Clinton Acting Like She Won, Alienating Bernie Fans

Backers of the losing candidate for the Democratic nomination are surprised that they're not getting their way.

Bernie Sanders Victory

Two POLITICO stories circulating today have me bemused.

Bernie Sanders delegate Bill McKibbin charges that “The Clinton Campaign Is Obstructing Change to the Democratic Platform.”

The Democratic platform process is finally underway, and the main issue is this: Did the campaign of Bernie Sanders really alter the Democratic Party? The answer is not yet entirely clear, but on many key issues so far the Hillary Clinton campaign has been unwilling to commit to delivering specifics about fundamental change in America, which have been at the heart of Sanders’ campaign.

I’ve had a front-row seat to the first round of the process, as 1 of 5 delegates Sanders named to draft the platform. (The Clinton campaign named six, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee, added four more.) We spent two weeks listening to powerful testimony from citizens around the country, and then on Friday in St. Louis we started taking votes.

And it was there that the essential dynamic quickly emerged. The Clinton campaign was ready to acknowledge serious problems: We need fair trade policy, inequality is a horrible problem, and unchecked climate change will wreck the planet. But when it came to specific policy changes, they often balked. Amendments against the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement and backing Medicare for all failed, with all the Clinton delegates voting against.

At which point we got (about 11 p.m., in a half-deserted hotel ballroom) to the climate section of the platform, and that’s where things got particularly obvious. We all agreed that America should be operating on 100 percent clean energy by 2050, but then I proposed, in one amendment after another, a series of ways we might actually get there. A carbon tax? Voted down 7-6 (one of the DNC delegates voted with each side). A ban on fracking? Voted down 7-6. An effort to keep fossils in the ground, at least on federal land? Voted down 7-6. A measure to mandate that federal agencies weigh the climate impact of their decisions? Voted down 7-6. Even a plan to keep fossil fuel companies from taking private land by eminent domain, voted down 7-6. (We did, however, reach unanimous consent on more bike paths!)

In other words, the Clinton campaign is at this point rhetorically committed to taking on our worst problems, but not willing to say how. Which is the slightly cynical way politicians have addressed issues for too long—and just the kind of slickness that the straightforward Sanders campaign rejected.

I mean, it’s almost as if Clinton thinks she, not Sanders, is the nominee and is crafting the platform under which she’s running for president around her policy views rather than his. The nerve!

A longform piece by Bill Scher examining “The Left’s Beef With Tim Kaine” is more of the same.

As many as 22 million potential voters in November are thought to be Sanders-leaning Democrats, and they’re looking for evidence that Clinton is paying some heed to the surprisingly strong insurgency of the socialist from Vermont. Bernie’s success was a clear anti-establishment uprising, strong enough that his supporters expect their agenda will now help shape the future of the party. But choosing Kaine may send them the opposite message: This is her party now, and you aren’t the ones calling the shots.

But it is. And they aren’t!

Since when did the losing side get to write the platform and dictate the vice presidential pick?

Oddly, the major press is egging them on by pretending that the race isn’t over.

The New York Times has given Sanders op-ed space this morning to spout off, in a piece titled “Democrats Need to Wake Up,” about what the Brexit has to teach US political leaders and bills him as “a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.” Why is the NYT still pretending he’s a candidate? That he hasn’t quit the race doesn’t change the fact that she has already amassed the delegates to win.  For that matter, given the number of actual experts out there on Europe, finance, and global trade, why give Sanders valuable space to regurgitate his stump speech disguised as analysis?

None of this is to say that Clinton wouldn’t be wise to take some steps to placate Sanders supporters or to come to grips with the disgruntlement that gave rise to Sanders, Trump, and Brexit. There’s a political mood out there that’s different than anything I’ve ever seen and she’ll need to make some concessions to it to win in November, much less govern effectively come January 20. That’s leadership in a democratic society.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, Hillary Clinton, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. LaMont says:

    I like Bernie. Voted for him in Michigan. I really feel like he could have been a better president than Hillary. But what he is doing now is counterproductive. I really don’t get it. I understand his feistiness – it’s part of the reason I liked him against these Republicans who have become more extreme in the past several years. I believe Democrats are turning the corner with regard to Bernie’s progressive views – Bernie is just a bit too early for his time. As other potential candidates see Bernie’s and Elisabeth Warren’s success, there will be others that will take the mantle. However, at this juncture, Bernie has to bow out gracefully. I thought the “angry old man” syndrome was just a saying. Bernie is giving credence to that expression…

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I mean, it’s almost as if Clinton thinks she, not Sanders, is the nominee and is crafting the platform under which she’s running for president around her policy views rather than his. The nerve!

    Say what??? Why I never! The latest polling done of Bernie’s supporters that I read showed that only 8% said they would never vote for Hillary, the rest said they would. I supported Bernie’s entry, ended up voting for Hillary, and now only want to say,

    “Bernie? It’s time to go. You have long overstayed your welcome in our party. Please go, don’t go away mad, just go.”

  3. James Joyner says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: It’s possible that the news media is playing up the divide between Clinton and Sanders supporters to drive pageviews.

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Oh and James, just an FYI, the spam filter has been working overtime again and blocking me on a regular basis. I’m not gonna bother either you or Doug with this via e-mail, you both have better things to do with your time, but wanted to give you a heads up.

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner: They always spend more energy reporting on the horse race, than they do on the actual issues. I guess that’s easier.

  6. Davebo says:

    @James Joyner:

    Possible?

  7. Davebo says:

    Bernie should be parlaying his surprising primary success into a better position within the Democratic party (should he choose to remain a member). This post primary petulance isn’t helping his cause at all.

    I’d like to see him influence the platform and get some choice committee assignments but it really seems that doesn’t interest him. If that’s true, we dodged a bullet. For better or worse, there’s a process by which we go about governing this country. As exciting as the word “revolution” may sound at a rally it’s not how change comes about.

  8. Pch101 says:

    I would suggest that it’s wise for Sanders to remain in negotiation mode. He gets nothing by unilaterally bowing out prior to the convention

    What isn’t wise is to indulge in shrillness. Conservatives are good at shrill — it seems to have the effect of bringing them together. But it’s generally a turnoff for liberals, and indulging in it runs the risk of making them look like Occupy protestors who had some valid points but generally did a poor job of selling them.

    It would be smarter to say something along the lines of “we congratulate Hillary for her tremendous historic achievement as our first female president, she will make a fine president and leader for America, blah, blah….but there is an enormous movement in America that is hungry for real change and the Democratic platform going forward will need to reach these Americans.”

    It should be the new morning in America stuff that Reagan was good at selling. Anger might be fun, but this is ultimately a country that is thirsting for an optimistic message, not a bitter one.

  9. JohnMcC says:

    I am one of the Sanders voters that will vote for Hillary with a smile. I knew when I cast my vote for Bernie that I’d end up voting for a more centrist candidate in Nov.

    For those who think Bernie wants to be a part of the D-party regular crue, two words: Cornell West. For those who think there is some moral advantage to non-voting, two words: Ralph Nader.

    In case anyone has forgotten, if one Nader voter in ten in the state of FL had voted for Mr Gore in ’00, we would not have had a Bush 43. The chance of invading Iraq in ’03 would have been essentially ZERO.

    That’s a counter-factual history I’ll stick up for!

  10. Grumpy Realist says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: and the media will do anything to make sure there’s a horse race, even if the two candidates are the moustache-faced one versus Mother Theresa.

  11. ptfe says:

    If he wanted to influence the party direction, Bernie needed to advocate for a half dozen very specific strategies and move to get those through, not let his surrogates deposit a half dozen strategies associated with each subsection of the party platform. This smells of a fundamental misunderstanding of the consensus-building process in general.

    McKibben is an activist, but he’s not great at moving people to his position; his writings and talks are stream-of-information, assuming the listener already mostly agrees with his position. They aren’t particularly persuasive if you’re not an environmentalist, largely because he’s too negative to bring mildly predisposed listeners with him. Saying, “We’re all going to die if we don’t fix this!” is very different from, “We can improve our lives while we fix this problem, and the Democratic Party will come out smelling like roses.” He typically proceeds from the first.

    All this is unfortunate, because the Democrats right now are a pretty scattered bunch with a lot of different goals. The party needs to focus on concrete, achievable goals in the near term or it will have problems when Trump isn’t the opponent.

  12. KM says:

    Because it plays into the meme that Clinton is arrogant, giving them justification for a both-sides argument to debate endlessly on air. I mean, what are you supposed to do when one candidate is clearly better then the other in damn near every measurable way? How are you supposed to invoke that 24/7 hand-wringing and tension when it’s pretty frigging clear to most voters the Tweeting Twat will ruin us all?

    Easy – you reinforce existing narratives (that you yourself have created, natch) with whatever pablum you have. Lets see: Hillary’s soooo arrogant – she’s acting like a queen because she actually won. She’s bossy because she’s insistent she has rights as the victor. She’s not humble enough to change her policies and platform for the failed grumpy old man’s that voters rejected. She’s ignoring voter concerns by not emphasizing the wants of the minority that didn’t vote for her. Wow, she’s really letting the bitch flag fly now that her coronation is in sight. I know Trump’s arrogant as hell but did you see how Hillary’s getting all Bernie’s stuff voted down in 7-6 votes? What nerve!! She’s obviously feeling entitled as hell, America – do you really want that?!

    Did I miss anything?

  13. KM says:

    @Pch101:

    It would be smarter to say something along the lines of “we congratulate Hillary for her tremendous historic achievement as our first female president, she will make a fine president and leader for America, blah, blah….but there is an enormous movement in America that is hungry for real change and the Democratic platform going forward will need to reach these Americans.”

    I’d roll with the historic thing so he can get his bombastic self on:
    “In the spirit of achieving great historical feats and breaking barriers for future generations, we owe it to our fellow citizens and descendants to continue to our work in making this nation safer, more equitable and economically sound for all. What a decade it would be to start with this Presidency and end with a decent living wage for all with the long-term jobs to go with them, achievable college, improved healthcare access, better environment controls, a Supreme Court more interested in the rights of humanity then corporations and a more civil society aiming to be tolerant of its citizenry in all the diverse ways they were created. These are things only a liberal collaboration can achieve so vote for your local Democrat as well as Hillary for President. We can easily achieve so much! I urge you to help us make this possible future a fact.”

    Dear Mr Sanders, if your speechwriters can’t hack it, I’ll do it for free (well, maybe some Starbucks). You can totally own this and make yourself into an enduring icon for the history books. You’ve got the popularity; here’s how you make it into reality.

  14. Tyrell says:

    If Hillary moves any further out in left field to get some of Bernie’s voters, she will need a fielders glove.
    I agreed with some of Bernie’s ideas, but I don’t know how he was going to pay for all that. The government can’t just keep printing money. That is one reason for a balanced budget amendment.

  15. An Interested Party says:

    It’s sad that Sanders and so many of his followers are allowing their egos to get in the way of any progress they would like to make…

  16. Kylopod says:

    @Tyrell

    I agreed with some of Bernie’s ideas, but I don’t know how he was going to pay for all of that.

    He should do the sensible thing and claim Mexico will foot the bill.

  17. Tyrell says:

    @Kylopod: That is a good idea.

  18. Todd says:

    Ugh,

    Ok, you guys were right.

    I regret supporting Bernie Sanders at all … not as much as Perot in ’92, but it’s getting to the point where it’s nearly as embarrassing.

    I still don’t “like” Hillary Clinton (and I still think she’s a risky nominee), but the Bernie or Bust people are (mostly) insufferable twats, who have no idea how the real world actually works.

    Thankfully, they appear to be a relatively small percentage of the people who voted for him in the primary.

    … somebody should probably tell Bernie Sanders that. At this point, his support is probably at best just a couple million of “his” voters. Don’t think they’ll be enough to make a difference anyway … well hopefully they won’t.

  19. Todd says:

    In some ways the Bernie or Busters remind me of hard core conservatives. Clinton’s team did make some platform concessions … but apparently only *ALL* of Bernie’s idea would have been “enough”. It’s also looking pretty likely that she might choose Elizabeth Warren as her running mate (I very much like that possibility). But instead of being happy about it, the Busters have instead decided this is just proof that Warren too is a “traitor” and “sellout”.

  20. MarkedMan says:

    Playing at the 5 cent psychoanalyst for the moment: All his life Bernie wanted to lead a revolution. But he has never really been very good at moving things forward incrementally or cooperatively. So when the revolution didn’t happen, he didn’t really have any agenda to put forward. He only tried to help 5 down ticket candidates, and my understanding were they were all resentment based – opponents of people he felt had slighted him in the primary. His major demand seems to be that Wasserman-Schultz (sp?) be removed from the DNC leadership position because she did not treat him fairly. And his othernasks seem to be mainly about future primaries ensuring that people like him have a better chance of winning.

    I’m glad Bernie was in. I think he moved the electorate in a way it needed to go. But the personality characteristics that kept him from advancing any agenda in the Senate are keeping him from using the power and goodwill he had built up to advance an agenda through the Democratic party.

    I would be willing to bet a a Dogfish Head 60 Minute Pale Ale that he ends up changing his affiliation back to independent within two years.

  21. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @KM: I think you missed repeating “the whole process is corrupt all the way through, just like she is.” Preferably finding someone to quote as having said the previous.

  22. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Todd: Well back in the day, we believed (much as Eric Florak and others do about conservatism) that “the left cannot fail, it can only be failed.” Now in those days, I was pretty aggressively conservative (Reagan, ironically enough, started pushing me leftward to whatever degree), but those of us on the side of history could see even then that the left was losing its ability to maneuver politically–opening the Democratic Party to the DLC-type triangulation. The Bernie or Bust guys seem to show that true believers don’t change and don’t seem to learn much from history.

  23. michael reynolds says:

    Hillary doesn’t need Bernie’s endorsement, she needs his mailing list. That’s what this is about. She wants to milk his supporters for contributions.

    And Bernie should welcome that. Isn’t his big thing about not taking Wall Street money? He has a chance to give Democrats an alternate source of funds, he should jump at the opportunity.

    But as I’ve said for some time now, Bernie bought into his own bullsh-t, and now he is lost to rationality.

  24. Tyrell says:

    @JohnMcC: If Gore had won Tennessee he would not have needed Florida anyway. I have often wondered how he could have lost his own home state. I voted for Gore and hate that he lost. But after that election, he was never quite the same.

  25. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Todd:

    I’d love to see her be the VP nominee as well, but even if she isn’t, Clinton co-opting her as a surrogate for Sanders on the campaign trail was brilliant politics.

    Even if the hardcore busters sit and pout until Hell freezes over, they’re a small segment of the larger demographic. Warren will bring the vast majority of the persuadable fence sitter Bernie supporters onboard, and it has the added benefit of accomplishing that while sidelining Sanders. Anybody notice that his media coverage has essentially dried up of late, save a few pieces trying to create a horse race for viewer numbers?

  26. al-Ameda says:

    @Tyrell:

    If Hillary moves any further out in left field to get some of Bernie’s voters, she will need a fielders glove.

    Hillary is a centrist Democrat, with hawkish foreign policy tendencies. In the Republican Party she wouldn’t even be considered a liberal Republican, she’s more conservative than Susan Collins to name one of those.

  27. Kylopod says:

    @al-Ameda:

    In the Republican Party she wouldn’t even be considered a liberal Republican, she’s more conservative than Susan Collins to name one of those.

    Sorry, but that’s BS.

    Clinton was one of the most liberal members during her time in the Senate. According to an analysis of roll call votes by Voteview, Clinton’s record was more liberal than 70 percent of Democrats in her final term in the Senate. She was more liberal than 85 percent of all members. Her 2008 rival in the Democratic presidential primary, Barack Obama, was nearby with a record more liberal than 82 percent of all members — he was not more liberal than Clinton.

    Clinton also has a history of very liberal public statements. Clinton rates as a “hard core liberal” per the OnTheIssues.org scale. She is as liberal as Elizabeth Warren and barely more moderate than Bernie Sanders. And while Obama is also a “hard core liberal,” Clinton again was rated as more liberal than Obama.

  28. LaMont says:

    @MarkedMan:

    His major demand seems to be that Wasserman-Schultz (sp?) be removed from the DNC leadership position because she did not treat him fairly.

    Well, I do believe Bernie is on point with demanding that Wasserman-Schultz be removed. Don’t think it is a realistic demand but I do share Bernie’s resentment of her. She’s an unabashed sleezeball the likes of a tea party Republican. She is the reason people with lazy arguments get to say “both sides do it”!

  29. Todd says:

    @LaMont:

    Well, I do believe Bernie is on point with demanding that Wasserman-Schultz be removed. Don’t think it is a realistic demand but I do share Bernie’s resentment of her.

    Actually, I’m pretty sure it’s already been decided that Wasserman-Schultz will be replaced after the convention. But in the same vein of unrealistic expectations that James highlighted in the original post, many hard core Sanders supporters seem think that she will/should be replaced by someone who Hillary Clinton won’t like.

    That. is. not. going. to. happen.

  30. Kathy Kattenburg says:

    C

    None of this is to say that Clinton wouldn’t be wise to take some steps to placate Sanders supporters or to come to grips with the disgruntlement that gave rise to Sanders, Trump, and Brexit. There’s a political mood out there that’s different than anything I’ve ever seen and she’ll need to make some concessions to it to win in November,…

    Take some steps to placate? Make some concessions? Condescending much, James? And just because Clinton is the putative nominee does not mean that Bernie Sanders suddenly stops communicating his policy views to start pushing Clinton’s. He’s already said he’s voting for her. I don’t know what makes you think his decision to vote for Clinton as the lesser of two evils means that he supports her policy views, or that he should stop stating them.

  31. DrDaveT says:

    but then I proposed, in one amendment after another, a series of ways we might actually get there. A carbon tax? Voted down 7-6 (one of the DNC delegates voted with each side).

    Unpassable in the current Congress.

    A ban on fracking? Voted down 7-6.

    Ditto.

    An effort to keep fossils in the ground, at least on federal land? Voted down 7-6.

    Would never make it out of committee.

    A measure to mandate that federal agencies weigh the climate impact of their decisions? Voted down 7-6.

    They already do. Seriously.

    Even a plan to keep fossil fuel companies from taking private land by eminent domain, voted down 7-6.

    This one might have had a chance; how much of a problem is it really? (And how much actual effect on carbon emissions would it have?)

  32. grumpy realist says:

    @Tyrell: The trouble with a balanced budget amendment is that unless you write it very carefully, you find yourself in a straitjacket during emergencies.

    Either that, or a heck of a lot of faked data.

    If a BBA solves everything, why is Kansas diving towards the ground at Mach 5?

  33. JohnMcC says:

    @Tyrell: The 2000 election caught TN in a transitional moment that would have made any Democrat a loser. The flinty Republicanism of the Appalachian side of the state is never ever going to change. Once I was parking in the mall in Morristown — roughly halfway between Knoxville & Bristol — and some gaffer even older than I wanted to fight me over my Obama bumper stickers. And the west Tennessee demographic — it duplicates northern Mississippi — was swinging into the R-party with superglue on it’s feet.

    But you are right, it’s a given that national politicians should carry their home states/districts.

  34. grumpy realist says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Even those over at HuffPo are now saying WTF?

    I voted for Bernie, and am still glad I did, but what he’s doing now makes no sense at all. It’s like marching off the cliff at 100 mph.

    And of course, the more we get WTF? the fewer actual Bernie supporters there will be. It’s like the Feminist Movement, which finally dwindled into a handful of rad-fem Marxist vegan genderqueer types sitting around a table in NYC drinking organic wine.

  35. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @grumpy realist:

    I particularly enjoyed that veiled threat from Rendell – who’s absolutey in a position to deliver on it.

  36. James Joyner says:

    @Kathy Kattenburg:

    I don’t know what makes you think his decision to vote for Clinton as the lesser of two evils means that he supports her policy views, or that he should stop stating them.

    I don’t think he should and didn’t say he should. I’ve argued elsewhere that it’s time for him to quit campaigning for a nomination that is mathematically hers. I’ve argued here that, regardless of what he does, the media should stop pretending he’s still a viable candidate for the nomination. I’ve also argued that there’s no reason in the world that the loser’s delegates should write the platform that the winner has to run on. And I say that as someone who prefers Sanders to Clinton.

  37. Tyrell says:

    @Todd: I have researched some about Senator Warren’s biography. She has been through some hard knocks and was not raised in some ivy covered tower. She seems like a sensible person.
    At one time she was a Republican.
    She has taken on the big banks,, but I would want to see what she plans to do about the powerful Federal Reserve. I hope that the bank legislation does not unfairly impact the small, local banks that help people a lot. Our local bank knows most people by their first name. Most people can walk in there and get a loan with a handshake and signature ! Try that at some huge bank ! I have not heard of any other of her economic ideas.
    I would rather see her as Sec. of Defense. She is fearless, tough, and decisive. She would not take any junk off Russia, ISIS, Iran, or terrorists. Vice presidents usually just hang around.
    I would like her to tell more about what she plans to do to help out the middle class, working folks. My credit card rate is still too high. Can she do something about that ?