2016: Clinton vs Sanders

Sanders v Clinton

Lisa Zing | YouTube.com

Following on from yesterday’s The Tale of Two Lefties – which considered the differences and similarities between UK Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn and US Democrat Bernie Sanders, both of whom are vying for their respective party nomination – let’s fast-forward to a few weeks after Super Tuesday.

It’s mid-April 2016, and whilst the Democratic presidential primary continues to roll-on the presumptive candidate is all-but-declared. However, it’s not the candidate that everyone has been expecting; despite having been the front-runner since Obama sealed the nomination in 2008, Hillary Clinton’s campaign collapsed at the end of February when Bernie Sanders surprised everyone and took South Carolina with a double-digit lead over Mrs Clinton. Sanders had taken New Hampshire earlier in the month which, whilst a disappointment to die-hard Clinton supporters, had been widely predicted since he began to edge the former Secretary of State out in the polls across the more liberal East Coast states back in the summer of 2015.

With only a few days to go until Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island on April 26th, it would be an understatement to say that the Clinton camp is not looking forward to five more East Coast states declaring. Factoring in the projected results for these five states, the current tally stands thus:

  • Hillary Clinton: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah.
  • Bernie Sanders: Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina,  Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Clinton was bitterly disappointed not to have won some of the states she won back in 2008, particularly Massachusetts, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Her firewall strategy has by now also collapsed, with Sanders beating all expectations and clinching surprise victories in Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Missouri. By the time of the last primaries in June, it has become clear that Sanders is going to be the Democratic Party’s nominee for president, and Clinton will have to concede. Once again, to stop the PUMA (Party Unity My Ass) Clinton supporters from rebelling, at the Democratic National Convention there is a formal roll-call of delegates before, fighting back tears, Hillary suspends the roll-call vote at New York.

Thus, Bernie Sanders becomes the Democratic Party’s 2016 presidential candidate.

Although the Democratic primaries work differently to the November election, projected onto an electoral college map the national split between the two campaigns becomes clear:

2016 Democratic Primary: Clinton v Sanders

Next time: Why Sanders Doesn’t Matter For Democrats, But Why Corbyn Is A Disaster For Labour

The Tale of Two Lefties

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity..

Bernie Sanders | Jeremy Corbyn

Jacquelyn Martin / Toby Melville / AP Photo | August 2015 | Montage via Salon.com

Such is the opening of Dickens’ 1859 classic A Tale of Two Cities, and never has a clichéd comparison been more apt. As the resurgent Left rears its head across both sides of the Atlantic, with Jeremy Corbyn trouncing opponents in the United Kingdom Labour leadership contest and Bernie Sanders doing much better than expected in the United States Democratic presidential primaries, we should consider the impact of victory on each’s respective party.

There has been much speculation in the media – broadcast, print and digital – over the similarities in the populist left-wing appeal of the two men, and what their positions in the polls mean about wider politics in both Britain and the US.

“Until a few weeks ago, Corbyn was widely viewed as a hopeless anachronism within post-Thatcher British politics, a ‘60s throwback with bad clothes, dubious party loyalty and more than a tinge of Cold War red. (Actually, compared to the fashion-hopeless Sanders, Corbyn cuts quite a stylish figure in a distinctively English ascetic mode.) Now, he may be within days of becoming Labour’s parliamentary leader, and its prospective candidate for prime minister in the 2020 national election.” | Britain’s Bernie moment | August 2015 | Andrew O’Hehir / Salon.com

“I don’t know if Bernie Sanders will be president of the United States, or if Jeremy Corbyn will become UK prime minister. But the powers that be, those who benefit most from this farce of a rigged game, are officially freaked the flip out. This summer, the British Labour Party is where finally, a reckoning will be had.” | Bush and Blair, meet Sanders and Corbyn | June 2015 | Tim Russo / ClevelandLeader.com

“Given that the electorate has rejected Labour radicals like Michael Foot, Neil Kinnock and Ed Miliband well within living memory, it seems unlikely they will embrace the arch-rebel Corbyn who is less experienced and more radical than any of them.” | Corbyn & Sanders; shaking up the mainstream | August 2015 | Michael White / TheGuardian.com

“Critics may dismiss Corbyn and Sanders as the foolish remnants of a misbegotten world order, with fans too young to remember the systemic flaws that made them unsustainable, but for the fashionably bearded and flannel-shirted crowd that populate their rallies, vintage styles — and vintage politics — are back.” | Corbyn In Britain, Sanders In America | August 2015 | Rebecca Greig / IBTimes.com

“No, a Corbynite Labour party will not cause trouble for the Tories. Mr Cameron will not find him a confounding adversary across the parliamentary dispatch box. [..] Politics will not be reinvented. Mr Corbyn is not “on to something” with his critique of capitalism and western foreign policy. This is a passing commotion whose principal victims are the millions of low-paid Britons who need a serious party of the centre-left.” | Corbyn spells disaster for Labour | August 2015 | Janan Ganesh / FT.com

In the UK, BBC Newsnight ran a Labour leadership special programme on Friday evening in which a group of ordinary voters assessed each of the four candidates and gave their views. The selection of comments can be viewed in this BBC News article however, suffice to say, the voters were not overly kind to Mr Corbyn:

“He’s the older guy with the grey hair who’s got all the policies straight out of the sixties and is a bit of a hippy as well is what he comes across as.”

“I think he’s a very good politician but he’s unelectable as a Prime Minister.”

“I’ve heard in the paper he’s the favourite to win the Labour leadership. Well, if that was him, then I won’t be voting for Labour, put it that way.”

In both races the disaffected Left, left out in the cold for years after their parties tacked right, are enthused to have a candidate on the main stage espousing policies and ideas that resonate with their long-held core beliefs, whatever they may be on either side of the Pond.

In the UK Tony Blair pulled the rug out from under socialist Labour when he became party leader in 1994 and set about implementing his vision of a centre-right “Left” party, popularly known as New Labour. The hard left, reformed Militants, communists, and others had to put up or shut up: stay and mutter mutinously from within the ranks, or give up on the party founded by the Trade Union Movement and go elsewhere.

In the US the Democrats radically reformed themselves in the late 80s in response to Reaganism, and under Bill Clinton’s two-term presidency became a party of “progressive federalist republicans” (also known as 90s Democrats / Clinton Republicans). With the total lock-down of the two-party electoral system in the States, disaffected Democrats really have nowhere else to turn unless there is a left-leaning Independent. In the UK, voters have a wide selection of parties in a completely different political landscape.

Bush fights Gore over Florida

Taylor Jones / Hoover Digest | October 2001 | Hoover.org

Indeed, independent candidates have made critical differences in the past in the US: during the controversial 2000 presidential election between Gore and Bush, in Florida the Independent candidate Ralph Nader, perennial presidential runner that he is, won 97,421 votes. This cost Al Gore the state, and therefore the entire election – Democrat Gore lost Florida’s 25 Electoral College votes to Republican George W. Bush.

Next time: 2016 – Clinton vs Sanders

Ten Reasons We Love Joe Biden

Vice President Joe Biden | AP Photo

Vice President Joe Biden | AP Photo

As Joe Biden weighs up a presidential bid, this Buzzfeed post looks back at some of his more memorable moments. No matter what you decide Uncle Joe, we’ll love you all the same!

Vice President Joe Biden eating an ice-cream | Getty Images

Vice President Joe Biden eating an ice-cream | Getty Images

The New York Times, on August 1st, was one of the first to break the news everybody already knew: Joe Biden was said to be taking a new look at a presidential run. Since then speculation has abounded about his decision, a potential Biden-Warren ticket, and whether he can mount an effective challenge against Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.

Ever popular and affectionately known to many as Crazy Uncle Joe, Biden has a history of off-the-cuff remarks and gaffe-prone episodes in public and private.

Here’s the run-down of the top ten Joe Biden moments.

Attacking Hillary in 2016

Hillary Clinton is getting a good old kicking from the right-wing political machine; she’s not yet stumbled to one knee, but she’s certainly got a bloody nose.

Emailgate continues to roll ever on, with conservative-leaning polling group Rasmussen Reports reporting this week that 46 per cent of likely U.S. voters believe that Hillary should suspend her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination until all of the legal questions about her use of the private e-mail server are resolved. Breitbart, no fan of the Democrats, is running near-continual coverage of rumoured splits between Clinton and her allies, whilst the Republican online echo chamber continues to vilify Clinton for recent and ancient “crimes”. Even The Hill is speculating that Bernie Sanders is now the Democratic front-runner.

As David Horsey of the LA Times put it in his excellent article – After 23 years, scandalmongers still torment Hillary Clinton – the email controversy falls far short of high crimes and misdemeanours once you dig into the details, but this is not stopping the conservative media from chewing on the issue like a pack of pit bulls.

Emailgate. Whitewater. Rose Law Firm. Monica Lewinsky. The GOP are cranking up their machine once again, and it is open season on pseudo-scandal. For that is what it is: the Republicans seem hell-bent on throwing whatever decadal-old mud they can drag up at Hillary in a concerted effort to derail her candidacy. But this is old news, voters have heard it before, and history has proven that Hillary’s approval ratings tend to rise when she is under attack, especially for things Bill has done.

Horsey summed up the reality succinctly:

The majority of voters have never bought into the [right-wing] scandal-mongering. Like Bill, Hillary can get the best of her foes simply by winning an election, even if she cannot get rid of them.

With Bernie Sanders riding high in New Hampshire, and Joe Biden conspiring with Elizabeth Warren to run on a progressive-liberal ticket, the clear-blue skies that surrounded Hillary’s campaign only a few short months ago are clouding over. However, in a sign of the resilience that has always been associated with the Clintons, and with their ability to overcome scandal, the New York Times today reported that Hillary is moving to sign fund-raising agreements with state Democrats across the country. An action that is, as The Times commented, normally reserved for after the presidential party nomination has been won, Hillary has four states already confirmed including that most-crucial of primary battleground states New Hampshire.

We are just over three weeks away from the next Republican primary debate, scheduled to take place on Wednesday September 16th at the Reagan Library in California, whereas the first Democratic primary debate in Nevada isn’t for a further month on October 13th. A lot can happen in the next seven weeks, and it will be interesting to see how Hillary, Bernie, and Joe play out against each other, as well as against rogue candidates like Jerry Brown and Martin O’Malley.

Looking at recent RealClearPolitics polling data for the Democratic primaries, Hillary Clinton has a spread of +24,3 points over her nearest rival Sanders. Huffington Post has a dedicated ‘HuffPost Pollster‘ area which show you the national polling aggregate for all the Democratic presidential candidates trending over time.

This trend above would seem to show a significant drop-off in support for Hillary in the past several months, from 62 per cent in a FOX poll in April to 47 per cent in a YouGov/Economist poll conducted a few days ago. However, this aggregate includes all polling data available – regardless of inherent institutional bias, weight of results, and inclusion of candidates who are explicitly not running as well as voters who do not identify as Democrats and adults who do not intend to vote.

HuffPost Pollster allows users to generate their own charts based on a fairly substantive number of controllable data sets. The below chart was generated across the same time period as the above (January 2013 – Present) and using the following filter settings: likely voters; excluding partisan sponsors; registered Democrats only. The data sets, some 119 polls from 22 pollsters, included data from CBS, NBC, Wall Street Journal, FOX, Quinnipiac, CNN, PPP, USA Today and others. As you can see, the trend is somewhat different.

Hillary Clinton is currently leading the polls in some 31 states, with Bernie Sanders holding a slight lead in New Hampshire and Vermont. Whilst some pundits, and some in the news media, are touting Hillary’s campaign as slowing or even failing, it is perhaps important to remember that she is behind in her main competitor’s home state (Vermont) and it’s neighbour; both exceedingly liberal East coast Democratic bastions. It should be noted that in New Hampshire the latest state polling data from Public Policy Polling (August 21st – August 24th) puts Bernie Sanders a mere seven per cent ahead of Hillary Clinton. In North Carolina, in polling from the same period by PPP, Hillary leads Sanders by a whopping 36 points.

The wheels haven’t yet fallen off the Clinton bus, despite the best laid plans of elephants and men. Her popularity continues (relatively) unabated, the Teflon-armour undamaged, and she is raising money at an unprecedented rate in even American politics; her rivals, Democrat and Republican, continue to beat their war-drums into the ether.. but so far, few are listening.

I’ll leave you with a clip from Real Time with Bill Maher from earlier this year, where the panel discuss #Emailgate and the Republican “whispering campaign” against Hillary that has never stopped. As ever, Bill is bang on the money:

In Barry We Trust

Barry Goldwater

Barry Goldwater Campaign Poster | The Libertarian Republic

The Republican Party is broken. It’s been broken for a decade or so, and I don’t think anyone has really realised. The ongoing nomination circus for the 2016 GOP ticket is akin to the farce of the UK Labour leadership contest, with the “not-a-Republican” Donald Trump emerging as the front-runner with a centrist Bush nominally-holding second place ahead of a field of right-wing lunatics, each of whom represent a particular faction of the splintered Republican party.

Rick Santorum and Rick Perry are courting the Palinites with their specific brand of bat-shit crazy after once again throwing their hats into the ring (note: 2016 gives us Perry 2.0 – complete with glasses for that “intellectual look”). Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Bobby Jindal are all splitting the Hispanic and minority-ethnic vote to varying degrees, and trying to position themselves as a candidate of choice for “progressive immigration reform”. Carly Fiorina is the Michele Bachmann of the 2016 race, and the token female Republican candidate. Mike Huckabee is, for all intents and purposes, the Pat Buchanan of the 21st-century, and Rand Paul is his father (albeit with some of the weirder edges rounded-off). The rest are a hodge-podge of neoconservatives, warmongering hawks, and on-the-way-out governors jockeying for relevance on an already-crowded stage.

The Republican Problem is the rise, in the 1980s and 90s, of the Religious Right in the Republican Party. This loosely-formed coalition, mainly centred on right-wing Protestants and Catholics, has become synonymous with socially-conservative political positions including opposition to abortion, marriage equality, drug decriminalisation, climate change, contraception, and stem-cell research whilst championing prayer in schools and the teaching of intelligent-design and young-earth creationism. This entryism into the GOP continues to reshape the party to this day and has allowed radical views undue precedence within the American political mainstream, leaving centrists and liberals scratching their heads. George W. Bush benefited from this even into 2000 and 2004; his electoral success was largely due to overwhelming support from white evangelical voters. In 2000 he received 68 per cent of the white evangelical vote, and in 2004 that rose to 78 per cent.

“When you say ‘radical right’ today, I think of these moneymaking ventures by fellows like Pat Robertson and others who are trying to take the Republican Party away from the Republican Party, and make a religious organization out of it. If that ever happens, kiss politics goodbye.”

– Barry Goldwater | Washington Post | July 1994

Today, however, the Religious Right and the Tea Party hold the Republicans to ransom. Their influence on the nominating process during the presidential primaries requires most candidates to lurch to the right on social policy. The problem for the Republican Party is deciding who has the best chance of winning over the remnants of the various factions of Reagan’s Republican Coalition and, moreover, the lunatic elements of the Tea Party fringe (and all of their strict constructionist interpretations) whilst still being able to appeal to the more moderate middle-ground “independents” in a general election against Mrs Clinton. This was, of course, Mitt Romney’s downfall in the 2012 election cycle, and the Republican Party is still yet to address their failings from four years ago with young and socially-progressive voters.

It is proving more and more difficult for Republican candidates to appeal to both the far-right within their own party and the wider electorate; how do you reconcile the anti-abortion, anti-equal rights, climate change denial, social security hating (and, quite frankly, racist) positions of a very active base with the more tolerant and informed viewpoints of the majority of American voters? Indeed, a poll in February 2014 by CBS News and the New York Times showed that a majority of those who identify as Republican are far more flexible on these issues than either their Tea Party base or their candidates allow for or expect.

Barry Goldwater always renounced and opposed the Religious Right’s influence in the Republican Party, and wanted to return to more traditional, limited government conservatism. As he observed, conservatism was defined as “holding on to that which was tested and true and opposing change simply for the sake of change“. His opposition to the Civil Rights Act 1964 aside (whilst winning the Republicans all of the Deep South states for the first time since Reconstruction, he lost every other state in the ’64 election apart from Arizona) and ignoring his “In Your Heart You Know He’s Right” approach to nuclear warfare in Vietnam, Goldwater’s staunch opposition to the radical Religious Right within the Republican Party was his one redeeming feature.

The Goldwater and Johnson campaigns parodied Goldwater's stance on nuclear war

The Goldwater and Johnson campaigns parodied Goldwater’s stance on nuclear war

Goldwater, who passed away in 1998, allowed his libertarian principles to come to the fore with the advent of Reaganism in the 1980s. He had always believed that libertarianism and conservatism went hand-in-hand, and that the state should have no role in regulating people’s personal lives. He saw the Religious Right’s involvement in right-wing politics, especially those of the Republican Party, as an attack on personal freedom and individual liberty. He earned the ire of the social conservatives in his party through his support for environmental issues, abortion rights, medical marijuana, marriage equality, and ending the military’s homophobic ban on gays serving their country. As he said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times in 1994:

“A lot of so-called conservatives today don’t know what the word means, They think I’ve turned liberal because I believe a woman has a right to an abortion. That’s a decision that’s up to the pregnant woman, not up to the pope or some do-gooders or the religious right. It’s not a conservative issue at all.”

– Barry Goldwater | Los Angeles Times | 1994

The conversation in America has moved on from socially-conservative issues, and support diminishes with each passing election cycle as older voters die off and are replaced by younger more progressive generations below. Whilst the Republican presidential candidates are slogging it out to promote their conservative credentials on social issues, the Democrats are quietly going about the work of rebuilding Barack Obama’s 2008/2012 voter coalition. Just as in Britain the UK Labour Party seems intent on electing a left-wing socialist dinosaur from the 1980s (Jeremy Corbyn) after the electorate has twice resoundingly rejected the Left at the ballot-box, the Republicans seem determined to cling to their white “Moral Majority” playlist of issues, and they haven’t realised that Nancy Reagan isnt in the White House anymore.

Republicans will, of course, continue to be elected to Congress; there’s no dispute about that. Whether there remains open a pathway to victory in the electoral college, in 2016 or beyond, is yet to be seen. I would posit that, if the GOP takes a beating to Hillary Clinton in the November election next year, there will have to be a long and deep phase of soul-searching to re-establish exactly what the party stands for, and what it doesn’t. Donald Trump’s views of Mexicans as murderers and rapists, whilst providing him a commanding lead in the Republican polling data, will not play out well on a national stage..