Monthly Archives: April 2015

Can Bernie win? That’s not the question

Dear Lefty friends,
Underlying the MSM coverage of Bernie Sanders’ run for Prez will be a steady drumbeat of “but of course he can’t win.” Please DO NOT go around repeating that. Here’s why: 1) the goal is a left polity in the US, not a savior who fixes everything for us. This is a decades-long process, involving hearts and minds, not just an election or two. The real question you should raise is what might his candidacy do for that longer project? 2) The MSM’S focus on their perceptions of electability has long had an enormous self-fulfilling prophecy effect, horribly narrowing the range of debate in the country and alienating people from politics altogether. Do not help them with that. 3) Bernie’s strategy is based on the assumption that there are lots of folks who don’t vote and/or often vote Republican who might vote for him. And he’s shown some success: in 2004 he did better than John Kerry in Vermont, which meant there were people voting for George W. Bush and Bernie Sanders at the same time; he’s co-sponsored successful legislation with Republicans (e.g., John McCain); and he’s admired by groups often thought of as “natural” conservatives like veterans. Point-for-point almost all his policy positions poll very favorably with a majority of US citizens. Don’t laugh at that.

So just put the electability question aside, and get involved in the long game for hearts and minds. We don’t know whether or not he’s electable but we do know that if we all shrug and say he’s not, we’re just helping to ensure that he, and we, will lose.

A prediction

How’s this for a prediction of how the first six months of a Bernie campaign for Democratic Nominee will go?:
1) There will be an initial modest flurry of attention from the MSM because they are bored and want a horse race. “But of course he can’t win” will be a background drumbeat of their coverage. (See R. Merton, self-fulfilling prophecy).
2) Bernie will choose a few narratable issues and hammer them over and over (it’s what he does). The MSM will barely address the actual issues he’s hammering on, but will talk endlessly about whether or not populist positions are good strategy. They will mostly conclude they are not, because polls will show that most people think Bernie can’t win and the populist issues the media are ignoring — e.g., fast track, bank regulation — are unknown to a majority of voters. They will show no sense of irony when they say this.
3) The Hillary camp will say little or nothing directly about Bernie. They are already under pressure to take more economically populist stands, and so it’s likely she will make a few statements that sound vaguely populist. (I’d encourage the left not to get too excited when this happens. This early stage is also a good time to make promises you never intend on keeping, as later in the campaign nobody will remember.)

Bernie Sanders could enter the race, Joe Biden’s and John Kasich’s waiting game, and the big stakes of 2016 filled “Inside Politics.”

Reality and House of Cards

Dear Netflix-watching liberal friends who have a weakness for House of Cards. I like it too, but please stop prefacing your discussions of it with “of course it’s not at all realistic . . . ” Besides being a the-sky-is-blue kind of statement, it covers up the fact that the realistic details that make the series so watchable draw from a particular reality, namely the fact that our government is overrun by people who behave with disdain for democracy, that too many of our politicians use the mechanisms of democracy for mere advancement or gain. If our democracy was not in crisis, the show wouldn’t be interesting, it wouldn’t exist. The series (and its British predecessor) are not depictions of reality, but they are OF a reality where politicians, reporters, and bureaucrats constantly maneuver in ways that undercut the public’s concerns and interests. Frank and Claire are over-the-top Machiavellians, but the legislative maneuvering, kowtowing to big money, too-intimate relations between journalists and politicians, and many other bits are straight out of reality.

Thanks. Now go back to chatting about it.

House of Cards is an American political drama television series developed and produced by Beau Willimon. It is an adaptation of the BBC’s mini-series of the same name and is based on the novel by Michael Dobbs. The…