Sanders Strong And Clinton Off Her Game In New Hampshire Town Hall

Bernie Sanders CNN Town Hall

Bernie Sanders had a strong night while Clinton had a terrible performance at the CNN Town Hall Wednesday night (video and transcript here). It was almost painful to see her stumbling to come up with answers to some of the questions.

Sanders criticized Clinton’s claims of being a progressive saying, “you can’t go and say you’re a moderate on one day and be a progressive on the other day. Some of my best friends are moderates. I love moderates. But you can’t be a moderate and a progressive. They are different.” He elaborated a later exchange:

But there are other issues, Anderson, where I think she is just not progressive. I do not know any progressive who has a super PAC and takes $15 million from Wall Street. That’s just not progressive.

(APPLAUSE)

SANDERS: As I mentioned earlier, the key foreign policy vote of modern American history was the war in Iraq. The progressive community was pretty united in saying don’t listen to Bush. Don’t go to war.

Secretary Clinton voted to go to war.

Virtually all of the trade unions and millions of working people understand that our trade policies — NAFTA, CAFTA, permanent normal trade relations with China, etc. — have been written by corporate America and the goal of it is to be able to throw American workers… millions of working people understand that our trade policies, NAFTA, CAFTA, Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China, et cetera, have been written by corporate America.

And the goal of it is to be able to throw American workers out on the street, move to China and other low-wage countries, and bring their products back into this country. And that’s one of the reasons why the middle class of this country and the working class is struggling so hard.

Secretary Clinton has been a supporter in the past of various trade policies, NAFTA and PNTR with China. Reluctantly, and after a lot of pressure on her, she came out against the TPP, and I’m glad that she did.

Every sensible person understands that climate change is real. It is caused by human activity. And we have got to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel.

For a long time, Secretary Clinton was talking about the benefits of the Keystone pipeline. Well, there are no benefits to excavating and transporting some of the dirtiest fossil fuel in the world.

I was in the lead in opposition to the Keystone pipeline. I’m in opposition to the pipeline right here in New Hampshire and the pipeline in Vermont. I think we have got to move aggressively away from fossil fuel if we’re going to leave this planet in a way that’s healthy and habitable for our kids.

So those are just some of the areas…

CNN described how Clinton performed in their report on the event:

Clinton delivered an uneven performance at the event, sounding confident on policy answers and connecting with the audience when she shared moments from her personal life but stumbling on topics that have dogged her throughout the campaign, including her vote on the Iraq War and her relationship with Wall Street.

Her toughest moment of the night came when she was asked to address the paid speeches she gave at Goldman Sachs after leaving the State Department.

Clinton started to explain that Goldman wasn’t the only group that paid her for speeches. But when Cooper interjected and asked, “Did you have to be paid $675,000?” Clinton appeared caught off guard.

“Well, I don’t know. Um, that’s what they offered,” she said. Clinton went on to insist that at the time of the speeches, she was undecided on whether to seek the White House.

“I didn’t know, to be honest, I wasn’t — I wasn’t committed to running,” Clinton said, uncharacteristically tripping over her words. “I didn’t — I didn’t know whether I was running or not. I didn’t.”

And in one of the more revealing exchanges of the night, Cooper asked Clinton what would be wrong with the so-called “political revolution” that Sanders frequent calls for. Clinton paused before responding: “That’s for Sen. Sanders to explain.”

I wish that when Clinton is stumbling over her answer on Iraq more people would move on to the key point that, while she admits she made a mistake on the Iraq vote, she continued to make the same type of mistake with her positions on Libya, Syria, and Iran. We are not looking at an isolated mistake. We are looking at a pattern of dangerously pushing the country towards more warfare.

Often the best part of town halls are when members of the audience ask questions entirely different from those of the news media. Clinton faced one such question:

This may come a little bit from right field, this may seem, but it’s very personal to me and resonates probably with many other people who are elderly dealing with health issues.

The question is coming to me as a person who is walking with colon cancer. And I’m walking with colon cancer with the word terminal very much in my vocabulary, comfortably and spiritually.

But I wonder what leadership you could offer within an executive role that might help advance the respectful conversation that is needed around this personal choice that people may make, as we age and deal with health issues or be the caregivers of those people, to help enhance and — their end of life with dignity.

As I have found Clinton to do so often during the years, she began to speak incoherently on the topic, unable to answer the question and demonstrating why, as a physician, I do not want to see Hillary Clinton anywhere near health care policy. Tonight she showed no understanding of end of life counseling or palliative care. In the past she messed up health care pretty badly with her awful attempt at health care reform, and she generally sounds ignorant when discussing health care issues.

The night was a success for Sanders and a disaster for Clinton. Unfortunately I do not think that this event received much attention. Hopefully she was thrown off her game by her difficulties in Iowa and will also perform poorly at Thursday’s debate.

Update: The MSNBC New Hampshire Democratic Debate

Down To One Liberal And One Defender Of Civil Liberties In The Presidential Race

Colbert Hungry for Power Games

The number of presidential candidates should drop quickly now that voting has begun. It is not surprising that many of the candidates are waiting to see if they do better than the polls have predicted, which is reasonable considering how poorly polls often are at predicting primary results. Some of the more mainstream candidates are putting their hopes on New Hampshire. For other candidates, a loss in Iowa was enough to tell them that they had no chance.

On the Democratic side, Martin O’Malley announced that he is suspending his campaign while the Iowa caucus was in progress. It has been clear for months that O’Malley had no real chance with the conservative/establishment voters going for Clinton and the liberal/pro-insurgent voters going for Sanders. There was no middle lane for O’Malley, who certainly would be a far better choice than Clinton. He campaigned hard in Iowa, and there was no point in continuing once this failed to result in support at the caucuses. This leaves Bernie Sanders as the only liberal or progressive left in the race from either party.

For the Republicans, the Iowa caucus is the best shot for a candidate from the religious right to win, as Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum have done in the past. Republicans this year are bucking their usual trend of backing the next in line, with Ted Cruz winning this year. Huckabee at least deserves credit for realizing there is no hope and not dragging it on any longer. I wonder how much longer Rick Santorum and Ben Carson will stay in the race.

Rand Paul dropped out today, realizing it made more sense to work at holding on to his Senate seat, especially when he is increasingly being excluded from the Republican debates. While I disagree with Paul on many things, I did like having Paul criticizing the other candidates for their conservative positions on military interventionism, civil liberties, and the drug war. For that matter, while he has done so at times, I also wish Bernie Sanders would do the same regarding Clinton’s views.

With Paul out, this leaves Sanders as the only candidate opposing unnecessary foreign intervention, the only candidate opposing the surveillance state and other restrictions on civil liberties, and the only candidate who opposes the drug war. By concentrating on economic issues, where he also differs substantially from all the remaining candidates, other issues are receiving too little attention this year.

Stephen Colbert did not do his usual segment on Hungry For Power Games last night, concentrating on the caucus instead. Now he has three candidates to mock tonight.

Update: Rick Santorum is also dropping out.

The Revolution Begins For Bernie Sanders In Iowa (And No, There Is No Guaranteed Firewall For Clinton In The South)

Iowa Virtual Tie

Hillary Clinton won the Iowa caucus by a fraction of one percent thanks to the arcane rules of the Iowa caucus and the luck of winning the coin toss six out of six times when it decided delegates. Sanders has requested that the actual raw vote be released. It will probably not be done in accordance with the Iowa caucus rules, but it was a smart move to make. There is an excellent chance that Sanders won the popular vote but received slightly fewer delegate equivalents (which were announced) due to his vote being more concentrated in college towns. Plus the anti-Clinton delegates to the state convention could easily out-number the pro-Clinton delegates when those won by  Martin O’Malley, who dropped out of the race, are considered.

It remains to be seen how significant Clinton’s narrow win will be considered when it came down to coin tosses and the arcane Iowa caucus rules to pick delegate equivalents, along with some questions as to the accuracy of the results leading to some calls for a recount. Even an article at The Des Moines Register Tuesday evening questions if the correct winner was called.

A tie will be as good as a win if it brings in enough contributions and if it raises attention for Sanders sufficiently for him to get his message to more minority voters. So far it looks like it was enough in terms of fund raising, and nobody knows what will happen in terms of improving Sanders’ support nation wide. Iowa might not matter after Sanders wins in New Hampshire.

A major strategy of the Clinton campaign has to claim that Sanders could not win, just as they claimed this eight years ago about Obama. (Showing how little things have changed, they also claimed Obama was too liberal). The Clinton camp spreads claims that Sanders’ support is limited to young white males. While there is a generational divide, the gender divide is exaggerated as young millennial women are often backing Sanders. They have created the myth of a firewall in the south as the Clinton camp ignores the inroads Sanders has made among minorities the last several months.

Eight years ago, at the time of the Iowa caucus, Clinton also had a strong national lead in the national polls and among black voters. It wasn’t until Obama beat her in Iowa and showed that his campaign was for real that the campaign changed. Minorities subsequently shifted towards Obama, and Obama eventually moved ahead of Clinton in the national polls. Besides being likely to continue to improve his support among minority voters, Sanders is also making gains among less affluent whites, including in the south, which might provide votes to balance Clinton’s diminishing advantage with minorities.

Sanders support is rapidly growing. In contrast, Clinton’s support was more limited “to older, frequent caucus-goers.” This was enough for the narrow victory in Iowa, but might not be enough in primary states where relative turn out is higher, and she cannot count on the Iowa caucus rules to tilt the results.

A tie for Sanders will be as good as a win if it brings in enough contributions, and if it raises attention for Sanders sufficiently for him to get his message to more voters. So far it looks like it was enough in terms of fund raising, and we do not know yet what will happen in terms of improving Sanders’ support nation wide.

Neither campaign was able to do serious harm to the other with a meaningful win in Iowa. It largely comes down to bragging rights. Clinton can say she won, despite headlines like How Iowa Went Wrong For Hillary Clinton. She did avert disaster which she might have faced if she had lost by a significant amount as in 2008.

Bernie Sanders made a statement that he should be paid attention to. We don’t have to settle for Hillary. Iowa did show that Clinton is beatable. It also showed that she is not a very good candidate.

Iowa was essentially a tie, and maybe it is for the best that a small state like Iowa did not becoming the determining factor in what could be a long race over significant ideological differences. Previously Clinton  admitted she was a centrist when she thought the nomination was more secure, and she has been attacking Sanders from the right. In her speech last night, she flip flopped again, claiming to be a progressive, seeing where the party is headed.

The protests generated when Clinton’s claims of being a progressive aired at the Sanders campaign headquarters said it all. Sanders supporters are tired of a Democratic Party which fears liberal ideas and enables Republican policies. They were looking from the message from Bernie Sanders that, “What Iowa has begun tonight is a political revolution.”

(Post updated early Wednesday with minor changes to add more links from the original version which was cross-posted on social media.)

Iowa Caucus Comes Down To Turnout & Peculiarities Of A Caucus Versus A Primary

Iowa Caucus

(This is based upon Saturday’s post with major updates, also posted at The Moderate Voice  earlier today)

The Democratic caucus in Iowa is too close to call and will come down to turnout, along with other factors seen in a caucus as opposed to a primary. The final Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Poll before the Iowa Caucus showed Hillary Clinton leading Bernie Sanders with 45 percent compared to 42 percent. The three point lead is within the poll’s margin of error at four percent. Martin O’Malley trails at three percent.

The final Quinnipiac University Poll, coming out this morning, has Sanders leading Clinton by three points, also within the margin of error.

While I have often pointed out the limitations of polls before primaries, the final Des Moines Register poll is probably the most likely to be predictive. Among its virtues, it does not exclude voters based upon past lack of participation in the caucuses as many other polls do. While it has a better track record than other polls, it still suffers from the same problem of all pollsters in not knowing who will actually turn out. Traditional Democratic voters favor Clinton while more independent voters strongly favor Sanders, but we don’t know how many of them will participate in the caucuses. Higher turn out than usual would increase the chances of a victory for Sanders.

Being a caucus rather than a pure primary vote creates additional questions. A candidate has to meet a fifteen percent threshold for their vote to count towards selecting delegates in the Democratic caucus. If they do not meet this threshold, then the second choice becomes crucial. Greater support for Sanders than Clinton among O’Malley supporters nearly erases Clinton’s lead if the votes go to Sanders. However, Buzzfeed reports on how the Clinton campaign is trying to game the system by having some of their supporters back O’Malley so that he will meet the fifteen percent viability requirement to keep his supporters from going to Sanders. Of course plotting such a strategy and getting Iowa voters to go along are two different things. I recall how Clinton protested over similar actions by the Obama campaign eight yeas ago.

Bloomberg has more background on Clinton’s strategy in Iowa–basically doing the opposite of what she did in 2008.

Another question is the consequence of the difference in date for the caucus this year compared to 2008, when Obama came in first and Clinton came in third. The 2008 caucus occurred on January 3, when many college students were still on vacation, and possibly out of the state. Will having the caucus occur after students have returned to school provide an additional benefit to Sanders? On the other hand, will college students be more likely to caucus near their campus as opposed to at homes throughout Iowa. There is the danger that this will lead to Sanders having huge leads in some areas, such as Iowa City and Ames, while not doing as well as Obama did in other parts of the state. This could result in Clinton picking up more delegates statewide even if Sanders narrowly wins the popular vote. The Sanders campaign is urging students to “Go Home for Bernie” to vote throughout the state but such travel plans might be complicated by a major storm expected to hit Iowa later tonight.

With turnout so important, Sanders supporters hope that the large turnout at his events indicate a greater likelihood of turning out to caucus.

Donald Trump leads among the Republicans at 28 percent with Ted Cruz in second place at 23 percent in the Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Poll. However, Trump has a weak ground game making it possible for an upset. I also wouldn’t be surprised if candidates such as Rubio, or even Ben Carson, do better than expected. The usually confident Trump is admitting to being a “little bit nervous” going into tonight’s vote.

SciFi Weekend: Legends of Tomorrow; The Flash; The 100; The Gilmore Girls Diet

legends_of_tomorrow_2

We might have to wait until 2017 for another season of Doctor Who under a new show runner, but there is plenty of other time travel science fiction on television. A new time travel show, 11/22/63, begins on Hulu in about two weeks. One new time travel show, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow just recently started, and other genre shows also deal with time travel.

After seeing the completion of the second part of the season premiere of Legends of Tomorrow, I plan to stick with it but have concerns. The show had three elements. There were the superheros fighting regular people, but this was no contest. There was the fight against Vandal Savage, but he is both immortal and we know he nothing can happen to  him until the end of the series as it is all about stopping him. Then there were the time travel elements, including whether Martin Stein will meet the woman who is to become his wife, or if their travel to 1975 messed this up. Unfortunately it was far too simplistic for anyone who has seen time travel stories. At least the interactions between the cast members kept the show interesting, leaving hope for the series if they can improve upon the writing now that the setup has been established.

Plus the show could benefit by bringing in other members of the DC Universe, including some from other Berlanti television shows. Stephen Amell  will appear as the Arrow on a future episode, except it will take place in 2046:

“Every once and a while, we do an episode where the 10-year-old me has to pinch himself,” executive producer Marc Guggenheim says. “We’re not only introducing our version of Connor Hawke to our universe, we’re going to meet the 2046 version of Oliver Queen, and Stephen Amell is going to be reprising his role from Arrow. As an added bonus to comic-book fans, Oliver is missing his left arm and will be sporting a goatee, in a nod to the character’s appearance in the seminal Dark Knight Returns. We think this episode features some of the coolest things we’ve ever done.”

…Amell isn’t the only familiar face from the Berlanti-verse set to appear on Legends. Among the others: Arrow’s Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough) and Ra’s al Ghul (Matthew Nable), and The Flash’s Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes), while there’s a very strong chance we’ll see a younger and/or older version of Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) as well.

The Flash -- "The Reverse Flash Returns" -- Image FLA211b_0152b -- Pictured (L-R): Matthew Letscher as Eobard Thawne/Reverse Flash, Grant Gustin as The Flash, and Amanda Pays as Christina McGee -- Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW -- © 2016 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

The Flash is getting into some really timey wimey stuff, including having the Reverse Flash reappear after we saw him eliminated last season. The catch is that we are seeing a version of him earlier in his time line. Andrew Kreisberg discussed the show with Entertainment Weekly. Here is part of the interview.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How different is the dynamic between Barry and this Reverse-Flash (Matt Letscher) since he’s from an earlier timeline?
ANDREW KREISBERG:
What’s interesting about it is this Thawne hasn’t experienced last season yet, and Barry has. On Barry’s side, there’s a lot stronger feelings — a lot more anger, a lot more betrayal, and in some cases, that’s blinding Barry to what he needs to do. It’s really an episode about Barry coming to terms with what he wants to do and what he should do regarding this version of Thawne. There are some great surprises and some character interactions between this Thawne and all of our characters. Again, they all have the benefit of having enjoyed last season and he hasn’t.

Without making my head hurt, are you going to explain how the Reverse-Flash is back given Eddie’s (Rick Cosnett) death?
Yup. [Laughs]

When Barry ran through the time stream last year, he saw himself in jail. Will that be addressed this season?
Not this season. There’s a very famous comic book, “The Trial of The Flash,” where Barry was arrested for murder. We wanted all of those little future things to have a little nod to the comics, which is why we saw The Flash museum and why we did that little bit. It wasn’t something that was consciously have planned, per se, but it was a fun way to honor the comic book. While it always goes through our filter, we do tend to take a lot of stories and ideas from the comics, and that was a way to honor the comics.

How is Barry handling losing Patty (Shantel VanSanten), and could this open up his eyes back up to Iris (Candice Patton) again?
That could definitely happen. Right now, he’s reeling a little bit. Zoom is the splinter in his foot; it’s the thing that’s out there and ruining everything for him. What’s really going to happen after Patty’s last episode, which is this week, is it’s really this need to get Zoom. Barry is still haunted by that video message that Wells [Tom Cavanagh] left, which said he’s never going to be happy. Now that he’s lost Patty, he’s decided that stopping Zoom is the only way he’s ever really going to be happy and disprove Wells/Thawne’s hypothesis.

What can you tease about the identity of Zoom and when we might learn more about him?
We’ve never played this card down on a villain before, which is neat and interesting to us. As the season progresses, more will be revealed. We obviously don’t want to give too much away, because we’ve made his identity a mystery that’s part of the ongoing storyline. We’re really jazzed about the storytelling choices that we’ve made this season. So far, the audience has gone with them, and we hope they’ll continue to do so.

NBC is going to have their own time travel show:

Shawn Ryan and Eric Kripke are making Time for NBC. Literally.

The Peacock network has ordered a sci-fi drama pilot from the respective creators of The Shield and Supernatural titled Time that follows an unlikely trio who travel through (wait for it… ) time to battle a brilliant criminal intent on altering the fabric of human history with potentially catastrophic results.

The 100 Season 3

The 100 returned for its third season. So far I haven’t liked it as much as the previous two seasons, but there has been a lot of setup and I’m hoping for improvement as we get into the new story lines. The final scene of last week’s episode when Clarke met an old friend or enemy was certainly interesting. Entertainment Weekly asked creator Jason Rothenberg and actors Marie Avgeropoulos, Bob Morley, Christopher Larkin, Eliza Taylor, Devon Bostick, and Richard Harmon about the season. Here is some of what they said:

…about the time-jump

“There’s relative peace when we start, so the people are able to take a breath, explore, and map the region. They’re building a real, functioning civilization, which they haven’t had a chance to do since they landed because they’ve been getting killed every second of every day. Now they can do that. And then the s— hits the fan.” —Rothenberg

…about Ice Nation

“[They] are a bit of an unknown. They’re quite renowned for being very fierce and aggressive. [Skaikru] are really not expecting that kind of welcome that they give them.” —Morley

…about the Big Bad

“This season you have to decide who the bad guy is and what side you want to be on, because one of the things Jason [Rothenberg] is doing a great job of is putting the leads all over the map and on all different sides — fighting each other and not even knowing they’re fighting each other.” —Harmon

…about Clarke

“I think fans will be very surprised with how Clarke has changed and been hardened by and broken by what she’s had to do.” —Rothenberg

“I think everyone is just going on with their lives [without her]. There’s not a lot you can do about somebody who wants to just leave and be on their own. You can sit there and wallow in it or you can just carry on. There are bigger fish to fry really… like this thing called living.” [Laughs] —Morley

Gilmore Girls Diet

Netflix has announced that the revival of Gilmore Girls is now officially going ahead. (As set pictures have already been released, I’m not certain how this announcement really changes anything.) With Gilmore Girls coming back,Lauren Valenti of Marie Claire decided to try eating like Lorelei and Rory. That means a lot of pizza, junk food, and coffee:

A week into 2016, I had a Gilmore Girls-induced epiphany. Lorelai and Rory were scarfing down pepperoni pizza on the couch and making fun of Dean for ordering a salad because, dude, seriously? Heroes, I thought for the millionth time.

And then it occurred to me. Their complete and utter lack of hang-up about calories was the most refreshing thing I’d seen in a while—especially in the midst of all this talk about New Year’s resolutions and diets and “getting in shape.” Women inhaling junk food, take-out Chinese, and copious amounts of coffee—what a profound F U to those judgy, clean-eating freaks.

The result was that she lost two pounds.

As a physician, I cannot recommend that you try this diet at home.

Interpreting The Final Des Moines Register Poll Showing A Statistical Tie Between Clinton And Sanders

Des Moines Register Poll Final

The final Des Moines Register/Blomberg Poll before the Iowa Caucus shows Hillary Clinton leading Bernie Sanders with 45 percent compared to 42 percent. The three point lead is within the poll’s margin of error at four percent. Martin O’Malley trails at three percent.

While I have often pointed out the limitations of polls before primaries, the final Des Moines Register poll is probably the most likely to be predictive. Among its virtues, it does not exclude voters based upon past lack of participation in the caucuses as many other polls do. While it has a better track record than other polls, it still suffers from the same problem of all pollsters in not knowing who will actually turn out. Traditional Democratic voters favor Clinton while more independent voters strongly favor Sanders, but we don’t know how many of them will participate in the caucuses. Higher turn out than usual would increase the chances of a victory for Sanders.

Being a caucus rather than a pure primary vote creates additional questions. A candidate has to meet a fifteen percent threshold for their vote to count towards selecting delegates in the Democratic caucus. If they do not meet this threshold, then the second choice becomes crucial. Greater support for Sanders than Clinton among O’Malley supporters nearly erases Clinton’s lead.

Another question is the consequence of the difference in date for the caucus this year compared to 2008, when Obama came in first and Clinton came in third. The 2008 caucus occurred on January 3, when many college students were still on vacation, and possibly out of the state. Will having the caucus occur after students have returned to school provide an additional benefit to Sanders? On the other hand, will college students be more likely to caucus near their campus as opposed to at homes throughout Iowa. There is the danger that this will lead to Sanders having huge leads in some areas, such as Iowa City and Ames, while not doing as well as Obama did in other parts of the state. This could result in Clinton picking up more delegates statewide even if Sanders narrowly wins the popular vote.

Donald Trump leads among the Republicans at 28 percent with Ted Cruz in second place at 23 percent.

Update:  Buzzfeed reports on how the Clinton campaign is trying to game the system by having some of their supporters back O’Malley so that he will meet the fifteen percent viability requirement to keep his supporters from going to Sanders. Of course plotting such a strategy and getting Iowa voters to go along are two different things. I recall how Clinton protested over similar actions by the Obama campaign eight yeas ago. Plus Bloomberg has more background on Clinton’s strategy in Iowa–basically doing the opposite of what she did in 2008.

An updated post with further news, including Sanders leading in latest pre-Iowa poll, is here.

The Vast Ideological Gap Between Hillary Clinton and Supporters of Bernie Sanders

Political Compass 2016 Candidates

Politico looks at Hillary Clinton’s 43 percent problem:

Mitt Romney had a 47 percent problem. Hillary Clinton’s problem is 43 percent.

That’s the share of Democratic caucus goers in Iowa who identify themselves as “socialists,” according to a recent Des Moines Register poll. It’s a percentage that has turned a once-easy line of attack – painting Bernie Sanders as too far left to be electable — into a trickier endeavor for Clinton in the last days before the Iowa caucuses.

This gives one explanation of why the polls in Iowa are now so close, but it over-simplifies the situation. It is not really about socialists versus capitalists. Sanders’ views are far closer to those of European Social Democrats. He is not a socialist, and I certainly am not.  The ideological divide, and the reasons I support Sanders over Clinton, are more complex.

Using the flawed left/right ideological spectrum also creates more serious misunderstandings and feeds the Clinton camp’s false claims that she is more electable than Sanders. The left/right spectrum misses the fact that independents and voters in battle ground states are often hostile towards Clinton and that Sanders has a much better chance with such voters. Part of this is because of voters looking at character as opposed to ideology. Another factor is that Sanders is closer to the ideological center where voters who would consider voting Democratic fall.

Political Compass is one of many sites which measure political views along two or more axes. While no system is perfect, they do a good job of capturing the approximate relative positions of the primary candidates. This shows, as I have often argued during this primary battle, that Hillary Clinton is far closer to the Republican candidates than she is to Bernie Sanders (or to my position). Their graphing of the primary candidates is above and the following is from their description of the candidates:

Style more than substance separates Trump from Hillary Clinton. After all, Trump was a generous donor to Clinton’s senate campaigns, and also to the Clinton Foundation. Hillary is nevertheless disingenuously promoting herself as the centrist between an extreme right-winger (Trump) and an ‘extreme left-winger’ (Sanders). Abortion and gay marriage place her on a more liberal position on the social scale than all of the Republicans but, when it comes to economics, Clinton’s unswerving attachment to neoliberalism and big money is a mutual love affair.

Quite why Sanders is describing himself to the American electorate — of all electorates — as a ‘socialist’ or ‘democratic socialist’ isn’t clear. His economics are Keynesian or Galbraithian, in common with mainstream parties of the left in the rest of the west — the Labour or Social Democrat parties. Surely ‘Social Democrat’ would be a more accurate and appealing label for the Sanders campaign to adopt.

I don’t totally agree with the placement of the candidates. I think they rank Clinton a little more liberal on social issues than she falls, ignoring her past position on gay marriage until politically expedient to change, and her association with members of the religious right in The Fellowship while in the Senate. I would also put a greater distance between them on foreign policy than described in the full post linked above.

Despite these disagreements, the overall pattern is right. Clinton is a bit more moderate than the Republican candidates, but ideologically in the same authoritarian right area. Sanders falls closer to the libertarian than the authoritarian end where the other candidates fall, but not all that much left of center economically.

Personally I fall much further in the left-libertarian section, falling much more towards the libertarian end than Sanders (although I also question if he shouldn’t fall somewhat further along the libertarian axis than shown here). It is no surprise that left-libertarians have been heavily in support of Sanders this year.

This is the divide the Democrats now face. It isn’t that many Democratic voters are socialists, but we do differ considerably from Hillary Clinton in ideology, and do not see much of a difference between her and the Republicans.  Obviously this will not apply to all Sanders supporters, and some could even manage to vote for Hillary Clinton in a general election without having to hold their noses, but it does apply to many of us.

Many young voters share socially libertarian and secular views which put them closer to the left-libertarian portion of the political spectrum. Many of us older voters got more active in politics in response to the abuses of the Bush years. As I wrote earlier in the week, we are not going to be excited by a Democrat who advocates the same neoconservative foreign policy, has supported the same types of restrictions on civil liberties and expanded power for the Executive Branch, and who as actively worked to increase the role of religion on public policy. She has also been a hawk on the drug war. While better than the Republicans in agreeing with the scientific consensus on climate change, she is so indebted to the petroleum industry that her environmental policies have not been much better.

Hillary Clinton is just a slightly more moderate version of George Bush. Yes, the Republicans have moved even further towards the authoritarian right corner of the spectrum, but that still does not leave Clinton as a desirable choice.

Washington Post Editorial Board Spreading Fictions About Bernie Sanders

Washington Post Logo

The Washington Post has carried op-eds both in support of Bernie Sanders and in opposition to him. I looked at a couple of them yesterday. The  Post followed this up with an editorial full of right wing attacks on Sanders which were out of touch with reality. Bernie Sanders has responded:

At a breakfast with reporters here Thursday that was hosted by Bloomberg Politics, Sanders fired back — again and again and again.

“That’s not a new argument. We’ve been hearing that months and months, and that’s in a sense what this campaign is about,” Sanders said in response to a request for his reaction to the editorial. “People are telling us, whether it’s the Washington Post editorial board or anybody else, our ideas are too ambitious — can’t happen. Too bold — really? Well, here’s something which is really bold. In the last 30 years, there has been a massive transfer of wealth from the middle class and working families of this country. The middle class has become poorer and trillions of dollars have been transferred to the top one-tenth of 1 percent.”

“That’s pretty radical, isn’t it?” Sanders said. “Where was The Washington Post to express concern that the middle class was shrinking?”

…When he was asked about foreign policy, Sanders detoured: “Getting back to The Washington Post — check out where all the geniuses on the editorial page were with regard to the invasion of Iraq.” (They supported it.)

At another point: “I know The Washington Post may think I’m radical, but I’m not.”

More on Sanders’ response at Common Dreams.

Just as The Washington Post was wrong on the facts when they supported the Iraq war and in ignoring the economic meltdown, they totally botched the health care issue:

He admits that he would have to raise taxes on the middle class in order to pay for his universal, Medicare-for-all health-care plan, and he promises massive savings on health-care costs that would translate into generous benefits for ordinary people, putting them well ahead, on net. But he does not adequately explain where those massive savings would come from. Getting rid of corporate advertising and overhead would only yield so much. Savings would also have to come from slashing payments to doctors and hospitals and denying benefits that people want.

He would be a braver truth-teller if he explained how he would go about rationing health care like European countries do. His program would be more grounded in reality if he addressed the fact of chronic slow growth in Europe and explained how he would update the 20th-century model of social democracy to accomplish its goals more efficiently. Instead, he promises large benefits and few drawbacks.

Medicare for All is not a program which Sanders has pulled out of the air. Supporters of health care reform have discussed this for years. It is not difficult to see where the savings would come from. To begin with, Medicare is much more efficient in the use of health care dollars than the private insurance industry. This isn’t just about getting rid of corporate advertising and some overhead costs. This is about eliminating the vast amount of money spent on the health insurance industry and the huge profits they make. This is all money which would be better spent on health care for Americans.

Rationing? These days all health care payers have restrictions on what they will pay for. We already have rationing, and often it is the private payers which are more restrictive than the government Medicare program.

Some of the savings will come from the fact that Medicare often pays less than private insurance. Despite this, there is good reason why many of us doctors support the plan. The secret is that we believe we will come out ahead financially with Medicare for All. Here’s why–

Back in the old days, a medical practice would typically have one biller. Now things are much more complicated. Many practices need to pay additional people to handle the billing because of the complexity of handling different rules from each payer–and the billers are very likely the highest paid non-medical employee in any medical practice you step foot in. It gets even worse. We also have to have employees to handle getting prior authorizations from different payers for tests, procedures, and prescriptions, again dealing with multiple sets of rules. On top of all this, a growing amount of payment to physicians comes from incentive payments which come from not only practicing medicine as required, but having somebody enter all the data into the insurance company computer systems. Again, each payer has their own set of rules, often requiring more than one employee to handle them. Plus it is a headache to try to keep track of all the rules from each payer.

Just compare this to the overhead of a medical practice in Canada, which has a single payer plan similar to Medicare for All.

Plus if we have Medicare for All, we will no longer have to worry about bad debts from uninsured patients, and receiving payments significantly lower than from Medicare on patients with Medicaid. It is a win financially for many physicians, as well as for most Americans who will no longer have the large insurance premiums and out of pocket expenses they now face.

The Washington Post also questions whether Sanders  can pass his agenda. Whether or not he can is a fallacious reason not to support him. Sanders’ supporters see what Sanders speaks about as being a description of his long-term goals, not a set of promises to be completed his first hundred days in office. With our current grid lock in Washington, no candidate will be able to quickly get their goals through Congress, but I see Sanders has having a far better chance of bringing in members of Congress who will support him than Clinton. If Clinton is the nominee, my bet is that many people will split their ticket, wanting members of the other party to keep an eye on a president they know is untrustworthy.

Plus the important thing in voting for a president is over matters more directly under the control of the president. Sanders is far less likely to get us involved in unnecessary wars than Clinton or the Republican candidates. Sanders is more likely to reform the surveillance state and back away from the drug war. A Sanders Justice Department will treat those who violate the law on Wall Street far different than I would expect a Clinton Justice Department to respond.

It is The Washington Post, not Bernie Sanders, which is spreading fictions.

Dana Milbank Is Wrong–Nominating Sanders Is The Rational Choice For Democrats

Bernie Sanders Large Crowd

Dana Milbank repeated the establishment line in a column fallaciously entitled, Democrats would be insane to nominate Bernie Sanders.

I adore Bernie Sanders.

I agree with his message of fairness and I share his outrage over inequality and corporate abuses. I think his righteous populism has captured the moment perfectly. I respect the uplifting campaign he has run. I admire his authenticity.

And I am convinced Democrats would be insane to nominate him.

Hillary Clinton, by contrast, is a dreary candidate. She has, again, failed to connect with voters. Her policy positions are cautious and uninspiring. Her reflexive secrecy causes a whiff of scandal to follow her everywhere. She seems calculating and phony.

And yet if Democrats hope to hold the presidency in November, they’ll need to hold their noses and nominate Clinton.

Milbank dismissed the evidence that Sander would do better against the Republicans than Clinton:

Sanders and his supporters boast of polls showing him, on average, matching up slightly better against Trump than Clinton does. But those matchups are misleading: Opponents have been attacking and defining Clinton for a quarter- century, but nobody has really gone to work yet on demonizing Sanders.

Milbank ignores how Clinton and her surrogates have already been launching right-wing sounding attacks against Sanders. Despite this, Sanders does better than Clinton against Republicans in national polls. More significantly in terms of winning the general election, Clinton does poorly with independents and in the battle ground states.

Right wing attacks on Sanders won’t be any different from right wing attacks on Obama, who they already claim is a Marxist Socialist, and a foreign-born Muslim, who will be sending the black helicopters out any minute now to take away their guns and put them in FEMA concentration camps.

Milbank also ignores the importance of turn out. Republican attacks on Sanders will primarily appeal to Republican voters–not people who would ever vote for Sanders. However both Sanders own campaigning and Republican attacks will motivate Democratic leaning voters to turn out. It is Sanders, not Clinton, who has been exciting voters for the past several months, and inspiring many new voters to get involved.

There are traditionally two ways to win an election–motivate your base to turn out in high numbers or win over independents. Sanders can do better than Clinton at both. Plus he can get votes from people who have not voted for the major political parties in the past.

Plus as a general rule of thumb, it is best not to nominate the candidate whose practices are the subject of an active FBI investigation. A Clinton candidacy, assuming she is not indicted, will be dominated by talk of scandal, most likely suppressing the Democratic vote and energizing the Republicans.

Milbanks admits that voters must be willing to hold their nose to vote for Clinton, but what makes him so sure that they will do so as opposed to staying home? Running on the argument that “my candidate is bad, but yours is even worse” is not how to win an election. Voters want to vote for something, not just vote for the lesser of two evils.

With all their faults, at least Republicans are willing to stand for something, even if the wrong things. Republicans don’t worry if their candidates are too extreme, and they reject those who they consider to be Republicans In Name Only.

Many Sanders supporters back him primarily because of the economic issues which have dominated the campaign. Many of us became active in the blogosphere in response to the abuses of the Bush administration. We are not going to be excited by a Democrat who advocates the same neoconservative foreign policy, has supported the same types of restrictions on civil liberties and expanded power for the Executive Branch, and who as actively worked to increase the role of religion on public policy. She has been a hawk on the drug war. While better than the Republicans in agreeing with the scientific consensus on climate change, she is so indebted to the petroleum industry that her environmental policies have not been much better.

This is hardly a record to get people who vote based upon principle, as opposed to party affiliation, to get out to vote for Hillary Clinton. No wonder Milbank realizes we would have to hold our noses.

Democrats, and some of their supporters in the media, think Democrats need to hide from principles and run candidates who are Republican-lite. They never get the lesson, no matter how often that results in the Democrats losing.

Fortunately not everyone agrees. The Nation gave one of their rare endorsements to Sanders and The Washington Post also ran a recent op-ed by arguing that Bernie Sanders is the realist we should elect.

Many of the pundits agree — this is a choice between head and heart. If Democrats think with their heads, they will go with Hillary; with their hearts, with Bernie.

But this conventional wisdom clashes with the reality that this country has suffered serial devastations from choices supported by the establishment’s “responsible” candidates. On fundamental issue after issue, it is the candidate “of the heart” who is in fact grounded in common sense. It wasn’t Sanders’s emotional appeal, but his clearsightedness that led the Nation magazine, which I edit, to make only its third presidential endorsement in a primary in its 150-year history.

For example, foreign policy is considered Clinton’s strength. When terrorism hits the headlines, she gains in the polls. Yet the worst calamity in U.S. foreign policy since Vietnam surely was George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. Clinton voted for that war; Sanders got it right and voted against. Clinton has since admitted her vote was a “mistake” but seems to have learned little from that grievous misjudgment. As secretary of state, she championed regime change in Libya that left behind another failed state rapidly becoming a backup base for the Islamic State. She pushed for toppling Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian civil war and lobbied for arming the Syrian opposition, a program that ended up supplying more weapons to the Islamic State than to anyone else. Now she touts a “no fly zone” in Syria, an idea that has been dismissed by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as requiring some 70,000 troops to enforce, and by President Obama as well. People thinking with their heads rather than their hearts might well prefer Sanders’s skepticism about regime change to Clinton’s hawkishness.

The worst economic calamity since the Great Depression came when the excesses of Wall Street created the housing bubble and financial crisis that blew up the economy. Clinton touts her husband economic record, but he championed the deregulation that helped unleash the Wall Street wilding. The banks, bailed out by taxpayers, are bigger and more concentrated than they were before the crash. Someone using their head — not their heart — would want to make certain that the next president is independent of Wall Street and committed to breaking up the big banks and shutting down the casino. But Clinton opposes key elements of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) rational reform agenda for the banks, and her money ties to Wall Street lead any rational observer to conclude she’s an uncertain trumpet for reform.

Americans continue to suffer from a broken heath-care system that costs nearly twice per capita as those in the rest of the industrialized world — with worse results. Obama’s health reforms have helped millions get health care — particularly through the expansion of Medicaid and by forcing coverage of pre-existing conditions. But millions continue to go without care, millions more are underinsured and unable to afford decent coverage, and even more are gouged by drug companies and insurance companies that game the system’s complexities. Eventually the United States will join every other industrial nation with some form of simplified universal care. Sanders champions moving to “Medicare for all.” Clinton has mischaracterized his proposal, erroneously claiming it would “basically end all kinds of health care we know, Medicare, Medicaid, the Chip Program. It would take all that and hand it over to the states.” She says she would build on Obamacare but has yet to detail significant reforms that would take us closer to a rational health-care system. Sanders supported Obamacare but understands we can’t get to a rational health-care plan without leaders willing to take on the entrenched interests that stand in the way. It isn’t romantic to think that it is long past time for the United States to join every other industrial country and guarantee affordable health care for all…

In the face of the Sanders surge, Clinton supporters have resorted to the “electability argument”: that Sanders can’t be elected because he’s too far left. Put aside the irony of Clinton dismissing the electoral viability of someone she might lose to. Clinton has inevitable baggage of her own that raises doubts about her electoral prospects. And Clinton’s decision to present herself as the candidate of continuity in a time of change is problematic.

Clinton’s closing ad before Iowa makes her central argument clear: Trust her. She’s experienced and committed. She’ll keep Republicans from taking away the progress we’ve made. Sanders’s ad makes his argument clear: Trust yourself. Come together, take back the country and make this nation better. The first appeals to the head; the latter to the heart. But even the most hard-headed pragmatist might think the latter has as good a chance at getting elected and a better chance of forcing change than the former.

Update: Washington Post Editorial Board Spreading Fictions About Bernie Sanders

Head Of Organization Spreading False Claims About Planned Parenthood Indicted By Texas Grand Jury

planned_parenthood_ap_328_0

There was an unexpected turn of events in a grand jury investigation in Texas regarding the bogus charges against Planned Parenthood. The grand jury not only declared there was no wrong doing on the part of Planned Parenthood, but indicted the director of the group which spread the debunked claims that Planned Parenthood was selling fetal tissue.  The Washington Post reports:

Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson said David Daleiden, the director of the Center for Medical Progress, faces a felony charge of tampering with a governmental record and a misdemeanor count related to buying human tissue.

Sandra Merritt, one of Daleiden’s employees, was also indicted on a charge of tampering with a governmental record.

The grand jury cleared Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast of any wrongdoing.

“We were called upon to investigate allegations of criminal conduct by Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast,” Anderson said in a statement. “As I stated at the outset of this investigation, we must go where the evidence leads us. All the evidence uncovered in the course of this investigation was presented to the grand jury. I respect their decision on this difficult case.”

Republican candidates were not happy. Think Progress quotes some of them.