capable of spewing.

A few months back almost everyone believed that Hillary Clinton would almost certainly win the Democratic nomination for President, but that certainty is no longer apparent. And while Jeb Bush might never have been as prohibitive a favorite on the Republican side as Hillary was on the Democratic, virtually no one could have predicted that he would be mired in the second tier of Republican candidates at this stage, typically polling in single digits. Meanwhile Scott Walker, the fresh new Republican face pre-positioned to pick up all the pieces should Jeb Bush falter, is already out of the race.

Something seems to be at work here far larger than any combination of gaffes, poorly managed press conference or debate performances, or even media fanned whiffs of scandals can explain. And that may be why the once impending Clinton Bush 2016 match up may be anything but that when the election finally comes around.

An Open Postcard to Hillary

Dear Hillary

Don't have much time right now so I'll keep this short, besides it's kind of a simple point anyway...

Even with your not so good Summer, with the media looking for scandals to report on rather than serious issues to cover, odds still are you will win the Democratic nomination. It may not be a slam dunk anymore, but you still have lots going for you. You are really really bright, you totally know the ropes, a lot of America yearns for a chance to elect our first female President, you've earned some honest liberal creds over the year to point to, and most people still think back fondly to the last time you lived in the White House.

You still can win this thing fair and square with your honor intact. But only if you call your sleaze hounds off of Bernie. It's fine to cite your differences with him of course. You can claim that Bernie's platform is out of step with mainstream America if that is what you think - beliefs on such things do vary. But Democratic activists have a particularly low tolerance this year for hit pieces against someone who most of us believe is fighting for us whether or not he can or even should ultimately prevail to win the nomination. If you end up with the Democratic nomination, you just might want us to bust ass for your election. That kind of covers it. Think about it, OK?

The under reporting of the Sanders presidential campaign serves Bernie well

Yes that is counter intuitive, and no the same thing can't be said for O'Malley, Webb and Chaffee, or for most of the Republican candidates for that matter. But unlike those other candidates, Bernie is already highly competitive where it currently matters, in Iowa and New Hampshire, and his national numbers have risen significantly over the course of the Summer. So as the post Labor Day "official" political season kicks off, Bernie Sanders is already established as one of the proverbial "first tier" candidates. Given the cumulative amount of and the dismissive predominant tone of the media attention paid to Sanders so far though it's not that surprising if most Americans haven't noticed it yet. Bucking conventional wisdom here I'll say that puts Sanders in a sweet spot. He represents a rare political phenomena. Sanders is an insurgent populist surging in political polls months before a single vote is cast, who is not on a trajectory to peak too early.

I've been tracking something interesting about how the media has covered Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump over the course of the Summer. In short it goes something like this. While the media and various political talking heads believed that the Trump ascendancy would be relatively short lived, prone to an inevitable bursting from an excess of hot air, the standard talking point was to pair Trump and Sanders as the angry bookends of the Right and Left. The public was said to be reacting emotionally in the heat of the early summer flirting with both men, blowing off some steam prior to actually examining their political viability and credentials in the cooler days of Fall. Trump and Sanders, in essence, were being politely dismissed as "light summer reading" before the school year resumed and the public had to "hit the books" in earnest. During that media phase an establishment agenda was covertly being advanced.

Neither Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders are trusted foot soldiers for the status quo but they have far from similar political personas. Leaving actual policy distinctions aside for the moment, which of course is the media default mode of coverage of presidential races to begin with, the two men could hardly differ more. With Trump it is first and foremost about his personal brand and advancing his belief that America needs him as a "Strong Man" to make us great again. With Sanders it is first and foremost about the issues he thinks matter to most Americans, and advancing the belief that the inherent power of the American people will ensure prosperity to our nation once the choke hold of the oligarchy is broken. As to personal temperament there simply is no resemblance. Trump shoots from the hip at anything and anyone, Sanders is always focused and deliberate. But bracketing Trump and Sanders as angry men at opposing political extremes seemed to neatly solve an establishment political problem; how to make them both go away.

The establishment thought Trump would implode under any real scrutiny so the media gladly offered him enough rope to hang himself. With the media portraying Sanders essentially as Trump's leftist doppelganger, that set Sanders up to become collateral damage when the Trump bubble burst and anger became discredited as a useful attribute of leadership. Except that Labor Day has come and gone now and Donald Trump continues to dominate the Republican field while Bernie Sanders climbed to the top of the Iowa and New Hampshire Democratic polls. Meanwhile a curious thing happened in the process. Once it became apparent that The Donald wasn't going anywhere, linking Sanders directly to Trump became suddenly less attractive. It began looking like the public's attraction to political outsiders might be more than just a summer fling. Sanders was becoming an even more potent threat to the status quo as his exposure grew so they changed tack, trying to keep him out of the spotlight to stunt his momentum, and turned to Plan B; as in B for Biden.

The Vice President is an acknowledged national leader with consistently held beliefs. In short he's no one's puppet. Biden's long standing political aspirations are his own and are not driven by a need to undercut any momentum Bernie Sanders had been building. But the media needed an alternative narrative to be dismissive of Bernie Sanders with. Rather than directly acknowledge the political power of Bernie's deeply held convictions, they focused on Hillary Clinton's alleged weakness instead with the implicit message that ordinary Democrats were turning away from Clinton rather than turning toward Sanders to explain Sander's increasing political traction. And rather than focus on the resonant substance of the policy message that Sanders espouses, the media turned to constant speculation about whether a “credible” alternative to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination may still lay out there in the form of the current Vice President.

The cutting off of political “oxygen” to a political campaign by minimizing media coverage of it, whether by design or mere happenstance, has been known to throw more nationally prominent politicians than Bernie Sanders into a death spiral that they could not climb out of. There are a number of presidential aspirants on both sides, whose last names are not Trump, Bush, Clinton or Biden, who have been significantly hobbled by the relative lack of publicity, whether mortally so is yet to be seen. Sanders though doesn't fit that mold, he has not been hobbled. Without even a good debate performance under his belt to point to, his trajectory remains upwards. Yet for most Americans Bernie Sanders continues to fly below the radar. This while his fund raising capacity keeps growing and his campaign infrastructure keeps expanding.

Most Americans won't seriously turn to presidential politics until early next year when actual caucuses and primaries begin to loom larger. That is especially true on the Democratic side where it was long believed that Clinton would win the nomination in a cake walk, and where the first Presidential debate still remains weeks away. The public will soon wake up to the undeniable fact that Bernie Sanders is now poised to win both Iowa and New Hampshire, and that he is indeed a serious contender to become the next President of the United States. And when that happens they will want to know a whole lot more about both Sanders and what he stands for. And when that happens, at exactly the right time on the political calendar for a political campaign to really hit its stride, Bernie Sanders will have the full attention of the American voters. And that is exactly what America's establishment has always wanted to avoid.
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