The ‘Stop Bernie’ movement tries to regroup

Bernie Sanders has shown that his popularity during the 2016 election is not ephemeral and is continuing this time around too. This has caused considerable consternation in the Democratic party establishment at this threat to the dominance of its neoliberal orthodoxy and they are scrambling to find ways to derail the Sanders campaign. The Center for American Progress and ThinkProgress, both closely affiliated with the party leadership, has made no secret of its desire to derail the Sanders campaign.

Lauren Gambino analyzes the efforts to stop Sanders, revealed in a New York Times report that “revealed a series of private dinners in which Democratic leaders, strategists, donors – and even a presidential candidate, Pete Buttigieg – had met to discuss “the matter of What To Do About Bernie”.”

“They are terrified of our movement – as they should be,” [Sanders] campaign manager Faiz Shakir wrote in an email to supporters as part of an “emergency 48-hour fundraising drive” to counter what he called a “serious threat to our campaign”.

“An internal civil war helps only one person and that’s Donald Trump,” said California congressman Ro Khanna, a co-chair of the Sanders 2020 campaign. “We need to avoid that at all costs.”

Khanna argued that a concerted effort to “stop Sanders” would be futile because it is the senator’s progressive policies – and his long record of advocacy for such issues – that has cemented his early frontrunner status in a crowded field. He pointed to other candidates who have embraced Sanders’ populist progressive positions.

But Sanders is betting that his anti-establishment appeal is a perfect match for Trump in the heartland states the president needs to win in 2020. To make the case, Sanders held a town hall with Fox News and surprised perhaps even himself when the network’s audience whooped and cheered his polices.

“This has been a galvanizing moment for Bernie’s supporters,” said RoseAnn DeMoro, a former president of National Nurses United. She warned: “You alienate millions of people when you alienate Bernie Sanders.”

Former Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer, meanwhile, was blunt about what those who do not want a Sanders candidacy must do.

“If you want to have an impact on who the nominee is,” he said on Twitter, “go to Iowa and knock on some fucking doors. Don’t go to a dinner in Manhattan and tell the New York Times about it.”

Cory Doctorow says that Democrats should stop listening to Republican advice on who would be the best person to beat Donald Trump and reject their claim that the election should be waged on the issue of Trump the person rather than on policies.

One thing that immediately struck me in Lauren Gambino’s excellent analysis of the Democratic nomination campaigns in The Guardian: a quote from GOP never-Trump political consultant Rick Wilson, who counseled Democrats not to select Bernie Sanders and make the election about actual policies, “Democrats have two choices: make this a referendum on Donald Trump or lose. That’s it. There are no other options.”

I think every Democrat and Democratic voter loves it when lifelong Republican grandees offer advice on how to win elections, but this is especially rich given that this is exactly the strategy that Republicans used to get their base to vote against Trump during the 2016 primaries and it failed spectacularly.

There is plenty to dislike about Trump, to be sure, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned from the 2018 midterms — the incredible outpouring of grassroots support, votes and small-money donations for progressive candidates (including longshots like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who unseated an establishment Democrat who thought running against Trump, rather than for a better future, would be enough), it’s that the American people actually care about policies. They want reform. The much-vaunted polarization is a fiction of the political classes, while there is national, bipartisan consensus on issues of substance, from universal health-care to free tuition to Net Neutrality. These are all policies that progressive candidates support, and policies that Trump will lose debates on.

A Monmouth poll finds some interesting attitudes among Democratic voters.

Race and gender do not seem to be important factors for Democratic voters when considering who the party should choose to run against Trump. Fully 87% say the race of the nominee does not matter. Just 5% say it would be better for Democrats to nominate a person of color, which is offset by 6% who say it would actually be better for the party to nominate a white candidate. Similarly, 77% say the gender of the nominee does not matter. Just 7% say it would be better for Democrats to nominate a woman, while slightly more (12%) say it would actually be better for the party to nominate a man.

I find it an odd argument that Trump would find it easiest to run against Sanders than the others in the field. Trump has shown in 2016 against his fellow Republicans that when it comes to competing on personality issues, he knows how to campaign. Sanders would run on the issues and he is dogged and informed, not easily thrown off his stride by personal attacks. His biggest opponent will not be Trump but the neoliberal media that also hates the kinds of policies that Sanders is waging and tries as hard as possible to avoid serious analyses of issues but loves to bloviate about trivialities that do not require any, you know, research or even knowledge.


  1. says

    Be cautious about those polls about “attitudes.” It should not need to be said, but I’ll say it anyway, that what people say they’ll do and what they’ll actually do can be quite different. People may think gender or race doesn’t matter to them personally, but there’s a reason it’s called unconscious bias. It’d be interesting to know how many of them truly don’t think it matters, but that could be harder to determine.

  2. consciousness razor says

    Cory Doctorow says that Democrats should stop listening to Republican advice […]

    … on any topic whatsoever. We get more than enough bullshit from within the Democratic party, if that’s really what you were looking for.

    I find it an odd argument that Trump would find it easiest to run against Sanders than the others in the field.

    Beyond the points you’re raising, it’s also rather odd to suppose that the primary goal for us is to secure a position of power for somebody with a “(D)” attached to their name. That’s a major concern for people in the “inner party” (of D’s or R’s) — it’s all about following polls and scraping out a victory for themselves at all costs. It suits them well enough to simply get the job and hold onto it, no matter what benefit that may have to anybody else. To be fair, some aren’t so selfish, but sometimes it can be hard to tell.
    For ordinary people, that style of thinking can easily lead to a Pyrrhic victory. You want a politician who will do something good and will follow through with their promises as best they can. You’re not looking for one who can merely win a fight against their opponent. We’re not making bets on a boxing match here, and that’s not the kind of outcome that matters. You may gain nothing from voting in a conservative Democrat (who may be “more electable” than the alternatives), while they definitely got what they wanted. Those different goals aren’t necessarily in conflict (i.e., you can both win and do good), but there shouldn’t be any question about which one ought to have priority.

  3. Heidi Nemeth says

    Race and gender are two personal factors in the upcoming presidential election. With Buttigieg, there is also the elect-ability issue of a homosexual. But there is another very important personal factor -- age. Reagan was senile in his second term. Trump, who is the second oldest person elected president, shows some signs of senility. Many of the Democratic contenders would be at least 70 upon assuming office, making them among the oldest of presidents. Bernie Sanders is older than Trump. I like Sanders’ policies and he seems robust enough. But is there a younger person who can lead the progressive charge? Not Elizabeth Warren, she is also old. Can we, as an electorate, show some ageism and not elect potential dotards to the presidency, please?

  4. Holms says

    Things like race, sex, and sexuality are only particularly useful if you have a choice between candidates that are literally identical on every issue. They are a tie-breaker in a race that never has ties.

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