Sunday, May 7, 2017

Busting A Bernie-Or-Bust Buster, Buster

Cruising through Medium, I came across an item called "Bernie Or Bust People: Wake Up, You Were Conned." As so often happens, my reply to it ran a little long, so I decided to log it here:

It's still a minor marvel to me that so many Clintonites, who so often associate themselves with the reality-based community, feel no compunction against indulging in the same sort of ludicrous political fantasies as the absolute worst rightists. Some are, in this regard, so far gone there doesn’t even feel like much of a point in even trying to set the record straight.

Oh, well. Once more unto the breach...

No, Sanders supporters weren't "duped" nor "conned." They're not crazed cultists mindlessly following some messiah figure. They're not useful idiots who believed and acted on nonsense allegedly spawned by some foreign dictator. They represent a genuine political disagreement with the corrupt, rightist way of doing business of the Clintonites who dominate the party apparatus. And no matter how many of these fantasies you weave while entirely refusing to address it, you no more have the power to change that carved-in-stone, nowhere-to-run-or-hide fact than you have the power to make gravity reverse itself.

It should always go without saying (but usually ends up having to be said anyway) that any political movement--any political movement--attracts a certain percentage of kooks. The progressive left, which coalesced behind Sanders, is no different. I'd always cringe when I'd see some internet Berniecrat repeating the fiction that Hillary Clinton had smeared women who had been involved with her husband (in the more lurid versions, Bill is said to have sexually assaulted the women in question). They've always just been a small fringe though, certainly much smaller in number than the nutbar contingent that attached itself to Clinton (and is so generously represented here on Medium). We don't have any polling on the subject but we can say with confidence that the number of Sanders supporters who believed Clinton had ordered hundreds of people killed would be microscopic. Not even worth mentioning, unless the point is merely to come up with some way to try to smear Sanders’ supporters by an unsupportable inference.

Into that same category falls the efforts to blame such tales on Russian interference. There's no need to go looking to foreign lands; the American right has spun them for decades. Fairy tales are not why any significant number of people were supporting Sanders and opposing Clinton.

Fairy tales do, however, play a not-insignificant part in your own "analysis." You see fit here, for example, to repeat your claim from a previous article that "Bernie Sanders was never vetted by the media," which will, of course, be instantly received as a very poor-man's Brothers Grimm by anyone who paid any more than minimal attention to last year's campaign. Your examples of this alleged failure to vet are some vile ad hominems drawn from a bunch of anti-Sanders oppo-research the Clintonites dumped in the press during the campaign. Adam Johnson of Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting covered how press Clintonites used this material to produce a seemingly endless array of anti-Sanders hit-pieces throughout the primary season. No matter how often they published it, though, Sanders' popularity continued to rise. The "information" has been a matter of public record since early 2016 and Sanders is, today, the most popular politician in the U.S..[1]

You cite a graphic which you assert tried to "separate truth from what was now a BernieOrBust created fiction" and source it to Politifact but you provide no link and reproduce the image so small, it's difficult to read most of it. Politifact isn't generally in the business of generating such graphics. It does, however, consider the claims made in graphics produced by others. Searches via Google, Bing and Politifact's own search engine turn up multiple examples of the org fact-checking various graphics from the Democratic primary season (or what passes for fact-checking from Politifact) but no stories in which that particular graphic appears. General internet searches for the graphic itself based on its legible wording also turn up nothing.

Of the Clintonite oppo-research and "Politifact" chart, you assert, "This, along with many other variables may be just one of other reasons why Bernie Sanders seemed to only attract a mostly white younger crowd of followers," but nothing you'd written makes any case for any of that material being particularly appealing to young white people, unless, of course, one assumes that young white folks are, as you'd just described Sanders supporters, particularly prone to being ignorant dumbasses blindly following a messiah-like cult-leader. I suppose it wouldn't be a Clintonite tract unless it had the standard race-baiting in there but if you can't bottle the ends, wouldn't it be better to simply leave that on the cutting-room floor for once? It isn't as if that particular breed of weaponized faux-"identity politics" isn't already generously represented in practically every Clintonite attack on Sanders these days. I doubt they'd have revoked your credentials in the club for failing to work it in somewhere.

You approvingly quote Clintonite smear-artist Steve Stoft:

"Sander's Vermont strategy was always to run as a spoiler, knowing that even if he couldn't win, he might throw the race to the Republicans."

That is, of course, a strictly tendentious characterization of Sanders' political activities over the years, with essentially nothing to support it. It's very clear that Sanders does have problems with both the major parties and has, throughout his political career, attempted to stand as a choice for views not represented by them and thus locked out of the system. More to the point, Sanders made it very clear throughout the course of his presidential campaign--starting, in fact, long before it even launched--that he wouldn’t act as a spoiler in that race.

"[T]hough he’s an independent, he has implied he wouldn’t run as a third-party candidate so as not to play spoiler."
--The Atlantic, 13 Nov., 2014

"I won’t play the spoiler."
--Sanders, New York magazine, 28 Dec., 2014

"Sanders rejected the idea of running for president as an independent. 'No matter what I do, I will not be a spoiler,' Sanders said. 'I will not play that role in helping to elect some right-wing Republican as President of the United States.'"
--In These Times, 26 Jan., 2015

"[Sanders] emphasized that he would never run as a spoiler if it could lead to the election of a Republican president."
--Vox, 30 April, 2015

And on into infinity. And, indeed, once the primaries had played out, Sanders endorsed Clinton and spent the rest of the campaign working to elect her.

Contrary to the characterization of Sanders supporters as a cult, they didn’t go along with this. Throughout the 2016 race, Sanders had hosted the largest political rallies of any candidate of either party but when he started appearing on Clinton’s behalf, this dried up to the same nearly-nothing that had always greeted Clinton’s rallies. A lot of people loved him but they weren't cultist robots and weren't interested in simply doing what he told them. The movement wasn't about him. In the end, over 80% of them ended up voting for Clinton but they'd been telling pollsters they'd do that all along, and followed through on this even as Clinton went out of her way at every opportunity to aggressively alienate liberals/progressives while devoting her energies to courting Republican voters. You make the bold claim that
"In the meantime, the statistical information is in and those that made the choice to vote third party, sit out or even write Sanders name in, were the cause of the loss to Trump."
…which is the same farcical misrepresentation of the campaign one always gets from Clintonites. It's a fact that in the critical Rust Belt states, significant numbers of formerly Democratic voters either voted third-party or, much more often, simply stayed home, another smaller contingent of them voted for Trump and Trump won those states. Contrary to your assertion, there's no relevant data on people writing in Sanders' name (total write-ins nationwide accounted for only 0.56% of the vote in 2016), nor is there any relevant data on how many of those taking any of these other options being Sanders supporters. It's reasonable to assume that some unquantifiable percentage of Jill Stein's voters were former Sanders backers but only in Michigan and Wisconsin did her total vote exceed Trump's margin of victory. Absent the assumption that Clinton was somehow entitled to the votes of people who didn't want to give it to her, this is a non-issue.

More importantly, the entire suggestion that this is "the cause of the loss to Trump" in the way you make it is a comical atomization of the campaign. We have no real numbers for how many people participated in the Democratic primary/caucus process. The count on which Clintonites depend when making their oft-repeated (and bogus) claims of a "popular vote" victory in that process credits 15.8 million total participants but this excludes 8 contests entirely and has no real numbers for several others. Even if we had some way to theoretically fill in those blanks, the resulting number, less than half of which would be Sanders "voters," would still be utterly dwarfed by the total number who participated in the general election: 136.67 million people. Enough to swallow the total number of Sanders voters whole several times over. Clinton drew 65.85 million votes. The only reason one can pretend as if micro-factors like Jill Stein even mattered in the general is that Clinton, running against the most unpopular major-party candidate in the history of polling, couldn’t manage any significant lead over him, at which point it's necessary to point out that Clinton was the second-most-unpopular major-party candidate. That's what happens when you nominate such an unappealing, weak, loser candidate that most people hate.[2]

Moreover, Sanders was an energizing candidate, meaning he brought into the process large numbers of people who otherwise wouldn’t have participated in it. The fact that more than 80% of his supporters went for Clinton means that even her losing vote-totals are padded with an unquantifiable number of people Sanders delivered whom she would not have ordinarily received.

Now tell me I lack critical thinking skills and am a cultist, rather than a thoughtful, rational observer like you.



[1] More generally, the corporate press was a virtual monolith in forthright opposition to Sanders. After initially trying to ignore him to death--the usual treatment afforded any liberal or left candidate--it switched to attack mode and anti-Sanders editorials, both those clearly labeled and those presented as "news" articles, became a daily offering. In 16 hours leading up to the ever-important Michigan primary, the Washington Post ran 16 anti-Sanders stories. After Sanders trashed Clinton in Wisconsin, Clinton launched a new campaign to present Sanders as unqualified to be president but when Sanders responded, the entire press corps went nuts (at the behest of the Clinton campaign) and presented it as if he had gone negative and said she was unqualified to be president. When they realized a positive story about Sanders' legislative record somehow made it onto the New York Times website, Times editors took it down, rewrote it in order to turn it into an anti-Sanders hit-piece then republished it, without ever indicating they'd made any changes at all. In a great indication of how far this went, the Post ran a hard-hitting piece of investigative journalism wherein Philip Bump asserted that Sanders was lying when he was forever saying the average donation to his campaign is $27. Bump crunched the numbers and discovered that the actual average contribution was--wait for it--$29.14. In June, as the campaign was winding down and Sanders took some questions in California, a New York Times reporter actually asked if Sanders was "sexist" for running against Clinton, thus perhaps getting in the way of her becoming the first woman elected president. If the primary season had run another month, they would have been accusing him of being a sexist for merely existing. That Johnson piece at FAIR charts the course of this with many more examples. The claim that Sanders was never vetted is a standard one in Clintonite literature and it's just as false as the just-as-standard claim that Clinton's popular-vote victory over Trump was the largest in U.S. history.

[2] Priorities USA, the Clintonite super PAC, has conducted a bit of an autopsy of the 2016 loss, studying both former Obama voters who cast their ballot for Trump and the much larger group of drop-off voters who previously voted for Obama but declined to vote in the 2016 general. The org tries to fudge parts of the results, perhaps to soften the blow, but it shines through the numbers loud and clear. The drop-off voters have very negative general feelings about the Republican party and very positive general feelings about the Democratic party. They overwhelming believe the policies of Trump and of congressional Republicans will favor the wealthy over everyone else. Their values are forthrightly progressive on issue after issue. Overwhelming majorities of both the drop-offs and the Obama-Trump voters say their income is either falling behind the cost of living or just keeping pace with it. Asked about their priorities for the president and congress, here's a chart showing how Obama-Trump voters replied:

There are a handful of noxious Trumpite items among them, to be sure, but nearly all of these are progressive priorities (the circles were added by Priorities USA, not me; the "strongly support" and "mixed feelings" columns refer to respondents' view of Trump). Priorities USA concludes from this that "Clinton and Democrats' economic message did not break through to drop-off or Obama-Trump voters," but the problem here definitely isn't one of messaging; it's of the messenger with which Democrats had been saddled. Priorities USA gets squishy when it comes to to make an accounting of why the drop-off voters said they didn't vote, declining to provide a detailed breakdown, but disgust with the choices offered plays prominently in their accounting of it.

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