Tag Archives: sanders

Nice caucus, (Bernie) Bro: Lessons from the biggest, brownest caucus in the contiguous US

This past weekend, Bernie Sanders picked up 55 delegates with three victories in Alaska, Hawaii, and Washington state caucuses. The big wins round out a nice 5-0 run of small states that have seen the Sanders Camp finally put up the big numbers that they they’d previously been beaten by on Super Duper Tuesday.

This is good news for Sanders and his supporters. Keep an eye on the scoreboard though, as Hillary Clinton still has a 263 delegate lead: 1,243-980.

Coming out of this weekend, there are two pieces of national political conventional wisdom, as they relate to caucuses, that haven’t dominated the national narrative but are still worth re-examining: First, that Washington1 is white and rural but it also has Seattle so it’s white more than rural. Secondly, higher voter turnout has long favored progressives/liberals, but then why does Sanders keep crushing caucuses—a voting apparatus that, riddled with barriers, stifles turnout?

A plurality of diversity

All jokes aside, Washington state’s caucus is actually the biggest caucus in America as determined by state population2 and delegates available.3 Of all the 12 cauci,4 it also happens to be the second most diverse, next to Hawaii. In fact all three of this past weekend’s cauci were the most diverse of the cycle thus far.

The national press tends to brush Washington5 with the same Titanium White broad brush stroke.6 Washington gets a bad rap for being very white.7 It is. But so is America. Relative to the rest of the Union though, Washington is among the most diverse. Wallethub put out the a list 2015’s Most Diverse Cities in America, and 3 of the top 10 hail from the Evergreen State.8. And several websites that track this stuff and put out top 10 most diverse states9 have Washington as mainstays on their lists.

Despite Washington’s diversity, the Clinton campaign’s lock on Black voters was not tested at our caucus.10 Certainly, Washington’s less than four percent Black population is less than a third of the national average—12.6%.11 For context, states like Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi have Black populations represented at 10 times our rate—31.4%, 32.4%, and 37.3%, respectively. Clinton has done tremendously well in these states, crushing Sanders with the Black electorate to the tune of 60, sometimes 70 points.

Clinton’s success with Black voters has, in turn, fueled a narrative that Bernie Sanders’ supporters are—and more insidiously, must be—hella white. They’re not. We’re not. I’m not.

Perhaps that’s why we saw this week the rise of #BernieMadeMeWhite. A trending Twitter meme that, for the first time in this election gave voice,12 to the exclusion felt by non-White, non-Black, non-Hispanic voters. Do I imagine we’ll get another moment? No.

Let’s not forget, my socially progressive friends and industry peers13 that write, cover and read political stuff, that when we talk about diversity, it is not so black and white.

Washington state results

So how did all these brown people that we’ve established actually do live in Washington actually vote? I couldn’t tell you. No one conducted exit polling during this weekend’s cauci.14 At the state level, caucus-goers voted overwhelmingly in favor for Birdie Sanders, 72.7% casting a vote his way.

Since we don’t have exit polling from which to fabricate relevant narratives, I’ve correlated county-by-county Democratic caucus with 2008 and 2012 election results and 2010 US Census data so that we can paint each county by slightly-smaller-but-probably-still-too-broad brushstrokes.

First of all, some throat-clearing: Sanders swept all 39 counties. The most populous county—King, court of liberal stronghold and our hometown Seattle—handed Sanders the third least ideal victory at 67.3%. Garfield and Asotin Counties were the only other counties to show less approval of Sanders with 60% and 67.2%, respectively.15 The ham-handed impact of King County—which holds nearly 10,000 delegates, four times the next largest county—should not be understated.

Of the nine most conservative counties,16 seven were above the state average.

Of the nine most Hispanic counties,17 seven voted for Bernie at above the state average. Chelan and Walla Walla were the only counties to fall below the 72.7% threshold, but nearly all have been reliably Republican in previous cycles.18

Of the four most Asian counties,19 half voted above 72.7%

All of Washington’s eight most millennial counties20 voted above the state average for Sanders.

In these demographic slices, we see old ground covered. King County, the seat of the Democratic Party, comes through in a big way for Clinton. Young people in Washington love Sanders.

The force of strength shown by reliably conservative counties is unique though. There is a strange slice of conservative voters that—by virtue of his anti-establishment campaign and unwavering commitment to equitable domestic economic policy—support Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders. Many are from Eastern Washington. A strange cycle in deed.

Arriving to a conclusion about what this data says about race and the Sanders campaign in Washington State is near impossible without visibility into the demographics of caucus turnout by county. The fundamental question remains: Was the racial makeup of each caucus reflective of its county?

Probably not.

Caucus problems

Caucuses suppress turnout, disproportionally affecting poor and brown voters who otherwise work on Saturdays and can’t take at least half a day off to stand in a school gym to debate the merits of Clinton’s environmental policy. Caucuses require an investment of human organization and resources. There’s confusion about whether or not voters have to be in person to cast a ballot, which is the exact opposite of an all-mail ballot system that the electorate just got used to in a state like Washington.

Conventional campaign wisdom says higher turnout portends positive outcomes for the most liberal candidates. So why does Bernie do so well in caucus states? 3 reasons:

  • Caucuses rely on enthusiasm, a characteristic Sanders’ supporters have in spades. Washington is a state that favors activism and has a strong history and culture of governing by the ballot.
  • Caucus states are smaller. Washington is the second most populous state Sanders has won. The only two caucus states the Clinton camp really cared about were Iowa and Nevada, both strategic to the campaign narrative, not the math.
  • Caucus states aren’t very diverse. With the exception of this past week’s cauci, we’re talking about states like Utah, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, and Minnesota that rank somewhere in the pure undriven snow category of whiteness with over 90% white people. More pointedly, caucus states have very small black populations

For more real insight on Sanders caucus victories, check out FiveThirtyEight’s take on it.

Where do we go from here?

The establishment media v. the will of the people has been an undercard narrative for much of the campaign. In the last week, we’ve seen it emerge and become a real force. As Sanders’ victories get under-reported,21 it riles up his base on social media even more.22 Let’s be clear, Sanders has never had a greater chance at a primary victory than he does today, but time—and in many ways, the electoral structure of the Democratic primary—is certainly not on his side.

From a communications point of view, the worst thing that could happen right now is that the press overhype Sanders ability to come back and snatch up the nomination. It would invite complacency at a time where Sanders needs the utmost zeal from his supporters in states like New York and California. 23

Immediately up next, is Wisconsin though, which puts its 86 delegates up for grabs on Tuesday. Sanders has pulled ahead of Clinton in recent polling, but remains within the margin of error. A big win is needed to eat into the delegate deficit, but in a slow primary month, any victory will keep the momentum—and more importantly, the momentum story—strong for a solid two weeks before New York, New York.

 

Beware the ides of March: This is where it stops being funny

The first wave of primaries1 is now over. Hillary Clinton leads Bernie Sanders in the delegate count 766-576 (465-25 superdelegates), and Trump has nearly a triple digit lead on the field—459 to Ted Cruz’s 360, Marco Rubio’s 152, and John Kasich’s 54.2

States have been voting for six weeks now. The narratives that drive political momentum have been baked—Trump is made of Teflon and very electable, Clinton has a lock on minority voters and probably the nomination—and as we approach the ides of March, shit is getting real. Clinton and Trump both took big leads on Super Tuesday, and have, by and large, ran the table since. At some point in each cycle though, the math takes over. Enter the March 15th primaries—which include four of the 10 most populous states: Illinois, Ohio, North Carolina and Florida. A strong showing from both frontrunners in those states could sew up their respective nominations.

At this time, it’s only natural that Trump and Clinton pivot towards the general election—trying out their messages aimed up and across, squarely at each other.

Pandering or Pampering?: Democrats hone in on the Black and brown vote

“I can’t help Trayvon at this time, but there are other Trayvon Martin’s I can help.” –Sabrina Fulton

The tone of the Democratic campaign has shifted. Sanders shocking victory in Michigan exposed that perhaps Clinton doesn’t have the Warriors-esque hold on the minority vote we had initially surmised from her Super Tuesday performance in the South. The Sanders camp worked hard to make sure Michigan grabbed all the headlines, but let’s be clear: the math is squarely still in Clinton’s favor. It’s easy to forget that Clinton won the delegate count the Tuesday after Super Tuesday. She whopped Sanders in Mississippi, winning over 82% of the vote and 30 of the state’s available 34 delegates.

Many3 called Sanders’ win in Michigan the greatest primary upset in modern political history. 70% of Michigan Democratic primary voters were white,4 and Sanders won whites 56-42—in line with national polls and anecdotal evidence. Sanders still lost the Black vote,5 but chipped away at the astronomical leads Clinton’s been putting up in southern states. Sanders won nearly a third of Black Democratic Michigan voters, giving the Clinton camp a dose of anxiety.

On Friday, Clinton released an emotional “Mothers of the Movement” ad that features the mothers of slain young Black men and woman Dontre Hamilton, Eric Garner, Jordan Davis, Sandra Bland, and Trayvon Martin. Both endorsement and heartfelt narrative, the mothers tell their story in this three minute ad that is perhaps most notable for its near complete lack of Clinton screentime. She has a 15-second soundbite at the end and only appears on stage with the mothers at a campaign rally—a brilliant move.

 

 

Earlier in the week, during a debate hosted by Univision in Miami, Florida aimed at Hispanic voters, both candidates promised to not deport children or criminals.6

During the debate, Sanders unveiled a beautifully shot, emotionally fraught ad almost entirely in Spanish about a small agriculture town in Florida, Imokalee, and the plight of its undocumented farm workers who were paid poorly and treated worse.

 

 

The ad is clearly meant to show Sanders’ history of devotion to and success on behalf of workers’ rights—and by extension, the Hispanic community. The format of the Imokalee ad presages the candidates’ presence in the Clinton ad—minimal.

Cynics will surely call what Sanders and Clinton are doing pandering. Sure. It might be, and if these ads were the only evidence of minority engagement, then both Sanders and Clinton could rightly be called phonies. Instead, these ads reflect a deep history and relationship with Black and Hispanic issues. Sanders, with his civil rights record, and Clinton, with her deeply entrenched relationships with Black leaders in the South.7

The Democratic Party could do a lot worse than make the remainder of the primaries about minorities and the issues we face. Coming off of the first ever Black president whose campaign expanded the Democratic Party and turned out the greatest number of primary voters ever, the two white Democrats running for the nomination need to demonstrate that they care about minority issues to keep us invested.

The percentage of non-white voters has been steadily increasing, so the decision to pivot on minority issues isn’t just good primary politics, it’s a foreshadowing of the general election.

Courtesy of United States Election Project
Courtesy of United States Election Project

Let’s not lose sight of the fact that minority and immigrant issues are fundamentally American issues. That fact only becomes more salient as America becomes browner and blacker. As the Republican Party seemingly doubles down on a white electorate afraid of the teeming mass of melanin, this is a good long-term strategy that will factor in in 2020 and beyond.

Violence begets hate begets clownshoes

 “I cannot believe how civil it’s been up here.” – Donald Trump

Thursday night’s GOP Presidential debate was by many accounts unspectacular. These performances have come to represent the highest form of reality television. The combination of personal ego, utter disregard for fact, and highness of stakes have made them must-watch television.

This past week though, neither Ted Cruz nor Marco Rubio tag-teamed Donald Trump. No dick jokes were made. Even the absence of Ben Carson was felt8 The crowd was post-Burning Man blood-thristy.9 The debate offered the same old policy but without the fireworks of ad homonym attacks.10

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve suspended my generally high expectations for presidential-level policy debates in lieu of something baser that appeases the animal part of my brain. Hell, they’ve been fun to watch and the candidates don’t seem to give a shit about higher political discourse. Why should I?

I and so many others have willfully blinded myself to the glib and glamour of the last dozen GOP debates. Every one of the candidates have dazzlingly misstepped and gaffed right into a Twilight Zone of ineptitude.11 With the lights dimmed down to a level that we could actually see the substance of their positions, it was sparse and uninspired.

Trump struck a civil tone. Rubio denied global warming in his home state.12. Cruz had a moment in one of the very few attacks on Trump, but it didn’t do anything to make him any more likable.13 Kasich got nearly the same screen time as Cruz and Rubio.

Buried somewhere in there was a blip of a moment that, in the grand scheme of things, will be forgotten by April.

 

 

Did you miss it? It was that moment Rubio–the reasoned, well-mannered wunderkid–didn’t categorically deny racism and xenophobia because it’s absolutely, unequivocally wrong.

Instead, Rubio pivoted to Christian Missionaries, a married couple14 that chose to go into a culturally rich, economically poor Bangladesh leveraging a lack of resources for blind devotion to their church.15 Rubio posited” don’t be mean to the angry Muslims because they’ll be mean back, especially to the16 Christians who consciously went into a Muslim-heavy country with the explicit purpose of telling said angry Muslims that their religion is wack.17  Following it up by saying, “But the military is great and there are Muslims in the military so those Muslims are great too!” does not make it better. If anything, Rubio is assigning them a value based on their willingness to defend and die for a cause he supports politically but not in reality.

By all appearances, Rubio should be a conservative worthy of disagreement rather than abject disrespect.18 There are even elements of his personal narrative that resonate strongly with liberals and immigrants.19 However, his willingness to consistently belittle and denigrate a group of people in order to score political points is a character flaw unworthy of the office of President.

Speaking of unworthy of the office of the president, a Trump rally was cancelled in Chicago the day after the GOP Debate in Miami. A group of largely Black and brown protesters descended on the University of Illinois at Chicago where the event was supposed to take place and shut that ish down. They even chanted some Kendrick:

 


This was an inevitable outcome. Protest and violence are increasingly becoming frequent occurrences at Trump rallies.

Earlier in the week, a North Carolina Trump supporter John “Whitey” McGraw was charged with assault for sucker punching a Black protestor who was already being escorted out. He later told Inside Edition,20 “Next time, we might have to kill him.”

Even earlier in the same week Breitbart21 reporter Michelle Fields was grabbed and bruised by Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Washington Post reporter Ben Terris corroborates Fields’ story. The Trump camp has categorically denied the claim, saying both Fields and Terris are making it up and that Fields has a history of histrionics.22 Fields has since filed charges.

Trump’s rallies have a history of violence, one perpetrated by the vitriolic rhetoric the GOP frontrunner employs to rally his base. When the more-often-than-not Black and brown protestors are escorted out of Trump’s eyesight, he’s said things like “I’d like to punch them right in the face,” or “Back in my day, they’d be taken out on a stretcher.”23

On Saturday, an Ohio man jumped a fence during a Trump rally in Dayton. He never made it to the stage. The commotion it caused gave Trump the opportunity to compose himself while whipping his supporters into a fever-pitch.

 

 

Trump is practically rabid. I see foam coming from his mouth24 We’ve seen xenophobia in the context of a presidential election cycle for so long, we’ve just come to accept it.

Race: The most important issue in America, American politics

On the one hand, Democrats are side fighting for minority votes. On the other, we’ve come to normalize racism. America is becoming browner and it’s scaring the shit out of low-income, poorly educated white people. They’re turning out in Republican primaries in record numbers, and observers like myself have vacillated between being awestruck or actively cheering on the Hindenburg-level GOP catastrophe in the spirit of entertainment25.

Whether overtly stated or not, race is quickly becoming the most critical issue of this presidential election. Sanders and Clinton will continue to position themselves as the most in tune with and natural inheritor of race relations. All while reasonable conservatives watch Trump26 dance around the dumpster fire masked as a racial divide masked as an effort to make America great again.

We can rationalize it away. We could pretend that this is just the nature of campaigning and election cycle politics. We can accept that maybe this is just an aberration.27 At this point, we’re just waiting until the general election, which will show that the racists hijacking the GOP are actually a subset of a subset.28 With sublimated aggression after sublimated aggression bringing us to this point, the circus of American politics eventually stops with the fun and games, the grip and grins, the rallies and baby-kissing.

Whether dramatically bringing new minority and immigrant issues to center stage or feeding anger with hate, the tone coming from both sides are becoming decidedly more serious. This is where it stops being funny.

 

 

What a Super Tuesday it was! But what does it mean?

And the circus continues. The weeks following Super Tuesday,1 are when see the shape of the general election beginning to form. Smarter folks than I start drawing out narratives. Here are some stories.

The singular and inescapable takeaway of Super Tuesday is that the stage is set for a Hillary Clinton v. Donald Trump general election. Both won seven out of 11 states and American Samoa. Both didn’t exactly surprise observers in the states won column, but the strength of the respective coalitions Clinton and Trump have coalesced is truly eye-opening.

It turns out both can win in the south—but that means dramatically different things on each side. It’s important to keep in mind when we talk about primary voters, especially in the south, that their demographics vary wildly.2 A tale of two electorate bodies, if you will.

More stark in the south than any other, Democratic primary voters don’t only have different values from their Republican counterparts, but they look very different too. In Georgia for example, the African American community makes up less than a third (31%) of eligible voters, however, they cast over a majority (51%) of 2008 ballots. Turnout numbers from that election cycle are by no means a good corollary for this year, 3 however, the numbers still point to the major racial chasm that underpins our parties’ polarization.

Great Orange Porpoise (GOP)

Trump has a hefty delegate lead (316-226-106 according to RCP early Wednesday morning) but a lot critics are quick to point to the fact he didn’t win the majority of the vote or even a majority of the delegate count. The inevitable outcome of Trump’s inability to pull together a majority coalition is a brokered convention4—painted by critics as the last possible stand to stop the Great Orange Porpoise. An open convention doesn’t shut Trump out of the decision making process though. By virtue of numbers and representation an open convention is less populist for sure,5 but it’s not inconceivable that he offers John Kasich or even Ted Cruz a spot on the ticket or in his cabinet in exchange for their delegates.

An open convention would be good television—and, right in the weird vortex of 2016 presidential election cycle wheelhouse, an incredible opportunity for Trump to flex his deal-making skills. That’s right, his candidacy may very well rest on his ability to close a deal.6

In the meantime, Trump’s lack of a majority coalition and others’ inability to pull fundamentally alter the course of the campaign keeps the GOP field fractured and all the candidates in the race.7 So a plurality of ego will maintain the status quo, and Trump won’t ever need to win more than 40% of the primary vote to ride into the convention with proportionally the same lead he has now.

To celebrate his Super Tuesday victory, Trump’s campaign declined the typical rally and victory speech made by nearly every candidate since Hoover.8  Instead he opted for a brief statement and a press conference. It was strange. Trump was conciliatory but on fire. Reporters were on the attack. Chris Christie was silently trapped in a living nightmare. Cable news carried it for forty-plus minutes. Trump supporters were absent. On the whole, it was a magnificent piece of performance art.

My one gripe is that I wish Trump had gone longer. If he’d chosen to run a 90-minute to two-hour presser, CNN and MSNBC would have stuck with him. I cannot iterate enough how novel the choice was to hold a q and a with reporters on Super Tuesday night. Compared to the other candidates—who looked like candidates at a campaign trail rally—standing behind a podium backing off radical positions, weaseling a bit more to the center, and generally captivating the national conscious for nearly an hour was a feat that looked downright presidential.9

Dems the Yams

Hillary Clinton crushed the South, like bless-her-heart-and-these-stars-and-bars-by-the-good-grace-of-Dixie steamrolled to a 543-349 delegate lead (according to RCP early Wednesday morning). And where the republicans relied on older, conservative and evangelical white voters, Clinton won on the back of black and brown voters.

She absolutely dominated the African American vote, thumping Sanders routinely by 60-point margins and creeping into 90% territory for several states.

Clinton also dispelled any notion that Nevada augured trouble with the Hispanic vote.

Bernie wins 4! Is a semi-popular narrative pushed out by the Sanders’ campaign and its acolytes, but that still also points to a state-focused—not precint-, district-, and delegate-focused—campaign strategy. Whether by design or nature, the middle to upper-middle class white coalition that Sanders has such a firm hold on will not deliver him the Democratic Party nomination.

Without a retail politics approach applied at full-court press intensity in black churches and community organizations across the South, Sanders now relies on a Ray-Allen-corner-three-in-the-last-game-of-the-NBA-Finals-but-on-the-grace-of-a-fortunate-offensive-rebound-type wild finish.10

It almost certainly won’t happen.

Ironically, despite a stronger civil right record, the Jewish organizer from Brooklyn, New York just couldn’t break through. Sanders fundraised a whopping $42M in February though, all but ensuring that he’ll be around till the end, acting as the liberal conscience11 of the party.

Clinton is already using the message of togetherness12 to pit herself against Trump. Unity will be a word continues to use more and more as she positions herself as the elder stateswoman that is the only real choice in the general election.

As long as Sanders sticks around and progressives continue to rally, she’ll have to do some unifying of the Democratic party too. Looking forward, Clinton will have to tap Sanders or at least someone in the liberal flank of the party13 as her running mate.

For a guy who was polling at 3% a year ago, that’s a pretty significant impact to make on one of the craziest presidential election cycles ever.