Institutionalists v. "Insurrectionists"

Today on Kagro in the Morning, in the midst of a discussion with David Waldman on the Supreme Court’s decision in Whole Women’s Health v Hellerstedt (PDF) (discussion begins (begins at 46 minute mark of the discussion linked above), David and I segued to an exploration of what exactly is meant by the idea of “institutionalists v. insurrectionists”. the starting point was this interview of Chris Hayes:

ISAAC CHOTINER I think in many ways Hillary Clinton is not an ideal candidate to bridge this gap, both because of her troubles speaking to white working-class voters and her closeness to our version of the City of London.

CHRIS HAYES: I also think that I would also say in a way that’s true for Barack Obama but even more so: She’s just a really dyed-in-the-wool institutionalist. That’s not an act. I think there are people who think that’s corrupt, that she’s this corrupt crony person that sits in the nexus of all the nefarious lattice work of elite quid pro quo. I don’t really buy that. I think structurally there’s part of that critique that’s true, just the fact that she has been so close to both the political and economic power in various ways over a long period of time. I think that just personally Hillary Clinton is a hardcore institutionalist who genuinely believes in institutions, believes it is important to make them work as well as possible, thinks that if you put the will and the time and the diligence into them you can make them work and deliver and make the world a better place. I think that is, in certain ways, a belief system that is somewhat out of touch with the moment.

CHOTINER: You mentioned knowing Bernie, and so I was wondering what you think his calculations are right now.

HAYES: I think they’re trying to figure out what to do and I think it’s a hard thing to figure out. People talk all the time about the Hillary and Barack race in 2008. With the exception of the war, which is important, there was not a huge substantive space between them. Not only was there not a huge substantive space, but they were both institutionalists, fundamentally. In this case you have an institutionalist in Hillary Clinton and a genuine insurrectionist in Bernie Sanders who genuinely comes by honestly to every cell of his being his insurrectionism. He thinks that these structures are corrupt, whether it’s the structure of the Democratic Party or the structure of American democracy as we plunge further into plutocracy. That’s not a shtick. That is a deeply help belief, one that is in many senses supported by a huge amount of evidence.

My discussion with David on this point begins at the 1:17 mark which I will recap here.

I question Hayes’ argument regarding institutionalist and insurrectionists. I especially quarrel with his argument that Sanders is a “genuine insurrectionist.” An insurrectionist doesn’t attempt to use institutions, he tries to overturn them. Thus when Sanders runs for the nomination of the institution known as the Democratic Party, he’s not being insurrectionist, he’s being in fact an institutionalist. When he runs to become the President of the United States, that’s not insurrectionism, that’s the height of institutionalism.

Republicans and Democrats are really poles apart on policy, in spite of if all the silly stuff you hear and read. And they grapple election after election to garner control of the institutions that are the vehicles for governing our country.

Consider the Texas pro choice decision issued by the Court yesterday. An institution, the Supreme Court, overturned the populist will of the people of Texas to restrict abortion rights. Here was an elite institution engaging in institutionalism at the expense of “insurrectionism” of a type. But we, Dems and liberals, applaud this decision. Hell, Bernie Sanders applauded it.

Winning the argument, winning the election, winning the control of the institutions of government is, by definition, not “insurrectionist.”

Now to be clear, I have no problem with the rhetoric — revolutionary, transformation, any other word of choice — is standard issue politics. But it is in fact, contra Hayes, a schtick. Like “change.”

Indeed, if you take your rhetoric too seriously, you reach a cul de sac if you don’t win control of the institutions. How can you gain wins, influence people and institutions if the “insurrection” fails?

This is in fact the conundrum Bernie Sanders faces now — how can he stand down from his “insurrection” to consolidate gains in the institutions he wishes to influence? If it is truly insurrection, then it is all or nothing. But if it is just political rhetoric, then you need to give your self a place to retreat. So if Sanders has sold what Hayes describes:

He thinks that these structures are corrupt, whether it’s the structure of the Democratic Party or the structure of American democracy as we plunge further into plutocracy. That’s not a shtick. That is a deeply help belief, one that is in many senses supported by a huge amount of evidence.

If Bernie believes this, then he has no where to land. But contra Hayes, there is in fact a “huge amount of evidence” that Bernie does NOT think that. He has held elective office for 36 years. He has been in Congress for 26 years. He has caucused with Democrats for all of these years. The insurrection sure was slow in coming from Sanders.

And there’s the point. To use the fiery rhetoric of revolution and insurrection is one thing. To actually believe that it is what you really, in its definitional sense, what you want, is an entirely different thing.

Will Bernie endorse? I don't know and I’m not sure it is an important question anymore. Will he actively work against the Democratic nominee and the Democratic Party? Now that is a real and significant question.

In any event, there is more detail in the discussion with David and I urge you to listen if you are interested in this topic.

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    I'll listen...interesting conversation (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by ruffian on Tue Jun 28, 2016 at 02:33:17 PM EST
    I'll be better off listening than reading, since reading the above I can't get past the premise that Clinton has trouble speaking to white working class voters, and that has something to do with these voters not being institutionalists? That pretty much flies in the face of most of what I know about the white working class. They have spent a lot of the last 40 years lamenting the passing of their beloved institutions. As far as I can tell the only institutions they do not currently like are the banks. And they may not like Hillary for many reasons, and Congress for still other reasons.

    I don't think this  means they are insurrectionists, at least not political insurrectionists.

    I think we've (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue Jun 28, 2016 at 03:02:09 PM EST
    certainly moved past whether Bernie endorses Hillary or not matters. At this point he's damaged the issues he purports to care about. He's probably not even going to get a speaking position the way it looks like now. More and more he looks like a sore loser that nobody cares about and have started to ignore.

    The discussion (none / 0) (#1)
    by KeysDan on Tue Jun 28, 2016 at 02:00:14 PM EST
    relies upon a clear understanding of what is meant by institutionalists and insurrectionists, although the former is clearer than the later. Chris Hayes is confident in the meanings of each, to the point of assuring that Sanders' is a "genuine insurrectionist" as opposed, apparently, to other varieties.

    Given that handicap, I believe Sanders "schtick" is to purport to be revolutionary in ideas as a path to new institutions--those more to his liking. At a minimum, Sanders is a straddler, being of institutions but not wanting to be a part of them, unless and until they are his to deploy.

     His unwillingness or inability to define his brand "democratic socialism" is illustrative.  As is his revolution to create new detail-free institutions, such as Medicare for All.

     No incremental change, but revolutionary, since the present is corrupt. The Paul Ryan repeal and replacement with tired Republican free market magic is akin to insurrectionism so as to reach a new institutionalism.

    It is a lot like discerning between liberatarianism and anarchism, getting no further than the differences between nudism and naked people being that the former are better organized than the later. And, maybe, more accepted.

    Today, I met a genuine Bernie (none / 0) (#3)
    by oculus on Tue Jun 28, 2016 at 02:39:18 PM EST
    delegate who is also a piano tecnician, piano mover, and opera chorus member. He was wearing his Bernie shirt and sang me the Bernie song his delegates will sing at the convention!  

    I asked if the Bernie delegates w/intending to disrupt the conventionn. No comment.

    Did his Bernie song ... (none / 0) (#27)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Tue Jun 28, 2016 at 07:49:48 PM EST
    If only. (none / 0) (#28)
    by oculus on Tue Jun 28, 2016 at 09:12:43 PM EST
    Maybe Bernie... (none / 0) (#4)
    by kdog on Tue Jun 28, 2016 at 02:42:34 PM EST
    is best described as an insurrectional institutionalist, and Hillary as an institutional institutionalist.

    And what would that make Trump an institutional insurrectionist?  

    At this point (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by jbindc on Tue Jun 28, 2016 at 02:53:20 PM EST
    Bernie is an "irrelevant institutionaliat".

    So all those people he galvanized could (none / 0) (#7)
    by jondee on Tue Jun 28, 2016 at 03:07:00 PM EST
    just stay home in November and it would have no bearing whatsoever on the election outcome?

    Since over 80% (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by jbindc on Tue Jun 28, 2016 at 03:14:31 PM EST
    In poll after poll already say they'll back Hillary, then no, the small amount of Susan Sarandons of the world  (who aren't going to be convinced anyway) aren't relevant anymore.

    For an example of the sheer quintessence (none / 0) (#14)
    by jondee on Tue Jun 28, 2016 at 03:27:33 PM EST
    of irrelevance, I'll see your Sarandon and raise you your ideal candidate from 2012, Mitt.

    Sh*t man... (none / 0) (#9)
    by kdog on Tue Jun 28, 2016 at 03:16:29 PM EST
    jb's Mr. Irrelevant sure was relevant in the design of the software upgrades found in the Hillary 2.0 operating system.

    He had (5.00 / 2) (#12)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue Jun 28, 2016 at 03:25:24 PM EST
    the most pull right after NY but he kept going until he made himself a nonentity. I guess the thing is he does not know how to actually make things happen 'cause if he did he wouldn't be acting like he is now.

    Proof of Relevance, Your Honor... (none / 0) (#15)
    by kdog on Tue Jun 28, 2016 at 03:31:07 PM EST
    y'all can't stop talking about him.  

    Actually (none / 0) (#16)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue Jun 28, 2016 at 03:33:59 PM EST
    this is the first time I think anybody around here has talked about him lately. Mostly what you see about Bernie these days are jokes where he's the garden gnome or he's stalking Hillary in the White House.

    I'm afraid... (none / 0) (#19)
    by kdog on Tue Jun 28, 2016 at 03:41:18 PM EST
    the jokes on us, but time will tell.

    Not anymore (none / 0) (#10)
    by jbindc on Tue Jun 28, 2016 at 03:18:59 PM EST
    Don't tell me... (none / 0) (#11)
    by kdog on Tue Jun 28, 2016 at 03:23:00 PM EST
    2.0 has already been replaced by Hillary 3.0! Worse than Microsoft that one;)

    Nope (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by jbindc on Tue Jun 28, 2016 at 03:27:03 PM EST
    She's actually who she has been.  Just some people woukd rather blindly believe and regurgitate talking points because it's easier than doing some research!

    Really? (2.00 / 1) (#17)
    by kdog on Tue Jun 28, 2016 at 03:34:34 PM EST
    I haven't heard her mention super-predator minors lately...and I hear her talking about Goldman in a whole new way.

    It's cool, it is an improvement...Thanks Bernie, Thanks Liz.


    Well (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by jbindc on Tue Jun 28, 2016 at 03:38:02 PM EST
    We still haven't seen his tax returns, and he still is in the pocket of the NRA, so you're right.  Not much changed.

    But at least he hasn't voted to poison poor children lately, so that's an improvement!  Thanks, Hillary!


    Spoken like someone... (none / 0) (#21)
    by kdog on Tue Jun 28, 2016 at 03:43:07 PM EST
    feeling the Relevance.  

    to be fair (none / 0) (#20)
    by CST on Tue Jun 28, 2016 at 03:43:07 PM EST
    "I haven't heard her mention super-predator minors lately"

    That's been true for the past 20 years.


    Methinks (none / 0) (#22)
    by FlJoe on Tue Jun 28, 2016 at 04:07:51 PM EST
    the galvanizing torch has been passed on to Senator Warren. More often than not insurrectionists get left at the station. Make no mistake, Warren(ex-republican) is an genuine institutionalist(of the very best sort), yet she
    speaks to the very same voters as Bernie.

    I think (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue Jun 28, 2016 at 04:11:28 PM EST
    that point pretty much came across loud and clear yesterday. Part of it was unity and the other part was Bernie you're done and we're moving on though in all honesty Hillary moved on a long time ago. But maybe something that blatant would get the point across to Bernie that he should pack it up and move on. He really seems incapable of doing that though. It's like he's stuck.

    Bernie (none / 0) (#24)
    by FlJoe on Tue Jun 28, 2016 at 04:36:13 PM EST
    never seems to understand that politics is a team sport. More and more the term "cancer in the clubhouse" comes to mind.

    I think this is a good analysis of how (none / 0) (#25)
    by ruffian on Tue Jun 28, 2016 at 06:58:42 PM EST
    Bernie squandered his leverage, from Jamelle Bouie at Slate.

    Bottom line, he would have had more leverage if he had followed the Warren playbook and gotten out ahead of his followers. Instead he worked on platform stuff that Dems mostly support anyway. I think he believed his own rhetoric about being so far out of the mainstream on things like minimum wage and reform of Glass-Seagull. Dems working on the platform lost no sleep at all over those things. And to the main pint of the thread, none of that is remotely insurrectional.

    I agree (5.00 / 1) (#26)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue Jun 28, 2016 at 07:09:51 PM EST
    I think that article pretty much hits the nail on the head so to speak. Bernie thought holding out longer was better but in reality it is worse but then again Bernie never has understood being on a team and how that works.

    If only. (none / 0) (#29)
    by oculus on Tue Jun 28, 2016 at 09:13:41 PM EST