Wednesday, February 12, 2020

New Hampshire. Plus: "Beefsteak" Bernie Bros

Although Sanders nosed out a victory in New Hampshire, the results should cheer the hearts of Berniephobes like me. This is a state which he won handily in 2016 -- a state which ought to be friendlier to him than any other, aside from Vermont. If memory serves, he got 60 percent of the vote four years ago -- yet in 2020, he barely eked out a win.

Here are the numbers as of this writing -- numbers which will no doubt shift by morning, though not by that much.
With 82% of expected vote reporting, as of 10:46 p.m. ET, Bernie Sanders is currently leading with 26%, followed by former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, with 24% and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, with 20%.
MSNBC had Biden at 9 percent, which is pretty disheartening. Joe's not my favorite candidate, but I don't want him to lose this way. That is to say: I don't want him to lose because Trump's smears proved effective.

Let's focus on Bernie vs. All Others. The current numbers tell us that, this time around, the candidates considered moderate (Amy, Pete, Joe) received roughly 60 percent of the vote. This isn't 2016. 2020 is the "Beat Trump" election, not the "Socialism now!" election. Only a quarter of the NH electorate looked at Bernie Sanders and thought: "Yeah, this is the guy who can beat Trump."

David Corn makes much the same point here.
The bottom line: There was a winner, but Sanders does not at this point hold a dominant position within the Democratic cosmos. With no single candidate staking a claim on more than about one-fourth of the vote, there is plenty of incentive for other candidates to stay in the hunt. This may be especially true since the two leaders at the moment each trigger questions among some voters about their electability. Sanders would be the first Jewish and socialist presidential nominee of a major party, and Buttigieg is a gay nominee with modest political experience.
If Biden and Warren flicker out, Klobuchar becomes our only real choice. I don't care for either of the billionaires, though Steyer is preferable to the baggage-laden Bloomberg.

Biden will bounce back in South Carolina, though I'm not sure that he'll bounce hard enough. I'm comfortable with Klobuchar: She may not be the most charismatic candidate in history, but she speaks well, she wears well, she has a moderate/liberal persona, and she has the experience that Mayor Pete lacks.

Warren remains my personal favorite, and her apparent fall saddens me immensely. She and Bernie vied for the hard left vote, and she lost that contest. Too bad: She's the brightest, best-prepared, most inspiring of the candidates, and -- unlike Bernie -- she could plausibly veer toward the center during a general election contest.

Unlike Bernie, she was always bright enough not to call herself a socialist.

My problem with the "socialist" label has little to do with policy, though I would appreciate it if Bernie offered clearer ideas about how to pay for all of those promised goodies. My problem concerns the word itself. This story from last year destroys the oft-heard argument that BS is the new FDR: Roosevelt was always too canny a politician to align himself with the S-word. His example proves that any American politician must contrive to escape that label if he wants to enact ideas that a zealous F.A. Hayek fan might consider unforgivably socialistic. This situation isn't fair, but reality is reality is reality: The S-word will always reek of Bolshevism to the American nose, and no amount of "education" will deodorize the terminology.

The Jeremy Corbyn example should terrify us all. I'd like to share a few observations from this Reddit thread:
One of the reasons Corbyn suffered a catastrophic defeat - the worst for Labour in 80 years - is because Corbynites were more focused on demanding liberals bend the knee than in fighting Tories.
they thought that because they were able to bully people through brigading, swarming, shouting-down, shitposting, trolling, banning and downvoting in threads on reddit and social media they had 'won the argument'

they turned major subs here into echo chambers by doing this

they could only hold the upper-hand by bullying people - rather than by genuinely engaging in substantive discussion - so for all their effort they went into the general with totally unprincipled arguments that often defeated each other when tested

imo, that's the most damaging and dangerous similarity between corbyn and sanders that we need to recognize now
And in their worship of Corbyn they ignored the fact that he had major flaws that made him profoundly unappealing to those outside of their bubble.
Someone else pointed it out, but once you see it you can't un-see it.

Pre-election Corbyn and Sanders were two peas of a pod, hardly able to tell them part. After all they were both olde tyme lefties who are going to deliver electoral victory and FULL COMMUNISM NOW. There supporters always loved to point out how similar they were.

Right until Corbyn got dumpestered by an inbred Ronald McDonald clone wearing a mop as a wig. Then the two were nothing a like.
BuT wE cAn WiN iT WiThOuT yOu!
That last bit was meant sarcastically.

Actually, I doubt that anyone can win it without Bloomberg's promised billions. Although I'm not a Bloomberg fan, I must admit that his commercials have been incredibly effective, and I was heartened to learn that he will run anti-Trump ads even if he loses the nomination. But will he truly work hard to elect a billionaire-basher like Bernie? I don't think so.

"Beefsteak" Bernie Bros...?
The elections that brought Hitler to power offer us a profound warning from the past. The left-most German party was the KPD; we may consider those voters the Bernie Bros of their time and place. They concentrated not on defeating Hitler but on weakening the center -- on weakening democracy itself.

Believe it or not, the prospect of a Hitler victory appealed to many within the KPD. They said: "After Hitler, our turn." It didn't occur to those naive ninnies that they would never get a turn because Hitler would eliminate the vote. The Reichstag fire was a trick that the KPD-ers did not see coming.

Once Hitler consolidated power, a surprising number of KPD rank-and-filers decided to join the Nazi party. They were derisively labeled "Beefsteak Nazis" -- brown on the outside, red on the inside. Before not too many years had passed, the browning had gone all the way through.

I wonder how many Bernie Bros have the potential to turn into Beefsteak Nazis? Quite a few, I'd reckon. Consider the example of H.A. Goodman.
You mean the KPD not the KDP.

The analysis of Labour's effort in Britain in the December 2019 general election that you found on Reddit is utter rubbish. As soon as I read the quote that "One of the reasons Corbyn suffered a catastrophic defeat - the worst for Labour in 80 years - is because Corbynites were more focused on demanding liberals bend the knee than in fighting Tories" I immediately suspected it was written by somebody from the US who was very ignorant about British politics, because nobody here would say that the reason Labour lost was because they "demanded" that "liberals bend the knee" rather than focusing on fighting the Tories. Neither Labour nor the group around Corbyn did anything of the kind. (Who are the "liberals" in Britain anyway? Labour went all out against the Tories - they didn't focus on fighting the Liberal Democrats; nor did Jeremy Corbyn concentrate on fighting his opponents in the Labour party.) It turns out that the author is Neera Tanden, president of the "Center for American Progress" in the US, a person who worked for both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

If Ms Tanden had a clue about recent British politics, she would know that Corbyn was ready to form a government before the general election was called, in order to prevent Britain leaving the EU without holding another Brexit referendum first, and that it was the Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson's refusal to cooperate with Corbyn that prevented that route from being taken. There wasn't any particular policy reason that was cited. A Corbyn government at that time would have been little but a caretaker one anyway: it would have negotiated a Brexit deal with EU27 and then put it to the people in another referendum before a general election in the spring. Swinson basically treated Corbyn as untouchable and said he had failed to "deal with" anti-Semitism. She was too scared to condemn the Tory lies against Labour, basically.

Labour did unexpectedly well under Jeremy Corbyn in the 2017 general election and fought the 2019 one on a programme of widespread social reform. The reason they lost was because the Tories successfully deployed xenophobia (winning working class votes for the Tories in northern and midland English constituencies) and benefited from a huge amount of explicit help from the pro-Israel lobby who constantly and lyingly condemned Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party for "anti-Semitism" (losing Labour support among the urban middle classes). Things were mentioned such as Jeremy Corbyn's pronunciation of the surname "Epstein". Garbage was spread around on the internet such as the idea that when Labour leaders used the word "billionaire" they were thinking of the qualifier "Jewish". But no mention was made of Labour's promises to recognise Palestine and to remove protection for Israeli war criminals. Tanden hasn't got the faintest idea what she is talking about.
This comment has been removed by the author.
I have corrected the mixup in nomenclature. But from what I've read, there really was an awful lot of intransigence on the part of Corbyn supporters -- and a good deal of communication between the Corbyn camp and the Bernie camp. The fact is that Corbyn's supporters wildly over-estimated their own popularity, as do Sanders' supporters.

You say the name "Hillary Clinton" as though she's a big scary monster.
And yes, I can still edit things around here. The blog remains under my account.
Neera Tanden has worked for leading figures on the non-socialist wing of the US Democratic party and she is imagining that what she thinks has been so in the US [*] has also been present in Britain. The reality is that no big division in the Labour party played much of a role in the three year period leading up to the recent general election, a period in which Labour under Jeremy Corbyn performed extremely well in one election and very badly in another. Conjuring up imaginary analogies is a terrible look.

(*) Personally I would point more of a finger at Jill Stein and the Greens. Four years ago during the presidential election campaign period I watched her respond to a question about how best to fight Donald Trump by ranting against Hillary Clinton. You can't get much clearer than that. (I still don't understand why Stein was even allowed to attend Democratic party events.) I didn't see Bernie Sanders behave in anything like that fashion. Perhaps some of his supporters did. He didn't go third party as some predicted he would. He supported the party's chosen candidate. If those in the various factions of the Democratic party get behind the winning candidate this time (rather than "PUMA"-ing out), this vile Republican president can be unseated. The Trump campaign will love a big PUMAfest among Democrats. The age-old rules of conflict apply.

PS The person who refers to Boris Johnson as "an inbred Ronald McDonald clone wearing a mop as a wig" may like to get a bigger box of cultural references and consider whether Ronald McDonald is known for reciting lengthy passages from Homer in Ancient Greek. Donald Trump had wide recognition as a cartoon-type character in TV wrestling and on "reality TV", and he only became a politician when he announced he was running for president. Johnson is certainly similar to Trump in that they are both far-rightwing bastards, and yes his mop-like hairstyle is part of his shtick, but to characterise him in the way that this person did is to fail to get a grip on what Johnson and his puppetmaster Dominic Cummings are all about. (Those readers of this blog who aren't already aware of Cummings may like to take a look at him.)
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