Why did Bernie Sanders’ campaign fail?

Are you sure it failed? Certainly, Sanders has been precluded from being the nominee for a long time but it prevented the no-challenge Clinton coronation that everyone was afraid of. That is not to be sneezed at.

Beside, by out flanking her ideologically he has forced her into the unfortunate position of having as her best argument “I’m not Trump.”

But let’s examine some things that undermined the campaign.

  1. TOO NICE – Sanders was a remarkably civil, high-concept opponent. Not to sound cynical but that doesn’t really work in presidential politics.
  2. THE WORD SOCIALISM — There are two problems with using the word “socialism.” First is the obvious one. It’s just not true.

    Sanders is no socialist, nowhere near it. Nationalization of industry and abolishment of normal buying and selling are central and inseparable to the definition of socialism and both are conspicuously absent from Sander’s agenda. Sanders is a garden variety social democrat (which is a world of difference from “democratic socialist” a term with no accepted prior definition.) This left the unavoidable impression that Sanders was either uninformed or reaching for shock value. Neither is a good look on a presidential candidate.

    The second problem with “socialism” is that it invites false but hard to rebut comparisons to failed states such as Venezuela. What is happening in Venezuela is the inevitable result of the combination of price controls and artificially fixed currency exchange rates which encourage the normally economically irrational practice of buying things in order to export them out of the country. This has very little to do with socialism and the majority of Venezuelan industry is privately owned.

  3. WRONG PHRASING — I cannot say it enough, “income inequality” is a junk concept. To be sure, it’s a real and existential threat to the stability of our civilization in the long-term and when it entails rigging and economic fakery, which is more commonly than imagined, it is morally wrong but the problem lies in how it is termed. “Income inequality” sounds greedy and entitled. You get nowhere with that. Try talking about “dramatic collapse in upward mobility.”

    When you phrase it that way, many Sanders initiatives such as free at the point of use healthcare and higher education sound less like lazy-bum handouts and more like investments in that thing Donald Trump keeps talking about: Making America Great. The tack that Sanders and the left at large are taking is ideologically immoderate and renders cross-aisle support unlikely.

  4. IMPRACTICALITY — You don’t have to have a degree in politics to determine that there is zero chance in hell of Sanders implementing even a single plank of his platform as long as Republicans control the House and/or Senate. More likely than not they will retain the House and Senate. Sanders never articulated any idea as to how he was going to actually implement this. Rather, he embraced what is sometimes termed “whig history” – the idea of historical inevitability of progress towards certain ideas. That is to say, no action was required other than a vague “political revolution.” We all know what happened to the Whigs.
  5. TACTICAL ERROR — I admire the spirit of the comment about “your damn emails” but that was a mistake. We, voters, are obliged to consider the matter. Not necessarily because of alleged illegality per se but because of what pattern of secrecy, contempt for rules and disregard for appearances of propriety they evince.

The Nice Guys

(Grade: Ineligible for grade)

Well… I have never actually walked out of a cinema before. The dialogue thinks itself clever: it’s flat. The acting thinks itself arch, it’s insipid. The shooting thinks itself knowing, it’s literal. The scenario thinks itself adult, it’s “adult” instead. Is this a comedy? Then why isn’t it funny? Damn it. If it is a drama, why is nothing happening?

It’s like Quentin Tarantino without the vulgarity of affect. (And Q.T. without vulgarity is, what exactly?)

There are bits and pieces that sort-of work (the towel gag is stupid, but legitimately funny) but they’re like sequins floating on a drum of oil. It’s not that the parts that don’t work are actively bad it’s just that when you have enough zeroes the average trends to so nearly zero as to not matter. The whole has no more purchase than air itself.

One would not truly watch this movie; at best, one might ‘note’ it. The breaking point was the interminably over-long scene at the burnt out house that ended with a non-sequitur 12 year old offering to show a bunch of middle aged men his member for $20. (It is, he claims, sizable.) This is not funny. It is brazen. Brazen is not the same thing as daring; and everything that is brazen is not necessarily funny.

It’s the sort of thing one is forced to laugh at but this is because the alternative is to feel very icky. I suppose that the “joke” could just possibly have been gotten away with if it was one-and-done; but the writers dragged it out and out and out and then had the characters continue to discuss it in the next scene! (The #1 Cinema Sin: characters talking about things that have just happened*.)

As it stands, you can just see the writer at his typewriter, having pounded out those lines, rubbing his hands and cackling “haha, aren’t I clever?” — No, Shane. You’re not.

By my calculations, this scene cannot be more than 45 minutes into the film, but it felt like two hours. A couple of scenes followed that were just padding and then randomly the characters are off to a party to look for a MacGuffin. Then yet another car ride-and-talk** and, suddenly, a little voice in my head barged in—as operators once did on pay phones to tell you to deposit another quarter. Only this little voice said: ‘Why are you still watching this?’ So Nice Guys became only the fifth movie (and the second starring Ryan Gosling!) that I intentionally stopped watching and, most importantly, the first (and I hope, only) that I left a cinema showing of.

Here’s the updated, chronological list: 1. Being John Malkovich 2. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit 3. Only God Forgives (Hi, Ryan! Sorry you keep turning up in shitty movies ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.) 4. Interstellar and now, 5. The Nice Guys.

I’ve always made every effort to finish movies, even if I hate them. I respect the art and craft, even when its artisans and crafters can’t hack it. I struggled to the disspiriting ends of Antichrist (the most favorable thing I can find to say is that the possibility cannot be completely excluded that the film is a hoax perpetrated by the filmmaker on the independent cinema establishment to expose them all as picayune, artless frauds) and The Revenant (154 minutes too much for Oscar Bait.) But then, I was with someone each time and leaving would’ve violated certain social norms.

I did also finish Inglorious Basterds, which is nearly as bad and can’t even spell, on my own.

There seem to be some issues with contemporary filmmaking. The last movie which I saw, which I would rate A+ was made in 1994. The last individual episode of TV that I would rate A+ was made in 2014. I grade on a curve, A+ is twice, even thrice as good as A. I guess that it’s not totally horrible that 22 years have passed since a movie deserving the highest possible grade was last made but where are the A and even the B movies? There should be at least one or two a year.

Hell, even a B- isn’t awful, it is OK to make B- movies! There should be dozens of those yearly! (The last B- was Skyfall way back in 2012. Another B- was Argo, earlier the same year.)

Again, comparing to television: there have been many shows of the last half-dozen years which I would give a composite rating of at least B- and two that I would grade individual seasons of as B+.

To be sure, I can’t see everything and some days I feel as if I will never get enough time to see anything at all! But nothing crosses my radar. And when, as here, against my better judgement I see a film based on positive notices… I’m proved right.

(I’m talking about fiction, documentaries are excluded from this discussion. Excellent cinema and TV documentaries continue to be made.)

* Unless the talking leads to new information for the audience.

** Car talk never works. Ever. Not even in True Detective. Especially in True Detective. At least Nice Guy’s car talk is flaccid, not comically pretentious.