Sunday, December 20, 2015

Prophets and Presidents

Politics has a division of labor. There are prophets and there are Presidents but you can't be both. This is the trouble for Bernie.

In my last post I argued that you can't compare Bernie in late 2015 and Obama in 2007.

Obama of course was a historical candidate that galvanized African-Americans-and also many progressive white Democrats. Joy Reid makes this point in her book. Yes Obama won because he won 80 percent of the black vote but he didn't have this until he won Iowa-ie, it was clear that Obama had white support as well.

That was the difference between Obama and previous high profile African American candidates, most notably the Reverend Jesse Jackson. Jackson did very well in 1988, but he still could never get over the hump.

Why? because he was a prophet not a politician to say nothing of a President. The Reverend Al Sharpton also had swung and missed in his 2004 run. But Sharpton was actually able to adjust better than Jackson or even more so, Cornell West. He got that Obama was a politician not a prophet. When other black activists were laying into President Obama for not having a 'black agenda', Sharpton defended him as being the President, not a civil rights leader.

This is Bernie's problem. Unlike Obama, he's an angry prophet. Obama wasn't angry. This anger works with the white, liberal base, but less so with the overall Democratic party and surely not at all in the general election.

"In his opening remarks at the Democratic presidential debate on Saturday, Senator Bernie Sanders railed against “establishment politics and establishment economics” and then the nation’s “rigged economy.” He moved on to the “corrupt” campaign finance system, then the “planetary crisis of climate change.” Only after that did he say he wanted to destroy the Islamic State."

"It was a litany of priorities that made good sense when Mr. Sanders announced his presidential bid in April. But after the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., he made fighting terrorism sound like an afterthought."

I noticed the same thing last night.

That's Bernie, always relentlessly on message. But at debates you're supposed to react and not just cite a stump speech.

"These are challenging times for Mr. Sanders as the chief opponent toHillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. His progressive political message, so popular with liberals for much of 2015, now seems lost in a fog of fear. Americans are more anxious about terrorism than income inequality. They want the government to target the Islamic State more than Wall Street executives and health insurers. All of this plays to Mrs. Clinton’s strengths — not only as a hawkish former secretary of state but also as a savvy politician who follows the public mood. After months of pivoting to the left on domestic issues to compete with Mr. Sanders for her party’s base, she is now talking about security and safety far more than Mr. Sanders — and solidifying her lead in opinion polls."

That of course is a sixth sense of both Hillary and her husband. They have often been criticized for just following the polls, but the other side of it, that is democratic politics. At least they know where the country is.

“Hillary is now in the driver’s seat in a way she has never been before,” said Arnie Arnesen, a New Hampshire liberal and talk radio host who admires Mr. Sanders but is uncommitted in the race. “It’s Bernie’s turn to pivot.”

“I don’t know if he can,” she added, “or whether his base will approve. They love him for the man he is, not the leader he needs to become.”

"Most candidates evolve: Barack Obama and George W. Bush became better at communicating and campaigning during their first presidential races, and their agendas developed overarching themes. Mr. Sanders, by contrast, was repeating old talking points on Saturday night — like breaking up big banks and increasing taxes on the rich — without convincingly saying how he would achieve those goals or presenting them in powerful new language. As the debate demonstrated, he has yet to grow from a movement messiah into a national candidate whom many people can imagine as president."

A messiah not a national candidate much less a President. In other words, he's Jesse Jackson not Barrack Obama.

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