NYT finds the “stop Sanders” Democrats they’ve been looking for, on K Street.

Thomas Edsall has an article in the NYT titled:

Bernie Sanders Scares a Lot of People, and Quite a Few of Them Are Democrats

Reading that headline, you’d expect they were talking about rank and file Democrats, you know voters. You’d be very wrong.

The answers I got from Democrats who make their living in politics […]

In this light, I asked a group of Democratic and liberal-leaning consultants, pollsters, economists and political scientists what the likelihood of a Sanders’ nomination was, what his prospects would be in the general election, and how Democratic House and Senate candidates might fare with Sanders at the top of the ticket. When necessary, I offered them the opportunity to speak on background — with no direct attribution — to encourage forthcoming responses.

“Point 1, I am very worried about Bernie. Socialism is a problem word,” a Democratic operative with ties to the party establishment said […]

“Bernie is one Democrat who probably cannot win,” said a second operative […]

— www.nytimes.com/…

Ah yes, these “worried Democrats” have turned out to be Democratic operatives. Color me shocked. 

The headline is duplicitous, the article reveals that Democratic lobbyists and insiders constitute the sum total of Edsall’s sources for a perspective on Democratic politics. Of course, he’s unlikely to get a sympathetic view of Bernie from them. Bernie’s always had a contentious relationship with these party hangers-on. They know their power would be significantly reduced if Bernie wins the nomination. It’s no wonder many of them are rushing to malign Bernie behind the mask of anonymity. This seems to be a weekly assignment for the NYT, last month they pushed this theory:

From canapé-filled fund-raisers on the coasts to the cloakrooms of Washington, mainstream Democrats are increasingly worried that their effort to defeat President Trump in 2020 could be complicated by Mr. Sanders, in a political scenario all too reminiscent of how Mr. Trump himself seized the Republican nomination in 2016. — www.nytimes.com/…

Yes, “canape-filled fund-raisers” are exactly where rank and file Democrats hang out.

And we see what the NYT is doing with the comparisons to Trump, inserting a line of attack other candidates are floating. Perhaps they think repeating “Bernie and Trump” followed by “party loyalty” three times will magically shrink Bernie down to a non-threatening size? Of course, most of the country knows Bernie is the complete opposite of Trump. 

The single section where Edsall deigns to consider the views of ordinary Democrats is on the question of “socialism”.

While Democrats in the survey were favorable on the topic of socialism, 46-25, independents and Republicans were not, 19-40 and 11-71. — www.nytimes.com/…

So, even after a 70+ year scare campaign run by right-wing factions, Democrats have a pretty positive view of “socialism”. So perhaps these operatives aren’t really concerned about Democrats, but rather Republicans, who surprise-surprise don’t seem to like Socialism. Except of course, when you poll them on “socialist” policies. Then it turns out that even a majority of Republicans like Medicare For All

There’s another telling sentence in today’s article, this one is a quote from Jagdish Bhagwati, who teaches Economics at Columbia University:

Sanders, Bhagwati says, is in great need of “first-rate people to sort things out.” — www.nytimes.com/…

The implication clearly is that these “first-rate” people have to come from conventional backgrounds, ideally places like Columbia, followed by stints at McKinsey or Cravath I suppose.

It is absolutely true that any Sanders administration will require people with technical expertise. Some of them may come from unorthodox backgrounds. Horror of horrors, they may not have degrees from elite universities. That’s okay. This is a big country with a lot of talent, not every cabinet position has to be staffed by people who funneled through 10-15 private universities that present a carefully curated set of viewpoints as established fact. Viewpoints that reflect the priorities of the people who fund their billion-dollar endowments.

Donate to Bernie’s campaign!

A Bernie administration will need detail-oriented, technically competent people. But let’s not make this problem bigger than it seems. Most of the technical expertise required to run agencies is already embedded within the bureaucracy. The Trump administration has been hollowing the agencies out, that will need to be remedied with better working conditions and support. But there is no reason every agency head has to be drawn from the ranks of Harvard or Yale alumni. A few U. Mass. and U. of Washington graduates would be a welcome relief, perhaps someone from Texas A&M as well, if we really want to go crazy.

I find Edsall helpful at times, yet this article is transparent fear-mongering. He uncritically repeats a right-wing think-tank’s calculation that Medicare For All will cost $32.6 Trillion over ten years, and calls it “a sum that would, in fact, be virtually impossible to raise or procure”. Edsall fails to note that we spent $3.5 Trillion on healthcare in 2017, and the M4A cost he’s quoting covers virtually all that care. If the Mercatus numbers are a good estimate, then they would represent a net $2 Trillion savings. The article obscures fact, implying that the additional cost of M4A is 32.5 Trillion. This shameful sleight of hand makes it impossible to accept that Edsall is making a good faith argument here.

Worse yet, Edsall dredges up stories about Bernie “living in a basement” with “extension cords” where the “fridge was often empty”. Yes, we all know Bernie was poor and his parents didn’t leave him a trust fund. Perhaps Edsall is dredging all this up because he believes Presidents have to come from a trust-fund set like Trump where their parents ensure they never have to live in basements or face empty fridges. If extension cords are ever required, presumably their butlers can do the needful.

What exactly are Edsall and his lobbyist buddies doing here? 40 million Americans, including 12 million children, face food insecurity every year. What message is Edsall’s piece mouthing his K-street friends’ talking points sending to them? That it’s shameful to have faced an empty fridge? That they should just pull on their bootstraps harder? Do they want Democrats to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory again in 2020 by putting up a candidate who has never faced an empty fridge?

If Bernie continues to lead the race, we can expect a lot more fear-mongering, much of it coming from places like the NYT, a lot of it planted by those who fear their power over the Democratic party apparatus will be reduced. Bernie’s team is right to fight back against these duplicitous attacks, but I’m not sure they’re going to hurt his prospects. The mood in the country overall is still very much anti-establishment. If the NYT is criticizing you, that’s probably a positive for your electoral prospects.The financial press generally provides a more unvarnished view of what is going on than the supposedly “liberal” New York Times. Two articles in today’s Financial Times explain why people might still be mad at the establishment:

Saudi Arabia attracts financiers again as Khashoggi outrage fades

Six months ago John Flint, chief executive of HSBC, was among the financiers who abandoned a flagship Saudi Arabian investment conference amid international outrage over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. But yesterday he and other senior bankers proved that any reputational concerns about dealing with the kingdom have been shortlived.

It’s clear that even the high-profile murder of journalists, and the literal torture and crucifixion of protesters will dissuade these people. Not when there are millions or billions to be made by dealing with such unsavory regimes.

DoJ staff push for Goldman guilty plea in 1MDB case

US justice department staff have recommended that a settlement with Goldman Sachs over its role in the multibillion-dollar 1MDB corruption scandal should include a guilty plea at the parent company.

DOJ staff are recommending that a major US bank be criminally charged with its role in the theft of billions from a client. What is the lesson that homeowners and other consumers who were affected during the financial crisis should take away from this? That banks and bankers will be criminally charged, but only when the client affected has the billions to pursue them?

With the onset of spring, the NYT seems to have decided to resurrect their 2017 “interview Trump voters at a bar in Pennsylvania” strategy for the Democratic primary. Except in this case, their reporters do not have to leave the Acela corridor, and focus exclusively on Democratic “operatives”. 

“There’s a growing realization that Sanders could end up winning this thing, or certainly that he stays in so long that he damages the actual winner,” said David Brock, the liberal organizer, who said he has had discussions with other operatives about an anti-Sanders campaign and believes it should commence “sooner rather than later.”  […]

The matter of What To Do About Bernie and the larger imperative of party unity has, for example, hovered over a series of previously undisclosed Democratic dinners in New York and Washington organized by the longtime party financier Bernard Schwartz. […]  “He did us a disservice in the last election,” said Mr. Schwartz, a longtime Clinton supporter who said he will support former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. in this primary. — www.nytimes.com/…

Let us be clear on who the “us” is in Mr. Brock’s and Mr. Schwartz’s view of the world. It is not ordinary Democrats, or god-forbid the broader American people. When Brock and Schwartz say “us”, they mean Democratic operatives like themselves. Their concern is solely for the power they wield over the Democratic party apparatus. Power that they and others like them can then turn into material rewards for themselves and their chosen candidates.

Bernie represents an end or pause to this system of mutual back-scratching, and that is something Democratic “operatives” find very threatening.

— @subirgrewal

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