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A Reader Exchange

Twitter is notoriously bad for any kind of reasoned exchange. And my reader/friend decided that I was calling Sanders a liar and him, the reader, in some sense not a Democrat. We went a few rounds in a kind of pointless argument between what I said I meant and what he said I meant. So I tried to pull back from that and explain more clearly what I mean. I thought it might be helpful to share my response since it’s often implicit in other things I write and, right or wrong, it’s central to my understanding of the dynamics of this election.

I wrote this out from my iPhone as I waited for a subway this morning. But sometimes needing to write quickly concentrates the mind. I reprint it here unedited.

I think that when Sanders talks about the Democratic establishment he is to a significant extent conflating the mix of party officials and leaders with a mass of Democrats who simply don’t share his views. This is greatly amplified by his most vocal supporters on line. Are older people or people in the suburbs who are less ideological the establishment? Or older African American voters who’s gravitated to Biden or bizarrely to Bloomberg?

One can see this play out in a lot of the primary races where Sanders supported challengers were defeated by more ‘ establishment’ candidates who went on to win? Well, sort of but those people aren’t just chosen by party elites. They were able to get more support from Democratic voters.

As I think is clear this isn’t calling anyone a liar. It’s a different understanding of what constitutes the Democratic Party. His is also one that comes naturally to a more movement oriented political vision. It’s just one I see as inaccurate as description and problematic ideologically.

Another way to come at this is that I think i see the Democratic Party as more of a coalition of fairly disparate groups who disagree on a lot of things. I think Sanders to a real degree and even more those around him see his movement kind of progressivism as the real thing and the other parts of the coalition as the establishment. Again, that’s a natural way for movement political leaders to think. I simply think it’s inaccurate and potentially destructive since it writes off a lot a Democrats or potential Democrats who aren’t “the establishment” they’re just not aligned with Sanders.

As I have been writing, since Sanders now seems like the likely nominee is how he creates a general election message that includes those people. Whether he can is obviously critical since the outcome of the election depends on it.

About The Author


Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.