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Sunday, May 22, 2016

What Bernie Wants

Bernie Sanders says he wants to win the nomination. He says he can win.  The question is, how?

Bernie Sanders says he wants to win as many pledged delegates as possible in the remaining states. He says he can win enough to go to the national convention with a majority, though this is very close to impossible, and gets even closer to impossible every day.

Bernie also says that with or without a majority, he will win by convincing hundreds of superdelegates who are backing Clinton to switch to his side. Again, the question is, how?

Bernie knows he cannot win the support he needs by arguing policy. He knows he cannot win by repeating his stump speech and accusing the Democratic Party in general, and Hillary Clinton in particular, of being untrustworthy and corrupt. His rhetoric has taken him far, but he knows it's not enough to win him the nomination.

The only way he can hope to win is if he can convince the establishment that he is the only person who can carry the Democratic Party to victory in November.  That's it.  Bernie must convince the overwhelming majority of superdelegates nationwide that he alone can beat Trump. He must convince them that the only way to save the establishment is to put Bernie, the anti-establishment candidate, in charge.

That is what Bernie wants. To achieve that goal, Bernie is promoting two main claims.

First, he claims that he has more support than Clinton.  Since he has won several million votes fewer than Clinton, and since he has won fewer swing states, it is unlikely that this claim will ring true for enough people to make a difference. However, he continues to sell the idea that his supporters are being silenced by the Democratic Party. His supporters would have us believe that Clinton is not winning fair and square. The system is rigged, he says. And while millions of his supporters might agree, that is not going to convince hundreds of Hillary's superdelegates. As a result, this claim is obviously not enough.

Second, he claims that an enormous portion of his supporters will not vote for Clinton in November. Bernie wants to strike fear in the heart of the superdelegates, fear that millions of Americans will revolt if Clinton wins the nomination, and that they would rather vote against Clinton than for her. He creates this fear by suggesting, for example, that the outrageous behavior exhibited by some of his supporters in (and in the wake of) the recent Nevada Convention is the natural result of the Democratic Party's corruption. We are supposed to believe that the Democratic Party conspired to award Hillary Clinton one whole delegate more than Bernie in Nevada, as if they felt her lead in the delegate count were hanging by a thread. We are supposed to believe that the Party's behavior and policies breed chaos, and that it will show up at the national convention if they don't give Bernie what he wants. Bernie creates fear by threatening to mobilize his delegates to create a fight in July. He creates fear by placing demands on the Democratic Party, as if his voters were his leverage to wield as he saw fit.

For this threat to work, the superdelegates would have to believe that the overwhelming majority of Bernie's supporters are so anti-Hillary Clinton that they would rather vote against her than vote for her. They would have to believe that the Democratic Party is politically bankrupt.  They would have to believe that Bernie's supporters, by and large, prefer Trump over Hillary.

Do superdelegates want to give in to demands from a person whose supporters actually think Trump is a better candidate than Clinton?  Why would the Democratic Party want to cater to voters like that?  Is Bernie actually saying that the Democratic Party would be better off if it were more like Trump, and less like Clinton? Because that is the logical result of the argument.  If you tell the Democratic Party that you represent people who prefer Trump to Clinton, and you want the Party to cater more towards those people, then you are literally saying that you want the party to be more like Trump.  That is, possibly literally, insane.

Bernie is not banking on rational thinking.  He's banking on fear. He wants to sell himself as the Democratic Party's savior, but you can't have a savior if you don't have a crisis, and you can't have a crisis without desperation. Bernie's hope is that, if the superdelegates panic, they will give him whatever he wants. He is trying to create an atmosphere of crisis and chaos. What Bernie wants is fear.

It is vital to this strategy that Bernie does not make Hillary Clinton the primary target of his campaign. He's not trying to defeat Clinton anymore, because he's figured out that he can't.  He's trying to defeat the Democratic Party. This was probably always his plan. He knew from the start that he would have a hard time getting more support than Hillary, so he's been positioning himself against the establishment from the start. He has thus been targeting Debbie Wasserman Schulz for months, and now more than ever.  She stands for all the corruption and evil that, Bernie says, is standing between him and the nomination.  She is the bogeyman.

Since January, there have been several petitions calling for Debbie Wasserman Schulz to step down. The calls are getting louder, evidence by Bill Moyers popular piece falsely denouncing DWS as a Clinton surrogate, among other misrepresentations. One popular misrepresentation is that she told CNN's Jake Tapper that superdelegates exist to protect the establishment from grassroots activists. Here's the video, in case you forgot:

She was explaining why party officials are unpledged delegates, as opposed to pledged delegates:  If they were pledged, then they would be bound to vote for whichever candidate they had supported from the start.  Since they are unpledged, they are able to change their mind. They are able to listen to and work with grassroots activists, and not be bound to vote against them because of decisions made early on in the primary season.  She was very clear that she wants the Democratic Party to be open to grassroots activism, and that she didn't want party officials and leaders to be forced to fight against them. Yet, Moyers twists her words to make it sound like she is saying the opposite.

She has also been vilified for suspending Bernie's access to the Democratic Voter Database, after his campaign was caught illegally accessing the Clinton campaign's data--as if no strong measures were needed to ensure that Bernie's campaign was acting appropriately.

Now the calls to oust DWS are echoing again because she has called out Bernie's weak reaction to what happened in Nevada. She was speaking for the majority of Democrats, who strongly feel that his response to Nevada was inadequate. There are no leaders in the Democratic Party who are against her on this. They're all against Bernie.

If Debbie Wasserman Schulz were to step down or if the Democratic leadership decided to give in to the pressure Bernie is trying to put on them, it would send a message. It would say that Bernie was right: The Party had not acted fairly or responsibly. Bernie had not had a fair shot at winning this nomination. The system was corrupt, and Bernie deserved more respect than he'd received. It would also say that the Party was scared of Bernie and would do whatever he wanted in order to make him happy.

Bernie's supporters are in favor of that.  I am not. The way Bernie's been campaigning, I think he gets way more respect than he deserves. If anybody needs to be taken to task for corrupt and irresponsible behavior, it is him and his campaign staff, not Debbie Wasserman Schulz.

Bernie says he's not into regime change, but he wants to cut off the head of the Democratic Party and replace it with a figure of his choosing.  He is aiming for a coup, plain and simple.

Unfortunately for Bernie, it's not going to work.  The Democratic Party is not in crisis mode. There are those who want you to believe that Clinton is a weak candidate, but it just ain't so. The weakest candidate in the race is Bernie Sanders. You only need to look at his campaign strategy to see why.