If you have "no place to go," come here!

Sanders and the goddamned Democrats in 2016

The sagacious and prescient Black Agenda Report has this to say about the goddamned Democrats:

Bernie Sanders is this election's Democratic sheepdog. The sheepdog is a card the Democratic party plays every presidential primary season when there's no White House Democrat running for re-election. The sheepdog is a presidential candidate running ostensibly to the left of the establishment Democrat to whom the billionaires will award the nomination. Sheepdogs are herders, and the sheepdog candidate is charged with herding activists and voters back into the Democratic fold who might otherwise drift leftward and outside of the Democratic party, either staying home or trying to build something outside the two party box.

1984 and 88 the sheepdog candidate was Jesse Jackson. In 92 it was California governor Jerry Brown. In 2000 and 2004 the designated sheepdog was Al Sharpton, and in 2008 it was Dennis Kucinich. This year it's Vermont senator Bernie Sanders. The function of the sheepdog candidate is to give left activists and voters a reason, however illusory, to believe there's a place of influence for them inside the Democratic party, if and only if the eventual Democratic nominee can win in November.

Despite casting millions of voters for the likes of Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and other sheepdogs, those leftish Democrat voters are always disregarded when Democrats actually win.

Arun Gupta presents a more nuanced take:

Sanders’ campaign will help divide the left and bind many of them to the Democratic Party. Over the next six months expect a stream of articles praising Sanders as the people’s, progressives’, the left’s champion, or attacking anyone who disagrees. Short of a mile-wide asteroid smacking into the earth, Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic Party nominee. She needs challengers to enliven a primary that is more coronation than contest, and she needs the sparring to keep her in fighting shape for the general election. Plus, having a left-wing candidate allows her to appear as the responsible moderate who stakes out corporate-friendly positions slathered in progressive blather. By the time the convention is over, those progressives who hopped on board the Sanders train to nowhere will have reconciled themselves with supporting Hillary, whatever their misgivings. It’s basic psychology. Like investors who throw good money after bad, it’s hard to admit after spending more than a year of your life advocating for a candidate that lost, that maybe it’s time to stop investing in the Democratic Party. But if we step back and take a look at just the last few years, it’s non-electoral organizing like Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, immigrants’ rights, and low-wage worker organizing that is actually making social change and forcing the Democrats to the left. So go ahead and vote for Sanders and Clinton, but that’s all. Spend the rest of your time, energy, and money on building militant grassroots activism. Because while elections are about moving candidates, social movements move the whole system.

I agree -- which is why I follow non-electoral organizing so closely, and throw hits to it.

Comparing and contrasting: I don't like BAR's sheepdog metaphor, because it's not systemic; it depends on the mutual, conscious agency of shepherd (the Democrats) and sheepdog (Sanders/Kucinich/Brown).[1] I just think life, and especially political life, is a lot sloppier and more complicated than that; BAR approaches a category error, here. I prefer Gupta because he makes clear how even the purest intent can be leveraged by an opportunistic political class.[2]

Bernie's 74 years old; that's close to the age where you don't buy green bananas in the supermarket. It's certainly reasonable to think he's running for President just because he wants to, and not for a payoff. I mean, what do they give him? My working assumption is that running for President was on his bucket list -- he is, after all, a Senator -- and he figured out he could raise a little money, maybe Hillary turns out to be not a well woman, so why not give it a shot?

I think one of the problems the left in America has is that they can never take "Yes" for an answer, or even mentally transform the absence of a "Hell no!" into a "Maybe." (That's going to be a problem if the left ever comes anywhere near power; will they be able to seize it, assuming they can recognize it?) And that, IMNSHO, is what's happening to a lot of people who've left the Democrats "but have nowhere to go."

So here is what I think about the Sanders candidacy and the goddamned Democrats:

1) Yes, at last, the Democratic regulars have no place to go. 2010 and 2014 cleared their bench. All the scumbag Blue Dogs went down the tubes last cycle. (This won't prevent the DCCC from trying to recruit new ones, but the ones they recruited are gone.) That means that the Democrat regulars can't tack to the center; there's nobody there. So, they have to suck up to the left. They hate it, because they hate the left, along with their base, but that's what they will try to do. That makes this cycle different from past cycles, which the "sheepdog" metaphor can't take take into account. Yes, the Democrats will do the "Honey, I've changed!" thing in the primary, and then resume the abuse in the general and/or in power, but that doesn't mean we have to fall for it. No playbook lasts forever, after all. Every dynasty comes to an end. Every regime loses legitimacy. Take the opportunity and run with it!

2) Yes, at last, actual leftie concepts are entering the discourse. Dear Lord, whoever would have thought that an avowed [gasp] Socialist, actually using the word, would be on the teebee, running for Preznit? Now, I am quite sure Sanders won't be talking about "the collective ownership of the means of production,"[3] but with the national political discourse at the level it's at, that's a mere nuance, a matter of detail. What matters is that the taboo of the S-Word has been broken. Take the opportunity and run with it!

3) Yes, you can walk and chew gum at the same time. You can (a) use the newly opened space in the discourse to introduce left concepts, and point out that Sanders' real problem is that he's way too moderate, while (b) giving money to the Greens, voting affirmatively, voting for the lesser evil, not voting, spoiling your ballot, or whatever. The long "My vote is my own" permathread is completely different from shaping the discourse to our own advantage, which to me is central to the Sanders candidacy. Take the opportunity and run with it!

4) Anything that splits the Democrats is good. Gaius Publius:

But if it starts to look like [Sanders] can actually beat Clinton — if he lasts through next April, say, with the same wind or stronger at his back — look out. The more he thrills the voters, the more he splits the party.

Consider that again — If Sanders and his message prove wildly popular with voters, the party will split along a continent-long fault line, one it has lived with, uneasily, for more than two decades....

Whatever the outcome, this may be the most interesting political year for Democrats since 1968, when Eugene McCarthy forced President Lyndon Johnson out of the race, paving the way for Kennedy to enter it. (I know, Nixon won that year, but only because we lost Kennedy, who I'm certain would have beaten him.)

5) Suppose Sanders wins. Would that be so very bad?

NOTE [1] Even assuming things are as simple as BAR makes them out, Judas Goat would be the more appropriate metaphor, but it too depends on mutual, conscious agency. OTOH, I can well believe Deblasio, with his own Contract with America, or whatever it turns out to be, is completely corrupt and cynical. I mean, a guy who runs as somewhere on the left and then appoints Bratton police chief in, IIRC, the space of 24 hours after his election win... What can you say?

[2] For example, the press is an important player that doesn't figure in BAR's metaphor. They too want Clinton to have a competitor, and for two reasons: (1) Many of them just flat-out hate the Clintons, as people, and (2) if there's a horse-race, that means stories, "the narrative," teebee appearances, book deals, etc.

[3] Actually, Bernie isn't even as far left as the 12-Point Platform, which is quite consciously radically reformist, and not revolutionary.

Average: 5 (1 vote)


Submitted by lambert on

Typing outside, now; and the screen is not quite as easy to see as I would like.

nippersdad's picture
Submitted by nippersdad on

This just seems the obvious course. I'm not clear why so many people expect perfection from candidates in a Democratic Party which has trended Republican for thirty years. Take what you can get, magnify it if possible and then vote for the Greens when they disappoint.

I went to a Bernie meetup the other day. I'm used to feeling like the political dunce in the room. Sadly, it was quite the refreshing experience to meet the organizer and find out that he could not distinguish between Bachmann and Warren.

I can see why BARs' Bernie article would lack nuance, though. Bruce Dixon is one of the leaders of the Greens here. Nuance would not be in his interest.

V. Arnold's picture
Submitted by V. Arnold on

attachment to the status quo; republican, democrat, socialist, tea party or independent.

Does anybody here actually expect the election to make a genuine difference?

nippersdad's picture
Submitted by nippersdad on

Seems like, in some ways, it already has. Two months ago no one had heard of the TPP though it had been in the news for over a year, now it is damn near toxic.

The world economic system appears to be on the brink of implosion, it would be a shame were there no one to fill the breach when it comes time to rebuild. Build your forces now while there is still time.

BruceMcF's picture
Submitted by BruceMcF on

... I don't expect it to have an effect ... but seeing how much money the oligarchy is willing to spend trying to take people's votes away, I reckon that there has to be something to the right to vote that has the potential of at least disrupting their plans, and that is surely worth something.

Submitted by lambert on

... that things cycle politically -- or karmically, if you will. Nothing lasts forever, and that includes the neo-liberal dispensation that began in the mid-70s.

nippersdad's picture
Submitted by nippersdad on

was put together (outside of the Bernie campaign) by veteran organizers of the Teachout and Chuy campaigns, OWS, WFP, Black lives matter and minimum wage campaigns. On the conference call I was really impressed with the resume's I was hearing. These are the people we will be seeking to elect in a few years.

I sent Bernie an e-mail pointing out that I was both a volunteer and a donor to his campaign, and, using the BAR article as an exemplar, pointed out that it would be a good idea were he to invite such as Jill Stein, Ralph Nader and Zephyr Teachout for stump surrogates if he wanted to avoid the impression that he was playing the sacrificial goat at Hillary's coronation. I put it more politely, of course, but if he is going to find that outside groups are his best friends and that ignoring them will come with a cost, why not own it?

I think Jill Stein would be a great VP choice. I would love to see her in a VP debate with whatever Palin the R's excrete next year.

Leverage can be a wonderful thing. It may temporarily take some air out of Dixon's balloon, but then Dixon's balloon has been having difficulty getting off the ground for a while now and there are lots of other ways to reach a common goal.

Submitted by lambert on

.... are really apples and oranges. If Karen Lewis hadn't come down with brain cancer, she would have been the challenger, and we would have had a real fight. Chuy was a machine product who didn't want to rock the boat. (No challenge at all on the CPD's little Abu Ghraib; no challenge on Rahm's private equity dealing. A very weak campaign, as we would expect when Illya Sheyman and the vile MoveOn crowd move in, as they did.)

Teachout and Wu, by contrast, ran a fearless campaign on corruption, and were rewarded for it.

And it was WFP betraying everything they claimed to stand for and backing Cuomo that ignited the Teachout/Wu campaign in the first place. (Not that Cuomo was grateful; he went and set up another straw party, Women's Equality Party!)

I'm glad your involved in this, and please keep us posted, but as you can see I have some priors on Democratic players...

nippersdad's picture
Submitted by nippersdad on

of the "misleadership class"? It is the movement that I find fascinating. And, from what I can see out here in the sticks, it is all grist for the mill. Maybe it is good to piss off the troops every once in a while?

Submitted by lambert on

I mean, the organizers control the invite list, no? If I understand the situation/dynamics correctly here.

Adding, Teachout/Wu ran their campaign like they wanted to win, and like they knew -- and could say -- what they would do with power once they had it. Quite different from Chuy, where you could see the opportunities being muffed in near-real time.

nippersdad's picture
Submitted by nippersdad on

I'll give you that he was nominated as a sacrificial goat from the beginning. He may even have called up the White House and said that there was the possibility that he could win so they needed to Air-Force-One-in all of the black guys with national name recognition they could find to knock on the black community's doors lest that potential materialize. Who can read his mind? I am not, however, prepared to accept, yet, that the Chuy people getting out the vote had much say in what opportunities he would or would not take advantage of. Why would they waste their time if they knew better?

Speaking of which, we just had another Bernie meeting this afternoon to which I specifically asked the organizer to invite the county Democratic leadership. They arrived and said all the expected things about coming together after the Primaries for the general, veal penning, to which half of us point blank told them that under no circumstances would we support, or even vote for, Hillary in the general. "We don't vote for Republicans" was the general gist, and they were given no quarter wrt Obama or the DNC/Wasserman Schultz handling of the mid-terms either. Hilarity ensued, as they say.

They did their jobs and we did ours; an understanding has been reached. We won't attack during the Primaries, but we won't support afterwards either if Bernie is not the nominee. It was what one might call Republican bi-partisanship. We got our way. I will be interested to hear if that was a common experience in such meetings and how the Party reacts to the attitude. They are now on notice. Here, anyway.

This is going to be a really interesting cycle.

Submitted by lambert on

I wouldn't touch Chuy or his inner circle with a barge-pole, or the out-of-state MoveOn types.

Hard to take issue with foot-soldiers; I've had the same conversation about the WFP. Depends on whether we're looking at getting involved with the best local option, or careerism, or Koolaid consumption.

Soylent Green... is people, after all, and so are the Democrats. But I applaud your meeting with the County Democrats, and I wonder what sort of message they will forward up the food chain.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

I don't think you were well advised to say under no circumstances would you support HIllary. You need to take the view that Bernie will win the nomination and that you will need their support. Therefore, when they try to veal pen you, you should say, certainly we will all come togetehr at the convention. A primary is not like a general election. One of the huge mistakes the Obots made was their scorched earth tactics against Hillary. Remember that she has attracted the most experience people in the Dem party, people whose skills and social networks Bernie will need in the generral election. Make it easy for them to come over to Bernie.

Submitted by lambert on

That's so smart. I agree on the Obots mistake, and it's almost as if we want to mete out the same injustice that we experienced, a cycle of abuse sort of thing. (Can't speak for Nippersdad, who wasn't around in 2008.)

nippersdad's picture
Submitted by nippersdad on

Their experience, though, has led to losing elections and splitting the Party.

With friends like that.......? I disliked BOTH the 'bots and the pumas attitudes; I saw little difference because they were both arguing identity politics and seldom ever had anything substantive to say. I, personally, don't care about the issues that move them; I care about policy. If a black guy or a woman speaks to my issues, I will vote for fact, I had done so already in the past. The arguments against Hillary are policy based and represent a bright red line. I don't see how one could honorably campaign for someone that one believes to be a Republican in a Democratic race.

If other people lack honor, that is no reflection upon myself. They are free to do whatever they choose, I can only control what I do. If that is a mistaken attitude, then so be it.

Submitted by lambert on

All of the Hillary supporters here (and Corrente was one of the few Hillary blogs in 2008) made our choice in the basis of policy and it was not easy.

So I'm sympathetic to DCblogger's goal of making it as easy as possible for former Hillary supporters to jump on the Bernie bandwagon if any. OTOH, "with friends like these" has some merit.

Not sure how to square the circle, although policy might provide a good litmus test.

Submitted by lambert on

... (and I'd like to know why you think that) then I think it behooves us to mobilize citizens in any way that we can and not be picky about the channels. As I keep saying, the "elections make no difference" stance boils down to:

Nah, I'm not going to that Estates-General thing. It's full of aristocrats!

I'm also sort of amazed, both here and in the discussions on similar points at Naked Capitalism, at the strength of what you label "naive cynicism." I point out that the Sanders candidacy offers a chance to broaden the discourse, and the response is "elections make no difference." Well, if that's true, there are other ways to do politics than elections. But the response is never "I don't believe in elections, so I am doing ___ ." Wierd and disempowering.

I mean, military governments the world over are trying to rip up electoral systems by the roots, or rig them, or game them. Hard to see why they are motivated to be doing that if, in the general case, elections make no difference.

blues's picture
Submitted by blues on

This entire thread would literally not exist at all if we had simple score voting (which some try to conflate with "approval voting"). Check it out -- read from:

"The simplest form of score voting involves absolutely no fractions, division, multiplication, or other logic complications."

At the link:

So why not simply demand this?

Submitted by lambert on

Because I'm very suspicious of magical technical solutions? And because policy matters, so a single demand is not enough?

blues's picture
Submitted by blues on

If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal.

Not "Magical." Just simple. And perfectly understood since the French Revolution era.

Don't blindly follow the political science sell-outs. Eliminate the two-party syndrome with simple score voting (not "approval voting").

MAKE THIS SIMPLE DEMAND. Or go to war and depression.

The choice is always yours!

Submitted by lambert on

Because what you're saying sounds a lot like magical thinking to me. I need an example.

Submitted by lambert on

You're advocating for a voting system you really believe in. Can you, in the number of words that would fit on a post card, give me an example of a jurisdiction that has adopted your system and is happy with it?

blues's picture
Submitted by blues on

Who Uses Score Voting?

The Center for Election Science — Score Voting — Who uses Score Voting?

The Harvey Milk Democratic Club, the largest Democratic club in San Francisco, uses Score Voting for their endorsements.

The Pirate Party of North Rhine-Westphalia, the most populous of Germany’s 16 states (population: 18 million), uses Score Voting (on a -3 to +3 scale) to elect their Board of Directors. On May 13, 2012, the NRW Pirates won 7.8% of the vote in the state elections, winning 20 of the 237 seats in state parliament. (Their party list had itself been selected via multi-winner Approval Voting.) They subsequently held their first Score Voting Board of Directors election on May 29, 2012. The results of that election are here.

The Pirate Party of Lower Saxony subsequently adopted Score Voting (on a 0-5 scale) to order their party list. The first use was on August 25, 2012.

• “Overall the counting proved that we had chosen the right system. We were only slightly slower than we had expected and most people were happy with the result. They felt that with the scoring they could express their will in a very effective way.” - André, Pirate Party Member, Germany uses Score Voting to rank every NBA player from number 500 to number 1.

Mozilla, the organization that makes the popular Firefox web browser, uses Score Voting to select Mentors for their Mozilla Reps program.

The Fedora Project, a partnership of free software community members from around the globe, uses Score Voting to select their board members.

The Central Co-op, an independent, member-owned natural foods cooperative in Seattle, WA, uses Score Voting for their Inside Trustee Elections.

• “It’s easy to understand.” - Webster Walker, Community Outreach Administrator, Central Co-op, Seattle, WA

The San Francisco FrontRunners, a running club, uses Score Voting to select which charity to donate their proceeds to.

NAVA, the North American Vexillological Association, used Score Voting to identify the best and worst flags on the continent.

The TV shows American Idol, The Voice, and Dancing with the Stars use Score Voting to select their winners.

The Miss America Pageant uses Score Voting to select their finalists.

The cooking shows Iron Chef, Top Chef, and Cupcake Wars all use Score Voting to select their winners.

Many Olympic sports, such as gymnastics and figure skating, use Score Voting to select their winners.

Voting in Sanity

Success Stories:

Where is Score Voting being used?

• By our schools, to select the valedictorian

• In the Olympics, for judging athletic performances

• At the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), to evaluate moviegoers’ preferences

• On websites that feature reviews, such as, Yelp, and the Apple App Store

• …and it undoubtedly forms a major part of every search-engine algorithm!

Simple score voting can be completely described in one short simple sentence: Give no vote at all, or from one to ten votes to any number of candidates you wish (up to some reasonable limit, say 20 candidates), and then simply add all the votes up.

One could say that simple score eliminates 90% of the spoiler effect. To illustrate: if a voter gives 10 votes to Nader and 9 votes to Gore, it is simply obvious that, if Nader does not win, the voter has only sacrificed exactly 10% of their voting power. Not 100% as they would have had they been forced to use the usual single-selection voting method.

No fancy math is necessary to compare and contrast it to every other option for effectiveness and simplicity, including single-selection (aka "plurality," our present "system") Condorcet, Borda, IRV, Range (with its tricky "averages"), Approval (which is not adequately effectual), etc.

The simple score method I advocate is the very simplest, since it only allows from 1 to 10 votes to be given, not from 0 to 9, or 0 to 10. It also has no vote-averaging that seriously complicates the range score method. I also am the only one to point out that voters should always vote artfully (aka strategically), not artlessly or heroically (aka "honestly" or "sincerely").

Please notice -- None of the above "election systems" bear the slightest stake-holding for the people doing the voting.

People voting for real power holders were never allowed to have simple score.

They were never allowed to have any real democracy.

They were only allowed to have single-selection.

The money/power interests always controlled the two or three party systems. The spoiler effect allowed them to control everything!

Democracy never existed, Only control by the corrupt courts.

Why do they not give all their money to one party?

Ask yourself that!

Submitted by lambert on

I like that ESPN uses it. There's a talking point to be had there, and lots of people like and understand sports (unlike the Pirate Party in Westphalia, even though that's probably a more interesting case).

BruceMcF's picture
Submitted by BruceMcF on

"Please notice -- None of the above "election systems" bear the slightest stake-holding for the people doing the voting.

People voting for real power holders were never allowed to have simple score.

They were never allowed to have any real democracy.

They were only allowed to have single-selection."

Is "single selection" a term designed to create a semantic dichotomy between "Score Voting" and "Everything else"?

Because in the real world, there is clearly not a simple dichotomy. There are systems where you are only allowed a single choice, and if your choice is not in the top two contesting for a plurality, your vote is "wasted".

There are a range of systems where your preferences can be taken into account.

What the term "single selection" seems to do is to pool "first choice only" and "range of preference" systems together if they only allow your vote to end up with one selection at the end of the counting. And set Score Voting apart because it allows for you to have votes in multiple different columns at the end of the day.

And if that is what the term "single selection" is intended to do, it is obfuscation, because preference voting systems of all types have more in common with each other than they have with first past the post.

Indeed, score voting in the context of selecting a single representative for a legislative district or executive position is far more "single selection" than AV voting in five to eight member districts.

Submitted by lambert on

Voting certainly changed something in 1860... and in 1932. I think the left could do a little better recognizing and taking advantage of potential ruptures than it is.

blues's picture
Submitted by blues on

Score voting for single member seats will not fundamentally break the two party system down into a system of multiparty seats any more effectively than AV, Second Preference or Third Preference voting.

The advantages / disadvantages over AV, Second Preference or Third Preference are second order things ... the main benefit is in moving from First Past the Post to any of them, and then any additional benefits are much smaller trade-offs of advantages and disadvantages.

What it will actually do is remove the spoiler effect. So people can effectively vote for whom they truly want.

"a system of multiparty seats" -- Means NOTHING.

"AV" -- is code for approval voting -- a degenerate form of score voting in which the voter can give no vote, or one vote to any candidate. It is said to lack "expressiveness" -- but NO -- it lacks discriminativeness. You cannot effectively strategize -- You can only say "Yes" or "No" to any given candidate. If I offer you a choice between receiving a lottery ticket with the lottery number chosen by me, or one with the lottery number chosen by you, does it matter? No. But in the second case, I am offering infinitely more expressiveness. Does this make a difference to you -- No.

The whole point is to REMOVE THE SPOILER EFFECT. And this, at bottom, has nothing to do with political parties.

Simple score voting removes the spoiler effect. That's its only job.

Stop the quasi-mathematical confounding of the voting systems theorists. Politics transcends abstract scientism.

blues's picture
Submitted by blues on

Simple score voting.

The "first past the post" meme is meaningless. A horse race perhaps? That has nothing to do with any solution to the spoiler effect.

To solve the spoiler effect is to cure the problem. Horses have nothing to do with it.

Differential equations are not needed at all. It's all quite obvious.

The most simple form of full score voting would solve the spoiler effect problem completely.

So why argue?

BruceMcF's picture
Submitted by BruceMcF on

Score voting for single member seats will not fundamentally break the two party system down into a system of multi-party seats any more effectively than AV, Second Preference or Third Preference voting.

The advantages / disadvantages over AV, Second Preference or Third Preference are second order things ... the main benefit is in moving from First Past the Post to any of them, and then any additional benefits are much smaller trade-offs of advantages and disadvantages.

Establishment of any of them, plus removal of the impediments to the emergence of third parties introduced into Northern states to fend off coalitions of Democrats and Progressives and into Southern states to cope with de facto Single Party State status, would go as far as single representative districts can go.

blues's picture
Submitted by blues on

Forget the fancy teachings of your political science professors.

Did they really care?

Still paying off those college loans?

They care not. They bear no stake. It's all your responsibility.

But why vote? Will your college loans for fancy election methods courses diminish. Probably not, huh?

blues's picture
Submitted by blues on

Second order things ("predicates") take precedence over first order predicates in higher level logic. A first order class P that predicates seven elements can be described as 7P = True. Natural numbers being represented as second order predicates. Neat, huh?

Submitted by lambert on

On the other hand, if you won't talk about socialism because Bernie used the word, you won't be talking about socialism very much, will you?

I didn't say I'd vote for him, and I didn't say you had to vote for him.

Notorious P.A.T.'s picture
Submitted by Notorious P.A.T. on

"on the teebee, running for Preznit"

For God's sake, what the hell is this crap? Please speak to us as if we're adults, and if you can't be bothered to take this subject seriously I'll find somewhere else to go.

Submitted by lambert on

So feel free to Fuck off; forgive the "adult" language.

Preznit: Long-standing from Atrios.

Teebee: Long-standing here, from the way the jaw tends to go slack when people watch it.