Why Won't Bernie Quit? Just One Word: "Triangulation"

Why is the media so surprised and perplexed that Bernie refuses to give up? His agenda is as clear as day: he is refusing to let the Clintons triangulate their way to the Oval Office, and dumping progressive issues along the way.

For those who don't remember, or were too young to know, the term "triangulation" was coined by Bill Clinton's political Svengali Dick Morris. Basically it's a fancy word for compromise. Sometimes referred to as the "Third Way," it was the brainchild of Bill Clinton and it dominated a new brand of Democratic thinking championed by the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC).

Clinton, Morris and the DLC believed that to win, Democrats needed to shift away from left-leaning policies. Morris, especially, believe that the best way for Clinton to get re-elected in 1996 was to move to the center of the political spectrum for political expediency and tactical advantage, rather than for ideological reasons. Clinton adopted many Republican ideas to neutralize their criticism. Sometimes this meant jettisoning cherished liberal policies.

Morris told the PBS program Frontline, in 2000, that:

"I didn't care at all [that the Republicans held Congress]. In fact, I feel that it was in many ways better for Bill Clinton if the Republicans did, because it permitted him to get rid of the craziness of the liberals in the Democratic Party and go with the centrist achievements that I think have worked so well for the country."

And Morris thought that Bill Clinton would get more from working with Republicans than with Democrats -- that Democrats would make him a "hostage:"

"I said [to Bill Clinton in 1994], 'They [the Democrats] will become your jailers. You won't be their candidate; you'll be their hostage. And you'll be spending every waking moment going around the liberal, Black, Hispanic caucuses, handing out goodies to try to round up the last Democratic vote, because you need them all to defeat the Republicans. Whereas, if you play it in the center, you'll get a good many Republican votes, and you'll be able to pass your bills.'"

What Triangulation Wrought

It's easy to imagine Bernie Sanders' reaction to the idea of getting "rid of the craziness of the Liberals."

What we got for it was NAFTA, which he has railed against incessantly. It got us welfare reform, likewise criticized by progressives. It got us the Commodities Futures Modernization Act, which gutted Glass-Steagall and set the stage for the financial excesses that caused Great Recession. And let's not forget the smirking face of Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn as he emerged from the White House after negotiating the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy that slammed the closet door on gay military service members.

Those are the kinds of triangulation strategies that Sanders wants to block. And given that Hillary has waffled on Keystone and TPP and many other progressive priorities, his fear does not seem misplaced. Whether you agree with Sanders or not, Hillary is prone to centrist compromise almost more than her husband.

Triangulation Foretold

Way back in 2012, a conservative blogger foretold the return of triangulation, this time in the person of Hillary Clinton.

This blogger argued that a 2012 speech to the DNC by Bill Clinton "will eventually go down in political history as the most perfect triangulation strategy ever designed and implemented." He believed that Bill was setting up Hillary to run against a "failed" Obama presidency in 2016, in addition to running against the GOP nominee. There is plenty of evidence to refute the notion of a "failed" Obama presidency, but the idea of running against Obama by tacking rightward is harder to refute.

Back in March 2015, a Tufts University professor and blogger for the Washington Post, Daniel Drezner, saw just such a strategy taking shape. He said:

"The more centrist she seems compared to Obama, the better for her campaign. And because for one reason or another there's no serious primary challenger in the Democratic camp, Clinton does not need to engage in the conservative policy outbidding that's currently taking place on the GOP side of the ledger. Will it work? It worked for Bill Clinton, but it's a different political time, and Hillary Clinton -- along with every other mortal -- is a less-skilled political candidate."

Bernie, the Socialist Firewall

Of course, that was before the Bernie juggernaut.

Now, Sanders is no fool. He knows he's no longer running for the nomination. But what he also know, with absolute certainty, is that he is the only thing standing between Hillary and a full-bore strategy of triangulation, in which she would jettison just as many cherished liberal policies (and accomplishments) as her husband - on foreign policy, economic policy, environmental policy and regulating the economic and political power of big corporations.

Sanders is a wily old guy who has been round the block many times. He saw the Clintonian writing on the wall and said, "Hell no."

And now his aim is to drag Hillary leftward: as far as possible, for as long as possible. He will give her not one inch of room to backpedal on the current progressive agenda. His message is: "Sorry lady you're not gonna triangulate your way out of this one."

He will be a force at the convention, and throughout the general, dogging her, nipping at her heels, goading her, and reminding her that she takes progressive support for granted at her own peril. It didn't cost her husband the White House, but he will do his best to ensure that it costs her dearly if she tries it this time around.

So don't expect Bernie to go away and time soon. He will be with us to November and beyond... Probably remaining a thorn in Hillary's side as long as her presidency may last.