Tag Archives: Presidential Race 2020

Time Running Out for Bernie to Make a Deal

Little Rock      Depending on how you look at it, one of the assets – or liabilities – of being an organizer for over fifty years, is that in the immortal words of the old country and western song, you know “when to hold ‘em, and when to fold ‘em.”  The clock is running out on Senator Bernie Sanders to fold ‘em with grace and make the best deal for his base and on our issues.  Much longer, and he will have held his cards too long, and they will have no value whatsoever.

After the “big” Tuesday primary where he lost pretty much two-to-one across the demographics in Arizona, despite claims of huge Latino support, and in the multinational mix of Florida, and the urban-rural combine in Illinois.  He’s down almost 300 delegates at this point.  There’s virtually no mathematical probability that he might somehow win in the remaining primaries.  He’s not just toast, He’s burnt.

Before the Arizona debates, he seemed to be talking directly to reality and moving towards an accommodation on the issues that might move his hardcore base into the column for former Vice-President Joe Biden in the election against Trump.  In the actual debate, he seemed to have lost a bit of a grip on where he stood in the overall race as opposed to the moment in the desert sun.

A friend, colleague, and longtime San Francisco-based organizer and Sanders-supporter, Mike Miller, shared with me correspondence he had with the campaign after their defeats in Super Tuesday where he had been a volunteer.  Saying, “continued exposure of how bad Biden’s record is on economic (and other) justice issues will only undermine our ability to defeat Trump in November,” he called on Sanders to make a deal and offered these points for the negotiation among others:

now is the best time for Bernie Sanders to negotiate with Joe Biden for such things as:

(a) Cabinet positions in a Biden administration,

(b) legislation that he will submit to Congress or support,

(c) executive orders he will issue upon his installation as President,

(d) positioning of the Sanders organization in states that are crucial for the electoral college AND where there are House or Senate progressive candidates running for whom Sanders volunteers would be pleased to work,

(e) DNC reforms.

Another longtime organizing colleague, Larry Cohen, formerly president of the Communications Workers of America and head of Our Revolution, the Sanders 2016 campaign spinoff, offered in the Times the other day a comment essentially saying that Sanders listens to a different drum, is committed to his path, and it would be hard to predict his decision going forward.  Larry knows the real deal, and he’s been to the rodeo enough to know it’s over and the time for a deal is diminishing by the hour.

To have any chance of negotiating with any leverage on progressive issues now is the time in the midst of the crisis to argue for unity publicly and make a deal privately on the best terms still available.

Before it’s too late and no one picks up the phone.


Please enjoy Eric Johnson – Waterwheel

Thanks to WAMF.


Today, Political Office is No Country for Billionaires

New Orleans         Politics is drowning in money or, more accurately, money is drowning politics.  Estimates for the campaign for President now run in the billions.  There is every indication that future campaigns will be even more expensive.

In the Democratic primary we have just witnessed two billionaire candidates offer themselves, Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg.  Reportedly, Steyer spent at least $200 million, and Bloomberg spent $600 million.  In both cases, we are talking about them writing personal checks.  Their dollars moved the needle for them and muscled other candidates around with fewer resources, even though their efforts were fruitless.

What can we learn from all of this?  Money certainly matters.  Candidates rose and fell based on their ability to raise the big bucks.

Buttigieg proved himself viable in the early stages based on his fundraising ability, and after Iowa and New Hampshire when it shrank in South Carolina, he was tapped out.  Same for Klobuchar, Booker, Harris, and a number of others who rose and fell over time.  Warren eschewed PACs and big donors for much of her campaign helping prove that a viable effort was possible, but even at the end she had to acknowledge and accept independent expenditures on her behalf as it became impossible for her to compete effectively on Super Tuesday.

Sanders and Biden provided different lessons about money.

Sanders has established indelibly over two campaigns that a loyal base of donors, often very small, can drive a campaign all the way from start to finish.  In some ways, Trump has also been part of that proof of concept.  His money got him in the race in 2016, but smaller donors have become a huge part of his money machine over the last four years and intensified his base.

Biden seemed to do poorly raising money, and this has often been his weakness in his two previous campaigns.  Only after he won South Carolina, coalesced his support within the moderate wing of the party and then won ten states on Super Tuesday, has his cup runeth over.

Certainly, billionaires have won electoral office.  Bloomberg was a three-time mayor of New York City.  Berlusconi won a number of elections in Italy.  Trump may have been a billionaire when he won in 2016.  In each case they were able to do so in a certain window of time by doing the work and building a base, rather than just cashing checks.

In the Democratic primaries at least where inequity and the gaps between rich and poor seem stark and widening, Democratic voters seem to be saying that America is no country for billionaire office holders.  Maybe this is a lesson that Trump has taught everyone. The old saw that someone is so rich that they are incorruptible, seems to have been proven wrong by Trump and his family at every turn.

Democratic voters seem to be saying, stay in the back room and away from the ticket itself. Sure, money still matters.  Millionaires, billionaires, and corporations can still buy votes and politicians by the gross, just not for themselves.  It’s a fine line, but at least voters are drawing some lines.