Daily Briefing: BERNIE’S SOCIALIST MOVEMENT SURGE (February 6,2020)

This caricature of Bernie Sanders was adapted from a Creative Commons licensed photo by Nick Solari available via Wikimedia. (Source: Wikipedia)

Table Of Contents:

The Socialist Evolution of Bernie Sanders: Elliot Kaufman, WSJ, Feb. 2, 2020

Bernie Could Win the Nomination.  Should We Be Afraid?:  Michelle Goldberg, NYTimes, Jan. 27, 2020

Bernie’s Delicate Dance on Israel: Ted Rall, WSJ, Jan. 20, 2020

Why Elizabeth Warren’s Attack on Bernie Backfired:  John McCormack, National Review, Feb. 4, 2020

The Socialist Evolution of Bernie Sanders
Elliot Kaufman
WSJ, Feb. 2, 2020

Agree or disagree with Bernie Sanders, at least he’s consistent—or so he claims. “Having a long record,” the Vermont senator said in October, “gives people the understanding that these ideas that I’m talking about—they are in my guts. They are in my heart. This is who I am as a human being, and it ain’t gonna change.”That’s true up to a point. During half a century in public life, Mr. Sanders has dependably denounced “oligarchy” and proclaimed himself a “democratic socialist.” But his definition of the term has radically changed. Last year he said his goal was “an economy in which you have wealth being created by the private sector, but you have a fair distribution of that wealth.” He added: “I think that countries like Denmark and Sweden do very well.”He had a different vision in the 1970s, when he sought statewide office four times as the nominee of the Liberty Union Party of Vermont. Campaigning for U.S. Senate in 1971, he demanded the nationalization of utilities. In 1973 he proposed a federal takeover of “the entire energy industry,” and in 1974 he wanted a 100% tax on all income above $1 million. In 1976 he asserted that workers needed to “take immediate control of the economy if we are to survive” and called for “public ownership of utilities, banks and major industries.” He had a plan for “public control over capital.” As late as 1987 he asserted that “democracy means public ownership of the major means of production.”

By the time Mr. Sanders won his first election—as mayor of Burlington, Vt., in 1981—he had become an independent. He had also begun a dalliance with the Socialist Workers Party, a communist group that had followed Leon Trotsky. Mr. Sanders endorsed the SWP’s presidential nominee in 1980 and 1984, spoke at SWP campaign rallies during that period, and in 1980 was part of its slate of would-be presidential electors.

The SWP promoted a foreign policy openly hostile to U.S. interests, and Mr. Sanders expressly endorsed some aspects of it. Last year the Washington Examiner quoted him from a 1980 press release: “I fully support the SWP’s continued defense of the Cuban revolution.” The party even backed Iran’s new theocracy while it was holding U.S. Embassy personnel hostage. In a 1979 speech, presidential nominee Andrew Pulley said: “Who are these hostages anyway? Well, we can be sure that many of them are simply spies . . . or people assigned to protect the spies.”

In 1985 Mayor Sanders visited Nicaragua. On returning, he called its Soviet-backed leader, Daniel Ortega, “impressive” and said it “makes sense” for the regime to suppress newspapers given the threat from the U.S.-supported Contra insurgency.

Mr. Sanders’s 1997 memoir, “Outsider in the House,” makes no mention of the SWP, and his governing style as mayor was not so radical. “Mr. Sanders did not campaign as a Socialist,” the New York Times reported in 1981, quoting the mayor-elect: “I’m not going to war with the city’s financial and business community.” In “Why Bernie Sanders Matters” (2015), biographer Harry Jaffe writes that as a candidate “Sanders went out of his way to assure homeowners he would not raise their taxes.” Perhaps because he knew Burlington’s aldermen—and the voters—would balk at radical domestic measures, he projected his ideological ambitions abroad. If he did that as president, the consequences would be real. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]




Bernie Could Win the Nomination.  Should We Be Afraid?
Michelle Goldberg
NYTimes, Jan. 27, 2020

A half-hour before a Bernie Sanders rally on Saturday night in Iowa, a line snaked around the nearly 900-seat Ames City Auditorium, but no one else was being let in:  The theater was full.

Inside, the Grammy-winning indie rock band Portugal.  The Man was playing.  Rows of people were assembled on risers behind the musicians, waving Bernie signs.  Sanders fans, most of them young, crowded the aisles; The Iowa State Daily reported that 1,400 people had crammed into the auditorium, with another 400 in an overflow room.  The room buzzed with the intoxicating collective energy unique to social movements on the rise.

Sanders has a reputation for focusing on class to the exclusion of all else; as David Frum put it in The Atlantic, “’Left but not woke’ is the Bernie Sanders brand.”  On the ground in Iowa, however, it is ot the brand of is campaign.  Sanders isn’t just running the most economically left campaign; he’s running the most unapologetically left campaign, period.  And it’s surging, with Sanders leading in recent polls in bot Iowa and New Hampshire.

It’s no longer far-fetched to think that he could be the Democratic nominee.

When the band was done, three Indigenous women took the stage to pay respects to the Native Americans forced off the land that became Iowa.  The filmmaker Michael Moore came on and described Donald rump as the endpoint of a country founded “on genocide and built on the b acks of slaves.”  (The next day, at a campaign stop n Perry, Moore called women’s underrepresentation in Congress a form of “gender apartheid.”)  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spoke, saying, “I’m here because Senator Sanders has actually committed to breaking up ICE.”

There are no moral or intellectual comparisons between Sanders and Trump, but there are structural similarities between the Sanders campaign and the one Trump ran in 2016.  Trump thrilled conservatives with his unembarrassed embrace of far-right figures disdained by mainstream Republicans.  He inspired alienated men on the internet to mobilize behind him.  Party elites wanted to stop him, but his solid core of support allowed him to romp through a fractured field.

The parallels with Sanders are obvious.  He’s running a campaign steeped in the ethos of an anti-establishment left, and benefiting from elite Democrats’ failure to coalesce around someone else.  He has an enormous online following, with legions of trolls intimidating Democrats who seem to stand in their way.  An outsider who long refused to join the party whose nomination he’s seeking, he appeals to people who distrust most political institutions, the mainstream media very much included. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

Bernie’s Delicate Dance on Israel
Ted Rall

WSJ, Jan. 20, 2020

Sen. Bernie Sanders is near the top of the polls in Iowa. He’s looking good in New Hampshire. He’s surging in South Carolina. Even skeptics are saying the democratic socialist may win the Democratic nomination. So why aren’t we talking about the possibility of America’s first Jewish president?

Part of the answer is that Mr. Sanders, whom I interviewed for a 2015 biography, doesn’t talk much about his faith. “I am not actively involved in organized religion,” he said recently. Yet perhaps another reason is his base’s fraught relationship with Israel.

A mere 3% of liberal Democrats said in a 2019 Gallup poll they sympathize more with the Israelis than with the Palestinians. Moderate Democrats came in at 28%. Younger Democrats appear to be more critical of Israel, and Bernie fans tend to be young. President Trump is close with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who sparred memorably with President Obama. Since then, Trump administration moves such as relocating the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and rejecting the view that West Bank settlements are illegal have opened more room for criticism of Israel in the Democratic Party.

Mr. Sanders has thus been in a delicate dance and at times has stumbled. Take Israel’s 2014 military incursion into Gaza. Progressives might have expected Mr. Sanders to echo progressive complaints that the war in Gaza was disproportionately violent.

Instead, Mr. Sanders didn’t object to a Senate resolution passed by unanimous consent backing “the State of Israel as it defends itself against unprovoked rocket attacks from the Hamas terrorist organization.” When he discussed Israel at a Vermont town hall that year, he was shouted down by his own supporters.

By the most stringent progressive standards, Mr. Sanders has been a steadfast supporter of the Jewish state. He opposes the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. Even if a two-state solution fails, Mr. Sanders has said he opposes a one-state solution because “that would be the end of the state of Israel, and I support Israel’s right to exist.” Mr. Sanders also has personal ties to Israel. He worked on a kibbutz as a young man. He has relatives there.

Many progressives haven’t forgiven him for this posture. Mr. Sanders has attempted to address the rift by moving left, criticizing the Gaza campaign and calling Mr. Netanyahu “a racist.” He suggested that some U.S. aid to Israel should be diverted to Gaza.

Playing both sides isn’t easy. “It’s not just being pro-Israel. We must be pro-Palestinian as well,” Mr. Sanders said at a Democratic debate in December. How, exactly? He hasn’t explained.

For now, Mr. Sanders’s pro-Israel sentiments may not cost him many votes. Progressives have no better alternative. But if the crisis between the U.S. and Iran or some other Middle Eastern flashpoint heats up and Israel is dragged into the fighting, Mr. Sanders could be forced to choose between his support for Israel and his progressive base.

Why Elizabeth Warren’s Attack on Bernie Backfired
John McCormack
National Review, Feb. 4, 2020

The closing themes of the Democratic candidates who apparently finished in the top three in Iowa’s caucuses were neatly distilled by the chants of college students who gathered to caucus at Drake University field house on Monday night.

The students for Bernie Sanders chanted, “Not me, us! Not me, us!” underlining the Sanders campaign’s message of socialist solidarity. The students for Pete Buttigieg chanted, “I-O-W-A! Mayor Pete all the way!” highlighting the extent to which Buttigieg’s campaign is built on his burgeoning cult of personality. The students for Elizabeth Warren chanted, “It’s time! It’s time! It’s time for a woman in the White House!” making clear that Warren’s campaign was about identity.

It wasn’t always that way for Warren. She started out as the candidate of “big, structural change” who had a plan for everything. Then Buttigieg whacked her at the October Democratic debate for not having a plan to pay for Medicare for All. This forced her to release a proposal that drew intense criticism. She then retreated and promised not to push for Medicare for All until the third year of her first term. By the end of November, half of her supporters had abandoned her.

When the January Democratic debate rolled around, Warren tried out a new closing line of attack against Bernie Sanders: identity politics. She suggested he had committed a sexist sin by privately telling her a woman couldn’t win the White House — an allegation he denied, noting that he’d recruited her to run in the 2015 Democratic presidential primary against Hillary Clinton. Her hot-mic moment after the debate drew national coverage. “I think you called me a liar on national TV,” she told Sanders. Then the race was drowned out by impeachment.

How did the attack on Sanders work out for Warren? While we don’t have final results from Iowa, partial results show she finished behind Sanders and Buttigieg. With 62 percent of precincts reporting, Buttigieg and Sanders are battling for first place, while Warren is a distant third at 18.3 percent, just a bit ahead of Biden at 15.6 percent.

Elsewhere, the polls show that Sanders’s lead over Warren has only grown since the January 14 debate: He entered that clash running five points ahead of her in the RealClearPolitics average of New Hampshire polls; by Monday, February 3, that lead had been stretched to twelve points. In the same time period, his advantage over her in the RCP average of national polls increased by six points.

There is a good argument to be made that suggesting Sanders is a sexist liar was never going to end well for Warren. One of Sanders’s greatest strengths among Democrats is that they see him as someone who “tells it like it is.” One of Warren’s greatest weaknesses is her trouble with telling the straight truth. What’s more, she was not primarily competing with Sanders for Boomer feminists but for young Democratic voters, who polls suggest care more about authenticity and a left-wing policy agenda than about identity.

Due to the colossally botched caucus process, which has delayed the release of results and prevented any candidate from credibly claiming momentum, Warren’s campaign isn’t quite dead yet, and it won’t be even if she does indeed end up finishing third in the Hawkeye State. But Sanders appears to be in control of the progressive lane of the Democratic primary, and Warren has not yet inspired much confidence that she knows how to beat him.

For Further Reference:

Many Errors Are Evident in Iowa Caucus Results Released Wednesday:  Nate Cohn, Andrew Fischer, Josh Katz, Denise Lu, Charlie Smart and Ben Smithgall, NYTimes, Feb. 6, 2020  Results from the Iowa Democratic caucuses were delayed by “quality control checks” on Monday night. Days later, quality control issues have not been resolved.

Iowa Might Have Screwed Up The Whole Nomination Process:  Nate Silver, FiveThirtyEight, Feb. 4, 2020 — In trying to build a forecast model of the Democratic primaries, we literally had to think about the entire process from start (Iowa) to finish (the Virgin Islands on June 6).

Why the Democrats Won’t Stop Bernie Ben Shapiro, RealClearPolitics, Feb. 5, 2020 — There is no doubt that Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is now the leading Democratic presidential candidate. That’s not because his ideas are overwhelmingly popular — a majority of Americans approve of capitalism, while less than 1 in 5 like socialism; few Americans are on board with total nationalization of health care, even if many like the idea of universal health care; most Americans do not approve of Sanders’ anti-American ideology with regard to foreign policy.

Honest Socialists vs. Elizabeth Warren Washington Examiner, Oct. 18, 2019 — The best way to expose an impostor is to stand her next to the real thing. Elizabeth Warren had to stand next to Bernie Sanders at the Oct. 15 debate, and the comparison was not flattering for the former wonk from Massachusetts.


‘I Think It’s Israel’: How Orthodox Jews Became Republicans:  Ben Sales and Laura E. Adkins, JTA, Feb. 3, 2020 – But by 2000, Goldberg had affixed a Republican congressional campaign bumper sticker to the maroon Lincoln Town Car he drove to his Orthodox Jewish high school in Chicago.