Political News

With Sanders, Democrats choose revolution over resistance

Posted February 24, 2020 4:17 a.m. EST

— Democrats are on the cusp of making a very important decision after Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' decisive win in Saturday's Nevada caucuses. Faced with a choice between moderates promising a way back to the pre-Donald Trump era -- the resistance -- and Sanders' revolutionary vision for a radically different America, voters are choosing revolution.

Sanders has momentum. If the question is whether Democrats should pick the candidate with the most energized base of support, there's no doubt Sanders deserves the nomination. But his attacks on wealth and inequality, and his uncompromising rhetoric about systemic change will continue to alienate a lot of people. The problem? Those voters haven't coalesced around any one candidate.

Unless that changes, Sanders will continue to rack up delegates and he will very soon seem unstoppable Sanders has already declared that the Democratic establishment can't stop him. It was clear he plans to take by force the party he's never joined but may soon be chosen to lead.

What about the (big) middle?

A Sanders victory would mean moderates and independents in the middle of the political spectrum may not have an option on Election Day. It also means, if it happens, the two US political parties will have been bent out of recognition from what they were short years ago.

A choice between someone with no ideology -- or an ideologue. If Sanders wins the nomination, the choice voters face will be either a President whose policy stems from his frustration at immigrants and his own self interests or a senator whose had the same views for decades and is promising changes that seem impossible to pass through a Senate that requires supermajorities to get much done.

The Democratic debate Tuesday in South Carolina provides an opportunity for the rest of the Democratic field to take Sanders on in a way it has not yet done -- because candidates were too preoccupied with taking shots at Mike Bloomberg in the Nevada debate. Last week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren tried to compare Bloomberg to Trump -- both egomaniacs and billionaires, she said.

Now Pete Buttigieg, the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor, wants to create a similar equivalence between Trump and Sanders. It's "just replacing one form of divisiveness with another," he said. He's making an aggressive play to be the candidate of the middle, challenging irregularities in the count for a (distant) second in Nevada.

Yes, South Carolina's primary next Saturday is only the fourth nominating contest of the season and yes, Sanders, the democratic socialist promising radical change to the US health care and higher education systems, does not have this thing sewn up. But things start moving very fast from here on out and while the accumulation of delegates will take months, it could be clear after Super Tuesday that Sanders will go into the convention this summer with most people behind him.

Two nights of CNN town halls

CNN will host two nights of town halls this week featuring the leading Democratic presidential candidates.

The hourlong individual town halls will air in primetime on Monday and Wednesday, and will follow the CNN town hall format of candidates taking questions directly from audience members and a moderator.

Here's the lineup:

Monday

Sanders at 9 p.m. ETButtigieg at 10 p.m. ETSteyer at 11 p.m. ET

Wednesday

Bloomberg at 7 p.m. ETBiden at 8 p.m. ETKlobuchar at 9 p.m. ETWarren at 10 p.m. ET

Trump heads to India on a high

The President is heading to India, where he'll have a "Namaste Trump" stadium rally. He'll also make a stop at the Taj Mahal with first lady Melania Trump. The trip comes with his approval at home rising to its highest point since he was inaugurated.

From CNN's Harry Enten:

A new Gallup national poll finds that Trump has a 49% approval rating and a disapproval rating of 48%. That's very similar to its previous poll and marks the first time since January 2017 that Trump has a net (approval - disapproval) positive approval rating in the Gallup poll.

Russian interference report lacked nuance

Shelby Pierson, the US intelligence community's top election security official, appears to have overstated the intelligence community's formal assessment of Russian interference in the 2020 election, omitting important nuance during a briefing with lawmakers earlier this month, officials told CNN.

Here's the three key points:

Pierson told lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee that Russia is interfering in the 2020 election with the goal of helping Trump get reelected.The US intelligence community has assessed that Russia is interfering in the 2020 election and has separately assessed that Russia views Trump as a leader they can work with.But the US does not have evidence that Russia's interference this cycle is aimed at reelecting Trump, the officials said.

Read more from CNN's Jeremy Diamond, Jake Tapper and Zachary Cohen.

Trump has been periodically briefed on Russian interference in the 2020 election, but was upset when he learned of Pierson's characterization of the intelligence in part because intelligence officials had not characterized the interference as explicitly pro-Trump.

One national security official said Russia's only clear aim, as of now, is to sow discord in the US.

O'Brien muddies the waters

National security adviser Robert O'Brien discussed the intelligence briefing with his own remarkable lack of nuance in an interview on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday.

O'Brien denied the existence of an intelligence assessment regarding Russian interference aimed at helping Trump but, notably, did not explain that the US has also assessed that the Kremlin views Trump as a leader they can work with.

"Well, there's no briefing that I've received, that the President has received, that says that President Putin is doing anything to try and influence the elections in favor of President Trump. We just haven't seen that intelligence. If it's out there, I haven't seen it. I'd be surprised if I haven't seen it. The leaders of our -- the IC have not seen it," he said.

O'Brien was also quick to seize on reports that Russia is interfering in the election to help Sanders in the Democratic primaries -- and mischaracterized the reports to suggest Russia wants Sanders to be President.

What are we doing here?

The American system of government has been challenged to deal with a singular President and a divided country that will decide whether he should get another four years in the White House.

Stay tuned to this newsletter as we keep watch over the Trump administration, the 2020 presidential campaign and other issues of critical interest.

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