Here is Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, a staunch supporter of Hillary Clinton who has campaigned for her extensively:

“I think Bernie’s terrific as an advocate. There’s a difference between a strong community advocate and being someone who can get things done.”

And here is Sarah Palin, speaking at the 2008 Republican National Convention:

“Before I became governor of the great state of Alaska, I was mayor of my hometown. And since our opponents in this presidential election seem to look down on that experience, let me explain to them what the job involves. I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a “community organizer,” except that you have actual responsibilities.”

I guess Stabenow has some kind of internal filter that made her recognize that deriding Sanders as an ineffectual community “organizer” would be too redolent of a certain Caribou Barbie, but changing the word to “advocate” doesn’t alter the meaning.

A night after Hillary Clinton tried to convince Democrats that she’s not part of the establishment, her establishment supporters are out in force trying to marginalize her opponent. Sens. Gary Peters and Claire McCaskill are making the unelectable argument, which has gotten Sanders’ congressional supporters upset.

“Campaign operatives of hers and some surrogates continue to promote the attitude that we should be dismissive. That it can’t be done. That he’s not qualified,” said Rep. Raúl Grijalva, who has endorsed Sanders.

He said McCaskill’s approach “evokes the ghost of [former Wisconsin Sen. Joseph] McCarthy [R].”

“It’s red-baiting and you’ll probably see more of that unfortunately, but I don’t think it’s going to stick.”

In the normal course of events, I’m probably more sympathetic to progressives like Raúl Grijalva, but I think he’s the one who’s guilty of hyperbole here. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with making the argument, which is really just an opinion anyway, that Sanders won’t win the general election because people are uncomfortable with “socialism.”

My view is probably closer to Jerry Nadler’s:

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), who represents a reliably liberal Manhattan district, said a Sanders nomination could provide a “fresh face” for the party — or result in utter disaster.

“His candidacy, were he the nominee, could conceivably be a real problem down-ballot. It could be a big loser because people are still terrified by the word ‘socialist,’ et cetera. Or not,” Nadler said.

“One of the reasons I’m supporting Hillary is that I don’t want to take that gamble,” he added.

That’s a big “or not” sitting out there. A lot of people want to vote for Sanders but aren’t willing to gamble on him. That’s why this electability question is being pushed so aggressively by the Clinton surrogates in the establishment. And, it could very well be that they’re correct. I wish I knew, honestly.

One thing I’m sure about, though, is that breaking out the Sarah Palin talking points isn’t smart. Talk about how people view socialism all you want, but don’t dismiss community organizers or advocates.

This isn’t a Republican campaign.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at