Negotiator Between Progressives and Moderates of the Democratic Party
"There is a lot of sentiment that enough is enough, that we need fundamental changes, that the establishment — whether it is the economic establishment, the political establishment or the media establishment — is failing the American people." –Bernie Sanders, April 30th, 2015.This excerpt came as Sanders announced his Democratic bid for the White House and marked the start of an electrifying campaign for presidency. An independent state senator from Vermont, former state representative and former Mayor of Burlington, VT, Sanders galvanized a new generation of voters considered progressives. His campaign has railed against big money in politics, blasted corporate media, challenged establishment politics, embraced #BlackLivesMatter (after some protesting), and championed working-class America. He’s called his campaign a “Political Revolution.” Ballots are still being counted in California and Sanders is closing the gap with Clinton. However, with a pledged delegate count of 1,831 to 2,220 Sanders to Clinton, it is mathematically not possible for the self-proclaimed “Democratic Socialist” to be the democratic nominee. With the democratic national convention in July and Sanders vowing to work with Clinton to beat Donald Trump, this “Political Revolution” is turning out to be more of a negotiation between progressive ideals and moderate ideals for the direction of the Democratic Party. The premise of this post is to dissect Sanders and his negotiation between the far-left of the democrats and the center-left, Clinton in this case represents the center-left, and Bernie the far-left.
This post will analyze Bernie Sanders’ campaign as a negotiation with the Democratic Party. The analysis will take the framework of Tricks of the Trade by Robert Burdick, ten points on executing a good negotiation, and look at Sanders' power in this negotiation, the degree of difficulty he selected, his strategy, how he disarmed the opposition, clue searching, explanation of his power, the path to agreement on common grounds, his brainstorm of valuable options, his bargaining, and the use of deadlines.
To enter into a presidential race, particularly for one of the most powerful developed countries, one has to consider the type of power they have. There are six different kinds of power that will be used to analyze what Sanders has. The first is constructive power. Entering into the presidential race, Sanders did not have much constructive power. The perception the media, democratic establishment, and the general public had of his ability to clinch the nomination was not high. Last June, polling numbers in the country’s first contest, Iowa, did not favor Sanders at 16% to Clinton’s commanding 57%. As the campaign moved on and the debates began, it was clear that progressive Sanders did have some obstructive power towards the moderate Clinton campaign and nearing towards the end of the race he won a surprising 23 contests.
Finally, there is personal power. Prior to becoming a democratic candidate, Sanders was the most well-known independent politician in Washington D.C. always advocating for the low to middle class. An activist in his youth, Sanders was arrested for protesting segregation in Chicago public schools and he attended the March on Washington where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. His passion for justice and equality seem to be part of the personal power used in his negotiation for a progressive democratic party.
After addressing one’s power or perceived power, the next step is to select their “Degree of Difficulty.” For Sanders that choice was more complicated than it appeared. In a presidential race the only perceived option is the Best Deal, to win the democratic nomination and then to run against the Republican nominee. As the negotiation nears and end for Senator Sanders it would appear that “The Enhanced Best Deal” is the option that he is seeking. With close to 1900 pledged delegates and a generation of young voters that have organized for him, he does have a considerable amount of power and he’s stated he is not afraid to use it. He has challenged the Democratic National Committee on numerous occasions. It would seem that his end game, which will be explained later, is an enhanced best deal that challenges the Democratic platform and making it as progressive as possible.
A good presidential campaign has to be well planned out and this negotiation is, “for the soul of the democratic party.” In this plan two key areas were looked at, fundraising and debating. As mentioned earlier, Senator Sanders has raised hundreds of millions of dollars, from mostly small campaign contributions, and without the help of wealthy Super PACs. This fundraising strategy made his negotiation with the democratic party that much more powerful. He could argue that his campaign is for the people and has been funded by the people. His opponent, Hilary Clinton has accepted contributions from “big money” donors, Wall Street executives have raised around $23 million for Clinton.
Debating was another part of the strategic planning in the negotiation. Before the race had even gained any real momentum for any of the democratic candidates, the DNC had decided that only four televised debates would be scheduled, many outside of prime time. This was viewed as a move to keep the Clinton campaign from having to do much debating on the issues. The effort the DNC put into making Clinton’s path to the Democratic nomination will further be explained later. However, after the four debates were concluded, it was clear that Sanders was pushing the progressive platform forward. His debating rivaled that of Clinton’s, they were both good at the craft. He was able to lobby for further televised debates by the DNC, most notably the debate that the two had in Brooklyn, NY. The debates were an important part of the negotiation strategy because it allowed for his progressive positions in the negotiation to be broadcast to the nation as a whole, and he was able to challenge the positions of his moderate opponent.
Disarming the Opposition
Disarming the opposition is another technique that is often used in a negotiation. While a presidential campaign is usually about the candidate winning the nomination and ultimately the election, that was not entirely the case for Sanders. The Sanders campaign, while very poignant and at times abrasive did not outright attack or slander the Clinton campaign. Even during debates when the Monica Lewinsky scandal or the email scandal on Clinton’s end were brought up by moderators, Sanders did not engage. In fact he criticized the moderators for doing so. This technique made sure that both of the candidates did not move away from the point of the negotiation which for him was the issues that affect the average American.
Had Sanders not been able to approach the negotiation in such a manner his message would have been lost in controversy. As was clear with the Republican debates and campaigns, the candidates were often taking personal attacks at one another as opposed to discussing the issues or the platform they were considering in their bid for presidency. In disarming the opposition this validated his stance in the negotiation.
A technique that has proven to be quite useful in a presidential campaign, Clue-searching helped bolster Sanders’ negotiation. A negotiator is almost always better off seeking to understand the other parties’ interests, standards of fairness, factual assumptions about the situation and alternatives to a negotiated outcome. There were many clues that Sanders’ relied upon during his campaign to build his case for nomination. With Sanders representing the progressives of America the “democratic socialist” took advantage of any information that showed Clinton was not for the working class. Probably Sanders’ biggest message in his campaign was to break up the big banks in Wall Street, he wanted to make sure that venture capitalist and Wall Street CEO’s could be punished for actions that ushered America into one of the country’s worst recessions. Clinton on the other hand had considerable donations to her campaign from Wall Street executives. That alongside the steep speaking fees she charges for companies like Goldman Sachs were clues he used to shape his negotiation.
Another part of the campaign was a focus on racial inequality and police brutality. Clinton came under pressure by #BlackLivesMatter activists for he remarks on young African Americans calling them “Super predators.” Sanders came out and called Clinton’s remarks racist. When it came to issues of military action, Sanders once again used his clue searching to go on the offensive against Clinton. Clinton had relished in a previous interview that former secretary of state Henry Kissinger was proud of her. Kissinger, arguably destabilized much of Latin America by means of US backed coups of Latin American governments. Furthermore, he pushed for bombings in Cambodia. Kissinger’s actions were so grotesque that some have considered trying him for war crimes. Sanders used these clues in his debate to blast Clinton on her foreign policy. Sanders went on to criticize Clinton’s handling of Libya, which has since destabilized the region and made the country a proxy for ISIS. The clue-searching techniques he used further pushed his progressive position and made a case for Clinton and center-left democrats to move closer to progressive ideals.
Sharing common ground depending on the negotiation can be hard, but if both parties can agree on some issues, than reaching a resolution is possible. Sanders said he was not running to be an obstructionist since the beginning of campaign. The common ground that his far-left and Clinton’s center-left agreed upon was stopping the election of Donald J. Trump. Both candidates have agreed that if the country were to elect Trump as president it would be a disaster. A candidate that chooses the bully pulpit, endorsed by the KKK, incites violence towards minority groups, and has bankrupted numerous business ventures, is who both candidates want to stop from taking power.
Brainstorming valuable options is another technique that is often used in what could be considered a good negotiation. Going into a presidential campaign however, there is little brainstorming with the opponents as to valuable options both sides can agree upon. The bottom line is to be nominated as the party’s presidential candidate. Nevertheless, Sanders was able to negotiate the addition of 5 appointees that would decide on the platform for the Democratic Party. Another option that was put forth by the Sanders camp was that the Democratic National Convention in July would be a contested convention where the delegates would decide then and there who they’d choose for the party’s nomination.
While this current negotiation is still in progress it seems as though Sanders reached the bargaining stage. Sanders laid off more than half of his campaign staff after losing the primary in California and it looks as though all was lost for his bottom line. Sanders continues to point out the amount of delegates he’s acquired during his campaign, an exercise of the type of power he’s amassed. Moreover, as mentioned earlier, he did win a concession with being able to appoint the likes of climate activist Bill McKibben and activist/intellectual Dr. Cornel West to decide on the party’s platform. He’s attacked DNC chair Debbie Wasserman for the poor and unfair handling of the DNC and this has incited calls for her resignation. In concession, he’s said that he would vote for Clinton if she becomes the nominee and presidential candidate.
Finally, the use of deadlines is important to a negotiator. Sanders made use of July 25th being the deadline for this negotiation. He wants to push the Democratic Party as far left as he has the power to do and frequently threatens a contested convention.
Still Feeling the Bern?
In the unlikely event that Sanders gets a contested convention and becomes the party nominee, he failed to get to Yes. There are several reasons that happened. The first reason is that he failed to realize his walking power; there are polls that show with Sanders as the nominee, he would beat Trump handily. Trump and Clinton’s favor-ability ratings are some of the worst between to presidential nominees in recent history. Figures show if people had the choice between Sanders, Trump and Clinton, Sanders would win. This data gives credibility to Sanders walking power, breaking away from the Democratic Party and running in the Green Party could have been a legitimate threat to use. Current Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein has reached out to Sanders for years and was willing to be the VP had he decided to run as a third party candidate. He had the people, the delegates, and the money to lead his “political revolution” out of the blue and into the green.
The truth is, with the way the negotiation is set up, Sanders’ competition is more powerful than he. And so far it looks as though he is searching for the best alternative to a negotiated agreement. He was out advertised, the DNC was pretty much cozying up to the Clinton Campaign, there were incidences of votes disappearing or being mishandled, he had to sue to get his name back on some ballots, and the huge hurdle of super delegates not being subject to voters’ decisions. Moreover, as a former independent, closed primaries did him a disservice because that meant any independent voters were not allowed to participate. He did not recognize that the opposition had that much more power in the negotiation with those issues to confront. As the Democratic National Convention approaches it will be interesting to see how the end of Bernie Sanders negotiation between the progressives and moderates plays out or if he indeed is leading a “political revolution.”