Two quick reactions to Bernie’s apparently never-ending speech tonight:
First, this idea that there’s such a thing as momentum in electoral politics is really silly. If momentum was real, then Trump would’ve cleared the field weeks ago but he hasn’t, and Hillary Clinton would’ve won the nomination in 2008 but she didn’t. If momentum exists, it is only as an effect and not a cause. You win a bunch of elections and you have momentum; you lose one and all of a sudden you don’t. That’s not momentum. Momentum is the idea that it takes miles to turn a battleship, not.
Second, some reaction to Bernie’s stump speech that have been adapted and expanded from something I just posted to Facebook: Bernie has a logically consistent and through critique of what’s wrong with American politics. He even seems to understand what’s wrong with our institutions, and I agree with much of what he says. I think he misdiagnoses the role of money in politics, and so by extension overestimates its influence in elections, but that’s a big topic for another time. What I’ve never heard him explain, not once, is how we will use those broken institutions to fix those very same institutions. Because that’s how constitutional governance works – you go to governance with the institutions you have, not the ones you wish you’d had. You don’t just get to wish them away – you actually have to use them to make the changes to them that you want to make. And nowhere in his critique does he ever seem to address this fact.
And no, I’m leading “a revolution” with “6 million small donors” isn’t an explanation. Talk to me about Congress. Talk to me about its committees. Be specific. And no, “if we don’t get what we want we’ll lead a revolution in the midterms” isn’t an answer either, at least not a good one. If you can’t take the House in the midst of your general election revolution, what precisely makes you think you will be able to do so in the much lower turnout midterm elections? And to be even more specific, what about the stories of 2008 and 2010 makes you think that gridlock will rebound to your benefit in the midterms? You think Republicans will be less interested in destroying Bernie than they were Barack? That they are more likely to cooperate with someone who promises to raise taxes than someone who cut them?
As I say, I agree with a tremendous amount of what Bernie says, and I’d be thrilled if many of the changes he is seeking actually came to be. But without a plan – a real, concerte, specific plan – they will never come to pass. So Bernie, please…we hear you. We understand your critique. Now give us your plan.
UPDATE: Check out Bernie’s interview with the NY Daily News. What in here makes anyone think he has an actual plan for any of this? This is precisely what worries me about Bernie. Not only does he not have a plan for most of this, in some cases he doesn’t even think he needs to have a plan. There’s a long back and forth over breaking up banks, for example, and Bernie clearly bristles at both the idea that he should explain how he will get new legislation passed and that he needs to explain what a world post-bank-breakup would look like. I hate the power of big banks too, but breaking them up without an understanding of and plan for the world that you are creating is properly bonkers. What if what you do doesn’t work? What will it be like to live through that? And how will it affect the rest of your agenda, both short and long term? Has he even thought through any of this? Judging from this interview, the answer is probably no. And if you actually care about this stuff, if you really want to solve these problems, this should concern you.