Why Won’t People Stop Lying About Hillary and the DNC?

by Alex Knepper

It’s the lie that won’t die: the Democratic National Committee ‘coronated’ Hillary Clinton, so that St. Bernie Sanders, the disruptive outsider with a heart of gold and a record of purity, couldn’t crash their insider party.

Damon Linker of The Week, who is obviously very pleased that his content-cow Clinton hasn’t yet retreated from the public spotlight, makes the latest case (emphasis mine):

Hillary Clinton was a deeply flawed candidate who ran an atrocious campaign and should never have been anointed as the presumptive nominee by the Democratic National Committee in the first place. If Clinton wanted to run for president while under investigation by the FBI, that was her business. But why on Earth would the DNC and the party’s “superdelegates” decide so far in advance that a candidate running with that kind of baggage should be considered the inevitable victor? Aside from the obstacles it placed in the way of her one serious challenger (Bernie Sanders), it helped to discourage many others (including Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren) from jumping into the race. Why bother when you know the party is standing against you?

That decision on the part of the DNC had fateful consequences…

This is an utterly bizarre rewrite of history — one which has gained currency because it is unfathomable to people like Linker that anyone could actually like the Worst Woman In the History of the Planet, or actually think she would have made a good president. In their minds, St. Bernie was so obviously a superior candidate — and superior person — that only manipulation from on-high could explain her nomination, and that her voters must have been brainwashed, or the victims of Donna Brazile-engineered propaganda — or maybe voting with their vaginas or something. It would be too much to suggest that any of this can be interpreted as white men and college kids lashing out at the fact that women and non-whites had the decisive role in determining the outcome of the primary. But it certainly is an astounding case of bad memory.

It is easy enough to forget now, after the more-competitive-than-expected primary season, but Hillary entered 2015 with a 30-50-point lead in the polls. The reason that every other Democrat with a marquee name declined to run against her is not because the Democratic National Committee was coronating her, but because she was crushing the competition democratically. The field wasn’t cleared for her. She cleared the field herself — because she came in a very close 2nd place in the 2008 contest against President Barack Obama and went on to serve under him for four years, during which time she routinely registered approval ratings in the 50s and 60s. It would not be too much to say that Hillary Clinton, detached as she was from the major political battles of the day, was the most popular politician in the country during most of Obama’s second term.

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Don’t Buy the Hype: It’s Still Hillary’s to Lose

By Alex Knepper

My colleague Cinzia Croce argues that pundits downplaying Trump’s surprisingly strong recent polling numbers are falling into the same trap they did when they underestimated him in the primary season. This is a common argument, and in fact many pundits have been making it. Most of them are those who did not analyze Trump correctly before and now have falsely convinced themselves that Trump is an unpredictable and uniquely skilled nominee. But the bad predictions say more about the pundits than about Trump. Speaking as someone who did not underestimate Trump, I am still convinced he has no more than a 20% chance in the general election. Hillary remains the odds-on favorite not just to win, but to win comfortably. The general election dynamics are very different than the dynamics of the Republican primary, as Trump is about to learn the hard way.

Let’s look at the evidence:

1. Partisan ID Means More Than You Want It To – Even Among Independents

Although Cinzia is right to point out that both Hillary and Trump have started to max out their support among their respective partisans, Trump’s lead among independents is both not particularly meaningful — and precarious.

The RealClearPolitics average in 2008 shows John McCain leading a few national polls around this time by almost exactly the same margins as Trump. Not coincidentally, McCain had recently wrapped up his party’s nomination, while President Obama was still locked in a contentious primary battle with Hillary Clinton, whose resolve to fight on until the bitter end kept Obama from fully coalescing Democrats around his candidacy until the summer. Remember the ‘PUMA’ voters, who vowed to support the experienced and moderate John McCain against the naive and unprepared Barack Obama? Remember how half of Hillary’s voters said they’d never back Obama? Neither do I.

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The truth should not be so surprising:  few ‘independents’ are actually independents; the vast majority of them have a pronounced party tilt, and right now a disproportionate number of them are Republicans. Democrats outnumber Republicans partially because a disproportionate number of independents nowadays are Republicans embarrassed to call themselves Republicans. Mitt Romney won the independent vote in 2012, yet still lost by a decisive margin in both the popular vote and the electoral college.

More importantly, the RCP polling average shows 13% of voters are undecided. The real electorate will add up to 100%. Given that a disproportionate share of these undecided voters are independents, we can reasonably infer that they are Bernie holdouts, most of whom will recognize the stakes once the general election begins in earnest, Bernie endorses Hillary, President Obama campaigns for her, and the prospect of a Trump presidency becomes nauseatingly real to his voters. There will be a few crossover Trump/Sanders voters, yes — mostly white men under 40 — but those voters will not be decisive.

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Why Aren’t Black People Voting for Bernie Sanders?

By Alex Knepper

Black voters have overwhelmingly rejected Bernie Sanders, leaving his supporters reeling and perplexed. What’s going on? Are black people ignorant? Are they brainwashed? Are they simply uneducated? Do we have a Thomas Frank-style situation — ‘What’s the Matter With Mississippi?’ — on our hands?

Let’s see. The people voting for Bernie are largely white, under-40, and pissed off at ‘the system,’ many for the first time: the median Bernie voter is one who was among those screwed the hardest by the still-escalating student-loan scam — including the devaluation of the Bachelor’s Degree — and the financial crisis of 2008, and they have realized that, despite soothing federal statistics, the economy is very far from being ‘back to normal.’ It is arguable that young white college graduates have proportionally lost the most opportunity since 2008. Recent economic struggles have been especially painful for people in their 20s and 30s since we were promised the moon by our parents and by society at-large in the 80s and 90s. If I can sympathize with Bernie supporters, it is to that extent.

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For most Southern black voters, though, the sense of being screwed over by historical forces, corporate indifference, and self-serving politicians is nothing new. Indeed, most black people’s sense of American history is radically different than anything most white people are even capable of imagining. It is possible for someone like Bernie Sanders to wax nostalgic about the golden era of unions while conveniently forgetting what conditions were like for black people during that time. He can fantasize about America becoming more like Denmark or Finland without it ever occurring to him that those countries are home to virtually no black people. He can toss around the idea of whether President Obama deserved a primary challenge in 2012, casually discuss progressive ‘buyer’s remorse’ about him, and deem his health-care reforms — which barely passed, even in a strongly Democratic Congress, and were barely upheld by the Supreme Court — and not think about what that symbolizes to a people whose ancestors were brought here as slaves.

Too many pundits are overlooking the fact that President Obama is still a hero to most black voters. They are not disappointed in him, but rather perceive him as doing the best he can against a reactionary Congress acting out against a talented black president who twice electorally slaughtered them. They admire his efforts — and when an elderly Jewish man from a tiny, lily-white Northeastern enclave says that it was Obama’s ‘weakness’ that prevented a ‘political revolution’ from materializing, many of them simply roll their eyes.

Black voters are savvier than Bernie’s supporters give them credit for. They overwhelmingly voted for Barack Obama in 2008 despite a history of supporting the Clintons and despite Hillary’s super-delegate lead — but only after he proved in Iowa that he could win in white states. And — sorry, but the knee-jerk white reaction isn’t true: it was not just because he is black. Black voters overwhelmingly rejected Al Sharpton for John Kerry in 2004. Lest we think this is because Sharpton was a fringe candidate, let us remember too that Jesse Jackson won the black vote in 1988. It’s not easy to pigeonhole black primary voters, though they tend to wield their power as a bloc.

In the end, the fundamental error Bernie supporters make is to tacitly assume that class and race are inextricably linked; that if black voters prioritized their ‘true’ interests, they’d throw in their lot with the class warrior. Once we tear down economic barriers, racial barriers will fall with them, so goes this line of thinking. Black voters disagree. And — this bears repeating — black voters are far more used to living with economic disappointment than white voters, as Bernie himself acknowledged when he inartfully suggested that white people don’t know what it’s like to be poor. A high unemployment/underemployment rate, corporate indifference, and political corruption might shock young white people who came of age in idyllic times, but it isn’t new for the majority of black voters. Well-meaning progressives since Lyndon Johnson have made exorbitant promises to them, and have largely failed to deliver. A 25-year-old white progressive inspired by Bernie to get involved in politics for the first time might earnestly believe Bernie is special, that he is different — but the median black voter is a middle-aged woman, and she’s heard it all before and will stick with the devil she knows. At least Hillary is a known quantity — someone who has been listening to black voters regularly since the 1980s — and someone who has a vested interest in upholding Obama’s legacy rather than shredding it and promising to start over from scratch.

Last month, Charles Blow of the New York Times urged Bernie supporters to stop ‘Bernie-splaining’ to black people, and cautioned them to keep in mind that the mentality of black voters has been shaped by “an ocean of tears” — an endless string of disappointments. What’s inspiring to someone is based on their sense of history — and it’s past time for Bernie’s supporters to think more seriously about what that means.

Super Tuesday Fallout: Trump’s Staggering Triumph and the End of the Line for Rubio

By Alex Knepper

1. If Rubio Wants to Save the GOP From Trump, There’s Only One Option Left

The New American Perspective has been bearish on Marco Rubio since our launch. It is increasingly clear that the Republican Party elite made a profoundly foolish choice in rallying around him. It is almost certainly the case that if John Kasich were not in the race, Rubio could have triumphed in Virginia — but if Rubio had not been in the race, it is likely that Ted Cruz would have won Arkansas and John Kasich would have won Vermont, denying Trump his lopsided state victory tally. Rubio’s sole win was in the quirky Minnesota caucuses, which gave just 22% and 17% of the vote to the eventual nominees in 2008 and 2012, respectively. And as the calendar shifts to winner-take-all states, Rubio’s presence in the race will actually make it more difficult to deny Trump an outright majority of delegates in the run-up to the convention. If Rubio drops out and endorses Kasich, for instance, Kasich could take delegate-rich Ohio from Trump. But Rubio is not going to take Florida, and everyone knows it but the Rubio team. If Rubio really wants to save the Republican Party from Trump, there’s only one way to do it.

2. Trump Is Building a New Coalition

To demonstrate the breadth and depth of Donald Trump’s ‘Silent Majority’ coalition, consider that he is the candidate of both self-described moderate Republicans and self-described Evangelicals. He is the first Republican candidate since Ronald Reagan to truly bring new voters into the process. His most lopsided victories occurred in Massachusetts and Alabama. No Republican candidate has ever won all of the primary states Trump has, and the calendar for the rest of the month is very favorable to him. On March 15, it might be fair to start calling him the presumptive nominee. Ted Cruz’s best shot at the nomination — or, at least, a brokered convention — was to sweep the South, and that didn’t happen. He didn’t even come close. Trump has genuine national appeal: he has secured victories in every region of the country except the Midwest, and that too will soon change. That he is now attracting support from governors and members of Congress is proof that savvy-enough politicians in the GOP fear that if they don’t get on board with Trump, he’ll only run them over — and fear, as Trump knows very well, is a better motivator than love.

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3. The Writing’s On the Wall, But Bernie’s Got No Reason to Quit

Although Bernie Sanders turned in surprisingly strong performances in Colorado, Minnesota, and Oklahoma (and his home state of Vermont, of course), his disappointing performance in Massachusetts and humiliating showings in the South — fueled by Hillary’s near-unanimous support among black voters — tell us that he has nowhere to go. He simply has not been able to significantly expand his base beyond white progressives.

But Bernie’s not going anywhere: he owes the Democratic Party nothing, and he’s acutely aware of the generation gap dividing its voters — and he wants to help ensure that the next generation of Democratic primary voters is ready to upend the Clinton wing of the party. He’s got the money and the organization to move forward, so we should probably expect him to remain in the race until Hillary actually secures a majority of pledged delegates.

4. Hillary’s Theme Emerges?

George H.W. Bush, the last president to win a third term for his party, sometimes campaigned on the idea of cultivating a ‘kinder, gentler America.’ Hillary Clinton, in a surprising embrace of her femininity, is pivoting toward a theme we haven’t heard much from her since the early 1990s: ‘love and kindness,’ compassion, and wholeness. The wisdom of this approach is questionable, although the Republicans seem gleeful to provide her with the antithesis of kindness. But her sincerity cannot be doubted: it is a theme she’s returned to again and again in her career, despite that it is often met with ridicule. Hillary Clinton does not exactly exude warmth. But if John Kasich, who’s been on the scene for as long as Clinton herself and whose temper is legendary, can successfully recast himself as a paragon of compassion, I see no reason why Hillary Clinton can’t be believable.

The State of the Race: Hillary the Inevitable, Rubio the Illusory, and a Nevada Prediction

By Alex Knepper

1. Hillary Has Always Been Inevitable

Overexcited journalists have for months been desperately trying to turn the Clinton-Sanders contest into a real race, but when all is said and done, the Democratic primary map is likely to resemble the 2000 Republican one: a blowout victory by a challenger in New Hamsphire fueled by independent voters is quickly snuffed out in South Carolina, after which point the candidate with near-unanimous ‘establishment’ backing cruises to the nomination, losing a few demographically-unfriendly states here and there.

A year ago, I said that Hillary’s unprecedented strengths in the ‘invisible primary,’ unlike in 2008, rendered her the inevitable nominee, and that she would be able to hold off a challenge from Elizabeth Warren (or, as it turned out, someone like her) by holding onto the black vote, not letting her challenger catch her asleep at the wheel in caucus states, and appealing to Democrats’ sense of pragmatism as they try to retain the White House for a third term. This is exactly what she’s done.

The primaries to this point have revealed a not-insignificant challenge facing Clinton in the general election, though: the ‘generation gap’ in the Democratic Party is a veritable chasm, and her surrogates have often acted dismissively and condescendingly toward Sanders supporters. If there’s anything the Clintons can always count on, though, it’s Republican overreach, and Hillary is always at her rhetorical best when taking on Republicans. If Donald Trump is the Republican nominee, which looks likely right now, Clinton will be able to reach out not only to Sanders supporters but to ‘establishment’-oriented Republicans who just cannot bring themselves to vote for him. And lest we forget about the fundamentals: the electoral college math still favors Democrats.

2. Here We Go With Another Fake Rubio Surge

If Jeb Bush came in a relatively close 2nd in Iowa, 1st in New Hampshire by 20 points, and 1st in South Carolina by 10 points, nobody would question whether the race was basically over. Marco Rubio probably has Nikki Haley to thank for pulling him back from the abyss, but winning a fifth of the vote for a distant second place tie at this stage in the race — and no delegates! — is not impressive. There isn’t one state among the next dozen or so that’s a likely win for Rubio, even in a three-man race with Trump and Ted Cruz — and eventually, if Rubio wants to be a contender for the nomination, he needs to start actually winning states.

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3. Ted Cruz Will Continue to Behave Like Other Iowa ‘Winners’

Ted Cruz’s disappointing third-place finish — and moderately-surprising loss to Trump among Evangelical voters — revealed that he has no path to the nomination. What he does have is a path to possibly win enough delegates in a three-man race to force a brokered convention, at which point he could instruct his delegates to vote for Trump on the condition that Trump selects Cruz as his VP candidate. This is a longshot scenario, but Cruz has plenty of money and organization, plenty of ambition, and plenty of loyal supporters who can’t stomach Trump but find Rubio too unseasoned and ideologically suspect.

In 2008 and 2012 respectively, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, high off of their unlikely come-from-behind wins in Iowa, stayed in the race long beyond the point of viability. Cruz will do the same, and he will lose, too. But in the meantime, his presence makes life easier for Trump. The center-right ‘establishment’ loathes both Trump and Cruz, but for the Republican rank-and-file, Cruz and Rubio are more similar, insofar as they are both Reagan Republicans with relatively conventional political resumes and loyalties that don’t extend very far beyond the traditional GOP nexus. You won’t see Cruz picking any fights with the Pope, George W. Bush, or Fox News.

4. My Nevada Prediction

Predicting caucuses is always a tricky business, and there’s been minimal polling out of Nevada, but here’s my best guess:

Trump 39
Rubio 30
Cruz 26
Kasich 4
Carson 2

5 Takeaways From New Hampshire

By Cinzia Croce

1. For Republicans, the Iowa Caucuses Are Virtually Meaningless

It is clear that what happens in Iowa stays in Iowa, as the results from Ethanolandia were quickly forgotten by everyone except for Ben Carson, who is still smarting over Cruz’s dirty tricks. The only news lingering is the insane process used to award delegates. Four years ago, it took Republicans literally weeks to determine their winner, and this year it is the Democrats’ turn to haggle over the results. Months of media coverage, polling and political analysis are spent on this totally unrepresentative slice of the electorate that seems purposely designed to pull candidates away from the center — particularly on the Republican side. Fellow Americans, how long are we going to tolerate this monumental waste of time?

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The Trumpening

By Alex Knepper

The outcome in New Hampshire could not have been more favorable to Donald Trump: Chris Christie’s operatic kamikaze mission against Marco Rubio succeeded in spectacular fashion, humiliating the boy wonder for a second time by reducing him to a fifth-place finish in a state where just one week ago he had dreamed — plausibly — of finishing in second. But that is not all: John Kasich, roughly matching Jon Huntsman’s 2012 total, was the one to snag Rubio’s prize — and he will find himself utterly incapable of capitalizing on it. And because God has a sense of humor, Ted Cruz was able to block Jeb Bush from even claiming a spot in the Top 3.

With Rubio deflated and Kasich a poor fit for the state, Mr. Bush may win 2nd place in South Carolina — especially since he is finally wising up and bringing George W. Bush, beloved among the GOP base, to campaign for him. But even a strong second-place finish would be too little, too late for the unhappy warrior. And this result would only further muddle the prospects for the ‘establishment lane,’ besides. A relatively strong Iowa finish by Rubio, a relatively strong New Hampshire finish by Kasich, and a relatively strong South Carolina finish by Bush all amount to this: Donald Trump steamrolling the competition. (As for Ted Cruz, he is likely to meet the same fate as the last two ‘winners’ of Iowa.)

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I am writing all of this not because I like it, but because it is true. One week ago, I endorsed the conventional wisdom that we had a three-man race on our hands. The race is now effectively over. Let’s be blunt: Rubio had his shot to consolidate the center-right against Trump, and he blew it. Some will be tempted to blame Christie for spoiling a beautiful opportunity, but we should really be thanking him for doing us the favor of quickly exposing Rubio for the empty suit he’s always been. Why the Republican ‘establishment’ ever tried to convince the center-right to rally around a hiding-in-plain-sight religious-rightist with no legislative accomplishments or policy heft is utterly mystifying. Since last autumn, conservative pundits have been trying to force Rubio down people’s throats — maybe out of envy toward Obama, who knows? — but they somehow forgot that he had competitors who weren’t going to just passively let that happen. The long-prophesied Rubio surge finally — finally — arrived, and it took just five days for an able prosecutor to snuff it out. (Maybe they should have tried to force Christie down people’s throats instead?)

Given these dynamics, Trump is probably unstoppable. He is dominating the polls in every state that will vote over the next month, and he will only gain momentum from New Hampshire. There seems to be nothing he could possibly say that could alienate his current supporters.

As for the other personality-cult leader who triumphed last night: it is truly the height of chutzpah to declare that SuperPAC money corrupts our democracy on a night in which neither of the winners have SuperPACs, the second-place Republican finisher pulled it off via retail politicking, and the $100,000,000 man placed a distant fourth. Disciples of St. Bernie should enjoy the week in which their candidate leads the delegate count, because the race is about to shift to the South, and they will have to face the reality that not everyone in America is a white bourgeois-type aspiring to imitate the Swedes.