osewalrus (osewalrus) wrote,

How The Political Revolution Works: The Current Democratic Primary Race

Dear Hillary Supporters and Bernie Supporters:

Saw y'all remember back last year when "the plan" was that Bernie was going to run to push Hillary to the left, and while Bernie supporters wanted Bernie to win they would rather vote for Hillary than any Republican?

So, with the hot breath of competition in the last two weeks we have.

Hillary adds web page tab and bigger plank on racial justice:

Hillary revives support for public option: http://qz.com/…/can-hillary-clinton-really-cover-the-last-…/

See, *this* is how the political revolution works.

But it only works if it is a real threat. If it is not a real threat, then it doesn't work. It's like Google Fiber. For years analysts have debated whether Google is "serious" about being a broadband provider or whether it was just a threat to get other providers to step up their game in the face of competition. But for either to work, Google Fiber had to work in its target markets.

Bernie's candidacy works in much the same way from a progressive point of view. If he wins, Awesome! But even if he doesn't, as long as he comes close enough to persuade the centrists that they must shift leftward to win, also awesome (but less than "Awesome!").

Now on the Hillary side, I expect some of the vocal ones to explain that *of course* Hillary was really this wonderfully splendiferous all along and the awful sexist name calling Bernie Bros just never gave her credit she deserved. To this I can only say, "whatevs." I will add this is why you get driven the way you do -- you're utter and complete lack of self-awareness. So please, never change.

Now on the Bernie side, I expect some of the vocal ones to explain how this just shows that Hillary is utterly untrustworthy, twists with the political wind, and cannot be compared to the awesomeness that is Bernie, and will totally blow us off when actually elected.

To which I respond -- when you are getting what you want, shut up. The noble art of politics (and it is noble when compared to the alternatives) is about persuading people to do what you want them to do (or at least, move in the right direction) without violence. That is why, to remind everyone of the 18th century political theory which formed the basis for the "American experiment," people stop living in the wild like little sovereign nations at war with each other to come together to form governments. "That to *secure* these rights, governments are instituted among Men,deriving their just powers from the consent of the people."

Yes, it means the fight doesn't end after the election. That was the lesson from electing Obama. Whoever wins, you need to remain engaged and push on the policy outcomes you care about. Sorry, that's the price of living in a democracy. Good news, however, is Feld's Ratio of Political Pain: "Your political power is directly proportionate to your *perceived* ability to cause pain."

The other advantage that progressives have is a real end goal. The pragmatists want to solve problems and move on. I'm sympathetic to that. I am a pragmatist wonk myself. For progressives, think of pragmatists as allies with ADHD. Of course we are always looking to move on to the next thing before the problem is really solved. It's our nature. Who likes coming back to old stuff?

Besides, the actual mobilization structure and political activism structure are still there in the distributed movement. Still working where most others don't look and therefore don't see. As the basic ideas and campaigns bubble up, they go from radical left to center left to consensus without the bulk of people understanding how it happened -- a swing back in the pendulum from when we went from radical right to center right to mainstream on ideas like privatization and deregulation.

We have a boom bust cycle in politics the same way we have in business. It comes from the same problem of dealing with positive stimulus when something works in moderation (in other words, you get what you reward).

This is why Bernie absolutely should not quit, and why he (and his supporters) need to keep pushing this as a real race. Ignore the loud whining of centrists being pushed out of their comfort zones. Incumbents are incumbents whether it is business or politics -- no matter what they say, don't embrace competition and change willingly. But if they manage to get their act together, they can do a good job reinventing themselves -- however much they hate it and would rather rely on market power instead.

While everyone is focused on outcomes, the size of the delegate count matters a lot. Even if Bernie loses, if he goes into the convention with a very substantial delegate count, he can make some demands as a price of "unity." Democrats who came of age before 1980, and particularly those who were active in 1968 and 1972, absolutely dread the idea of a contested convention. Hillary got not just a floor speech in 2008 but a bunch of other stuff, including being Sec. State and -- as we have seen -- the utter loyalty of the Congressional Black Caucus for 2016. (Was that a quid pro quo? Of course not! But it is not coincidence either. Folks who have been dealing with each other for a long time understand each other.)

Mind you, and I'll say it again, I still believe Bernie has a path to win the nomination. He has a bunch of big states where he should do well, as well as a bunch of small states that can increase his delegate count. Interestingly, many of the state where Hillary did well in 2008, like West Virginia and Pennsylvania, may now be Bernie Country. In 2008, Obama was seen as the candidate of the elite intellectuals and Hillary was seen as the candidate of the working class traditional New Deal democrats. That perception has shifted in the Hillary/Bernie race. So it remains an exciting contest.

Which, of course, is why the Clinton campaign and centrists generally will need to keep shifting left and make more concrete commitments on Wall St. reform, healthcare, racial justice, and all that good stuff.

I will close with a thought from Lois Bujold (bonus points for naming the book first). "The key to strategy, little man, is not just one path to victory, but so that all paths lead to some kind of victory." Mind you, for that to work, you have to keep your eyes on where you are going and not get so wound up in your strategy tree that you lose sight of the here and now.


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