The Riot Trail

links, commentary, toons, pics, fun!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Feelings = Facts

Let's just say it: these Sanders holdouts are an embarrassment to the Democratic Party, to the Sanders campaign... to themselves.  Their petulance only serves Donald Trump and the Republicans.

One Sanders delegate aptly summed their mentality:
“Bernie basically fed us a bunch of Mountain Dew and now he wants us to go to bed. It’s not going to happen.”
These are children incapable of self-regulating.

If anything Sarah Silverman was being polite:

Matthew Yglesias adds a little context:
Sanders had little control over his delegates, who seemed unwilling to get behind his endorsement of Clinton. This was in part a matter of sloppiness on the part of Sanders’s team in selecting delegates. But as one operative told me, there was another reason Sanders’s delegation was so unruly: Everyone was so afraid to cross Clinton by serving as a Sanders delegate that he couldn't convince the kind of party loyalists who normally take the job to do it. 
Instead, many Sanders delegates come from the world of left-wing protest culture rather than party politics. And on the floor of the Wells Fargo Center, they acted like it.
Yglesias has more on this topic here.

To be fair, I don't think the people we're seeing and hearing at the convention represent Sanders (after all, Sanders himself was booed!) or even most of his supporters.

As Jonathan Chait notes:
Sanders attracted a sizable following by appealing to a long tradition of good government in liberal politics. At the same time, he mobilized a radical ideological vanguard that had previously steered clear of Democratic politics. For them, the attraction of Sanders was neither merely a reiteration of the Howard Dean or the Eugene McCarthy campaign, nor merely a farther-left version of standard Democratic liberalism. His raw language of class, revolution, and the rigged system framed politics in stark binary terms — either the forces of light or the forces of corruption would prevail. 
The ideological vanguard does not represent a majority of Sanders’s supporters, many of whom have changed candidate preferences throughout the primary, and who on the whole support Hillary Clinton at a 90 percent clip. But that minority has commanded vastly outsized attention. Journalists have spent the last year noticing enraged, conspiratorial Sanders supporters swarming social media, dismissing inconvenient facts as a corporate or Establishment plot. 
Those people are disproportionately represented at the convention, as we have seen:
In place of a strategy was diffuse rage. Protesters, minimal in Cleveland, thronged through the streets of Philadelphia. Inside the convention hall, Bernie Sanders loyalists booed everything — mentions of Hillary Clinton, moderates, liberals, left-wingers, even the opening prayer. Some of them repeated the “Lock her up!” chant heard in Cleveland. It seemed possible that the entire convention would be a chaotic cascade of jeering and hostile chants. 
Sanders tried to calm his supporters, but had only partial success. Screams and shouts continued through speeches by Michelle Obama and Elizabeth Warren. They did not represent Sanders himself, or his supporters.

I think we've all met people whose default setting is 'outrage,' regardless of the situation. Well, we've got a few hundred of those people packed into an arena as representatives of the Democratic Party, with all the nation's media in attendance. Great. They've convinced themselves the election was rigged, when in reality they just lost. If the DNC were as powerful as Sanders supporters seem to believe maybe Democrats wouldn't be in the minority in both the House and Senate right now. The DNC couldn't steal an election if it wanted to. They sure as hell didn't swing 3 million votes. Sure, the people working at the Democratic committee preferred the Democrat to the Democratic Socialist... but that was Sanders' whole appeal! He's an outsider! Fighting the establishment! Seems silly to turn around now and complain that the 'establishment' wasn't impartial, especially when you can't even point to anything they actually did wrong. Some of these Sanders supporters sound strikingly like someone who only watches Fox News: they have their own 'facts' (not actually facts), or even just a vague sense of what 'the facts' suggest, and they can't be dissuaded because anyone who doesn't agree with them is a sellout or a rube. 'Ridiculous' doesn't begin to cover it.

On a more positive note, Michelle gave quite a speech:

I especially appreciated this part:
When she didn’t win the nomination eight years ago, she didn’t get angry or disillusioned. 
Hillary did not pack up and go home, because as a true public servant Hillary knows that this is so much bigger than her own desires and disappointments.

Paul Waldman asks a good question: Why isn't the alleged Russian hack of the DNC being treated more seriously?

Josh Marshall thinks it could be a 'big, big deal:'
not just a big deal in the way we toss around the phrase in politics but a big deal in terms of our future, our safety, our children's safety.

Vox has what may be the ultimate Trump article, with excerpts compiled from many other Trump profiles.

Ezra Klein also wrote a good piece on why Trump should never become President.

Another example of how Trump does business:

This is scary:

Oliver on the RNC convention:

Feelings = Facts...  A tautology that Republicans don't have exclusive claim to, as we've seen.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Least Racist Person

This NYT article about Trump's racial politics is really worth the read.

Josh Marshall at TPM follows up with what Trumps been saying lately and what it means.

Speaking of race, I wanted to flag another valuable post from JM at TPM... I think one thing that's often glossed over or missed entirely in our recent debates over race is the role of unconscious bias, which even people who consider themselves (perhaps in many ways accurately) fair minded can fall victim to. To accuse such people of bigotry kind of misses the point, and more importantly makes them defensive and therefore less open to introspection. Proper police training could dramatically reduce the kinds of incidents we've been seeing lately... Unfortunately many police departments training programs seem to (unintentionally) only make them more likely.

Obama's most recent speech in Dallas was one of his best, IMO:

Thursday, June 9, 2016


Warren's with her:

I have to add this bit of awesomeness:

This audio from Hillary's 1969 commencement speech is fascinating:

The Atlantic provides some context.

Fast forward to this:

Why Hillary may be the perfect candidate to take on Trump.

E.J. Dionne Jr.: "this is the fight she was preparing herself to wage."

Matt Bai peers into the black hole of Trump's psyche.

Jamelle Bouie makes an interesting point about the Republicans current predicament:
Why is it so difficult for Republicans to condemn Trump without also qualifying and essentially negating their condemnation?
Republicans, from the top of the ticket to the bottom of the ballot, are caught in a bind. If they don’t say anything to counter or condemn Trump’s rhetoric, they are complicit in the Trump candidacy. If they say anything, they become fodder for Democratic efforts against their party. The only alternative is to try to walk the line of criticism without disavowal. But as we see with Paul Ryan—who was savaged by both mainstream and conservative press for looking past Trump’s racism even as he bemoans it—that’s almost impossible.

Couldn't happen to nicer people.

ICYMI this look inside the Sanders campaign makes for quite a read.  Eek.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Game Time

Well, they're finally calling it for Hillary... so after tomorrow's primaries we should be full on into the general, whether or not Bernie wants to continue tilting at windmills. Sounds like Obama's ready to get off the sidelines, too... so it's game-time!

Fortunately, with her recent speech HRC finally seems to be hitting her stride.

If you missed it here it is:

Here's an excellent profile of HRC that gives you a sense of who she is. If you Sanders supporters want to feel like you have to hold your nose and vote for the "lesser of two evils" it's fine with me, but in reality I think Hillary is a smart, hard working, experienced politician who shares our basic values. I think we could all lay off the cynicism a bit if we wanted to.  Just sayin'...

While HRC seems to have found her mark, Trump's been having a harder time lately.

It doesn't help he doesn't have a campaign operation to speak of. (I found the examples contrasting how a normal campaign would operate to Trump's instructive.)

Perhaps Trump thought the primary was the hard part, but if so he was very mistaken.

Josh Marshall on Trump's ongoing meltdown.

This is starting to get good!

P.S. I hope that Bernie will gracefully bow-out of the race tomorrow night and throw his support to Hillary... we need to be on the same team here! So I don't really want to get on his case too much, but I have to include this bit from Jonathan Chait who puts his finger on something that's been bugging me about Sanders' rationale for staying in the race so long:

3. Pledged delegates don’t count because of superdelegates. When presented with Clinton’s insurmountable lead in pledged delegates, Sanders notes dismissively that pledged delegates alone are not enough to win (i.e., “Hillary Clinton will not have the requisite number of pledged delegates to win the Democratic nomination at the end of the nominating process on June 14. Won't happen. She will be dependent on superdelegates.”). 
4. Superdelegates also don’t count because of pledged delegates. The superdelegate system, he has charged, “stacks the deck in a very, very unfair way for any establishment candidate.” Or, alternately, “The media is in error when they lumped superdelegates with pledged delegates. Pledged delegates are real.” 
The nomination is won by adding up pledged delegates and superdelegates. Clinton has a large lead in pledged delegates, and an even larger lead in superdelegates. You could rely entirely on one or the other, or change the weights between them in any fashion, and Clinton would still win. Sanders simply refuses to accept the combination of the two, instead changing subjects from one to the other. Ask him about the pledged delegates, and he brings up the superdelegates. Ask about the superdelegates, and he changes to the pledged delegates. It’s an infinite loop of bullshit.

I guess his obstinance is part of his appeal, but it's certainly wearing on me. Hopefully we'll be turning the page on this chapter soon...

Sunday, February 7, 2016


We're on to New Hamphire...

I just finished watching the recent Democratic debate there. A number of commentators have said it was the best debate of the campaign so far... I'll go farther and say it was perhaps the best debate I've ever seen. Both candidates were sharp and on point and focused on serious issues. The moderators did a good job of letting the candidates duke it out without getting overly involved. Their job was perhaps easier because the candidates were themselves both highly capable of cross-examining each other. I recommend watching it in it's entirety:

Multiple commentators called the debate a draw, both candidates probably accomplishing what they set out to do. Taeggan Goddard notes:
The real winners were Democratic voters. Anyone who watched learned a lot. It made the Republican debates look like over-produced game shows.
Very true.

Speaking of which, the game show resumed last night... looks like Christie dismantled Rubio:


Ok, a few more thoughts on 'feeling the Bern'...

This from Josh Marshall:
I will put my cards on the table. I think Sanders would be cut to pieces in a general election. I think he's great. I'd support him like crazy if he were nominated. But I think he'd be cut to pieces.

This is where I'm at as well. I also really like the guy. Watching the debate I couldn't help but admire what he's doing. He's saying things that I've felt strongly since I first became politically aware. But, in a nutshell, this is what it comes down to. In the debate Sanders offered an electoral strategy that could have almost come verbatim from Ted Cruz, if you just switched the names of the parties. I believe it's equally impractical.

Kevin Drum offers a reality-check:
Is it really the case that we can't even agree on the following two points?
  • Sanders is more progressive than Clinton.
  • Clinton is more electable than Sanders.
I mean, come on. They're both lefties, but Sanders is further left. The opposing arguments from the Clinton camp are laughable. Clinton is more progressive because she can get more done? Sorry. That's ridiculous. She and Bill Clinton have always been moderate liberals, both politically and temperamentally. We have over two decades of evidence for this. 
As for electability, I admire Sanders' argument that he can drive a bigger turnout, which is good for Democrats. But it's special pleading. The guy cops to being a socialist. He's the most liberal member of the Senate by quite a margin (Elizabeth Warren is the only senator who's close). He's already promised to raise middle-class taxes. He can't be bothered to even pretend that he cares about national security issues, which are likely to play a big role in this year's election. He wants to spend vast amounts of money on social programs. It's certainly true that some of this stuff might appeal to people like me, but it's equally true that there just aren't a lot of voters like me. Liberals have been gaining ground over the past few years, but even now only 24 percent of Americans describe themselves that way. Republicans would tear Sanders to shreds with hardly an effort, and there's no reason to think he'd be especially skilled at fending off their attacks. 

Brian Beutler takes issue with Sanders' call for ideological purity, as represented in a typical tweet:

One of the questions at the heart of the fight between Clinton and Sanders is whether Sanders’s promise to lead a political revolution that brings the United States closer to social democracy is credible or fantastic. The argument frequently pits cynics and pragmatists, who see Barack Obama’s high-minded-candidacy-turned-difficult-presidency as an object lesson in the unloveliness of governing, against idealists and counterfactualists, who say Obama never attempted to turn the promise of his campaign into progressive action. 
Even if you side with Team Sanders on this question, the insight that gave rise to that tweet (that pitting progressives against moderates is an effective tactic in a two-person Democratic primary) is incompatible with the goal of uniting the existing Democratic base with the unattached voters and Republicans of the white working class. It may even be incompatible with building a majority coalition in a general election. 
The list of reasons to worry that Sanders is unelectable is unusually long. To paraphrase Vox’s David Roberts: Sanders would be far and away the oldest president to take office; he has self-identified as a socialist for most of his career, undeterred by the media’s inability to distinguish between social democrats (what he is) and Leninists (what Republicans will say he is); he supports a higher tax on middle-class labor, which is politically and substantively the worst way to finance a welfare state expansion. 
On top of all that, he is unabashed about his disinterest in party coalition building. He’s happy to represent one wing of it, but not inclusively enough to pick up endorsements from influential party actors. This is all exacerbated by the fact that he’s spent his congressional career as an independent who caucuses with Democrats, and has never plied his popularity into helping Democratic colleagues get elected. This increases the likelihood that down-ballot Democrats would run away from him in a tough race, rather than rally to unite the party.

But you can set all that aside, too, and just consider the ramifications of Sanders’s defeating Clinton by boxing her out of the progressive movement, and using the term “moderate” as an epithet to describe deviations from his agenda. 
For the better part of a decade, liberals have gazed upon conservatives with perverse glee as they’ve limited their ranks to an ever shrinking number of True Scotsmen. Their increasingly stringent criterion contributed to the failure of the GOP’s 2012 presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, who at one point had to atone for perceived heterodoxies by describing himself as “severely conservative.” 
Ideologues, at least, comprise a very large (perhaps the single largest) faction of the Republican Party base. The same is not true of ideological progressives in the Democratic Party. Most progressives are Democrats, but most Democrats aren’t progressive. There will be no Sanders revolution without moderates, and moderates are unlikely to join a revolution organized by someone who stigmatizes moderation.

The irony here is that this is one of the main reasons liberals of all stripes hope that Ted Cruz (if not Donald Trump) wins the Republican nomination. Cruz’s critics in both parties compare him to Barry Goldwater, who lost 44 states to Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Cruz is resolute in his opposition to ideological compromise. When he announced his candidacy almost a year ago, he framed it explicitly as a campaign of, by and for “courageous conservatives [to] come together to reclaim the promise of America.” Cruz’s vulnerability in the general election stems from this factional identity—which, again, represents a larger faction than the one Sanders leads.

If Sanders were to win the Democratic nomination, his best, and perhaps only, chance to win the presidency would be in a general election campaign against Cruz. Somebody would have to win! For those with a very high risk tolerance, there’s never been a better time for a Sanders candidacy. But to pull it off—to make up for the fact that there are more ideological conservatives than progressives in the country—he would have to reconstitute the Democratic base, including Clinton supporters and other nefarious moderates. That might happen. A modern-day Goldwater against a modern-day George McGovern (who lost 49 states to Richard Nixon in 1972) would be a fascinating race to watch. But when Goldwater ran, the conservative movement was in its infancy and when McGovern ran, he never called himself a socialist.

Matt Yglesias looks at the flip-side of the coin and says Sanders' framing may actually help Clinton in the end:
Yet the reality is that no matter how annoying Clinton, her team, and the dozens of senior party figures backing her may find it, Sanders's attacks are in Clinton's long-term best interest. That's because his framing of Clinton as a temperamentally cautious, ideologically moderate politician who tries to straddle the divide between progressive activists and status quo business groups is, for better or worse, exactly how she is going to want to portray herself for the coming general election. 
After all, though this is obviously not what most of the Democratic Party base wants to hear, there's simply no evidence that the mass public in the United States is eager to mobilize on behalf of Sanders's vision of a drastic policy lurch to the left.

The writers at Vox interviewed six political scientists to see what odds they would give Sanders in a general election. Each of them found it highly unlikely he would be able to prevail, citing a number of reasons. One that we certainly saw play out during the last health care debate:
People have a strong psychological fear of loss — even when they know it might result in a better long-term outcome. 
"If you offer people the opportunity for gain against the fear of loss, the fear of loss is twice as psychologically powerful as the hope for gain," Miroff said. 
This phenomenon is called "loss aversion," and it holds true for political psychology as well as behavioral economics, according to Miroff. 
There are many of good examples of this at work in our political system: the revolt against "Hillarycare" in the 1990s, the panic over George Bush's plans to privatize Social Security in the early 2000s, and, more recently, the public souring on Obamacare. (Obama's promise that people who liked their plan could keep it was dubbed the lie of the year.) 
This dynamic could hurt Sanders, who proposes policies that promise a big upside — but only through serious disruption that the other side will portray as fundamentally dangerous and risky, Miroff said. 
"Once the opposition starts saying, 'That may help some people, but most of you are going to lose what you already got,' the polls start plummeting," Miroff said. 
In a general election, for instance, Republicans could effectively (and accurately) portray Sanders's single-payer health care proposal as one that would lead many people to lose what they already know and like. The long-term gains of reducing national health spending and increasing overall insurance rates would be abstract gains for many voters, and thus hard to sell against the fear of loss. 
"Anyone who stakes out positions that will affect huge numbers of people — in that, the advantage goes to the opposition, because they can stoke fear," Miroff said.
I won't quote the whole article, but it's worth reading in full if you aren't convinced Sanders would have a tougher time in a general election than Clinton. The political scientists only differed on how much worse Sanders would perform: estimates varied between 2 and 10 points in the polls. They all agreed, however, that current polling for the general election is worthless:
In defense of their candidate's electability, Sanders supporters have often turned to general election polls that show him doing well in head-to-head matchups with potential Republicans. 
Sanders himself has recently embraced this argument, telling ABC News that he was the most electable candidate in part because of a poll showing him beating Donald Trump in a general election. 
"Take a look at recent polls in which Bernie Sanders is matched with Republican candidates Trump on down [and] Hillary Clinton is matched with Republican candidates," he said
But it's regarded as blindingly obvious among political scientists that these findings are essentially illusory, and that general election polls this far out are about as predictive now as a weather forecast for Election Day. 
"The impressions people have of the eventual nominees months from now will be so different from today," said McKee, the Texas Tech professor. "That's a nice thing to point to, but what does a head-to-head poll mean in early February? ... It's worthless. It's absolutely worthless."

What will Sanders numbers look like after months of wall-to-wall coverage of nonsense like this? (NPR adds context... which, you know, will really matter)

After the debate Ezra Klein offered more thoughts on the relative merits of each candidate:
Clinton's problem is that her mastery of the political system has been attained by decades of compromises with it, and by a thorough absorption of its mores and customs. Her best answer on her speaking fees was, in essence, everybody does it. "When I left the secretary of state's office, like so many former officials — military leaders, journalists, others — I did go on the speaking circuit," she said. 
She's right that there was nothing unusual, for Washington, in what she did — save for the sums she commanded, which were astounding. But voters aren't placated by being reminded that so many ex-government officials pad their incomes by speaking to corporations. That's one of the things they hate about Washington.

Sanders's problem, meanwhile, is that his purity has been preserved at the cost of his effectiveness. Though Sanders has served in Congress for more than 20 years, he's only been the lead sponsor of three bills that have been signed into law. His carefully maintained distance from the Democratic Party — evident both in his refusal to call himself a Democrat and in his colleagues' refusal to endorse him — shows the difficulties he would have working with members of his own party, to say nothing of the climb it will be for an avowed socialist to find Republican support in Congress. 
And where Clinton's experience gives her deep knowledge of virtually every facet of American policymaking, Sanders's career has let him focus on the issues he cares about, and left him poorly informed on international affairs. 
Which is all to say that Clinton has the benefits and drawbacks of an insider, and Sanders has the benefits and drawbacks of an outsider. Her view of the political system is realistic, her knowledge of the issues is deep, and her social ties are strong. All these qualities would likely make her an effective president. But they also mean she's captured by the political system, and that she is implicated in virtually everything Americans hate about it. 
Sanders's view of the political system is idealistic, his ideas are unbounded by pragmatic concerns and interest group objections, and his calls for political revolution are thrilling. All these qualities make him an inspiring candidate. But they also mean he'll be perceived as an enemy by the very system he intends to lead, and that his promises of sweeping change might collapse into total disappointment.

At least they would if weren't for that...

In the (unlikely) event he wins the nomination, we better hope so.

Finally, for a little perspective, a quote from astronaut Edgar Mitchell, the sixth man to walk on the moon, who passed away this week, about his experience leaving what Sagan called 'the little blue dot':
“You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the Moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a bitch’.”