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Obama, Clinton, and other top Democrats aren’t stopping Sanders

On December 11, 1999, about eight weeks before the New Hampshire primary, then-President Bill Clinton endorsed Vice President Al Gore as his preferred successor.

At the time, Gore was running for the nomination against Sen. Bill Bradley, the former New York Knick turned senator from New Jersey.

Clinton didn’t bash Bradley. But he also made a clear choice. After all, he had selected Gore for a role that presupposes he could be president in the middle of a giant national crisis. The move probably wasn’t as obvious as it seems now — the personal relationship between the two was somewhat strained at the time because Gore had distanced himself from Clinton in the wake of his impeachment — but Clinton was effusive in his praise of Gore, calling him “the most effective and influential vice president who has ever served.”

Bradley wasn’t a profound ideological challenge to the party establishment as Sanders is today, but nonetheless, there was a distinct closing of the ranks around Gore. By the time Clinton endorsed him, the Democratic leaders in both the House and Senate had already backed him. Major donors marshaled their resources behind him.

Nothing like it is happening in the 2020 cycle. Instead, mainstream Democrats openly hand-wring about the prospect of a Bernie Sanders nomination. Though Sanders supporters are borderline paranoid about anti-Sanders sentiment, there’s virtually no actual anti-Sanders organizing.

Meanwhile, the rival campaigns still number in the double digits. Several of them have many passionate followers, and one of them might beat Sanders. But their sheer multiplicity — and key leaders’ refusal to decide among them — is a sign that anti-Sanders zeal, though real, is also quite limited.

Definitively stopping Sanders would require a clear choice, yet party leaders have clearly decided they can’t be bothered.

Joe Biden’s endorsement roster is weak

To see how Biden is faring compared with Gore, just look at his list of endorsements.

He is, of course, the unquestioned endorsement leader if you follow the FiveThirtyEight endorsement tracker. They include Cindy Axne, the first-year House member from Iowa; Leroy Garcia, the president of the Colorado state Senate; Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan; Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont; and Alabama Sen. Doug Jones. My colleague Laura McGann points out he’s the favorite choice of frontline House Democrats who need to win in tough races. But critically, Biden’s endorsers are mostly people nobody’s heard of.

We live in a nationalized media environment where politically engaged citizens have emotional and intellectual relationships with nationally known political figures. Gore had figures like that behind his campaign — Clinton, Tom Daschle, Dick Gephardt — but today, Biden doesn’t have Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, or Nancy Pelosi.

Obama hasn’t endorsed his own VP pick even though “Obama likes me” is central to Biden’s pitch. Clinton, who clearly has a problem with Sanders, hasn’t endorsed his biggest rival either, even though she could help shore up support with college-educated women currently backing Elizabeth Warren. Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi haven’t endorsed. Nor has former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid or Gore himself. John Kerry is backing Biden but then was overheard seemingly musing his own run, undermining his support.

Solid backing for Biden from high-profile Democrats wouldn’t make Sanders’s factional support dry up. But it would deliver a clear and unambiguous signal to normal Democrats to rally behind Biden instead of fracturing across three or four candidates.

And, of course, it would help with money.

The “donor class” is desperately fragmented

Sanders has created a fundraising juggernaut grounded in a huge national base of small donors.

But as great as small donors are, rich large donors have a lot more money and should be able to ensure a solid cash advantage. Instead of helping the former vice president match Sanders in fundraising, though, Democrats’ traditional bundlers and large donors have largely rallied to the banner of the former mayor of the fourth-largest city in Indiana — making Pete Buttigieg the No. 2 fundraiser in the race.

Buttigieg seems like a nice guy, a smart guy, and a good politician who I think would do a fine job as president. But as a coordination point for a party elite that’s supposedly trying to close ranks and stop a socialist insurgent, he’s a frankly bizarre choice, starting with his thin résumé and his issue gaining support from black voters. It’s much easier to imagine Biden, whom many black voters like, beating Sanders in a head-to-head matchup than it is to imagine Buttigieg doing so. And if Buttigieg’s money had gone to Biden, Biden could use that money to help beat Sanders. But instead, donor money is going to help Buttigieg poach white moderate votes from Biden, creating a fragmented field that could let Sanders win purely by consolidating progressives.

To make matters worse, Democrats have two separate ego-fueled billionaire vanity campaigns in the field.

Plutocrats are objectively helping Sanders win

Because Mike Bloomberg is ridiculously rich, he keeps putting ads on TV in random places.

They’re good ads, well-targeted at the views of normie Democrats who think that Donald Trump is extremely bad. Bloomberg’s actual record both in business and in politics — from sexual harassment to stop-and-frisk to endorsing George W. Bush — is complicated, and there’s plenty for normie Democrats to dislike. But the ads are good. They’d also be great ads for Joe Biden if Bloomberg wanted to generously finance a pro-Biden Super PAC.

Right now in the polling averages, Sanders is just below 25 percent while Biden is just below 30 percent. To beat him handily, all Biden needs to do is consolidate the bulk of the non-Bernie vote. Bloomberg’s ads and money could be very helpful in doing that. But instead, Bloomberg is spending the money on himself, rising to 8.3 percent in the polls — not nearly enough to win but enough to cut Biden’s lead over Sanders.

Then, absurdly, Tom Steyer, who is both less rich than Bloomberg and much less qualified for the presidency, is also dumping tens of millions of dollars into a pointless quest to further divide the field.

Many Sanders fans I know seem to experience this cavalcade of wild ideas — Maybe we’ll promote an underqualified mayor! Maybe we’ll run two billionaires simultaneously! — as a sign of how desperate the donor class is to defeat Sanders. But in its practical impact, it’s precisely the opposite. The financial fragmentation that’s left Biden outspent by both Sanders and three moderate rivals is massively overcomplicating any effort to stop the red tide.

If Biden’s not up for it, someone should have said so

One possible interpretation of all this is that top Democrats have profound doubts about Biden that they didn’t have about Al Gore.

But if that’s the issue, then the failure to coordinate and convey that opinion to the public in a clear way is an even bigger bungle. Most Americans like to think of themselves as independent-minded people, which is one reason endorsements often don’t seem to matter that much. But if Obama had said that he thought Biden was too old and Democrats should go in another direction — or if he’d said that Buttigieg is too young and inexperienced — then rank-and-file Democrats surely would have listened.

Instead, party leaders allowed the well-known and well-liked Biden to get left out in the cold and for enormous sums of money to be spent on fragmenting the anti-Sanders vote.

What’s more, all efforts to take down Sanders are counterproductive. Clinton, for starters, can’t seem to restrain herself from venting bitterly about Sanders. And Obama’s heavy-handed intervention into the Democratic National Committee chair race several years ago, similarly, did an enormous amount to poison the well. But while these kinds of moves do annoy Sanders’s biggest boosters, they don’t actually hurt Sanders’s campaign.

What would hurt Sanders’s campaign would be elite coordination toward a single candidate. That hasn’t happened.

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Good News for Alex Vindman! Ukrainian Military Is Looking for Ground Forces in Ongoing Operations Against Russia

Good News for Alex Vindman! Ukrainian Military Is Looking for Ground Forces in Ongoing Operations Against Russia

In November Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who was born in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic and moved to the US when he was a “toddler,” told the GOP counsel during the Schiff show trial hearkings that Ukraine asked him to be their Defense Minister “three times.”

Vindman, who traveled to Ukraine to attend President Volodymyr Zelensky’s inauguration, claimed he ‘immediately dismissed’ their offers and informed his chain of command.

To put this in perspective, Vindman told Ukraine to ignore President Trump because he “thought” Trump was wrong in his policy with Ukraine — then leaked contents of Trump’s phone call to the whistleblower in order to launch a coup to remove a duly elected president from office.

On Friday Alex Vindman and his brother were fired from their positions with the NSC in the White House.

Army Lt. Col Alexander Vindman was escorted off the White House grounds and dismissed from the National Security Council Friday afternoon.

But there is some good news for Alex Vindman!

The Ukrainian military hires foreign soldiers to serve as ground soldiers in their ongoing Donbass War with Russia.
Apply today!

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Key impeachment witness Vindman fired from White House job

Vindman, a decorated veteran who was born in Ukraine, was escorted out of the White House by security and told his services were no longer needed, according to Vindman’s lawyer, David Pressman.

His twin brother Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, a National Security Council attorney, was also fired and walked off the White House grounds alongside him.

National Security Council spokesman John Ullyot said: “We do not comment on personnel matters.”

President Donald Trump has continued to fume privately about Vindman’s testimony during the impeachment inquiry, and some Democrats say the move is clearly retribution for it.

Trump foreshadowed Vindman’s dismissal earlier Friday.

“Well, I’m not happy with him,” Trump said. “You think I’m supposed to be happy with him? I’m not.”

Vindman is expected to return to the Pentagon, though it’s still unclear what his assignment will be until he’s expected to attend war college this summer.

“We welcome back all of our service members, wherever they serve, to any assignment they are given,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Friday when asked about Vindman’s expected ouster.

Vindman told lawmakers during his November congressional testimony that he reported concerns about Trump’s July 25 call with the leader of Ukraine to the top National Security Council lawyer within hours of the call, and said some of the changes he tried to make to the since-published transcript were left out, though he didn’t say why.

Vindman also told lawmakers that later, he was told not to discuss the call with anyone else.

Vindman — who was awarded a Purple Heart for his service in Iraq after being wounded in an IED attack and still carries shrapnel from the attack in his body, according to a source close to him — also told lawmakers how his family fled to the US from the Soviet Union when he was a child.

“The privilege of serving my country is not only rooted in my military service, but also in my personal history. I sit here, as a lieutenant colonel in the United States Army, an immigrant,” he said. “My family fled the Soviet Union when I was three-and-a-half years old. Upon arriving in New York City in 1979, my father worked multiple jobs to support us, all the while learning English at night. He stressed to us the importance of fully integrating into our adopted country.”

Vindman served multiple overseas tours, including in South Korea and Germany in addition to his deployment to Iraq, according to his prepared remarks.

This story is breaking and will be updated.

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Why Impeachment Failed

It’s comforting, no doubt, to believe that Donald Trump has survived the impeachment trial because he possesses a tighter hold on his party than did Barack Obama or George W. Bush or any other contemporary president. In truth, Trump, often because of his own actions, has engendered less loyalty than the average president.

It’s difficult to recall, after all, a single Democratic senator throwing anything but hosannas Obama’s way, which allowed the former president to ride his high horse from one scandalous attack on the Constitution to the next.

In 1998, no Democrat voted to convict Bill Clinton, who had engaged in wrongdoing for wholly self-serving reasons, despite the GOP’s case being far more methodical and incriminating.

The chances of any party’s removing its sitting president without overwhelming evidence that fuels massive voter pressure are negligible. It’s never happened in American history—unless you count the preemptive removal of Richard Nixon—and probably never will. Democrats are demanding the GOP adopt standards that no party has ever lived by.

Perhaps if the public hadn’t been subjected to four years of interminable hysteria over the United States’ imaginary descent into fascism, it might have been less apathetic toward the fate of “vital” Ukrainian aid that most Democrats had voted against when Obama was president.

And perhaps if institutional media hadn’t spent three years pushing a hyperbolically paranoid narrative of Russian collusion—a debunked conspiracy theory incessantly repeated by Democrats during the impeachment trial—the public wouldn’t be anesthetized to another alleged national emergency.

You simply can’t expect a well-adjusted voter to maintain CNN-levels of indignation for years on end.

Beyond the public’s mood, the Democrats’ strategy was a mess. House Democrats and their 17 witnesses set impossible-to-meet expectations, declaring that Trump had engaged in the worst wrongdoing ever committed by any president in history. (I’m not exaggerating.) When it comes to Trump criticism, everything is always “the worst thing ever!”

Even if Trump’s actions had risen to the level of removal, Reps. Adam Schiff and Jerrold Nadler were terrible messengers to make the case. These are not the politicians you tap to persuade jurors; they’re the politicians you pick to rile up your base.

Despite all the fabricated praise directed at Schiff over the past couple of weeks, the man reeks of partisanship. Not only because he’s been caught lying about the presence of damning evidence against Trump on more than one occasion, but because he played a sketchy role in helping the whistleblower responsible for sparking the impeachment come forward.

Even then, instead of spending the appropriate time building a solid case, subpoenaing all the “vital” witnesses, and laying out a timeline, House Democrats, by their own admission, rushed forward.

They justified taking shortcuts by warning that the country was in a race to stop Trump from stealing the 2020 election just as he had allegedly stolen the 2016 election.

That wouldn’t have been a big deal if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hadn’t exposed the supposed need for urgency as a ruse, by withholding the articles of impeachment from the Senate for weeks.

She did so despite having zero standing to dictate the terms of the trial, no constitutional right to attempt to dictate them, and no political leverage.

In the end, she got nothing from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for her trouble.

Meanwhile, Democrats had spent most of the House hearings focusing on difficult-to-prove specific criminal offenses of “bribery” and “extortion”—poll-tested words that were taken up after the House realized “quid pro quo” didn’t play as well with the public.

Then, they didn’t even bother including the “crimes”—no, you don’t need a violation of criminal law to impeach, but the word was incessantly used by House Democrats anyway—in their open-ended articles of impeachment, written expressly to compel Senate Republicans to investigate for them.

The House had no right to demand that, and the Senate had no reason to comply. So as soon as the upper chamber took up impeachment, Democrats began dropping one “bombshell” leak after the next—the same strategy they deployed during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings—to drag out the spectacle and maximize the political damage.

Some of us would certainly have preferred that more Republicans concede Trump’s call was unbecoming and, in parts, inappropriate, even if it didn’t rise to the level of an impeachable offense. But Democrats keep demanding that Republicans play under a different set of rules.

The Constitution, a document under attack by the very people claiming to save it from the president, worked exactly as it should.

The House is free to subpoena all the “vital” witnesses Republicans have supposedly ignored, and then send a new batch of impeachment articles. Impeachment isn’t tantamount to a “coup” any more than Senate acquittal is unconstitutional or corrupt.

Pretending that democracy is on the precipice of extinction simply because you didn’t get your way, though, is nothing but histrionics.


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Vindman: Trump impeachment witness removed from White House

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An aide who testified against President Donald Trump in the impeachment hearings has been escorted out of the White House, says his lawyer.

Lt Colonel Alexander Vindman has been transferred from the National Security Council (NSC) back to the Pentagon.

The White House Ukraine expert’s attorney said his client “was asked to leave for telling the truth”.

Mr Trump is said to desire a staff shake-up after senators cleared him in the impeachment case on Wednesday.

How was Vindman removed?

Lt Col Vindman’s counsel, David Pressman, told the BBC his client had been “escorted out of the White House where he has dutifully served his country and his President”.

“There is no question in the mind of any American why this man’s job is over, why this country now has one less soldier serving it at the White House,” said the statement.

“LTC Vindman was asked to leave for telling the truth. His honour, his commitment to right, frightened the powerful.”

It added: “The truth has cost LTC Alexander Vindman his job, his career, and his privacy.”

The statement continued: “The most powerful man in the world – buoyed by the silent, the pliable, and the complicit – has decided to exact revenge.”

Lt Col Vindman had reportedly turned up for work at the White House as usual on Friday.

What did Trump and his administration say?

As he left the executive mansion on Friday for North Carolina, Mr Trump told reporters: “I’m not happy with him [Lt Col Vindman].

“You think I’m supposed to be happy with him? I’m not.”

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Media captionLt Col Vindman testified in November about the president’s “improper” call

A Pentagon official said Lt Col Vindman will go to the Department of the Army for assignment until his Army War College class starts this summer.

According to White House sources, Lt Col Vindman had been expecting a transfer. He was telling colleagues for weeks that he was ready to move back to the defence department, where he still holds active-duty soldier status.

Earlier on Friday, US Defence Secretary Mark Esper told reporters his department welcomes back all of its personnel from assignment.

“And as I said we protect all of our service members from retribution or anything like that,” Mr Esper added.

How did Vindman annoy Trump?

Lt Col Vindman testified to a House impeachment panel last November. He said he was “concerned” after hearing Mr Trump’s “improper” phone call on 25 July last year with Ukraine’s president.

The call led to Mr Trump’s impeachment in December by the House for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Democratic lawmakers argued that the president had dangled US aid in exchange for political favours.

When asked how he had overcome his fear of retaliation in order to testify, Lt Col Vindman testified: “Congressman, because this is America… and here, right matters.”

What’s the reaction?

Top Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer said the Pentagon had assured him in December that “patriots and whistleblowers” like Lt Col Vindman would be protected.

“Any reprisals against him or others who came forward to tell the truth are wrong and should be seen for what they are: An extension of President Trump’s cover-up.”

But Republican Congressman Thomas Massie said he would have fired Lt Col Vindman.

“He’s a leaker, not a whistleblower,” Mr Massie said. “Current Commander in Chief doesn’t take orders from a Lt Col!”

Is Mick Mulvaney next?

In his comments to media on Friday, Mr Trump said reports that Mr Mulvaney would be fired were “false”.

“I have a great relationship with Mick,” said Mr Trump.

North Carolina lawmaker Mark Meadows is being tipped by the Washington rumour mill as a replacement for Mr Mulvaney.

Mr Meadows, who is retiring from the House of Representatives where he led the hardline conservative Freedom Caucus, travelled with Mr Trump on Air Force One on Friday.

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At a rare White House press conference in October, Mr Mulvaney appeared to implicate the president in an alleged corrupt deal with Ukraine.

The acting chief of staff told stunned reporters: “We do that all the time.” Mr Trump was reportedly outraged by the gaffe.

Mr Mulvaney then walked back his comments in a written statement that said: “Let me be clear, there was absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election.”

Who else is on the way out?

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Outgoing Trump challenger Joe Walsh says the Republican party has become “a cult”

Former Illinois congressman Joe Walsh, one of the two long-shot challengers to Mr Trump for the Republican presidential nomination, announced on Friday that he is ending his campaign.

Mr Walsh, who received just 1% of the vote in Monday’s Iowa caucus, told CNN the modern Republican party “has become a cult”.

“I want to stop Trump. I believe he’s a threat to this country. He can’t be stopped within the Republican Party. Nobody can beat him.”

Bill Weld, former governor of Massachusetts, is now the only remaining Republican seeking to oust Mr Trump, who will seek re-election in November.

Who will take on Trump in November?

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It’s time to expel Romney from the Senate Republican caucus

I’m gonna be charitable and assume that Gaetz doesn’t really support this exceedingly stupid idea. It’s something he’s saying to impress Trump, like 90 percent of the things of he says. Watch, then read on.

I just gone done writing a post about another politician who let her pique towards an enemy lead her into doing something foolish that could weaken her majority. Mitch McConnell would never be so stupid as to hand an already independent-minded Republican senator an excuse to vote more frequently with Democrats by ejecting him from the caucus. It’s not like he has a 25-seat margin over Senate Democrats. He needs every vote he can get.

In fact, he made that point himself on Wednesday when asked about Romney’s defection:

“I think Senator Romney has been largely supportive of most everything we’ve tried to accomplish,” he told reporters shortly after the vote.

Asked how long Romney would be in the doghouse, McConnell laughed and added: “We don’t have any doghouses here. The most important vote is the next vote.”

And that’s why he’s one of the most effective majority leaders in Senate history. That line, right there.

What McConnell also knows, and what Gaetz probably knows, is that Romney had been a good soldier for the party since joining the Senate until Wednesday. Frank Luntz noticed Gaetz’s comments last night and flagged this handy FiveThirtyEight chart tracking how often senators on both sides have voted in line with Trump’s own position on various issues. Romney clocks in at 78.8 percent, not wildly different from MAGA fan Josh Hawley’s 84.8 percent. There are four Republican senators with worse scores than him, including the “good” senator from Utah, Mike Lee. In fact, per FiveThirtyEight, Romney votes with Trump slightly more often than you’d expect him to given Trump’s margin of victory in his home state in 2016.

As Luntz said, if Romney’s a “Democrat,” presumably so are the four GOPers who support Trump less often than he does. Which means Chuck Schumer has … a Senate majority?

You can read Gaetz’s comments here in one of two ways. (Or both, I guess. They’re not mutually exclusive.) It could be that he’s just enforcing the rules of Trump-era Republicanism while elder statesman Mitch McConnell is stuck in the past, enforcing pre-Trump rules. To McConnell, the point of the Republican Party is advancing a conservative agenda. To Gaetz, it’s enforcing personal loyalty to Donald Trump. Romney is of use to McConnell but not to Gaetz so expulsion is no big deal to the latter.

Or it could be that Gaetz is trying to get out of a “doghouse” of his own with a little light demagoguery of one of the president’s most despised enemies. The irony of him attacking Romney is that Gaetz himself landed on Trump’s sh*t list recently for having the balls to cast a righteous lonely vote of his own, against the Republican tide in the House. That came last month when he supported Pelosi’s resolution to limit the president’s power to go to war with Iran without congressional approval. That was commendable, and Gaetz felt so strongly about his position that his staff took to lobbying other House Republicans to join him in crossing the aisle. In the end only two did, but he stood his ground — and ended up being blackballed by the White House from the impeachment trial for his surprising show of disloyalty.

Gaetz (R-Fla.) was in the mix to become one of Trump’s impeachment advisers, a group of House Republicans who are expected to assist the White House with messaging and strategy throughout the Senate impeachment trial. But Gaetz — a conservative firebrand who caught Trump’s eye through his feisty appearances and memorable sound bites on cable news — did not make the final list, which comprises eight other House Republicans…

“I don’t know why it would serve someone in the White House to manufacture a divide between the president and one of his best communicators during impeachment,” Gaetz said in an interview.

When asked to respond to Gaetz’s allegations, [White House legislative affairs director Eric] Ueland did not comment directly. But he did mention Gaetz’s support for a House resolution to halt further U.S. military action against Iran.

In the wake of that, Gaetz could have held his tongue about Romney, knowing how difficult it can be for a legislator to cast a vote on principle that’s likely to earn Trump’s wrath. Or he could have done what he did, seizing the opportunity to bash him in extravagant ways in order to atone to the president and re-pledge his fealty. His dopey idea about filing ethics charges against Pelosi for tearing up her copy of Trump’s SOTU speech is part of the same strategy. If Gaetz was obsequious towards the president before his gutsy Iran vote, he’ll just have to be twice as obsequious afterward in order to return to Trump’s good graces. He’s on his way.

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Elizabeth Warren Iowa Caucus Results Ignored By Media

Chip SomodevillaGetty Images

Three years ago Friday, I was sitting in the press gallery of the Senate chamber, looking down at the top of Steve Daines’s head. Daines was presiding and it was late at night. The gallery and the chamber were practically empty. The Democratic minority was trying to delay — or to stop — the nomination of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions to be Attorney General. They were attempting to do so by holding the floor. Off to Daines’s right, Senator Elizabeth Warren rose to speak.

She began to read a letter that Coretta Scott King had written years earlier opposing Sessions’s nomination to the federal bench. Ms. King had minced no words calling out what she’d seen as Sessions’s racism. As Warren read the letter, Daines ruled her remarks out of order because, at the time, Sessions was still a senator and that meant another senator couldn’t attack him personally, even through Dr. King’s widow from beyond the grave. Warren kept reading. Suddenly, Mitch McConnell strode down the aisle and formally silenced her. His explanation launched thousands of T-shirts, bumper stickers, and political bric-a-brac. “Nevertheless, she persisted.”

News - Woman's March NYC

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On the third anniversary of that singular moment, I had to hear Donny Deutsch in Morning Joe dismiss Warren as “strident.” For the record, all the members of the MJ crew, male and female, seem to have a bug the size of a Land Rover up their collective arse about SPW — which leads me to believe that the elite political press learned sweet fck-all in 2016. Every regular at this shebeen knows by now that I hold SPW in great political and personal affection. However, that doesn’t enter into the fact that she has been virtually disappeared since Iowa ended, assuming of course that it has. She outperformed her poll numbers, beat a former vice-president like a drum, and finished a solid third in a race of which we were told relentlessly would produce “three” tickets out. Until, I guess, she won one of them.

A cable chyron said it all — “Sanders, Buttigieg tied. Biden Fourth.” What exactly was the value of that ticket? Moreover, it should bother everyone that the same pejoratives used on Hillary Rodham Clinton — schoolmarmish, strident, unlikeable — are being used now to minimize SPW as a candidate. They are radically different people, although I don’t know HRC as well as I know SPW. But I know them well enough to know that their strengths and flaws are not identical, unless you want them to be. And if Donny Deutsch is nervous about women who are smarter than he is, he at least ought to be more imaginative in how he shows it. (The same stuff also has been aimed at Amy Klobuchar, but in a less concentrated form, probably because she hasn’t cracked double digits in the polls yet. But you wait. If she gains traction, Amy The Boss From Hell will reappear.) But I believe that the disappearing of SPW has more to it than sexism. I think the money power, including those elements of it that own media conglomerates, see her as a genuine threat. Unlike Bernie Sanders, whom they feel they can pink-bait out of contention, Warren knows their tricks and traps better than they know them. How do you think Mike Bloomberg or the powers at Comcast feel about her detailed plan to crack monopolies in our current economy? They don’t think Sanders can win — and they may in fact be wrong about that — but they know what SPW can do if she ends up with the power to do it.

As for the Democratic Party, well, who is the only one of the top four candidates whose campaign came out of that banjaxed Iowa system without complaining about it, conjuring up conspiracy theories, or giving vainglorious victory speeches? Hint: it was the campaign that quietly offered it help to try and fix the mess without trying to take political advantage of it. And it persists.

Respond to this post on the Esquire Politics Facebook page here.

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Iowa Caucuses: Bernie Sanders Youth Vote Shows Up, Generation X Stays Home

Rebel Codi, a supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders, tries to draw supporters over to the Sanders area of the Maple Grove Methodist Church in West Des Moines, Iowa, February 3, 2020. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

The final results are still unclear, but it seems certain that Sanders won the most caucus votes. He has young voters to thank for his victory.

Even as the Iowa caucus results are marred by reports of inaccuracies and it remains uncertain whether Bernie Sanders or Pete Buttigieg won more “state delegate equivalents,” one thing that is clear is that Sanders won the most votes. The Vermont socialist beat the former mayor of South Bend, Ind. 24.8 percent to 21.3 percent in the first round of voting and 26.6 percent to 25.0 percent in the final round of voting (after caucus-goers for candidates who didn’t meet the “viability” threshold of 15 percent switched their support to candidates who did).

How did Sanders pull off the victory?

The weekend before Iowans caucused, Sanders predicted that he would only win with a historically high number of Iowans showing up on Monday night. “I believe if there is a low voter turnout, we will lose this election. If there is a high voter turnout, we are going to win this election,” Sanders told Iowans gathered in Des Moines the Friday before the caucus. “Our job is to create the highest voter turnout in the history of the Iowa caucuses.”

As it turns out, no such record turnout came to pass. The turnout was barely above 2016 levels and far short of the huge levels seen in 2008:

2004: 125,000

2008: 239,000

2016: 171,500

2020: 172,500

Yet Bernie won anyway. As I noted in this space two weeks before the caucuses, it was an open question how many young voters would show up: “In 2016, under-30 voters accounted for just 18 percent of Iowa Democratic caucus-goers. In 2008, under-30 voters made up 23 percent of Iowa Democratic caucus-goers. If 2020 turnout is closer to 2008 than 2016, that could swing the election to Sanders.” Despite the modest overall turnout, that’s exactly what happened. According to Iowa entrance polls, voters under 30 comprised 24 percent of the caucus-going electorate — up six points from 2016 and one point better than 2008, when young voters carried Barack Obama to victory. Those voters preferred Sanders to Buttigieg by nearly 30 points, 48 percent to 19 percent, as did voters age 30–44 by ten points, 33 percent to 23 percent.

If more young people showed up in 2020 than 2016, but the overall number of voters remained the same, who didn’t show up this time around? The share of voters over the age of 65 remained about the same: It was 28 percent in 2016, and 27 percent in 2020. Joe Biden ran first among this group, besting Amy Klobuchar 33 percent to 22 percent, but that wasn’t enough to overcome his weak overall performance. The group that shrank as a share of the electorate was voters between the ages of 45 and 64, who comprised 36 percent of Democratic caucus-goers in 2016 but only 28 percent in 2020.

Oddly enough, those voters were the only age group that Buttigieg carried: They preferred him to Biden by eight points, 26 percent to 18 percent. Whereas Sanders is strong among young voters and weak among old voters and Biden has the opposite problem, Buttigieg’s coalition was much more evenly distributed among voters of all ages in Iowa:

17–29 year-olds: 19 percent

30–44: 23 percent

45–64: 26 percent

65 and older: 21 percent

One of the puzzling questions from this week’s caucuses is why the share of voters between the ages of 45 and 64 shrunk. This cohort, born between 1956 to 1975, is obviously not the same as it was in 2016, but there is plenty of overlap. So what explains its lack of enthusiasm?

Have Gen-Xers and younger Boomers in Iowa simply become less Democratic? Did the cohort closest to retirement get spooked by Sanders’s relentless charges that Biden would cut Social Security and stay home? Were Gen-Xers so sad about the absence of the “quintessentially Generation X” Beto O’Rourke on the ballot that they sat out the caucuses in protest?

Perhaps the next few contests will give us a better idea of the answer. Onward to New Hampshire.

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Iowa blowback scorches Tom Perez

For much of the week, the Iowa Democratic Party and its chair Troy Price have taken the brunt of the blame for the failed reporting app and the fiasco it created for Monday’s first-in-the-nation caucuses.

The spectacle of the beleaguered and abandoned state party leader has frustrated a number of his fellow state party chairs, leading some of them to conclude Perez has sought to distance himself from the crisis and scapegoat Price in the process.

“Loads of state party chairs are pissed that he would treat one of their peers like this,” said a senior state party official familiar with the ongoing discussions.

On a Wednesday call of state chairs and DNC officials, Tina Podlodowski, chair of the Washington state Democrats, demanded answers about why Perez was absent from the spotlight as Iowa imploded, and why the national chairman wasn’t standing side-by-side with Price as he addressed the public in front of cameras.

“Where is Tom?” Podlodowski said in an interview Thursday, recalling her sentiments on the call. “It was very frustrating to not hear from the DNC for 48 hours, except for them throwing Troy under the bus.”

A DNC official, who declined to be identified, pushed back on the characterization that Perez and the national committee had gone AWOL, noting that the DNC sent staff to help the Iowa state party around the clock and provide resources.

Perez, the source said, was updated hourly.

On Thursday, however, the relationship between the Iowa state party and the DNC took another turn as Perez stunned Iowa Democrats by publicly calling for a recanvass of the Iowa caucuses while they were still trying to finish counting votes.

“Enough is enough,” he tweeted. “In light of the problems that have emerged in the implementation of the delegate selection plan and in order to assure public confidence in the results, I am calling on the Iowa Democratic Party to immediately begin a recanvass.”

According to an Iowa Democrat with knowledge, a Perez assistant gave Price a one-minute heads up before sending out the tweet.

That Democrat, who had been involved in preparing for this year’s caucuses, called Perez’s move a transparently self-serving gesture at their expense.

Perez asked for the recanvass at a time when the first count hadn’t even concluded; the DNC knew very well that the way to trigger a recanvass was through a discrete process that initiates when a presidential candidate requests it. Other state party sources complained that the DNC consistently imposed new rules on a party organization that’s largely volunteer-run, and provided little financial or professional assistance in the run-up to the caucuses.

“He’s trying to protect himself,” the person said. “He got what he wanted, which is the end of the Iowa caucuses.”

Appearing for the first time before national viewers three days after the Iowa contest, Perez told MSNBC Thursday evening that he understood why people were upset but repeated his call for a recanvass of precincts that reported irregularities.

And he doubled down on his criticism of the Iowa party’s handling of the caucus, without owning up to any national party responsibility: “This was a major league failure, [Price] owned up to it. And we’ve been there with him ever since.”

Late Thursday, after Perez’s appearance on MSNBC, the chair of the Association of State Democratic Committees, Ken Martin, sent an email to all state party chairs, saying they were still waiting for the DNC to respond to a request that “they provide message guidance” on the “evolving situation with the Iowa caucuses.”

Martin shared talking points for the party chairs that were compiled by a number of state party communication directors. The messaging points stood in sharp contrast to Perez‘s approach over the last two days: Express “gratitude” to Iowans, note that the Hawkeye State needs time to count, don’t blame Iowa, and point out that a recanvass is up to the presidential candidates.

“It is not the time for people to point fingers, place blame, or try to distance themselves from what happened in Iowa,” one talking point read, according to an email obtained by POLITICO. “If there needs to be a recount or recanvass, the only people who can call for one are the 2020 candidates themselves.”

Several Iowa Democrats who spoke to POLITICO on the condition they not be identified said that even if a recanvass took place, the results would almost certainly not come through until after New Hampshire’s primary. While they concede the local party is culpable for its mistakes, they voiced frustrations that the DNC did little to tune in to the issues surrounding the technology before the caucuses.

The DNC claims it warned the Iowa state party about security issues with the app, but the party has denied happened. The DNC also says it helped test the app’s security but coding tests for bugs is something under the Iowa party’s purview.

Perez isn’t just facing blowback from state party officials. At a Wednesday meeting of the Congressional Black Caucus, members had a free-wheeling, 45-minute venting session about the DNC and Perez. The CBC is weighing whether to send a letter to Perez listing their grievances with his leadership, according to multiple sources with direct knowledge, and a growing number of black lawmakers are itching for Perez’s ouster after Iowa.

“I’m concerned about who owned Shadow [the company behind the failed app], who the investors are, [and] if they are Democratic operatives then that probably went toward the push to pick that app,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.).

Perez’s leadership is “virtually nonexistent,” Thompson continued. “It’s just a matter of time before he’s going to go.”

DNC spokesperson, Xochitl Hinojosa, said “the DNC’s focus is to elect Democrats and beat Trump.”

The committee has made “unprecedented investments in state parties and won each November,” said Hinojosa, citing rules passed to make primaries more accessible and a debate process that is more “inclusive” than in the past. “Our work will continue because it’s more important than ever and there is too much at stake to be distracted by anything else.”

Iowa is the latest flash point in the CBC’s feud with Perez. Many members in the Wednesday meeting also voiced irritation over the DNC’s decision to change the presidential debate qualifications, making it possible for a candidate like former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to make the debate stage. Many of the CBC members had urged Perez to change the qualifications sooner to allow Cory Booker and Julian Castro to make the stage but he declined.

A DNC official said the committee made it known in November that the threshold would change once people started to vote. The requirements are expected to likely change again to account for the outcomes of the first two contests, said a DNC official.

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Disabled Students Deserve a Quality Education. Bernie’s New Disability Rights Platform Would Give Them One.

Everybody acknowledges that public education across the United States is in dire straits. But establishment politicians continue to overlook the particularly deep crisis in special education, on which over 6.5 million students depend.

The extent to which students with disabilities remain invisible to policy makers was most glaringly evident in the January 2017 confirmation hearing of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education. When questioned about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the landmark federal law that over forty years ago set out to protect students with disabilities, DeVos erroneously claimed that states could decide for themselves to comply with the law. Only after Senator Maggie Hassan informed her that the IDEA is in fact a federal law did DeVos concede that “I may have confused it.”

Unfortunately, DeVos is not the only leader to overlook the importance of special education, despite the fact that it serves 14 percent of students in this country. The IDEA, the original iteration of which was passed in 1975, mandated the federal government to cover 40 percent of the cost of educating children with disabilities. Yet as a comprehensive 2018 report from the National Council on Disability explained, the federal government is currently paying less than half of its originally promised per-pupil funding. As Bernie Sanders pointed out when sponsoring a 2008 amendment to increase the special education budget by $10 billion, “kids with special ed needs are not getting the attention they deserve.”

Though the federal government continues to plead poverty when it comes to students with disabilities, it somehow manages to find over $600 billion dollars yearly for the Department of Defense. This systematic underfunding of the IDEA punishes precisely those students in our society who need the most help — as well as those educators who aspire to teach them.

Class sizes have mushroomed, often leading schools to force together students with widely different types of disabilities, ranging from emotional and behavioral disturbances, to acute learning or physical disabilities. And while schools in richer and whiter districts are sometimes able to cobble together funds for disabled students by raising local property taxes, working-class public schools, disproportionately educating black and brown students, are abandoned to their fate.

Those who work in special education increasingly fail to receive the basic material and professional support that they need. “We used to have money for updated materials and professional development,” notes Vicki Zasadny, a special education teacher in Western Wyandotte County, Kansas. “Now we pretty much have money for paper and pencils.” Unsurprisingly, the number of special education teachers, already low to begin with, has dropped by more than 17 percent nationwide over the last decade.

To make matters worse, the underfunding of special education has been further exacerbated by billionaire-backed privatization efforts. As a 2019 study by United Teachers Los Angeles demonstrates, the percentage of disabled students in public schools has risen because of the spread of charter schools, which tend to under-enroll students with disabilities. In Oakland, for example, charters enrolled disabled students at about half the public school rate. All in all, these disparities cost the districts of Oakland, Los Angeles, and San Diego upwards of $97.19 million in funding.

To address these educational injustices, Bernie Sanders introduced a new Disability Rights platform last week that together with his Thurgood Marshall Plan for Public Education offers a path to provide all students with a high quality education, regardless of their background or zip code.

Released last spring, Sanders’s Thurgood Marshall Plan calls for aggressively reinvesting in public schools, reversing racial segregation, and eliminating high-stakes testing. Its provisions also include tripling Title I funding for schools with students from low-income families, substantially raising teacher pay, universal school lunches, and modernizing and greening schools.

Because underfunding the IDEA has caused enormous suffering and lack of opportunity for millions of disabled students, the plan also includes increased federal funding for educating students with disabilities. Sanders wants to ensure that the federal government provides at least 50 percent of the funding for students with disabilities, beyond the original 40 percent commitment set out in 1975. His new Disability Rights plan supplements that funding by providing schools with 100 percent of the additional costs of educating students with disabilities in general education classrooms, above the average per pupil price-tag.

Sanders’s plan to set a baseline starting annual salary of $60,000 for all teachers would especially help those who work in special education, whose average starting salary is roughly $42,000. That increase, along with grant programs to cover out-of-pocket expenses and ongoing professional development, would go a long way in addressing the profound shortage of special needs teachers nationwide, which in many parts of the country has reached crisis levels.

Sanders has not hesitated to call out the hedge-funders and billionaire “philanthropists” trying to privatize our public school system. Following the NAACP’s lead, he supports placing a moratorium on all charter school expansion until they can be made publicly accountable, and he wants to ban for-profit charters altogether.

He also opposes high-stakes testing, which is particularly important for special needs students and teachers. Sanders has been vocal about teachers being treated with the professional respect to determine their own evaluation methods based on their expertise and knowledge of their students’ learning styles and needs.

Some disabled students suffer immeasurably from the stresses of being forced to take tests that are not appropriate for their aptitude level. In a recent op-ed in USA Today, Sanders recalled a discussion he had with a teacher in South Carolina who had been forced to administer a standardized test to a child with a severe disability. The teacher described the experience to him as “torture.”

Sanders often points out that none of these changes can be achieved without a mass movement that is willing to take on the political establishment and big-money interests. The educator strikes that have spread from West Virginia to Los Angeles, Chicago, Little Rock, and beyond show exactly what this kind of bottom-up struggle can look like — and what working-class people can achieve against seemingly insurmountable odds.

When elected to the White House, Bernie Sanders will fight alongside educators in the Red for Ed movement to ensure that every student in this country receives an excellent public education. Turning this vision into a reality means putting the needs of disabled students, and the educators that serve them, at the center of the struggle for education justice. We cannot afford to wait any longer.