Sanders eyes ‘bigger’ 2020 bid despite some warning signs
By STEVE PEOPLES
Monday, December 3
BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — An insurgent underdog no more, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is laying the groundwork to launch a bigger presidential campaign than his first, as advisers predict he would open the 2020 Democratic presidential primary season as a political powerhouse.
A final decision has not been made, but those closest to the 77-year-old self-described democratic socialist suggest that neither age nor interest from a glut of progressive presidential prospects would dissuade him from undertaking a second shot at the presidency. And as Sanders’ brain trust gathered for a retreat in Vermont over the weekend, some spoke openly about a 2020 White House bid as if it was almost a foregone conclusion.
“This time, he starts off as a front-runner, or one of the front-runners,” Sanders’ 2016 campaign manager Jeff Weaver told The Associated Press, highlighting the senator’s proven ability to generate massive fundraising through small-dollar donations and his ready-made network of staff and volunteers.
Weaver added: “It’ll be a much bigger campaign if he runs again, in terms of the size of the operation.”
Amid the enthusiasm — and there was plenty in Burlington as the Sanders Institute convened his celebrity supporters, former campaign staff and progressive policy leaders — there were also signs of cracks in Sanders’ political base. His loyalists are sizing up a prospective 2020 Democratic field likely to feature a collection of ambitious liberal leaders — and not the establishment-minded Hillary Clinton.
Instead, a new generation of outspoken Democrats such as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and California Sen. Kamala Harris are expected to seek the Democratic nomination. All three have embraced Sanders’ call for “Medicare for All” and a $15 minimum wage, among other policy priorities he helped bring into the Democratic mainstream in the Trump era.
Acknowledging the stark differences between the 2016 and 2020 fields, Hollywood star Danny Glover, who campaigned alongside Sanders in 2016, would not commit to a second Sanders’ candidacy when asked this weekend.
“I don’t know what 2020 looks like right now,” Glover said before taking a front-row seat for Sanders’ opening remarks. “I’m going to support who I feel to be the most progressive choice.”
One of Sanders’ chief supporters from neighboring New Hampshire, former state senate majority leader Burt Cohen, acknowledged that some people worry Sanders is too old for a second run, although that’s not a major concern of his. Like Glover, he’s not sure if he’ll join Sanders a second time.
“There are other people picking up the flag and holding it high, and you know, it could be Bernie, but I think there are other people as well,” said Cohen, who did not attend the Vermont summit. “It’s not ‘Bernie or bust.’ That’s certainly not the case.”
Another high-profile Sanders supporter who was in attendance, Cornel West, described the Vermont senator as “the most consistently progressive one out there,” suggesting that some would-be 2020 candidates have adopted Sanders’ words, but maintained ties to Wall Street and “militarism.”
Still, West conceded that none of likely 2020 candidates “have as much baggage” as Clinton did.
Perhaps the most important member of Sanders’ network, wife Jane O’Meara Sanders, said Democrats may be embracing Sanders’ “bold progressive ideas” on health care and the economy in some cases, but there’s need to go further on issues like climate change, affordable housing and student debt.
Whether her husband will lead the debate as a presidential candidate in 2020, she said, remains unclear. O’Meara Sanders noted that one question above all others would guide their decision: “Who can beat Donald Trump?”
“That has to be the primary goal. To win. We think you win by a very strong progressive commitment,” she told AP. When asked if Sanders could win in 2020, she said “every single poll” showed that Sanders would have beaten Republican nominee Donald Trump two years ago.
O’Meara Sanders also downplayed the grueling personal demands of a presidential campaign, something that historically has led some other spouses to pressure their husbands to avoid the white-hot presidential spotlight more than once.
“It was extremely inspiring meeting all the people all over the country,” she said of the 2016 campaign. “And what might be difficult for me is not as important as what might be difficult for them and whether or not we can help them with those difficulties.”
“It’s not about us,” O’Meara Sanders added. “It’s about what’s right for the country.”
Despite signs pointing to a 2020 run, Sanders has given himself a clear escape hatch.
Weaver, like Sanders himself in a recent interview, suggested that the senator would step aside if he believes another candidate has a better shot at denying Trump a second term. There are no clear indications from Sanders or those closest to him, however, that he currently has that belief.
“I know they haven’t announced, but it sort of seems like that’s what’s happening,” said John Cusack, another actor invited to the weekend summit. Asked about his preference for 2020, he called Sanders “the only real progressive candidate out there.”
“All of the sudden, what was once fringe politics is now mainstream. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that (Texas congressman) Beto O’Rourke and all these young candidates are running on the People’s Summit and progressive movement platform, but let’s not forget who broke us through.”
“If he runs again, I’ll be on board,” Cusack said.
The big lessons of political advertising in 2018
December 3, 2018
Erika Franklin Fowler, Associate Professor of Government, Wesleyan University
Michael Franz, Professor of Government, Bowdoin College
Travis N. Ridout, Professor of Government and Public Policy, Washington State University
Disclosure statement: Erika Franklin Fowler receives funding from Knight Foundation and serves as Chair of the Political Advertising Committee of Social Science One. Michael Franz receives funding from the Knight Foundation and is a member of the Political Advertising Committee of Social Science One. Travis N. Ridout receives funding from Knight Foundation.
Partners: Wesleyan University and Bowdoin College provide funding as members of The Conversation US.
The 2018 midterm elections are in the books, the winners have been declared and the 30-second attack ads are – finally – over.
As co-directors of the Wesleyan Media Project, which has tracked and analyzed campaign advertising since 2010, we spend a lot of time assessing trends in the volume and content of political advertising.
Because we have television data that span a number of elections, we can provide detailed information on how prominent TV ads are overall or in any given location, how many different types of sponsors are active and how the content of advertising compares to prior election cycles.
Of course, television is not the only medium through which campaigns attempt to reach voters. But online advertising, which represents the biggest growth market, has been much harder to track.
Prior to May of 2018, for instance, social media giants like Google and Facebook did not release any information at all on political advertising, so tracking online advertising began in earnest only this cycle.
Although Americans frequently complain about campaign advertising, it remains an important way through which candidates for office can communicate their ideas directly to citizens, especially those who would not necessarily seek out the information themselves.
What role did political advertising play in the 2018 midterm elections? Here are our top observations:
1. Digital advertising grew in 2018.
Data on digital ads in prior cycles are not readily available, but we know from campaigns and practitioners that the dollars spent in online advertising are growing quickly. Facebook reports that just under US$400 million was spent on its platform for political ads, ranging from U.S. Senate races to county sheriff, between May of 2018 and Election Day.
Google reports about $70 million in spending on ads in races for the U.S. Senate and House on its ad network during a comparable time period.
Some candidates prioritized digital advertising over traditional television ads. For example, Texas Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke spent at least $8 million on Facebook and another $2 million on Google. That was about 34 percent of the $29.4 million total that his campaign spent on advertising, if we include the $19.4 million spent on broadcast television in 2018.
To be sure, O’Rourke was an outlier. We found in October that about 10 percent of spending by Senate candidates on advertising was on digital ads between May 31 and Oct. 15, 2018.
Still – in a fragmenting media environment where people receive information from a variety of different sources and spend substantial time on social media and online – you might assume that campaigns’ heavy focus on digital advertising would displace television advertising.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
2. TV is still important to congressional and statewide campaigns.
This is demonstrated by the record number of television ads in 2018. Data from our project show that the number of ads aired in races for governor, U.S. Senate and U.S. House increased by 58 percent from 2014 to 2018, from 2.5 million to almost 4 million ad airings.
The biggest increase was in U.S. House races, where ad airings rose from under 600,000 in 2014 to over 1.2 million in 2018. The large number of competitive races in 2018, especially in the U.S. House, may account for much of the increase.
3. The election was about health care.
Even in a fragmented media era with a hyper-polarized electorate, advertising in 2018 shows that it is still possible to find agreement across campaigns on the importance of particular issues.
In this cycle, that issue was clearly health care.
More than a third of the record-breaking number of ads aired in federal and gubernatorial races mentioned health care, and the attention to health care as an issue only grew throughout the cycle, with 41.4 percent of all airings in the post-Labor Day period mentioning the issue. In total, 1.4 million airings mentioned health care and 979,249 of those aired between Sept. 4 and Election Day. Health care was by far the most mentioned issue.
The dominance of health care was driven by the laser focus on the issue on the Democratic side. A little more than half of pro-Democratic ads in federal races during the post-Labor Day period mentioned the topic. By contrast, the second largest issue was taxes, at 14.7 percent of airings.
Although pro-Republican airings in federal races talked more about taxes during this window – 35.3 percent – than any other issue, health care ran a close second, appearing in nearly a third of pro-Republican airings.
Pro-Democratic gubernatorial airings also talked more about health care – 45.5 percent – than any other single issue. Education and taxes ranked second and third, respectively.
Pro-Republican gubernatorial airings were the only ones that did not include health care in the top two topics, but the issue did rank fifth in percentage of airings in the post-Labor Day period. It was behind taxes, education, jobs and public safety issues.
4. Outside groups continue to be active.
Outside groups paid for 22 percent of ads aired in U.S. House races in 2018, an increase over the 15 percent of group airings in 2016. And those outside groups paid for a little more than one-third of all ads aired in U.S. Senate races, a slight decrease from 2016.
In partnership with the Center for Responsive Politics, we categorize these groups into three classifications: full-disclosure groups, meaning they disclose contributor lists to the Federal Election Commission; nondisclosing dark money groups that are most often 501(c)4 nonprofits; and partial-disclosure groups that identify donors but also accept contributions from dark money sources.
In past cycles, we found that dark money was more prevalent among Republican groups than pro-Democratic ones. This cycle, the pattern flipped.
One in four, or 25 percent, of ads aired by groups on behalf of Democratic House candidates in the election year was from a dark money group. Only about 12 percent of pro-Republican ads aired by groups in House races was from a dark money sponsor.
In Senate races, dark money sponsors for Democrats and Republicans were about equal in share, roughly one in every three outside group ads on either side of the aisle.
Nowhere to hide
All told, 2018 was a “do everything” election, where many campaigns invested heavily in traditional TV ads and online advertising facilitated by social media.
We have long suspected that TV ads would decline as digital ascended. That may yet happen, but in 2018 voters were truly bombarded by ads on their TV screens.
Political ads may have stopped for the moment, but the reprieve will be brief.
Our data show that election off-years, as 2019 is, will still feature substantial amounts of campaign advertising, often reminding voters about accomplishments in office or setting up attacks on vulnerable incumbents.
Until those start, enjoy the brief break.
1 in 4 government officials accused of sexual misconduct in the #MeToo era is still in office today
December 3, 2018
Author: Jamillah Williams, Associate Professor of Law, Georgetown University
Disclosure statement: Jamillah Williams does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
At least 138 government officials, in both elected and appointed positions, have been publicly reported for sexual harassment, assault, misconduct or violence against women since the 2016 election, according to an analysis my colleagues and I conducted.
Three in every four of these officials have left or been ousted from their positions. But as many as 33 will remain in office by January.
Our study of those accused, posted online on Nov. 9, tallied reports of allegations of sex-related misconduct by government officials in the media over the past two years. Although these reports are likely the mere tip of an iceberg of sexual misconduct, they are yet another sign that #MeToo is slowly beginning to disrupt the power structure.
#MeToo accusations of government officials
Sexual assault is one of the most underreported violent crimes in the U.S., with 70 percent of victims never reporting to police.
Even after the rise of #MeToo, among survey respondents who said they had experienced workplace harassment in the past year, 76 percent did not report it. Many victims fear retaliation or think that nothing will change, concerns that may be heightened when the perpetrator holds a position of power – such as a government official.
We used tools like LexisNexis and Google News to search for national, state and local media stories on accusations of sexual harassment and assault published between November 2016 and October of this year. We found that the #MeToo movement, inspired by an October 2016 New York Times story on Harvey Weinstein, initially spurred a series of public accusations of government officials. Allegations reported in the media have since dropped off.
Most of the accused officials in our findings have since fallen from power. Of the 25 appointed officials, 23 have been fired or resigned. Of the 111 elected officials reported, 76 are no longer in office.
What’s more, some of these officials also face legal action, including seven civil lawsuits and 12 criminal charges. This type of accountability is historically unprecedented.
Nonetheless, of the 27 government officials accused of sexual misconduct who ran for office in this year’s midterm elections, 23 were reelected or elected to a new government position. These statistics are consistent with typical election trends, considering that an average of 92 percent of state legislators are reelected in any given election year. So, for those who did not step down and sought reelection, sexual misconduct allegations appeared to have little influence on the outcome.
Who’s accused and where
Those accused include state legislators, members of U.S. Congress, and other elected and appointed officials. All but three of the 138 people accused in our data set are men.
Some have been accused by more than a dozen women. Most of the allegations pertain to behavior within the workplace, including unwanted kissing and groping, masturbating in front of others, sending sexually explicit photos and discussing sexual fantasies. Some of the reported misconduct has also occurred outside of official government responsibilities, including domestic violence, sexual misconduct with minors and sex trafficking.
Many of these claims have been settled by officials paying victims large settlements with taxpayer dollars. Others have prompted internal investigations into the toxic workplace culture that feeds this type of behavior.
Republicans and Democrats shared a relatively even distribution of the allegations, constituting about 48.5 percent and 43.5 percent of accusations, respectively.
Reports are also spread fairly evenly across the country. Reports of misconduct were notably high compared to the overall population in Ohio, Kentucky, Alaska and Washington, D.C.
Disrupting the power structure
I’m encouraged that more people are speaking out against harassment and assault, and individuals in power are beginning to be held accountable.
However, U.S. laws don’t adequately protect the many women who suffer sexual harassment or misconduct at the hands of less visible men. For example, harassment laws don’t protect domestic workers, independent contractors, interns and those working for small employers. Perpetrators can use nondisclosure agreements to silence victims or mandatory arbitration agreements to prevent claimants from accessing a court of law. At 180 or 300 days, depending on the state, many victims do not have the time they need to process their experiences and decide how to move forward.
On the upside, my data show that in 2018, officials introduced 281 bills in support of gender equity and ending harassment in state legislatures across nearly all 50 states. There were 22 bills introduced in U.S. Congress.
While it’s important that guilty officials face consequences for their actions, I believe that the movement must also go beyond individual accountability. It should also ensure that those in office take the legislative steps necessary to achieve gender equity.
Neenah Estrella-Luna, Recovering Academic, Salem State University
This is very interesting. I’m (wondering) if there is a pattern around the ones who have managed to stay in office.