Nevada Caucuses Go as Expected

When several news alerts to my phone announced that Bernie Sanders had won the Nevada Caucuses, I had little reaction. It would, after all, have been shocking if he hadn’t.

But the press headlines this morning are treating it as a major surprise or development in the race.

The New York Times‘ main story is headlined “Bernie Sanders Wins Nevada Caucuses, Strengthening His Primary Lead” and carries the subhed “His triumph will provide a burst of momentum that may make it difficult for the still-fractured moderate wing of the Democratic Party to slow his march to the nomination.” The lede:

Senator Bernie Sanders claimed a major victory in the Nevada caucuses on Saturday that demonstrated his broad appeal in the first racially diverse state in the presidential primary race and established him as the clear front-runner for the Democratic nomination.

In a significant show of force, Mr. Sanders, a liberal from Vermont, had a lead that was more than double his nearest rivals with 50 percent of the precincts reporting, and The Associated Press named him the winner on Saturday evening.

His triumph in Nevada, after strong performances in Iowa and New Hampshire, will propel him into next Saturday’s primary in South Carolina, and the Super Tuesday contests immediately thereafter, with a burst of momentum that may make it difficult for the still-fractured moderate wing of the party to slow his march.

The Washington Post is more restrained with “Bernie Sanders decisively wins Nevada caucuses.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders won a resounding victory in the Nevada caucuses Saturday, providing another boost to an insurgent campaign that is challenging the Democratic establishment and stifling the plans of rivals who still hold out hope of stopping him.

Sanders’s advantage in Nevada was overwhelming, with substantial leads in nearly every demographic group, allowing him to set down a marker in the first state with a significant share of nonwhite voters. Sanders expanded the electorate by attracting relatively large numbers of first-time caucus-goers, providing momentum as the race shifts into a critical stretch over the next 10 days.

He prevailed among those with college degrees and those without; those living in union and nonunion households; and in every age group except those over 65. He won more than half of Hispanic caucus-goers — almost four times as much support as his nearest rival, former vice president Joe Biden — and even narrowly prevailed among those who identified as moderate or conservative. Despite attacks on his health proposal by the powerful Culinary Union, he won in caucus sites filled with union members.

USA Today goes with “Bernie Sanders scores a commanding victory and other takeaways from the Nevada caucuses.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders cemented his frontrunner status in the Democratic primary Saturday with his huge victory in the Nevada caucuses.

The Vermont senator, who has been leading in national polling and in several state polls, heads into South Carolina and Super Tuesday with a lead in pledged delegates to be the Democratic nominee. A candidate needs 1,991 pledged delegates to become the party’s nominee. He won New Hampshire and was in the top two in Iowa.

After news organizations projected a Nevada win for Sanders, he declared his movement “unstoppable.”

This result has also spawned numerous reaction pieces about Sanders’ inevitability. Even Nate Silver, whose algorithm has been predicting that no one will win a majority of delegates going into the convention, headlined his post “Bernie Sanders Wins Nevada — Putting Him In The Driver’s Seat To Win The Nomination.”

Now, it’s true that, with roughly half the votes counted, Sanders looks to have won really big. He’s standing at something like 45%, with the next set of candidates clustered in the mid-teens.

But Sanders has been expected to win in a blowout for a while now. The RealClearPolitics average of Nevada polls—of which, granted, there weren’t all that many—had Sanders at 32.5 and Buttigieg, Biden, and Warren clustered in the mid-teens. Silver’s 538 had Sanders at 30.2, Buttigieg and Biden in the mid-teens, and Warren at 11.

So . . . the night went pretty much as expected.

Sanders had a very good night in the first diverse state contested. But Nevada only awards 36 delegates–five fewer than Iowa.

There’s a strong argument at this point that Klobuchar, who is expected to have yet another poor showing in South Carolina, should drop out and endorse another candidate rather than continue to divide the “moderate” slate. But, otherwise, I don’t see how anything has changed from what we knew yesterday afternoon.

Russia Backing Sanders Again

Yesterday afternoon, news broke that US intelligence agencies have briefed Congress that the Russian government is once again seeking to influence the US elections, including the party primaries. Now, the other shoe has dropped.

Shane Harris, Ellen Nakashima, Michael Scherer and Sean Sullivan report for WaPo (“”):

U.S. officials have told Sen. Bernie Sanders that Russia is attempting to help his presidential campaign as part of an effort to interfere with the Democratic contest, according to people familiar with the matter.

President Trump and lawmakers on Capitol Hill have also been informed about the Russian assistance to the Vermont senator, according to people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence.

It is not clear what form that Russian assistance has taken. U.S. prosecutors found a Russian effort in 2016 to use social media to boost Sanders’s campaign against Hillary Clinton, part of a broader effort to hurt Clinton, sow dissension in the American electorate and ultimately help elect Donald Trump.

This was my surmise this morning and it makes sense. As Julia Ioffe has been reporting for years, the rationale is obvious:

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But there is a distinct difference in how Sanders is handling the news vice how Trump has going back to 2016:

“I don’t care, frankly, who Putin wants to be president,” Sanders said in a statement to The Washington Post. “My message to Putin is clear: Stay out of American elections, and as president I will make sure that you do.

I sincerely hope Sanders is not our next President, unless the alternative is another four years of Trump. But despite his being something of a useful idiot in his younger days, I believe he is sincere both in rejecting Russian interference in this campaign and in wanting to protect the sanctity of his country’s elections more generally.

Tuberville and Sharia Law

Tommy Tuberville, former head coach of the Auburn Tigers (as well as Texas Tech and the University of Cincinnati), is a candidate to be the Republican nominee for US Senator in Alabama to face Doug Jones in November. He is running against Representative Bradley Byrne (AL01) and Jeff Sessions, who held the seat prior to leaving to be Trump’s Attorney General.

What limited polling I have seen suggests that Session and Tuberville are headed to a runoff. I would then wager that whoever wins the nomination will defeat Senator Jones in November.

A story from the campaign trail caught my attention this week via Yellowhammer News: At Republican forum Tuberville warns of ‘Sharia Law’; Byrne touts Trump connections.

In what was perhaps the most interesting comment of the day, Tuberville said, “I’ve been in the cities, folks, you can’t drive through a neighborhood. Why? Because terrorism has taken over. Sharia Law has taken over. Folks, there [are] places you can go in this country that you’re not wanted. In our country. I mean this is not the Middle East.”

This is just so much irresponsible nonsense intended to do nothing more than play on people’s fears. He’s been “in the cities”–which ones? Terrorism has “taken over”–what does that even mean?

“But my goodness, if we’re going to allow them to change our culture, and our country. Because they’re going to get their hands on the Constitution one day, and when they do it’s over. They want to get it for one reason: that Electoral College. If they ever knock that out we’re done, we’re done,” he added.

And this may now be my favorite defense of the Electoral College: as a bulwark against Sharia Law. (Apart, of course, from the fact that that paragraph is mostly word salad).

The Tuberville campaign later clarified Tuberville’s Sharia Law assertion that “Sharia Law is taking over.”

“If 9/11 taught us anything, it’s the fact that there are those living among us who wish to do us harm. Those individuals place Sharia law ahead of the U.S. Constitution. Terrorism takes many forms, and it is constantly evolving. We must be vigilant not only against terrorist efforts to do harm with bombs and other methods, but also against efforts to infiltrate our government and use it to spread ideas and philosophies that are not in America’s best interests,” a statement from the campaign read.

I must confess, the reporter is being generous with the usage of the word “clarified.”

Ironically, in his speech he talked about the need “to get God back into our lives” (~2:05) and at the ~2:30 mark says that we ought to “blow up” the Department of Education in DC.

He also noted that “liberals” run the Department of Education (someone needs to tell Betsy DeVos). Further, because of those liberals in the DoE, socialism and communism are being taught in the schools and 18 to 35 year-olds would vote for either socialism or communism.

So, we have in one speech of less than 8 minutes the specters of Sharia law, terrorism, socialism, AND communism. An impressive four-fecta.

He also utterly misunderstands what the Department of Education does, as he makes it sound like the curriculum for K-12 is dictated by Washington and he wants the states to do that (which is how it works right now).

Cars

A sidebar conversation in yesterday’s Open Forum centered on what cars people drive why. It seems like a good topic for the weekend

I didn’t own a car until my junior year in college. We were, with rare and brief exceptions, a one-car family until after I graduated high school, with my dad driving the car to work and my mom taking him in and picking him up if she needed it during the day.

I wound up with a hand-me-down 1979 Toyota Corolla hatchback in white. I had a bit of savings and paid the $500 or so we needed to overhaul the engine during a brief period of unemployment for my father and eventually the car became “mine.” I drove it the rest of college and during my training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma and donated it back to the folks when I went off to Germany.

The first car I owned outright was a 1978 Ford Granada in gold that I bought shortly after arrival. It was a German edition that bore no resemblance to the US car by that name. It was more of a forerunner to the Taurus. I bought it used from a soldier in Darmstadt and learned to drive a stick shift on the way back to the kaserne in Babenhausen.

I replaced it after a year or so with a 1987 Mazda B2000 pickup in black. I drove it the rest of my tour, shipped it stateside, and drove it from Fort Dix, New Jersey, where I out processed, back down to Alabama. It lasted me through grad school, by which time I’d added a fiberglass camper shell, and most of my year teaching at Tennessee-Chatanooga before it threw an engine rod on I-20. It took three hours to get a tow truck in those days before I owned a cell phone.

With my one-year gig at UTC about to end and no follow-on job in sight, I went for affordability and wound up with a 1993 Chevrolet Cavalier in blue.

I got rid of it a year or so later when I landed my first tenure-track job at what was then Bainbridge College. I bought my first-ever new car, a 1998 Ford Contour in red.

I drove that car for two years or so, into my tenure at Troy, until it got run off I-59 by a flatbed semi at 75 miles an hour. I somehow survived with mild muscle strain in my back and some bruises from the airbag. The car, alas, did not.

I replaced it with another brand new Ford Contour, this time a Special Vehicle Team model in silver. That lasted me the rest of my time at Troy, my move to the DC area, two jobs here, the start of OTB, and getting married the first time.

I traded it in for a slightly-used 2005 Nissan 350Z roadster in charcoal. It had well under 10,000 miles on it when I got it and is easily the favorite car I’ve ever owned. I put maybe 40,000 miles on it but traded it in when my first wife died suddenly over Thanksgiving weekend in 2011. A two-seater isn’t much use to a single dad with a 3-year-old and an infant.

I drove my late wife’s 2010 Toyota Sienna van in black for a while but eventually used the money from the sale of the Z and trading in the gray 2008 Nissan Sentra I’d inherited from my dad and bought a used 2008 BMW 328i convertible in silver. It allowed me to commute to work with the top down and still pick up and drop off the girls, as it had not only a back seat but also a hardtop when I needed one. And I still had the van for longer trips.

That BMW bit the dust in a four-car accident on Route 1 and got replaced by a 2011 model in black. And that one, too, got totaled when a woman on the George Washington Parkway decided that she should turn left across traffic.

You’d think I’d have quit buying BMWs at that point but nobody else is making a comparably priced convertible that’s fun to drive so I replaced it with a silver 2013 335is. I have thus far avoided wrecking that one and it sits in my garage.

Last summer, the van needed $5000 or so in repairs and I used that and the impending remarriage as an excuse to trade it in. The kids are old enough now that we don’t need the convenience of sliding doors but, since I regularly need to haul 6 passengers and that jumps to 7 when my oldest stepdaughter is home from college, a sedan seemed inadequate. After some research, I wound up with a 2018 Mazda CX-9 in charcoal. I bought it certified with something like 8200 miles on it, saving several thousand dollars and, oddly, getting a better warranty than Mazda offers for brand-new cars. It doesn’t have the cargo capacity of some others in its class but it’s a hell of a lot more enjoyable to drive.

The only brand-new cars I’ve bought for myself are the two Ford Contours; the last of those was 20 years ago.

My first wife and I traded in the 2002 Accura MDX she had when we married for a new 2007 Acura RDX. She never really liked it, though, and we traded that in for the van when our oldest was about a year old.

My second and current wife brought a 2016 Mazda 3 into the marriage. Almost immediately, though, we put it on permanent loan to her oldest, who’s away at Temple. She didn’t need a car on a walking campus in downtown Philly but an internship half an hour away changed that. The wife drove my CX-9 for a few months while we sifted through options. We had settled on getting her a certified CX-5 but she called a last-minute audible at the dealership after she drove the CX-30, which had literally just arrived at the dealership. It was the same price as a year-old CX-5 and she preferred its styling and handling.

So, what’s in your driveway?

Presidential Generations

“Great Seal of the President of the United States – lobby – Richard M Nixon Presidential Museum and Library” by Tim Evanson is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Catching up on my reading at Dave Schuler’s place, a discussion of a paywalled column about why under-30s support Bernie Sanders immediately spun into one of what the generations have wrought.

Regular Glittering Eye and OTB commenter @Andy observes,

I think [the under-30s] are angry, justifiably so, that previous generations are leaving them with a big pile of dung to clean up. The only future the Boomers and Silents have a stake in is ensuring the house of cards they’ve built doesn’t collapse until after they are dead.

To which @Dave replies,

What “house of cards” have Baby Boomers built? To the best of my knowledge the Congressional leadership has either been composed of Lost Generation, Greatest Generation, or Silent Generation since the Baby Boomers have been old enough to vote. The present leadership is almost entirely Silent Generation. The leading Democratic presidential candidates are all Silent Generation.

I think the complaint that Baby Boomers didn’t fix the mess they have been consigned is a fair cop but not that they created it.

I commented briefly there but will expand on it substantially here.

The Lost Generation, a term coined by Gertrude Stein, describes those born between 1883 and 1900 whose formative experiences were World War I and the Roaring Twenties. They’ve all been dead for a while now.

The Greatest Generation, a term coined by Tom Brokaw to describe the cohort who fought the Great Depression and World War II, were born between 1901 and 1927. None of them are currently in national government. (Don Young of Alaska, the oldest current member of either House of Congress, was born in 1933.)

They were followed by the Silent Generation (1928-1945), Baby Boomers (1946-1964), Generation X (1965-1979), Millenials (1980-1996), and Generation Z (1997-mid 2010s), and Generation Alpha (indeterminate).*

My parents, both born in 1943 and both now passed, were Silents. I was born in 1965 and thus at the front end of Gen X. My girls were born in 2008 and 2011 and are thus Gen Z. So are my considerably-older stepchildren, born in 1999, 2000, and 2004.

In terms of our current governance, President Trump (1946) is a Boomer, Speaker Pelosi (1940) and Leader McConnell (1942) are Silents.

The contenders to face Trump in November are Bernie Sanders (1941), Joe Biden (1942), Mike Bloomberg (1942)—all Silents; Boomers Elizabeth Warren (1949) and Amy Klobuchar (1959); and Millenial Pete Buttigieg (1983).

But here’s what’s weird: We had our first Boomer President, Bill Clinton (1946), as a result of the 1992 election. He took office 27 years ago last month. He was followed by another Boomer in George W. Bush (1946). And another in Barack Obama (1961). And yet another in Donald Trump (1946).

Not only is that four Boomers in a row but three of them were born within two months of each other in 1946. They were first elected 24 years apart. And in reverse birth order.

Clinton was the second-youngest President ever elected at 46. Trump was the oldest.

Eight months out, Trump has pretty fair odds of breaking his own record. And the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination is five years older!

It’s not at all inconceivable that we’ll go from four Boomers in a row to a Silent. We’ve never done anything like that before. Certainly, we’ve had many instances where a President of one generation is replaced by one from the previous generation. But those were cases of 50-somethings handing off to 60-somethings.

It’s quite likely that the President elected this November, 28 years after Bill Clinton’s election, will be older than Clinton is today.

There’s also a chance that we have a fifth Boomer in a row, which would almost certainly be unprecedented. The “Generations” concept is relatively new. The only sequence where we have five different Presidents sequentially born within 15 years or so of one another was this one:

That’s six Presidents in a row born within a 16-year span. But they were inaugurated within a period of only 16 years. They were all one-term Presidents and, indeed, poor Zachary Taylor died in office. By contrast, Clinton, Bush, and Obama were two-termers and Trump could well be.

At the other extreme, it’s not totally inconceivable Buttigieg wins the nomination and beats Trump. In which case, we’d not only have our first Millenial President but we’d skip my generation entirely.

__________________

*I see from Dave’s response to my brief comment there that he defines “generations” unconventionally, and doesn’t consider either Clinton or Trump as representative of that cohort. I find the Generations concept problematic for a similar reason. While I’m Gen X and definitely not a Boomer attitudinally, I really don’t have all that much common with those at the tail end of my nominal cohort, who seem more like Millenials to me. Still, if we’re going to use the construct, I prefer sticking with standard definitions.

On the Issue of (d)emocratic Nominations

James Joyner’s post on nomination processes leads me to the following point:  the frame of elites v. the people in choosing the candidate is not the main issue–at least not when I talk about it, nor do I think that it is for most political scientists.

By this, I mean, that discussion about the shortcomings of primaries (for all offices) is not about preferring party control because of a preference for the wisdom of elites versus the preferences of the masses.* It is about thinking seriously about the role parties could/should play in a representative system (i.e., providing clear options about governing to voters). There are good reasons to argue that primaries don’t go a good job of accomplishing this role because it makes parties candidate-centric rather than actually about a central message from the party as a collective organization. This muddles choice and it muddles governing and accountability.

After all: if voting Republican in election 1 means something different than in election 2 (because the candidates are very different in key ways), what does party mean?

We have been socialized into the notion that our candidate selection process is “democratic” (I put it in scare quotes on purpose) and that democracy is better than elites asserting power.  Anyone who reads my musings here know that, as a general principle, I am pro-democracy in terms of governing.  And, indeed, for many years I was in favor of primaries on the grounds that democratic processes are better than elite-driven ones. (In fact, somewhere, I think here at OTB, I have a post wherein I was speaking more favorably about the democratic nature of primaries—but I can’t find it). However, I have changed my mind.

I had a revelation of sorts some time ago, however, wherein I began to question the proposition that democratized candidate selection processes were actually beneficial to broader representative democracy, and it boils down to the issue of what function parties perform in such a system.

Parties are supposed to provide signaling devices to voters as to how the given candidate will behave once in office (and how the collection of persons holding the same label will behave).  They are supposed to govern in a way that is congruent with those signals.  Failing to do so should result in consequences for the party at ballot box.

Primaries complicate (if not upend) this equation.

Consider:

The Republican Party (and the presidency) under Trump is a very different thing than if, say, Jeb Bush or John Kasich had won the nomination.

Likewise, the Democratic Party will be a very different
thing under a Sanders nomination than under a Bloomberg nomination (for example).

Further, three out of four of the above politicians I named (Trump, Sanders, and Bloomberg) are all persons who did not have any official affiliation with either party prior to running for its presidential nomination.  Arguably, Sanders and Bloomberg, as pre-candidates for office, are not yet “Democrats” (neither as nominees on a general election ballot, nor as office-holders).

The primary process allows them access to party labels that
a more closed process would not provide.

If parties can be so radically shaped by individual politicians, to what degree does the party have a real, tangible existence? This is what I mean about it being a candidate-centric process.

More specifically, if the nomination process is so porous that politicians who have never had an official partisan identification (Trump) or who have been officially an independent (Sanders) or whose time in office was as a member of the other party (Bloomberg) then what does the party label mean?

An extreme illustration of my point is the top-two system as used in California.  It is called a primary, but it is really the first round of a two-round process wherein the top two vote-getters in the first round (the “primary”) go against one another in the second round (the general election) regardless of the relative differential in votes.  In the first round, there might be multiple Democrats and multiple Republicans running (as well as other third-party candidates).  This can mean, and often does, a D v. D or R v. R second round.  I would ask:  what meaningful role does party serve in that context?

Back to the question of what is more democratic, I would
take the position that for representative democracy to function properly,
voters have to have clear choices at the polls. 
If the parties are candidate-centric vessels filled with the
ever-evolving primary-steeped brew of the moment, then the parties tend to fail
at that function.

So, when political scientists talk about the potential value of more closed, even “elite” (i.e., party leadership) level selections it is not because the goal is to take choice away from voters for the sake of keeping the teeming masses out of the process.  From persons such as myself, I think it would allow parties to be truer to themselves as organizations with clearer policy alternatives being consistently presented to the public.  I think, too, there is ample evidence globally to suggest that such a system of nomination would lead to the formation of more parties, which I think would be a long-term good thing for the representativeness of American democracy.

Others (and I think that the Azari column that James referenced) are aimed at trying to help the existing parties select candidates who truly are representative of their voters across the country than does our currently odd system wherein sequence can matter more than actual national preference. Fundamentally, just because voting is used in the caucus/primary process to nominate the presidential candidates does not mean that it is actually the best method to find a representative candidate. Again: sequence and media narrative (and attempts to make rules about debates with 12+ candidates, etc) have as much, if not more, influence than the voting. The system is a mess and suggestions to reform it are about trying to clean that mess up.

As I was writing this I was reminded of a piece I wrote can in 2017: An Analogy on Hierarchy (and the Lack thereof) in Party Behavior.

From that post:

the idea of a political party is that it would be able to present to the electorate a shared vision for governance and that electorate would have the ability to select or reject that vision.  If a party is at odds with itself, it is more difficult to project that vision and it muddles the choices that voters have.  In most democracies, parties get to choose their own players, and field a team for the voters to accept, or reject.  In the US, the team is not selected by leadership, but is instead selected by outside forces (primary voters).  This is especially true when voters can, by supporting insurgents, reshape parts of the party (as is possible with primaries in the US). And, hence, the party can end up with a nominee like Roy Moore (or Sharon Angle or Christine O’Donnell or Todd Akin or Donald Trump) that it might not prefer to have, but nonetheless has to live with.  And there are those who are less dramatic examples that sit in Congress now.  This affects both governance and representation, and therefore is no small thing.

At any rate, more on this as time progresses.


*I have also noticed a lot of online vitriol from Sanders supporters in particular that all this talk about nomination processes is just because Bernie is doing well. I don’t have time to get further into that issue, but I can assure any reader that my views on this subject are not about Bernie, nor are they new.

Bloomberg Tweets Doctored Debate Video

Vox’ Alex Ward (“Mike Bloomberg tweeted a doctored debate video. Is it political spin or disinformation?“):

Following his lackluster performance in Wednesday’s Democratic presidential debate, former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg tweeted out a doctored video that made it look like he had a hugely successful moment on the debate stage, even though he didn’t.

And while politicians putting out campaign ads that take their opponents’ words out of context or are selectively edited to misconstrue their opponents’ positions is a practice basically as old as time itself, some experts are calling the Bloomberg video dangerous and unethical in a digital age rife with disinformation.

The 25-second clip starts with the mayor asking a question he really did pose in the debate: “I’m the only one here that I think has ever started a business — is that fair?”

What follows is a series of close-ups on everyone from former Vice President Joe Biden to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) keeping quiet, looking confused and uncomfortable, all backed by background noise of crickets chirping.

Put together, it makes it look like Bloomberg had an epic mic-drop moment in which he thoroughly owned all of his opponents on the debate stage.

In reality, there was a brief awkward silence after Bloomberg asked the question, but then he proceeded to talk about his vision for mentorship programs for young entrepreneurs.

When he finished, one of his opponents — Sanders — actually went on the attack to complain about a “corrupt political system, bought by billionaires like Mr. Bloomberg” that help the richest people pay fewer taxes.

[…]

But at a time when foreign governments are actively trying to spread disinformation in US elections and President Donald Trump frequently shares manipulated video clips on Twitter to attack his political opponents, all candidates need to be wary of what gets released in their name.

“In this digital age, campaigns need to be more careful than ever before,” Cindy Otis, a former CIA analyst and disinformation expert, told me. “There needs to be a higher standard.”

I’m not sold that this is some dastardly act of cyber disinformation. If I hadn’t watched the debates and were seeing this video for the first time as a television ad, I’m pretty sure that I would have immediately detected that it was a mash-up. The close-ups are too stretched out. The reactions are too exaggerated. And there are, after all, crickets chirping.

No, this is worse than a crime—it’s a blunder. It’s just a really lousy ad.

The line went over with a thud at the debate because it was poorly delivered. And, while the point might have been an effective one in a Republican primary, it’s almost a head-scratcher in a Democratic primary. When was the last Democratic nominee with substantial business experience? Jimmy Carter?