The New York Times reports that the ESA Fund, a super PAC founded by Joe Ricketts of TD Ameritrade, has spent $600,000 to run this ad on television before the Iowa caucus. It characterizes Bernie Sanders as “too liberal for Iowa,” but is it really meant to hurt his chances? Perhaps I am too liberal for Iowa, too, but this spot makes Sanders sound pretty good. He also sounds good in this ostensibly damning quote from the president of the ESA Fund, Brian Baker:
When it comes to federal spending and piling on our massive debt, Secretary Clinton is a five-car pile-up, but Senator Sanders is a train wreck. Given that Senator Sanders is the leading candidate in Iowa and New Hampshire and way ahead in the general election polls, ESA Fund will work hard to inform voters about his record and future plans.
Oh please, Democrats—please don’t make us run against Bernie Sanders in the general. We simply could not survive that briar patch. These final remarks from Baker were not transcribed, as he hurried away from the microphone to award his own party’s nomination to a crypto-fascist whom 70% of the country loathes. Video after the jump.
Would Republicans rather see Hillary Clinton in the White House than Sanders? Probably—TD Ameritrade-type Republicans would, at least. But they would definitely rather see their candidate—Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Goddamn Rubio, whoever—run against Sanders in the general.
Sanders versus Trump and/or Cruz is weird for all of us. Caught between reality TV and socialism, who knows what Americans might choose? But Hillary versus Trump is a bloodbath.1 There’s no way Trump stands opposite the former first lady and secretary of state—or any woman, for that matter—and comes out the likable one. If Trump, Cruz or Rubio has a road to the White House, it’s smoother through Sanders.
This reasoning might explain why Baker would call him “the leading candidate” and “way ahead in the general election polls.” That’s a stretch. It’s possible he’s saying that to discourage turnout. If Sanders supporters think he’s way ahead, they’ll stay home and hate women instead of going to the polls. But it’s more likely the ESA Fund wants Democrats to start believing The Berninator can win. This ad purports to attack him, but it’s actually encouraging Democrats to make Bernie their Trump.
That might explain why the first 20 seconds are a woman describing his platform in a bright, lilting voice. Her complaints about his single-payer health care plan include that it would involve “no big insurance companies” and be paid for by taxes on “Wall Street, big business, and the super-rich.”
I’m going to stop you right there, unusually chipper attack-ad lady. Very rich people, of the type who leave their brokerages to start super PACs, do not say “the super-rich.” They say “middle class.” The Republican Party and its non-coordinating affinity groups have said “job creators” without exception since 2009. In the argot of 21st-politics, “taxes on Wall Street, big business, and the super-rich” is what you say to tantalize people, not terrify them.
Which is exactly what this ad seems designed to do—so good job, ESA Fund. Still a creepy project, though. I like to think this spot grew out of a whiteboard session where somebody pitched an ad endorsing Clinton, on the assumption that Democrats would do the opposite of whatever conservatives told them. But no, that’s how the other side works. If Hillary really wanted to put a Democrat in the White House, she’d drop out of the race and endorse Donald Trump.