A Socialist Case for Biden: What Jacobin and the NY Times both don’t get
I first shared the below piece on Facebook. Despite wanting to improve many things in it, I also wanted to get it out before the Iowa caucus. The response of the people in and around the Bernie campaign to that caucus confirms for me some of what I touched on below—and makes me want to keep developing this work. Hence, this newsletter.
At the same time—but not unrelated—pro-Assad forces in Syria are escalating their genocidal-scale assault in Idlib. The borders are all closed now, there’s nowhere else to forcibly displace people to within Syria, the situation is dire. Follow the situation and get involved via the Save Idlib campaign. In the US, contact your representative. I hope to write more about this—and how it’s connected to what I write about below.
Thanks for reading—and please reach out with thoughts and critiques. One of the reasons I’m trying out an email newsletter is to see if there can be more constructive conversation outside the hothouse of social media.
A Socialist Case for Biden: What Jacobin and the NY Times both don’t get
I’ve been a leftist for twenty years and I’m committing to help Biden win the primary. The vision of a just, democratic and socialist world guides me, and I’ve followed it and the data to that conclusion.
This election is a referendum on authoritarianism. And critically, looking at the second terms of other authoritarian rulers recently (for example) shows that the second terms can be significantly worse—and Trump, if re-elected, will be taking office on the back of an acquittal by the Senate, which even more means anything goes. Neither the NY Times nor Jacobin (or similar left-y publications) seem to care about that or take it into consideration.
And that’s the first point in Biden’s favor. That is the focus of his campaign, while Bernie’s running the same campaign from 2016—or really the same campaign he’s always been running. One which also leads him to downplay problems such as the rise of Trumpism, racism, and other forms of oppression, pivoting immediately to economic inequality every time. This is the same approach that led him to say of “segregation forever” George Wallace: “at least he is sensitive to what people feel they need.” (For those that think this is out-of-context, more on that later.)
Both Jacobin-types and the NY Times mistakenly think Biden sees Trump as an “aberration” or that’s he’s campaign about “merely restoring the status quo” (quoting the NYT endorsement). On the contrary, Biden, in his speech at the National Baptist Convention, said:
“It’s literally a constant battle for the soul of this nation. It’s been a constant push and pull for more than 240 years between the American ideal that we’re all created equal and the harsh reality of racism [that has] long torn us apart. The honest truth is that both elements are part of the American character. … It’s always a fight.” (video)
So he’s addressing here that this is something that’s part of the country’s history and has to be continually fought. It’d be more accurate to say Sanders sees Trump as an aberration, given that in his NYT interview he attributed Trump to disillusionment with the establishment and to low wages and continually implies that if economic inequality were fixed, that would be enough.
Biden went on talk about how to “take the next step forward…to give the marginalized, the demonized, the isolated, the oppressed a full share of the American dream….to root out systematic racism.” (video) This is not a message about restoring the status quo, but about defeating Trump so that we are able to take a step forward.
Besides misunderstanding Biden, the NY Times and Jacobin also share a light-minded approach to the question of who can win the election. In their endorsement the NYT shrugged their shoulders on this question. Jacobin has run several articles attempting an argument as to why Sanders—and in their view only Sanders—can win the general, but none of them stand up to the slightest scrutiny.
While I want to be clear that this is not an argument to hold your nose and vote for Biden because he is electable, the best information I’ve been able to find strongly suggests he is the best candidate to beat Trump.
First, it is essential to remember that the Electoral College decides the contest. Sharing a poll that shows Bernie somewhat ahead of Biden in the national polls (leaving aside the fact most of them show Biden ahead) means nothing really—Hillary won the popular vote. Jacobin ran an article that engaged this point, but did so by cherrypicking data.
They write: “Targeted polling of Obama-Trump voters shows Sanders and Joe Biden with a significant edge over Elizabeth Warren in Michigan and Wisconsin; while Biden still seems strongest in Pennsylvania, the differences are small.”
The difference they characterize as “significant” over Warren is about 10 points, but when Biden is 15 points ahead of Sanders in PA, it’s “small” suddenly—in the same sentence! Worse, the article links to a poll that—when it looks at likely voters in six potentially key swing states—finds Sanders winning in only one of them, but Biden winning five of them. That seems “significant”—or essential really, but they don’t talk about that. If one is concerned with making the best possible case and acting responsibly at a time of a grave political crisis, then one would engage such information.
Then they write: “the real kicker is that in the 206 counties that went for Obama in 2008 and 2012 and then Trump in 2016, Sanders has out-fundraised all of his competitors — by a long shot.”
That’s not “the real kicker,” given there is no reason to think fundraising in those counties for a primary relates to winning them in a general election in any meaningful way. Particularly given that there just was an election in 2018 and Sanders-aligned candidates won zero elections (outside some safe blue seats), whereas so-called “establishment” candidates flipped several seats in those pivot counties, winning over half of those counties back (link). I feel embarrassed discussing such a shoddy article, but it’s from what’s probably the most read leftist publication in English.
More on the 2018 elections later. While we’re talking about the Electoral College, consider this article which points out that ”based on the current RealClearPolitics average of state-by-state polling, Biden is the only candidate among the Democratic frontrunners – including Sanders – who is leading Trump in enough states to win the Electoral College” and that “as of Dec. 31, Biden stands at 322 electoral votes compared to Trump’s 166, with 50 electoral votes falling into the toss-up category.“
Of course now some are saying to themselves how we can’t trust the polls. The NYT endorsement shamefully just shrugged its shoulders on that point. The idea that 2016 showed polls don’t mean anything is profoundly mistaken—and hypocritical on the part of those that’ll share them when they do favor their chosen candidate. However, it is true that polls aren’t set in stone. How might they change? (And I’ll note again on the anti-poll point, that qualitatively speaking, what the election is about is a referendum on Trumpism—and Biden is the one making his campaign about that.)
Many leftists look at Biden and see a weak candidate. They watch the debates and just know his numbers will drop. I know, because that’s how I looked at him at first. At the same time, Trump, the GOP and Russian state disinformation operations have been hitting Biden with whatever they can find. A Florida senator who isn’t up for reelection anytime soon is running ads in Iowa to attack him. Trump is getting impeached because he committed crimes to try to undermine Biden’s candidacy. (Some leftists view impeachment as the elite protecting one of their own when it’s actually about protecting the integrity of the election.) He was VP when the Republicans wanted to hit the Obama administration with everything they had. And yet Biden’s poll numbers are still strong.
What’ll change if he becomes the nominee? The attacks are already coming full bore, but on the positive side, Obama, the most popular politician in the country, can get out and campaign for him with a synergy he probably wouldn’t have with another candidate—and which might not even be welcomed by Sanders.
On the other hand, no one has attacked Sanders all-out yet. Hillary ran light against him, trying to hold together his voting bloc for the general (a responsible concern that his campaign did not evince then and still—even after the rolling crisis that is Trump’s rule, does not evince today). In today’s primary, partly because many of the candidates mistook Twitter for reality and catered to parts of Bernie’s base, and most importantly because most of them to their credit are treating the need for unity against Trump as essential (the starkest exception is fascist-aligned Tulsi Gabbard—whom Bernie helped promote into the national spotlight and was appointed to the Sanders Institute and whom he has yet to distance himself from), no one is launching a wholesale assault on Bernie. Further, both Trump and the Russian state’s campaign promoted Bernie in 2016—and still are. Recently, Trump has started to attack Bernie—precisely because such attacks will help Sanders in the primary: “President Trump’s advisers see Senator Bernie Sanders as their ideal Democratic opponent in November” (NY Times, see also). Some are touting the leaked audio to say Trump “really” thinks Sanders would be a difficult opponent. What he actually says is that Sanders would’ve been the most difficult VP choice for Clinton because Trump won “20%” of Bernie’s voters. I suggest Sanders supporters might think twice about trying to make use of that quote, given its premise is how many Bernie voters switched to Trump.
So Biden’s numbers are where they are now, despite the right hitting him with everything and Sanders’s campaign hitting him with some low blows too. Sanders’s numbers are more of a ceiling than a floor, given that if he became the nominee the gloves from the right would come off and he has many weaknesses (additionally in general, left populism loses to right populism—more on the specific example of Corbyn later).
The 2018 election
The idea that Bernie would’ve won in 2016 and would win in 2020 takes a hard hit when we look at 2018. The leftist idea that the Democrats lost in 2016 because they picked a so-called establishment figure over the progressive led many to predict 2018 would be a wipeout because most of the candidates were not Sanders-aligned candidates.
The Democrats flipped 41 seats in 2018—and astoundingly for a midterm got almost as many votes as Trump got in 2016. Importantly, 21 of those flipped seats are in potential swing states.
How many seats did Sanders-aligned candidates flip? Zero.
As noted before, of those counties that voted for Obama and then switched to Trump, most were won back—but none were won back by Sanders-aligned candidates, who did run in some of them. Most of the candidates who flipped those swing-state seats were endorsed by Biden, none were endorsed by Sanders and now—because they’re looking at how to defeat Trump in 2020 from on-the-ground in those districts, many of those victors are endorsing Biden (see).
To look more closely at the 2018 election in potential swing states in 2020:
One candidate in a potential swing state (Colorado) that Sanders endorsed won—in the relatively safe, already blue 2nd district. Candidates he endorsed in Florida (also endorsed by Our Revolution (OR) and Justice Democrats (JD)), Iowa (also OR and JD), Penn. (JD and OR) and Wisconsin (one in each sate) all lost in the general. In Iowa’s third, the primary candidate he endorsed (along with JD & OR) lost to Cindy Axne, who went on to flip the district and has now endorsed Biden. Cindy got 20,000 more votes than the 2016 candidate. Sander’s Iowa candidate got a little more than 4,000 votes over the 2016 total. His endorsed candidate in PA got 76 more votes than the Democrat in 2016 (yes, 76). Randy Bryce (endorsed by Sanders, JD—and Biden) in Wisconsin got 30,000 more votes than the 2016 election.
The Justice Democrats endorsed two candidates in Arizona—one went on to win a safe seat, the other lost in the primary to Ann Kirkpatrick, who went on to flip the seat, increasing the votes by 25,000, whereas the Justice Democrat in the safe seat (who was an incumbent) got 32,000 fewer votes. Now, one should note in 2016 the seat was uncontested, but a key premise of the Sanders argument is that his approach can win independents and Republicans and new voters that others cannot. In FL’s 27th, their endorsed candidate lost in the primary to Donna Shalala, who went on to flip the seat with Biden’s endorsement. Their candidate in GA failed to flip the 1st, whereas Democrats where able to flip the 6th—in a district that had been rated “safe” for Republicans in 2016 and had a bigger absolute and relative vote deficit in 2014 than the 1st had.
In Michigan’s 11th, JD’s candidate (also endorsed by Brand New Congress (BNC)) lost to Biden-backed Haley Stevens who went on to flip the seat, increasing turnout by nearly 30,000 votes. They had two MI candidates in the general, and neither won.
In the crucial Nebraska's 2nd Congressional District, the JD-endorsed candidate saw a decline in 16,000 votes from 2016.
In PA, which was one of the three states to give Trump the Electoral College, Dems flipped four House seats—none were from JD-backed candidates. JD had one candidate in the general—the candidate Sanders backed in the 11th that gained 76 votes from 2016. Their candidate lost in the 7th’s primary to Biden-backed Susan Wild, who flipped the seat.
While Democrats were only able to win one House seat in Texas, it was not one of JD’s 4 candidates (three of whom BNC also endorsed) in the general there that did that.
While the Democrats flipped three seats in Virginia, the two OR backed candidates did not succeed in winning their general elections and neither significantly impacted turnout.
I haven’t finished doing the raw vote totals comparisons between 2016 and 2018 (and then one would want to control for various variables) but it’s striking that in an election that saw a vast increase in the number of Democratic votes, the only Sanders-endorsed candidate to drive up vote totals like other candidates was Randy Bryce, whom Biden also endorsed [*This last sentence is wrong: I conflated the fact that the Sanders-aligned candidates did not do turnout better than other candidates, which is what their expand the electorate argument claims, with the claim they did not do as well as them. They did not do as well as some of them, but did better than others. But they did not do as well as their strategy claims they did and they did not flip any seat.]. The key argument of the Sanders wing is that they can reach voters the so-called establishment can’t. Well, why didn’t they in 2018? They lost in primaries to candidates that went on to win the general, and when they won a primary, they lost the general. This doesn’t prove the cause of their loss is their alignment with Sanders, but it does contest the idea that the Sanders approach can win over new voting blocs to swing the Electoral College.
The Corbyn disaster
What made me take another look at a lot of this was Corbyn’s absolute wipeout in the last election. Before that loss—in which he lost seats Labour had held for decades (and the same kind of rustbelt seats Sanders can supposedly win)—his example was one Sanders supporters pointed to to draw inspiration from and to suggest what Sanders could do here. Now that he’s lost, it’s suddenly “irrelevant.”
The loss wasn’t because of his economic populist program, similar to—but to the left of—what Sanders’s essential offer is. It wasn’t because of it, but it was in spite of it, because of the two issues of Corbyn himself and of Brexit.
Starting with the latter point, Labour thought it could offer a magnificent economic program and ignore the elephant in the room: Brexit. Sanders doesn’t ignore our elephant in the room—Trump—in the exact same way, but in everything I’ve seen from him he says defeating Trump is important and then immediately pivots to his one note: economic inequality. As I said in the opening, he’s running the same campaign now he ran in 2016—or really, the same he’s been running his whole life. But it’s not just that he’s hitting the same note and ignoring the elephant in the room, it’s that his very approach seeks to find excuses for white racism, like when he wrote that "Wallace has got to be given credit for having...the insight to raise the issues which touch the core of many people's lives" (document). This will undercut his ability to compete with Trump.
Secondly, Sanders’s campaign displays some of the same limitations of Corbyn’s: an inward looking doctrinaire leftism that can rally a choir of thousands to ecstatic heights and then resoundingly loose an election of millions. Similarly, they share a tendency to see any disagreement as an existential betrayal that then justifies harassment. This led to concerted racist and sexist harassment by Bernie supporters when the Working Families Party endorsed Warren, resulting in this letter about that harassment from Black leaders (link). And we’re seeing that sexist harassment with Bernie supporters tweeting snake emojis at Warren and demanding “Never Warren.” (This came after the Bernie campaign released an anti-Warren script to volunteers: link.) On their own, these are all reasons to be deeply suspicious of supporting his candidacy, but they also parallel the Corbyn campaign’s detachment from the reality of its electorate. If Bernie supporters cannot even work with his closest ally Warren, why should anyone expect them to build a strong coalition for the general election?
The NY Times ran an article on this and contrary to the continual claims of bias against Sanders, their theme was noting a disproportionate amount of harassment from his supporters while noting that he condemns the bullying. However, they could’ve and should’ve rightly noted that this supposed distinction between the campaign and supporters is belied by many of his hires, especially that of David Sirota (on Sirota, see also on other instances of harassment as compared to supporters of other campaigns.)
The official Bernie campaign just this month sent a Trumpian out-of-context video of Biden around, falsely claiming he supported Republicans in cutting Social Security (link).
Further, his campaign must bear some responsibility for the loss of 2016, but he hasn’t taken responsibility for those failures, and is displaying those same features now. What do I mean?
He refused to stop campaigning in the primary even once it became impossible for him to win. While Hillary’s campaign tried to pivot to dealing with the new and unique threat of Trump, it was hampered in this by the continued primary campaign: “Eager to begin the general election, she began speaking against Trump after the March 15 primaries…but she quickly dialed back the effort when Sanders made clear he wasn’t going anywhere by kicking off a winning streak the next week” (link; the headline of this article is irresponsible and misleading in that it is not substantiated by the evidence it offers and is flat-out contradicted by its own evidence in parts, but it is a useful compilation of these events nonetheless). When asked this time around if he’d do keep campaigning again, instead of saying, “I had my reasons last time for staying in, including thinking it would help defeat Trump. I see now that wasn’t the case,” he complained about being asked! (link)
Second, there was the disruptive behavior of his delegates at the DNC, which is reason enough to want the fewest such delegates at this year’s convention. (More on some of those specifics later, such as the “rigging” charge.)
Third—and most critically, there are the Bernie or bust and Jill Stein supporting types. While Sanders has not engaged in that himself, he has hired some of them for top positions in his campaign and does not disavow the support of such groups.
All of this points to some of the similar weaknesses that destroyed Corbyn’s campaign existing in Sanders’s.
The danger of populism
Why did Corbyn lose? The true believers still say that he didn’t really—it was a “conspiracy” by the media and powerful, dark, sinister forces, so we—thank goodness—don’t have to rethink anything. Leaving aside the Corbyn-Sanders claim that their approach—and only their approach—can win, I want to focus on the tendency to attribute loss to the “establishment,” the “media” or—well, we’ll get to that in a moment.
It is one thing to have a progressive, leftist, socialist critique—and another to delegitimize, well, everything. What’s the difference? I’ve seen it especially around the Syrian revolution, where if I share an article from the NY Times a leftist might just refuse to read it or engage with it. That’s not critique in the sense of reading while being aware of bias, etc.—it’s something completely different and very dangerous. It means a movement will continually get more isolated, stuck in spiral of confirmation biases, unable to respond to disagreement and—because there needs to be some point of reference—become a cult of personality.
This is what the Fox News-Trump information bubble is—and it’s what the Sanders-Twitter bubble is becoming. So you get these myths, like that “the DNC rigged 2016 and we have to watch out for 2020.” When you ask for evidence, you can never actually get any—none that stands up to scrutiny at least. And Nina Turner, a campaign co-chair, just said—apparently referring to this myth—that “if the DNC believes it is going to get away in 2020 with what it did in 2016 it has another thing coming” (link). Sanders himself said in 2019 that “Some people say that if maybe that system was not rigged against me, I would have won the nomination and defeated Donald Trump” (source).
There’s a recent book on this issue by Nancy L. Rosenblum and Russell Muirhead called A Lot of People Are Saying: The New Conspiracism and the Assault on Democracy. In it they particularly warn about “claims that strike at the heart of regular democratic politics” such as charging there are “rigged elections.” They argue that political representatives are the “first line of defense” and give the example of a Republican senator who backed off a conspiracist claim in the face of counter-evidence but then immediately added: “it’s a real possibility.” The authors correctly point out: “This falls short of disavowal…. And the conspiracist purpose has been achieved. Doubts are planted….”
To take another example, let’s look at that Jacobin article again. They write: “The truth is that Democrats genuinely like Bernie: he has the highest favorability rating in the primary field…. Yet among the Democrats most concerned with beating Trump, Sanders currently trails.” Why the difference between favorability and electability? They say that “A hostile party establishment and an unfriendly media appear to have convinced many voters….”
Wait, how does that make sense? If the evil dark forces are manipulating people, why would they be manipulating them to favor Sanders on the one hand but think he can’t win on the other? (Answer: the authors are just making stuff up to confirm their biases.) But leaving aside how nonsensical the claim is, note how easy and simple it was for them to turn to the image of a “hostile..establishment and…unfriendly media” for relief from data that challenged their beliefs.
Again, this generic delegitimization of the media as-such is dangerous. It’s dangerous and irresponsible and yes, Trumpian, when Sanders says “We have pointed out over and over again that Amazon made $10 billion in profits last year. You know how much they paid in taxes? You got it, zero! Any wonder why the Washington Post is not one of my great supporters…?” and then the next day says: “And then I wonder why the Washington Post, which is owned by Jeff Bezos, who owns Amazon, doesn’t write particularly good articles about me. I don’t know why.”
I guess he doesn’t actually know why given that Bezos does not control the editorial line of the Post. I’ve been wary of making too simplistic Trump-Bernie parallels but this one is too exact, given Trump keeps trying to punish Bezos’s business interests because of the Post’s coverage. The simplistic equation of ownership of the media to media bias is conspiracist and dangerous. Again, I’m not saying a specific and substantiated critique of particular media outlets is conspiracist—I always read with a critical eye. But this charging of the Post being biased because he criticized Amazon on taxes is an example of conspiracism.
There’s something else conspiracism always does that I alluded to earlier, and that’s empower anti-Semitism. (I’m guessing some reading this will look for an easy-out so they don’t have to challenge their ideology and take that out-of-context to claim I’m saying Sanders himself is anti-Semitic. I’m not saying that and didn’t say that. The point isn’t that Sanders or anyone on his campaign is anti-Semitic, but that spreading a conspiracist approach will end up empowering it.) We did see that with Corbyn’s campaign however. Of course, his supporters deny that—and claim that the charge itself is proof of a conspiracy. I’ll point to two resources on this for those that want to read further:
The danger of no-win politics and the myth of Biden being a centrist
In 1964, Bayard Rustin wrote an article called “From Protest to Politics” in which he argued that part of the civil rights movement had adopted what he labelled a “no-win” policy that designated liberals as their “main enemy” rather than extremist Republicans who would roll back civil rights and other gains. He noted this was partly rooted in substituting militancy—“a matter of posture and volume”—for strategy.
The vociferous split of Bernie’s base with Warren shows just how much posturing is determining things rather than strategy.
The idea that Biden is (or that Hillary was in 2016) a centrist or moderate is part of this no-win ideological approach. Rustin wrote: “We need to choose our allies on the basis of common political objectives. It has become fashionable in some no-win Negro circles to decry the white liberal as the main enemy (his hypocrisy is what sustains racism); by virtue of this reverse recitation of the reactionary's litany (liberalism leads to socialism, which leads to Communism) the Negro is left in majestic isolation, except for a tiny band of fervent white initiates.” To define Biden as a moderate is to insist on a left that exists in “majestic isolation.”
It is also to insist on not winning, since, as Rustin notes, numbers are needed to win and more, in this particular case, Biden’s policies could feasibly get through Congress, whereas Sanders’s will not.
On healthcare, Biden’s public option could at least plausibly pass Congress and be signed into law, whereas Bernie’s Medicare for All will not. For that reason alone, that makes Biden’s approach to healthcare more progressive: if one wants to improve the lives of people that is. Even leaving aside the Congressional calculus, there’s the problem of Bernie’s approach setting the ceiling for healthcare benefits, a particular problem for union members who have bargained for better coverage and one Randi Weingarten, national president of the American Federation of Teachers, pointed out (Bernie has a website page that purports to address the relationship of union health insurance to M4A—it’s easy to write a list of things one wants, harder to demonstrate there’s a legal and enforceable way to make it happen, and yet harder to still to demonstrate a viable path through Congress). Weingarten argues strongly against pitting the different paths to universal coverage against each other and we would do well to listen to her.
On climate, nuclear power is an absolutely necessary ingredient. While subject to various fears and distortions, France’s fast roll-out in the ’70’s—and its safe and effective record since of drawing 75% of its power from nuclear—proves it can be done, whereas Germany has started shutting down its nuclear plants and so is burning more coal. Bernie and Warren are not only against expanding nuclear power, but are also for dismantling existing plants. Biden could be stronger on the nuclear power issue, but he doesn’t have an ideologically driven position that conflicts with reality and inhibits making meaningful and realistic progressive on fossil fuels.
To return to Rustin’s argument, he wrote that “From this [sense of how difficult change will be] they conclude that the only viable strategy is shock; above all, the hypocrisy of white liberals must be exposed.” We see that in the Sanders-wing’s approach. As Jon-Erik G. Storm wrote of a particular Sanders supporter Jeet Heer, “Heer doesn’t want to win. He wants to beat them [the ‘centrists’].” This explains how they can be so fervent that their way and their way alone can win elections in the face of all contrary evidence, because the true enemy is really “liberalism”--not the reactionary right.
In other words, “Bernie or bust” is normally spoken of as a promise—only “we” can win. But it actually functions as a threat: “Bend the knee to us or we will destroy you.” As Storm also wrote: “What I suspect isn’t that Heer thinks that a Grand Coalition [of the center and left] would strengthen Trumpism or demoralize Democrats, but that it would weaken leftists and their current grip on the Democratic party and make it less likely that the kind of policies he advocates for will come to pass.”
My point isn’t that I agree with Biden on policy in general. For instance, I disagree with Obama’s approach to Syria, which abandoned the revolution and appeased the forces carrying out the first genocide of the 21st century. Biden looks set to continue that approach. I disagree with that, an issue I see of supreme importance—ethically and strategically for its ramifications for global politics. And I do worry Biden’s tendencies there and on related global issues such as Iran will weaken his chances in the general election—but it’s not as if the rest of the field is better (though Buttigieg to his credit tweeted: “America's leaders can no longer watch in silence as Assad and Russia attack innocent Idlib civilians. Inaction is a stain on our collective conscience. The international community must use all available tools at its disposal to stop this massacre and provide humanitarian aid.”). And Sanders is far worse, epitomized by his aforementioned relationship with fascist-aligned Gabbard.
So my emphasis isn’t so much that I agree with Biden on policy, as that the Sanders approach to areas of disagreement is destructive and self-defeating (no-win). Barney Frank put it well when he said:
“It’s a matter of how you go about things. It is their [Sanders-aligned] view that the only reason that their platform isn’t being adopted is the political timidity, maybe the malign influence of money. The notion that there is significant political opposition among many people, including maybe a majority on some issues, they disregard that and denounce other Democrats, saying they don’t have the courage. It’s not the courage. We don’t have the votes sometimes."
Many want to blame Trump on the limitations of Obama and the Democrats. But take the key issue of infrastructure—a big infrastructure push could’ve made a difference in the rustbelt and might’ve affected the 2016 election. But as Frank says, it wasn’t a limitation of courage—they didn’t have the votes to get past McConnell. So we don’t need to yell populist conspiracist stuff about “the malign influence of money” but we do need to work harder on getting those votes. The Tea Party did that work and successfully shifted things to the right. The Resistance to Trump did tremendous work in the midterms and shifted a lot back--and we can do that further with constructive and strategic, rather than conspiracist, progressive organizing.
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