Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Feeling the Heart Bern—A Tough Night for Sanders

Walpurgisnacht—Night of the Witches—is what it felt like to Bernie Sanders supporters in these parts as intense thunderstorms, lighting, hail, and possible twisters rolled through Illinois as the word came that the best hopes of a devastating evening fell tantalizingly short.  After a string of lop-sided victories for Hillary Clinton in Florida, North Carolina, and most surprisingly Ohio, she held off strong and valiant efforts in Illinois and Missouri to eke out razor thin victories and make a sweep of Mini Super Tuesday.
The loss in Illinois by less than 2% was a tribute to a massive grass roots effort.  In fact Sanders carried the majority of Illinois counties doing well in the outer collar counties, downstate, counties with major universities, and in St. Louis Metro East.  In fact here in McHenry County where Sanders supporters became self-organized last summer and have conducted a steady and increasingly sophisticated operation employing creative use of social media, rallies for visibility, shoe leather canvasing, phone banking, and a comprehensive Get-Out-the-Vote (GOTV) campaign, Bernie swamped Hillary 60.62% to 38.84%.  But it was not enough to overcome huge leads for Clinton coming out of Chicago, suburban Cook County, and Lake County, home of more than half of Democratic voters state wide.

Clinton was able to retain deep loyalty in the Black community, which turned out in large numbers.  This loyalty largely held up despite Clinton’s endorsement by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel whose support in the Black Community—and among many other Chicago voters—has evaporated.  Sanders clearly understood that and in the last week directly attacked Emanuel and declared that he never wanted his support.  But despite a few key endorsements by Black progressives and by former Mayoral challenger Chuy Garcia who carried the flag for many minorities in the last election, and the tidal wave of reaction against State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez that gave Kim Foxx a landslide victory, Sanders was not able to translate that alienation into support.  Not that some supporters weren’t trying—like those who had faux Hillary/Rohm in ’16 signs  printed up and plunked into some Black neighborhoods.  Clinton, for her part, was careful to distance herself from the Mayor who laid low and made no campaign appearances or statements on her behalf for weeks.  And there is no way that she will endanger her Black support in the future by considering Emanuel for Vice President or any other senior position in her campaign or possible administration.
Clinton also did very well among mature women voters, a particularly important constituency in the older suburbs of Cook County where they have traditionally voted in large numbers.  The feminist generation gap may have been evident there where younger women breaking for Sanders are largely priced out of a lot of housing.  
Finally, never underestimate the numbers of Democratic voters, even quite liberal ones sympathetic to Sanders’ positions, who have become increasingly terrified of a Trump presidency, and accepted the conventional wisdom that Clinton is the best chance to beat him in November.  Those kinds of voters alone could have amounted to the two or three percent swing at the last minute that gave Clinton wins in Illinois and Missouri.

Clinton basking in Tuesday's victories.

In the heady days since Sanders’s surprise win in Michigan, his supporters became swept up in the tantalizing possibilities, that common campaign fever that translates what-might-be and best-case scenarios into imagined accomplished facts.  I may have fallen into the same trap myself.  Folks even imagined winning or coming close in Florida where large numbers of retirees and Black voters skewed the electorate right into Clinton’s wheelhouse and in North Carolina where the Black vote is all important.  Instead, unsurprising on sober reflection, she breezed to victory in those state.
More disappointing was Ohio.  After Michigan and knowing how strong they were running in Illinois and Missouri, the Sanders campaign and his supporters thought that they could duplicate the upset in another Rust Belt Northern State.  The state was flooded with idealistic volunteers and phone banks were conducted all over the country.  Sanders and his surrogates spoke to large and enthusiastic crowds, far outstripping Clinton gatherings.  Sanders’ small donor fundraising was successful enough for him to compete on TV with a series of high quality spots with Clinton advertizing blitzes.  And it seemed to be paying off.  Antidotal evidence and trend polling seemed to show Sanders rapidly gaining ground in the closing days of the campaign in the Buckeye State.
So what happened?  How did it all go south so quickly at the last minute with Clinton able to register as solid 56.5% to 42.7% win?  Some will credit the muscle of organized Labor.   Most International Unions endorsed Clinton, although some of their locals were in rebellion about it and many rank and file members less inclined to fall in line.  And the Black vote in Ohio’s many old industrial cities mirrored the loyalty of Blacks nationwide. 
But I think much of the blame has to go on a minority of loose cannon Sanders supporters who have flooded the social media with virulent attacks on Clinton—many of them cribbed directly from decades of right-wing smears.  Others have attacked her as an international war monger, a complete stooge of Wall Street, and an insincere opportunist.  All sorts of self-righteous pledges never to vote for her in November come hell or high water flooded Facebook, Twitter, Tublr, Instagram, etc. along with sneering put downs of anyone supporting Clinton.  Many women found more than ample evidence of raging sexism and even misogyny in the attacks and Blacks have resented the White paternalism evidenced by posters who imply that they are too stupid to recognize their own best interests and allies.  Guess what?  Far from being moved by the poster’s assumed brilliance people have been deeply offended.  Offended people are not likely to change at the whim of the offender.  They are more likely to dig in their heels.  And many folks who were wavering in the final days between the two candidates were also offended by the arrogant viciousness of these kinds of attacks and cast their lot with Clinton out of sympathy or solidarity.

One of the milder of the anti-Clinton memes circulated by some Sanders supporters.

To make this as clear as possible I lay the collapse in Ohio and the narrow defeats in Illinois and Missouri directly at the feet of these morons.  The many great Sanders supporters and all of the local, self-organized groups as well as the official campaign has to stop ignoring their disruptive and counterproductive activity and confronting it.  That does not mean that no one can argue with Clinton over issues or draw contrasts between the candidates.  Politics is always a rough game and no place for the faint of heart.  But the kind of childish vindictiveness, pettiness, and disrespect for the common humanity of those who differ with them is not helping anyone one except for inflating the sense of self-importance of the trolls.
This morning many Sanders fans woke up with a kind of hangover.  Last night was rough and a lot of illusions were battered.  Although Sanders continued to pick up delegates in the loosing states, he clearly now has a harder time coming into the convention with a majority of elected delegates.  The Super Delegates are generally assumed to be largely in Clinton’s camp even where they are not declared.  The hope was that if Sanders could come to the convention in a strong enough position, many of them would be loathe to cross public opinion in their states. That will be increasingly difficult now.
And it does not mean that Sanders or his supporters should now fold their tents and slink quietly into the night. Many of Sanders’s supposed best states have yet to vote, including next-up Arizona, Wisconsin, the Pacific Northwest, and delegate rich super-prize California.  Bernie’s home state of New York where Clinton is a popular sitting Senator will be a tough contest.  So will Pennsylvania which will test whether he can regain any of that Michigan Rust Belt mojo.  Sanders cheerleaders like Robert Reich and campaign leaders spent much of the morning hyping this line of possibility.  But the fact is he will have to nearly run the table in these upcoming contests to stay viable.  And he will have to combat some demoralization that is the natural result of last night.
Some people are pinning their hopes on some disaster befalling Clinton, some new and terrible scandal or perhaps an indictment in the no-there-there e-mail server brouhaha.  Forget it.  There is not going to be an indictment any more than some smoking gun in any other scandal real or manufactured is going to be found.  Clinton has survived decades of scandal mongering and attacks.  The voters have heard it all before and except for the confirmed Hillary haters of the right and left have discounted it, they know who Clinton is and, if they are not in starry-eyed love with her, are comfortable with her and admire her accomplishments.
So what is the Sanders’ anti-Hillary mob doing this morning?  Why doubling down on the attacks that have shot the campaign in both feet, of course.  New conspiracy theories are popping up like dandelions in a May yard, many of them concerning nefarious media collusion.  In fact when it comes to contempt for and attacks on the media, these folks are a mirror of Donald Trump.
Meanwhile I noted that Green Party nominee Dr. Jill Stein and several of her surrogates have promptly popped up to claim Sanders’ mantle and claim all of those voters who vow to never support Clinton.  You can hardly blame her.  It is a rare big fat chance to finally move the Greens into their longed-for status as the nation’s new left party.  But if a quarter of those now swearing to never be corrupted by voting for Clinton follow through with a switch to the Greens, or to an imagined Sanders independent run followed through, it could hand the Presidency to Donald Trump.

Trump has plans....

Trump was not idle last night, sweeping his contests except of John Kasich’s Ohio.  Marco Rubio bleated, rolled over, and finally dropped out leaving Trump in the race with religious zealot and the most despised man in the Senate, and the allegedly moderate Kasich who now commands only the delegates of his own state.  Trump may have never gotten much above a third of the vote in any Republican Primary, but he has won almost all of them going away and polls show him leading comfortably in most states going forward.  The Republican establishment, which realizes Trump is unelectable in a General Election and is likely to drag down GOP tickets across the country with him, is becoming forlorn of any hope of any hope of preventing him from reaching the Convention with the delegates required to win and are nearly suicidal at the thought that the only one with any chance of derailing him is the smarmy Ted Cruze.  Last night I heard establishment operatives, egged on by cable news questioners, spin elaborate, but unlikely scenarios in which Trump arrives this summer in Cleveland short of the delegates he needs and the convention deadlocks through multiple ballots which eventually anoint an acceptable compromise candidate. 
Of course nothing like this has happened in decades.  If it did occur, the Republican Party would shatter—it may shatter anyway.  The pugnacious Trump would stomp off and run as an independent in whatever states he could buy or muscle his way onto the Ballot, effectively sinking the Republican nominee and anointing the Democrat, who would probably be fortified by a Democratic Senate and greatly enlarged minority in the House. 
I heard only one Republican strategist suggest that the party would not come apart without Trump, but would unify behind their hatred for a presumed Clinton candidacy. 
All in all Trump and the Republican’s are likely losers this November—unless Democrats beat them in becoming unraveled.
As for me, I will continue to support Sanders and hope that he can pick up enough delegates to remain in contention.  Even if he does not make it to the Convention or loses there, his continued presence on the campaign trail is critical to making the broader political revolution that he talks about a reality.  He is forcing a re-alignment of the Party significantly to the left no matter who is the nominee.  Should Clinton emerge as the candidate, I will fully supporter her this fall and encourage every other sane progressive, socialist, or Democrat to do the same. 

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