Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Monday, February 8th, 2016.


Why the Dems Need Bernie More Than Bernie Needs the Dems

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Democratic Party, Sanders and Clinton

One of the objections to Bernie Sanders’s candidacy that I keep reading on social media is that “he’s not even a Democrat.” People who say this appear to believe that it’s vitally important to be loyal to the institution of the Democratic Party as the last and only bulwark against the rising tide of insanity and chaos that the Republicans have become. And I’d like to address that.

For lo these many years — at least a dozen, maybe more — we liberal/progressives have been promised that some day demographics will turn the tide and make our policies viable again. Some day the knee-jerk right-wing voters will die off.  Some day voters will stop responding to racist dog whistles. Some day cultural conservatism will stop driving troglodytes to the polls to vote against their own economic interests. And when that happens, my dears, progressive policies can finally be enacted. But in the meantime, we must modify our positions and negotiate with ourselves and meekly propose only those milquetoast little baby-step policies that we might be able to sneak past The Right-Wing Beast.

This kind of thinking hamstrung the early years of the Obama Administration. Granted, he may have done about as well as anyone could have done passing the Affordable Care Act, given that even many Democrats in Congress were working against him and fought to water it down. But anyone who has been paying attention these past several years ought to have known there’s no working with foaming-at-the-mouth wingnuts. Attempts to be conciliatory will fail. To them, either you are avowedly 100 percent pure Hard Core Right, or you are the enemy.

So, we’ve been told, look to the young folks. They will save us. But younger people are notoriously bad about voting, especially in mid-terms. So The Beast owns Congress and and a large portion of state governments.

Enter the Democratic National Committee. For some reason beyond my comprehension, Decisions Were Made some time back that Hillary Clinton would be the Dem standard-bearer in 2016. No one else need apply. The establishment and the money people said so. Actual progressives were not consulted. I railed about this a couple of years ago. Why aren’t we having an ideological discussion on the future direction of the Democratic Party? (And yeah, I said back in 2014 that Sanders would be un-electable in a general election, but I’m less sure about that now. Depends on whom the Republicans nominate.)

But we had no discussion, and Hillary Clinton was presented to us as the nominee-presumptive. Without a big media build-up and the support of the establishment, Martin O’Malley probably was doomed. He should have just gone on the road with his Celtic rock band, O’Malley’s March.

I am hugely — should I say yugely? — ambivalent about HRC. No question she is very smart and very knowledgeable on both foreign and domestic policy. No question she knows how to work the buttons and levers in Washington. I do trust her on issues involving women and minority rights, so if she is the nominee she’s got my vote.

And, of course, the Right has been trying to pin something criminal on her for 25 years, and they always fail. I assume Benghazi! and email-gate are more empty issues that have been spun to look criminal, and when the dust clears nothing will come of either one. Just as nothing came of the Travel Office thing or the Vince Foster thing or Whitewater or anything else The Beast has been howling about all these years.

However, the Right has done a bang-up job persuading the average American who is not a news-politics junkie that she must be guilty of something. That’s not fair, but it’s the truth. And, to me, that would make her a lot less electable than a lot of other Dems the public never got a chance to know. And damn Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

My primary objection to HRC is that she’s the queen of self-negotiation and incremental baby steps. That might have been necessary in the 1990s, when the Right was on the ascendancy. But right now, the Right is in chaos. It is falling apart. It has never been so vulnerable. Yet the DNC and HRC seems stuck in self-negotiation, baby-step, kick-the-can-down-the-road mode.

Worse, HRC herself doesn’t seem to Get It. See, for example, “Hillary Not Truthful About Wall Street Speaking Fees.” Do read the whole thing; there’s a lot of really shoddy stuff going on with her regarding her Wall Street connections that she needs to come clean about now, but you know she won’t. This is just the executive summary part:

But the boarder reason may lie in the fundamental relationship between the Clintons and their wealthy friends and benefactors. Hillary, Bill and Chelsea (whose husband is a hedge fund partner) believe that Wall Street is a vital part of economy, composed mostly of very bright, honorable and talented people, like their classmates at Yale and Stanford. Sure, every now and again there are a few bad apples, but the barrel is fundamentally sound.

How could she be so politically tone deaf on this issue?

It’s because she still lives in world surrounded by so many of the best and brightest in and around Wall Street. Attacking them would be like attacking her community of friends and financial supporters. How could taking money from such decent, talented and productive people be wrong?

Maybe that isn’t what she really thinks, but it sure as hell looks as if that’s what she thinks, and if so, we can count on a Clinton II Administration to be a big defense of the financial sector Status Quo. And that means the fundamental changes that we really need to move forward as an actual, functioning democracy and not an upscale banana republic will not happen in a Clinton II Administration.

What Clinton and the DNC don’t get is that it isn’t just the future of the Democratic Party, and the United States. It’s the future of capitalism. The day when a politician had to be 100 percent rah-rah on capitalism is, um, passing. And HRC and the DNC don’t see this.

See, for example, American capitalism has failed us: We’re overworked, underemployed and more powerless than ever before. Again, do read the whole thing. I just want to say that this exchange quoted in the article just plain disgusted me.

One night I tuned in to the Democrats’ presidential debate to see if they had any plans to restore the America I used to know. To my amazement, I heard the name of my peaceful mountain hideaway: Norway. Bernie Sanders was denouncing America’s crooked version of “casino capitalism” that floats the already rich ever higher and flushes the working class. He said that we ought to “look to countries like Denmark, like Sweden and Norway, and learn from what they have accomplished for their working people.”

He believes, he added, in “a society where all people do well. Not just a handful of billionaires.” That certainly sounds like Norway. For ages they’ve worked at producing things for the use of everyone — not the profit of a few — so I was all ears, waiting for Sanders to spell it out for Americans.

But Hillary Clinton quickly countered, “We are not Denmark.” Smiling, she said, “I love Denmark,” and then delivered a patriotic punch line: “We are the United States of America.” Well, there’s no denying that. She praised capitalism and “all the small businesses that were started because we have the opportunity and the freedom in our country for people to do that and to make a good living for themselves and their families.” She didn’t seem to know that Danes, Swedes, and Norwegians do that, too, and with much higher rates of success.

The truth is that almost a quarter of American startups are not founded on brilliant new ideas, but on the desperation of men or women who can’t get a decent job. The majority of all American enterprises are solo ventures having zero payrolls, employing no one but the entrepreneur, and often quickly wasting away. Sanders said that he was all for small business, too, but that meant nothing “if all of the new income and wealth is going to the top 1 percent.” (As George Carlin said, “The reason they call it the American Dream is because you have to be asleep to believe it.”)

See also Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton’s debate over capitalism, explained.

Young people are getting the short end of the stick, and all but the most privileged know it. Young people are not buying what the DNC wants to sell them. See Charles Blow, Hillary Has Half a Dream.

One of the most striking statistics to come of the Iowa caucus entry polling was the enormous skew of young voters away from Hillary Clinton and to Bernie Sanders. Only 14 percent of caucusgoers 17 to 29 supported Clinton, while 84 percent supported Sanders.

On Thursday, I traveled to the University of New Hampshire, site of a debate between Clinton and Sanders that night. Before the debate, I mingled on campus with people rallying for both candidates, with the Sanders rally many times larger than the Clinton one. The energy for Sanders at the school was electric.

For the actual debate, I went to a debate-watching party for Clinton supporters at the Three Chimneys Inn, just off campus. There were more heads of white hair in that room than a jar of cotton balls.

The two scenes so close to each other drove home the point for me: Hillary Clinton has a threatening young voter problem.

Young folks are facing a warming planet, exploding student debt, stunted mobility, stagnant wages and the increasing corporatization of the country due in part to the increasing consolidation of wealth and the impact of that wealth on American institutions.

Young folks are staring down a barrel and they want to put a flower in it, or conversely, smash it to bits. And they’re angry at those who came before them for doing too little, too late. They want a dramatic correction, and they want it now.

From this perspective, the difference between Clinton and Sanders is that one will try to change the system and the other won’t. Maybe Sanders will try and fail, but Clinton won’t try at all. She’ll just tweak it so that it’s slightly less pernicious.

And in four, or eight years, the Right may have self-corrected and be stronger than ever, and the can will be kicked down the road some more.

Let me add that I am a 64-year-old feminist. I have no illusions that Sanders will have an easy time of it, but I do hope he would make effective use of the bully pulpit and persuade America that we don’t have to put up with this crap.  And I have no illusions that he be an easy sell in the general. Yes, I remember the 1972 McGovern disaster. I voted for McGovern in that election. But we are living in a very different world now. I think too many Dems don’t see that.

Politics in the U.S. being what they are, it’s likely HRC will prevail and be the nominee. My fear is that the Democratic establishment will win a battle but lose the future. Good luck getting them ever to persuade the young folks to support them, no matter how awful the Right gets. Because if the demographic promise is ever going to come true, the Dems have got to offer something more than “we’re not as awful as those other people.”

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