Shri Thanedar, Faux Bernie Bro?

Aside from the fact that he’s referred to himself as a “fiscally savvy Bernie,” and has one of the worst slogans in American political history, up until today, I knew very little about Michigan gubernatorial candidate Shri Thanedar. I mean, I had a vague sense of him, but I hadn’t read very much about his stances on specific issues. I knew, for instance, that he was an Indian entrepreneur with a majestic bouffant and a flair for self-promotion, but I had no idea where he stood on things like public education, the minimum wage, health care, fixing the roads, or anything else that us Michiganders care about. I just knew that he was rising in the polls, and figured that, sometime this summer, before the August 7 primary, I’d have to invest some time to compare his track record with those of his fellow Democratic frontrunners, Gretchen Whitmer and Abdul El-Sayed. Well, my timeline got accelerated a bit this morning, thanks to an expose in The Intercept. So, now, I’m pretty deep in the weeds, trying to determine if, as the author of the piece suggests, Thanedar really is just an opportunist and a charlatan who chose to wrap himself in the cloak of Bernie Sanders, having sensed the power of the Senator’s populist message… Here, if you’ve yet to read the piece, is an excerpt.

…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.”

Both McMaster and Began confirmed Hemond’s account. “When we met with Sri, obviously the first thing we asked was what party he was in. He wanted to hear our opinion,” Began said. Thanedar, Began recalled, believed that his personal biography would be enough to win the race, and told the consultants he planned to commission a screenplay about himself.

“He was looking for advice on whether to run as an R or a D. He did admit he was pro-life, which is interesting, [now] that he is running as a progressive Democrat,” said McMaster. “I laughed when he walked out the door, because a fool and their money part ways often, and that was my impression.”

Began, meanwhile, said he couldn’t divine from the conversation where Thanedar stood on abortion rights, while DiSano came away believing he was “adamantly pro-choice.”

In February, DiSano met again with Thanedar. “He told me he was going to run as a Democrat during a meeting at his home,” DiSano explained. “I think the only things that stopped him from running as a Republican was that he was adamantly pro-choice and Trump had just popped his first version of the travel ban. I asked Shri, ‘Do you think the party of Trump is going to nominate a pro-choice immigrant from India, with brown skin and a funny accent, the same time they are pushing this travel ban?’ That seemed to strike a chord with him.”

DiSano described Thanedar as actually quite opposed to progressives and, particularly, Sanders…

So, yeah, if you can believe this, Thanedar, who, according to some polling, is now leading the Democratic pack, is actually ‘opposed to progressives’. And, what’s more, the thing that really motivates him doesn’t appear to be a vision for a better Michigan, but the promise of a great ending for the screenplay he’s having written about himself. It’s possible, of course, that all of this is bullshit. If I had to guess, though, I’d say that it’s not. The article’s just too heavily sourced. This doesn’t mean, however, that the whole thing couldn’t also have been coordinated by his political opponents, who, I’m sure, must be delighting in the national coverage this is getting.

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  1. Gillian
    Posted April 8, 2018 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    If you watch the Democratic forum from a couple months ago it is pretty clear that he does not know or care about any issues. He is just there to talk about himself, his story, and his gobs of money and to get a few cheap laughs ripping at Bill Schuette (which, great, but I want someone who can also beat him)

    shri got pretty tedious to listen to and it was abundantly clear he didn’t even prepare for the debate and was just there for self promotion. I’d like to think that he couldn’t win on that but, well, it sounds a lot like someone else we all know…

    Here’s the video from that forum:

  2. Jean Henry
    Posted April 9, 2018 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    Someone needs to start failing to make a documentary about his run ASAP. However it goes, this is fascinating AND instructive as to our vulnerability to politicians with enough ambition amd amorality to run on any platform that plays well to the audience. We’ve seen it work in Trumps election. Let’s see how well it works on the Dems. I don’t think we’ll fall for it. If so, this will be an impressive fiasco.

    Still, I believe our capacity to explore our own vulnerabilities to manipulation and to become more savvy voters and citizens is the only way to protect our democracy to functionality in this political era.

  3. Jean Henry
    Posted April 9, 2018 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    *filming not failing. (Ugh)

  4. M
    Posted April 9, 2018 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    He likes Popeye’s!

  5. Eel
    Posted April 9, 2018 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    Bernie 2.0. Populism, Narcissism, and Profit.

  6. M
    Posted April 9, 2018 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    I’m not suggesting that we keep a bad candidate in for strategic reasons, but I am curious, given that both Thanedar and El-Sayed are Bernie types, or at least claim to be, whether it would hurt Whitmer’s chances to have Thanedar out of the race. Would I be right to assume that El-Sayed has more to gain from Thanedar leaving the race, seeing as how he’d likely consolidate the progressive Bernie vote that’s now divided?

  7. Jean Henry
    Posted April 9, 2018 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    It concerns me that we are talking about three candidates as though no others exist on the slate. It’s still early. So far, I’ve been impressed with Bill Cobbs. He may not stand a chance, but the primaries are a great time to hear from diverse perspectives and talk among ourselves about progressive policy direction and implementation. It seems a shame to just be talking about political strategy over policy options. True this is a critical time, but, if we succeed in winning back the gov seat, we have a lot of work ahead to fix things long neglected and abused. Policy matters as much as winning.

  8. Lynne
    Posted April 9, 2018 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    My sense from discussion on Bernie groups is that they largely aren’t buying this and are supporting El-Sayed. I can see why. I heard him speak at an event I went to last fall and he was impressive. Me? I am leaning towards Whitmer but haven’t made up my mind entirely yet.

    I am not sure if Thanedar dropping out of the race would benefit either El-Sayed or Whitmer more than the other. I also suspect his polling numbers are due to name recognition from his ads. Can he sustain those numbers as the others gain more airtime closer to the primaries? We will see. This article is pretty damning.

  9. Steve Pickard
    Posted April 9, 2018 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    He’s basically taking enough votes away from Abdul El-Sayed to guarantee we get Gretchen Whitmer. Thanks for nothing Shri Thanedar!

    (FWIW I can live with Whitmer but greatly prefer Sayed. Shri unelectable and would fit the pattern of the Dems running unelectable nincompoops the last few Gov races…)

  10. charlieRomeo
    Posted April 10, 2018 at 1:26 am | Permalink

    Faux Bernie Bro ?

    More like just another slippery, fraudulent, corporate phony fuck.

  11. facebook stalker
    Posted April 16, 2018 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    Jonathan Oosting from the Detroit News on Twitter: “Abdul El-Sayed supporters standing right in front of Shri Thanedar’s table as he tries to greet folks at #MDPConvention”

  12. Meredith
    Posted April 27, 2018 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    Zaid Jilani who wrote the Intercept articles is one of the best young investigative journalists out there right now. He does an excellent job reporting on all sorts of issues and I absolutely trust his integrity. All you have to do to know Shri is a faux progressive is listen to one of his recorded interviews. He doesn’t seem to have a genuine understanding of what it actually takes to be a governor, nor does he have much in the way of ideas and plans to fix all of Michigan’s problems. You can find some of his interviews on the MichiganRadio website as well as DIY Democracy podcast. They are cringeworthy. I hope he does the right thing for Michigan and drops out so the focus can be where it should be, on the true progressive Abdul El-Sayed.

  13. katie sabin
    Posted June 14, 2018 at 2:36 am | Permalink

    “I had been a Democrat all my life. I have voted Democratic all my life,” he said. “When I was going around talking to different people, I received some unsolicited advice that because I was a business person, I should be a Republican.”

    The more he wrestled with that suggestion, the more he said he couldn’t imagine aligning himself politically with a party whose members create issues such as same-sex adopts and transgender bathroom use.

    “I cannot imagine being a part of that kind of intolerance and bigotry,” Thanedar said. “As far as growing businesses and creating jobs and creating small business opportunities, why does that need to be a monopoly position for one party. Democrats need to embrace economic growth more.”

    In the end, Thanedar said he “flatly rejected” the advice that he run as a Republican.

    “We are too great a country,” he said. “We don’t have a place for intolerance and that is something the Republican Party attracts..Tuesday, August 01, 2017
    Thanedar Questioned Party Affiliation With Biz Group

  14. Jim
    Posted June 29, 2018 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Has there been any polling of this race since the April poll that gave Thanedar a small lead over Whitmer?

  15. iRobert
    Posted July 27, 2018 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    I think I’m going to vote for the guy doing the Obama impression.

  16. iRobert
    Posted August 3, 2018 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    Yes, Jim. Whitmer has a considerable lead over Thanedar. The Free Press survey last week had Whitmer at 49% and Thanedar at 22%. El-Sayed was at 19%.

    I expect El-Sayed to gain ground by primary day, but it will be tough to overtake Whitmer in the time remaining.

    The Schuette campaign is already running ads against Whitmer.

    Mark, are you going to do a primary election night live-blog?

  17. Kat
    Posted August 3, 2018 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    One hopes the El-Sayed people get behind Whitmer if she wins, and visa-versa.

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