Bernie Sanders Wins Key Concessions

The Democratic primary may be over, but Bernie Sanders has secured seats at the table where he’ll push for “the most progressive platform ever passed by the Democratic Party” – including on foreign policy.
Sanders May Have Lost the Primary, But He’s Already Won Key Concessions on Foreign Policy

Bernie Sanders has accepted he’s lost the war but, having won key battles, he’s the one negotiating the terms of his surrender.

The Vermont Independent senator turned Democratic presidential contender met with presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton for two hours behind closed doors at a Washington hotel Tuesday night as the polls closed in the last primary of the Democratic nominating contest. A truce is taking shape between the former Senate colleagues, with Sanders and Clinton vowing in recent days to work together to defeat presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump in November.

Still, Sanders came to the summit with a list of demands for reforming the Democratic Party, including a vow to push for “the most progressive platform ever passed” by the party. He’s already staked out positions well to the left of Clinton’s foreign policy on issues ranging from the Israeli-Palestinian dispute to the war against the Islamic State, setting the stage for potentially bitter fights.

Clinton has a well-documented record of pushing President Barack Obama to surge more troops into Afghanistan and launch a U.S.-led military intervention in Libya. And in many respects, Sanders has not forced her to substantially alter the relatively hawkish approach she’s demonstrated in her years in public office.

Still, he has succeeded — and even exceeded observers’ expectations – in forcing the Democratic Party to re-evaluate its long-held assumptions about the use of military force abroad. Clinton embodies many of those views, and Sanders won millions of votes by coming at her from the left and arguing for a less interventionist foreign policy.

The Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign declined to comment on what contributions Sanders may have made to the foreign policy debate during the Democratic primary. Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs also did not respond to a request for comment.

Sanders’s campaign announced he will give a video address from Burlington, Vermont, on Thursday, raising expectations that he will formally abandon his quest for the nomination — and yet, the email announcing the address was titled: “The political revolution continues.”

Sanders launched his campaign with a laser-sharp focus on domestic issues like universal health care and an expanded social welfare system. By the end, though, he had succeeded in putting Clinton on the defensive on issues like Libya’s unraveling, the ongoing carnage in Iraq, and international trade deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which she came out against despite backing it countless times as Obama’s top diplomat.

While often deflecting questions on the specifics of his foreign policy, Sanders sought to undermine Clinton’s far deeper experience by questioning her judgment — a strategy Trump has already begun to emulate in his general election campaign.

And Sanders also forced concessions from the DNC that could have a lasting impact on the party far beyond its convention in Philadelphia in July. Due to Sanders’s undeniable success in mobilizing Democratic voters and bringing new ones — particularly young people — into the party, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz gave him five seats on the powerful committee charged with drafting the party’s platform. Clinton, who ultimately won 3 million more votes than her rival, received just one extra seat.

Even before the picks were named, Sanders’s national security advisors saidhe should’ve focused more on foreign policy, believing him to be more closely aligned with the Democratic base on the issue than Clinton. Several promised to push for a platform with more liberal foreign policy proposals than she has espoused, particularly in calling for more “evenhandedness” toward Palestinians in language about the long-stymied peace process.

Jim Zogby, a foreign policy advisor for Sanders who was named to the drafting committee, credited the Vermont senator for pushing Clinton to talk more about Palestinian rights and whether Israel had used disproportionate force in retaliatory strikes.

“Ending the taboo about discussing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a measured and balanced way was historic,” Zogby told Foreign Policy on Tuesday. He has said he will push for the word “occupation” to be included in the platform to describe the nearly five-decade Israeli presence in land Palestinians claim for a future state.

Zogby, founder of the Arab American Institute, has been part of the DNC’s executive body for a decade, including as co-chair of the resolutions committee and co-founder of its “Ethnic Caucus.” He’s hoping Sanders’s stance on the Israeli-Palestinian issue will have a trickle-down effect on the party’s platform, leading to a “demilitarization of our foreign policy,” including avoiding nation-building and using force as a last resort.

When Foreign Policy noted that some of those critiques sound as if they could have come from Trump, Zogby pushed back: “Donald Trump may pick up a phrase here or there [from Sanders], but that is in no way, shape, or form the same thing.”

For one of her own picks on the drafting committee, Wasserman Schultz selected Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), the only member of Congress to vote against the 2001 authorization that serves as legal foundation for the “war on terror” — both Sanders and Clinton and Clinton voted yes. Lee told Foreign Policy Wednesday she’ll continue to withhold her endorsement, because neutrality will give her a better bargaining position “if we get stuck on some of the big issues.”

She’ll personally push for issues such as an updated authorization for the ISIS fight and auditing of the Pentagon, but allowed Israel-Palestine could potentially be one on which the committee gets stuck. Still, she added, “A very volatile debate is always good.”

In going after Clinton’s judgment on foreign policy, Sanders pulled from Obama’s successful 2008 playbook. Then Sen. Obama constantly hit the woman who would become his first secretary of state for her 2002 vote for the Iraq war, and won.

In the run-up to Clinton’s clinching of the nomination, Democratic leaders’ growing calls for Sanders to tone down his criticism reflected their fears that the judgment attack would hand Trump a ready-made response to questions about his own credibility.

And it has.

Rather than fade away with Sanders’s campaign, Trump has given the judgment attack a second life. In recent weeks, he has parroted Sanders’s language and even invoked his name, wielding the word “judgment” some half a dozen times in as many days in late May and early June.

Lee said of Sanders’s tactic, “I could question his judgment,” referring to his vote for the 2001 authorization. “But I’m not going to say that,” she laughed, “questioning another’s judgment is pushing it a little bit.” Still, she doesn’t think it will hurt Clinton in the general election, particularly against Trump who “has no foreign policy.”

She said Sanders did succeed in raising “an alternative vision on foreign policy: The fact that Democrats can be strong on national security and care about global peace, without continuing to use the military option as a first resort rather than the last.”

It remains too soon to tell how enthusiastically Sanders will campaign for Clinton and what else he would be willing to do to help defeat Trump. The senator continued to withhold his endorsement following Tuesday night’s meeting, though many outside observers believe he will eventually throw his support behind her.

Wasserman Schultz said in a statement timed with the meeting: “Now that our 2016 primaries are officially at their end, Democrats are ready to unify and take on both Trump and the Republican Party that he represents.”

Sanders has long accused Wasserman Schultz of being in the tank for Clinton and replacing her is one of his primary demands, though she insists she’s staying put.

Still, Briggs, the Sanders spokesman, told reporters earlier Tuesday that the senator will not drop out “today, or tomorrow, or the next day” and “plans to stay in this through the Democratic convention.”

Photo credit: MARK WILSON/Staff

BY MOLLY O’TOOLEJUNE 15, 2016, for Foreign Policy

Superdelegates and Bernie Sanders

The Superdelegates and Bernie Sanders
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders criticized the Democratic party’s nomination process and superdelegates during a rally in Santa Cruz, Calif., on May 31. He blasted reports that rival Hillary Clinton had clinched the nomination as “factually incorrect.” (AP)

“Literally eight months before the first ballot was cast in Iowa, she had almost all of the superdelegates on board. That is an absurd system. … Now, on Tuesday night, on the 7th, you are going to hear from media saying that Hillary Clinton has received 80 or 90 delegates from New Jersey and other states…the nominating process is over, Secretary Clinton has won. That is factually incorrect. That is just not factually correct.”

— Sen. Bernie Sanders, speech in Santa Cruz, Calif., May 31

Sanders has complained regularly about the “absurd” system used in the Democratic Party presidential nomination process — a combination of 4,051 delegates elected through primaries and caucuses and then 714 “superdelegates,” who are elected officials, former elected officials and other eminence grises of the Democratic Party who can back whomever they want.

Hillary Clinton is on track to win a majority of the pledged delegates, almost certainly by June 7. But because superdelegates make up 15 percent of the total delegate pool, neither Clinton nor Sanders can obtain the 2,383 delegates needed to clinch the nomination without the support of superdelegates.

But the irony is that without the superdelegate system in place, Sanders likely would be toast on June 7, when six states essentially complete the primary process, including California with its 475 delegates. (There is also a vote on June 14 in D.C. to award 20 delegates.) So Sanders is complaining about a system that is actually keeping hope alive for his supporters, on the theory that superdelegates can change their vote any time before the convention starts in late July. But it’s a false hope.

Let’s look at the math.

Basic delegate math

According to the Associated Press, the gold standard for counting delegates, there are 4,051 pledged delegates. So a majority would be 2,026.

Clinton has won 1,769 delegates. So she is 257 short of a majority in pledged delegates.

Sanders has won 1,501 delegates. So he needs 525 delegates to win a majority.

Counting votes in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands over the weekend, there are 761 delegates that will be selected through June 7.

So Clinton needs 34 percent of those delegates, a number she will certainly win, given the Democrats’ system of proportional allocations. Sanders needs 69 percent, an almost impossibly high bar.

So, even without the superdelegates, Clinton would have won the Democratic nomination fair and square.

But she actually has 543 superdelegates in her camp (compared with 44 for Sanders). That leaves her just 71 delegates short of 2,383 needed to clinch the nomination.

Sanders claims it would be “factually incorrect” for the media to declare Clinton the presumptive nominee once she crosses the 2,383 threshold. But he is ignoring the fact that Clinton will also win a majority of the pledged delegates. There’s not much of a case he can make to superdelegates to switch sides, especially since he has long insisted that superdelegates should follow the will of the voters.

Indeed, senior Sanders adviser Tad Devine in early May told our colleague Greg Sargent that unless Sanders “significantly” closes the pledged delegate gap with Clinton, it will be borderline “impossible” to persuade superdelegates to switch from Clinton to Sanders.

Misleading timeline

Sanders also offers a misleading timeline about Clinton’s accumulation of superdelegates.

As he put it in an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” “you have a situation where over 400 superdelegates came on board Clinton’s campaign before anybody else was in the race, eight months before the first vote was cast.” In the Santa Cruz speech, Sanders claimed “literally eight months before the first ballot was cast in Iowa, she had almost all of the superdelegates on board.”

Neither statement is factually correct.

Sanders appears to have selected eight months before Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses because he announced his run for the presidency on April 30, 2015 — eight months before Iowa. It makes it sound like the deck was stacked against him even before he got into the race.

But the earliest superdelegate count we find is a Bloomberg Politics article late August — four months after Sanders got into the race — claiming that 440 superdelegates were privately backing Clinton. (At the time she had 130 public commitments.) That’s about 60 percent of the delegates, not “almost all.”

Moreover, this was not an official count. It was not until November — about three months before the first votes — that the AP surveyed superdelegates and came up with a count of 359 for Clinton, compared with eight for Sanders and two for former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley. So that was six months after Sanders got into the race.

The Sanders campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

The Pinocchio Test

In complaining about superdelegates, Sanders is trying to have his cake and eat it, too. If not for the “absurd” superdelegate system, Sanders’s presidential hopes would firmly die on June 7.

Thus Sanders is misleading his supporters when he suggests it is “factually incorrect” for the media to crown Clinton the presumptive nominee on June 7. In a narrow technical sense, the nominee is not chosen until the convention. But, barring some miracle, on June 7, Sanders will have lost the race for both pledged delegates and superdelegates. That leaves him with no hope to claim the nomination–unless he wants to overturn the will of the voters. But respecting the will of the voters was the original reason he complained about the superdelegate system in the first place.

Three Pinocchios


By Glenn Kessler June 2 of The Washington Post.

Sanders campaigns against Hillary and the media

Bernie Sanders
One of the longstanding gripes in GOP and conservative circles is that in order to win you not only have to beat your opponent, you have to beat the media, too. When it comes to elections the mainstream media are as much a part of the Democrat party as any walking-around-money-carrying ward heeler in South Chicago. With the major media firmly in the tank for Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders is getting a taste of what it’s like to be on our side:

Washington Post Ran 16 Negative Stories on Bernie Sanders in 16 Hours

In what has to be some kind of record, the Washington Post ran 16 negative stories on him in 16 hours, between roughly 10:20 PM EST Sunday, March 6, to 3:54 PM EST Monday, March 7—a window that includes the crucial Democratic debate in Flint, Michigan, and the next morning’s spin:

All of these posts paint his candidacy in a negative light, mainly by advancing the narrative that he’s a clueless white man incapable of winning over people of color or speaking to women. Even the one article about him beating Trump implies this is somehow a surprise—despite the fact that he consistently out-polls Hillary Clinton against the New York businessman.

The very left wing Washington Monthly blames the coverage on editorial prejudice caused, it seems, by Jeff Bezos having libertarian leanings:

Conservatives like to talk about “the liberal media” and they frequently disparage the Washington Post as a liberal paper. I’ve never agreed with them, and I have an example that helps explain why. Between 10:20 PM EST March 6th and 3:54 PM EST March 7th, the Post managed to publish sixteen stories that cast Bernie Sanders in a negative light. Another way of looking at this is that the Post savaged him sixteen times in a sixteen hour span.

That’s how the Post started their week, and it’s hard for me to avoid the impression that this was at the direction of the management under the guidance of senior editors.

My point here is that the media, particularly the media that covers national politics, does a pretty good job of playing whack-a-mole with anyone who moves a centimeter outside the Overton Window. And that can hurt radical conservatives, but it hurts liberals, too, if they challenge the status quo.

I think they’re protecting people who haven’t earned the trust they’re putting in them.

But, however you feel, this ain’t liberal bias.

I can’t help but laugh. As someone who looked on, mouth agape, as the Washington Post single-handedly made Oliver North radioactive during his Senate bid and George Allen synonymous with “macaca” I’m surprised when the left is surprised what it is like to fight against a never ending barrage of bullsh** stories under different headlines that hammer a candidate day in and day out and offer no meaningful way to respond.

Sanders has money and a plan, Will it matter?

Bernie Sanders, his momentum slowed by a loss to Hillary Clinton in Nevada, faces two tests in the weeks ahead: parceling out his formidable resources to the states that offer his best targets, and boosting turnout in what has been a mediocre year for it.His path to the Democratic nomination, already steep, has narrowed considerably now that Clinton has re-established herself as the all-but-prohibitive front-runner. To win the nomination, Sanders acknowledged Sunday that he will have to begin winning again, as he did when he trounced Clinton in New Hampshire.

“We’re studying that issue very closely, obviously, as to where we allocate our resources and allocate my time,” Sanders said.

Although Sanders campaigned in South Carolina on Sunday, his prospects there are dim — as evidenced by the fact that he neglected to mention the Palmetto State’s contest as he ticked off a handful of upcoming states where he can win.

Nonetheless, the race will probably continue for a long time, as it did in 2008 — with one factor reversed. This time, the African American vote is expected to be a big advantage for Clinton.

Sanders confident heading into Super Tuesday

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said he is confident of continuing his campaign into Super Tuesday in March, when most of the states elect their party nominee for the White House. (Reuters)

Clinton is a heavy favorite in South Carolina, the state where her defeat by Barack Obama marked a turning point in the Democratic primary eight years ago. Her support among African Americans, who make up more than half of the Democratic electorate there, gives her what appears in polls to be an insurmountable advantage.

Then the campaign moves into a trove of diverse, delegate-rich Southern states that are also considered favorable terrain for Clinton.

Sanders has the ability to remain in the race for the distance, thanks to his fundraising abilities — and to the Democrats’ system of allocating delegates proportionally rather than in a winner-take-all fashion.

In Nevada, for instance, Sanders lost to the former secretary of state by more than five percentage points but still came away with almost as many delegates as she did, taking 15 to her 19.

“We are in this race to the convention,” Sanders said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “I think we’ve got some states coming down the pike that we’re going to do very, very well in. I think, you know, if you look at national polling, our support is growing.”

He listed five Super Tuesday states in which he said he has “a good shot” March 1: Colorado, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Oklahoma and his home state of Vermont.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a Democratic presidential candidate, gives a victory speech after winning the Democratic Nevada Caucus on Saturday. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Colorado and Minnesota both choose their delegates in caucuses. The caucus system, which generally brings out only the most motivated activists, presumably makes them friendlier to a candidate such as Sanders, who has inspired a movement of liberal Democrats. But caucuses require a bigger investment of time, making it harder to draw out less committed voters, which could give Sanders a disadvantage. One line of thinking within the campaign, for instance, is that he would have won Nevada had it been a primary instead of a caucus. And turnout was not down in New Hampshire, the only Democratic primary to be held so far.

In 2008, Obama caught Clinton’s presidential campaign off balance by running up its delegate totals in caucus states — a mistake that Clinton’s team has vowed it will not repeat. She has won the first two caucus states, Iowa and Nevada. And her Colorado and Minnesota operations have been up and running since last fall.

Sanders strategist Tad Devine, however, noted that his candidate received more votes than any of either party in the history of the New Hampshire primary — which he said proved that the senator could do well in an electoral setting like that state, where independents are allowed to cast ballots in the Democratic primary.

New England is friendly turf for Sanders, given its liberal leanings.

But ruby-red Oklahoma might seem a counterintuitive choice for Sanders. His campaign often notes that the state has become so heavily Republican that anyone who remains a Democrat is probably pretty liberal.

Devine said that Sanders will probably mount a strong primary challenge to Clinton in Kansas and Nebraska, both of them likely to go into the Republican column in November.

More recently, Sanders and his strategists have begun talking up their chances in Michigan, which holds its primary March 8. Both the Sanders and Clinton campaigns last week began airing their first television ads.

“We can have a big showdown in Michigan,” Devine said. “If we can beat her in Michigan, I think we can go into March 15 with a lot of momentum.” On that date, five states vote.

One area where Sanders acknowledged he must do better is in voter turnout. The constituencies where he does best — especially young people — are notoriously difficult to draw to the polls.

And in the caucuses so far, overall numbers of Democratic voters showing up have been nowhere near the levels they were in 2008, the last time there was a contested nomination.

“What I’ve said over and over again, we will do well when young people, when working-class people come out,” Sanders said in his NBC interview. “We do not do well when the voter turnout is not large. We did not do as good a job as I had wanted to bring out a large turnout.”

Another built-in advantage for Clinton as the establishment favorite are “superdelegates” — people who are given votes at the convention by virtue of their elected offices or positions in the party. There are more than 700 of them, and they account for nearly one-third of the number it takes to get the nomination.

The Clinton campaign has declined to say how many superdelegates it counts in its column. But the Associated Press reported last week that Clinton leads Sanders in superdelegates, 449 to 19.

“We’re sort of up against everybody,” Devine acknowledged, but he added that it is a problem that can be cured only by beating Clinton in the primaries.

“Until we prove he’s the strongest candidate, that’s not an argument we’re going to win,” Devine said.

Karen Tumulty is a national political correspondent for The Washington Post, where she received the 2013 Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting.