Fair and Unbalanced

img
Mike Littwin

"The pump don't work 'cause the vandals took the handles."

Littwin: Could Bernie win? Hillary seems to think so.

Bernie was angry about Wall Street. Hillary seemed angry about Bernie. And they went hard after each other on health care, on guns, on Goldman Sachs, on pragmatism, on political revolution.

Littwin: Could Bernie win? Hillary seems to think so.
In the last Democratic debate before Iowa, Bernie Sanders had his best performance yet, and Hillary Clinton seemed nervous.

 

Bernie Sanders had his best debate, his loudest debate, and, yes, his I’m-in-it-to-win-it debate.

For the first time, he looked as if he weren’t simply trying out his Bernie-as-Larry-David-as-Bernie impression, but that he actually thought he could win this thing. Maybe that’s because for the first time, Hillary Clinton acted as if she also thought Sanders suddenly had a real chance.

This is where we are.

On the Republican side, The Donald, who got into the race with no idea that he could be a serious candidate, is now maybe the favorite to win — or, as he’d put it, to win so much that Americans will get tired of winning. Or as Ted Cruz would put it — Are you bleepin’ kidding me?

On the Democratic side, the Bern, who got into the race only because somebody had to, has somehow morphed from a message candidate into legitimate-contender candidate, who, Trump-like, is now citing the polls as evidence of his electability. Next thing you know, he’ll be drawing huge crowds of … Oh, wait.

It may not make sense, but, at this point, why should it?

As if to prove that politics is an irony-free sport, Clinton came to the South Carolina debate to cast herself as the defender of all things Obama and Sanders as an unrealistic naif whose overreach could destroy all that Barack Obama had accomplished in his presidency. It was, of course, in South Carolina in 2008 that Bill Clinton compared Obama’s candidacy to Jesse Jackson’s narrow appeal to black voters and it took months (and months and months) for the two sides to reconcile.

Eight years later, it was a giant embrace from Clinton, who spoke of Obama in terms that Democrats generally reserve for FDR or MLK or JFK. And she turned the debate into a say-what-you-will-about-me-but-don’t-take-our-president-down plea.

In just one example: Sanders wondered how effective Clinton might be in battling Wall Street given her $600,000 in speaking fees from Goldman Sachs and adding, because it was that kind of night, that Clinton’s Wall Street buddies were never prosecuted for anything “while kids who smoke marijuana get a jail sentence.”

And Clinton countered: “The comments that Senator Sanders has made that don’t just affect me, I can take that, but he’s criticized President Obama for taking donations from Wall Street, and President Obama has led our country out of the Great Recession. Senator Sanders called him weak, disappointing. He even, in 2011, publicly sought someone to run in a primary against President Obama.”

Yes, she played that card, and now we’re waiting to see how it played. It was part of the Clinton oppo research that was meant to show Bernie may be a Democratic socialist but that Clinton is an Obama Democrat.

This was not the Clinton who has dominated the debates by showing the depth and breadth of her knowledge and the smiling face of a Dem who’s been there, done that, fought the Republicans and lived to tell the story. She noted that Sanders voted against the Brady Bill not just once, but five times. She welcomed Sanders’s change of stance on gun-manufacturer immunity. Perhaps most effectively, she made the argument that Sanders’s program to radically reform health-care reform risked playing into Republican hands in repealing Obamacare. (Hours before the debate, Sanders released what was essentially a sketch of his single-player plan, which, surprisingly, got some early bad reviews from the health-care wonk community.)

This was Hillary shouting it out with Bernie. Bernie was angry about Wall Street. Hillary seemed angry about Bernie. And they went hard after each other on health care, on guns, on Goldman Sachs, on pragmatism, on political revolution.

I doubt if there was a winner, but that was the point. Sanders had fought Clinton to at least a draw, while Martin O’Malley, the Other Guy, was last seen begging for more time.

The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson had the best explanation I’ve seen for Bern-mentum and why a 74-year-old, self-described socialist could be a legitimate threat. In a political year all about the angry extremes, extreme looks like the new normal. When Republicans routinely call Obama a socialist who hates capitalism, Democrats must figure that being a socialist can’t be all that bad. In a stunning footnote to a recent Iowa poll, 43 percent of likely Democratic caucus goers described themselves as socialists. Only 38 percent said they were capitalists.

If Republicans could nominate Trump or Cruz, why couldn’t Democrats counter with Sanders? If Democrats, suddenly in a rush to the left, believe Sanders could beat Trump — and that’s what the polls show — why settle for Clinton?

OK, it’s still unlikely that Sanders could win. He’d have to significantly expand his reach beyond white liberals to have a chance, and, in any case, eventually the electability issue would probably overtake the campaign. But the polls show a very close race in Iowa, and Sanders, of Vermont, is favored in New Hampshire. What if Sanders won both states? What if dogs and cats were living together?

Clinton has said South Carolina, where approximately half of Democratic voters are black, is her firewall, and she spent the entire debate ensuring the firewall was in place. The political strategy couldn’t have been more plain. The great question in 2016 — now a Democratic question as well as a Republican one — is whether anything we know about political strategy still works.

 

Photo credit: Phil Roeder, Creative Commons, Flickr.

Like this story? Steal it! Feel free to republish it in part or in full, just please give credit to The Colorado Independent and add a link to the original.

Got a tip? Story pitch? Send us an e-mail. Follow The Colorado Independent on Twitter.



About the Author

Mike Littwin

He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.
mlittwin@coloradoindependent.com | Twitter @mike_littwin

9 Comments

  1. BJ goral on said:

    Mike I watched last night and by the end of the debate I was feeling a little bit like watching Bernie was like listening to a loud shrill grumpy old grandpa who couldn’t get past the point that he wanted to punish 1% of the population that takes advantage of the tax breaks given to them by the govt. It was a point hammered over and over and over (get my point.) Bernie doesn’t give specifics only generalization about his programs. The thing is, some of his ideas are worthy of some thought, but please give me specifics on how he will implement them…without raising taxes for us all. When I listen to Bernie all I hear is blah, blah, blah 1%.

    Bernie should also be honest with his followers by letting them know that most of his agenda will not pass Congress unless he has the option to hand pick every one of the members. I have a problem with some of his ideas…and I consider myself a pretty progressive democrat.

  2. Don Lopez on said:

    “(The Colorado Independent) loves Mike (Littwin). We want him to write for us for a long, long time. We need your support to make that happen. So consider making a year-end, tax-deductible donation to our work at The Colorado Independent so we can keep bringing you the news and analysis that you depend on and so Mike can keep doing what he does best — making sense out of sometimes senseless world, national and state events.”

    It appears the CI’s latest beg-a-thon has successfully saved Mr. Littwin from a life of oblivion although some may suggest that working for the CI is the definition of oblivion.

    I wonder if George Will’s salary is funded this way?

    And I would argue that what Mr. Littwin “does best” is ignore events that contradict his narrative or facts that are inconvenient.

    For example, in July Mr. Littwin described Senator Sanders presidential candidacy as “a benign summer fling”. Well, summer has come and gone and so, too, has fall but the senator is still around and Mr. Littwin—who once claimed politics is easy—now seems to have doubts, “The great question in 2016 — now a Democratic question as well as a Republican one — is whether anything we know about political strategy still works.”

    Although, in true Littwin fashion, he does bury those doubts in the column’s very last sentence.

    So, is Senator Sanders now a benign winter fling or has he become malignant? I’m sure Mr. Littwin will give us a seasonal update the first chance he gets and maybe then he’ll explain how Sanders has managed to remain relevant for this long against the vaunted Clinton Political Machine.

    Mr. Littwin also admitted, “Sanders had fought Clinton to at least a draw…” Translation: Sanders won.

    But the Democrat presidential debates still sound like grandpa and grandma bickering over who snores the loudest. It’s difficult to see how either candidate will appeal to the non-Depends crowd.

    And while Mr. Littwin seems to delight in chiding angry Republicans he seems unconcerned about angry Democrats, “Bernie was angry about Wall Street. Hillary seemed angry about Bernie.”

    Double standard?

    =======================================

    I still have trouble believing that Hillary Clinton, the wife of a former president, is the front-runner to succeed George Bush, the son of a former president. It sounds all too banana republic-ish. It also suggests a woeful lack of imagination. – Mike Littwin , 2007

    “Hillary Clinton’s campaign has spent the past few days indulging its worst instincts. It blundered into a dumb attack on Bernie Sanders, but rather than back down it raised the stakes. The result has been a reminder, to liberals, of what they like about Sanders and mistrust about Clinton. But it’s also been a missed opportunity for Clinton to make the case to Democratic primary voters that she should have been making all along.

    The subject was Sanders’s support for a single-payer health care system. The policy puts Clinton in a bind: It’s popular with liberals but dangerous in a general election. Sanders’s support for it is, to Clinton, everything wrong with his campaign in miniature — it’s an idea that sounds good on the stump but really reveals a preference for ideological symbolism over the hard work of policy change.” – Vox

    “A civil war erupted within the Democratic Party on Friday after news that Bernie Sanders’ campaign took advantage of a technological glitch to access, search and save one of Hillary Clinton’s most valuable campaign assets — her voter files.” – politico.com

    “No serious Democratic rival has emerged, and none is expected. Clinton’s poll numbers against likely Republican contenders are stable and mostly positive. Liberals — who are often seen in deep Clinton eye-roll — are also seen biting their collective tongues, knowing that she is the inevitable Democratic candidate ” – Mike Littwin

    “Because how can someone quite so polarizing be odds-on to win the Democratic nomination and also favored, according to the sports-betting sheets, to win the presidency?” – Mike Littwin

    “The expected attacks on Clinton will bring the base back to her. They always do.” – Mike Littwin

    “Bernie Sanders? At this point, he’s not even a Democrat.” – Mike Littwin

    “Clinton is a lock to win the presidential nomination.” – Mike Littwin

    “(Bernie Sanders) won’t hurt (Hillary)Clinton, who will win the nomination, and probably the presidency, because Republicans insist on demonizing her and Democrats will insist on defending her.” – Mike Littwin

    We’re told “Black Lives Matter,” but when it comes to black cops … not so much.” – National Review

    “The truth is that mass shootings are only a small part of gun violence in this country.” – Mike Littwin

    “The American people should feel confident that, you know, we are going to be able to defend ourselves and make sure that, you know, we have a good holiday and go about our lives,” – President Obama

    “Well, no, I don’t think (ISIS are) gaining strength. What is true is that from the start our goal has been first to contain (ISIS), and we have contained them” – President Obama

    “Let’s be clear: Islam is not our adversary. Muslims are peaceful and tolerant people and have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism.” – Hillary Clinton

    “Now, you might argue that politicians have no reason to tweak the brittle sensibilities of fundamentalists. We don’t want the president to create more terrorists by saying stuff that’s offensive to terrorists, after all. But do the rest of us have to embrace this dishonesty?” – The Federalist

    “’Cause I don’t have no use
    For what you loosely call the truth” – Tina Turner

    Greenlight a Vet
    Folds of Honor
    Memorial Day – May 30, 2016

  3. Terry Graves on said:

    I’m curious. Does DoLo have a “bash Mike” app or does he have a secret room where he has clips of Mike plastered over the walls with comments marked in yellow highlighter ala Criminal Minds? Did Mike steal his prom date back in the day? I read Mike’s articles because I enjoy and value his opinions on the topics he decides to cover. I would be extremely disappointed if his opinions did not change or evolve. Of course, I can see where humor as well as facts can be lost on some people. Haters gonna hate- Taylor Swift

  4. Don Lopez on said:

    Mr. Graves,

    Thank you for your comment. It’s comments like yours that fuel my responses to Mr. Littwin.

    I’m always amazed at how sensitive some folks are to criticisms of Mr. Littwin’s views as if his column represents a portal to the truth.

    I’m equally amazed at how those who embrace a political philosophy of diversity and tolerance can, at times, be so intolerant of diverse points of view.

    And maybe you can explain the difference between “evolve” and “flip-flop” because Mr. Littwin seems to be, uh, evolving a lot.

    =======================================

    “No serious Democratic rival has emerged, and none is expected. Clinton’s poll numbers against likely Republican contenders are stable and mostly positive. Liberals — who are often seen in deep Clinton eye-roll — are also seen biting their collective tongues, knowing that she is the inevitable Democratic candidate ” – Mike Littwin

    “Because how can someone quite so polarizing be odds-on to win the Democratic nomination and also favored, according to the sports-betting sheets, to win the presidency?” – Mike Littwin

    “The expected attacks on Clinton will bring the base back to her. They always do.” – Mike Littwin

    “Bernie Sanders? At this point, he’s not even a Democrat.” – Mike Littwin

    “Clinton is a lock to win the presidential nomination.” – Mike Littwin

    “(Bernie Sanders) won’t hurt (Hillary)Clinton, who will win the nomination, and probably the presidency, because Republicans insist on demonizing her and Democrats will insist on defending her.” – Mike Littwin

  5. Terry Graves on said:

    Mr Lopez, thank you. If I left you with the impression that I am intolerant to opposing viewpoints I must apologize profusely, after all I stayed in the good old USA during the Bush years. I actually enjoy the back and forth of political discourse. If you were asked a year ago if the Donald would be the front runner, what would you have said. I have been a Bernie fan for years, but I had little hope that he could achieve even the slightest support that he now has. Hell, I even thought the Rockies had a shot many times in past seasons. Sincerely, TeGra

  6. BJ Goral on said:

    Bernie cannot, against all odds, implement his programs without the support of Congress. Vermont, the state he represents, could not implement the single payer system for health care because the support was not there. It just won’t fly in the Congress.

  7. Terry Graves on said:

    It will take a movement by the voting public to realize that the game has been played with them never getting on the field. My hope is that voters will vote the ballot for like minded progressive candidates who are not afraid of the corporations and big money donors. Maybe they will see that a candidate such as Bernie can be successful and bring about change. Otherwise, we deserve what we get. The abysmal record of voter turnout over the past 40 years is a disgrace and needs to be corrected. If the public doesn’t show up at the polls, the corporates win and the country looses.

  8. BJ Goral on said:

    I agree we need to all show up and vote, but the republicans in many states have made it difficult to impossible for the general public to cast their votes. And voters tend to have a short memory span when it comes to casting a vote for a congress member. Bernie tagged himself as a “socialist” and that’s not going to fly with a lot of people. Socialism requires sharing and we the people are not good at that particular trait. Cooperation is another characteristic we do not excel at. Can we learn these traits, yes, but it is going to take us longer than nine months to do so.

  9. Paul Getty on said:

    I will no longer read any newspaper or website that employs the works of the dim Mike Littwin. What a dolt.

Leave a Response

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>