If Bernie Sanders was Playing Poker He Would Not Fold

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Since 1968, about 17 candidates ran in Democratic primary races and earned enough votes (above about 20% all told) to count as having been contenders.

Of those, one was murdered, one was shot but lived, one was eliminated from competition by GOP dirty tricks, and one left the race because of insufficient support but would probably have been exposed as having two families (that would have been a scandal) had he stayed in the race.

Putting this another way, there is about a 24% chance that a Democrat running in a primary will be taken out of the race for extrinsic reasons.

Given the stakes, i.e., becoming the most powerful person of the 7 billion on Earth, one would probably stay in the race if one is in second place.

I should note that the gunning down of candidates has not happened in a while, and those early events caused a significant increase in security. Dirty tricks are still a possibility, and we may have seen that in this year’s race, but if so, they were against Clinton, not Sanders. Scandalous behavior wiping out a candidate is unlikely this year as well. Clinton has been more heavily vetted than any candidate in history, and unless Sanders’ tax returns turn out to actually be interesting (we’ll probably never know), he seems fairly scandal free.

But, the odds is the odds, and since the modern system of primaries emerged, which could be dated to 1968, your opponent has only a 76% chance of survival even if you do nothing.


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22 thoughts on “If Bernie Sanders was Playing Poker He Would Not Fold

  1. Why would Sanders fold until he’s extracted (or at tried to extract) some political concessions from Clinton, whether these be generally shifting her platform towards the left or specific policy pledges? As long as he remains civil and doesn’t burn bridges, Sanders loses nothing by staying in with only one primary remaining.

    I assume, as have most people by their lack of discussion of the scenario, that he will neither ask or be considered for the VP slot.

  2. He get go ask to be VP.

    That decision is usually made after an ad hoc committee set up by the candidate goes through a process, and that hasn’t started yet.

    One thing we know for sure about that is that speculation or analysis is almost always wrong. It is totally possible that Sanders will be asked. Or not.

    As far as extracting concessions, I think he’s got all he’s going to get now. He won’t get more by damaging the process or the party. Simply staying in does not do that, but there are scenarios where he benefits by stepping aside before the convention.

  3. Greg – I would disagree with your characterization of this campaign’s ‘dirty tricks.’ If there was one on the Democratic side it was Clinton surrogates swiftboating Sanders on the civil rights issue. This was particularly important since – as we noted months ago – the African-American vote is crucial for a Dem. Presidential nominee.

    To this day you can find numerous stories about how Bernie Sanders is ‘only’ the candidate of white liberals or progressives. To the extent this is true, it is in large part because his exemplary record and personal involvement on the front lines of the civil rights battles of the 60s has been ignored by the media whereas the attacks on him have been promoted.

    To some extent I hold the Sanders campaign responsible, but most Democrats simply aren’t well-equipped to play that game.

    As for scenarios where he benefits by stepping aside before the convention; yes, once he’s received consolation prizes / assurances from the party or winning candidate. At his age there’s little danger in turning party apparatchiks against him. I doubt he’s going to be in another Presidential race. There’s little point in his bowing out with grace if he can fight to build a movement instead of one-cycle footnote.

  4. Thought, as it were, on this from a northern neighbour

    There are still close to 2.5 Million ballots to be counted in California. Of those 2.5M 1,801,816 are vote-by-mail ballots, and 705,489 are provisional ballots. Bernie should do nothing until all those ballots are counted (CA counts provisional ballots) he could end up winning CA which would change the flavour of the campaign, or at least give him considerably more leverage at the convention. He is however bucking a party that has so far removed itself from its working class, populist roots that it refused to have a national union representative sit on the platform committee. Think about that for a bit. Was it petty sophomoric revenge on the part of the DNC because Bernie’s suggestion was for the leader of a major union that supported him instead of Hillary (and as it was the nurses union that was a real blow to Hillary given most nurses are female) , that would be the kind interpretation, or was it an admission that the party now courts the 1% and sees them as more useful in the race for power than those who built the party.

    The Democratic Party leadership have blinders on (or at least are acting as though they do.) They are all set to piss off the a considerable percentage of the single biggest voting bloc – Independents – and likely the majority of what is now the largest generational cohort of voting age – the Millennials. They do this at their own risk.

    Or, as Matt Taibbi put it the other day in Rolling Stone

    “But to read the papers in the last two days is to imagine that we didn’t just spend a year witnessing the growth of a massive grassroots movement fueled by loathing of the party establishment, with some correspondingly severe numerical contractions in the turnout department (though she won, for instance, Clinton received 30 percent fewer votes in California this year versus 2008, and 13 percent fewer in New Jersey).

    Note that 30% fewer number for CA and the fact that there re still all those ballots to be counted, a large portion of which are from independents and, yet again, Democratic voters whose names had been dropped from the rolls.

    Stay the course Bernie, to do otherwise would be to destroy this beautiful movement you helped to fire up, by sucking all the air out of it.

  5. “Dirty tricks are still a possibility, and we may have seen that in this year’s race, but if so, they were against Clinton, not Sanders”
    What do you base that on?

  6. The “dirty tricks” to which I refer were by the GOP and against Clinton.

    Nobody in the Democratic Primary race, on either side, was engaged in dirty tricks against anyone.

  7. Yes, let’s get those votes counted, and the provisional ballots from independents who claim they had their votes stolen. it’s quite likely these will increase rather than decrease Hillary’s percentage, but the conspiracy ideation and hatred coming from Bernie extremists is a distraction (only a few, but they are loud and in some cases nasty; for example I’m a “shill” and “bought and paid for” because I switched from Bernie, whom I like, while I still have worries and hopes about some of Hillary’s stuff, I just think she’s potentially quite good).

    Elizabeth Warren is now being accused of being a traitor, though to me it appears she has not changed a bit.
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2016/6/9/1536781/-The-predictable-happens-Elizabeth-Warren-s-FB-page-fills-with-angst-from-Bernie-supporters

    I think it unlikely to the extreme that Bernie would be offered or would accept Vice President. He went a bit over the edge in his one note accusations and will need to find – or be given – a dignified exit strategy. I think we will hear from him after the DC primary.

    Makes sense to me, and I wish Clinton’s strategists and supporters and the press had respected this, to let everyone vote first. The AP jump last Monday was irritating in the extreme, and I was glad to hear it had not come from her people. So unhelpful.

  8. Voter suppression is a Republican specialty. I studied this hard starting just before Bush 1. But I would not rule out something weird (not from Hillary, but from local pols) about that thing in Brooklyn. I would like to see an explanation, because over 125,000 people purged was sickening.

    I’m using a conservative source because the conspiracy ideation is over the top:
    http://www.wsj.com/articles/new-york-voters-report-irregularities-at-poll-sites-1461085618

  9. From Mother Jones, February 11, 2016
    Civil Rights Hero John Lewis Slams Bernie Sanders

    Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), the progressive icon who led the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) during the civil rights movement, on Thursday dismissed Sen. Bernie Sanders’ participation in that movement.

    When a reporter asked Lewis to comment on Sanders’ involvement in the movement—Sanders as a college student at the University of Chicago was active in civil rights work—the congressman brusquely interrupted him. “Well, to be very frank, I’m going to cut you off, but I never saw him, I never met him,” Lewis said. “I’m a chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee for three years, from 1963 to 1966. I was involved in the sit-ins, the freedom rides, the March on Washington, the march from Selma to Montgomery, and directed their voter education project for six years. But I met Hillary Clinton. I met President Clinton.”

    This is just one article on John Lewis slamming Sanders on the Civil Rights issue. This same story was picked up by dozens of magazines and newspapers. Hundreds of stories were written. Sanders was damaged within arguably the most important demographic of the race (sic).

    Of course the truth of the matter is a completely different story. Hell, Hillary was a ‘Goldwater Girl’ and John Lewis never met either of the Clintons until the 1990s while Sanders was arrested in the 60s protesting on the frontlines. No matter. Damage done. If you characterize swiftboating as a dirty trick, then this was one. And it came directly out of the Lee Atwater, Karl Rove playbook.

    I spent years working for the Democratic Party and Democratic Party candidates. If you like hotdogs you may not want to know how they are made. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz? Dan Malloy? I must admit to having some sympathy with my Marxist/Socialist friends that simply refuse to sign on to supporting many Dem. Party candidates – even with Trump looming in the distance.

    It’s very difficult to argue convincingly with those that take the ‘a pox on both their houses’ stance.

  10. Ummm….

    In what delusional scenario exactly would Sanders ever be the nominee, given that 57% of Democrats voted against him?

    I think there are lots of people out there who still haven’t quite grasped the concept of a, you know, “democratic” process?

  11. Jesse Jackson’s endorsement strikes the right notes:

    “Jackson said he had the ‘highest regard for Bernie,’ recalling Sanders’s support for him during his own presidential campaign, and praising Sanders for his work on Wall Street reform and for a $15 hourly minimum wage.
    ‘The campaign is technically over, but the crusade is not,’ Jackson said. ‘I support Hillary’s campaign and Bernie’s crusade, and they are reconcilable.’ ”
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2016/06/11/hillary-clinton-picks-up-another-big-endorsement/

  12. #11

    This is what a quick Google search led to:

    “Bernie was 23 in 1964. A young civil rights idealist.  Hillary canvassed for Goldwater. At 16. But age 20 in 1968, Hillary put on a black armband the day after MLK was assassinated and initiated a civil rights movement at Wellesley College. She led demonstrations and a drive to force the school to recruit more black students. 
    Also at age 20, she denounced the Republican Party as being racist, after she attended the RNC convention in Miami…”
    https://www.dailykos.com/story/2016/3/4/1495575/-Hillary-Clinton-in-the-Civil-Rights-Era

    http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/feb/13/john-lewis-congressional-black-caucus-bernie-sanders-civil-rights-movement

    Goldwater was a result of Clinton’s family background. What deserves respect is that she broke away from that for all the right reasons. I don’t find Lewis’s attempt to excuse his disavowal of Sanders totally convincing, but I don’t know if you can blame that on “the Clinton campaign.”

    I support Sanders’s aims and i find that his criticisms of Clinton are often valid:
    http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2016/01/30/clinton-system-donor-machine-2016-election/
    http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2016/04/12/hillary-clinton-goldman-sachs-why-it-matters/

    On the other hand:
    http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/05/hillary-clinton-candidacy.html

    But, of course, if you reject Clinton you can vote for a successful businessman who’ll “make America great again.”
    http://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/trump-university-its-worse-than-you-think
    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2016/06/09/donald-trump-unpaid-bills-republican-president-laswuits/85297274/
    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/12/nyregion/donald-trump-atlantic-city.html

  13. cosmic – I think you missed the point. As you wrote, “Bernie was 23 in 1964. A young civil rights idealist.” Yes, and he was arrested for his civil rights protests — like many others. Compare this to Lewis’ statement. After dismissing Sanders involvement he said: ““I’m a chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee for three years, from 1963 to 1966. I was involved in the sit-ins, the freedom rides, the March on Washington, the march from Selma to Montgomery, and directed their voter education project for six years. But I met Hillary Clinton. I met President Clinton.”

    Lewis certainly implies that he met the Clinton’s during his time as chairman of the SNCC (1963-66), but not Sanders. Yet she was still a Republican then and I can’t find anything that shows Bill was active on civil rights during that era either. Sanders was there. In books Lewis recalls first hearing of (Bill) Clinton during the 70’s. and that he first met him in the 1990s. And please note, I didn’t attack or condemn Clinton for her views during the early mid-60s. Neither has Sanders. Jumping to her defense is rather … ummm… defensive ::)

    Hillary’s great advantage was being the spouse to America’s “first Black President” — this gave her an immense inroad into an important demographic. Sanders civil rights record should have been at least a partial solution to that predicament. Instead we have John Lewis essentially calling Sanders a liar about his civil rights record. Indeed, some pundits immediately came out with that slant – going so far as to claim that photos of Sanders during some of the protests weren’t even actually Sanders.

    Take an opponent’s strength and attack it with lies, half-truths,and innuendo. That is the essence of swiftboating. If the attacks come from “someone that was there” they become even more believable – especially if it’s someone outside the candidate’s campaign. Please differentiate the Lewis attacks on Sanders civil rights record versus any classic case of swiftboating?

    You’ve recently cited Jesse Jackson. What did Jackson say on this issue and Lewis’ remarks?

  14. Kevin O’Neill,

    You obviously have not spent a lot of time closely interacting with African-Americans.

    I know exactly what Lewis was saying, because I was a bright, naive, idealistic Brooklyn boy just like Bernie in those days, but my understanding matured, thanks to some honest communication from actual Black men (and women, later on).

    “Protesting” does not get you respect. Getting arrested doesn’t get you respect. Do you seriously think getting arrested as a white middle class activist impresses young Black males?

    Showing respect gets you respect.

    Looking at the Sanders campaign, it was obvious Bernie never learned that lesson, so he couldn’t pass it on to his supporters. Difficult to learn that lesson when you run away to Vermont.

    The Clintons showed respect. In the 1990’s, when it mattered. That’s what Lewis was saying, when he said he met them.

  15. zebra – Yes, obviously Jesse Jackson isn’t an impressionable African American male. I’m sure he agrees with you 100% – NOT!

    Buy a clue, clown.

    And, it does NOT answer the swiftboat charge. Instead you write an incoherent slander on Sanders. Go read about Willis Wagons in Chicago and when and where Sanders was arrested. The Chicago Tribune even managed to dig up some old photos.

  16. #15
    “I think you missed the point.”

    You may have overlooked this:

    I don’t find Lewis’s attempt to excuse his disavowal of Sanders totally convincing, but I don’t know if you can blame that on “the Clinton campaign.” #14

    “Of course the truth of the matter is a completely different story. Hell, Hillary was a ‘Goldwater Girl’ and John Lewis never met either of the Clintons until the 1990s while Sanders was arrested in the 60s protesting on the frontlines.” #11

    This harmonizes poorly with this:

    “And please note, I didn’t attack or condemn Clinton for her views during the early mid-60s.”

    Identifying Clinton as a ‘Goldwater Girl” without supplying context and additional information is cherry picking designed to portray her as negatively as possible.

    It also harmonizes poorly with this:

    “He [Lewis] added: “My point was that when I was doing the work of civil rights, led the Voter Education Project and organized voter registration in the south in the 1970s, I did cross paths with Hillary and Bill Clinton in the field. They were working in politics, and Bill Clinton became attorney general of Arkansas in the 1970s as well.”
    http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/feb/13/john-lewis-congressional-black-caucus-bernie-sanders-civil-rights-movement

    From which books do you conclude that Lewis first met Clinton during the 90s. I don’t find that credible.

    If you’ve checked my links I think you’ll find that I don’t reflexively defend Clinton, but that I’m willing to when I find attacks against her unreasonable, and I don’t think making her worse than she is is constructive. Or honest.

    “You’ve recently cited Jesse Jackson. What did Jackson say on this issue and Lewis’ remarks?” #15

    I have no idea. I’m more interested in seeing the Republicans defeated than I am in possible dirt digging.

  17. Not being a fan of lost causes, it is my recent understanding that Bernie is not folding before the convention; that might change. But since it’s the case, and there’s a lot about both of them that I both like and dislike, it will be necessary to deconstruct some of the more egregious distortions and focus, like the NYTimes did yesterday, on the dishonesty and awfulness of Trump.

    About Hillary’s early history, here’s her graduate speech:
    http://www.bostonglobe.com/news/politics/2016/06/06/listen-hillary-clinton-commencement-speech-wellesley/Qpy945dVq1PPjmj7AmUbTO/story.html

    Here’s a more sympathetic take:
    http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/05/hillary-clinton-candidacy.html

    I think Kissinger is awful, and Wasserman-Schultz problematic.

    As for the money thing, why is Hillary so much more targeted than every other senior politician who gives paid speeches? Why is all the good the Clinton Foundation does ignored? Why is it assumed that she kowtows to the people who paid for in the face of evidence to the contrary?

    Her voting record, for heaven’s sakes. Her work on universal health care in the 90s. She was the subject of Citizens United and has vowed to do what she can to undermine it.

    What the Clintons did to recapture our Democracy from Reagan Bush would, ideally, not be good enough. But we are actually more polarized and targeted by Republicans, who are better unified, now.

    At the very least, please vow to vote in every midterm. Neither Bill Clinton nor Obama should be victim-blamed when we failed to support them due to inattention, fighting with each other, and perfectionism.

  18. #19
    “As for the money thing, why is Hillary so much more targeted than every other senior politician who gives paid speeches?”

    Because of the timing – after the financial crisis.
    The venue.
    The amount she received for so little work, at a time when many Americans were struggling to make ends meet.
    Her unwillingness to release the transcripts, which unfortunately will make it harder for her to argue that Trump should release his tax returns.
    The fact that she’s seeking the presidency and that her opponent had avoided her avoidable mistakes.

    There’s a New Yorker podcast, Hillary’s Dilemma, that expresses the incredulity one can have in relation to her Goldmann Sachs speeches. The section starts around 10:50.
    http://www.wnyc.org/shows/new-yorker-political-scene/2

    Ignoring her mistakes would be wrong, and so would reducing her to those mistakes. Here’s another sympathetic portrait of her political development. It’s also interesting because it shows the extent to which she already then was seen as a leader.
    http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/race-activism-and-hillary-clinton-at-wellesley

  19. zebra writes: “From which books do you conclude that Lewis first met Clinton during the 90s. I don’t find that credible.

    You don’t? Why not? Apparently you’ve bought the story hook,line, and sinker.
    You’re smarter than that. It takes literally seconds to find the references with Google.

    john lewis first met bill clinton

    You’ll find dozens of stories that recite this Lewis quote from Conversations: William Jefferson Clinton : from Hope to Harlem, By Janis F. Kearney, page 317. Kearney served as the Presidential Diarist to President Bill Clinton from 1995 – 2001.

    I think I paid more attention to him at the 1988 Democratic Convention, when he was asked to introduce the presidential candidate and took up far more time than was allotted to him. After he became involved with the Democratic Leadership Council, I would run into him from time to time. But it was one of his aides, Rodney Slater, who actually introduced us in 1991 and asked me if I would support his presidency.”

    Bill Clinton became chairman of the DLC in 1989.

    This is the problem we find so many times on denier sites: “I don’t find this credible.” No one *cares* if you find it credible. Is it true or not? That’s all that matters. That you can’t be bothered to check the veracity with a simple Google search shows you aren’t interested in the truth of the matter because it *might* cause you to change your views. Where have we seen this behavior before?

    Actually, what typically happens is that even once the truth is pounded home some *other* excuse is provided so that actual held views do not have to change. I.e., the views are immune to truth. You can’t change them. Why bother trying? And again, where have we seen that behavior before?

    More than 10 years ago, when recounting his relationship to the President, with the former Presidential diarist, John Lewis said he first met Bill Clinton in the late 1980’s and was formally introduced in 1991. Now, in the middle of a political campaign he, for all intents and purposes, lies about their civil rights records while at the same time essentially calling Hillary’s political opponent a liar.

    It was a swift boat Lewis was sailing on.

  20. #21
    zebra writes: “From which books do you conclude that Lewis first met Clinton during the 90s. I don’t find that credible.

    zebra didn’t say that. I did (#18). You got off to a bad start.

    That you can’t be bothered to check the veracity with a simple Google search…

    I saw it on the internet. Google it. I heard it from a friend whose aunt’s daughter… Sorry, but you’re responsible for documenting your claims.

    Regarding Lewis and the Clintons, I again refer to:
    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/feb/13/john-lewis-congressional-black-caucus-bernie-sanders-civil-rights-movement

    On Saturday, the Georgia representative issued a statement through the CBC, in which he said: “In the interest of unity, I want to clarify the statement I made at Thursday’s news conference.

    “I was responding to a reporter’s question who asked me to assess Senator Sanders’ civil rights record. I said that when I was leading and was at the center of pivotal actions within the civil rights movement, I did not meet Senator Bernie Sanders at any time.

    “The fact that I did not meet him in the movement does not mean I doubted that Senator Sanders participated in the civil rights movement, neither was I attempting to disparage his activism. Thousands sacrificed in the 1960s whose names we will never know, and I have always given honor to their contribution.”

    That doesn’t sound like swiftboating to me. It sounds more like an attempt to clarify and retreat from a clumsy formulation. And, as I wrote in #14:

    I don’t find Lewis’s attempt to excuse his disavowal of Sanders totally convincing, but I don’t know if you can blame that on “the Clinton campaign.”

    To put it another way, can one blame every misspeak from a Sanders supporter on the Sanders campaign?

    Also, even though my assumption that Lewis had met the Clinton’s before 1990 was wrong, Lewis does state that their paths had crossed and that he’d been aware of them:

    Lewis said he “did not say that I met Hillary and Bill Clinton when I was chairman of SNCC in the 1960s”.

    He added: “My point was that when I was doing the work of civil rights, led the Voter Education Project and organized voter registration in the south in the 1970s, I did cross paths with Hillary and Bill Clinton in the field. They were working in politics, and Bill Clinton became attorney general of Arkansas in the 1970s as well.

    You haven’t attempted to explain or defend your “Goldwater girl” cherry pick. In my view, you’re trying to build your case against Clinton on very flimsy evidence.

    This is the problem we find so many times on denier sites.

    Normally, when denier sites are referred to here, they are sites that deny the scientific consensus on climate change. What kind of denier sites are you referring to?

  21. cosmic – defend? I made a statement of fact. The statement was used in the context of juxtaposing the truth versus Lewis’ “clumsy formulation’ of it. Lewis’ ‘clumsy’ formulation also chose the years in the 60s – not me. That you interpret this as an attack on Clinton is on you – not me.

    Lewis statements *now* say me met them in the field in the 70s. Yet, a dozen years ago — when he wasn’t in a political campaign — he met them in the late 1980s and wasn’t formally introduced until 1991. Now, which are we to believe? It’s possible, but why couldn’t he remember those details when he was much closer to the events? How often would you forget meeting a future President of the US?

    Lewis is not just some random supporter. Does that really need to be said? Apparently.

    We all know that the attacks get the headlines and the corrections get the backpage. The damage is done once the attack is made. A million refutations won’t suffice.

  22. #23

    What troubles me is your willingness to find one bit of dirt, which might not even be dirt, to justify not voting for Clinton against Trump. I haven’t denied that Hillary Clinton grew up in a Republican family and supported Goldwater. That is, as you say, a fact, but it’s a selective fact that misrepresents the larger truth. I didn’t say it wasn’t a fact. I said it was cherry picking. I think she deserves credit for breaking away from her background.

    Your use of the term ‘swiftboating’ also ignores the broader context. I’m not aware of cases where swiftboaters, after having made false claims, correct their mistakes and express regret for having made them. When Sanders inaccurately said, “She [Hillary Clinton] has been saying lately that she thinks that I am, quote unquote, not qualified to be president,” was he swiftboating Clinton?

    If you want to focus on facts, then you have to accept that Sanders lost. We can agree that Debbie Wasserman-Schultz tried to tip things in Clinton’s favor, but I think it’s difficult to argue that this was a decisive factor. Clinton got many more votes. She got many more delegates. Sanders outspent Clinton by a large margin in New York, but lost. The final primaries disproved any notion that the momentum was behind him. Another fact is that the Sanders campaign attempted to overturn a democratic process by appealing to the superdelegates. If your aim is to find dirt, you can find it everywhere.

    The big fact is that the general election is between Clinton and Trump, and that they represent two very different views of your country and approaches to solving its problems. For climate change the difference is doing something, or moving catastrophically backward. The Republican Party is an enemy of all mankind. In my eyes that’s far more important than anything John Lewis has said.

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