Maybe it’s because I’m from Philadelphia, where losing is a way of life, but I hate it when people say they aren’t voting for Bernie because he can’t win. They say they are using their heads, not their hearts.
He can win.
Last night Bernie Sanders nailed it in New Hampshire, beating Hillary Clinton by a resounding 22 points — seven points better than the polls had predicted. How did Clintonland respond to this? With political attacks unveiling Sanders as a fraud, of course, because the political attacks a few days earlier had worked so well. One charge was that in 2007 Sanders had chatted with lobbyists on a Martha’s Vineyard retreat run by the Senatorial Campaign Committee. These lobbyists, it appears also have ties to the financial industry, and Sanders took $7500 from the SCC campaign fund, a fund that has Wall Street donors. Anonymous sources told MSNBC reporter Alex Seitz-Wald that “they were surprised to see the populist crusader at these lavish events and suggested he was probably in it for the free vacation.”
Here is, as they say, the narrative we are supposed to believe: Sanders has had contact with those who have contact with Wall Street and received less than $7500 in campaign money, which it is exactly the same as Hillary Clinton having taken hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees form Goldman Sachs. This is a bit like telling me I am a hypocrite for claiming I was against the Iraq war, when in reality I used to eat breakfast with Robert Kagan when I was eighteen. Which I did. Once, freshman year, he even invited me and a group of other classmates to his father’s house for a midnight sandwich. Now you know the truth! This is the kind of person who supports Bernie Sanders.
The other factoid that Clinton supporters were cheering themselves up with last night was that in raw votes, Hillary beat The Donald. Which is true, and will comfort me should she be the candidate. But wouldn’t that mean that if Sanders beat Clinton by 22 points, he really took Trump to the cleaners and might be the best person to nominate? I haven’t been in grade school math for a while, but it seems so. And how do we explain Clinton’s putative attraction to the electorate “as a woman,” when New Hampshire women came out on record numbers — for Sanders? This victory was driven by young women: although the overall margin was 11%, Sanders won the 18-29 demographic by 60%. I know Madeleine Albright threatened to send them all to hell, but all I can say is she had better watch out that no one drops a house on her.
What the Clinton campaign should worry about is that after Sanders’ victory was called there was such a rush on giving those $27 contributions that many of us sat watching the “processing wheel” spin for 5 minutes or more.
But enough with the numbers: this time next month I could be weeping into my Feel the Bern tee-shirt. Should Clinton become the candidate, I will vote for her, but I remain unconvinced that she would make a better President than Bernie Sanders. I have lots of friends who do believe this. But I have a second set of friends who claim to prefer Bernie Sanders’ vision, but are voting for Clinton “with their heads not their hearts” because Sanders can’t win. His political vision is “unrealistic,” they say; Sanders doesn’t have the “experience;” Hillary Clinton is more experienced, more practical, and a better political operator. They don’t think she has to get better to win — and actually, signs point to the fact that she does have to get better, and even that may not be enough to give her the nomination.
One of Clinton’s chief enablers is my beloved New York Times. They have not only endorsed Clinton, they have decided to help her by constantly explaining away her shortcomings, by accepting her excuses that all setbacks are someone else’s fault, and by not covering the Sanders campaign in any substantive way at all. In fact, they would rather write about Donald Trump than write about Bernie Sanders, even though there is really nothing to say about Donald Trump.
It is also the case that the Times has a history of throwing shade at Hillary’s Democratic opponents for being too idealitstic, inexperienced, and wanting to lead a social movement instead of waging a mature political campaign with concrete goals. Take their skepticism about that skinny African American guy with the funny name who thought you could run a political campaign like a social movement. For example:
Adam Nagourney and Jeff Zeleney, “Obama Formally Enters Presidential Race,” (February 11 2007) doubted that an Obama candidacy was viable because its political vision was idealistic, and not realistic. “Speaking smoothly and comfortably, Mr. Obama offered a generational call to arms, portraying his campaign less as a candidacy and more as a movement,” they wrote. “`Each and every time, a new generation has risen up and done what’s needed to be done,’ he said. `Today we are called once more, and it is time for our generation to answer that call.’” Nagourney and Zeleney continued: “The formal entry to the race framed a challenge that would seem daunting to even the most talented politician: whether Mr. Obama, with all his strengths and limitations, can win in a field dominated by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who brings years of experience in presidential politics, a command of policy and political history, and an extraordinarily battle-tested network of fund-raisers and advisers.”
Strange that those advisers don’t actually seem to do so well when it comes to elections, right? Does this worry anyone but me?
To continue: on October 28, 2007, three months before the Iowa caucuses, Nagourney and Zeleny wrote another article, this time portraying the Obama campaign — which was gaining significant traction by that point, particularly among the young — as disorganized, ineffectual, and with little support from established Democrats committed to the Clintons. Interviewed over breakfast, Senator Obama spoke plainly about his opponent’s vulnerabilities in a way that is oddly familiar:
…Mrs. Clinton had been untruthful or misleading in describing her positions on problems facing the nation. He accused her of “straddling between the Giuliani, Romney side of the foreign policy equation and the Barack Obama side of the equation.” He said that she was trying to “sound or vote” like a Republican on national security issues and that her approach was “bad for the country and ultimately bad for Democrats.”
Mr. Obama suggested that she was too divisive to win a general election and that if she won, she would be unable to bring together competing factions in Washington to accomplish anything.
“There is a legacy that is both an enormous advantage to her in a Democratic primary, but also a disadvantage to her in a general election,” he said. “I don’t think anybody would claim that Senator Clinton is going to inspire a horde of new voters. I don’t think it’s realistic that she is going to get a whole bunch of Republicans to think differently about her.”
Here’s what I want to know: How does Hillary Clinton, her campaign staff, or the New York Times think that Clinton has addressed these vulnerabilities? What would make her more effective in a general election than Bernie Sanders? How has she become a better candidate since Obama took her to the cleaners? That Hillary Clinton is a great general election candidate is an entirely unproven argument. Furthermore, although the claim that Sanders has no plan to accomplish his goals seems believeable to many, the Clinton campaign is entirely unforthcoming about how her “practical politics” (and I am all for pragmatism under certain circumstances) will work better; how she will persuade large numbers of voters to support her given the many questions the campaign refuses to answer; or how she will work with the GOP Congressional caucus who seems to like nothing better than to appoint special prosecutors to investigate her.
I guess we will see. I’m still voting with my head — for Bernie.