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Monday, April 09, 2018

Brand Democrat

by digby

This is disturbing:

A Michigan gubernatorial candidate who has branded himself as the Bernie Sanders of the 2018 race privately mused about running as an independent or Republican just weeks before launching his campaign, according to four political consultants and one small business association representative he met with.

Shri Thanedar, a millionaire who has poured millions of dollars of his own money into the race, ultimately decided to run as a progressive Democrat. He is now first in some polls, eclipsing former state Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer and former Detroit Public Health chief Abdul El-Sayed, whose campaign is largely staffed by veterans of Sanders’s actual presidential campaign.

Thanedar has referred to himself as a “fiscally savvy Bernie,” and is pushing a platform full of Sanders’s progressive policy priorities. He’s claiming he will advocate for things like a single-payer health care system and a $15 minimum wage, both of which are uphill battles in Michigan and can only pass with a committed governor and legislature who do not abandon them out of political timidity. The campaign ads he has spent millions on call him the “most progressive Democrat running for governor.”

From the Shri Thanedar campaign ad “Science,” aired in December 2017.

Joe DiSano, who runs the Michigan-based consulting firm DiSano Strategies, told The Intercept that he first met with Thanedar in January 2017, before he announced his bid for governor. “Shri didn’t know what party banner to run under. But he was certainly running,” DiSano said.

At the time, DiSano was advising Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, who was considering joining the race.

“I told him, even if I was free to help, I couldn’t assist if he ran as a Republican. I offered to help him work through the process if he ran as a Democrat,” said DiSano. “He agreed to run as a Democrat, but it wasn’t until well into February 2017. Initially, he was playing with the idea of running as an independent. I pointed out, in Michigan that is almost impossible at the statewide level. Finally, I ran some numbers showing him that futility of running as an independent.”

Adrian Hemond, CEO at Grassroots Midwest, which advises candidates in both major parties, met with Thanedar in late winter of 2017 (he could not recall the exact date).

Hemond, who is a prominent Michigan Democratic consultant, was joined by Dan McMaster, a prominent Republican consultant, as well as Brian Began, a former staffer for Michigan’s House Republican Caucus. At the meeting, they asked Thanedar what party he was thinking of running in.

To their surprise, Hemond said, Thanedar told them it didn’t matter.

“He came to us looking for advice about running for governor, and was obviously in the market for a consultant,” he said. “We asked him what party he wanted to run from and he said he didn’t care. He said whichever side we thought he had the best chance to win on. Which we thought was interesting.”

They started asking Thanedar about his positions on the issues. “He tried to be very cagey about what his issue positions were,” Hemond said. “For instance, we had a conversation about abortion politics. And we told him, look, you know, if you run as a Democrat, then obviously you’re going to be running as being pro-choice. If you run as a Republican, then you’re going to have to run as being pro-life. Are you going to be comfortable with that? Is your family going to be comfortable with that? He indicated yes. I don’t know if that was just him in sort of his political ambition, saying, yeah, I’ll play along with that, or if he was just trying to game that out. But we asked him about issue positions on a number of different issues that can play in one or the other of the primaries. And his position was mostly that he didn’t care. That he would adopt whatever position was beneficial for him to run for governor.”

Trump did the same thing before he ran. He even played with running on the Reform Party ticket in 2000. He finally found that the full blown racist GOP was a good fit for him. This guy obviously wouldn't be able to exploit that so he's running as a Democrat. And I suppose that the fact that his "market research" says he can better win as a left leaning Democrat can be construed a good news but it only goes so far.

I think this is a function of our new obsession with electing people without political experience. Naturally wealthy people will be in the best position to take advantage of that and there's no reason to believe they know or care about anything but a very narrow set of issues in which they might have a personal stake.

It may be that this guy just wants the trappings of office and a title and really doesn't care about issues at all. It's possible it will turn out well because he would stack his cabinet and hire advisers from the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic party and they'll govern effectively. Or it could just be chaos as it is with Trump.

The problem is that these people have to make decisions in a partisan world of competing interests and ultimately the buck really does stop with them. If they have no ideology, philosophy or even any knowledge of the issues there's no way to know what they're going to do. Why would voters who actually care about their state and their country trust anything they say?

On the other hand if you just hate all politicians so much that you want to blow up the whole government then this might be a good way to go about it. It's certainly working out well on the national level.