Bob Schwartz

Tag: Democratic Party

What if Hillary had to face these contenders for the Democratic nomination in 2016?

This is a thought experiment.

Back in 2008, Hillary Clinton presumed that she would be the front runner for the Democratic nomination and would be the eventual winner. Then along came the phenomenon of Barack Obama, who wrestled the nomination from her because…well, because Hillary is no Obama.

In 2016, it was planned that Hillary Clinton would have little opposition for the Democratic presidential nomination. Maybe a token opponent to make it look competitive and democratic, but little more than that. Somehow, the most un-Obamaish candidate imaginable came along to almost spoil the party for her again. Bernie Sanders didn’t make it, Hillary became the nominee. Being less than the perfect candidate, Hillary was unable to close the deal in the general election, even against the most reprehensible Republican candidate—one who went on to be the most reprehensible president.

What if we retroject all the current Democratic candidates for the nomination back to 2016—including Joe Biden (who didn’t run against her) and Bernie Sanders (who did)? Do you think she would have still won the nomination?

There are reasons to think she might not. One thought is that her unique status as the only woman candidate would be immediately gone; six women are currently running, two of them high in the polls. Another thought is that while Hillary was severely tested by Obama in 2008, she faced less testing in 2016 before she faced Trump as the candidate. Would she have withstood the attacks that are natural from such a huge field? Would the Democratic Party establishment have been able to “protect” her and still seem fair-minded and even-handed?

Democrats: Micah 2020

Dana Milbank writes in today’s Washington Post:

Hey Democrats! What’s the big idea? No, really. What’s the big idea?

A dozen possible Democratic presidential candidates assembled at a downtown Washington hotel Tuesday for one of the first cattle calls of the 2020 campaign. The good news: There were, on that stage, all of the personal qualities and policy ideas needed to defeat President Trump. The bad news: These qualities and ideas were not in any one person….

For November’s midterm elections, it may be enough for Democrats to say they are against Trump. Congressional Democratic leaders took a stab at a unified agenda for 2018 — “A Better Deal” — and were roundly mocked by progressives.

But to beat Trump, they’ll need more. Trump convinced tens of millions of Americans that they are losing ground because of immigrants, racial and religious minorities, and foreigners. What will Democrats advance to counter that grim message?

Given how lost the Democrats are (and how that might lead to further losing), I suggest that they consider the Bible. Not the weaponized, sectarian and exclusionary interpretation of the Bible that is so popular with selfish and heartless ideologues. But the Bible that demands humane conduct—something that we see slipping away election by election, day by day (and that means you too, Democrats).

The prophet Micah is a great touchstone. The revealed solution for an aggrieved people does not involve greater piety, more sacrifices, or brutal nationalism. All that is required is justice, goodness and humility:

With what shall I approach the Lord,
Do homage to God on high?
Shall I approach Him with burnt offerings,
With calves a year old?

Would the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
With myriads of streams of oil?
Shall I give my first-born for my transgression,
The fruit of my body for my sins?

“He has told you, O man, what is good,
And what the Lord requires of you:
Only to do justice
And to love goodness,
And to walk modestly with your God;
Then will your name achieve wisdom.”

Micah 6:6-9 (NJPS)

Micah is not available to run in an election. But justice, goodness and humility are always available as a platform.

Obama: The Superstar of the Troubled Democratic Show Is Leaving

obama-slow-jam-the-news

Did you ever watch a TV show that was only just okay, but you kept watching week after week because you really liked the star—someone so special that he made even the worst episodes watchable and enjoyable?

Then that superstar left the show. Contract differences. Elections. Whatever. And then the show was over. Canceled.

Barack Obama has left the Democratic show. In the month since the election, we have gotten a preview of what it will be like without him. The Democrats thought, as producers do, that they were really the show, and not some guy that they had helped turn into the superstar he became.

Producers quickly learn that you can’t force people to watch your show. You can’t expect people to watch your show just because you tell them how great and important it is, and how terrible the other networks and shows are. While it’s an advantage to have a superstar, it’s better still to write good scripts, employ creative directors, and cast good people in interesting roles. Better to give people what they want and what they need. As viewers or as citizens and voters.

The Democrats Need Boldness Not Gamesmanship

“Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”

Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the elder Democratic leadership in Congress were able to fend off an insurgency and keep their jobs. It was explained that they deserved to maintain their roles, even if they are beholden to the old ways, because they are all veteran insiders who know how the game is played.

Knowing how the game is played has value, but not nearly as much value electorally as being bold. Being passionate. Convincing people that you believe in something so wholeheartedly that nothing, not even keeping your job, is more important. The evidence mounts that Democrats have ignored this, don’t believe it or can’t do it.

When Barry Goldwater was nominated for President by the Republicans in 1964, the party establishment rent its garments in despair at his supposed extremism, and felt vindicated by his colossal loss in the election. But within 20 years he was the intellectual soul of the party, and within 50 years—right now—even though Republicans speak with reverence about Ronald Reagan, the one they really owe their dominance to is Goldwater. They are the political heirs to his boldness.

In an alternate universe, the Democrats nominated Bernie Sanders, who proceeded to lose, maybe not as badly as Goldwater did, but possibly badly. Yet immediately after the election, an entire generation of young Democrats gets genuinely fired up, remaking the party as a vehicle of sweeping progress, of resistance to the worst and change for the best. Within a few years, Republicans have a fight on their hands, and within a few more years the tide turns—not just in Congress, not just in the presidency, but in the governorships and state legislatures, where the Democrats are also currently a minority. This happens not because President Trump or the Republicans are so bad, but because the Democrats are so bold, charismatic, appealing and inspiring.

Genius, power and magic. That’s the Democratic ticket.

Democratic Millionaires and Billionaires To Meet in Palm Beach to Plan the Future of the Party of the People

For a while today, I thought that Kanye West announcing he would have voted for Trump—if he had voted—was the most interesting bit of news.

But this from Politico is much better:

David Brock on Thursday night emailed more than 200 of the biggest donors on the left — including finance titans George Soros, Tom Steyer and Donald Sussman — inviting them to a retreat in Palm Beach over inauguration weekend to assess what Democrats did wrong in 2016, figure out how to correct it and raise cash for those initiatives.

For the Democratic establishment, it is not just that they are pretending that Bernie Sanders never happened. They are pretending that the election never happened, or that what did happen had nothing to do with the party being hopelessly and cluelessly out of touch with the constituencies it needs to win elections.

Thomas Frank wrote about this in his recent book Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? It is an insightful work, and one that presages and sort of predicts the results of this presidential election. It deserves a complete reading, and his multi-faceted analysis is not quickly summarized. But here is one aspect:

ON THE LIBERALISM OF THE RICH

I am pressing on a sensitive point here. Democrats cherish their identification as the Party of the People, and they find it unpleasant to be reminded that affluent professionals are today among their most dedicated supporters. Democrats’ close relationship with the successful is not something they advertise or even discuss openly.

Exceptions to this rule are rare. One of the few works I know of that seems to approve, albeit with reservations, of liberalism’s alliance with a segment of the upper crust is the 2010 book Fortunes of Change, written by the philanthropy journalist David Callahan. The premise of his argument is that our new, liberal plutocracy is different from plutocracies of the past because rich people today are sometimes very capable. “Those who get rich in a knowledge economy,” the journalist tells us, are well-schooled; they often come from the ranks of “highly educated professionals” and consequently they support Democrats, the party that cares about schools, science, the environment, and federal spending for research…

There’s a simple reason that financial firms rallied to the Democrat [Barack Obama] on that occasion, Callahan suggests: because people on Wall Street, being very smart and very well-educated, are natural liberals….

To this honor roll of intellectual and financial achievement, Callahan appends the following observation: “This is definitely not the Sarah Palin demographic.”

No. But neither is it a demographic with any particular concern for the fate of working people.

In addition to Frank’s book, also recommended is the new book from Bernie Sanders, Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In. I don’t think Bernie’s going to be invited to the Palm Beach gathering, but boy howdy, that would be something.

Making America Crazy Again: How to Survive and Thrive After the Election

make-america-crazy-again

You don’t want to hear this, but things may get crazier after the election.

If Hillary Clinton wins, she will be the least liked, least trusted President to ever take office. All the assumptions and suppositions about how the Clintons’ good intentions have been mixed with and compromised by expedient centrism, ambition, greed, secrecy and overall ugliness have been confirmed.

Progressives who tried an insurgency within the Democratic Party will learn that if they have a place at the table, it will be set with modest meals, if not mere crumbs.

Republicans will be gleeful at the prospect of obstructing everything and unwinding anything, without much of a plan of their own. Their glee is misplaced, since there is no Republican Party left, not one recognizable as such. Instead, it is merely the shaky platform for another set of would-be Presidents to start jockeying for position as the candidate in 2020.

And then of course there’s Donald Trump, whose hat should have first read Make The GOP Crazy, then Make The Election Crazy, and finally Make America Crazy Again. He is good at each of these. There is no doubt, whatever form his public pathology takes, he will help make 2017 a year we will not forget, just as 2016 is an election we will not forget, no matter how we try.

And so, some suggestions for getting on with our lives, not just surviving, but thriving, after the election.

  1. Religion, spirituality, philosophy, or something like them. Principled views of reality and the world can be very helpful. There is nothing inherently wrong with making stuff up as we go along. Except that when the wind blows, which it does pretty much all the time, and sometimes with hurricane force, we might want to have something to keep us steady.
  1. Media diet. When I see the ad for that cheeseburger with six strips of crisp bacon on top, something in me wants one. Except I don’t eat cheeseburgers any more, don’t eat bacon anymore, and if I did, I don’t think it would be in that particular configuration, since I plan to live a long and healthy life. The news media, even the supposedly respectable ones, are mostly offering us the equivalent of 1-pound burgers with an entire package of bacon on top, hour after hour. If you don’t want to be crazy unhealthy, please watch what you eat.
  1. Learning. You don’t have to learn about anything or anyone. You can learn exactly as much as you need to get on with your life and through the day. If you do choose to be interested in something, including public affairs, do try to learn and discern. We have spent the past year in a storm of misinformation and disinformation, lies and nonsense. That is not going to stop after the election. In fact, it could get worse, hard as that is to believe.
  1. Silence.

What If There Had Been Hacked Watergate Emails?

The issues surrounding the release of hacked emails from the Democratic Party and related entities are many and gray. If you hear anyone say that all the answers are clear and that there are simple bright lines is either not thinking it through, has some vested interest, or is one of the people who lost their job at the DNC.

To help clarify, consider this. What if there had been emails covering the entire Watergate conspiracy, rather than just the tape recordings that emerged after the fact? What if those emails were hacked and released while the cover-up was still ongoing? (This is not to say that the current situations even approach such gravity.) Would we be wringing our hands because high-level private and confidential communications had been stolen? Would we be happy that what Gerald Ford later called “our long national nightmare” would have been over sooner? Maybe we would be a little of both.

In coming days, as the next batch of leaked documents and data is released, some will be quick to condemn the leaks or to exploit the leaks. The best we can do, hard and unlikely as it is in such situations, is to think it all through carefully. Because like it or not, this is what the future looks like.

Political Expediency and Conscience

Marcellus and Butch - Pulp Fiction

Now the night of the election, you may fell a slight sting, that’s conscience messin’ wit ya. Screw conscience! Conscience only hurts, it never helps.
Loosely adapted from Pulp Fiction

Political pragmatism is a messy business, especially when it looks like pure expediency. That goes for candidates who are not trusted or liked, and for supporters and enablers who overlook obvious shortcomings and transgressions for the sake of some higher goal. (For Democrats and Republicans who think this is only about the other, think again.)

The best movie moment about expediency comes from Pulp Fiction. Those who know this great movie may know the scene. Those who haven’t seen it should, for entertainment and for Tarantino’s willingness to take on interesting moral and ethical questions. Be advised that the movie is rough, as is the language in this scene.

Boss Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) is bribing aging boxer Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis) to take a dive:

MARSELLUS WALLACE:

I think you’re gonna find ­ when all this shit is over and done ­ I think you’re gonna find yourself one smilin’ motherfucker. Thing is Butch, right now you got ability. But painful as it may be, ability don’t last. Now that’s a hard motherfuckin’ fact of life, but it’s a fact of life your ass is gonna hafta git realistic about. This business is filled to the brim with unrealistic motherfuckers who thought their ass aged like wine. Besides, even if you went all the way, what would you be? Feather-weight champion of the world. Who gives a shit? I doubt you can even get a credit card based on that.

Now the night of the fight, you may fell a slight sting, that’s pride fuckin’ wit ya. Fuck pride! Pride only hurts, it never helps. Fight through that shit. ‘Cause a year from now, when you’re kickin’ it in the Caribbean you’re gonna say, “Marsellus Wallace was right.”

Politics and People of Conscience

Conscience of Conservative

There’s talk of Barry Goldwater in the context of the current election cycle. I’ve written about him before—as it turns out, a few times, here, here, and here. It’s not that I’m a fan of conservative politics; it’s that I’m a fan of conscience.

Goldwater’s unlikely and iconoclastic nomination for President at the Republican National Convention in 1964 was predicted to be a disaster. It was, as he was crushed by Lyndon Johnson in the election. On the other hand, his political philosophy lived on in the party—coming into full flower with Ronald Reagan and, more than fifty years later, is still the touchstone of conservative Republican politics.

Goldwater’s famous book was a manifesto called The Conscience of a Conservative. Focus on that word “conscience.” It means principles that are grounded in the deepest part of your beliefs, principles that are often difficult to stand by. On one side is the temptation of expedience. On the other is being criticized for standing in the way and being outcast. Or in Goldwater’s case, for leading the party into a (temporary) black hole.

In both parties right now, conscience is being tested.

Paul Ryan and others are speaking their mind about Donald Trump, even in the face of calls for unity over conscience, for party above principle. Other Republicans, seeing the same candidate, admit he is flawed in ways they have trouble abiding, but a unified party has a shot a victory, while a splintered one has none.

Among Democrats, even some Hillary Clinton supporters, in candid moments, admit that they have deep reservations about her on fundamental grounds of honesty, integrity, and transparency, but say that winning is everything, and that she is the path to victory—whatever her shortcomings.

We shouldn’t indict those who compromise their conscience, in politics or elsewhere. Each of us does it or has done it, and we live with it. Maybe sleeplessly sometimes, but we live with it. What we should do is praise those who manage to know their conscience and follow it, often at a price. This is what we try to teach our children. This is what we should suggest to our politicians.

John Lewis clarifies comments on Bernie Sanders

UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 11: Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., and Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., behind him, arrive for a news conference at the DNC where members of the Congressional Black Caucus PAC endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, February 11, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

John Lewis is the latest elder statesperson to have experienced some difficulties in speaking on behalf of Hillary Clinton.

First it was former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who apologized for seeming to suggest that young women who didn’t support Hillary were going to “a special place in hell.”

Then it was feminist pioneer Gloria Steinem, who apologized for saying that young women were flocking to Bernie Sanders because that is where the boys are.

Now it is the turn of civil rights era leader and legend John Lewis. On Thursday he suggested that he knew the Clintons from way back in the movement days, but he had never seen nor heard from this Bernie Sanders guy.

Today he apologized for misspeaking.

”If you take a look at a transcript of my statement, you will find I did not say that I met Hillary and Bill Clinton when I was chairman of SNCC in the 1960s. My point was that when I was doing the work of civil rights, led the Voter Education Project and organized voter registration in the South in the 1970s, I did cross paths with Hillary and Bill Clinton in the field. They were working in politics, and Bill Clinton became attorney general of Arkansas in the 1970s as well. That began a relationship with them that has lasted until today.”

As for Bernie Sanders:

“I was responding to a reporter’s question who asked me to assess Sen. Sanders’ civil rights record. I said that when I was leading and was at the center of pivotal actions within the Civil Rights Movement, I did not meet Sen. Bernie Sanders at any time. The fact that I did not meet him in the movement does not mean I doubted that Sen. Sanders participated in the Civil Rights Movement, neither was I attempting to disparage his activism. Thousands sacrificed in the 1960s whose names we will never know, and I have always given honor to their contribution.”

In fact, Bernie Sanders had been involved in the movement almost as early as John Lewis was. Sanders’ sacrifice included going to jail for trying to desegregate the University of Chicago dorms.

Everyone is entitled to zealously support preferred candidates, and zeal sometimes crosses over into exaggeration. But when icons like Albright, Steinem and Lewis get caught overreaching so far that they are forced to furiously backpedal, especially all in one week, you have to wonder what exactly is going on.