Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

It's over. There, I said it, and the Heavens didn't come crashing down. Hillary Clinton, by virtue of her performance Tuesday, has ostensibly locked up the nomination. Including her victory in New York last week, Clinton has now won five of the last six states, four of them by huge margins, netting 84 delegates and wiping out the gains Bernie Sanders had made during his run.

We are now pretty much back where we started a month ago. Hillary is ahead by roughly 293 delegates. I say roughly because there are a still a couple of delegates left to apportion. Sanders' supporters might not want to admit it, but the numbers don't lie. He's not just losing ground, he's getting pummeled. And the rest of the calendar doesn't bode well for him. There are 1,016 delegates still up for grabs in May and June. Even if Sanders were to win 60 percent of them - and keep in mind he's trailing in Indiana, California and New Jersey - Clinton would still win by 89 delegates. That's 27 more than Obama beat her by in '08. Climbing Mount Everest would be child's play by comparison.

So what does Sanders do? Better still, what do his supporters do? Because that's the real dilemma here. As much as Clinton has dominated this race her chances in November hinge on what they do, or don't do. And if the posts I've been reading on Facebook are any indication, Hillary has some serious butt kissing to do over the next couple of months. Because as it stands now, some of Bernie's supporters would rather impale themselves on a rusty fence than pull the lever for her.

To some extent this is not a new phenomenon within the progressive movement. We hear a lot about how unhinged the Right is, and that is certainly true, but the Left is no stranger when it comes to being lost in space. How lost? Try this on for size. Some actually feel that letting Trump win would be a good thing because it would teach the country a lesson and allow for the real revolution they've been craving for ever since Bobby Kennedy said, "Now it's on to Chicago and let's win there."

And that's why Bernie Sanders has to step in sooner rather than later and get his supporters back down to planet Earth. He cannot go to the convention in an attempt to wrest the nomination from Clinton. For one thing, he'll be on his own. Most progressive groups have already publicly stated they will support whoever the pledged delegate leader is, even if it is Hillary. The only thing a contested convention would get him is a divided party and a tarnished legacy.

He doesn't have to pull out. He certainly has a right, just as Clinton did in '08, to see this through to the end. His supporters also have the right to vote for him, just like Hillary's supporters did for her eight years ago. But when the countin' is done, Bernie has to do what Hillary did. He has to give up the ghost and call it a night. Anything other than that would be catastrophic come the fall.

As for Hillary, she has to be magnanimous, something she has struggled with over her many years in public service. Let's face it, she's almost as sore a winner as she was a loser. She has to put behind her all the slings and arrows the Sanders campaign has launched at her over the last few months and begin to build a bridge that he can walk across. Besides, if she thinks Bernie was rough, wait until she's facing Trump in a one on one.

She should thank Sanders for two things: first, for making her a better and stronger candidate for the general; and second, for pushing her farther to the left than she would've gone. As Michael Tomasky correctly pointed out, America is in large part a liberal nation. Maybe not on all fronts, but certainly on a lot. From income inequality to equal rights, most voters are far more likely to agree with Bernie Sanders than Ted Cruz. And that's certainly good news for Democrats this year.

That's why Bernie's campaign was so vital to Clinton's chances. If she had simply run on the legacy of her husband, like she was probably going to do, she might well have lost. Hell she still could. Not because Bill wasn't a good president, but because most millennials were teenagers when he was in office. They remember Pearl Jam and Green Day, for sure, but Bubba? I wouldn't go betting the kid's tuition if I were you. Besides, nostalgia is not something the Left tends to embrace; that's the other side of the aisle you're thinking of. Most of these people weren't old enough to vote until '04. For some, Barack Obama was their first love. Bill Clinton might as well be George Washington.

But with the support of Sanders and, yes, Elizabeth Warren, Clinton will not only have the issues on her side but most progressives, as well. If you need a reminder of what happens to Democrats when progressives stay home, just take a look at the 2014 midterm election results. Remember what Obama said immediately after? "To everyone who voted, I want you to know that I hear you. To the two thirds of voters who chose not to participate in the process yesterday, I hear you too."

If I'm Hillary Clinton, I'd commit those words to memory.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Why Bernie Lost New York

No, Bernie Sanders didn't lose New York because his supporters were disenfranchised. It was well understood that the state was a closed primary. The deadline for registering as a Democrat - or Republican - was last October. There was plenty of time for his supporters to sign up. Complaining now is nothing more than sour grapes.

And he didn't lose because of the interview he did for the Daily News that most objective readers felt was weak at best and deplorable at worst. Seriously, how many people do you know who actually read the Daily News for its politics? Or the New York Post, for that matter? I have a New York Post app on my smart phone. Know what I was reading this morning? The anemic offense the Rangers put up in game three of their best of seven series against the Penguins. I'll bet the ranch not one person who voted Tuesday even gave the interview a first let alone second thought.

The reason Bernie Sanders lost New York was because Hillary Clinton got more votes - a lot more votes. In fact she got almost 300 thousand more votes than Sanders. In a state he desperately needed to keep his nomination hopes alive, he didn't just lose; he got destroyed.

It comes down to demographics. Without independent voters, Sanders had to rely on registered Democrats to win and the simple fact is that almost 60 percent of them have been voting for Clinton. Indeed, the only states that Sanders has won that were closed were ones with a predominantly white population. And his two biggest catches in open primaries - Michigan and Wisconsin - were states that have an extremely progressive Democratic electorate.

When you break it down, Sanders has two core constituencies that overwhelmingly support him: young people between the ages of 18 and 29 and white working class people. In virtually every other demographic, Clinton is either tied with or substantially ahead of him. And two of those demographics - women and African American - will be critical in a head to head match up against Donald Trump.

In states that have very diverse populations - New York, Ohio, Florida, Illinois, Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina - she has won, some handedly. Yes Sanders has had quite a run, but it's important to point out that he was the clear favorite in every state he won. The only surprise was the margin he took Wisconsin by. Most pundits thought it would be a lot closer contest.

And now the calendar turns on him. After his New York defeat, Sanders faces uphill battles in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island. All but Rhode Island are closed. And Clinton has solid leads in virtually all of them. Should she sweep, and she could end up doing that, her already impressive pledged delegate lead would swell even more, making it virtually impossible for him to catch her.

Bernie supporters can scream "fix" all they want, but the reason their guy isn't winning has nothing to do with conspiracies or the establishment or Wall Street. He just isn't getting enough votes, period. In school we used to call that basic math.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Hillary Rounding Third?

Let's face it: Thursday night's Democratic debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders - the ninth and probably last - was hardly a game changer. Yes, it was the most contentious - by design, I suspect - but neither candidate moved the needle much. If you're a Hillary or Bernie supporter, you probably heard nothing that made you reconsider. And with just two days left before New Yorkers go to the polls, there just aren't enough undecided voters to alter the likely outcome. The only question left to be answered is how large will Clinton's margin of victory be. Right now, RCP has her ahead by 13. Anything less than 10 points will be disappointing.

The same goes for Pennsylvania where she is ahead by 11, Maryland by 23 and Connecticut by 6. All three vote the following week. Together with New York, the total number of delegates up for grabs is 586. If the current polling holds, Clinton would net 78 pledged delegates increasing her lead to 288 going into May. And that's without factoring in Delaware and Rhode Island, both of which have no polling to go on. Should she win by 10 points in both, her lead would increase by another four delegates. In other words, we'd be pretty much back where we started before Bernie had his run.

And that would just about seal it for Clinton. Sanders wouldn't just need a hail Mary; he'd need two of them. He would have to win all the remaining contests by almost 70 percent just to catch her. Given that two of them - California and New Jersey - are states where Clinton is expected to do well, that is a herculean task. Statistically speaking it's game, set and match for Bernie.

So if I'm the Clinton team, I start going general in May. Don't make it too obvious - you still need all those Bernie Bots to come out and vote - but the focus has to be stopping Donald Trump in November. We're already beginning to see ads attacking Trump's stance on immigration. Expect a lot more in the months to come.

And regarding the general, now would be a good time to address Clinton's one vulnerability that could be problematic for her. It reared its ugly head in the debate and you can bet the ranch it will come out in the fall. Part of it had to do with her role in the Libyan War. While it may be a tough pill for his supporters to swallow, Libya was a foreign policy disaster for President Obama. Not nearly as bad as Bush's debacle in Iraq, but still bad. And, like it or not, Hillary's fingerprints are all over it.

Clinton had better come up with a better explanation than the one she offered up on Thursday: that is was Obama's call. While she is technically correct, it's a lame excuse for one and a copout for another. For much of her campaign, Clinton has wrapped herself up in the Obama Administration the way conservatives wrap themselves up in the flag. She has vehemently supported and defended everything Obama has done throughout his two terms, so it was troubling to see her throw him under the bus like that.

She did the same thing with her husband over the crime bill. Instead of taking ownership of it, she pawned it off on Bill who signed it into law and Sanders who voted for it. Put succinctly, Hillary has an ownership problem. She simply can't bring herself to say she was wrong on anything she had a part in. Even the back and forth between her and Sanders over the minimum wage issue was a clusterfuck. She was evasive when she didn't need to be. There was an argument to be made that Bernie's proposal for a $15 minimum wage is impractical and unworkable. She did a piss-poor job making it. She eventually got around to pointing out that the New York law Andrew Cuomo signed has a faze in period for upstate, but not before she made herself look stupid.

If Bernie could do that to her, what do you think Trump will do once he gets her on the stage? Between now and the fall, the Clinton campaign has to come up with a strategy that allows Hillary to admit what everyone already knows: that she isn't perfect and that she's made her fair share of mistakes. It's one of the reasons why people don't think she's authentic. She's way too calculating in her responses, as though she's looking for the best way to make something bad look good. It's also the main reason why Bernie Sanders has hung around for as long as he has. Admit it, if Bernie was running against say Elizabeth Warren, this race would've been over by February. Conversely, if Hillary was up against another Obama she'd be trailing just like she was at this stage eight years ago.

While it's certainly true that she's learned a thing or two about running a presidential campaign since her last foray, the one thing Hillary Clinton still hasn't mastered is the ability to be open and transparent with the voters. There's no doubt she's qualified, in spite of the ridiculous charge Sanders levied against her and then retracted. But an awful lot of qualified candidates have lost general elections before. Clinton has six and a half months to ensure she isn't one of them.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

It's Time for the Gloves To Come Off, Hillary

There is an old axiom in sports: the longer it takes a team to clinch its division, the harder it gets. One, because the other teams begin to think they have a shot at catching them; but two, the leader starts looking over its shoulder and playing it too safe. In football, this is referred to as the prevent defense, and about the only thing it prevents is a win.

For most of this primary season Hillary Clinton has been the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination. At one point she was up over 300 pledged delegates. With his win in Wisconsin, Bernie Sanders has managed to shave that lead down to 217. More than that, he's won six of the last seven states. That's called momentum, and right now the Sanders campaign has it and the Clinton campaign doesn't.

The Clinton campaign can point to its still rather impressive pledged delegate lead and say it's all but mathematically impossible for Sanders to catch them, and technically they're right. The fact is that the  soft spot on the schedule is over for Bernie. From here on in there are only two caucuses left on the calendar: Wyoming, which votes next and has only 14 delegates, and North Dakota, which votes on June 7th - the same day as California and New Jersey - and has only 18 delegates. All but two of the remaining primaries are closed. By all accounts, this race should be over long before then.

But the problem for Hillary is that, unlike the sports team analogy, we're not just talking about a team that might be feeling some pressure; we're talking about the growing perception by voters that, despite her obvious strengths, she can't close the deal. Like it or not, the attacks by Sanders on her character are beginning to gain traction. A once imposing lead in New York is now down to 10 points. In most states that would still be significant; for Clinton, it's anything but. Remember, she routed Sanders in Florida, Texas, Georgia and South Carolina. If she doesn't win by a large margin in the state that twice elected her as senator, even if she holds on to win the nomination, she will be perceived as a damaged and flawed candidate going into the general election. And if you think Bernie is hitting her hard, just wait'll Donald Trump gets a hold of her.

That's why it's imperative for Hillary Clinton to go all out and not just beat Sanders in New York, but make a bold statement and let him know that this wondrous journey that he and his supporters have been on is coming to an end. This is her backyard. To paraphrase Dorothy, "You're not in Vermont anymore, Bernie." Sanders has bloodied her over the last two weeks; it's time she returned the favor. It's time for her to take off the gloves and go full throttle on the senator from Vermont. Give him a taste of his own medicine.

Is there a risk? Of course there is; there's always a risk. For instance, by going on the offensive she could further alienate Sanders' supporters to such an extent that they might never come around in November. And that could be catastrophic. There's also the possibility that going gutter as Bernie has done the last few weeks could backfire on Hillary. It could make her look small and make him more sympathetic in the eyes of the still undecided voters. But the greater risk is the one she's running now. By dragging this out, she's giving Sanders more and more opportunities to take shots at her, thus making it all the more difficult for his supporters to give up the ghost.

Even now, the Sanders campaign is vowing to take the fight all the way to the convention in an attempt to convince the Super Delegates to switch over to them. The good news is that unless Bernie manages to tie Hillary in pledged delegates that is unlikely to happen, but why leave that possibility on the table. Ending it sooner rather than later avoids what could be a bitter convention and a divided party in the Fall. If Democrats need any reminders of what happens when they get into a pissing contest, all they have to do is go back to 1968 and 1980. A house divided on itself always falls.

It won't be easy to put away Bernie. Let's face it, for a man who probably didn't think he'd crack the 20 percent mark, he's come a long way. He doesn't care about the math and from what I've been reading on social media sites neither do his supporters. This is more than just a cause for them; it's a mission. His events look more like rock concerts than they do political rallies. Hillary's supporters may be more pragmatic and - fuck it, I'll say it - more realistic, but Bernie's supporters are practically gaga over him. They look upon him the same way Dead Heads used to look upon Jerry Garcia. They truly believe he is going to win this thing and the longer he stays alive, the longer that dream persists.

There is no way around it. Hillary Clinton has to take Bernie Sanders out. Enough pussyfooting. If it's a mud-slinging contest he wants, then it's a mud-slinging contest she should give him. Shit, she survived eleven grueling hours in front of a House Committee that was out to destroy her and instead ended up making itself look stupid. She can certainly handle this. For one thing, she'll be on her home turf so she'll have the home crowd advantage. For another, New York is no Wisconsin or Washington or Minnesota. Sanders may have been born in Brooklyn but that borough has changed quite a lot in the last sixty years. For instance, they don't use tokens to ride the RR line anymore. In fact, it's not even called the RR anymore; it's called the R. Got it, Bernie?

Look, let's face it, the Clintons are no wallflowers when it comes to political brawls. They know how to dish it as well as take it. Hillary certainly had no problem throwing the kitchen sink at Barack Obama in '08 in an attempt to win the nomination. This time, however, she may have to throw the whole damn kitchen at Bernie Sanders if she plans on moving forward.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Bernie's Dangerous Game

Wow, things are getting downright ugly between the Sanders and Clinton camps. The latest dustup concerns the fossil fuel industry. Bernie has been saying some rather unsavory things about Hillary, and Hillary understandably has gotten her dander up.

In case you missed it or were in a coma, here's the what happened. Sanders charged that Clinton was "heavily influenced" by contributions from the fossil fuel industry. Clinton fought back at an event and confronted an activist who questioned her on it by saying she was "sick and tired of the Sanders campaign lying" about her.  Sanders then shot back by demanding that Clinton apologize to him.

The fact is that according to the Center for Responsive Politics, both Clinton and Sanders have accepted donations from people in the fossil fuel industry. For Clinton, the amount represents .2 percent of the $159 million she has raised; for Sanders, it's .04 percent of the $140 million he has raised. That comes out to $318,000 for Clinton and $56,000 for Sanders. If Bernie thinks that 318 thousand dollars represents "heavy influence," I've got some news for him. 97.7 percent of all contributions made by the fossil fuel industry go to GOP candidates and I can assure him the percentage that they have contributed to their coffers is considerably greater than .2 percent.

Let's face it, this is not nor was it ever about Hillary and her alleged ties to fossil fuels or Wall Street or Martha Stewart (I threw that last one in there); it's about the fact that Bernie is trailing badly in pledged delegates and he needs something, anything to get him back in the game and give him a shot at winning the nomination. So he's going gutter, and quite frankly it's kind of sad, not to mention dangerous.

I say dangerous because his supporters are already ginned up as it is; the last thing they need is another log on their already raging hot fire.  This isn't '08 when social media was still in its infancy. Back then, most people weren't even on Facebook. I, myself, didn't start posting on it until the Spring of '09. And tweeting was something few if any did. Now just try to find somebody who isn't on some kind of social media. They're out there but they're a minority.

The demarcation line between both sides has been firmly established. So intense is the contempt for one another it will be a Herculean task to unite the two camps. By stoking this hatred for Hillary, Bernie s making it that much more difficult for his supporters to get behind Clinton when she wins the nomination. And, yes, she's going to be the nominee. The reason comes down to demographics.

All throughout this campaign, Sanders has not been able to break out of his comfort zone of appealing to young, white, college students and blue-collar workers. A quick overview of his victories reveals a startling pattern. Aside from his win in Michigan, he has not won a single state with a diverse electorate. Even Wisconsin, which he should win and is currently ahead by 5 points, doesn't help him change the narrative. Yes, it's another win, but it's also another state with a largely white and very progressive base. Not at all like the voters who comprise the majority of the Democratic Party.

Sanders' attacks on Clinton will do little to broaden his appeal to other potential voter blocs. Quite the opposite in fact. By ratcheting it up, all he does is solidify the support he already has while reassuring Hillary supporters that they made the right choice. Preaching to his choir won't get him any closer to the goal line. It merely delays the inevitable.

It also poisons the well. So much so that Sanders puts the entire general election at risk. Think about it. Let's say that most of Bernie's supporters swallow hard and vote for Clinton in November. That still might not be enough to put her over the top because a certain percentage of them - I'm hearing as much as a third - will sulk and pout rather than pull the lever for her. In an election that might well be decided by a couple million votes and a dozen or so electoral votes, every vote counts. Democrats can ill afford to lose any of them.

And then there's the GOP, who I'm sure are taking note of every one of Sanders' slings and arrows thrown at Clinton. You can bet the ranch those very same slings and arrows will be coming her way in the fall.  With or without quite realizing it, Bernie has become the Republicans best source of material. His recklessness is making it that much easier for them to win the presidency.

Bernie Sanders is playing with fire and if he doesn't stop it soon, the Democrats' plan to keep the White House and retake the Senate may go up in flames along with his revolution.