To Bernie or to Bust?

Most of the critiques leveled at the “Bernie or Bust” crowd smack of arrogance and self-righteousness. This, of course, is expected since the prospect of a Trump presidency rightfully provokes indignation of the highest order from many individuals, but the shaming that ensures is nothing but unproductive. To suggest, as many do, that Bernie supporters simply are not allowed to have that opinion, or are somehow immoral for believing that they should vote for Sanders or Jill Stein in the fall is fundamentally undemocratic insofar as it rejects the political pluralism upon which our system of government is premised. There is no official position that one must take as a Bernie supporter, or as a democrat, or as a progressive. This isn’t to suggest that we ought not discuss the consequences for voting for a third candidate, but that same conversation must be tempered with the understanding that simply dismissing those we disagree with politically is paternalistic, presumptuous, and counter-productive.

That said, that consequences of voting for a third party candidate in such a situation are undeniable. The Trump-Clinton electoral binary is a valid phenomenon and isn’t contrived as some zealous Bernie supporters/Libertarians/Green Party-ers/Ralph Naders might contend. It exists because of both the popular and institutional support behind them (their base of supporters and the significance of their status as presumptive nominees) and the structure of our political system. We must heed the lessons of past-supporters of Ralph Nader, Ross Perot, Theodore Roosevelt, and Robert La Follette. Inaction or voting for a third candidate, empowers those who do act and certainly weakens the candidate whom you could have voted for.

If you believe that Trump is bigoted and sexist; If you believe that he has a poor mastery of policy, has promoted conspiracy theories and spurious assertions, and has a questionable business record to boot; If you believe that he has said so many contradictory things that we have no idea what his policy proposals actually are, and those that we do know of are disastrous and impractical;If you believe that a Trump presidency would be both disastrous for America and for the world at large, then it is, in my point of view, logically inconsistent to suggest a course of action that would promote a possible Trump victory.

It is equally difficult to contend, as Susan Sarandon did, that a Trump presidency would strengthen the progressive movement. It certainly would not advance the progressive agenda in any way. It is hard to imagine how 8 years of George W. Bush particularly strengthened the progressive movement or resulted in any measurable electoral gains. While 2 wars and sweeping  tax cuts later, it is very easy to see how it eroded many of the gains made by liberals in the past.  Sacrificing the well-being of American citizens for the questionable potential of a progressive victory which would have an even more questionable potential of reversing the full impact of  a Trump presidency is an unconvincing option, to say the least.

The Bernie or Bust supporters are entirely entitled to their position, and the pluralism of American democracy demands that we afford them the respect that they deserve. Too often we fall victim to the tendency to vilify and demonize our colleagues over differences in policy or ideology. Yet at the same time we remain stubbornly ignorant of how such tribalism advances political polarization and threatens the socio-political cohesion of our society. Knee-jerk bulverism and vitriolic public discourse has created in age in which we live in what Yuval Levin calls “bifurcated concentration.” We bemoan the inefficiency of our legislators and the divisiveness of our politics, but we never reconcile our complicity in this matter—which is why we must vigorously recognize the validity of the Bernie or Bust position, while stressing the dire consequences of not voting for Clinton in the fall.


HRC: The Candidate We Desperately Need

This article was recently published in The Pavlovic Today, and can be found in its original form here. Please feel free to share or link this article—feedback is much appreciated!


Despite the legions of Conservatives, Progressives, ‘Bernie-Bros’ and Tea-Partiers who would say otherwise, Hillary Clinton is not only the most experienced politician in the race – she’s arguably the most experienced candidate in recent electoral memory. She single-handedly altered U.S-China relations at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, where she memorably proclaimed, “Women’s rights are human rights.” Clinton led the fight to pass the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the Pediatric Research Equity Act, which expanded access to healthcare to millions of lower-income children. She was instrumental in the ratification of the START treaty and laid the groundwork for the Iran nuclear deal. The fact that Hillary Clinton is the most recognizable name in politics of this decade is not only a testament to her resilience and intelligence, but her extensive experience as a legislator, policymaker, and stateswoman.


In spite of this, Hillary Rodham Clinton is not the candidate the Democratic Party wants, but is the candidate that it quite desperately needs. She has never been the candidate of resounding hope and dynamic change, a role which then Senator Obama played in 2008 and which Bernie Sanders has assumed in 2016. Sanders offers a New Great Society dressed in the trappings of Nordic Social Democracy, Hillary, a sobering political pragmatism tempered by years of political experience. Hers is not to consider what American could be but what it can be. Political pragmatism isn’t exciting. It’s not inspiring as the universalism of Sanders and the idealistic left. And, I’ll be the first one to admit it, Hillary Clinton is an irritatingly uninspiring candidate. But though she does not campaign in poetry, she certainly will govern in prose.


For that reason, Hillary ought to earn your support this election season. She can best execute the responsibilities of the presidency—and thus effectuate positive change— and she has the most compelling vision of what that change ought to be.


Hillary has Executive Experience. Full stop.

The policy-centric nature of the presidential primary discourse leads us to overlook practically the most important aspect of the presidency: implementing law, and managing the expansive federal bureaucracy. It is, without question, the most challenging leadership and management job in the world. This is because the federal government is absolutely massive. It employs 2.7 million non-military civilians.[1] It comprises approximately 252 independent executive and component agencies.[2] Furthermore, we have a tendency to categorically ignore assessing our candidate’s leadership abilities and their experience with facilitating the administrative responsibilities of an organization. Yet, it is in this regard that Clinton excels.


But what good are laws if not enforced effectively? The President’s role constitutes not only devising and legislating a policy agenda, but implementing that agenda correctly. The troubled roll-out of threatened the integrity of “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”—colloqially known as Obamacare—and the ability for the uninsured to obtain health coverage.  Ill-management of government leads to catastrophic implementation failures like the federal relief effort after Hurricane Katrina or the Carter administration’s failure to resolve the Iranian hostage crisis. Bottom line: public policy management failures breed systemic implementation failures, duplicative services, the waste of taxpayer monies, and information deficiencies.

A president’s approach to leadership and the constitution of the advisorial institutions that facilitate that aid presidential decision-making, shape the implementation of policy dramatically. Robert Mcnamara’s Department of Defense most poignantly demonstrates this truth. He and his brilliant team of advisors, despite their expertise and their initiative in bringing novel management systems to the DoD, fell into patterns of groupthink that ultimately led to the U.S’ misguided entrance into the Vietnam war—though Les Gelb while at Brookings famously contended otherwise. More recently, the Obama administration’s micromanagement of the foreign policy process complicated the Department of Defense’s ability to carry out its responsibilities and has been noted by every single past secretary of defense: including Gates, Panetta, and Hegel. The president’s role as chief executive is a critical aspect of the office of the presidency and should play a major role in our presidential calculus.

However, Hillary has been there before. She, as first lady, experienced the presidency firsthand while playing a major role in the policy process. She and her husband understand which management approaches work and which don’t. As Secretary of State, she managed a massive bureaucracy and the diplomatic functions of the U.S—no small roll. But don’t take it from me that her past executive experience will make her a far more effective executive, look to political scientists Joseph Uscinski and Arthur Simon who conclude that experience as a federal administrator effectively predicts administrative performance as a president.[3] Or perhaps look at the best gauge of her management skills, her tenure as Secretary of State, during which time, Henry Kissinger opines “she ran the State Department in the most effective way that I’ve ever seen.”[4]

Further anecdotal evidence can be found in the wealth of interviews that have been done with past aides both Republican and Democrat, who have praised her policy centric focus, her wealth of policy knowledge, and her administrative skills. And it is obvious that these points become less important vis a vis Sanders as the primary winds down. But the imperative to consider the administrative responsibilities of the president does not diminish. Our failure to raise questions about how a president sets priorities, how a president executes laws, and the advisors with whom presidents surround themselves is incredibly troubling in a world where those factors have been increasingly important.




[3] Simon, Arthur M., and Joseph E. Uscinski. “Prior experience predicts presidential performance.” Presidential Studies Quarterly 42, no. 3 (2012): 514-548.


What we were reading a couple weeks ago…

Fred Reichneld is the creator of customer satisfaction surveys – but he feels they have gone too far. As the idea has spread, it has shifted from his original goal of testing brand loyalty to being excessively used for every product imaginable. Now, he hopes brands will realize the futility and failure of overusing surveys and will minimize their use.


Quote – “In a letter to the editor of Automotive News in 2013, Ronald Russo, executive manager at Vaden Automotive Group in Savannah, Georgia, complained that survey fatigue was leading to customer ill will and harsh responses.

“If our dealership gets poor survey ratings because customers state they are tired of receiving surveys, the manufacturers will count that against us,” he wrote.”

After delays with and problems related to the release of the Tesla Model X, two of Tesla’s executives, including its global head of production, are taking leaves of absence. Although some executives at Tesla have recently taken breaks and returned, it seems unclear for the head of production.


Quote – “While Tesla described Reichow’s exit as a leave of absence—and other executives have left and rejoined—the company also said Reichow will be involved in handing off his responsibilities to a successor to ensure uninterrupted production.”

Because of positive changes in oil supply and demand, although OPEC cannot come to terms with negotiations, it may no longer be necessary to limit crude output.


Quote – “Prices gained even though OPEC itself has been without a production target since December, and talks with other producers to freeze output fell apart last month after Saudi Arabia refused to join without Iran. While the recovery has relieved some pressure on producers, signs of discord persisted within the oil-exporters group.”


Other Links




Israeli Memorial Day

This Thursday, the nation of Israel will celebrate the sixty-eighth year of its independence.

In just under three-quarters of a century, the fledgling Jewish state has already gone through centuries’ worth of conflict, trial and scrutiny. In the present, Israel has a firm foothold in the Middle East and it is probably safe to say that the tiny nation is under no serious threat of being “thrown into the sea,” as its enemies declared on May 15th, 1948.

Sixty-eight years after its inception, which bore with it a recognition and acceptance of the Holocaust and the obvious necessity of a Jewish state, Israel has grown into one of the most vibrant economies of the world and become a leader in technology, electronics and defense industries around the world. The Israeli Defense Forces is a military powerhouse and has successfully defended Israel in multiple engagements. The United States has demonstrated a commitment to aid, most recently providing Israel with funds and material to build the Iron Dome technology, an anti-rocket installation that with its 96% interception success rate has meant that casualties from Hamas and Hezbollah rocket attacks have fallen to nil.


IDF Forces observe Yom Ha’Zikaron 2012


Yet though the existential threat has probably passed, the idea of Israel, the Zionist ideology, and the hope of a safe haven for Jews remains under scrutiny. Today that comes in the form of denunciations from organizations like the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), accusations of war crimes in the International Criminal Court (ICC), activism in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement on college campuses and around the world, terror tunnels constructed by Hamas militants using foreign aid money, and the occasional slashing attack on Israeli civilians.

The strength of Israel is measured in its ability to defend itself, thus, the emergence of the center-right secular Likud party starting in the 1990s is not surprising. Yet the current Likud leader and Prime Minister of Israel, Binyamin Netanyahu, has alienated a large portion of the Israeli electorate, has helped drive a rift in U.S-Israeli relations deeper than ever in recent memory, and has been forced to ally with right wing nationalist religious groups within the Israeli Knesset in order to retain a political majority.

The state of Israel is strong, but it clearly can use some work. Yet there are those who take the signs of fraying in Israel’s political order as an offense, there are those who would forget the reasons for Israel’s existence- these are the people who protest the so-called Israeli apartheid, who advocate for the recognition of the “Palestinian Holocaust,” who would deny the Jewish Holocaust, and who demand Israel disband the IDF and prosecute key members of the military high command and government for war crimes against Palestinians. And that’s why on the eve of the commemoration of Israel’s day of independence, it is so important to take a look at the history of Israel as well as examine the situation on the ground.

Jewish Zionists had been advocating for a Jewish state since the First Zionist Congress in 1887 at Basle, Switzerland. Zionists traveled to the area they believed to be Jewish land, then under the control of the British Empire. By 1917, the English government issued the Balfour Declaration, proclaiming their support for a Jewish state. Jewish people began to immigrate to the place known as the Palestinian Mandate, a small piece of land dominated by the Negev Desert, lacking water or any signs of civilization.

The Jewish people who moved began to establish the foundations of major cities, like Tel Aviv, Haifa, Eilat and others. Some who moved subscribed to the Marxist-Leninist ideology and attempted to construct mini utopian states within the area. These would later become the kibbutzim, small communities of no more than three hundred people where everyone lives collectively, executing an order of living that subscribes to Marx’ idea of communism.

Yet indigenous Arab populations were displeased with the influx of European, African and American Jews, manifesting their grievances through violent riots throughout the year 1929. By 1930 the British Empire issued a White Paper banning Jewish immigration into the Mandate.

Though the British claimed that the ban was for the safety and security for all parties, they would soon contend with a far more massive conundrum. Throughout the next fifteen years, over six million members of the Jewish faith would be systematically, coldly, mathematically murdered by the inhuman machine of the Nazi Third Reich. A conference at Evian on refugees being accepted into the Mandate failed to establish international quotas for Jewish refugees from the Nazis. The White Paper was enforced and though the British Empire and the Allied powers were aware of the German “Final Solution” by at least 1942 and probably earlier, Jewish immigration continued to be barred. Even when the Second World War finally drew to a close, the White Paper policy remained in force and barred survivors from entry into Palestine. Even in the darkest hour for the Jewish people, even those purported to be on the right side of history failed to act.

It took two full years, until 1947, for the Anglo American commission to finally recommend immigration of 100,000 survivors to the Palestinian Mandate. Some Jewish extremists took it upon themselves to hurry along the process and began the Jewish uprising in Palestine, attacking British consulates and public servants and carrying out terror attacks on Mandate forces. In the same year the British Empire referred the issue of Israeli statehood to the newly formed United Nations. This governing body, in a remarkable show of diplomacy, proposed a two-state Partition plan, whereby both an Israeli and a Palestinian state would be established in the lands of the Palestinian Mandate and under the mandatory power of the British.

Yet Arab parties were not pleased with the Partition plan and resisted its implementation, bringing diplomacy to a halt. Furthermore, the British, dealing with their own consequences from the Second World War, set the expiration date of the British Mandatory System as May 14, 1948. At midnight on that day the state of Israel was established by declaration. On the next day, the Haganah, to become the core of the IDF, engaged an Arab coalition of five neighboring states, Transjordan, Syria, Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia as well as other Muslim irregulars. Over a period of nine months, with the support of the UN, US, and Jewish people around the world the Haganah successfully defended the land and the Israeli state was established.

Over the next half century, the IDF would engage in four other conflicts, notably including the Six-Day War in 1967 and the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Yet every time the Israeli forces, backed by the United States, prevailed over their Arab enemies, backed by the Soviet Union. The Arab-Israeli conflict became a major hot zone in the ongoing proxy wars between the US and USSR in the Cold War, along with Vietnam and the Korean Peninsula. Based on Cold War containment doctrines on both sides, the US steadfastly stood by Israel, its proxy in the war. While there was some anti-Israeli sentiment and anti-Zionist sentiment, on the whole American foreign policy was geared towards propping up Israel. But by the end of the century, in the 1990s, the prevailing foreign policy fell apart with the end of the Cold War.

Without a mortal enemy, the United States did not any longer need to unconditionally support world allies. Instead, public attention began to turn towards the other peoples affected by the Arab-Israeli conflict. As a result of the prolonged struggle, millions of Palestinians had been displaced and forced into refugee camps. Arab nations refused to accept many of the refugees and the camps’ conditions remained brutal. The United Nations focused its effort on ameliorating the situation, in fact, the UN’s refugee organization, the UNHCR, has two divisions, one for Palestinian refugees, and one for all other refugees. The UN has a permanent peacekeeping mission, UNRWA, which works in conjunction with UNHCR to ameliorate the situation.

Unfortunately, with the sheer number of refugees, and with the lack of funding, refugees remain in pretty much the same situation as they had been in 1948. In areas like the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, Palestinian government organizations have self-governing authority but they are not fully sovereign states. In recent years, the main party in the West Bank, Fatah, has been undermined in Gaza by the terrorist political party Hamas.

In Lebanon, Shia militias have organized into the group Hezbollah, and instigated a war in 2006 in the Golan Heights, a disputed territory in Israel’s north. After the 2006 engagement Hezbollah ceased to be a belligerent in the Arab-Israeli conflict due to a collapse in order in Lebanon and the rise of extremist Sunni groups like ISIL. Yet Hamas remains a formidable power and uses money from aid programs to fund rocket building and tunnel digging. In 2012 and 2014, Israel launched operations into the Gaza Strip in order to destroy Hamas stockpiles of weapons and eliminate extremists. This controversial operation, where Israel was accused once again of war crimes for bombing a UN school (which Israel claims contained a shelter for Hamas rockets), as well as the rise of Likud and the establishment of a new post-Cold War order help set up the situation Israel finds itself in today, on the eve of its sixty-eighth birthday.

It is in this setting that we have to evaluate Israel’s situation. It is unreasonable to assert that Israel remains locked in a mortal struggle for survival. Since 1948 the country has gone from the scrappy young David fighting the combined might of the Arab League bent on their destruction to the Goliath, against whom young Palestinian children throw rocks in a literalization of the metaphor. Rather than being able to take advantage of the underdog narrative that the Western public seems to adore, the country instead is now seen as the oppressor, lending credence to the B.D.S movement as well as anti-Israeli sentiment through accusations of war crimes and illegal occupations. There isn’t enough room in this article to discuss which groups are in the right here, and the situation is evidently staggeringly complex, but I submit that on at least one day out of the year, on Yom Ha’atzmaut, people around the world ought to take a minute to think about the history that led the world and the Israeli state to the place where it is today.


The Israeli people are acutely aware of the sacrifices made by their grandparents, parents, brothers and sisters in order to secure the freedom for Jewish people as well as the democratic state in the Negev. This awareness manifests in the scheduling of Israeli Memorial Day, Yom Ha’Zikaron, on the eve of Independence Day. Yom Ha’Zikaron begins at sundown tonight and will be observed throughout the day tomorrow in Israel. As of today, the total number of Israelis killed due to conventional conflict, terrorism and political violence stands at 23,447. One of the government owned television stations will begin to broadcast the name of every fallen soldier and civilian. The names will appear for three seconds each. This broadcast will continue throughout the entire day. At 11:00AM tomorrow, a two-minute siren will sound all throughout Israel, and all Israelis will stop what they’re doing to remember the fallen. Tens of thousands of Israelis, mostly Jews, died to create and protect a safe haven for a people that has been shunted from place to place for all of history. In their memory, in the memory of those fallen in the Holocaust, in the service of rational acceptance rather than partisan discord, regardless of personal opinions, let us join the Israeli people for two minutes tomorrow to honor the struggle to create a nation. May their memories be a blessing. זֵכֶר צַדִּיק לִבְרָכָה


Don’t believe the hype: Clinton will easily beat Trump in the general

This is a response to “Donald Trump Will Be The Republican Nominee” by Henry William Saroyan. I highly recommend reading the original. Please enjoy!

Henry William Saroyan is an insightful writer and a good friend. He is also dead wrong about Hillary Clinton’s chances in the general election. In a recent article entitled “Donald Trump will be the Republican Nominee,”—lamenting, you guessed it, the Donald’s status as the presumptive nominee—Saroyan suggests that Democrats ought to be “very concerned about the general election.” He further asserts that perhaps, “the DNC shouldn’t write [Sanders] off too quickly,” citing Clinton’s electoral weakness. As Mr. Saroyan would have you believe, a Hillary Clinton/Donald Trump general election match up would be unacceptably close, and furthermore, it would be ultimately quite challenging for Secretary Clinton to defeat Trump. But we ought not buy into Saroyan’s disconsolate articulation of general election dynamics. And while he is clearly worried about the “dubiety of the electoral outcomes of states previously known as Democratic strongholds,” he ought to be more worried about the dubiety of his own argumentation.

At the outset, Saroyan claims, appealing to the authority of “serious politicos”, that Trump will dramatically alter Rust Belt voting patterns, significantly threatening traditional liberal strongholds like Michigan or Pennsylvania. Yet, we have little reason to extrapolate from Trump’s strong performance in those states during the primary, to predict his performance against Hillary Clinton in the general election. This is especially true since Republicans constitute far less of the voting public as Democrats do in those states. Taking into account the percentage of all primary-goers won, Trump’s performance in primary contests in the Industrial Midwest are, to quote Nate Silver, “middling by this metric even though Trump won both states.”[1] Furthermore, general election polling of swing states has Trump trailing Clinton by about 10 percentage points[2], a reasonably commanding polling lead and one that will be difficult to surmount. Lastly, Trump faces several demographic challenges that he must overcome in order to consider closing that polling gap [3] As will be subsequently discussed, that isn’t happening any time soon.

Saroyan also contends that national polling clearly demonstrates Clinton’s weakness to Trump during a general election.

A recent Rasmussen poll shows Trump finally polling ahead of Hillary Clinton nationally, albeit only by 2 points (but, re-read the word “national,” that means he is performing at the levels he needs to among decisive demographic groups – like women – to ensure him an electoral edge). This poll may just be an aberration. But, erring on the side of caution, it may signal that the nation, as a whole, is warming up to the Donald and rejecting Hillary Clinton’s middle-ground progressivism.

Suggesting that the nation as a whole is warming up to the Donald and that he is performing well amongst decisive demographic groups is prima facie absurd, but before we get to that, let us first address the Rasmussen poll. Firstly, Rasmussen’s house effect tends to produce predictions substantially more favorable to Republicans[4], suggesting that this poll overweights support for Trump . Additionally, in order to ascertain an accurate picture of current electoral attitudes, we ought to look at an aggregation of the most recent polling as most polling averages as that of RCP and 538 do. A more recent poll, for example, from CNN/ORC gave Clinton a +13 lead over Trump. Furthermore, IBD/TIPP gave Clinton a +7 lead over Trump while USA Today/Suffolk gave Clinton a +11 lead.[5] It is self-evident that three polls, one even more recent than Rasmussen’s, offer a more compelling view of the general election and furthermore, may suggest that the Rasmussen poll is a statistical anomaly.

Suggesting, as the article does, that Donald Trump is performing well amongst key demographics, is a willfully ignorant position. In the latest CNN/ORC poll, Clinton slaughters Trump amongst women voters 62/34 and demolishes him among non-white voters an astonishing 80/15.[6] And if the nation is indeed warming up to Trump’s nationalist populism and rejecting Clinton’s centrist oriented pragmatic liberalism, as the article suggests, why would the nation, in such a case, be more willing to adopt Sander’s tepid articulation of Nordic social democracy? To err on the side of caution, in this case, is simply to err.

Furthermore, it is frankly  ridiculous to imply, as Mr. Saroyan does, that Bernie Sanders supporters would desert Secretary Clinton in order to support Trump as many prominent Republicans, like Mark Salter, Tony Fratto, Ben Howe, and Philip Klein have done for the Donald following Indiana. The “Bernie or Bust” narrative amplifies the voices of  a very small minority of Sanders voters to suggest that a large portion of Sanders’ supporters will either vote for Trump or not vote at all. Further examination proves this incorrect— in fact, Sanders supporters favor Clinton over Trump by a margin of 86-10, while non-Trump Republican voters favor Trump over Clinton 70-24.[7] Furthermore, given that this primary was a relatively civil one, Sanders supporters who would never vote for Clinton will be more inclined to not vote at all, rather than to vote for the other party, as compared to their Republican counterparts

Our latest estimates have Clinton beating Trump by 347 electoral votes to 191 in a New York Times’ projection of a likely scenario.[8] At the same time, Trump is deeply unpopular with general election voters, and has incredibly low favorability ratings—a traditional metric of a candidate’s lower and/upper bound in elections.[9] Despite all of the signs suggesting otherwise, however, Bernie Sander’s supporters still cling to the myth that Clinton is critically unelectable. There is certainly a palpable resignation among Sanders supporters, for it is hard to pin one’s hopes on a candidate that does not inspire you. And Hillary has never been the candidate of resounding hope and dynamic change, a role which then Senator Obama played in 2008 and which Bernie Sanders has assumed in 2016. Hers is not to consider what American could be but what it can be. Political pragmatism isn’t exciting. But that is no reason to question whether Clinton will beat Donald Trump in the regular. Because, Donald trump will be the Republican nominee, but he will not be our next president.