Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Register Endorsement is About Sanders, Not Clinton

The important part of the Des Moines Register's Hillary Clinton endorsement was not the predictable recitation of her experience. We saw that before, eight years ago, when she also won the endorsement, and that and five bucks will buy you a latte in Iowa City and a third place finish.

No, the important part was the analysis and critique of Bernie Sanders.
Sanders admits that virtually all of his plans for reform have no chance of being approved by a Congress that bears any resemblance to the current crop of federal lawmakers. This is why, he says, voters can’t simply elect him president, but must instead spark a “political revolution.”

Easier said than done. Congress has the largest Republican majority since the 71st Congress of 1929-31.
A successful Sanders presidency would hinge on his ability to remake Washington in his own image. It’s almost inconceivable that such a transformation could take place, even with Democrats controlling both chambers of Congress.
This echoes the single biggest item I zoomed in on at the November debate at Drake.

Coming back from commercial, Sanders was asked, paraphrasing, how he would get his program through a Republican Congress. Bernie either avoided the question or, more accurately, rejected the premise. He argued that, again paraphrasing, that he would not HAVE to deal with a Republican Congress because the Bernie Political Revolution would sweep away GOP control.

Well, more fairly, he argued that was what he NEEDED and what SHOULD happen. And granted, if the landscape changes dramatically enough to elect Bernie Sanders, there would be at least some down-ballot impact. But he never quite answered what he would do if faced with a Republican Congress.

Between unequal population distribution - Democrats waste more votes in super-safe seats - and gerrymandering, are there 218 House districts that are winnable by a progressive Democrat? Or even by a Blue Dog?

And even if the House races are a sweep, Republican Senators elected in the 2014 wave like Joni Ernst stay in office till 2020.

This answer is in character for Sanders. But it rubs editorial boards the wrong way.

Editorial boards are the last bastion of bipartisanship and neutrality. They bemoan the polarization of the parties, and they have a deep fetish for working across the aisle.It's encoded in the DNA of the Objective Journalism Paradigm. I'll bet the beret that every member of the Register editorial board is registered No Party.

(Tangent: No, it's not "Independent." The legal term in Iowa is No Party. I've never understood why people cherish that word "independent." Parties are a place you go to meet people and have fun.)

Sanders, of course, has always been about breaking old paradigms. That's a source of his strength. But that also means he was never in serious consideration for that endorsement.

The real loser tonight is Martin O'Malley, brushed aside in just one sentence that was as obligatory as it was dismissive, as "better suited to a Cabinet-level job in a Clinton White House." And my take is always been: running AGAINST Hillary is EXACTLY the wrong path to her cabinet. Look to the surrogates who are carpeting the state in the last ten days. THAT'S the Clinton 45 cabinet. OK, maybe not Demi Lovato.

There's another down side to Sanders' rejection of the premise of working across the aisle. Many Democratic voters, especially political sophisticates like Iowa caucus goers, have reluctantly accepted the idea that the House will stay Republican till at least 2022. They see the White House as the one place in the system where Democrats have the advantage, the last firewall against total Republican control. Even the tiny handful of remaining ticket splitters, the ones worshipped by editorial boards, respond to the idea of a political balance of power. Republican Congress? Democratic president.

Of course, maybe part of Sanders strength is that many Democrats want the mirror image of the defiance the Republican Congress has shown President Obama. And maybe Sanders, put in the situation he won't let himself imagine, would provide that.

But it's not a picture editorial boards like.

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