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Tue Feb 2, 2016, 04:00 PM

The Long Road

“It’s the long road that has no turning.”
-- Irish proverb


I found last night’s caucus in Iowa to be very positive. And I’m not talking so much about the two individual candidates -- Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders -- as about their campaigns, and the Democrats actively involved in them. This includes those at the grass roots, in particular, as well as those running things at the state and national level.

Several things came into sharper focus last night. The most obvious is that either candidate can win the party’s nomination. Six months ago, no one seriously doubted that Clinton had that ability. But a heck of a lot of people had their doubts about Sanders. While there are still going to be some people who honestly do not think Bernie can win the nomination -- they are overwhelmingly Clinton supporters -- their numbers have dropped significantly in recent weeks.

This is, of course, part of the process. Contested presidential primaries rarely look the same at the beginning, the middle, and the end. Those changes which we see taking place within individual state’s primaries provide insight into how the general election may unfold, for all presidential elections involve state-by-state strategies.

As we’ve seen, outside influences, such as the news media, attempt to frame the contests in both the republican and Democratic primaries very differently today, than they did six months ago. Those with agendas may maintain a consistent end-goal, but even they must adjust their tactics. And it’s important to keep in mind that other, non-US interests can have interests in the election outcome -- be it corporations, nation-states, etc -- to an extent that there are attempts to influence the American public. This includes friends and enemies.

Another thing that should be clearer today is that no matter which candidate the Democratic Party nominates, that candidate will need the active support of a substantial percentage of the other candidate’s supporters, to win in November. “Bitterness contaminates the vessel which contains it” is as true for campaigns, as for individuals. The more that people -- from the grass roots to the campaign heads -- allow negative emotions to infect their thinking and behavior during the primaries, the more difficult it becomes to unite people in the fall.

That does not mean that the primary process is a series of gentle events. If we look at an example of people at the grass roots level -- say, the discussions on DU:GDP -- it is obvious that there are not only serious differences in opinion, but there are distinct differences in deeply-rooted values among many community members. By no coincidence, these reflect the differences of opinion and values that are found in the state and national campaigns -- and even the candidates.

Those differences are of great importance. They need to be a central focus of each candidate’s campaign, and certainly in the candidates’ debates. They will determine the outcome of the primary contest. And yet, it will be equally important that we not lose sight of those things we all have in common.

That’s as difficult as it is important. About ten minutes ago, on MSNBC, Chris Matthews interviewed Hillary Clinton. He was absolutely focused on his dismay that Bernie Sanders spoke of a “political revolution” last night. Obviously, Bernie has been talking about exactly that -- a political revolution -- since he entered the primaries. It was the combination of Bernie’s performance in the Iowa caucus, and the crowd’s reaction to the words “political revolution,” that has Chris unusually upset. Old-timers on DU know that I like Mr. Matthews; I’m not attacking him here, just showing a long-time establishment Democrat’s reaction to the Sanders’s campaign.

This reaction is, quite simply, his concerns about -- and fears of -- those who support Bernie Sanders. It’s the concerns and fears that establishment Democrats have about those of us who support Bernie Sanders. It includes “socialists,” young adults, leftists, and people the establishment views as inhabiting the fringes of the party. However, if Clinton does win the nomination, the establishment will want the support of these same people -- in fact, they know that they could lose in November without them.

Both the Clinton and the Sanders campaigns include segments of the coalition that elected Barack Obama in 2008, and re-elected him in 2012. Neither has enough of that coalition to insure a November victory. Both campaigns also have supporters who were not part of the Obama coalition. But, again, it’s not enough to insure a victory in the general election.

All of this would seem to indicate that at the Democratic National Convention, no matter if Bernie or Hillary gets the nod, the other candidate -- and their campaign -- is going to be in a position to insist upon certain demands. The degree to which the winning team responses to those demands is likely to exercise great influence on how the “losing” campaign -- especially those at the grass roots -- responds in the fall.

I’ve purposely avoided addressing the two candidates’ strengths and weaknesses in this essay -- not because they aren’t important, but because I wanted to make the above points first. I suspect that everyone else has made their own decisions on the candidates as individuals, as evidenced by the OP/threads on this forum. This OP isn’t an attempt to change anyone’s mind on that. Rather, it is to try to add some context to the process that we now find ourselves in.

This is an important chapter in our nation’s history. We owe it to ourselves to keep an open mind. And, of course, to fight very hard for what we believe in.

Peace,
H2O Man

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Replies to this discussion thread
Arrow 20 replies Author Time Post
Reply The Long Road (Original post)
H2O Man Feb 2016 OP
CaliforniaPeggy Feb 2016 #1
H2O Man Feb 2016 #3
ChisolmTrailDem Feb 2016 #2
H2O Man Feb 2016 #5
bullwinkle428 Feb 2016 #4
H2O Man Feb 2016 #6
malthaussen Feb 2016 #9
H2O Man Feb 2016 #11
malthaussen Feb 2016 #14
H2O Man Feb 2016 #17
malthaussen Feb 2016 #20
longship Feb 2016 #7
H2O Man Feb 2016 #8
mmonk Feb 2016 #10
H2O Man Feb 2016 #12
hootinholler Feb 2016 #13
Warren DeMontague Feb 2016 #16
H2O Man Feb 2016 #19
Warren DeMontague Feb 2016 #15
H2O Man Feb 2016 #18

Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Tue Feb 2, 2016, 04:07 PM

1. “Bitterness contaminates the vessel which contains it”

SO very true, my dear H20 Man.

An excellent essay!

Thank you. Your efforts help all of us.

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Response to CaliforniaPeggy (Reply #1)

Tue Feb 2, 2016, 04:10 PM

3. Thanks!

That was one of Rubin's favorite Mark Twain quotes.

I'm hoping that people read the OP, and give it some serious thought.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Tue Feb 2, 2016, 04:10 PM

2. This is the kind of content that once made DU great. H20 Man is one of very few here now...

 

...capable of this level of participation, myself included. Reading you, H20 Man, makes me want to do better. Thank you.

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Response to ChisolmTrailDem (Reply #2)

Tue Feb 2, 2016, 04:14 PM

5. Oh, thank you.

I am convinced that everyone here is capable of actively participating in high-quality conversations .....even when rational discussions become heated debates. But a lot of people get caught up in the very real emotions of the moment.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Tue Feb 2, 2016, 04:13 PM

4. K&R. I'm sure there will be some who argue that a long, protracted battle for the

nomination will irreparably damage the eventual nominee.

Because that worked out so poorly for us in 2008!

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Response to bullwinkle428 (Reply #4)

Tue Feb 2, 2016, 04:22 PM

6. Very good point!

If last night proved nothing else, it documented the absolute need for the Democratic Party to engage in the "discussion" on our ideas and values. As you point out, it was essential in 2008, and it worked for the Democratic Party. I think that it is equally important to discuss how the Democratic Party can be good for those of us at the grass roots .....even though that is a politically revolutionary idea.

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #6)

Tue Feb 2, 2016, 04:50 PM

9. But did it "work" for the Democratic party?

There are some systemic problems I've been noticing that give me cause to worry about the party, and they are not just confined to the anger of Mrs Clinton's supporters over coronation iterruptus. Specifically, the fact that the Democrats are consistently making poor showings in elections that are not for POTUS. Now, you've noted before that we need to keep our eye on the full picture, and not just concentrate on the high-glamour elections, so I presume this bugs you, too. As the debate continues for the soul of the Party -- and I don't think that is really too dramatic a way to put it -- does the machine itself, if not the voters, suffer from so much entropy as to be incapable of progress? Is the constant and bitter warfare healthy and productive, or malignant? One would expect, if it were the former, that there would be better success in the lesser races, and that a reasonable modus vivendi would emerge by which Democratic candidates could be energized and strengthened enough to upset the GOP's advantages in such areas as gerrymandering, voter fraud, and media control. Instead, race after race is lost, or a feeble effort is made to promote a lackadaisical candidate, or indeed, in many cases, no challenger is put up at all (which is true of many districts in my native PA). Whomever is the Democratic candidate for President, they will be faced by a GOP machine that is still quite potent, even if their collection of empty suits is laughable compared to other years. But winning the Presidency isn't going to matter much if a real "revolution" does not occur in the Democratic party. And the gap between "yes we can" and "no we can't" seems to be getting wider and wider of late, not narrower.

Of course, all that matters is what happens when things get sorted out. The bloody infighting may ultimately be healthy, once the unpleasantness has been gone through. It seems to me that the biggest argument against the status quo is that it hasn't worked. Indeed, I'd say it has made things worse, at least in terms of the Democratic Party's power and relevance is concerned. After all, one of the Democrats currently running is a Democrat only by courtesy, and the other only a Democrat because the Republican Party has no room for moderates anymore.

-- Mal

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Response to malthaussen (Reply #9)

Tue Feb 2, 2016, 09:31 PM

11. Great points.

Those are very important points. I agree 100% that the Democratic Party loses far, far too many of the non-presidential elections. These include for the House and Senate, for governor, and state and local legislatures. Hence, my comment about 2008 is intended in the context of the presidential primary and the general election that followed.

There have been other primary contests that, one could make a case, harmed the eventual candidate’s ability to win in November. Among them would be the 1968 and 1980 primaries. Indeed, these -- as well as the 1972 general election -- were topics of debate in 2008. Yet, the Obama coalition showed that not only could we win a presidential election, but if we applied some of its lessons to other contests, we might well begin to win more of them.

Too often, the Democratic candidates -- at all levels -- have sought to achieve victory by running to the center, even hoping to win a percentage of the republican vote. This has been based, in part, upon the assumption that progressives -- including those in the Democratic Party and the Democratic Left (including progressives who are not registered Democrats), have “no where else to go.” When these candidates lose, there has frequently been blame aimed at progressives for not voting; this may even be accurate, to various extents, in some elections.

Even in recent days, we see discussions on the “youth” vote. Obviously, young adults have historically voted less often than the older generation. But, as is clear, if young adults believe it is in their best interests, and are inspired by a candidate, they get out and vote -- frequently as a group. Likewise, there is plenty of evidence showing that if the Democratic Left believes that a specific Democratic candidate legitimately represents their best interests, they campaign and vote for them.

As I’ve noted before, I tend to participate in grass roots politics, in a four county region in upstate New York. In three of those counties, the local Democratic Party works directly with others from the Democratic Left. The greater the cooperation, the more local elections we win. In one county, the local Democratic Party fails to engage with the Democratic Left. They lose elections like clockwork, and will no doubt remain the loyal opposition to the republicans.

In one of the counties where we work together, we have had several republicans cut radio ads endorsing our candidates. I’ve never heard of anything similar in the county where the Democratic Party avoids the Democratic Left. I don’t believe in coincidence, and so I have to conclude that our progressive candidates are encouraging community and county spirit. We don’t win every contest, but we are winning more than 50% of them, in regions that have always had republican majorities and rule.

I prefer that we have serious, but peaceful meetings that include the Democratic Party and the Democratic Left at the local level, across the country. This allows us to take a different approach to how we engage in picking candidates to run for office, but it also allows us to communicate with state and national people in a different way.

I know that friends from both the Democratic Party and Democratic Left can say, “We’ve tried that before, and it didn’t work.” I know that is likely true, because although I can say we’re trying that, and it’s working, but I know how hard it is. And that everything doesn’t work.

But some things do. And it’s a lot better than losing. At my age, I’ve been part of plenty of losing campaigns, and that’s not fun.

I think that the Clinton vs. Sanders primary contest provides all of us reason to really think about how we all relate to each other.

I’m reading Bill McKibben’s book, “Oil and Honey” now. He suggests that people read Taylor Branch’s series, “America in the King Years.” It provides a fascinating educational read for both liberals and progressives. I’ll be re-reading it soon.

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #11)

Tue Feb 2, 2016, 10:55 PM

14. "The greater the cooperation, the more local elections we win."

This needs to be engraved on the hearts of everyone in the political part of the Democratic party. Or, failing that, tattooed on their damned foreheads.

I think the Party was so spooked by the trouncing McGovern took back in '72, they have been running to the centre ever since. It is amusing to see how Mr Carter has been reinvented as a model of progressive liberalism, where at the time he was actually engaged in politics he was a candidate of the centre. Nothing against Mr Carter, but this re-definition speaks volumes to me about how far the Party has strayed from its roots. But fair is fair, at the level of POTUS, candidates who are not too far left seem to have done well in recent years. Which makes the surge of Mr Sanders all the more encouraging.

1968 was an awful year. One candidate murdered, another murdered just as decisively by the media for being so emotional as to shed tears. I was only 12 then, but as I recall, Mr Humphrey was able to rouse little enthusiasm. IIRC, he was also accused of flip-flopping (or should we say "evolving" a lot, too. But the GOP really refined both the dirty tricks and the Southern Strategy for that election, and things have been going downhill ever since.

-- Mal

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Response to malthaussen (Reply #14)

Wed Feb 3, 2016, 12:02 PM

17. Interesting.

In his second book on President Obama, Jonathan Alter notes that Obama won in both 2008 and 2012 by way of putting together the same coalition that McGovern attempted to in 1972. But in '72, the Democratic Party was still damaged by the '68 experience.

Senator Humphrey was an outstanding liberal on domestic policy. LBJ selected him for VP in part for this -- he knew that HHH would be helpful in passing civil rights legislation. However, there was another reason for LBJ's choice: he saw a character flaw in HHH, that he was submissive to "alpha males." And LBJ refused to have a VP he respected.

HHH did not run in the '68 primaries. There were, of course, far fewer primaries than there are today. The party bosses were able to select the candidate they wanted. Thus, until he was sure he was the Democratic candidate, Humphrey campaigned on continuing LBJ's Vietnam policy. It wasn't until the final weeks, when he was way behind Nixon, that HHH took a different position, in an attempt to gain the much-needed support of those who had favored RFK and McCarthy. HHH almost caught up -- if the election was 48 hours later, he'd have won.

This illustrates an on-going problem for Democrats. As a rule, no politician serves in a manner identical to how they campaigned. HHH never planned to actually continue LBJ's policies in Vietnam, but he had feared being honest. That was the fear that LBJ saw as his flaw.

In my opinion, the only president who attempted to serve in the manner he campaigned was Carter. And, without my attempting to place a value judgment on that, I can say that is a very difficult path to follow. And that includes serving in any elected office. Yet, the public tends to expect elected officials to do just that .....and we can see the levels of dissatisfaction -- with President Obama, for example -- when that doesn't happen.

If we were to have a true 50 state strategy, that included winning elections at every level, then Democratic candidates would have far, far more ability to serve in the same manner that they campaigned in. That would be a true political revolution. And it is one of the very real possibilities that we have to chose from.

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #17)

Wed Feb 3, 2016, 12:24 PM

20. I think LBJ's contempt for HHH hurt the latter, too.

Possibly as badly as Ike's contempt for Mr Nixon hurt the latter in 1960. My memory is that many regarded Mr Humphrey as spineless, fairly or not. And whatever Mr Nixon's flaws -- and they were legion -- spinelessness was not perceived as one of them. Opportunistic weasel, yes. And while in the Democratic party, being "tough," particularly on Communism, was not as big a deal in 1968 as it might have been before Vietnam, I wonder how much of the country at large in 1968 valued the perception of "toughness," especially in light of all the damned hippies running around protesting and doing drugs. The GOP floated the argument that the U.S. was a much more conservative country than appeared in 1968 (and especially in 1972 et seq), and managed to make it fly, particularly by appealing to the bigotry and fear of what should have been solid Democratic voters. (Why is it that the U.S. is one of the few places where the working class is not inclined to Socialism?)

Which I will use as a segue to another question: the soi-disant "Socialism" of Mr Sanders. There are those in the GOP (to say nothing of the Democratic party), who believe that this taint will hurt Mr Sanders in an election. To the point where there are those in the GOP who would apparently prefer to run against Mr Sanders than Mrs Clinton. I am unconvinced that this will be as important a factor as these pols believe, yet I am humble enough to acknowledge that those who do politics for a living may just know more about their field of expertise than I. But here are my thoughts: as for the generation which flourished before the destruction of the Evil Empire, the socialist bogeyman probably has great potency. We grew up in the Cold War, and were force-fed the Kool-aid on a constant basis by even the most "liberal" of politicians. But since the breakup of the USSR, and the transition of the PRC from an agrarian paradise to a capitalist's wet dream, the generations since have little or no reason to fear socialism or regard it with suspicion: it is just a word to them, not the embodiment of Satan it was for earlier generations. (Of course, regional and religious caveats apply) So one of the more interesting questions of the ongoing race will be to see how great an influence the Socialist label has on the results. I am inclined to believe the Red-baiters are backing the wrong horse, but again, I am not an experienced politco.

-- Mal

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Tue Feb 2, 2016, 04:35 PM

7. Yup! Well put.

R&

I am a Bernie supporter. I was sad to hear that O'Malley has apparently dropped out because I thought he added substance to the discussion. I am also glad that the Iowa caucus was so close. That it was a statistical tie keeps the conversation going, as long as one isn't an ideologue.

I support Bernie, but I will enthusiastically support the Democratic nominee in November. That's how we win.

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Response to longship (Reply #7)

Tue Feb 2, 2016, 04:40 PM

8. Thanks!

I found O'Malley to be very impressive in the debates. In a "normal" year, he'd be a great candidate. But these are not normal times; like like, I am convinced that Bernie Sanders is exactly who is needed.

I, too, will support our party's nominee. Still, I know that I can get more done for Bernie, than for Hillary.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Tue Feb 2, 2016, 04:52 PM

10. I know, being a Sanders supporter, the concern on

our side is we don't want to be inconvenient wallpaper to the party while our concerns return to being dismissed. We truly believe the current rising income inequality is a serious issue that government needs to address in policy. Striking deals with Republicans that exacerbate that condition to give an appearance of getting things done is a legitimate and reasoned concern.

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Response to mmonk (Reply #10)

Tue Feb 2, 2016, 09:37 PM

12. Right.

No one likes being taken for granted. And that has been what progressives have been experiencing for a long time. In my opinion -- and experience, for that matter -- this is particularly true for progressive young adults. I think that older folks who have become comfortable within the system tend to think that it's just a phase the youth are going through -- as if, even if it was, it is just as legitimate a life-phase as any.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Tue Feb 2, 2016, 09:55 PM

13. At first I thought of Supertramp

Thanks for the moment of zen!

What's your read on Hillary's body language of late?

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Response to hootinholler (Reply #13)

Tue Feb 2, 2016, 11:00 PM

16. Here's what I thought of;

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Response to hootinholler (Reply #13)

Wed Feb 3, 2016, 12:15 PM

19. Thank you!

Now, that's an interesting question. I'll start by saying that I like Hillary Clinton as an individual. I think that, in many ways, she would be good on domestic policy. But I'm not in agreement with much of her foreign policy. And, in truth, the United States cannot institute necessary changes in one of the two -- domestic or foreign policy -- without making equal changes in policy in the other. You know that my limited insight requires me to picture things in the context of models ....and that I often use the model of a mobile hanging over a infant's crib to illustrate "systems."

With a mobile, if one piece moves, all of the others must also adjust, to maintain balance. Hence, if one attempts to move the domestic policy pieces, while keeping the foreign policy pieces entrenched, it cannot work.

I think that Ms. Clinton is sincere in wanting to improve the lot of middle class and poor Americans. I think her strengths come across best when she is speaking to small groups. But presidential primaries involve speaking to large audiences. Ms. Clinton does not have the ease of some other politicians in that setting. I don't think that she's really comfortable in this context.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Tue Feb 2, 2016, 10:58 PM

15. Your presence makes this place better, H2O Man.

Thanks again for the reminders.

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Response to Warren DeMontague (Reply #15)

Wed Feb 3, 2016, 12:03 PM

18. Thank you!

That means a lot to me.

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