Podcast: Super Tuesday Preview & Predictions, SC Recap, and More

We recap the South Carolina primary and make our Super Tuesday predictions, plus a few words on Cuba, Chris Matthews, and more!

Podcast: Bernie or Bust, Frontrunner Style: Stopping Bloomberg and the Superdelegates – w/Victor Tiffany

Victor Tiffany, founder of Bernie or Bust, returns to discuss how his movement has adjusted its strategy for 2020, and how Bernie or Bust can be used to stop Bloomberg and thwart a superdelegate coup at the convention.

Podcast: Vegas Bernie, Vegas! Nevada Caucus Recap, plus Bloomberg’s Debate Debacle.

Bernie’s landslide win in Nevada has him on his way to the nomination. We talk the importance of the victory, Bloomberg’s horrible debate, and more!

Why Michael Bloomberg Is More Dangerous To Democracy Than Donald Trump.

by Russell Dobular

There have been a lot of explanations offered for the unlikely victory of Donald Trump in 2016.  Russia, racists, James Comey, economic distress, sexism, voter suppression, and the missteps of the Clinton campaign, have been the most common.  There has probably never been an election in American history more pored over and dissected in the aftermath than the one that made a (maybe) billionaire reality TV star, with no previous political experience, the leader of the free world.  And while with Clinton having crushed Trump by 3M in the popular vote, the electoral college has gotten a lot of attention, our undemocratic way of practicing democracy long pre-dates 2016, and can only be blamed on the nation’s founders.  But there’s one explanation that no one has ever offered for Donald Trump’s victory; no one has ever said that he bought the office.  The reality is quite the opposite.  Trump won in spite of a huge cash deficit, being outspent 2 to 1 by the Clinton machine.  Thus, whatever strange brew of unlikely events you believe led to his presidency, you can’t really say that Donald Trump wasn’t duly elected, based on the admittedly unfair terms by which we’ve been deciding these things for 200-plus years, or that his ideas didn’t have greater appeal to roughly half the population (or at least 46% of the population, located in just the right places), than his opponent’s.  By contrast, if Mike Bloomberg were to emerge victorious, it could only be through means that would end up making Trump’s campaign look like a Capraesque paeon to the virtues of representative democracy.  While Trump may be anti-democratic, Bloomberg is post-democratic, and once we go down that road as a nation, it’s unlikely we’ll ever recover.

If Bloomberg wins it will not be because a majority of voters were persuaded by his ideas; it will be because he used his wealth to buy up all the political operatives who might have gone to other campaigns, by paying them double; it will be because he saturation-bombed every media platform with campaign ads; it will be because he’s been buying the allegiance of politicians and activists with the strategic use of grants and donations for decades; it will be because the corporate media wouldn’t go against a candidate who was able to significantly boost their annual revenue with his ad buys.

Bloomberg isn’t running a campaign so much as he’s running a political marketing experiment that was perhaps inevitable in the wake of 2016.  Trump’s victory demonstrated loudly and clearly to the nation’s oligarchs that the door to the White House is wide open to anyone with enough money to fund their own campaign, who can also command the media’s attention.  Bloomberg and others like him were surely watching Trump’s run with keen interest and not a little bit of envy.  Why didn’t I think of that?  If this half-bright, trust fund, con man can do it, anyone with a few billion dollars lying around is a shoe-in, must have been the gist of their thinking, along with, Why keep giving millions of dollars to these politicians, when there’s always the off-chance that they go against our interests under public pressure?  Why not just cut out the middle-man? 

Before 2016 it probably never would have occurred to Mike Bloomberg that a controversial mayor with a horrific history on race, and almost 40 workplace discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuits to his name, could actually win the Presidency.  AS A DEMOCRAT.  But all bets are off now.  And we can be sure that everyone from Mark Zuckerberg to Jeff Bezos is watching Mike run this cruel experiment on an already shaky and strung out target population, in the hopes that it will end with proof of concept.  Because if Bloomberg can pull this off, any of them can.  And if any of them can, a lot of them will.  And if that happens, it will be the end of democracy in a far more profound sense than the election of Donald Trump portended.  If Bloomberg succeeds, you will never again see a Presidential race in which candidates who simply go around to oligarchs with hat in hand begging for donations, are viable. That kind of campaign will come to seem as quaint and innocent as a small town Mayor’s race circa 1900, in light of what will come after.

To be clear, I don’t think Bloomberg has a snowball’s chance in hell of beating Trump, were he to become the nominee.  For Trumpsters, the Michael Bloomberg Show will never have the sheer entertainment value of the Trump Comedy Hour, and for the left, Bloomberg is the one blue they just can’t “no matter who” for.  While the media might tell you otherwise, the vast majority of Sanders’ primary voters, ended up biting the bullet and voting for Hillary, and in far greater numbers than Hillary ’08 voters supported Obama. That won’t be the case for Mike Bloomberg. Whereas there was no mainstreamed ‘Never Hillary’ effort in 2016, progressive journalist Shaun King has already written a persuasive article about why Bloomberg is the line he just can’t cross, and he isn’t alone. The result will be the kind of Trump landslide that will ironically evoke memories of the Nixon victory over McGovern that the establishment is so fond of attaching to Bernie.

In spite of all this, I know a lot of people are so conditioned to see Trump as the source of all our evils, that some of them are incapable at this point of seeing anyone running against him as an even greater evil.  If Rep. Lucifer Morningstar ran with a D next to his name, these folks would line up to sign their voter registration forms in blood if they thought he could win.  And the truth is, a second term of Trump will be devastating to the country, there’s no doubt about that.  But Bloomberg’s defeat would have the limited virtue of discouraging all the Lex Luthor wanna-bes out there (am I the only one who’s noticed Bezos’ uncanny resemblance?) from grabbing for the brass ring the next time around.  ‘Cause if there’s one thing narcissistic billionaires don’t like, its abject public humiliation.  Seeing Mike get spanked by the voters will likely make them stick to the old ways: buying the candidates with their donations, instead of being the candidates themselves. It’s not much, but it’s something.

In the end, whatever the outcome of a Bloomberg v Trump race, a “democracy” that offers its citizens a choice between voting for one racist billionaire, or another racist billionaire, with “not racist,” and “not a billionaire” nowhere on the menu, is probably doomed either way.  At that point, your best bet is to focus on securing citizenship in a civilized country and stocking up on bottled water in the event that you can’t get out.  But in the “lesser of two evils” spirit that centrist types are always going on about when they’re trying to persuade you to vote for someone who’s taken money from the “toxic waste in backyards” lobby, because their opponent has taken money from the “toxic waste in school lunches” lobby, ensuring Bloomberg’s defeat is probably the lesser evil.  Our job right now as citizens is to do everything in our power to ensure that it doesn’t come to that, even if it means incurring some backlash by stating loudly and publicly that you’ll vote for any Democrat, but you’ll never vote for Michael Bloomberg.  Those statements are not mutually exclusive.  #nevermike

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Bloomberg is the Stop Sanders Candidate. Our Response Must Be Bernie or Bust.

by Keaton Weiss

In 2016, I was more or less Bernie or Bust. I registered as a Democrat for the first time in my life in order to vote for Bernie Sanders in the closed primary state of New York. That summer, after the primary, I DemExited and did not cast a vote in the general election.

This cycle, because I felt that progressives had built considerable momentum within the Democratic Party since 2016, and because I felt a second Trump term would be far more dangerous than a first, I was, in the beginning, explicitly anti-Bernie or Bust. I still supported Sanders from the day he launched his campaign, but I also thought that in the event he didn’t win the nomination, it would still be worth electing another Democrat, even a horrible one, if for no other reasons than to avert a second Trump term in which he would appoint at least one, probably two, maybe even three SCOTUS justices, and to see our newly elected progressives in the “Squad” and elsewhere try and push our legislative agenda to the new president’s desk in the hopes we could apply enough pressure that he or she would sign off on it. For these reasons, Bernie or Bust seemed strategically dubious in the early days of this campaign.

But not anymore. I could say that circumstances have changed, but the Bernie-or-Busters would insist that they haven’t, and that I should have been on board with them all along. And they’d have a point. Because my analysis in the spring and summer of last year failed to consider the lengths to which the Democratic establishment would go to sabotage the Sanders campaign and the movement it has become. I certainly expected a bitter, brutal fight, just as we endured last time around, but I wasn’t sure it would get to such an ugly place in 2020. Unlike in 2016, there was no one anointed candidate for the establishment to coalesce behind, and so I thought an anti-Bernie campaign would be harder to pull off, because it couldn’t be disguised as a “pro-Someone Else” campaign, if you will. I also thought there was a decent possibility that Bernie might have gotten lost in the shuffle of 20+ candidates, and, had he never gained traction, such a Stop Sanders effort may not have been necessary in the first place.

Alas, I was wrong. Because Bernie not only caught traction, he caught fire. He gained such momentum that the Democratic establishment and their media allies were forced into action to try and stop him much earlier than even they could have anticipated. I did predict correctly that because there was no Clinton-like figure in this race for the party hacks to rally around, a “Never Bernie” push would be rather obvious in its intention (which is probably why it thankfully hasn’t worked very well), but I was wrong in thinking that such a dynamic might deter them from trying.

The CNN/Elizabeth Warren smear job against Bernie was my first real reminder of how awful things could become overnight. Such a clearly coordinated hit was a loud wake-up call, but thankfully, that’s all it was, because Bernie not only survived the attack, he came out of it even stronger.

Then came the Iowa Caucuses, which Bernie was poised to win, only to have app malfunctions, communication breakdowns, and reporting discrepancies, totally derail the entire affair. This was either a second coordinated hit against Bernie’s movement, or it was negligence to the point that it may as well have been. Either way, it was obvious that the Democratic Party could not be trusted to administer free and fair elections in such a manner that the public could have confidence in the results. A party that can’t be trusted in this way has no reason to exist. That night it became clear that they were an illegitimate party, and a party I could no longer pledge my support to in this election. I believe very much in Bernie and the movement he has nurtured over these past five years, and so I’m still willing to stick it out for him and for us, but there was no way I could actively support anyone else at that point, even in a general election against Donald Trump.

So I was back on the Bernie or Bust bandwagon. However, even in my recent appearance on the Bernie or Bust YouTube show and podcast, I made sure to point out that in order not to alienate undecided potential Bernie voters in the primary, I wasn’t quite ready to stress the Bernie or Bust message in most of my political interactions. I stated very clearly that I, personally, am Bernie or Bust, but that tactically I still wasn’t sure that it was the best strategy to try and win over primary voters, and in many cases, it still might not be. This is not to say that we shouldn’t make serious arguments against other candidates. It’s simply to say that in general, I don’t believe that a militant Bernie or Bust strategy is the most effective way to win over undecided primary voters who might be turned off by such a confrontational approach.

But there is one candidate whose supporters need to hear the unfiltered Bernie or Bust message loud and clear, and that’s Mike Bloomberg. Anyone even considering supporting this cretin must be made to understand one thing: they can’t have him. Period. Michael Bloomberg simply is not an option, because we, the Bernie-or-Busters, will not allow him to be.

A key component of the Bernie or Bust movement’s strategy was what they called “electoral leverage,” in which Bernie supporters would essentially threaten to undermine the eventual non-Bernie nominee of the party in a general election, in the hopes that sincere blue-no-matter-who voters would choose Sanders in the primary to avoid such a split in the party that would usher in a Trump victory. I wasn’t on board with this in the beginning, and I still think there are more effective ways to convert Biden, Warren, and Buttigieg supporters to our cause, such as making an electability argument centered around the all-important Bernie-to-Trump swing voters in the critical Rust Belt states, which the Bernie or Bust movement has articulated extremely well.

But the Bloomberg supporters need to hear a direct and unequivocal statement from Berners that there is no way in hell we will ever vote for Michael Bloomberg. This is an extreme circumstance in which a leverage strategy is entirely appropriate.

First of all, anyone who actually prefers Blomberg to Sanders may as well prefer Trump to Sanders. Bloomberg and Trump share far more in common than Bloomberg and Sanders. Bloomberg and Trump are both obvious racists who have enacted blatantly racist policies. They’re both notorious womanizers with dozens of sexual misconduct claims against them. They’re both abusive bosses who bemoan pregnant women in the workplace. They both treat Muslims as unwelcome suspects. They both view poor people as dirt and working people as suckers. And they’re both oligarchs who view democracy as an unfortunate inconvenience.

Second, of course, there are those voters who may personally prefer Sanders to Bloomberg, but fear that Bernie is unelectable, whereas Bloomberg can at least “beat Trump.” Aside from the very strong likelihood that a Bloomberg vs. Trump race would yield the lowest black voter turnout in decades, which would surely doom Democrats up and down the ballot, there’s another, deeper issue here that these nervous “Bloomberg can at least beat Trump” voters must contemplate. To say that only Bloomberg can beat Trump is to say that Trump can’t really be beaten. Again, they’re both equally racist, sexist, and xenophobic, and they’re both equal in their contempt for poor and working class people. And sure, you could say that Bloomberg is a “self made” billionaire whereas Trump may not be a billionaire at all, and that Bloomberg is “smart and competent” whereas Trump is a bumbling fool. But then you’d have to concede that, for the purposes of the 2020 election, Trumpism is reduced to fraudulence, stupidity, and incompetence, and that we’re simply going to forego the opportunity to try and defeat the more insidious elements of Trumpism (the bigotry, misogyny, and cruelty), for fear that we actually can’t. To say that Bloomberg is the most “electable” candidate is to say that he’s the only one Trumpian enough to win. This is a thoroughly cowardly position, and a shameful betrayal of the very values liberals constantly espouse.

And third, Bloomberg is clearly in this race for one reason, and that’s to stop Bernie Sanders. He got in late when it seemed clear that Biden couldn’t make it, and that Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar lacked the broad appeal and name recognition necessary to compete nationally. Bloomberg, with his infinitely deep pockets and nearly universal name ID, knew he could at least stay in the race through the very end and perhaps split the vote in such a way as to force a brokered convention, during which the party superdelegates could choose the nominee on the second ballot, even in the increasingly likely scenario that Bernie goes into Milwaukee with a delegate lead (ie, a plurality, but not a majority).

Of course, we simply can’t stand for this. The fact that an authoritarian, racist, sexist, xenophobic, Republican billionaire is even being entertained as the alternative to Trump, when of course, the irony is such that I don’t even have to finish this point and you get where I’m going with it, is an embarrassment that the Democratic Party shouldn’t ever get to live down. But if they want to be around long enough to try, then they better not nominate him. Because if they do, we will destroy the Democratic Party once and for all.

According to betting markets, which are consistent with most observers’ analyses, including mine, this is coming down to a Bernie or Bloomberg race. The point we need to make is that Bernie or Bloomberg is Bernie or Bust, because we simply won’t stand for Michael Bloomberg. So if no one else has a chance at this point, then Bernie or Bust is the only real choice there is.

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Podcast: The Spirituality of Bernie’s Movement & the Last Gasps of Neoliberalism – w/Anis Shivani

Writer Anis Shivani returns to discuss his new pieces on Medium and Common Dreams, which explore the spiritual significance of the Bernie campaign and the downfall of neoliberal hegemony.

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Democratic Voters Need to Quit Playing Pundit, Stop Worrying, and Feel the Bern.

by Keaton Weiss

It was early 2016. Hillary Clinton was a virtual lock for the Democratic nomination, and Donald Trump was leading a crowded field of Republicans all vying for the opportunity to take her on. This was a very high stakes contest for Republican voters, who absolutely loathe Hillary Clinton. The thought of her in the Oval Office had been haunting their dreams for the past twenty-five years. Republicans dreaded a Clinton presidency exactly as much as Democrats dreaded a Trump presidency. They really, really, wanted to beat her. And lucky for them, they had a candidate who was very well positioned to do it. He was beating Hillary in all the head-to-head nationwide polls, and leading by significant margins in all of the important swing states. He was even polling well against her in traditionally blue states like Connecticut.

That candidate was John Kasich. He was a sure thing in a general election. A likable midwestern governor who was far enough to the right on social issues to appease the conservative base, but close enough to the center to win over the moderates. All of the polling data suggested that he was by far the safest bet to win in November, and stave off the mother of all Republican nightmares – a Hillary Clinton administration.

There was only one problem: Republican voters didn’t want John Kasich. As much as they despised Clinton and had been fearing, for decades, that one day she’d be president, they weren’t willing to take the “safe bet” with Kasich, because they had become disillusioned with the establishment of their own party. Kasich was an unabashed free trader who called for a somewhat humane approach to immigration and who placed importance on bipartisan pragmatism and cooperation. Republicans wanted nothing to do with that. This time, they saw an opportunity to upend their conventional party power structure and the traditional conservative orthodoxy it embraced, and instead, go all in on Donald Trump’s disruptive populist revolution.

“You can’t do that!” warned the Republican elite, “Donald Trump’s ideas are way too outside the mainstream! To nominate him would be to hand Hillary the presidency on a silver platter!”

Some Republicans formed what was called a Never Trump, or Stop Trump, movement within the party. Karl Rove hosted closed door meetings with Republican donors and officials, while Mitt Romney gave a public speech about the dangers of embracing Trumpism over conventional Republicanism. Conservative journalists, pundits, and commentators like Joe Scarborough, Steve Schmidt, Bill Kristol, Max Boot, and others, came out as ardently Never Trump, and would later leave the GOP altogether in protest.

But the voters weren’t hearing it. They were determined to vote for the guy they wanted, and let the chips fall where they may. They didn’t try to play pundit. They didn’t agonize over who the best candidate was to beat Hillary. They just voted for who they liked the best.

After all, they had tried to solve the electability riddle four years prior when they nominated Mitt Romney to challenge Barack Obama despite never fully embracing him. The 2012 primary saw several different candidates achieve “frontrunner” momentum at different points in the race. First it was Rick Perry. Then Herman Cain. Then Rick Santorum. Then Newt Gingrich. Then, briefly, back to Santorum before Mitt finally broke out. Voters tried on a lot of different candidates because they really didn’t want to pick Romney. They just thought they had to in order to beat Obama in November, and so in the end, they did. And then, in November, they lost.

So in 2016, the Republican electorate threw caution to the wind, defied the party establishment, defied the media, defied the polling data itself, and took a chance on a candidate who they believed in, even though he was seemingly the riskiest candidate against an opponent they were desperate to defeat. And, lo and behold, they won a stunning victory.

Democrats, I know a lot of you don’t want to hear this, but you need to take a page from their book. I know you’re scared. After all, you’re Democrats. But now that Bernie Sanders has emerged from Iowa and New Hampshire as the frontrunner for the nomination; now that Biden and Warren have both collapsed; now that the only other candidates with any momentum are Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, whose combined polling with voters of color is well under 5%; now that the only one who stands any chance at all to actually beat Bernie outright is a Republican mayor whose record on racial issues could actually drive black voters to Donald Trump in a general election; it’s time to quit playing pundit, stop worrying, and feel the Bern.

I know a lot of you want to vote for Bernie Sanders. We can tell by the polls (and exit polls) in Iowa and New Hampshire, which both showed that a healthy majority of Democratic primary voters support eliminating private health insurance in favor of a single-payer system. The Green New Deal was also immensely popular in the same polls. The problem is that while these policies have broad support within the party, sizable percentages of voters who personally approve of them fear that they’re too politically risky to run on in a general election. In Iowa, the Des Moines Register poll showed that 41% of the electorate supported Medicare For All, but that another 28% were personally in favor of it but feared it would cost Democrats the election in November. In other words, 69% (41+28) of the Democratic voters in Iowa were on board with the policy, but almost half of them were unwilling to actually vote for it because they feared the political consequences. This explains why, despite Bernie being consistently rated the top candidate on healthcare, and the only candidate who unequivocally supports a single-payer M4A system, he garnered a mere 25% of the popular vote in a state that overwhelmingly supports his signature policy proposal. This can only mean that there’s a huge would-be Bernie vote out there that’s just waiting for permission to pull the lever.

Those of you who fit that description, we need you, and we need you now. We need you to be as bold and resolute in your support for a humane and civilized healthcare system as Republicans were for a Muslim ban. We need you to be as strong in standing up for our climate as the Republicans were for their border wall. We need you to muster up the courage to do what’s right, and have a little faith that truth and justice can actually prevail in the end.

We need you to stop driving yourselves crazy over who’s most “electable.” If 2016 proved anything, it proved that there really aren’t any ‘good pundits’ out there. Punditry is essentially bullshit. It’s speculation about how a vast, complex, self-contradictory population of people from all different walks of life are going to behave in a voting booth, if they show up to vote at all. No one actually knows what the fuck they’re talking about – not even the people who get paid to know. That’s why The New York Times had Hillary Clinton as a 91% favorite in November 2016. A very important sounding organization called the Princeton Election Consortium had her chances at 97-99%. David Plouffe, the data-driven mastermind behind Obama’s two winning campaigns, insisted Hillary stood a 100% chance of defeating Trump. Yes, literally.

What led the Republicans to victory in 2016 is the same thing that led Democrats to victory in 2008, when we decided to roll the dice on a black man with a Muslim name whose Chicago preacher shouted “God Damn America!” We believed in Barack Obama, just as they believed in Donald Trump. And right now, the only candidate left in this primary who large swaths of the electorate actually believe in, is Bernie Sanders. Biden was never actually going to happen. Warren had her shot and blew it. Klobuchar and Buttigieg simply, and rightfully, don’t have the support of POC necessary to compete. Michael Bloomberg is a fucking Republican. And no one else is getting in the race at this point. The path forward is clear. It’s Bernie. That’s it. If too many nervous Democrats remain on the fence and split the vote and we go to a brokered convention where the DNC superdelegates choose the nominee, not only will Trump be re-elected, but the Democratic Party will be destroyed altogether.

So however frightened you are of the right wing smear campaign against “socialism” or “Soviet honeymoons” or whatever else they’ll cook up, you have to just do this. I hope you can take a deep breath, reach down into yourself, and stand strong for what you believe in. But even if you can’t quite do that, you still have to join us. Remember Harrison Ford in The Fugitive when he’s trapped at the dam and he can either be arrested or take a plunge off the ledge and hope for the best? That’s you right now. You gotta just take a leap of faith. If you do, there’s a good chance you’ll be rewarded, as the Republicans were last time around. If not, well, you get to walk back to the police car with Tommy Lee Jones, wondering what could have been if you only had the strength to jump.

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