Thursday, April 7, 2016

Hillary News & Views 4.7: Beer and Mirthless Laughter Edition


Today’s Hillary News & Views begins with several pieces from Melissa McEwan, who longtime readers of this series know is among my favorite writers. Scratch that. Is my favorite.

Having an intersectional feminist giving running commentary of this presidential race would be essential regardless of the candidates, but with our nominee almost certain to be the first woman nominated by a major party for the presidency, it carries extra significance.

On Tuesday, writing for Blue Nation Review, McEwan wrote my favorite piece of hers to date about Hillary Clinton: “CHEERS: I Think Hillary Clinton Would Have a Beer With Me.”
One of the most over-done frames in US politics is the old “the candidate with whom you’d most like to have a beer” chestnut. It’s never Hillary who tops the list. George W. Bush? Sure. (Never mind that he was a teetotaler.) Trump? Of course! He seems like fun. But Hillary? Hard pass.
I would certainly accept an invitation to have a beer with Hillary (and I trust she wouldn’t mind if I imbibed a tipple of Scotch instead). But the fact that I want to have a drink with Hillary, because I find her so eminently likeable in spite of the narratives that she isn’t, is rather less interesting to me than this: I’m fairly certain that Hillary is the first presidential candidate in my lifetime who might enjoy having a drink with me.
Whether I like the person for whom I cast my vote has never been particularly relevant to me. It’s always been more important that I trust them. I have, however, liked a few of the people for whom I’ve cast votes.
But I’ve never thought for a moment that any of them would like me back.
Which is neither an unduly self-effacing commentary on my own likability—I have plenty of friends who like and love me a whole lot—nor is it a unilateral negative commentary on other presidential candidates. I daresay President Obama, who has a fondness for pick-up games, might like hanging out with me more if I weren’t 5’3 with the athleticism of a tortoise.
It’s simply an observation about the fact that there has never been a presidential candidate who has experienced life in many of the same ways I have—as a bookish white girl, raised in a Chicago suburb in a conservative religious family, who grew beyond the boundaries of what life was supposed to look like. Who became a feminist. Who doesn’t want to be the only woman succeeding, but one of many. Who will maybe never dance in public with abandon, but will still dance all the same. Who has no poker face.
Who just likes people so much, and wants to listen to their stories.
There are people who don’t feel this way about Hillary, but feel it very strongly about President Obama. He would like them, he would get them, in a way no other modern presidential candidate ever could.
And there are people who have yet to meet (so to speak) a presidential candidate about whom they could feel the same. There are some parts of ourselves, innate or nurtured, so central to who we are that only another person who shares them can possibly be someone who makes us feel that thing, that “I’d have a drink with that person” thing.
That “whoa, this is a presidential candidate who might actually enjoy having a drink with me” thing. A thing I never even knew it was possible to feel until there was a presidential candidate about whom I felt it.
I like Hillary Clinton. A whole lot. And it frankly feels kind of magical to imagine there could be a president who could like me right back.
Heck yeah I’d have a drink with her. And I think she’d have a drink with me, too.
If it ever happens, you’ll find our table by the sound of our laughter.

That piece was posted before the Sanders campaign, including the candidate himself, went completely off the rails yesterday, attacking Clinton for her ambition and calling her unqualified for the presidency.  There has been a lot of reaction to those comments, including a priceless clip from Clinton herself, but I want to start with McEwan’s reactions throughout the day and evening.

Writing for Shakesville, McEwan noted yesterday that those claiming Clinton has been bought through donations have two choices: “Receipts or GTFO.”
I am deeply exhausted with any article the entire premise of which is "so-and-so industry donated to Hillary Clinton at this-or-that time blah blah fart," with ZERO cognizance of the reality that, yes, lots of corporations do lots of things in an attempt to curry favor and earn influence, but just because they try doesn't mean they actually succeed.

Lots of human beings think that money entitles them to special treatment, and make offerings with expectations of special treatment even when there has been no promise of special treatment.

Sometimes the people to whom they make them simply can't be bought. Shrug.

I guess this possibility doesn't occur to people who themselves either could totally be bought and/or don't give anything without conditions.

Insinuation isn't fact. Not being able to imagine someone who can't be bought doesn't mean those people don't exist. Just because there are people who make financial contributions with an aggressive sense of entitlement doesn't mean they actually get what they want. Receipts or GTFO.
Writing again for Blue Nation Review, McEwan ripped Jeff Weaver to shreds. Granted, that could be done with a team of toddlers using safety scissors, but it’s satisfying anyway:
Bernie’s campaign manager Jeff Weaver appeared on CNN late Tuesday night and had the audacity to admonish the Clinton campaign: “Don’t destroy the Democratic Party to satisfy the Secretary’s ambitions to become president of the United States.”
Not only did Weaver’s comment invoke a common sexist caricature of Hillary as someone driven by outsized ambition—the sort of ambition that only seems to be of concern when exhibited by a woman—but it was a startling bit of projection.
It is Weaver who has conjured the specter of a contested Democratic convention, and it is his candidate who refuses to fundraise for down-ballot candidates, even as Hillary has raised tens of millions of dollars for the DNC and state parties.
By contrast, Hillary has been a Democratic Party rockstar for four decades—a fact that is consistently used against her by the Sanders campaign, as they rail against her as “the establishment candidate.” Now, Weaver wants to simultaneously accuse her of being a tool of the establishment and the harbinger of its apocalypse.
Weaver’s flailing isn’t even logically consistent, never mind that it is patently obnoxious.
Clinton had a pointed response herself, but her first reaction was, to borrow an adjective from McEwan, “mirthless laughter”:

CNN has her full response:
"It is just ludicrous on the face of it. You know, I have been campaigning for Democrats, fundraising for Democrats, recruiting for Democrats to run and win for a really long time, I think about 40 years," Clinton said. 
She added: "Bernie Sanders, by his own admission, has never even been a Democrat. So look, I understand they're getting anxious, I get that. But they need to be thoughtful about what they do say because at the end of the day, we need a Democratic president to succeed President Obama and to protect and further the progress that we've made under his eight years in office."
Washington Post has more:
There's a lot of this floating out there. Questions about Sanders not raising money for Democrats down-ticket. Questions about his voting history. His past assertions that the blue party wasn't really that different from the red party. His more recent assertion that he only ran as a Democrat to get media coverage.
After that last comment, we looked at the extent of independent support in the Democratic primaries and caucuses -- and it's not insignificant. In a number of states -- Alabama, Arkansas, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont -- more than 45 percent of his support came from people who identified themselves as independents to exit pollsters. In most states, at least a third of his support has been from independents.
Democratic delegates are given out mostly proportionally (though, since this often trickles down to the congressional district level, it can get a little wonky). If we take the states for which we have exit poll data and excise the independent vote completely, we can get a sense for what the delegate count in the states would look like if only Democrats were weighing in on the Democratic contest.
In Wisconsin for example, Clinton and Sanders would have split the delegates instead of Sanders netting a plus-11 margin. In other words, Clinton's wide delegate lead wouldn't have fallen at all, if only Democrats voted.
We can go further. If we tally up the changes in each state in the graph above, Clinton's delegate margin from the states shown jumps from plus-337 to plus-604. In other words, if you take out independent votes, Clinton's pledged-delegate total jumps from 1,279 to somewhere over 1,400. Her overall lead (including states for which we don't have exits) goes from 252 to more than 500. If the former was insurmountable, which it essentially is, the latter is Everest.
Sanders’ cracker jack campaign team misunderstood a news report and apparently told their candidate that Clinton had called him unqualified for the presidency. His response was calm, measured, and — oh, who am I kidding?

Politico reports:
"Now the other day, I think, Secretary Clinton appeared to be getting a little bit nervous," he began. "We have won, we have won seven out of eight of the recent primaries and caucuses. And she has been saying lately that she thinks that I am, quote unquote, not qualified to be president.
"Well let me, let me just say in response to Secretary Clinton: I don't believe that she is qualified if she is, if she is, through her super PAC, taking tens of millions of dollars in special interest funds," he said. "I don't think you are qualified if you get $15 million from Wall Street through your super PAC."
Sanders then pivoted to her record on foreign policy, saying, "I don't think you are qualified if you have voted for the disastrous war in Iraq. I don't think you are qualified if you've supported virtually every disastrous trade agreement, which has cost us millions of decent paying jobs. I don't think you are qualified if you supported the Panama free trade agreement, something I very strongly opposed and which, as all of you know, has allowed corporations and wealthy people all over the world to avoid paying their taxes to their countries."
Following Sanders' remarks, Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon denied that she had said the Vermont senator wasn't qualified to be president.
"Hillary Clinton did not say Bernie Sanders was 'not qualified.' But he has now — absurdly — said it about her. This is a new low," he tweeted.
His response is not playing well:

Clinton was on a tear yesterday, making solid policy contrasts (and party commitment contrasts) with Sanders without ever getting personal or attacking his character. He should take notes.

Politico reports:
Hillary Clinton feels strongly that she's going to win the Democratic nomination, but said it wouldn't be fair for her to call on Bernie Sanders to drop out.
“I'm the last person who would tell anybody to walk away from a campaign because I remember very well, and I think you commented on this quite a bit, people telling me not to go to the next contest, not to make my case,” Clinton said, referring to her 2008 run for the Democratic nomination, in an interview with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Wednesday.
Clinton said its Sanders' choice on when to exit and she express gratitude for co-host Joe Scarborough's comments about her back in 2008.
Scarborough recalled how Clinton was beating back calls for her to drop out "when you were winning states by 30 points."
"That's the double standard in full flower, so I'm well aware of that. I appreciate it. Back in those days you were one of my biggest defenders, that if I wanted to keep going I definitely should,” the former secretary of state said. “So I feel the same way. I think it's up to Senator Sanders.”
Clinton also said she wasn't concerned about Sanders' stronghold on young voters and stated that she thinks they're attracted to the Vermont senator because they were “in effect protesting.”
“Look, I think it's exciting to be in effect protesting. I remember I did that a long time ago when I was in my 20s, and I totally get the attraction of this,” Clinton said. “And all the research that I have seen about who is supporting Senator Sanders, a lot of the young people like both of us, they really like me, they admire what I've done, what I stand for and they really, really like him.”
The former secretary of state didn't give Sanders a pass overall, attacking Sanders for his editorial board interview with the New York Daily News in which he struggled to answer exactly how he would break up the big banks — one of his primary policy stances.
“I think the interview raised a lot of really serious questions and I look at it this way. The core of his campaign has been break up the banks, and it didn't seem in reading his answers that he understood exactly how that would work under Dodd-Frank, exactly who would be responsible, what the criteria were," Clinton said. "That means you can't really help people if you don't know how to do what you are campaigning on saying you want to do."
CNN reports:
Clinton declined to echo the calls from some of her campaign surrogates and supporters for Sanders to drop out of the race so she can focus on the general. 
"Well, of course, I'm not asking him to. I wouldn't ask him to and my campaign is not asking him to," she said. 
But Clinton isn't shying away from stepping up her rhetoric on her opponent as the race turns to the April 19 New York primary. She has jumped on a lengthy interview Sanders gave the New York Daily News where he struggled to answer how he would break up big banks -- a signature issue -- and defend his position that surviving family members of the Sandy Hook victims shouldn't be allowed to sue gun manufacturers
"If you're concerned about income inequality and holding the banks accountable, you have to know how it works and what you have to do to make it work," she said.
As for the Sandy Hook comments, Clinton said she was "appalled." 
"When it comes to guns we have a really serious difference and I was appalled that Sen. Sanders said he really didn't see any reason for the parents children massacred at Sandy Hook in Connecticut to try and be able to sue the gun makers," she said.
Politico has the transcript of a great interview with Clinton.

On Ted Cruz:
Oh, I think he is a very, you know, mean-spirited guy. You can see it from how the Republican Party responds to him. It's, you know, a difficult dilemma that they're in, trying to figure out what to do. I mean, some of the things he did, even in his primaries, to fellow candidates — the people who were were quite agitated about it. And I don't think that's good for a presidential campaign. We can have differences. Look, I'm well-aware that it's a contact sport.
I understand that. But when it gets right down to it, you've got to offer Americans your credentials, because it's a huge interviewing and hiring process — and people have to decide, "What do I know about this person? Is this the person I want in the Oval Office? Is this the person I want to be both President and Commander-in-Chief?" And that requires a level of dialog and debate that is civil, that does have a purpose to it other than just, you know, making a point.
So I feel very comfortable. You know, whoever I run against, if I am the nominee, I feel very comfortable about it.
On Trump, Republicans, and inequality:
Well, first let me say I thought what Trump said was really telling, because he kind of broke the fourth wall for the Republicans. They are doing everything they can to make abortion, if not illegal, inaccessible, unaffordable; and, as they close Planned Parenthood clinics, as they keep imposing all kinds of restrictions, as they hold up a nominee to the Supreme Court because their ultimate goal is to, you know, have the Supreme Court dramatically erode Roe v. Wade, what Trump said was deeply offensive, but I keep reminding people, not so far off from what they all believe. You know—
So let's not just focus on Trump. We need to focus on Trump as the tribune, if you will, of the most extreme statements about limiting abortion, criminalizing it, punishing women and doctors. But the--he pulled the cover off of the Republicans' efforts to kind of dampen that down during an election.
I don't think any right that we have is less important than any other issue. You know, I have said repeatedly, "I am going to attack income inequality and I think I have a pretty good plan to do so. I don't just tell you what I'm against. I tell you what I'm for and how I would do it." But there are other forms of inequality. There is desperate education inequality in America, and I think every kid deserves a good teacher and a good school regardless of the ZIP code that he or she lives in.
Racial inequality, sexual orientation inequality, gender inequality.
So when somebody says, "Yeah, yeah, it's important, but let's talk about the really important issues. Don't let us get distracted from hearing the same thing we've heard now, over and over again about income inequality," that bothers me, and I did speak out about it, and, you know, it is one of the reasons why Planned Parenthood Action Fund and NARAL endorsed me, because I didn't just vote the right way when the time came to raise your hand.
On Sanders and negativity:
I think that there is a persistent, organized effort to misrepresent my record, and I don't appreciate that, and I feel sorry for a lot of the young people who are fed this list of misrepresentations.
Take climate change, which is what was raised yesterday. You know, I was a leader on it in the Senate, when I was there. I worked hard to make a difference when I was secretary of state, starting in 2009, with President Obama. I helped to lay the groundwork for the Paris Agreement, which was hard to get, which is so critical. I thought it was a singular accomplishment by President Obama. Bernie Sanders, you know, criticized it and rejected it before it was even finally produced.
So there's a difference between what I did as secretary of state, starting the, you know, Clean Air and Climate Coalition to go after methane and black soot, to go after cook stoves, which is a major promoter of pollutants, by, you know, really upping the Alliance for Clean Cook Stoves. I have a long record of going after the polluters and the big oil interests. I voted against the 2005 energy bill. I've been trying to take the subsidies away from big oil. And when you have supporters of a campaign who are repeatedly given inaccurate information—
Absolutely. I have no--look, I've been endorsed by the League of Conservation Voters. You know, they are intimately familiar with both of our records.
But, in this campaign, it is important to me that we stay on the issues. I'm proud that we have, largely, up until now, stayed on the issues, compared to the Republicans, who have descended into insults. And I want it to stay on the issues.
There are legitimate contrasts, but those contrasts should be based on the facts, what we have done and what we are proposing to do, as opposed to feeding information that is, you know, really inaccurate.
I can only tell you what we see, and I don't see it as much as my campaign and my supporters and friends around the country see, but there is, as you well know, a very negative, intense barrage of attacks on anybody who supports me.
I did not see that in '08. So, for the Sanders campaign to demean John Lewis, who has been my friend for more than four decades, and is supporting me, and he said, from his own perspective, that he knows my husband and me, he knows we've been on the front lines on civil rights fights and struggles and that he was supporting us. And, when people speak out like that, you can take their opinion, either believe it or discard it, but to engage in ad hominem attacks and harassment, which is what is going on, I just think is out of bounds.
I know there's a big difference between Democrats and Republicans, and I know that Senator Sanders spends a lot of time attacking my husband, attacking President Obama, you know, calling President Obama weak and disappointing, and actually making a move in 2012 to recruit somebody to run a primary against him. I rarely hear him say anything negative about George W. Bush, who I think wrecked our economy, just not to put too fine a point on it.
On downballot support:
Well, let me say, I think it's very important because, from my first-hand knowledge, a President wants to get things done, and yes, you can work to reach consensus with the other party, but you're going to be wielding a stronger hand the more Democrats you have. And it's also important for your priorities to be implemented, that you have Democratic governors and Democratic state legislators.
Look at what happened with the expansion of Medicaid.
When the Supreme Court said Affordable Care Act, yes, it's constitutional and legal, but you can't require the expansion of Medicaid, Republican governors and Republican legislators, by and large--not completely but by and large--have resisted expanding Medicaid.
The Republican governor who followed the Democratic governor in Arkansas is working hard to keep the expansion of Medicaid that was extended. But you have huge states like Texas — which has the highest rate of uninsured people in America, still, even though we're at 90 percent universal coverage, refusing to do that. It's bad for people and it's bad for the health care systems, particularly in poor urban and rural areas.
So is it important that you have a strong leadership for your party? I think it's critical. And think of how much better my life would be, in terms of fulfilling my agenda, if we took back the Senate and my friend and former partner, Chuck Schumer, were the majority leader in the Senate.
So I don't understand how you wouldn't want to elect down-ballot Democrats, starting in this election, which is why I've been raising money for the Democratic Party, because I believe the more we build up our organization, the more prepared we are, it will not only help me in November, it will help lift up and elect other Democrats as well.
I'm going to do everything I can to get myself elected, but that's not enough. I'm going to try to help move the Senate to be a Democratic majority. I'm going to try to help pick up House seats. I'm going to try to elect Democratic governors, Democratic legislators, and all the way down the line.
On being a woman:
President Obama made the point which I really appreciated, that, you know, they were pretty tough on me.
It was really touching to me, and, you know, especially his analogy that he understood. He and I kidded about this when I worked with him, as Secretary of State, that, you know, I had to do everything he did, just like Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, only I had to do it, you know, backwards and in high heels after I'd had hair and makeup done.
So I loved the fact that, you know, he was so open and kind about pointing this out, because it is a difference, and it is a difference that a lot of men in politics either don't even notice or basically ride over.
On those speeches:
Look, I have a record when it comes to the financial industries market. I have a long history of opposing a lot of what they're doing, trying to change behaviors, I--and I never voted for a bill that unleashed swaps and derivatives, the way Sen. Sanders did. So my record is actually quite a contrast with his record, when you really look at what caused the collapse in '08, because it wasn't just the big banks. It was investment banks like Lehman Brothers. It was AIG, the big insurance company. It was Countrywide Mortgage.
So I think it's important to, you know, try to put what happened into context, and my plan to rein in Wall Street is far more comprehensive and actually focused on the problems of the future than what he's saying. You know, it took me a while, after hearing him in the campaign, to realize he was talking as though Dodd-Frank never passed. He was talking about "We need to, you know, break up the big banks" and he was saying things like "On my first day, that's what I'll do." And I stopped one day and I thought, "Dodd-Frank was passed, the toughest regulations since the Great Depression, and, in fact, there is now a process to break up the banks if that is what is called for."
So I found it a little bit bewildering that, based on my record and based on, you know, my proposals, that anybody would be raising questions about anything, because people who ask me to speak, whether they're auto dealers or cardiologists or banks, they know where I stand because I've been very transparent and open about that.
Ed Rendell weighed in on Sanders’ superdelegate strategy.

CBS News reports:
Now all of a sudden, his path to victory is the super delegates. He can’t win the pledged delegates, but he’s going to convince the super delegates. So after trashing super delegates for three months, now super delegates are his path to victory. A little hypocritical.”
He said he expects Sanders may try to court favor with him and other Pennsylvania delegates, but does not think that will work.
“You treat everybody similarly and with respect. Bernie Sanders may show up at the Democratic cocktail party on April 11. If he shows up, Bob Brady and I have discussed it, I think if he wants to speak we should let him speak. We should say city committees endorsed Hillary Clinton but we appreciate what you’ve done. You’ve brought a lot of new voters into the polls. You’ve raised some very important issues. You railed against the Democratic establishment, but there are 3500 Democratic committeemen who work for the party and don’t get a dime for it and we’re party of the Democratic establishment Senator. So, you’re happy to address us, but we’re for Hillary.”
He needs those superdelegates because he ain't getting there with the pledged delegates. Wisconsin's “big win” left him farther behind.

Vox reports:
The good news for Bernie Sanders is that he won Wisconsin last night, and won it by a very healthy 13-point margin. The bad news for Sanders is that in doing so he likely fell even further behind the pace he needs to capture the Democratic nomination.
With seven of the past eight states to vote in the Sanders column, Berners feel they have momentum on their side. But the truth is that little has changed in terms of the underlying demographic divides in the race — young and white Democrats like Sanders; older, black, and Latino Democrats like Clinton. And relative to its demographics, Sanders simply didn't do well enough to catch Clinton.
Nate Silver produced a great series of estimates based on the demographic composition of each state. The result was not a likely scenario in which Sanders caught Clinton, but rather the most plausible one he could think of. It gave Sanders a target of securing 50 of Wisconsin's 86 delegates by scoring a 16 percentage point margin of victory. Ambitious, but doable.
He came close, but he didn't do it. And that means he'll have another delegate or two he needs to add in future races.
To Sanders fans, the fact that he's won seven of the past eight contests feels like he has enormous momentum in the race. To the demographically inclined, it just looks like a coincidence.
Because the five largest states — California, Texas, New York, Florida, and Illinois — all have above-average black and Latino populations, most states have below-average black and Latino populations. Because of that, Sanders is well-positioned to win a large number of states that have few residents and assign few delegates. He happens to have benefited from a small run in the calendar that featured a whole bunch of these states.
Next up comes Wyoming, which will make it eight out of nine. But then comes New York, which happens to allocate more delegates than Wyoming, Wisconsin, Washington, Hawaii, Alaska, Utah, and Idaho combined.
New York is 17.6 percent African-American (versus 6.6 percent for Wisconsin) and 18.6 percent Hispanic (versus 6.5 percent for Wisconsin). Relative to that much more diverse electorate, it's not good enough for Sanders to narrowly edge out Clinton. According to Silver's math, he needs to beat her by 4 points to net enough delegates to stay on track — and that's even before he fell a delegate or two short in Wisconsin. Right now he's down 10 points.
NJ Herald reports on Dolores Huerta’s response to Rosario Dawson:
In an interview with The Associated Press late Monday, the co-founder of the United Farm Workers said she respects Dawson and still considers her a friend. However, Huerta said she thinks Clinton will be more productive in protecting Latinos as president.
Dawson, who portrayed Huerta in the movie "Cesar Chavez," is supporting Bernie Sanders for president. In a letter last month, she called out Huerta for not helping elect the Vermont senator.
Huerta said Dawson's letter divided Latino voters — a situation she blamed on the Sanders campaign.
"I think that our campaign for Hillary Clinton in the Latino community is being effective and that's why (the Sanders campaign) is asking people like Rosario Dawson to come out and attack me," Huerta said. "I guess they think they can silence my voice by doing that."
Huerta said she still admires Dawson, despite this difference of opinion about politics. "I don't hold anything against Rosario Dawson," said Huerta. She said Dawson has been supportive of her foundation and appreciates Dawson's activism.
Huerta said she understood why some activists might be disappointed in her for not supporting Sanders since they agree on many issues. But Huerta said she feels Clinton will get more things done as president.
"When the dust settles...we are going to be together," Huerta said. "And we need to be together to defeat Donald Trump or Ted Cruz."
New York magazine analyzes Clinton’s ongoing strength with African-American voters:
No community in the United States is more aware of the power of its enemies than African-Americans. For most of American history, the franchise itself was denied to black voters, who leveraged their precious vote for whatever they could. That did not mean holding out for politicians who would treat them as equal human beings, but merely supporting the less-bad party. In the first half of the 19th century, writes Daniel Walker Howe, “wherever black men had the power to do so, they voted overwhelmingly against the Democrats” — despite lacking anything like a racially egalitarian party to support. The emergence of the Republican Party in the middle of the century provided a vehicle for African-Americans to exercise more leverage. When neither party offered any positive inducement, as they deemed to be the case in 1916, black civic leaders stayed neutral.
New Deal progressivism allowed northern blacks to form an influential bloc within the Democratic Party. Initially, they were overwhelmed by the power of white Southerners — who, under Roosevelt, even blocked such tepid measures as anti-lynching laws — but eventually prevailed to turn the Democrats into a pro-civil-rights party. (African-Americans multiplied their voting power by engaging in social activism, which was itself calculated to divide their enemies from middle America.) That pragmatic tendency was on display in 2008, when black voters were slow to embrace Obama’s candidacy, waiting until he had demonstrated the ability to win over white Iowans before committing to him.
And pragmatism inflects the African-American view of how politicians perform in office. Purists see compromise as a sign of moral failure or weakness, an inability to smash a corrupted system. Pragmatists expect political opposition as normal and enduring. A politician who has their best interests in mind and pushes policy in the proper direction is better than the all-too-common alternative. Sanders’s campaign draws much of its strength from the left-wing critique of Barack Obama’s presidency, which it dismisses as largely feeble half-measures. Sanders has attracted Democrats most discontented with Obama’s progress, while Clinton wins those most satisfied, among whom African-Americans are disproportionately represented. Obviously, Obama’s status as the first black president creates a unique bond with black supporters, but much more than racial affinity is at work here.
As Brett Gadsden, a historian and professor of African-American studies at Emory, told me a few months ago over email, “Black voters have always [been] faced with the difficult choice between candidates who have only offered incremental support for their concerns and have been perfectly willing to turn their backs, albeit to slightly different degrees, on black communities when it was politically expedient.” The decision about how to exert leverage (which is necessarily limited within a racially polarized electorate) is difficult, even agonizing. Any political constituency must navigate the twin imperatives of supporting the better (or less bad) party without letting that party take its support completely for granted.
But the critique of Clinton’s African-American supporters increasingly lies outside the realm of calculation altogether. Columnist Shaun King, a Sanders supporter, argues that “Political progressives across this country, in supporting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders, are completely rejecting the Democratic Party,” and should take their actions a step farther and “form our own political party.” Similar logic animates online activists declaring themselves for “Bernie or Bust.” Any drawn-out primary will produce overheated declarations of refusal to support the opposing candidate. But it is not surprising that many of Sanders’s most prominent supporters, like Susan Sarandon, Cornel West, and Michael Moore, not to mention Sanders himself, endorsed Ralph Nader in 2000. (Nader in 2000 drew the support of 3 percent of whites, but just one percent of African-Americans.)
That refusal to accept the necessity of compromise in a winner-take-all two-party system (and an electorate where conservatives still outnumber liberals) is characteristic of a certain idealistic style of left-wing politics. Its conception of voting as an act of performative virtue has largely confined itself to white left-wing politics, because it is at odds with the political tradition of a community that has always viewed political compromise as a practical necessity. The expectation that a politician should agree with you on everything is the ultimate expression of privilege.

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