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Ezra Kleain, Vox, February 11, 2016: What the architects of Obama's 2008 campaign think of the Bernie Sanders campaign
I was a volunteer in the Obama campaigns of 2008 and 2012...and like the Bernie supporters, very passionate. But there is a major difference between us Obama supporters and the Bernie supporters that Ezra Klein has addressed quite well. At least his analysis resonates with me.
"But, in a reaction that may reflect the experience of Obama's presidency as much as his campaign, the Obama veterans are almost universally frustrated by Sanders's message, which they see as both less realistic and less unifying than what they offered in 2008.
"Obama got in the race to be president, and Sanders got in the race to send a message, and you can see that difference in their approaches to policymaking," says Dan Pfeiffer, who was Obama's communications director in 2008. "Obama wouldn't support a policy unless he felt it was feasible if he was president. Sanders doesn't seem to have that limitation, which gives him more message purity and a sharper contrast with Clinton, but is a huge substantive and political problem if he ends up in the White House."
"The Obama-Sanders comparisons are overly facile," Pfeiffer continues. "In 2008, Obama's campaign was about channeling hope, and Sanders's is about channeling anger — well-deserved, righteous anger, but anger nonetheless."
In this telling, the core difference between Obama and Sanders is that Obama's theory of political change was that American politics needed to become less ideological and less conflictual, while Sanders's theory of change is that American politics needs to be made more ideological and more conflictual. Obama thought a better, more technocratic, more generous process would reveal a larger space for compromise, while Sanders thinks a more sharply defined platform will reveal that there's less need than anyone thought for compromise.
I think Pfeiffer pretty well sums it up as I have been struggling and conflicted in trying to see hope in Sanders messaging, but instead I am uncomfortable with the anxiety of what his campaign could lead to in the future. Well one might argue different strokes for different folks and these are different times requiring bolder initiatives. Perhaps, but that doesn't change how I feel.