Thursday, February 4, 2016

Two Competing Visions for the Democratic Party

Last night's town hall of course wasn't a debate exactly but two Q&A sessions. Through it, Bernie and Hillary both laid out their competing visions for the Democratic party and for America.

1. Bernie's vision comes down to one word: revolution. Elect him and we will get single payer, tuition free college, and the end of money in politics-even though he himself has raised a lot of money.

He also again claimed purity for not having a super PAC which is simply false. Part of it, is a kind of confusion about what super PACs do. Some of his supporters have tried to claim that his super PAC isn't really a super PAC based on who runs it.

Which is false-anyone can run a super PAC-not just the rich or Wall St.

"Take National Nurses United, the largest nurses’ union in the U.S. The group endorsed Sanders for president back in August. Its political arm—National Nurses United for Patient Protection—has so far spent more than $550,000 in support of Bernie Sanders, including doling out money for print and digital advertising. The group qualifies as a super PAC, according to the Federal Election Commission. Union organizers, however, reject that name."

“It’s not a super PAC, super PACs are corrupt,” RoseAnn DeMoro, the executive director of National Nurses United, said. “They’re a way for the billionaires to influence the political process and spend unlimited money. This is nurses who want to get our support for Bernie out there. That’s way different than the Koch brothers. This isn’t big money. I think people understand the difference.”

"That denial points to a disconnect between public perception of what a super PAC is and how they operate on the ground. Voters often associate super PACs with billionaires and vast sums of corporate money. But not all are alike. The groups can also raise unlimited amounts of money from individuals and labor unions."

“There’s always more nuance to these things when you get away from strict legal definitions and out into the real world,” said Larry Noble, the general counsel for the Campaign Legal Center and former general counsel for the Federal Election Commission. “If you want to look at a report and simply count up the number of super PACs supporting a candidate, that wouldn’t give you a true picture of what’s actually happening.”

"On Thursday, Sanders won the support of Communications Workers of America, another major labor union. At an event announcing the endorsement, a similar tension was on display. Sanders denounced big money in politics, but CWA president Chris Shelton indicated the union is likely to use its super PAC to support his campaign. “We will respect Bernie’s wishes, but we will use all legal and possible resources to get him elected,” Candice Johnson, a spokesperson for the union said. “We do have a super PAC, but it’s a super PAC of a union of 700,000 working people, not a couple of billionaires. That’s a big difference.”

But the definition of a super PAC holds whether it's a union or any other entity. Johnson's own formulation suggests that maybe super PACs aren't evil in and of themselves.

2. Hillary doesn't promise a revolution but to fight. If Bernie's campaign comes down to one word-revolution-her campaign comes down to one word: fighter. She will be a figher for Dems in Washington.

"Clinton is coming at things from an altogether different vantage point: Think what we could lose. Think about all the tangible, if incremental, things we've achieved and realize that we could lose them. The Affordable Care Act, voting rights, advances for women and the LGBT community. Even if you have a Republican Congress forever, a Democrat in the White House is the great protector of all of that. It is implicit in what she says and sometimes said openly that without a dramatically different Congress none of what Sanders is proposing will even get a hearing in Congress let alone get passed. But the deeper argument - realism and protecting gains - is the essence of the message she's pushing."
The Democratic party has always been about reform not revolution. Now there are times when a revolution can be argued for.

Mostly when you have nothing to lose. But the Dems don't have nothing to lose. They have the accomplishments of the Obama years which have been considerable. And these achievements are under attack.

The Dem focus then has to be on first protecting and consolidating these gains-then building on them. Ezra Klein recently made the point that while Hillary is a fighter, not everyone wants a fight .
Obama ran in 2008 not on fighting but 'Yes we can!' on hope and change. Nevertheless, once he got into the White House it was pretty clear that it was no post partisan world we were living in. While some chafed at her pragmatism, it's clear she wouldn't have been suckerpunched by the GOP as President Obama had in the first few years.

He later learnt-though not until 2011 was it really clear to him-but she would have grasped this on day one.

The fact is that in 2017 we will again have to fight as Democrats. The seas aren't going to part because someone comes in and promises a revolution. I think that is part of why some people don't want a fight.

They have convinced themselves that you can win without fighting. Kind of like the immaculate victory.

But in 2017, there are all kinds of immediate threats. The GOP will want to destroy ACA, they will want to finish destroying Planned Parenthood, Dodd-Frank, and continue the dismantling of voting rights.

To prevent this Dems will need to continue to fight. Any change in 2017 will be incremental with a GOP House.

For me the choice for HRC comes down to this. Dems can't lose this election and have to have the most experience and able candidate to smartly and effectively use executive power.

Bernie's career has not been about getting things done but symbolism. The kind of incremental change and smart executive power needed in 2017 requires not a gadfly but a fighter. 

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