Wednesday, October 14, 2015

First Democratic Debate Brings Out Bernie PUMAs

Image from USAToday
The first Democratic presidential primary debate was held in my old hometown of Las Vegas on Tuesday Night. By all accounts, it was a sober, serious affair, in stark contrast to the three-ring circuses held by the GOP in recent months. While there was some expected disagreement, and the occasional dig from one candidate to another, but the tone was noticeably more adult, more mature and more presidential.

Better yet, both of the leading candidates, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton acquitted themselves well, and made their own fans very happy. I wouldn't be surprised if Sanders increased his brand, since fewer people know it as well as the Clinton brand. And Clinton put many minds at ease with her personable, sharp and "ready" performance. It didn't have the zazz of the GOP free-for-alls, but it was more in line with what one of these things is supposed to be.

My assessment was that both Sanders and Clinton came off well, but that Clinton had the edge. Sanders got tripped up a few times, and Clinton for the most part didn't. The media, by-and-large, agreed with me, widely hailing Clinton as the winner, and proclaiming (without irony) that after months of media criticism, she now had a big boost. Sanders was acknowledged to have done well, with the same observations I made, where he could have prepared better.

But that's not the whole story. There's been something bubbling under the surface for a while now that really came to a head after the debate. Bernie Sanders supporters, who have long felt ignored, are making more noise than ever, and are not showing the decorum of their hero. Quite the contrary.

Okay, little sidebar here. I've contributed to a few message boards over the past 24 hours, using some of the arguments I'm using in this column. Doing so, I have incurred the wrath of Bernie supporters. This kind of proves my overall point, but I'm going to attempt to squelch what I can here, by saying: 1) I'm not referring to all Bernie supporters; 2) I make no comparison between Ron Paul and Bernie Sanders as candidates; and 3) I'm a progressive liberal Democrat who happens to like Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.

In online polls, Clinton didn't win the debate. In many cases, she came in third or fourth (which is preposterous). Sanders won, and not just by a little. By a lot. By an absurd lot. By an old MSNBC Ed Show text poll margin. By a "Saddam Hussein won an election" margin. In one of the polls, it was Sanders at 81%. That's not normal, and it's not remotely believable. So, it was off into the blogosphere and social media to figure out what was going on.

Image from source, New York Times
Doing so was akin to wading into the piranha-filled waters of a NewsBusters or Breitbart message board. Inexplicably, the Bernie fans are filling the role usually played by extremist Tea Baggin,' Palin lovin' conservatives. The love for Bernie overflows, and the venom against Hillary is flowing freely, with spittle, foam and maybe a little blood. It's just bonkers.

My conclusion is this. Whereas in the 2008 election, Hillary Clinton had her "PUMAs" (which stood for "Party Unity My Ass") and Ron Paul had his disciples who would rig polls, use trickery and even break the law to try and engineer a win for their candidate, Sanders has his own "Feel the Bern" cult.  It's not too much of a stretch to believe that these extra-energized, strident and driven supporters will be more likely to participate in an online poll. So, I won't go so far as to say any of the polls have yet been rigged, or even that any shady business has happened. But I do believe these polls are overly lopsided due to a practice called "FReeping." It's completely legal, but it's not particularly accurate.

That said, I'm more than a little worried that this is going to get worse. I've already encountered Bernie supporters who loathe Clinton with every fiber of their being, and refuse to vote for her if she's the nominee. They're doing their level best to convert people not just to their candidate, but to their view of Mrs. Clinton. They don't save their vitriol for her either, questioning the intelligence and integrity of her supporters. Their abrasiveness and invective tarnish not only their own candidate, it spills over into the entire Democratic effort at electing a candidate.

Here's a response I got from someone I agreed with on the hostility level:

 "One told me to die in a fire on this board. Also said that if Bernie doesn't get the nomination, he doesn't care if the whole country burns. Kind of a fire theme. I don't think Bernie would tolerate such cultish behavior, and I wouldn't be surprised if he regrets creating this monster." (Source)

And that pretty much sums up my concern. It's their way or the highway, they will not vote at all if their candidate doesn't win the primary, they will trash the other candidate, and take no prisoners along the way. This is not needed when the Republican side is in such disarray. I hope that Bernie notices, and says something about it. And I hope the Hillary supporters don't take the bait.


Who Won and Lost the Democratic Debate? The Web Has Its Say

Bloggers, commentators and the Twitterati quickly weighed in on the first Democratic debate, scoring the winners and losers. Hillary Rodham Clinton was the clear victor, according to the opinion shapers in the political world (even conservative commentators). . .

Read more at: New York Times


  1. I got to say Jamie, this was one of your best posts ever.
    I actually did watch the debate for about 30 minutes. The three also rans were cartoonish.
    As far as the debate, no it was not like the GOP but the GOP debate, from what little I watched were far more entertaining. Why is that important?
    Because I believe most electors will be voting for the most interesting candidate instead of someone who is the most suited to the voter's ideals.

  2. Thanks, Dan. Yeah, this debate wasn't as exciting. But one big notable difference was the tone of the questions. Anderson Cooper--at first--was much like the others, asking questions about the big controversies, the stuff Morning Joe obsesses about every morning. But then got deep into policy questions. And the candidates had (mostly) immediate and detailed answers. I didn't see that much in the GOP debates. Nor were the questions on the caliber of: "Ms. Fiorina, Mr. Trump has criticized your face. What do you say to that?" Of course that kind of thing makes better TV, but it has nothing to do with governing or policy.

    Yes, the three also rans were pretty useless, though I think I'd otherwise like Martin O'Malley just fine. He's just frankly not a contender this year.


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