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Bernie Sanders fights on — but with a reassuring promise to Democrats and Hillary Clinton

REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Sen. Bernie Sanders speaking at a campaign rally at Casa del Mexicano in Los Angeles, Calif., on Saturday.

Sen. Bernie Sanders gave a one-word answer to a question at the end of a long interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday that Democrats in general, and especially Hillary Clinton supporters, should find reassuring, assuming Sanders meant it. The word was “yes.”

I admire Bernie Sanders. He has long advocated for policies, many of which I agree with, that are outside the acceptable spectrum of mainstream opinion in U.S. politics. By advocating for those policies while making a credible run for the Democratic nomination, he may have widened the pre-existing boundaries of acceptable policy thoughts in U.S. politics.

During his remarkable run, he has stayed positive and substantive, limiting his criticisms of Hillary Clinton mostly to concrete differences of opinion — including his vote against authorizing the Iraq War, which Clinton voted to authorize — and their differences over how to expand health-care coverage and other issues.

When Sanders has criticized Clinton’s conduct, as opposed to her issue positions, I have agreed with his choices. For example, Clinton’s explanations for not releasing the transcripts of her highly compensated speeches to Wall Street firms do not hold water with Sanders or with me.

Energized young people

Sanders has energized a large number of young people, many of whom have not been politically involved in the past. Good for him and good for them. Our country benefits from this involvement and for various reasons (the main reason being that young people tend not to vote but tend to vote for Democrats when they do vote), the Democratic Party benefits from it more than Republicans do. As state Rep. (and Sanders supporter) Frank Hornstein (DFL-Minneapolis) has said, getting young people into the political process is challenge but a big, important goal, as is keeping them involved.

Midway through the primary season it appeared that the Democrats might end up with a colossal problem. Sanders was winning enough primaries that it seemed possible that he would go to the convention with more pledged delegates than Clinton. Clinton has always had a colossal lead among the 715 unpledged superdelegates, many of whom declared their support for her before the primary/caucus season was under way.

Although it’s easy to understand why the kind of mainstream, establishment Democrats who get those reserved delegate slots would prefer Clinton, Sanders has understandably complained about this. If, in the end, Sanders had won most of the elected/pledged delegates but lost the nomination because of the unelected superdelegates, Clinton’s nomination would have been tainted and Sanders’ supporters would have felt justified in rebelling against the whole process, weakening Clinton for the general election and, perhaps, giving those energized young Democrats an excuse to abandon politics.

But that’s not the way things have turned out. By winning all of the nine most populous states (except for the biggest of all, California, which votes Tuesday), Clinton has for all practical purposes clinched a majority of the delegates chosen by primaries and caucuses and still holds an overwhelming lead among superdelegates.

Sanders has declined to withdraw from the contest. A lot of Democrats, especially Clinton enthusiasts, have criticized him for this, arguing that Sanders can do nothing but hurt Clinton’s ultimate chances of beating Donald Trump by postponing the time when she can pivot to her general-election campaign. (Don’t look now, but she has already pivoted. And I, for one, have always been slightly offended by this universally accepted belief that it’s OK for candidates to pretend to be a bit more liberal than they really are during the primaries and then pretend to be a bit more moderate than they really are during the general-election campaign.)

For some weeks now, Clinton supporters have been complaining that Sanders needs to drop out. I have disagreed with them, not only because he was not yet mathematically eliminated and seemed entitled to keep going as long as he had a remotely plausible path to victory, but also because he was maintaining a pretty scrupulous commitment to keeping it civil and substantive and not saying things that would undermine Clinton in the general election.

Furthermore, Clinton backers have a significant stake in keeping Sanders believing that he has been treated fairly so he will make a maximum effort to turn out his supporters for Clinton, knowing that many of them are distinctly unenthusiastic about her.

Unrealistic belief

It’s clear to me now that Sanders has no remaining path to the nomination. His statement this week that “the Democratic National Convention will be a contested convention” is based on the unrealistic belief that a huge number of superdelegates who have long since declared their support for Clinton might switch their support to him. Most of the superdelegates have long preferred Clinton (which he has long known) and are presumably more annoyed with him than ever over his reluctance to concede.

Still, if Sanders doesn’t throw in the towel, the first ballot at the convention will be taken. Not such a big deal.

It’s possible Sanders believes that by remaining technically in the race, he will increase his leverage over the party platform because party leaders will want to keep him happy so he doesn’t cause a fight that will disrupt the convention and/or increase the reluctance of some of his most ardent supporters to close ranks behind Clinton. I have no guess on whether that will work, or what Sanders might get out of it in the content of the platform (a document that, by the way, is of little importance after the day it is adopted).

But however this last tango turns out, Democrats in general and the Clinton wing in particular surely understand that in the fall, when it matters most, Clinton and the party need to have Sanders feeling reasonably good about how he was treated so that he will do everything he can to encourage the Bernie Boosters to work for Clinton or at least vote for her. A various points during the year, he has more or less said he would do this, although I’m not sure how recently he reaffirmed it.

It’s possible the general election will be a rout. Trump just had a terrible week, which included Clinton’s excellent speech attacking him, plus his latest doctrine that no judges of Mexican heritage should be allowed to officiate in lawsuits involving him makes him look more racist, entitled and greedy than ever. But if these recent developments have hurt Trump’s chances, it hasn’t shown up in the polls yet.

It if turns out to be a close race, the willingness of disappointed Sanders voters to close ranks around Clinton will be a significant factor. And that quotient will depend heavily on whether Sanders stays active in encouraging his admirers not to drop out or vote for a minor party. Which leads me back to where I started. Tapper asked Sanders about the so-called Bernie or Bust movement, which is a term for Sanders supporters who say they will refuse to vote for Clinton.

He first asked Sanders whether this was “a palatable position.”

Sanders tried to dodge slightly, talking about how important it would be for Clinton to court those voters and earn their support. But then came the final exchange of the interview, with Sanders’ one-word answer that I advertised at the top of this piece:

TAPPER: But no matter what, are you going to work hard to make sure that Donald Trump loses and the Democratic candidate whether it’s you or her [who] wins?


Comments (38)

  1. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/06/2016 - 09:11 am.

    Meaningless promise

    TAPPER: But no matter what, are you going to work hard to make sure that Donald Trump loses and the Democratic candidate *whether it’s you or her [who] wins?*

    SANDERS: Yes.

    Of course he’s going to work hard to ensure he wins. Sanders is hanging around to show he’s battle-tested and ready to pick up the banner when Mrs. Clinton is forced to withdraw. That’s what this is all about.

    • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 06/07/2016 - 12:54 pm.

      500 Million dollars

      If any member of the vast right wing conspiracy of Clinton haters could explain the merits of having invested $250 million at least on tax payer funded Clinton investigations, from Travelgate to email servergate and likely another 250 million for privately funded Clinton investigations, starting with Richard Mellon Scaithe and onto to who ever is lately wasting their money?

      The results of one half billion dollars of snooping:


      Yet all the Clinton haters are absolutely convinced they are one smoking email server away from victory.

      Sorry fellas, just as we find a cure for Obama Derangement Syndrome (otherwise known as Inauguration Day) your Clinton Derangement Syndrome flares back up. Do you wake up in the middle of the night in terror that the budget may balance again or we begin to reduce the debt like last time, or the most jobs created in the past 100 years, or the strongest stretch of GDP growth since WW2 could be repeated? Oh, the horror of it all. All you can do is hope and pray that Donald Trump can prevent these things befalling us. You may have found the right man for the job if elected.

  2. Submitted by Jim Million on 06/06/2016 - 09:15 am.

    Gentle Let Down or Rationalising, Eric?

    I’m not so sure about this passive scenario. Very many people will be pretty disappointed, if not absolutely angry, should Sanders (not a true “Democrat,” remember) become some sanctioned symbol of a DNC Socialist wing, that percentage well outside the HRC corporate combine.

    Were I advising D. Trump, I’d already be well into devising a post-convention strategy to maximize such Sanders symbolism of “company man” acquiescence.

    [But, then, I have no interest in advising Trump or others out there.]

  3. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 06/06/2016 - 09:19 am.

    Two suggestions:Get rid of

    Two suggestions:

    Get rid of the super delegates.

    Make it a rule that candidates should have a clear record of supporting the Democratic party for the duration of at least 3 previous election cycles.

    • Submitted by Pat Berg since 2011 on 06/07/2016 - 11:49 am.

      Supporting the party they’re running under

      I suspect that suggestion might be well-considered by BOTH major parties in this cycle!

    • Submitted by Brian Krause on 06/09/2016 - 02:26 pm.

      Sanders has supported Democrats for decades. The implication that his designation as an independent signifies a lack of support for Democrats is simply false. As evidence I point you to the 2011 DFL Founders Day Dinner, at which Bernie was the keynote. If he was good enough for the DFL to raise cash off of in 2011 then he would have been good enough to head up the ticket.

  4. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 06/06/2016 - 10:22 am.

    There is another shoe which could drop.

    I doubt much that Clinton would be indicted for her actions in the email scandal, but what about her staff?

    One of the key players has already invoked the Fifth Amendment in the civil matter, and has been granted immunity to compel his testimony in the criminal investigation.

    So consider WHY a person invokes the Fifth, and WHY the government grants immunity. We’ve seen this pattern many times before in criminal cases.

    If one of Clinton’s staffers should be indicted, the public will never believe Clinton had nothing to do with it. It could have a huge impact on the election – but WHEN it happens would be important, too.

    The Democratic party should be very happy to have a Bernie Sanders at hand, as an alternative – an election winning alternative – if something like this happens.

    I’m not saying it’s going to, but it COULD happen, especially in light of Clinton staffers pleading the Fifth and being granted immunity from prosecution.

  5. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/06/2016 - 11:51 am.

    I hope you’re right but…

    Clinton isn’t just disliked and distrusted, she’s also an incredibly bad campaigner who will be running against a rogue populist with a talent for expanding his appeal. Sure Sanders has always said he’d support Clinton if she got the nomination (fairly). The problem is Sanders can’t control who his supporters vote for, and he can’t make the people who voted for him for HRC.

    I’ll never understand why democrats think they’re weakest candidate is the best candidate to run against Trump but the gamble is going to put the entire nation at risk unnecessarily. The best way to guarantee that all Sanders and Clinton voters and millions more vote the democrat in November is to give them Sanders to vote for. Roll the dice with Clinton… my fingers are crossed.

  6. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/06/2016 - 12:51 pm.

    Riding the tiger

    Bernie’s problem is that it will take more than a word to get him off of the back of the tiger that he has unleashed. It’s much easier to fire up supporters who are already inclined to be radical than it is to tell them to cool it and go back into the system.
    As for “…. I, for one, have always been slightly offended by this universally accepted belief that it’s OK for candidates to pretend to be a bit more liberal than they really are during the primaries and then pretend to be a bit more moderate than they really are during the general-election campaign.”

    The candidates are talking to two different audiences.
    Primary voters in both parties tend to take more extreme positions than do voters in the main election, so it is inevitable that the successful politicians will address the audience of the moment.

    • Submitted by Charles Holtman on 06/06/2016 - 03:59 pm.

      Semantical objection

      Though I am a Sanders supporter, it has been clear to me for quite some time that Clinton would carry her name recognition, establishment backing and unspoken entitlement to primary victory. In any event I’ve supported Sanders’ remaining in as long as possible since to me his campaign has been less about prevailing, and more about moving the Overton window and hastening us toward a tipping point back toward democracy before it’s too late. I’ve been disappointed lately in his inadequate shift toward articulating how the coalesced gains of his candidacy should be converted into social and political capital for the long game (though for all I know that may be due to media failure).

      That said, there is nothing “radical” about his supporters. All that he argues for is that we as a citizenry take back the governance of our society from the small group of folks in whom all political and economic prerogatives have become concentrated. I would suggest that those under the “Bernie or Bust” banner, whoever they are, have that view not because their views are radical, but because Clinton so clearly is just one more in a long line of establishment candidates who will tinker so long as it does not disrupt the fundamental economic and political prerogatives of the establishment, whereas Sanders is the first viable candidate, at least in my lifetime, who would push back in the direction of democracy and speak simple things that the polity has been so well conditioned to forget.

  7. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 06/06/2016 - 02:26 pm.

    “the audience of the moment”

    You mean like all those financial industry audiences who were sweet-talked by Clinton in her $21 million speechifying campaign, in contradiction of her campaign claims to a different audience?

    Yeah, I see what you mean. Some of us have a little problem with that.

    So one cure would be for Clinton to release the content of those talks, which of course she refuses to do for the one and only possible reason – that she is lying to one or the other of these audiences.

    The financial industry meanwhile confidently pours money into the Clinton campaign. They know she’s going to protect their interests. It is money well spent!!

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/06/2016 - 05:39 pm.

      That’s why the GOP

      is working so hard at separating Clinton from Dodd-Frank (which she helped write and supports) because she has voiced concerns that D-F (intended to limit some of the investment excesses of large banks) has had negative effects on small banks that primarily serve the community rather than large investors.
      And of course a healthy economy benefits the financial industry. If no one has any money there’s nothing to invest, and neither Trumpf nor Sanders have demonstrated any economic competence.

  8. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 06/06/2016 - 05:11 pm.

    Both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are Democrats–I recognize Sanders as a Democrat, the kind that realizes that all of the little people can outvote all the Fat Cats, if they don’t give up on demands for fairness and justice. That the big money really does rule this country in all but voting counts.

    It’s only Republicans who would like us to think he’s not a Democrat, of the Franklin Roosevelt kind. Republicans would prefer to just slap a label on Sanders, so no one listens to the sense he makes with his speeches. He’s a nice, solid, left-flank Democrat–there are lots of us out here! And, surprise! most Americans do not “hate” either Sanders or Hillary Clinton. Or President Obama, for that matter. The majority of us that elected and re-elected Obama just has to come out and vote in the Democrat again. Whichever Democrat gets the nomination to defeat a horrific Republican nominee.

  9. Submitted by Joe Musich on 06/06/2016 - 10:13 pm.

    I just …,

    have to take issue with this statement even though your pice is great, “….I admire Bernie Sanders. He has long advocated for policies, many of which I agree with, that are outside the acceptable spectrum of mainstream opinion in U.S. politics.” I think that what he advocates is well within the mainstream of the the America Dreams and Hopes and goals. It is just that those in politics will not bring the ideas he speaks about into law. Hillary has spoke more the once not about what can be but what is possible to accomplish. Seems like a rather benign dream. She is a product of American politics not the American desire. Over and over the public gets beaten down by obfuscation and pure power. It is frightening how the American Dream is stifled. We can get 12 dollars but we can’t get 15 does not seem to be the kind of attitude in a leader I would like. Do you think this is the way an innovator approaches creating something from an idea. I think not. Until we elect a leader who has a true dream of what is good for the entire collective this nation will flounder as it is doing at the moment. The American Dream is not Trumpian ! In fact it is the inverse. It is not about budget setting the agenda it is about what is best for all. I just returned from viewing Michael Moore’s new documentary, “Where to Invade Next !” In every country visited American ideas have been put into place. Here these ideas are paid lip service, referred to as dreams but actually in reality seen idle dreams of the misfits. Until we face the fact that the things Sanders speaks of and other nations have actually instituted the faster we will all degrade.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 06/07/2016 - 10:45 am.

      Why not hold out for $20?

      The reality, of course, is that we are not getting $12 or $15 anytime soon. It took big Democratic majorities in both the house and senate in Obama’s first term to get it to $7.25. Here is how the minimum wage debate would go during a Sanders administration:

      Sanders to congress: I would like you to pass a $15 minimum wage

      Congress: no

      Sanders: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/09/2016 - 11:55 am.

        The difference between lack of imagination and realism

        Were a candidate like Sanders to win the White House (and all indications are that he would have) the composition of Congress would not remain constant for 8 years. Either way, even if Trump wins, the republican party is collapsing and will not be able to hold power.

        The idea that perpetual republican control of congress will forever prevent necessary economic initiatives is defeatism pretending to be realism. The idea that one faces adversity by abandoning necessary objectives is mediocrity pretending to be pragmatism. Nominating a candidate with no vision or popular agenda isn’t more “realistic” than nominating a candidate with vision and a popular agenda… it’s simply nominating a candidate with no vision or popular agenda.

        • Submitted by Matt Haas on 06/09/2016 - 05:56 pm.


          Take the republican party as an entity out of the equation. How many Senate seats are unassailable as conservative? I would argue at least 44. This isn’t some pie in the sky figure, this is simple demographics. We liberals have self segregated to such a degree as to leave large swaths of the country untouchable as far as liberals are concerned. Unless you plan to have a constitutional convention to eliminate the Senate, you’re gonna face some stiff opposition. This is what I mean by some groups of Liberals being incapable, or at least unwilling, to accept that no matter how much on the side of truth and right we may be, we still have to play the game as the rules dictate, we still have to do more than just assume everyone will see the truth in our vision and accede to our wishes. We’ve spent too much time reveling in the “foolishness” of our opposition and to little in selling what we have to offer, in terms those not acquainted will understand. Idealistic zealotry isn’t salesmanship, part of my job is sales, often things that my clients would rather not need to pay for. My opening line is NEVER “Don’t you understand how stupid you are for not buying my service?” It’s my one fundamental pet peeve with fellow Liberals, the belief that all that is needed to provoke action is a careful dissertation of facts. The major lapse being that it ignores the fact that humans possess the capability to act irrationally, and that part of the job of persuasion is in mitigating this fact.

  10. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/07/2016 - 08:54 am.

    Tepid liberalism

    “I admire Bernie Sanders. He has long advocated for policies, many of which I agree with, that are outside the acceptable spectrum of mainstream opinion in U.S. politics.”

    I’m starting to refer to assessments like this as “Tepid Liberalism”. Every major liberal initiative from the women’s movement to the environment has stalled and/or rolled backwards over the last 30-40 years because tepid liberalism has decided that being liberal is outside the political mainstream.

    By definition such assessments merely solidify the status quo, and end up portraying the status quo as the best possible outcome no matter how bad or dysfunctional it may be. This is how prosaic minds pretend to be pragmatic, it’s a failure of imagination and logic pretending to be conventional wisdom.

    The truth is that real solutions and progress never emerge from any “mainstream” because the mainstream mentality simply cannot diagnose or remedy the problems it creates and sustains. It doesn’t actually matter whether or not a program or initiative can be located in a “mainstream” if the program or initiative is the only one that can truly resolve a crises.

    Tepid Liberalism is an expression of neo-liberal economic fantasies in that like “Free Markets”, “Mainstreams” are presumed to be self correcting. This is how liberals end up choosing inaction or wildly insufficient action over common sense.

    Mainstreams are illusions, temporary coalitions of opinion subject to perpetual fluidity. It’s almost pure hubris to even assume one knows what the mainstream is. How many people thought the right to marry was outside the mainstream? How many people thought Donald Trump was an “outlier” beyond the mainstream? All anyone is really doing whenever they claim to speak for the “mainstream” is pretending that they’re opinion speaks for everyone. This idea that one “personally” thinks something is a good idea but rejects it because no one else thinks its a good idea is cowardice pretending to be wisdom, risk avoidance pretending to be integrity. If you think somethings a good idea you fight for it and you keep fighting for it, you don’t set it aside because it challenges the status quo. Seriously, how do you think women won the right to vote? Did suffragette’s say: “Sure women voting is a great idea but it’s outside the mainstream so it’s unrealistic”?

    The best ideas can’t “win” in the market place of ideas if they are rejected out of hand on the basis of disingenuous rationalizations like “mainstream” proclamations. When liberals resort to this tepid mentality they end up promoting political, social, and economic misery under the guise of “pragmatism”.

    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 06/07/2016 - 10:16 pm.

      You might be surprised to learn that I agree with much of this

      With one caveat. While it is indeed the proper course to aim for the highest goals, it is foolish to ignore and dismiss very real gains that might be made along the way toward that end. The problem with the accepting nothing less than total success is that you are stuck in place until such time that success is achieved. Women struggled for a long time to to vote, would they have been in the wrong to accept limited gains, say halfway through the struggle, if it made the final goal more easily attainable? Would that have tainted the final outcome? Must every issue be all or nothing? Liberals do not have unassailable power, barring something unforeseen it’s unlikely that we ever will. Is it not a prudent idea, that in the face of this reality we at least apply some measure of wisdom in choosing which battles to fight when, as opposed to full on kamikaze attacks at every major grievance simultaneously, potentially alienating those who might not share our zeal along the way? While it’s true that it’s always better to aim high and miss, it doesn’t work if every miss results in making the target ever further from reach.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/09/2016 - 09:25 am.

        See, this is the problem…

        Women didn’t win the right to vote incrementally by settling for something less until they got the right to vote. They fought for the right to vote until they got it, period.

        You don’t always win but you never win by accepting anything less than victory. Sure, you don’t walk away from partial success, but you never achieve complete success by accepting partial success. This is how people convince themselves that Jim Crow was a step in the right direction.

        This is why you can’t trust liberals, they’ll brag about their baby-steps FOR DECADES and when you say it’s time to walk they’ll tell you it’s unrealistic and foolish. This is timidity pretending to be wise leadership, fear of failure pretending to be pragmatism.

        Sure, there’s nothing wrong with taking stock of accomplishments once and while, but using that a rationale for dialing back or setting aside critical and necessary goals and initiatives is the truly foolish move, that’s how you end up abandoning the pursuit of a “More Perfect Union” in order to celebrate mediocrity; it’s optimism run amok.

        • Submitted by Pat Terry on 06/09/2016 - 04:54 pm.

          History fail

          Actually, you are completely wrong about women winning the right to vote.

          It did happen incrementally, over the course of many, many years. It started with women winning the right to vote in certain types of elections, and later certain states granting suffrage. There were many baby steps taken before the constitutional amendment granting nationwide suffrage was passed in 1920. Advocates for women’s suffrage did accept partial success in lieu of complete success for many years.

          Here is a link I pulled off of Google with some of the key dates in the incremental development of women’s voting rights:

          Even your friend Bernie Sanders is not immune to the incremental approach you decry, which is why, for example, he publicly opposed gay marriage as late as 2006. He recognized that gay marriage was not yet politically feasible, and instead supported civil unions. And he was right to take an incremental approach. He understood that partial success was better than nothing when complete success wasn’t available.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/10/2016 - 09:03 am.

        Timelines and incrementalism

        Timelines can be funny things. One could say the LBGT movement began in Ancient Greece, and Jesus started the ani-slavery movement but that wouldn’t be an endorsement of incrementalism.

        If you look at the history of the women’s suffrage movement you see a trend of steady escalation, not deescalation for the sake of pragmatism. The National Women’s Suffrage Association is consolidated in 1890 with the goal of nationwide suffrage. By 1917 women were picketing the White House and getting arresting and three years later the Anthony Amendment was ratified and women had the right to vote. At no point did suffragettes say: “Well we’ve got the vote in few states, but passing an Constitutional Amendment isn’t realistic”.

        Look, in August of 1920 women went from having the right to vote is 6 states to having the vote in ALL 49 states. It took two years to get the Anthony Amendment passed by both houses and ratified by the states. You can call that an increment if you want, but I’d say it’s a pretty big increment. Few if any historians would say that suffragettes accomplished this by dialing back expectations for the sake of pragmatism.

        Compare this to the “progress” of women’s rights or any other liberal agenda (with the exception of LBGT marriage rights) over the last 40 years of “incrementalism”. In 30 years suffragettes expanded their right to vote from one territory to the entire nation. In the 40 years since Roe. v. Wade. was decided women now face MORE abortion restrictions than they did in 1975. A convicted rapist gets 6 months and probation. Pay equity hasn’t budged. On other fronts lakes and streams in almost half the state can’t be safely fished or swam. Affordable college and housing are more of a pipe dream now than they were in the 80’s. In the last ten years casting a vote has actually gotten MORE difficult for black people and we’ve gone from trying to increase black college attendance to counting how many unarmed black men police shoot and kill and the streets every week. I could go on but as some point it simply becomes a gratuitous indictment of incrementalism.

        Timelines not withstanding I stand by critique.

        • Submitted by Pat Terry on 06/10/2016 - 10:28 am.

          Steady escalations

          Advocates were picketing the White House in 1917 because by that time the issue had reached a critical mass. There weren’t picketing in 1890 because it would not have done any good. Instead, they focused on what they could achieve, which was winning the vote in certain states. Dialing back expectations was exactly what they did. It doesn’t mean that wasn’t their ultimate goal. It just meant that they recognized that change often happens incrementally.

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/10/2016 - 01:53 pm.

            Fanciful narrative

            Successful movements do as much as they can do at any given time. (In fact Suffragettes were marching in Washington DC and elsewhere in the 1890s). Your narrative that suffragettes or any other leaders (such and Gandhi, MKL, etc.) deliberately do less than they could do because they decide less is better, or more realistic is simply false. The drive behind “critical mass” is always a sustained challenge to the boundaries of possibility, not a surrender to the boundaries of possibility. Had suffragettes in the 1890’s succumbed to tepid liberalism they may have never reached critical mass. All we have to is look at the “results” tepid liberalism has delivered in the last 40 years so see how little progress can be made.

            • Submitted by Pat Terry on 06/10/2016 - 04:02 pm.


              “Successful movements do as much as they can do at any given time.”

              I agree completely. In fact, that is how I would define incrementalism. I don’t think Clinton and candidates with less bold positions than Sanders are deciding that less is better. They are doing as much as they can at any given time.

              Go back to the example of Bernie Sanders publicly opposing gay marriage in 2006. Was he doing all he could? Or was he deciding that less was better? Even though I don’t like Sanders much, I give him the benefit of the doubt and believe that he didn’t think that less was better. I think the reason Sanders opposed it in 2006 was that it wasn’t going to happen in 2006 and Sanders didn’t want to hurt himself politically taking a position that wasn’t going to accomplish anything. He did all he could at the time, but it looked like he was deciding that less was better.

              • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/11/2016 - 09:03 am.

                Well that’s the thing…

                “I agree completely. In fact, that is how I would define incrementalism. I don’t think Clinton and candidates with less bold positions than Sanders are deciding that less is better. They are doing as much as they can at any given time.”

                When people with the least amount of passion, imagination, and vision attempt to lead movements they may be doing as much as “they” think can, but it’s always less than can be done. Again, Suffragette’s weren’t sitting around with the vote in 6 States in 1917 trying to add one or two more, they were shooting for the entire nation. I’m sure there were tepid liberals at the time warning them that an amendment was unrealistic and dangerous if it were to fail, and that trying to gain the vote on a state by state strategy was safer and more realistic.

                In any case Clinton and many other liberals are in fact explicitly arguing that less is better. See Matt’s comment below as an example wherein he argues that the ACA is better than Medicare for All (MFA) because it got passed. It’s an incoherent argument because democrats (like Clinton) have always deliberately kept MFA off the table, they wouldn’t even include a public option in the ACA. You can’t say that the fact something that was proposed passed, but something that was never proposed didn’t pass, proves that the proposed option was “better” or more realistic. It’s a circular argument to keep something off the table for decades and then claim it’s never worked because no one ever put it on the table.

                You yourself seem to be implying that decades of stalled and rolled back liberal initiatives is the best we could have done. You could make that argument had democrats tried and failed to do more… but they didn’t… THAT’S my point.

            • Submitted by Matt Haas on 06/10/2016 - 05:08 pm.

              So by your measure, and the benefits of hindsight

              Liberals in Congress should have voted down the ACA, because it wasn’t single payer, meaning those folks would still be without insurance. You can argue the wave election in 2010 doesn’t happen, but I can’t see why not, as there is nothing to suggest that the usual pitiful turnout numbers by Liberals (including those groups whose lead you suggest we follow) would have been in any way changed. Should we have then primaried the sitting executive? How would that have worked out? In essence you argument boils down to it being better to increase the pain, in my example those lacking healthcare coverage, so that you might gain advantage to some undetermined better outcome in the unspecified future. How can you find that an acceptable means to an end?

              • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/11/2016 - 09:23 am.

                Not really

                My logic doesn’t dictate the defeat of ACA. My logic dictates the proposal of MFA (Medicare for All) BEFORE the 2010 election when democrats (were they a liberal party) would have had the votes to pass it and a president to sign it into law. (And yes, that would require a change of rules regarding filibusters, but they could have done that).

                Since the democrats have NEVER proposed MFA it’s facile to argue that something that’s been deliberately kept off the table has never succeeded because it’s never been on the table.

                I mean look, you’d have a point if democrats had spent the last 30 years fighting for MFA, and then ended up getting ACA instead… but that’s not what happened. You might even have a point if democrats spend a single year of 2008 fighting for MFA but ended up with the ACA… but even THAT didn’t happen, they didn’t fight for a public option.

                This is how tepid liberals become the champions of Nixon’s health care system almost 40 years after he imagined it; and claim it’s the best we can/could do. This is mediocrity pretending to be pragmatism and it’s not how things get done, and it’s why so many things have not gotten done. If FDR had been a tepid incrementalist we’d still be arguing about Social Security and Unemployment Benefits.

                • Submitted by Matt Haas on 06/12/2016 - 12:54 am.

                  But then you’re ignoring reality again

                  They didn’t propose it BECAUSE they didn’t have the votes to pass it. You may not like that some Democrats are elected in conservative areas, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are. If you’d like only true blue liberals as representatives of the party then you run into the demographic problems I referenced earlier. You don’t get to have power just because you want it, it must be won. If you’d prefer, I’m sure many of those “blue dog” folks would be more than happy to just vote the conservative line, it would certainly make their reelection prospects simpler, but of course the Liberal agenda would be DOA, for the foreseeable future. As a final aside, if one is attempting to dismiss an argument, at least dismiss the correct one, In never claimed that the ACA would be a better system that single payer, only that it’s better than the nothing that would have resulted from a push for single payer at the time. The number of Democratic Senators may not be in question, the number of them amenable to that vote certainly was. It might irk one to no end, but thems the cards, choose to win with what you have, or fold and assure defeat. When the “progressive” base figures out how to turn their zeal into actual power, then this debate will have meaning, as long as they are content to simply attempt to force a takeover by sabotaging their own ends (and to fail to show up when faced with discouragement), they will be disregarded as meaninglessential, powerless, and useless.

                  • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/12/2016 - 10:33 am.

                    Ignoring reality?

                    This is the problem when tepid liberals pretend to have a monopoly on reality, you get this circular reasoning pretending to be political acumen:

                    “They didn’t propose it BECAUSE they didn’t have the votes to pass it.”

                    So why did democrats propose Clinton’s health care bill in 1993? It obviously didn’t have enough votes to pass. If every bill that was ever introduced had the votes to pass, no bill would ever fail to pass. Nor has every bill that’s ever passed started out with sufficient votes to pass before it was even introduced.

                    The “reality” is some laws pass with little or no discussion and others only pass after beating the odds and weeks if not years of fierce debate. Some laws even fail to pass several times before they finally pass.

                    The idea that tepid liberals KNOW what laws can and cannot pass is hubris pretending to be pragmatism. The reason I use the word: “tepid” is because this entire approach to political and social progress is organized around risk aversion pretending to be omniscience. This explains why so little has gotten done, and so much ground lost and opportunities blown since tepid liberals took over the democratic party in the mid 80s.

                    Tepid liberals told us there was no point in opposing the Voter ID and Marriage Amendments or trying to pass a Marriage Equity law. We told tepid liberals NOT to go to war and they did it anyways because they were too afraid to oppose it. We told tepid liberals they couldn’t trust Bush and Cheney, and then they decided to trust Bush and Cheney. Tepid liberals thought Franken, Dayton, and Obama were too liberal to win elections. You see the problem when such liberals show up time after time with the attitude and assumption that they have a lock on “reality” and the rest of us are dreamers of unicorns and fantasy?

                    American voters have finally come to the correct conclusion that neither party is capable of governing in the best interests of the people. For their part democrats under the leadership of tepid liberals simply manufacture excuses for rejecting the best policies under the guise of pragmatism. We’re told mediocrity is the best can expect. This has left us with chronically inadequate leadership for several decades.

                    The problem isn’t our Constitution, or divided government, etc. etc. All we really need is a surge of honest to god liberalism, it’s happened before, it can happen again. However we’ll NEVER get a surge of liberalism from tepid liberals, on the contrary, they’ll oppose it as they are now.

                    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 06/12/2016 - 05:47 pm.

                      It was proposed and resoundingly defeated.

                      Which set the timetable for Healthcare Reform back another decade, congratulations, what a victory. For someone who speaks about magical thinking, I would tell the doctor to heal thyself as its clear its begun to affect your view of what constitutes winning and losing in politics. You might also consider the effect of the filibuster rules on the debate since that fateful 93 vote. Lastly, I’d ask, if this Liberal powerhouse you speak of is so all encompassing, where has it been all these years? While you were being embarrassed twice by Ronnie Raygun? While milqetoast HW was in office? Surely if we “tepid Liberals” are so inept as to be worthless in the face of the rightward plunge our nation has experienced, these “superheros” of Liberalism should have been able to sweep in and save us by NOW. Then again, that would involve actually doing something beyond protest, and actually showing up even when the agenda doesn’t include each of their required single issue advocacy items.

                    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/13/2016 - 08:30 am.

                      Circular arguments

                      Let’s be clear, circular arguments are a form of fallacy. If one continues to promote a fallacy at some point it actually becomes a expression of dishonesty. If one cannot continue their argument with integrity one should concede the point.

                      The US congress has NEVER voted on, proposed, or attempted to pass a single payer (MFA) initiative, period. No serious attempt to pass MFA has ever been made, therefore no failure to pass it could possibly have set the health care debate back for a day or a week much less a decade. MFA has always been dismissed by republicans and tepid liberals out of hand, no serious discussion of it has ever taken place. Hillary Clinton says she never considered it. MFA was never even seriously examined by American economists until this year when Bernie Sanders put it on the table. You simply cannot refuse to try something and then claim that the thing you never tried… failed. That’s circular reasoning.

                      If you claim on one hand that you never voted on MFA because you didn’t have the votes to pass it, and later claim that you voted on MFA and it failed, you’re contradicting yourself.

                      We’re not talking about an initiative to build a time travel machine. We’re talking about basic system that several other nations have already implemented with great success. We’re talking about the only solution that resolves all three components of our CONTINUING health care crises: 1. Affordability 2. Universal complete coverage. 3. Cost containment. ACA is, has, and will fail on all three counts. There’s nothing magical about MFA, its actually common sense. Expanding Medicare to everyone was actually the plan back in 1966, yet another example of a stalled liberal initiative under the leadership of tepid liberals.

                      Magical thinking is when tepid liberals assume they can predict the outcome of any conceivable debate or policy initiative from MFA to affordable college tuitions; based on revelations derived from their own imaginations. The problem is some people have weaker imaginations than others and only a weak imagination would declare that something that already exists cannot possibly be created.

  11. Submitted by Paul Copeland on 06/07/2016 - 11:18 am.

    Lots of Time to Unify

    After the primary elections on Tuesday, the fight for the Democratic nomination will be unambiguously and mathematically over. That leaves five months for the Democrats to unite behind Hillary Clinton. Even if the Democrats don’t unite until after the July convention (i.e.: Sanders delays to see if Hillary is indicted), that leaves them over three months to the election. Three plus months is an eternity in modern American politics and is more than enough time to unite against a candidate like Donald Trump. After five more months of idiotic and offensive statements by Donald Trump, the possibility of ‘President Donald Trump’ is likely to motivate most Sanders supporters and Democratic leaning voters to vote grudgingly for Clinton.

    • Submitted by Jim Million on 06/10/2016 - 05:11 pm.

      If October polls are close,

      I think many upright voters will be voting against Trump…no leaning needed by then, if what they fear now is what they clearly see then.

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