Sanders didn’t help matters by coming up short time and again with genuine specifics on how he would change things. That was especially evident—and probably harmful to him in the New York voting on Tuesday—when Sanders gave thin and dismissive responses to the New York Daily News editorial board’s probing questions about which bureaucratic tools he’d use to achieve his goals, the economic consequences of his plans and the particulars of his foreign policy. In doing so, he validated the Clinton campaign critique that, in Bill Clinton’s words, he’s a “change-talker, not a change-maker.”
The Daily News debacle was the final battle Sanders lost in the Democratic wonk war. Back in February, former Democratic members of the White House Council of Economic Advisers criticized the Sanders campaign for claiming his plans would spark an unrealistic amount of economic growth. Their call was backed up by many Democrats’ favorite economic guru: the New York Times’ Paul Krugman. The circle of Sanders-friendly wonks fired back, and Krugman’s name was suddenly mud in the leftist corners of Facebook. Sanders’ allies also made game defenses of his Daily News interview. But it’s not enough to have others fill in the blanks for you. The bottom line is: Sanders never seized the opportunity to show his policy depth and political savvy.
Clinton, however, seized the same opportunity to sell her pragmatism. There is no doubt that she was pushed to the left in the course of the campaign. But it is also true that she drew lines marking where she would stand her ground, even at the risk of campaigning in prose instead of poetry.