Friday, April 28, 2017

Clean-Up On Aisle 2016

On Medium, the cycle of articles by seriously unhinged Clintonites offering fantastical reimaginings of the 2016 election has continued, though it has slowed considerably from last week. I've tackled several of them here in the last few days. They aren't getting any better but I can't deny I find them morbidly fascinating, Democrats adopting the same angry fantasy approach to looking at politics--or not looking at it--as those rightists most deeply under the spell of the right-wing Rage Machine. I find myself wondering how deep this particular malady may go. Many of these revisionist articles have become quite popular, with hundreds of "recommends" and dozens of favorable comments.[1] Cranks will crank, it seems, but a lot of the raw material for these crunkfests is misleading or false claims, often made during the campaign itself, that have continued to float around through the internet or in commentary on the election until they've taken on a life of their own. "There's a spill of toxic, smelly, sentient claims! Clean-up on Aisle 2016."

That "Popular Vote" Business

During the Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton began making claims about how more of the "popular vote" she'd been getting than Bernie Sanders. Her minions picked up this talking-point and ran with it; more than a year after she first floated it, the Clintonites are still running. Some use the figure of 3.7 million, which is slightly rounded off, others "over 3 million." Still others get even more enthusiastic and go for "nearly 4 million" or just round it off to "4 million." These days, whenever a Clintonite wants to rub everyone's nose in Clinton's glorious win over the evil Sanders, they throw out this factoid.

It's just propaganda though. There's no meaningful "popular vote" in such a process. The system is a patchwork. Every state has different rules. Some conduct primaries, some caucuses. Primaries may be open, partially open, partially closed, open to unaffiliated voters or closed to only registered party members. Party caucuses present those same variants. The rules for when one must be registered to vote, registered as a party member and so on are all over the board as well. Caucuses, by design, produce much lower participation than primaries of any kind. Some of them, in fact, don't even present any sort of "popular vote" count at all. The 14 states that held caucuses in 2016 were disproportionately Sanders states--he won nearly all of them. What all of this means is that in any pretended "popular vote" accounting of the primary/caucus season, a lot of Sanders' wins--even overwhelming wins--are made to look like next-to-nothing or literally nothing. When the Clintonites are claiming that 3.7 million "popular vote" victory over Sanders, here's the count they're citing. In the Alaska caucus, Sanders won by nearly 80%. This is a state in which over 100,000 people voted Democratic in the general but the number of votes Sanders is credited with receiving there is zero.[2] In the Washington caucus, Sanders won 72.7% in a state in which 1.7 million people voted Democratic in the general but again, he's credited with 0 votes. Sanders took Maine by over 64%; with 350,000 people voting Democratic in the Fall, Sanders gets nothing for that state. In Wyoming, which Sanders took by 55.7%, he's credited with only 156 votes! The number of county delegates that resulted. And so on. Sanders nearly tied Clinton in Iowa but isn't credited with any votes. Clinton isn't credited with any votes there either, or in Nevada, where she ultimately got a "win" by some very shady means but it's Sanders who is shortchanged by this count over and over again. Sanders was also disadvantaged in closed primary states, in that he was very strong with independent voters, who are, of course, locked out by those rules. The claim of a meaningful popular vote is premised on the idea of a process with uniform rules producing comparable results. Nothing like that exists here. It's time to lay that "popular vote" fiction to rest.

A Rigged Process?

Clintonites very forcefully reject the notion frequently advanced by Sanders supporters that the primary/caucus contests were "rigged" against Sanders--sometimes forcefully deny it while simultaneously trying to rationalize it--but this is just another case of howling at the moon.

The Democratic primary/caucus process is certainly strongly rigged in favor of Establishment candidates. This sort of rigging is unrelated to Sanders himself but it consistently operated to his disadvantage. The electoral calendar this season heavily front-loaded Southern states, which are more conservative and thus pro-Establishment. Though most are red states that don't contribute a single electoral vote to Democrats in the general, stacking them in this manner lets the Establishment candidate dominate the early phase of the race week after week, racking up major press coverage for the wins and huge electoral numbers early on, lending said candidate an air of invincibility. The Democrats' "superdelegates" are a much-discussed abomination--party bosses and insiders granted the equivalent delegate-power of, collectively, millions of voters but who aren't elected delegates by anyone and who are free to vote for whomever they please, regardless of who the voters in their states choose. A corrupt Good Ol' Boys Club practice meant to confer advantage upon Establishment pols. In an exceedingly rare moment of candor, Democratic National Committee chief Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, appearing on CNN in the midst of the campaign, admitted the superdelegates "exist really to make sure that party leaders and elected officials don’t have to be in a position where they are running against grassroots activists." Early on, the bulk of the superdelegates declared their intention to vote for Clinton at the convention and though they wouldn't vote until then and could theoretically change their minds at any time, the corporate press--as a virtual monolith pro-Clinton and anti-Sanders--used the superdelegates throughout the process to distort the standing of the race and present Hillary Clinton as unbeatable.[3] The supers are an affront to the very title "Democratic party."

And yes, despite the Clintonite objects, this last cycle also saw a great deal of additional effort expended by the party to specifically harm Sanders' candidacy and boost Clinton's.

Debbie Wasserman-Schultz was a Clintonite, the former co-chair of Clinton 2008 presidential campaign, a conflict of interest that should never have been allowed and that proved a constant problem.[4] She personally provided anti-Sanders propaganda at several points in the campaign. In Dec. 2015, a security hole appeared in a computer voter file system shared by the Democratic candidates, apparently the latest of many such problems. A Sanders IT staffer, who said he was investigating the extent of the problem, improperly accessed some apparently inconsequential Clinton data. Sanders fired the staffer, who had been recommended by the DNC in the first place.[5] Instead of quietly dealing with the security problem, DWS, in violation of the DNC's contract with Sanders over use of this system (which required a 10-day period to resolve any such disputes), immediately blocked Sanders' access to his own campaign data on the verge of the first political contests and ran to the press with the "story," resulting in days of negative coverage. To regain access, Sanders had to file a federal lawsuit, at which point the DNC backed down. When the Nevada Democratic party began putting its fingers on the scales in order to favor Clinton, it led to a raucous convention and DWS again went on television to accuse Sanders' supporters of chair-throwing violence at the event, a claim that had absolutely no basis in reality but was credulously parroted across the corporate press[6] at  the behest of the DNC itself (in a leaked email, DNC officials discussed passing around this false story "without attribution" to the DNC). When Sanders issued a response, which unequivocally condemned any violence, DWS ran to the press again, asserting that Sanders' statement just "added more fuel to the fire."

The DNC disgracefully manipulated the candidate debate schedule to favor Clinton. In the 2008 cycle, there had been 26 debates starting in April 2007 and continuing through the primary process the next year but debates are a good way for lesser-known candidates to put themselves in the public eye and that's something the DNC and the Clinton campaign wanted to avoid at all costs. In 2015, Hillary Clinton requested only four debates. Sanders and longshot contender Martin O'Malley persistently requested more; they wanted to get started early and get in many.[7] The DNC announced there would be six. If that wasn't comically one-sided enough, it also changed the rules to prevent candidates from participating in any unsanctioned debates, so there would be only six. And those wacky DNC Clintonites weren't finished yet. They dragged their feet about announcing dates for the events until August, then declared the debates wouldn't start until mid-October, 2 1/2 months after the Republicans started debating, and as reported by the Washington Post:

"It was at that point that outrage really began to build, because the dates themselves created a situation that began to be seen as problematic...  The problem is that of the four debates that are actually scheduled, three come on weekends (as opposed to during weeknight prime time), one of them on the weekend between the end of Hanukkah and Christmas."

Two of these were scheduled on Saturday, the lowest-rated night of the week on television. The Iowa caucus is the kick-off to the political season but the Iowa Democratic debate was scheduled an hour after the kick-off of the Iowa/Minnesota game, the latest chapter in a college football rivalry that dates back to the 1890s. Four of the debates would occur before any voting had taken place. The two remaining weren't to occur on the major networks but rather on Univision and PBS at undetermined dates in the future, the last one some time in March (while voting would continue, week after week, until 14 June).[8]

The hacked Democratic emails released by Wikileaks last year revealed that this awful debate schedule was crafted in collaboration with the Clinton campaign. In April 2015, two weeks after Clinton had officially entered the race, Charlie Baker, the campaign's chief administrative officer, wrote three other top Clinton officials outlining discussions with the DNC over the campaign's wishes to, among other things, "limit the number of debates," to "start the debates as late as possible," to "create a schedule that would allow the later debates to be cancelled if the race is for practical purposes over" and to "ensure a format that provides equal time for all candidates and does not give the moderator any discretion to focus on one candidate."[9] The DNC gave the Clinton campaign almost everything it wanted; the wishes of the other campaigns were simply ignored.

Once the debate schedule was publicly announced, DWS dug in her heels and rejected every request to change it, leading to a rift inside the DNC itself. In September, DNC Vice Chairs Tulsi Gabbard and R.T. Ryback went public with the disagreement, revealing that, contrary to DWS's public assertions, the officers and vice chairs of the party hadn't been consulted when she'd cooked up with the appalling debate schedule.[10] This led to a skirmish that played out in public. Gabbard was disinvited from the first Democratic debate. DWS gave an interview to MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell in which she danced around these issues in her usual slippery and unconvincing way. Ryback called DWS a liar.[11] Gabbard eventually resigned from the DNC altogether.

The DNC and the Clinton campaign established the Hillary Victory Fund, a joint fundraising venture in partnership with several state Democratic parties allegedly aimed at raising funds for state-level Democratic candidates. These sorts of "victory fund" projects aren't an innovation but they're usually only done after the candidate has secured the nomination. The Hillary Victory Fund, by contrast, launched in 2015, months before the primary/caucus process had even started. Controlled by Clinton, the Fund was, in practice, treated as a Clinton campaign slush-fund and money-laundering operation, a way to circumvent campaign finance laws and accept donations of hundreds of thousands of dollars. A single donor to the Fund, giving in both 2015 and 2016, could contribute $700,000, whereas the legal limit for an individual donation to the campaign itself is only $2,700. In February--in the midst of the primary campaign in which Sanders' small-donor-funded campaign was proving a major obstacle to Clinton--the DNC quietly rescinded a rule that had been put in place by then-candidate Barack Obama in 2008 that barred it from accepting donations from federal lobbyists and PACs. As is her habit, Clinton hungrily dove in--within a few weeks, she'd set up a fundraiser for the Victory Fund featuring a Who's Who of big-shot lobbyists for regulated industry. In May, Politico revealed that

"less than 1 percent of the $61 million raised by that effort [the Victory Find] has stayed in the state parties' coffers, according to a POLITICO analysis of the latest Federal Election Commission filings... The victory fund has transferred $3.8 million to the state parties, but almost all of that cash ($3.3 million, or 88 percent) was quickly transferred to the DNC, usually within a day or two, by the Clinton staffer who controls the committee, POLITICO’s analysis of the FEC records found. By contrast, the victory fund has transferred $15.4 million to Clinton’s campaign and $5.7 million to the DNC, which will work closely with Clinton’s campaign if and when she becomes the party’s nominee. And most of the $23.3 million spent directly by the victory fund has gone toward expenses that appear to have directly benefited Clinton’s campaign, including $2.8 million for 'salary and overhead' and $8.6 million for web advertising that mostly looks indistinguishable from Clinton campaign ads... The fund represents by far the most ambitious use to date of a joint fundraising committee--and arguably one of the most ambitious hard-dollar fundraising efforts in modern presidential politics."[12]

The Wikileaks emails revealed that while DWS so self-righteously denounced Sanders for that apparently inconsequential data breach, the DNC itself had spies inside the Sanders camp passing them "intel"--the actual word used. DNC officials, who are, by the DNC's Charter, supposed to be neutral when it comes to the primary/caucus process, describe Sanders in dismissive, sometimes hostile terms, even discussing strategies that could be employed against him. During the primary season, the Clintonites significantly cut back on the usually much more vigorous voter registration drives the party typically conducts, apparently on the theory that registering young people amounted to registering Sanders voters. I'm not even going to get into allegations of actual fraud in some state contests. Doug Johnson Hatlem has tackled some of that material over on Counterpunch, for those who are interested. I've lived through enough campaigns to know there are always allegations of that nature and as a rule, I'm very skeptical of them. There are always errors that can be made to look sinister and there are always things that legitimately smell funny. There's a lot of stuff about various contests within the 2016 primary/caucus process that has that smell but I counsel extreme caution in considering them. What I've covered here are just some of the ways the system is rigged against anti-Establishment candidates and some of the ways in which the DNC, in collaboration with Clinton's campaign, was specifically working to rig the primary in Clinton's favor. After the Wikileaks revelations, DWS was forced to resign her DNC post in disgrace. And speaking of disgrace, Hillary Clinton, the very next day, made DWS "honorary chair" of one of her campaign initiatives. The Clintonites who, at this late date and in the face of this publicly-available information, so forcefully reject the notion that there were any efforts to tip the scales aren't just as nutty as climate-change deniers, they set themselves against the entire liberal tradition of demanding reforms of such abuses. Call 'em whatever, they ain't liberals/progressives.

Hold that thought.

Progressives = a Tea Party?!

A common theme among Clintonites is that the progressives who have coalesced behind Bernie Sanders are the Democratic equivalent of the Tea Party. "What we have," writes a particularly charming one on Medium, "is an extremist fringe faction, just like the other side has." Both the Republican and the Democratic party are, at present, marked by interesting internal conflicts. The nature of the conflicts within each is, however, fundamentally different.

First and foremost, the "Tea Party" was an astroturf project, an effort by very powerful and well-heeled right-wing interests to project the illusion of a grassroots movement. These days, there are still people around who call themselves "Tea Partiers," but once Fox News stopped promoting it, the "movement" pretty much ceased to exist in any real form. It in effect never existed.[13] The greatest success of that project was to get nearly everyone who talks politics to use "Tea Party" as a new catch-all label for disaffected reactionaries. That's the sense in which Clintonites are using it when they make their comparisons. The Berniecrats, by contrast, are a genuine grassroots concern. Sanders funded his presidential campaign almost entirely via small-dollar donations from supporters and with the entirety of the corporate press dead-set against him, was able to challenge and often even outraise one of the most powerful political machines in the U.S. When it comes to the Republicans, the disaffected reactionaries are real; it's just silly to refer to them as the "Tea Party," because they aren't any sort of movement in the way that implies.

When the Tea Party was all the rage, its major accomplishment was a string of embarrassing electoral defeats wherein Tea Party groups backed extreme-right candidates over conservative Republicans. While the latter could have won, the former went down in flames over and over again. The reactionaries, who are now becoming increasingly protofascist, have gained significant power within the GOP as the right-wing Rage Machine has worked for years to mainstream them but they don't speak for most Republicans. The biggest part of the crisis in the Republican party is that while the party and its elected officials are already to the right of their own voting base, the reactionaries have tried to move it even more to the right, not just walking away from the public but increasingly walking away from their own voters.

This is exactly the opposite of what's causing all the fuss in the Democratic party. As with the Republicans, the party and its elected officials have moved significantly to the right of the voter base under, in this case, the influence of the Clintonites, but the Democratic voting base is progressive. Sanders' views on his headline items aren't representative of some fringe; they're the policies favored, in most cases, by the overwhelming majority of Democrats and of the general public as well. They represent the broad political center in the U.S. I've covered this at some length in the past. The matters that set the Clintonites apart, on the other hand, are right-wing economic issues and foreign policy warhawkism, things which have no significant support within the Democratic base. The former, in particular, is just bribery and donor service. Whereas the reactionaries are trying to get the Republicans to go so far right they're walking away from their own voters, the progressives are trying to get their party and elected officials to move in such a way that they actually represent Democratic voters.

"Those durn white men!"

Clintonites have weaponized "identity politics" in a way that's absolutely shameful, taking genuine issues and concerns of women and minorities and using them for crude race-baiting and sexist-baiting.

"Vote for me because I'm a woman" was a major theme of both of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaigns. Sanders suggests she's too Establishment, she responds, "how could that be? I'm a girl!" Sanders says she's too close to Wall Street, she fires back "most of my donors are women!"[14] This sort of nonsense led to an entire genre of Clintonite propaganda built on "reasoning" as bad as that of the worst professional Christian apologist literature. Several of the crackpot Medium Clintonites to whom I've been replying in recent days have continued in this dismal tradition, positing Clinton and her campaign as having ultimately fallen victim to sexist men, particularly Bernie Sanders, who just couldn't stand to see a woman succeed. The "Bernie Bros" label, thrown around by Clintonites last year to smear Sanders supporters as a cult of misogynistic frat-boys "mansplaining" the world to women, is ubiquitous. This notion was decisively dismantled during the campaign and was, in fact, just a rehash of a cynical Clintonite smear from 2008, when exactly the same narrative was deployed against Obama supporters, sometimes by exactly the same Clintonite writers (the Obama fans were called "Obama Boys").

Sanders' recent endorsement of Heath Mello, a candidate for mayor of Omaha with an anti-abortion past, has resulted in a new round of demagogic Clintonite "identity" attacks in which Sanders stands accused of treating women's rights as negotiable, a side-issue. Mello has said he won't use his position to interfere with abortion rights. Take that for what it's worth but in any case, a local mayor isn't going to be setting abortion policy and while Mello seems to be otherwise progressive, there's no bulletproof pro-choice candidate in the race; his Republican opponent is unequivocally anti-abortion and one of the two is going to win. Sanders is ubiquitously slammed in Clintonite broadsides for applying a "purity test" for progressives, an accusation that his views mirror that of reactionaries in the Republican party. In the matter of the Omaha race, the Clintonites are also slamming him for not applying a strong enough purity test. If the reader gets the idea from all of this that the point is merely to slam Sanders whatever he does, not to have any real or consistent reason for doing so, the reader is paying attention. In that regard, it's also worth noting that this criticism is coming from those who championed--and champion--Clinton, who has expressed a willingness to support restrictions on abortion and who chose as her running-mate--the man who would be a heartbeat away from the Presidency of the United States if she'd won--Tim Kaine, a pol with an anti-abortion history whom Sanders strongly opposed as a v.p. choice.

One subspecies of these attacks slams Sanders for referring to abortion, gay rights, etc. as "social issues," as opposed to "economic issues," and Clintonites, as if reading from the same script, angrily insist social and economic issues "ARE THE SAME THING," are "indivisible," and so on. In this narrative, it's said Sanders doesn't consider those "social issues" as of the highest importance and regards them as things that take a back seat to his "economic issues," which is, of course, a farcical misrepresentation; Sanders, in these comments, is talking about areas in which progressives can find agreement with people who don't necessarily share 100% of their values. It's one of his regular themes. It's politicking, not an assessment of the relative merits of these policies.

These sexist-baiting attacks are often accompanied by race-baiting attacks, which, in turn, also exist as their own genre. Sanders' socialistic calls for working-class solidarity and a working-class politics are rhetorically transformed by hostile Clintonite commentators into something aimed only at the "white working class."[15] Anna March calls it "Sanders' white-male dog-whistle rhetoric." Thursday, a Medium Clintonite offered these fairly representative remarks:

"In order to properly talk about the disconnect between people of color and the far left, we have to talk a bit about why Sanders lost in the primary. His message primarily targeted the white working class and focused on 'economic' issues versus 'racial' ones. He rejected identity politics and had virtually no political capital with minorities even after decades in Congress."

Sanders insistence on raising the minimum wage, it would seem, would only help white men. No black folks need jobs, so the many that would be created by, say, Sanders' proposed massive infrastructure spending wouldn't help them a bit. Likewise, the Trans Pacific Partnership, which Sanders opposes, would only destroy the jobs and drive down the wages of white people, so why should black folks be concerned about it? I suppose black folks never get an education, so making public universities tuition-free wouldn't do one thing to help them. Communities of color are immune from damage to the environment. Brown people never need healthcare either. They never get sick--that's all white-guy stuff. No one of color is ever poor, is ever sent off in disproportionate numbers to prison or to fight wars abroad or requires Social Security in old age. Sanders' opposition to nationwide Republican efforts to disenfranchise minorities only helps... well, I'm sure there's some way in which it only helps white folks. The benefits of Sanders' path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants would accrue to blue-eyed blondes from Scandinavia. The law enforcement and drug-war reform favored by Sanders echo the goals of the special All-Caucasian faction of Black Lives Matter. These, you see, are all just "economic" issues, not "racial" ones.

How about we cut the bullshit, eh? When Bernie Sanders was a teenager in the 1950s, he ran for class president of his high-school on a platform of creating scholarships for Korean orphans.[16] He's been fighting for the rights of minorities and women for a lot longer than most of the people reading my words today have been alive and certainly has a far better record than Clinton, whose terminal political opportunism and lack of principle have led her down some very ugly roads with these issues, as with so many others. In every congress for more than two decades, Sanders has earned a score of 90% or higher from the NAACP. The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda gives him a perfect 100% rating. For all the current Clintonite carping about Sanders and abortion, Sanders holds a 100% lifetime rating from Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Rights Action League. When asked about the issue during last year's debates, Clinton hemmed-and-hawed around about late-term abortions. Sanders was short and to-the-point: he would agree to no legal restrictions at all. There's no more pro-choice politician in national politics than Bernie Sanders. "Rogue journalist" Caitlin Johnstone wrote a good, short piece on Tuesday about the phoniness of Clintonites who pretend to be "feminists" while running down the actual feminist agenda supported by Sanders.

The Clintonites' weaponization of a bogus "identity politics" against Sanders is disgraceful--crude race-baiting and sexist-baiting deployed against progressives who are, in reality, much better on race- and gender-related issues than the heroine lionized by those doing this shit-talking.[17] Directly mirroring what conservative Republicans have done for decades, it's a cynical ploy of using social issues as divisive wedges to try to put natural allies at odds, almost inevitably in the service of promoting or electing one of those Clintonite pols whose real agenda is too rightist to be sold if it were plainly stated.[18] People don't need ridiculous, made-up reasons not to talk to one another.

"You elected Trump!"

An unhinged Clintonite ranting at a Sanders supporter: "Thanks for giving us Trump... Republicans are ready to destroy everything we worked for over the last 70 years. Congrats! You did that!"

This is boilerplate Clintonite sentiment, almost as common as the "Bernie Bros" slur, the idea that Clinton would have won if only Sanders hadn't fought a primary battle against her. Baked into that is a sense of entitlement that is as sweeping as it is sickening, Clintonites wholly rejecting the notion that the party nominee should be decided via a vigorously contested democratic process and asserting, instead, the view that their candidate was entitled to a coronation, free of serious challenge. Question her right to the crown, you're responsible if she loses; if you'd have just fallen in line, she would have won. This for an appropriately imperious candidate who, according to the recently-released book "Shattered," had no real reason for running for president beyond personal ambition. The Clintonites going this route necessarily dismiss the idea that a candidate should have to earn people's votes. The attitude is right there in the campaign slogan, "I'm With Her," whereas a voter sizing up a candidate, who doesn't know he's just supposed to rubber-stamp Hillary Clinton, wants to know if she's with him.

The more hysterical Clintonites are positively ferocious in their fantasy reauthorings of  2016. Here, for example, we're informed that Sanders "did everything he could to harm Clinton." In the real world, of course, Sanders ran an issues campaign. He emphasized over and over again that Clinton was a friend of his and refused to personally attack her, to--it's worth noting--his own significant disadvantage (because she certainly didn't exercise such forbearance when it came to him). He wasn't really running against her; he was running against the system she represented. When you feel as entitled as the Clintonites though, any challenge is just considered beyond the pale. Take (please) Kevin Drum, for example:

"I reserve most of my frustration for Bernie Sanders. He's the one who convinced these folks that Clinton was in the pocket of Wall Street. She gave a speech to Goldman Sachs! He's the one who convinced them she was a tool of wealthy elites. She's raising money from rich people! He's the one who convinced them she was a corporate shill. She supported the TPP! "

The orgy of fundraising in which Clinton engaged, the fact that Wall Street owned the single biggest piece of her and her history with the TPP and similar multinational "free trade" agreements probably had a lot more to do with that than anything Sanders did but no matter; when reading really rabid Clintonites, one must remember that reason plays little part in the proceedings and Clinton is never held to be responsible for anything. It's an attitude bred into them over the years by Clinton herself.

Putting aside that ridiculous sense of entitlement and the goblins that flow from it, the larger idea that Sanders and his followers are responsible for Trump has several other rather unavoidable problems.

A major one is that Sanders probably would have beaten Trump. One can never make such an assertion with complete certainty but we do have a great deal of relevant data on the 2016 contest and all of it points to that conclusion--not just a Sanders win but a one-sided massacre. As I've already written about that at length, I'll just leave a link to my earlier piece. That article also covers the fact that Clinton was always a weak, loser candidate, with the facts and figures to document it. Sanders was always much stronger. As I've said in the past, if the idea was to defeat a Republican, it was never responsible to support Clinton in the first place.

The other big one was documented in the Wikileaks releases: while Clinton and the DNC were, as covered earlier, working to undermine the Sanders campaign, they were also working to build up the far-right Republican candidates Trump, Ted Cruz and Ben Carson. Eventually, just Trump. In the emails, the Clintonites discuss making these nutter candidates representative of the "mainstream" of the Republican party and urging the press to take them seriously. Though this looks awful in hindsight and actually was awful when one considers the obvious weakness of Clinton as a candidate, this wasn't, in the abstract, a bad idea. The strategy was to elevate the most out-of-the-mainstream opponents as a way of getting the Republicans to embrace increasingly extreme views that would hurt them in the general. No one wants to face a tough general-election opponent if a weak one can be substituted. If one is to play this game, Trump was the obvious choice; Clinton certainly couldn't have beaten any of the other major Republicans (even Jeb Bush was beating her in the head-to-heads by the time he withdrew from the GOP race). "Clinton, at least, got the opponent her aides wanted, and a strategy to stick to," wrote Gabriel Debenedetti on election day. So while the Clintonites want to blame Sanders and progressives for electing Trump, it was, in fact, the Clinton campaign that was elevating Trump while weakening the fellow who would have probably beaten him.

Clinton won the popular vote by the biggest... something...

Multiple Medium Clintonites have thrown at me various claims about Clinton's popular-vote win being historically large. One claimed Clinton had gotten more voters than any candidate in history. Another asserted that Clinton won the popular vote by "the widest margin in history." These are false claims but they don't originate with these Clintonites. Instead, this was a mistake made by the International Business Times, which ran with a headline, "Hillary Clinton Gets More Votes Than Any Candidate Ever." This ended up on Yahoo news and Facebook and apparently spread pretty far before it was corrected. As often happens, the correction hasn't yet caught up to the eyes of everyone who saw the original story. The tale of the flap is here. Clinton’s "victory" wasn’t even close to the largest in U.S. history. Failing to win even a majority of the vote--she finished with only 48.2% of the total--Clinton outscored Trump in the popular vote by a margin of 2.1%. If she’d taken the electoral college, vote-count unchanged, she would have edged out Jimmy Carter’s 1976 defeat of Gerald Ford to finish in 39th place in the rankings--closer to the bottom of the pile.

A somewhat modified version of this that has also turned up is the claim that Clinton "won more votes than any white man ever, which is incredible when you think of the hundreds' years history of this country." It isn't so incredible when one thinks of elementary-school math. The "white man" thing is thrown in as a modifier to knock Obama out of the running, since Obama drew far more raw votes than Clinton. Once Obama is gone, though, one must go all the way back to 2004--12 years of millions of people getting old enough to vote and registering, far more than are dying off in that time. There were over 200 million registered voters in 2016--the largest number ever--vs. only 142 million in 2004. Unless there's some catastrophic collapse in turnout in 2020, the winner of that election will get more raw votes than did Hillary Clinton, and the winner in 2024 will get even more than that--that's how population-growth works. This is a soundly pathetic effort to try to credit Clinton with something historic.

"Y'mean those polls that predicted a huge Hillary win?"

When I've noted to the fact that Bernie Sanders is the most popular politician in the U.S. or pointed to Clinton's wretched and declining poll numbers around the time she entered the presidential race, I'm immediately met with snarky comments suggesting polls got the election very wrong and are thus entirely unreliable. There's a persistent notion that scientific polls are just like some kind of magic-show trick. While a lot of oddsmakers got the election wrong and a lot of oddsmakers are pollsters and a lot of people, when they have some personal interest in the outcome, make a big show of not understanding the difference between a poll and odds, oddsmakers work from a system of which polls are merely a part. Here are the final national polls from the RealClearPolitics database, along with their margins of error, in the column marked "MoE."

Knock out the YouGov poll that doesn't contain the error info. Clinton won the race by a 2.1% margin. Taking the MoE into account, every one of these polls accurately called that outcome within a fraction of 1%. You can't ask for much better accuracy than that.

Anyone But Clinton

In trying to explain the outcome of the 2016 race, Clintonites almost without exception rattle off a list of excuses for for Clinton's loss. It was Bernie! It was the Russians! It was James Comey!

As already covered, Sanders can only be considered responsible if one assumes Clinton was entitled to the Democratic votes she failed to earn. That's a non-starter. Russian strongman Vladimir Putin may very well have intervened in the election. The responsible government agencies insist this is so, though they haven't really offered solid evidence of it. But the significant interference the Russians are alleged to have carried out is the hacking and release of all those internal Democratic emails, and 100% of the damage done by those was a consequence of the horrendous behavior of the Clintonites, as revealed by them. James Comey's grandstanding in the final days of the campaign was outrageous, probably a violation of his bureau's rules and should have resulted in his being fired but again, the only reason he could damage Clinton was because Clinton was, in fact, under federal investigation. If the Democrats had gone with a candidate who wasn't, that wouldn't have been possible. If the Democrats hadn't gone with such a bad candidate, the race against Trump--the most unpopular major-party presidential candidate in the history of polling--wouldn't have been close enough for a stunt like that to have had enough impact to even matter.

No matter how you look at it, the problem is still the same. She was always a weak, loser candidate, an inveterate liar who compounded that sin by being a really bad one, an utterly unprincipled, triangulating opportunist whose instincts were conservative, who absolutely oozed insincerity and whose "views" were dictated by the momentary direction of the political wind and the self-concerned desires of the Big Money interests to whom she aggressively prostituted her future administration--literally the future of the United States. Clintonites can scream, thrash, lie, slander, write all the ugly polemics they like, wallow in all the puerile fantasies they can conjure but when all is said and done, the major reason Hillary Clinton lost is still Hillary Clinton.

"Clintonites": A Proposal

The most recent article by one of the persistent Medium Clintonites is called "Tough Luck Destroyers of Hillary Clinton: You Won the Battle, You Won't Win the War." The 2016 election is over. Hillary Clinton will never run for office again. Bernie Sanders will probably stay in the Senate for many years to come. His supporters will be around for much longer. They're the young. The future. In continuing this incredibly ugly campaign against them, this Clintonite and the 666 who have currently recommended her article--and no, I'm not making up that number, that's what it is as I sit here--are lining themselves up behind the political equivalent of a dead woman and making war against the future of their own party on behalf of the corpse.

I've gotten a lot of comments about my use of the word "Clintonite." I've used it for some time now. It's just a not-particularly-innovative word I made up, one anyone could make up. Some of the Clintonites really dislike it. It seems to me that it would be a very useful word to solve some of the problems of vocabulary that have cropped up in dealing with these subjects. Hillary Clinton is of a particular breed of Democrat that combines 1) liberal/progressive views on various social issues, adopted (in her case, opportunistically) as a means of drawing votes, 2) conservative views on an array of economic issues, adopted as a means of drawing campaign contributions from Big Money interests, and 3) a right-wing, hawkish foreign policy. In the 1990s, such politicians were called "New Democrats." The word most commonly applied to them today is "neoliberal," but that's problematic for a number of reasons. "Neoliberal" already has other established meanings and no iteration has anything to do with a warhawk foreign policy. The word itself--"new liberal"--makes it sound as if it's not only a legitimate evolution of liberal but some new-and-improved version and the Clintons of the world certainly doesn't deserve that connotation. "Corporate Democrats," another common phrase for these pols, is more to the point on the donor corruption but has a similar problem with the foreign policy. These pols are rightists on most of the big issues but calling them that or "conservatives" or something similar is also strange, as that's not the voting populace to which they try to appeal. At the same time, the rightists policies, as mentioned earlier, have no real support within the Democratic voting base.

Why not just call them "Clintonites," as I've been doing?

It's as good a word for them and for their followers as any. You say "Clintonites," it conjures up all the right associations. Clinton is history now and, in fact, was already history when she ran in this last election, the representative of a tired, corrupt old way of doing business that voters thought they'd already rejected years earlier. Instead of the new-and-improved implied by "neoliberal", "Clintonite" sounds appropriately anachronistic, a dinosaur from the past still causing problems in the present, because while Clinton is gone, the Clintonite leadership of the party is still alive and kicking and after bringing their party to virtual ruin--this may be the lowest point for the Democratic party in its history--they made sure they kept their own cushy jobs in the leadership. They have a big donor base behind them and they're still very much an ongoing problem. As this stream of recent articles demonstrates, their followers are still out there as well, many of them seriously disconnected from reality. The Clintonite presence in the press is strong.

At present, major segments of the Clintonite press is absolutely obsessed with the Russia/election interference "story" and is devoting obscene amounts of space to chasing the mostly ludicrous notion of Trump team collaboration on same while ignoring or giving short shrift to important aspects of the horror-show in the White House. Russia is being used by the Clintonites everywhere to avoid addressing what actually happened last year. The idea that Trump was conspiring with the Russians is also a version of Benghazi, an effort to manufacture a faux-scandal and milk it for political advantage, yet another way in which the Clintonites are a mirror of the rightists.[19] As I've covered here and in my previous articles over the last few days, they're anti-democratic, they're anti-progressive (while they pay lip-service to the principles, they lined up as a monolith to take down the progressive candidate last year and too many continue to despise and slander him), they turn a blind-eye to abuses rather than calling for reform, they refuse to address the question of corrupt money at a time when their favored pols are wallowing in the same Big Money graft as the Republicans, they cynically manufacture the same sort of wedge-issues as the right and they're as lost in their political fantasies as the most clueless Trumpanzees. And on and on. Definitely not liberals/progressives. I call them Clintonites. If that sounds about right to you, dear reader, maybe we can make it a trend.



 [1] Less than favorable appraisals of them by myself and others have drawn some attention as well but rarely as much.

 [2] I'm including the number of Democratic voters in the general to give an idea of the voter-pool available in these states who were, in effect, being represented by those caucus outcomes. It isn't to suggest that if those states had held primaries, that many people would have shown up--there are always way more voters in a presidential general--or that Sanders would have won theoretical primaries there by the same margins.

 [3] Maybe the only good thing I'd ever say about Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is that she did go on Rachel Maddow's show during these elections and note that the press was misrepresenting the state of the race by using the supers in this way.

 [4] Though only the most prominent of a whole host of conflicts of interest that haunted this campaign.

 [5] NGP VAN, the company that ran the system and with whom the DNC contracted--and that was responsible for the security problems--was co-founded by Nathaniel Pearlman, who had been chief tech officer to Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign. Stuart Trevelyan, the company's President and CEO, had a history with the Clintons that went all the way back to Bill Clinton's first presidential campaign in 1992 (he'd also worked in the White House Office of Legislative Affairs during the Clinton administration). The company's vice president of creative marketing was Aharon Wasserman. Familiar name, eh? He's the nephew of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. At the time, some conspiracists--mercifully few--had a field day with all these conflicts

 [6] Bradley Schrager, the Nevada Democratic party general counsel, took a particularly deep dive into demagoguery when he wrote in a publicly-released letter to the co-chairs of the DNC Rules and By-laws committee, "The explosive situation [at the Nevada convention] arose in large part because a portion of the community of Sanders delegates arrived at the Nevada Democratic State Convention believing itself to be a vanguard intent upon sparking a street-fight rather than attending an orderly political party process... We write to alert you to what we perceive as the Sanders campaign's penchant for extra-parliamentary behavior--indeed, actual violence--in place of democratic conduct in a convention setting, and furthermore what we can only describe as their encouragement of, and complicity in, a very dangerous atmosphere that ended in chaos and physical threats to fellow Democrats."

 [7] Sanders requested a very ambitious schedule, a wide-ranging series of debates that would start early, in the Summer of 2015, and take place across the U.S., including in places that are traditionally neglected by Democrats. He even wanted to try to arrange for a few events wherein the Democratic candidates could debate the Republican candidates.

 [8] As it played out, Sanders destroyed Clinton in the first debate, starting a chain of events that put her candidacy in trouble and she was eventually forced to yield and grant a few more debates, a decision the DNC immediately rubber-stamped.

 [9] The campaign wanted to limit Clinton's exposure as much as possible. Displaying Clinton's usual lack of transparency--a cardinal sin for any candidate for high office--Clinton also refused to hold any press conference during the whole of the active primary season right on through to a month-and-a-half after the Democratic convention--between 5 Dec. 2015 and 5 Sept. 2016, not a single one. Baker, later in the debate email, writes:

"One remaining issue is the criteria for participation: we believe it is important to the extent possible to keep the debates 'multicandidate' and to eliminate the possibility of one on one debates; the most likely standard that would achieve this result is to allow any announced candidate who is: 1) a Democrat and, 2) who meets some threshold of viability (1 percent) in either a national or state specific (e.g. Iowa, NH) to participate."

The more candidates that can be packed into an event, the less time can be spent on each. The initial Democratic debate on 13 October included longshots Martin O'Malley, Lincoln Chafee and Jim Webb, candidates who barely even registered in the polling at the time. Chafee and Webb were gone after the first; O'Malley stuck around for three more.

[10] Journalist John Heilemann confirmed this account: "...the manner in which Wasserman Schultz crafted the scheme all but guaranteed an eventual blowup. According to several people with front-row seats for the hatching of the plan, the chairwoman made her decision unilaterally, without consulting or even telling the rest of the committee's high command, including her vice chairs, in advance.

"'She presented this to us as a fait accompli as she was about to go out and announce it to the whole committee,' Rybak told me. 'I said to her, "Well, at least there's some way you can explain why you came to that decision." She didn't even do that. She gaveled people out of order without any explanation.'"

[11] The flap got top Democrats talking to the press: "Of two dozen Democratic insiders with whom I spoke this week, including several DNC vice chairs, not one defended Wasserman Schultz’s treatment of Gabbard. Most called it ridiculous, outrageous, or worse. Many argued, further, that the debate plan enacted by the chairwoman is badly flawed—an assessment shared by many party activists, left-bent supporters of Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley, and those candidates themselves, all of whom see it as a naked effort to aid and comfort Hillary Clinton."

[12] The leaked Democratic emails made available by Wikileaks later revealed that the DNC was working to obscure and conceal details of the Victory Fund as journalists were looking into it.

[13] Way back in 2010, when the "Tea Party" was at its height, the Washington Post conducted a canvas of every such group it could find. Most of them, unsurprisingly, were connected to the big astroturf orgs (or the Republican party), most of them had fewer than 50 members and the median cash on hand for the groups was only $500.

[14] If it needs to be said, whimsical paraphrases there, not direct quotes.

[15] The tendency to treat "working class" and "white working class" as interchangeable is, it should be said, an unfortunate habit that extends far beyond Clintonites. It has become a bit of a minor plague on mainstream political commentary.

[16] By contrast, Clinton, when she was a teenager, was a "Goldwater Girl," in support of the segregationist campaign of Barry Goldwater.

[17] It's hard to overstate that "disgraceful" too. One of the lowest points of the entire Democratic primary happened when civil rights legend John L. Lewis, a Clinton backer, Swift-Boated Bernie Sanders on Sanders' involvement in the civil rights movement in the 1960s, hinting that Sanders hadn't been involved in such activities and even that Bill and Hillary Clinton had--an entirely fictional account. The astonishment I sometimes derive from observing politics usually comes from seeing people do incredibly stupid things and not understanding why they'd do it. It's virtually never from some innovation in political atrocity--when it comes to that, I've pretty much seen it all. Lewis's stunt was one of those rare times I genuinely couldn't believe what I was seeing and hearing. The context was a group of black Clinton-supporting legislators, including Lewis, trying to sell Clinton to the large black Democratic population in South Carolina. The Clintonites went out of their way to burn every bridge in order to ram Clinton down everyone's throat but this was still a huge shock Right up to the second he did it, I never would have believed Lewis capable of such a thing. I don't think I'd put him on too much of a pedestal--civil rights hero or not, he's a politician and I know better--but he definitely cracked some image I had of him and I'll certainly never look at him the same way again. Maybe just in disbelief, I predicted he wouldn't be able to let it stand. Less than 24 hours later, I was proven right. He "clarified" his comments; he walked back all of it.

[18] Getting to the true nature of these race-baiting and sexist-baiting attacks usually requires little more than what I've done above and what Johnstone did in her piece. Note the complete lack of substantive policy discussion every time this line of attack is rolled out. What was Clinton doing on these race- and gender-related matters that was so great and that Sanders wasn’t doing? Discussion of such questions is always either directly avoided or a fantasy policy discussion is advanced in place of the real thing (Sanders is anti-abortion!). And that's because any serious discussion lays bare the shallow sham of the entire attack.

[19] Jennifer Palmieri, former communications director for Clinton's campaign, is hitting this Russia rot hard, writing in the Washington Post that "Democrats should push for this relentlessly and above all else. They should talk about it in every interview. They should invoke the "big gray cloud" that Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the House Intelligence Committee chairman, said hangs over the Trump administration--so often that anchors sigh and roll their eyes when they say it."  She'd peddling the fantasy that "If we make plain that what Russia has done is nothing less than an attack on our republic, the public will be with us. And the more we talk about it, the more they’ll be with us."

No comments:

Post a Comment