Nobody learned a damn thing from 2016

Hillary, Bernie, Donald, our national nightmare.

1. The party decides … right or wrong: See Clinton, Hillary and Kerry, John. Whether or not Joe Biden can win — and honestly, I think he can even if I’m deeply unenthused about it — the party put their hopes on a 78-year-old who can baaaaarely string together a sentence. Egads.

2. “Electable” is an argument that can be made only after someone is elected: America will never elect a black guy. America will never elect a white nationalist clown. OK, OK, but America definitely won’t elect _____________ … until they do.

3. Bernie Sanders has a movement but not a majority: The reality that a lot of Sanders supporters never wanted to admit was that he didn’t have the votes in 2016. Yes, yes, I know, superdelegates and party trickery and the evil genius of, uh, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, things of that nature. But he never held the lead then, and despite fervent support and boundless enthusiasm, he finds himself in the same position now: trying to turn committed followers into a broader coalition. 

4. No spoilers!!!!!!: Hillary Clinton’s surrogates blamed Bernie Sanders for sticking around even when there was no path to victory, and then proceeded to blame his voters for her eventual loss rather than reckon with a mismanaged campaign. In 2020, Sanders is playing the role of Clinton and Elizabeth Warren is the new “stabbed in the back” patsy. And no, I don’t know why it’s Hillary’s fault that she didn’t get those voters on board but it’s not Bernie’s fault he can’t do the same. (I mean, I do, but this isn’t about that.)

I’m sure it’s just coincidental that polling places with absurdly long waits were places where non-white folks and young people vote. Thanks, Supreme Court!

5. Young people won’t save us: Yes, they’re generally more progressive, and for every dweeb in a bad suit doing a white-power gesture at CPAC there are a dozen Gen Z’ers who think the world needs to change for the better. But they apparently don’t turn out unless it’s Obama in 2008, and if Sanders or Warren or more Trump can’t get them to the ballot box, that’s a tough look. (Note that this doesn’t cover the people living in places where the Voting Rights Act has been rolled back who are actively being discriminated against. That’s a %^*&ing national disgrace, and something Democrats should be howling about day and night.)

6. Being right isn’t enough: Sanders is 1000000000% right on a bunch of issues in a way Biden isn’t. That’s great; it’s why I voted for him in 2016 and will do so again in 2020 should my state’s primary matter. But wade into an anti-vax hive on Facebook and you’ll find that, and imma yell it for the superdelegates in the back here: BEING RIGHT ISN’T ENOUGH. Sanders supporters shouting about how right he is draws nobody to their side. And of course, the parallel track to that is screaming how wrong everyone else is, which is, shockingly, also not a great way to win people over. Not every person who didn’t vote Bernie is a corporatist shill and warmonger who wants people without health care to die. That being said … 

7. Dem Bernie Bros tho: There is a humongous difference between railing against regular people (don’t) and screaming at the establishment (do constantly). The deep insecurity of the latter is on display when “being called names on social media” is treated with the same gravity as being sent to prison for murder. They have all the power and money; they can handle a little fucking criticism when ensconced in such luxurious insulation. Shitting on these people should be the national pastime.

Breaking news: We go live to an empty podium …

8. Earned media is victory, and victory is life: Bloomberg spent a squadrillion dollars to pretend he was friends with Barack Obama (cough and avoid paying a Sanders wealth tax cough), but voters didn’t care. Trump spent half his fortune on ads — so about $18.50, give or take — and it did nothing. But CNN would breathlessly throw it to an empty podium at one of his rallies and call it breaking news. Did the media learn anything about that strategy? Reader, they did not, at least judging by the media wankerage over Joe Biden winning a state that most people thought he would win handily. It’s gonna be awesome when Trump gets 9 hours of free coverage for randomly saying Hunter Biden was the BTK killer at a rally while Joe Biden’s ad about his old-school whistlestop campaign costs $17 million and reaches exactly 0 voters in Wisconsin.

9. Polls are fun, not news: Speaking of polls, don’t speak of polls. They have some uses. Accurately predicting the future when people might not have their mind made up (or be willing to lie about it) isn’t one of them. Just because 2008 and 2012 fell into predictable patterns doesn’t mean all elections will follow suit.

10. Fear and *FEAR* are two different things: KC summed it up quite nicely earlier by noting that people are scared, and scared people regularly make dumb decisions. However, it’s worth noting that fear comes in a lot of flavors. For every “If I get sick, I’ll go bankrupt” there’s a “The brown horde is coming.” Sometimes those fears overlap and they have to decide what worries them more in the moment — we call those people “swing voters.” But when Obama ran in 2008, there was *FEAR* that the whole world was gonna burn down, between Iraq, Bush’s incompetence and the financial crisis. Trump’s incompetence is legendary, sure, but the economy isn’t in immediate danger of falling off a cliff at this moment, coronavirus aside. That leaves wealthier and older voters less likely to punch the big red “CHANGE” button in the way they were willing to in ’08. (And Sanders isn’t Obama, for better and for worse.) But it also explains why young people are banging the drum for Sanders so hard, because they’re looking ahead 20 years and they’re absolutely at all-caps F-E-A-R.

11. The 2016 primary is still ongoing: It is never going to end.

About Clever Name Here dba "Black Rod" 100 Articles
Vell, Clever Name Here just zis guy, you know? Sometimes funny. Often annoyed. Once I saw a blimp.


  1. I am right here with you on all these points. To add, the notion that Warren is a spoiler for Bernie and not her own presidential candidate really drives me crazy – esp because there is no evidence her voters would go to Bernie more than Biden. It’s misogyny to decide that Bernie is entitled to her voters but doesn’t have to earn them.

      • “A party insider who is a man can’t win” isn’t on the table. “A party insider who’s a woman” absolutely is on the table. Like you said, 2016 just won’t fucking die, my dude.

        And as I said in my post yesterday; I think Sanders supporters are in for a rude awakening if they suppose that Warren’s supporters are going to fall in line behind him. The people who support Warren are closer to Biden’s side of the fence than Bernie, and the never ending barrage of misogyny directed at her since she entered the race by Sanders supporters who swear up and down she’s an EVIL SECRET CAPITALIST IN DISGUISE is going to wind up hurting Bernie more than it helps him.

        Bernie voters would be better off lining up behind Warren.

      • Re: party deciding – I’m super annoyed that they choose their most vulnerable centrist candidate to prop up. Years of baggage, always saying the wrong thing, currently under sham investigation that Fox News is propping up – Hmmm where have I seen that before? Like you couldn’t have choose Booker or something?

        • I don’t actually buy the narrative that the party decided. I think that gives much too much credit to the Democratic ledership that they can do anything.

          I am more sympathetic to the idea that Biden got a media bounce, but I think the media will flip the script ASAP and start the 2016 process all over again, with endless headlines about an improperly filled out expense form in 1998 or a $6200 consulting gig Jill Biden got in 2017. Not to mention “just asking questions” about Hunter Biden.

          Or, they’ll dredge up the fact that Bernie is worth several million and rides in an SUV sometimes which only gets 14 MPG, so how can he call himself an environmentalist? Democrats need to be perfect, of course, according to Trump voters in suburban Ohio diners,

          • IMO the party leadership wanted Biden from the jump. The post-SC media narrative was the rocket fuel Biden needed to blast off, but Pete and Amy suddenly jumping ship sure looks like old-school backroom party politics.

            Like I said, I think Biden can win and he’s got a lot of old-person support (aka the people who reliably vote). But if the party wanted him because they think he’ll flip a ton of “never trump but still republican” types … then they are insane and they should be yeeted into the sun, because those people should get exactly 0 say in anything in not-their party.

            • “IMO the party leadership wanted Biden from the jump. The post-SC media narrative was the rocket fuel Biden needed to blast off, but Pete and Amy suddenly jumping ship sure looks like old-school backroom party politics.”

              The deal was made in 2016 that Hillary would get the nom over Joe. I’m sure he was pissed about it then but I think him forcing Marriage Equality into the conversation when he did was a no-no. It was so odd that they wouldn’t run the VP after 8 years of loyal service that’s really my only guess why.

              Obama blew the DNC’s doors off in ’04 and they really could put any breaks on his rise no matter how hard they tried. That disrupted the line of sucession and they’ve been playing catch-up ever since.

              If they let Sanders (or any elected supporters like AOC) speak in primetime at the convention it will be day 1, maybe day 2 but they will try to keep them in check as much as they can. And the following speeches will be about going back to 2008 or even 1998…

              • “The deal was made in 2016 that Hillary would get the nom over Joe… It was so odd that they wouldn’t run the VP after 8 years of loyal service that’s really my only guess why.”

                I don’t think it’s really as much of a party thing,as it was Beau’s death.

                Beau died in May of 2015. Joe was toying with running, yeah, but I DO believe his reasoning that he “Just wasn’t ready for a run yet” back that year & the next.

                A campaign is hard as hell when one is in an *ok* mental space, and to run while you’re grieving–that’d be torturous.

                A year isn’t long for grieving a close loved one–let alone a child of yours. And Joe would’ve had to have been in the thick of the delegates race at the 1-year mark.

                Yes, there may have been a bit of back-room dealing, but I don’t think there was as much of that, as there was a man hurting over the fact that the kid who was expected to carry forward his legacy was now gone.

          • It’s a fair point that they don’t have much in the way of organization and leadership, but it’s too hard to ignore the establishment candidates and other establishment figures all coming together and endorsing him so quickly, the DNC refusing to police the media’s unfair and biased moderation of the debates (something the DNC could exercise control of if they wanted to), and you also have to remember the top Democratic donors work hand in hand with party leaders – them going hard for Biden is not in a vacuum.

            But even if you’re right and the party didn’t decide, it certainly feels that way, and I worry that will leave a bad taste in people’s mouths.

            • I think Rep. Clyburn endorsing Biden in SC was the key event, and while Clyburn is a high ranking Democratic official, I think it’s a stretch to assign too much meaning to him as a representative of the Democrats as a whole.

              Biden has actually been struggling until now to get fundraising and endorsements, and I think that also speaks against any kind of coherent effort by party leadership to support him, and what’s more I don’t think most of those endorsements carried much weight, certainly not enough to account for the votes swinging the way they did.

              I do think the ongoing media drumbeat about electability has been a headwind for anyone to the left of whatever the hell Biden’s positions are. I think he has a lot of goodwill among less engaged voters left over from the Obama years, and a lot of them made up their minds in the past couple of weeks.

              And while Bloomberg’s ads didn’t help him a lot, I think they drove home the message for a lot of Democrats that they need to unite and vote out Trump, which was going to be a big benefit for either Sanders or Biden at the expense of any other candidate left in the race.

              I don’t disagree that some people will fret that the Democratic leadership put their thumbs on the scale. Quite frankly, I think a lot of big funders and party leaders would do everyone a favor by shutting up except to say they want Trump out, support health care and education and the environment in general terms, and leave the politicking to the politicians. Nobody really cares what Governor Cuomo thinks about the deficit, or what Barry Diller thinks about police reform.

                • One of the aggravating things about the breakup of old party system and the growth of big money backers in modern politics is that things are actually more opaque than they were in the days of the smoke filled rooms.

                  Everyone knew that Harry Truman was a Tom Pendergast guy. People knew that JFK was being heavily backed by his dad, and who was a part of that coalition.

                  We don’t want to go back to those days, of course, but who can really say who is pushing for Biden? Who is he accountable to? Even worse, once you get past a few big donors, who else is behind the modern GOP?

          • I think it was pretty clear who the fix was in for. The fact that the DNC and the Democrats in charge of state primaries were INCREDIBLY incompetent (particularly Iowa) was the only thing that kept the whole thing at least a little interesting, but now they found their groove and it’s Biden all the way.

    • Never until the OK BOOMERS die off in big enough numbers to give younger generations the wheel. And this isn’t to say that all boomers will vote for Centrist Guy and the youngsters will all go for Left Person, but the discrepancy in voting by age on Tuesday was really eye-opening.

      • “Younger generations” keep refusing to take the wheel. The turnout discrepancy by age on Tuesday was really eye-opening. And don’t tell me about long lines to vote. Stand in line for three days for a motherfucking iPhone, but not for a few hours to vote?

        • I think you can argue the long lines affect the youngs, olds, and mediums all in similar ways. It’s hard to blame that for youth turnout. Now, you can blame types of suppression that target college students for that, but it’s not that widespread.

  2. Great article & I am on board with most of this. I know we don’t want to revisit 2016 but I still honestly believe that Bernie would have beat Trump in a fair election (that is a big caveat because of Russian fuckery & suppression). I know poles seem to always be wrong (which could be part of the fuckery) but…!
    That said, GOP fuckery has been going on a very long time & they have rigged elections & reaped the benefits to continue rigging elections:

    The Past 5 GOP Presidents Have Used Fraud and Treason to Steer Themselves to Electoral Victory

    I agree the Sanders shouldn’t count on Warren’s supporters if she drops out & at this point I don’t think it really matters. I’m not sure anything will get Sanders or Biden elected. One thing I do know is that Hilary needs to SHUT THE FUCK UP! If it wasn’t for voter suppression and missing votes, she won 2016. It wasn’t Bernie Bros which I believe are mostly Russian bots. Is she going to vote for Trump if Bernie wins the nomination? Are her hurt feelings really worth four more years of a guy that wants her in jail? Or does she just know that NO WAY will the DNC let Bernie win the nomination so she can say whatever the fuck she wants. Ok, I’m just ranting now but it is early here, I’m only on cup 2 of coffee & my time machine building is not going so well to go back and change a few things.

    • The fact that the DNC has been virtually ignoring voter suppression never ceases to amaze me. They are all about power – why not protect their fucking voters??

  3. This is much too nuanced and insightful. Point 8 is one I particularly like. Which is why if you want that job with the NY Times or Sunday morning talk show, I think you should erase this post and go with something like “Democrats have yet to show they can overcome internal divisions. How will they react when we spend the next eight months talking about how their nominee spent $600 of campaign funds on pizza AND beer for volunteers?”

  4. All points well made, thank you.

    I think the American public knows that something is, and always has been, deeply wrong about our voting system and the system of governance over our lives. Trump and Bernie are not the same no matter how much the media and assorted randos want to insist, but their supporters are coming from a similar viewpoint that the system is rigged ergo that is why everything is broken. Which isn’t wrong, per se.

    We are mistaken to think we ever lived in a direct democracy. That is by design. Electoral college, super delegates, the monied class all intertwine to give us the illusion of choice. Unfortunately, a large part of the population knows this but can’t comprehend how voting for a Biden or Trump doesn’t change this. Most of the population is, ehh, not smart. And that’s okay! But it’s destroying us.

  5. On point 8, you’re absolutely right. I think one of Bernie’s biggest problems is that he isn’t a Democrat, but he’s running to get the Democratic nomination.

    It’s like a Methodist trying to get elected Pope. Even if he’s the best person for the job (and at this point, Bernie is), can he convince all those Catholics to vote for him? After all, they’ve spent years going to confession and following their rules, and they should put this guy in charge? Ezra Klein sums it up pretty well:

    “Biden’s been running to lead the Democratic Party more or less as it exists today. Sanders, by contrast, has sought to lead a political revolution that will upend not just the Democratic Party but American politics more broadly.”

    He goes on to say, “It’s not that Sanders is running a weak campaign. But he is, in a way, running the wrong campaign.” Bernie’s running a good campaign but it’s going to be hard to get traction with the people he needs to vote for him.

      • …in a two dog race where one dog has to answer to that name…sure

        …but if you’ll forgive what is a largely terrible but often used analogy…Jeremy Corbyn was, on paper, entirely a Labour MP when he became the leader of that party & hoped thereby to be Prime Minister

        …but like Bernie he’s spent a whole political career from the position of being on the outside looking in & shouting about how disgraceful everything & everyone in sight is & has been

        …buoyed up by a lot of support from (in a great many case) voters young enough not to be disillusioned about the likely endgame for such things in political matters…or to remember how things went last time the sorts of policy he espoused got an airing in parliament…or even how it went when the mines started closing & manufacturing as an industry contracted drastically…all of which a good many of the older sections of the electorate are never likely to forget

        …I know “both sides” is a bad look these days…but in this case I think bryanl’s point is sound…& yet the FFS is valid

        …is this what they call cognitive dissonance?

        • He’s running under DNC rules and has been a Democrat for years (longer than Bloomberg…and they let that fucker run you notice). People complain about Bernie Bros wanting purity, then they throw out that ol’ “Bernie ain’t a Dem” nonsense. Clearly there are people that want him and his platform, he’s currently 2nd place in the primary right? But we’re going to stupid and say he doesn’t belong? It’s some idiotic crap.

          • …it may not be the case for all the people who bring that up, so I’ll grant that it isn’t an entirely fair charge to levy at him

            …but at the same time there are some real ways in which his opposition to what might be viewed as “the establishment” has tended to include a fair bit of the D side of the aisle…which means he’s unlikely to shake the claim that he isn’t a team player even in the event that he gains not only the ticket but the presidency itself

            …personally that would be one of the reasons I think the party would have been smarter to have got behind Warren…& indeed I think that goes for Bernie, too…but we are where we are

            …& while it might make sense to think that it would be better to start shoring up support for whoever-gets-the-ticket instead of doing the GOP’s work for them trying to hole a candidate below the water line…that’s never really been how any of this works?

      • Oh, sure, now. But in 1988: “I am not a Democrat. Period.”

        Politifact (link below) has a timeline of Bernie’s position on Democrats. It’s evolved over time, absolutely. But it’s a bit disingenuous to expect everyone to forget him saying “I am not a Democrat because the Democratic Party today does not represent — and has not for many years — the interests of my constituency” in 2013 and rally behind him now.

        Look, I like Bernie. I’d prefer him as president to Biden. But let’s not pretend he doesn’t have what we in marketing would call a “branding problem.” Pivoting from “hey, the Democratic Party doesn’t represent me” for decades to “hey, you folks in the Democratic Party should elect me” is a tough sell. It’s always going to be a tough sell. And that’s before people start throwing around the “socialism” label.
        It’s also a weakness Biden can exploit. I’d be surprised if Biden’s team isn’t drafting up the ad right now just repeating all the statements collected by Politifact.

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