Obama’s legacy: Identity politics in the service of war

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29 July 2016

Barack Obama concluded his address to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia Wednesday night by declaring himself ready to “pass the baton” to the party’s nominee and his former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. Accounts of the address in the corporate media have repeatedly referred to the US president casting Clinton as the continuator and custodian of his “legacy.”

But what is the legacy of Obama? In its essential political terms, it consists of his having succeeded in overcoming internal divisions on the question of war that have plagued the Democratic Party for half a century. His administration marks the return of the Democrats to their roots as the premier party of US imperialism, a status the party maintained though two world wars and the subsequent Cold War with the Soviet Union.

Obama, who was swept into office on a wave of popular antiwar sentiment, will enjoy the dubious distinction of being the first president to keep the US at war throughout two full terms in office.

He has continued the wars he inherited in Afghanistan and Iraq, while launching a new one that toppled the government and decimated the society of Libya; engineering a proxy war for regime change that now includes US troops deployed in Syria; and carrying out attacks in Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan and beyond.

With its “pivot to Asia” and steady buildup of US-NATO forces in Eastern Europe, Washington’s military might has been increasingly directed against Russia and China, in a relentless quest for global hegemony that poses the growing danger of a third world war.

Obama’s administration will also be remembered for its vast expansion of drone warfare, targeted assassinations and kill lists, along with vicious attacks on civil liberties and the militarization of America’s police.

What is extraordinary in the face of all of this is that war was not even a subject of discussion at the convention in Philadelphia. The silence on the matter was guaranteed by the fraudulent opposition candidate Bernie Sanders, who publicly backed Obama’s wars during his campaign, and officially ended his “political revolution” by uncritically endorsing Clinton, the chosen candidate of both Wall Street and the massive US military and intelligence apparatus.

In advance of both major party conventions, there were many comparisons in the media of this presidential election year with that of 1968, with predictions that, once again, there could be violence in the streets.

While no doubt the Trump campaign has escalated the atmosphere of violence in American politics, wholly ignored in these largely superficial analogies was the core issue that brought about the violence of 48 years ago: mass popular opposition to the Vietnam War, which ended up tearing the Democratic Party apart.

The incumbent Democratic President Lyndon Johnson was unable to run for re-election because of the hostility within his own party to the war in Vietnam, expressed in support first for the candidacy of Eugene McCarthy and then for that of Robert Kennedy, who broke with Johnson on the issue.

While Robert Kennedy’s assassination was followed by the nomination of Vice President Hubert Humphrey, a supporter of the war, and his subsequent defeat by Republican Richard Nixon, Vietnam shattered the ideological foundations of the old Democratic Party, based on the filthy deal that was the foundation of Cold War liberalism: lip service to social reform at home, combined with unwavering support for US imperialism abroad.

In 1972, the antiwar candidate George McGovern won the nomination and was defeated by Nixon. Nonetheless, the Democratic Party was compelled to take antiwar sentiment into account, in its political calculations, for decades after the war in Vietnam ended.

A chasm had opened up between the party’s leading personnel within the US capitalist state and the Washington think tanks, who remained committed proponents and strategic thinkers of US imperialism, and a political base, including academics and upper layers of the middle class, in which there remained broad hostility to war.

This produced internal conflicts within the party in one election after another. On the one hand, Democratic candidates were compelled to posture publicly as opponents of war, in order to retain credibility with broad sections of the party’s electoral constituency. On the other hand, the Democratic candidates sought desperately to maintain credibility with the corporate and military-intelligence establishment, which expected that the candidate, once elected, would conduct foreign policy with the necessary ruthlessness.

In the aftermath of the election of George W. Bush came the mass antiwar demonstrations of 2003, and the subsequent attempts by various pseudo-left forces to channel this opposition back into the Democratic Party.

With the 2004 presidential election, Howard Dean emerged as an early favorite, campaigning as the representative of the “democratic wing of the Democratic Party” and appealing to antiwar sentiment within the party. Even after his candidacy was derailed by the party establishment and the media, John Kerry, who had supported the war, was compelled to posture as an opponent, tying himself up in political knots and handing a re-election victory to Bush.

Finally, in 2008, the decisive reason that Barack Obama won the nomination and Hillary Clinton lost it was Clinton’s vote in 2002 to authorize the US war in Iraq.

In the promotion of Obama’s candidacy, his racial background was presented, particularly by the pseudo-left, as some kind of credential for progressive and antiwar politics, even as a close examination of his political record showed that he was no opponent of militarism. His family and professional connections to the US intelligence apparatus, meanwhile, were kept out of the news.

While Obama’s election was hailed by the pseudo-left as “transformative,” what has emerged over the course of his administration, facilitated by these same political forces, has been the utilization of identity politics in the furtherance of US imperialism.

This formula was on full display at the Philadelphia convention, where identity politics—the promotion of race, gender and sexual orientation as the defining features of political and social life—was woven directly into an unabashed celebration of American militarism.

This found carefully crafted expressions in Obama’s speech, including his declaration that “our military can look the way it does, every shade of humanity, forged into common service,” a claim that could be made on behalf of another “all volunteer” imperialist fighting force, the French Foreign Legion.

He went on to state, “When we deliver enough votes, then progress does happen. And if you doubt that, just… ask the Marine who proudly serves his country without hiding the husband that he loves.”

The US military had long been a bastion of fanatical homophobia, with over 114,000 service members forced out, with dishonorable discharges, over the issue between World War II and the scrapping of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in 2011. That allowing gays into the military would erode discipline had been an article of faith for the US command.

Central to support for changing this policy was the recognition, within both the ruling political establishment and decisive layers of the military brass, that it would prove politically useful in winning support for the military among a privileged upper middle class layer that had identified with the politics of American liberalism.

The message at the convention was explicit: “These are your troops. These are your wars. They are being fought in your interests.”

Similar issues of identity politics were employed by the Obama administration in its attempts to whip up the anti-Russian hysteria that was on display in Philadelphia. Thus, well-orchestrated campaigns were mounted around Pussy Riot and statements made by Putin in relation to gays during the Sochi winter Olympic games.

In response to the heated rhetoric at the convention, the Washington Post’ssecurity columnist wrote a piece entitled “Clinton has now made the Democrats the anti-Russia party.” He noted: “In their zeal to portray Donald Trump as a dangerous threat to national security, the Clinton campaign has taken a starkly anti-Russian stance, one that completes a total role reversal for the two major American parties on US-Russian relations that Hillary Clinton will now be committed to, if she becomes president.”

The anti-Russian campaign has been ratcheted up sharply in response to the WikiLeaks release of Democratic National Committee emails exposing the collaboration of the DNC leadership and the Clinton campaign in the attempt to sabotage the campaign of her rival, Bernie Sanders, and rig the nomination.

Clinton and her supporters have attempted to quash any discussion of the damning contents of these emails by casting their release as a “national security” issue, with the absurd charge that Vladimir Putin was the real author of the leak, aiming to subvert the US elections.

The same method, it should be recalled, was employed in response to earlier exposures of US imperialism’s crimes abroad and wholesale spying at home, with Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden bearing the consequences in the form of vicious persecution, imprisonment and exile.

Opposition to this relentless repression, as well as to war, found no expression in the Democratic convention. Needless to say, Clinton not only supported, but participated in both.

Most tellingly, a whole political layer, commonly referred to as the “neoconservatives,” which broke with the Democrats in the 1960s and 1970s and moved into leading positions with the Reagan and Bush administrations, have now come home, issuing open letters and statements in support for Hillary Clinton.

This political evolution of the Democratic Party is not merely the matter of machinations within the party leadership and the state apparatus. It has a social base within a privileged social layer that has moved sharply to the right, providing a new constituency for war and imperialism. The systematic fixation on the issues of race, gender and sexual orientation—deliberately opposed to that of class—has provided a key ideological foundation for this reactionary turn.

The convention in Philadelphia has exposed a party that is moving in direct opposition to, and preparing for a confrontation with, a growing radicalization of the American working class.

The next period, as the class struggle emerges powerfully, will see a resurgence of opposition by American workers to war.

The Socialist Equality Party is the only party campaigning to prepare and give conscious political expression to this development, fighting for the political independence of the working class and the building of a mass international movement against war based on a revolutionary socialist program. We urge all of our readers to support and build the SEP campaign of Jerry White for president and Niles Niemuth for vice president.

Bill Van Auken

WSWS

The DNC Is One Big Corporate Bribe

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Drink up—it’s on us! Then go protest the TPP to your heart’s content.

To get to the Democratic National Convention, you take the subway to the AT&T Station and walk to the Wells Fargo Center. Along the way, you’ll stroll by the Comcast Xfinity Live complex, where delegates and honored guests can booze it up. You’ll also see the “Cars Move America” exhibit, an actual showroom sponsored by Ford, GM, Toyota, and others. Finally, you’ll reach your seat and watch Democrats explain why we have to reduce the power of big corporations in America.

Party conventions have always been collection points for big money. But many major corporations sat out last week’s Republican gathering for fear of Trump contamination. There’s no such reticence here in Philadelphia; in fact, it feels like they’re making up for that lack of investment.

It’s hard to ferret out all the special interests at the DNC, because there’s no full public schedule. Invitations are doled out individually, and people whisper about this or that event. But enter any official hotel where a delegation is staying, or any Philadelphia landmark, and you’re likely to have a complimentary drink thrust into your hand.

As Politico’s Ben White reported on Monday, private equity firm Blackstone has a meet-and-greet on Thursday. Independence Blue Cross, the southeastern Pennsylvania arm of the large insurer, held a host-committee reception Tuesday; their chief executive is the finance chair of that host committee. The same day, Le Meridien hotel had a private event for Bloomberg LP, and the Logan Hotel hosted “Inspiring Women, a Luncheon Discussion.” The sponsors included Johnson & Johnson, Walgreens, AFLAC, the Financial Services Roundtable (the industry trade lobby), and New York Life. (How many people were they serving, given the number of corporations involved?)

Facebook commandeered a bar inside the Wells Fargo Center for delegates and guests. Twitter rented out an entire restaurant, bestowing attendees with free breakfast, lunch and an open bar. (Full disclosure: I had a slider and some salad. The way I see it, I’ve boosted their market value through the free labor of tweeting and deserve something back.) And when the speeches end, convention-goers fan out to a sea of mostly industry-sponsored parties. A particular favorite of convention delegates is the Distilled Spirits Council kickoff, which in Philadelphia featured music from Jason Isbell and former Eagle Joe Walsh.

Those are just the liquor and cocktail-weenie bribes. An entire other category of corporate cash goes toward “policy discussions,” must-see educational roundtables with a host of luminaries. On Tuesday, Obama campaign guru David Plouffe (now with Uber) and Gore consultant Chris Lehane (now with Airbnb) unveiled new polling data on the sharing economy; a second Airbnb event celebrated the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Party, featuring actor Bryan Cranston. On Wednesday, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation convenes its own technology conference, featuring four members of Congress, a Federal Trade Commission member, the president of the biotech lobby, representatives from Microsoft and Facebook, and former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, now at Amazon.

A softer version—in perfect concert with the “Hillary works for families and children” theme of the week—is the corporate PR booth, highlighting charitable work, usually with children. JPMorgan Chase has its summer youth employment program. Johnson & Johnson (they get around) has the Save the Children Action Network, committed to eradicating rural poverty. I saw House Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn holding court at their booth when I passed by yesterday.

None of this is considered money toward the convention, which is being entirely privately funded for the first time. The donors who are actually paying for the festivitities in Philly are anonymous. So God (and Debbie Wasserman Shultz) only knows where it all comes from. And clearly the DNC wants to keep it that way.

The DNC’s host committee refuses to disclose the names despite a court order, allowing corporate benefactors to hide behind anonymity. The 2014 “CRomnibus” budget law massively increased contribution limits for political convention committees, which can raise up to $800,000 from a single donor per year. And overlooked by emails showing possible anti-Bernie Sanders bias by DNC officials in the Democratic primaries, the WikiLeaks trove released last Friday actually detailedhow the DNC woos big donors with gifts and perks.

The whole spectacle is not technically considered lobbying, but it may have a more insidious effect. Not only are elected officials compromised by their proximity to big money—a version of this happens daily in Washington, after all—but the delegates, usually the grassroots activists most likely to pressure their members of Congress to stand up for Democratic values, get caught up in the muck as well.

Big money didn’t necessarily overshadow Day 2 of the convention, with the historic selection of the first female president and a succession of speakers hailing Hillary Clinton’s lifetime of work. But it pervaded the whole scene. Right before the roll-call vote, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, himself one of the most prodigious corporate fundraisers in Democratic history, addressed the convention. In an interview directly afterward, he suggested that Clinton would eventually come around and support the Trans-Pacific Partnership corporate trade deal, “with some tweaks.” Clinton campaign aide John Podesta had to refute McAuliffe; for his part,  Podesta has jumped in and out of government and corporate lobbying for three decades.

Wasserman Schultz, supposedly banished to Florida after resigning as DNC chair, was still hanging around Philadelphia, and slipped into the Wells Fargo Center to watch the roll call. She got to see the vice presidential nomination of her predecessor as lead party fundraiser, Tim Kaine, who ran the DNC from 2009 to 2011. During the roll call, lobbyists with the Society for Human Resource Management, which helpedstall the signature equal pay bill in Congress, cheered from the floor.

Former Attorney General and corporate lawyer Eric Holder took time off from his work with Uber and Airbnb to address the convention. Former Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, now Global Chief Communications Officer for McDonald’s, showed up in a video. Howard Dean praised Hillary Clinton on health care, but strangely left out her support for the public option. Perhaps that’s because he’s a lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industry, which doesn’t want government insurance plans driving down prices. Even former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who added her praise of Clinton to others’ on Tuesday night, has her own lobbying firm. And Tuesday closer Bill Clinton also has a certain, er, comfort with the corporate world.


The best speech I saw on Tuesday happened five miles from the Wells Fargo Center. In an afternoon address she should have unleashed the previous night—and not sponsored by anyone but her own Senate office—Elizabeth Warren gave a couple hundred delegates a Power Point presentation showing how the economy shifted from broadly shared prosperity to a funnel of practically everything to the very top.

The average American holds 15 times more debt than a generation ago, Warren noted, and one in three with a credit file is dealing with a debt collector. “I went to college for $50 a semester,” Warren said, but now fixed costs on education and health care have skyrocketed, making it impossible for the middle class to keep up. The reason: disinvestment in the public good, deregulation of banks and industry, and policies that pushed practically all economic gains upward.

Warren pointed the finger directly at lobbying, which grew seven-fold in the past 30 years. After the speech, I asked her about the corporate underwriting of practically everything in Philadelphia this week. “Too many CEOs have learned that they can invest millions in Washington and get billions in return with special deals with the government,” she said. “This is the central issue of 2016.”

You wouldn’t know that from the official, industry-sponsored proceedings. Maybe the ideological split within the Democratic Party has something to do with Bernie Sanders’s supporters distaste for the ostentatious display of corporate money, and how it has affected the party. The rare moment when overturning Citizens United gets a mention in a convention speech, loud whoops and cheers go up. But corporate influence on the party goes way beyond SuperPACs and campaign contributions; in Philadelphia, it is everywhere.

https://newrepublic.com/article/135564/dnc-one-big-corporate-bribe?utm_source=New+Republic&utm_campaign=793f2a71b5-Daily_Newsletter_7_27_167_27_2016&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c4ad0aba7e-793f2a71b5-60030489

The 1 Percent’s Useful Idiots

Posted on Jul 26, 2016

By Chris Hedges

  It’s official: Hillary Clinton is the Democratic Party’s nominee for president. (schroepfer / Flickr)

PHILADELPHIA—The parade of useful idiots, the bankrupt liberal class that long ago sold its soul to corporate power, is now led by Sen. Bernie Sanders. His final capitulation, symbolized by his pathetic motion to suspend the roll call, giving Hillary Clinton the Democratic nomination by acclamation, is an abject betrayal of millions of his supporters and his call for a political revolution.

No doubt the Democrats will continue to let Sanders be a member of the Democratic Caucus. No doubt the Democrats will continue to agree not to run a serious candidate against him in Vermont. No doubt Sanders will be given an ample platform and media opportunities to shill for Clinton and the corporate machine. No doubt he will remain a member of the political establishment.

Sanders squandered his most important historical moment. He had a chance, one chance, to take the energy, anger and momentum, walk out the doors of the Wells Fargo Center and into the streets to help build a third-party movement. His call to his delegates to face “reality” and support Clinton was an insulting repudiation of the reality his supporters, mostly young men and young women, had overcome by lifting him from an obscure candidate polling at 12 percent into a serious contender for the nomination. Sanders not only sold out his base, he mocked it. This was a spiritual wound, not a political one. For this he must ask forgiveness.

Whatever resistance happens will happen without him. Whatever political revolution happens will happen without him. Whatever hope we have for a sustainable future will happen without him. Sanders, who once lifted up the yearnings of millions, has become an impediment to change. He took his 30 pieces of silver and joined with a bankrupt liberal establishment on behalf of a candidate who is a tool of Wall Street, a proponent of endless war and an enemy of the working class.

Sanders, like all of the self-identified liberals who are whoring themselves out for the Democrats, will use fear as the primary reason to remain enslaved by the neoliberal assault. And, in return, the corporate state will allow him and the other useful idiots among the 1 percent to have their careers and construct pathetic monuments to themselves.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will be pushed through whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. The fracking industry, fossil fuel industry and animal agriculture industry will ravage the ecosystem whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. The predatory financial institutions on Wall Street will trash the economy and loot the U.S. Treasury on the way to another economic collapse whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. Poor, unarmed people of color will be gunned down in the streets of our cities whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. The system of neoslavery in our prisons, where we keep poor men and poor women of color in cages because we have taken from them the possibility of employment, education and dignity, will be maintained whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. Millions of undocumented people will be deported whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. Austerity programs will cut or abolish public services, further decay the infrastructure and curtail social programs whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. Money will replace the vote whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. And half the country, which now lives in poverty, will remain in misery whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton becomes president.

This is not speculation. We know this because there has been total continuity on every issue, from trade agreements to war to mass deportations, between the Bush administration and the administration of Barack Obama. The problem is not Donald Trump. The problem is capitalism. And this is the beast we are called to fight and slay. Until that is done, nothing of substance will change.

To reduce the political debate, as Sanders and others are doing, to political personalities is political infantilism. We have undergone a corporate coup. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will not reverse this coup. They, like Barack Obama, know where the centers of power lie. They serve these centers of power.

Change will come when we have the tenacity, as many Sanders delegates did, to refuse to cooperate, to say no, to no longer participate in the political charade. Change will come when we begin acts of sustained mass civil disobedience. Change will come when the fear the corporate state uses to paralyze us is used by us to paralyze the corporate state.

The Russian writer Alexander Herzen, speaking a century ago to a group of anarchists about how to overthrow the czar, reminded his listeners that it was not their job to save a dying system but to replace it: “We think we are the doctors. We are the disease.”

We are here not to reform the system. We are here to overthrow it. And that is the only possibility left to restore our democracy and save our planet. If we fail in this task, if this system of corporate capitalism and globalization is not dismantled, we are doomed. And this is the reality no one wants to speak about.

We will have to be in the political wilderness, perhaps for a decade. But a decade ago Syriza, the party now ruling Greece, was polling at only 4 percent. This is what the Green Party is polling today. We will not bring about systemic change in one or two election cycles. But we can begin to build a counterweight to the corporate state. We can begin to push back.

We must find the courage not to be afraid. We must find the courage to follow our conscience. We must find the courage to defy the corporate forces of death in order to affirm the forces of life.

This will not be easy. The corporate state—once its vast systems of indoctrination and propaganda do not work to keep us passive, once we are no longer afraid, once we make our own reality rather than accommodating ourselves to the reality imposed upon us—will employ more direct and coercive forms of control. The reign of terror, the revocation of civil liberties, the indiscriminate violence by the state will no longer be exercised only against poor people of color. The reality endured by our poor sisters and brothers of color, a reality we did not do enough to fight against, will become our own.

To allow the ideological forces of neoliberalism to crush our ideals and our values is to fall into a deadly cynicism and despair. To allow the consumer culture and the cult of the self, which lies at the heart of capitalism, to seduce us is to kill our souls. Happiness does not come with the accumulation of wealth. Happiness does not come from possessions or power. These are narcotics. They numb and kill all that is noble and good within us. Happiness comes when you reach out in solidarity to your neighbor, when you lend your hand to the stranger or the outcast, when you are willing to lose your life to save it. Happiness comes when you have the capacity to love.

Our span of life, in the vastness of the universe, is insignificant. I will be 60 soon. The arch of my own life is beginning to draw to a close. We all will die. How do we use the miracle of this flash of light that is called life?

Albert Camus wrote, “One of the only coherent philosophical positions is revolt. It is a constant confrontation between [human beings] and [their] obscurity. It is not aspiration, for it is devoid of hope. That revolt is the certainty of a crushing fate, without the resignation that ought to accompany it.”

He said further, “A living [person] can be enslaved and reduced to the historic condition of an object. But if he [or she] dies in refusing to be enslaved, he [or she] reaffirms the existence of another kind of human nature which refuses to be classified as an object.”

There is only one way to rebel. You fight for all of the oppressed or none of the oppressed. You understand that there is no country. Our country is the earth. We are citizens of the world. Nationalism is a disease. It is a disease we must purge. As long as a Muslim family suffers in a refugee camp in Syria or an LGBT person suffers from the bigotry imposed by the Christian heretics in the Christian right, we all suffer.

There are desperate single mothers struggling to raise children on less than $10,000 a year in some Philadelphia neighborhoods. Many of these children go to bed hungry. There are unemployed workers desperate to find a job and restore their dignity. There are mentally ill and homeless we have abandoned to the streets. There are Iraqi and Afghan families living in terror, a terror we have inflicted on them, in the futile and endless wars waged to enrich the arms industry. There are men and women being tortured in our worldwide archipelago of secret detention centers. There are undocumented workers whose families we have ripped apart, separating children from parents, or imprisoned.

This is reality. It is the only reality that matters. It is a reality we must and will change. Because, as the great socialist Eugene V. Debs, who upon being sentenced in 1918 for violating the Sedition Act by defying the madness of World War I, said, “I recognized my kinship with all living beings. I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”

Augustine wrote that hope has two beautiful daughters, anger and courage—anger at the way things are and the courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.

The fight will be hard and difficult. It will require love and self-sacrifice. It will require anger and courage. It is the greatest moral imperative before us. Those who do not defy the evil become its accomplice. We may not succeed. But we must be among those of whom future generations will say: They tried. They dared to dream. They dared to care. They dared to love. They enabled those who followed to press on in the struggle.

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_1_percents_useful_idiots_20160726

DNC’s leaked emails expose corrupt funding practices within the Democratic Party

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By Isaac Finn
27 July 2016

The release of roughly 20,000 internal Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails by WikiLeaks exposes the methods that the Democratic Party utilizes in order to raise funds, dole out privileges and cover up their dirty dealings.

One of the schemes included the creation of the Hillary Victor Fund (HVF), which appealed for hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions for Hillary Clinton through extravagant fundraisers. The fund included 40 state Democratic Party committees and could accept checks as large as $436,100, with individuals limited to $10,000 per state party, $33,400 for the DNC and $2,700 for Clinton’s campaign.

The fund in effect worked to funnel money into the Clinton campaign and the DNC. According to Politico’s analysis of the Federal Elections Commission records, between the creation of the fund in September and the end of last month, it brought in $142 million, with 44 percent ending up in the DNC and Hillary for America, with state parties keeping less than $800,000, or 0.56 percent.

As a result of campaign finance laws, these practices are at best legally questionable and at worst criminal. Legally a donor would be allowed to give a maximum contribution of $5,400 to Clinton per election cycle, $33,400 to the DNC per year, and $10,000 to each state committee in the fund per year.

If a wealthy donor had already given $33,400 to the DNC, and then gave a substantial contribution to the HVF—which the fund funneled back into the DNC—he or she would essentially have donated more money to the DNC than is allowed. This situation is particularly problematic since Clinton, and others associated with her campaign, claimed the fund was primarily to aid local Democrats.

The leaked email exchanges show the effort of leading members of the DNC to cover up the fact that funds were not being allocated to state parties. In an email chain from late April, leading DNC members—including Communications Director Luis Miranda and Deputy Communications Director Eric Walker—discussed how to deal with a Politico journalist inquiring about funds being sent back to the DNC. In the end Miranda writes, “There’s been no coverage [of funds going back to the DNC] that we’ve found, which is what we wanted.”

In May, following claims by Politico as well as then-Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders that HVF was a form of “money-laundering,” officials from the DNC and Clinton campaign spokesman Josh Schwerin worked together to draft a response to these allegations. Miranda specifically ran a proposal to write a brief comment stating that HVF was not laundering money, and told Schwerin, “Since it’s your HVF we want to make sure you guys are good with it, and with the push back.”

In the leaked emails, Miranda and Schwerin also work out a number of key points to argue that the HVF is legal, including that “many millions have been raised for state parties and just haven’t been distributed to them yet,” and that “experts have agreed there’s nothing unusual about the victory funds.” These points were also used by the DNC to claim that Sanders allegations were wrong, and the Clinton campaign also joined in to criticize him for not raising funds for the state parties.

Other leaked emails expose the extent the DNC sought out large donors and created different packages to encourage donors to give more. The more a contributor gave to the DNC the more perks he or she could receive.

As Max Marshall, the DNC’s southern finance director, explained to one wealthy donor in May, “You currently qualify for the Main Line package! If were willing to contribute $33,400 we can bump you up a level to the Fairmont. Additionally, your generous contribution would allow you to attend a small roundtable we are having with President Obama in DC on May 18th or a dinner in NYC on June 8th (Invites also attached).”

In some cases special exceptions were made, such as with multinational conglomerate Honeywell. The company was given a hotel room in Philadelphia for a contribution of $60,000 to the DNC’s convention host committee because—in the words of one DNC financial staffer—they are “the biggest PAC contributor in the country,” and that the gesture would create better relations “with them for later in the election cycle and for years to come.”

Another large donor, Shefali Razdan Duggal, also requested a variety of benefits for the money she was helping to raise, including an invitation to Vice President Joseph Biden’s holiday party. She stated in the email that she was working for the “Rittenhouse Convention package,” the top-tier donors’ package. The package would require Duggal to raise $1,250,000 or personally give $467,600 between January 2015 and June 2016. This would provide the contributor with a premier hotel in Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention, VIP credentials and a campaign briefing with high-level Democratic officials.

The frenzy to win larger donations eventually resulted in Ruthzee Louijeune, an associate from the DNC’s outside law firm Perkins Coie, requesting that DNC officials change the wording in the announcement of a round table discussion. Louijeune, who wrote to the DNC’s financial chief of staff in May, explained, “As you know, WH [the White House] policy restricts the use of language that gives the appearance that contributors can pay for policy access to the President.”

In reality, however, the emails expose the fact that many of the wealthiest individuals could gain access to the president or other White House officials, as long as they worked out a deal with an official from the DNC and were willing to pay the right price.

During the Democratic primaries, Sanders frequently raised the issue of Clinton’s ties to Wall Street and wealthy contributors. Since his recent endorsement of Clinton, Sanders has worked to portray Clinton as a great progressive, with the party as a whole moving towards the left. In order to do this, he has chosen to remain largely silent about the email leaks.

WSWS

She’s With Them–But We’ve Got Us: A Movement Bigger Than Sanders

Published on
by

The DNC and the Clinton campaign joined forces against the ‘political revolution’ for one simple reason: they knew it could win. And it still can.

A crowd of supporters cheer Bernie Sanders during a rally in New York earlier this year. (Photo: Reuters)

The proper question of the week is not why Bernie Sanders supporters —delegates gathered in the Philadelphia and his millions of supporters across the nation—are so angry with the Democratic National Committee this week.

The contents of internal party emails published by WikiLeaks last Friday, now known as the#DNCLeak, only confirmed what most Sanders supporters knew or assumed to be true all along: that the DNC had put its thumb on the scale in favor of Hillary Clinton throughout the primary season. For many, the leaked emails—though affirming—simply offered more concrete evidence and credence to an already established fact.

“And if they didn’t believe [Sanders could actually beat Clinton], none of this would have been done.”

So what’s the real question regarding how the leaks fit into the political tensions playing out this week at the national convention?

According to RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of National Nurses United which endorsed Sanders and campaigned aggressively on his behalf, the point isn’t to locate the source of the anger (that’s obvious), but instead to ask this: Why did the Democratic Party decide to operate so aggressively to undermine the Sanders campaign in the first place?

Despite the intensely competitive contest between Clinton and an insurgent Barack Obama in 2008, says DeMoro, the DNC was far more neutral, or at least appeared to be, during that campaign.

But the reason for this year’s behavior, she explained in a phone interview with Common Dreams, is that the DNC and the Clinton campaign—and more importantly their joint backers on Wall Street—realized something altogether too terrifying: “that Bernie Sanders could, in fact, defeat Hillary Clinton. And if they didn’t believe that, none of this would have been done.”

That answer, though obvious on the one hand, has not been widely discussed even as examples of how the DNC acted to undermine the Sanders campaign are well-documented and include:

“What this whole corruption in the DNC during this election has done is essentially sabotaged people’s hopes and beliefs and the love that they felt by coming back into political life.”

On that last point, said DeMoro, “with some unabashed help from many in the media, the DNC just ran that and ran that and ran that narrative. We met so many people who said, ‘Oh, I love Bernie but he can’t win.’ And the Clinton campaign pushed that because they knew that what he was saying would resonate with America.”

And yes, DeMoro says, she and other supporters of Sanders are angry and rightly so. But that’s not really the story either. Having been with Sanders at his home in Vermont several weeks ago with other close advisers and supporters, DeMoro identified something deeply personal and more emotive than anger when it comes to what this campaign has represented—both for Sanders himself and those inspired by his message.

“The saddest part of this,” she said, “is how many people spent everything they could and how much it touched Bernie’s heart that people who were living in poverty would try to give him $10 or $27 and that they had so much belief. I saw personally how much that aspect of the campaign impacted him. And on the other side, what this whole corruption in the DNC during this election has done is essentially sabotaged people’s hopes and beliefs and the love that they felt by coming back into political life.”

Still—beyond despair, anger, and feelings about the DNC—DeMoro sees much reason for optimism.

“This whole cynical manipulation of this process could easily have destroyed what was being built,” she said, “But it hasn’t.” Despite the expressive boos at the convention or thehand-wringing over how Sanders supporters will now vote in the general election, DeMoro says the focus must be on what comes next.

“We are in the moment to build maybe the greatest social movement in history,” said DeMoro, “and we are connected like never before. People are angry, but they still believe that we have to do something. The economic condition of the country is deteriorating and people’s lives are not going to get better because Wall Street’s going to keep on doing what they do. People understand that, but they are not going to stand for it any longer—regardless of who the next president is.”

But here’s the problem with Clinton: “She’s with them.”

And by ‘them’ she means Wall Street, the corporate power brokers, and the elite clinging to a status quo so beneficial to their interests. Despite what many are hailing as the “most progressive” party platform ever, DeMoro argues that Clinton’s pick of Sen. Tim Kaine as vice president shows that the party establishment has returned to feeling sufficiently insulated from the threat created by the ‘political revolution’ which grew up around Sanders’ presidential run.

“People have fallen pretty far and pretty deeply,” she says, “and both Washington, D.C. and the DNC are out of touch with what that means economically and what that means politically. But we’ve got millions and millions of people—whether in the movement or who the movement has inspired. And this campaign season has allowed us to better recognize, basically, the people who are not really our friends—but who pretended to be our friends—in these fights. So there were was an enormous exposé during this period.”

“Debbie Wasserman Schultz is minor compared to what we’re really up against.”

This is also why the post-#DNCLeak “downfall” of DNC chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz—criticized throughout the primary season for being the embodiment of the party’s impartial behavior against Sanders—actually means so little to DeMoro and many other Sanders delegates and supporters.

“Debbie Wasserman Schultz is minor compared to what we’re really up against,” DeMoro explained.

The real enemy, she clarifies, is international finance and the neoliberal order their influence controls. That greater and more powerful foe, which has done such a superb job of managing electoral ambitions and diminishing what’s politically possible over the last four decades, is alive and well, says DeMoro. And because of that, much of the coalescing movement into which Sanders helped breathe life is already looking beyond what transpires in Philadelphia.

In June, National Nurses United helped organize a three-day ‘People’s Summit‘ in Chicago where an array of social justice, labor, environmental, and grassroots political organizations came together to discuss how to keep the energy and focus on key issues—including climate change, corporate power, economic inequality, Medicare for all, free higher education, and criminal justice reform—throughout and then beyond this year’s election cycle.

“So what we’re doing now,” she explained, “is looking forward to the year 2020 and with the vision of 20/20. On the electoral front in the years to come we have to build the right structures, create the right infrastructures, and find candidates of the people. And we’ve already got really wonderful people with us—highly intelligent and passionate people.”

She highlighted how the young people attracted to Sanders’ movement are ready to build something much bigger and longer lasting. “The millennials are probably the most phenomenal generation that I’ve seen in my time in terms of intelligence,” said DeMoro. “They read, they communicate, and they act collectively. It’s pretty amazing.”

And when it comes to the looming presence of the Republican Party’s nominee Donald Trump, for DeMoro it goes without saying what “an enormous threat” he poses to the nation and the world. But, she adds, “Bernie was our best hope in terms of beating Trump. And so now we’re in this double-bind, because we’ve been betrayed—because in the world of the DNC, Sanders was never allowed to be a viable candidate—and now the only thing that’s left is fear of Trump.”

“Now we’re in this double-bind, because we’ve been betrayed—because in the world of the DNC, Sanders was never allowed to be a viable candidate—and now the only thing that’s left is fear of Trump.”

“But that’s the moment we’re in and it’s sad—it’s very sad,” lamented DeMoro. “It could have been a joyous time in history in the Democratic Party but instead they really diminished the credibility of the Democratic Party phenomenally.”

For her part, DeMoro argues the Wall Street bankers and the corporate interests spending so lavishly this week, along with the DNC itself, should be the ones to pony up and reimburse those Sanders delegates who scrimped and saved to attend this week’s convention. “They really should,” she said. “Those delegates—just like so many voters—thought they were participating in an election this year, only to find it was just rigged. And many of them spent up to $7,000—they saved, they went into debt, they fund-raised—to get to Philadelphia because they thought that it would matter. But basically the deals are already done. And though Bernie did they best he could, the Democrats don’t really believe in what they used to believe in.”

And the fights over the party platform prove that. “We had to fight them on everything,” DeMoro said of the Clinton- and DNC-appointed delegates on the committee. “They means-tested the higher-education reform, they rejected single-payer, they wouldn’t oppose the TPP,  they wouldn’t oppose fracking, and they wouldn’t expand Social Security.”

The reluctance of the Democratic Party to embrace those more transformative and egalitarian policy positions, she explained, is perhaps the fundamental issue underlying the distress of Sanders supporters who pinned their support on his call to push beyond what the current system says is permissible.

“It’s very sad. It could have been a joyous time in history in the Democratic Party but instead they really diminished the credibility of the Democratic Party phenomenally.”

During the primaries, for example, Clinton tried to convince voters the single-payer healthcare system advocated by Sanders—one she pronounced will “never ever come to pass“—would actually make people worse off and said things like: “If we broke up the big banks tomorrow, would that end racism? Would that end sexism?”

Explained DeMoro: “What the Democrats like to do is deflect with social issues. They care about all social issues and that way they don’t have to address economic issues or disobey their financial backers on Wall Street.”

But, she concluded, the Sanders campaigned has exposed the fault lines in a way that is very helpful to those clamoring for a deeper transformation. As a person who has spent her life organizing for labor rights and operating within social movements, what she recognized on the faces of her fellow nurses as many of them marched during a demonstration on Sunday in Philadelphia was just how beautiful, and not terrifying, this current moment has become.

“I realized how much Bernie has transformed America—that there is a revolution here. There’s a revolution of consciousness and there’s a different paradigm now in America. We have changed this country. And that they can’t steal from us.”

As she looked on, she said, “I realized how much Bernie has transformed America—that there is a revolution here. There’s a revolution of consciousness and there’s a different paradigm now in America. We have changed this country. And that they can’t steal from us.”

And when it comes to Clinton—or any other lawmaker for that matter unwilling at this point to submit to the full set of demands which fueled Sanders rise—DeMoro conjured an old saying she often uses when the nurses are in a particularly stubborn fight.

“Heroes aren’t made,” she tells them. “They’re cornered.”

As the Election Turns: Trump the Anti-Neocon, Hillary the New Darling of the Neocons

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One might think that at least Bernie’s supporters would applaud Trump’s left-wing transformation of the old conservative, pro-corporate neocon Cheney-Bush core of the Republican Party. But nobody had a single good word to say about Trump’s assertions that he would wind down confrontation with Russia, reduce military spending on the grounds that NATO is obsolete, and oppose the TPP and TTIP as well as rewrite NAFTA’s terms.

The Democrats are misrepresenting this election’s rivalry with the Republicans by attacking Trump’s anti-neocon positions. This leaves Hillary as the neocon choice.

She also has become the choice of the Koch Brothers and the Chamber of Commerce, who are shocked by Trump’s critique of the corporatist TPP and other trade agreements.

So where on earth should reasonable people stand? Writing in “The Nation” (August 1/8) Francis Fox Piven wrote that: “left movements gain influence when the regime in power depends on them for support. Clinton is unlikely to win without significant support from Sanders’s core voters.”

I think that’s crap. Choosing the right-wing Kaine as VP candidate (Hillary finally found someone even to the right of her own neoliberal stance) shows that the Democrats don’t care about Sanders’ people at all. I think that the left would LOSE influence if they fall for the “lesser evil” choice, always voting Democrat in a knee-jerk reaction even when the Republican nominee opposes Cold War escalation and opposes anti-labor trade agreements. — Michael Hudson

SHARMINI PERIES: On Friday, just after the Republican National Congress wrapped up with its presidential candidate, Donald Trump, Paul Krugman of the New York Times penned an article titled “Donald Trump: The Siberian Candidate.” He said in it, if elected, would Donald Trump be Vladimir Putin’s man in the White House? Krugman himself is worried as ludicrous and outrageous as the question sounds, the Trump campaign’s recent behavior has quite a few foreign policy experts wondering, he says, just what kind of hold Mr. Putin has over the Republican nominee, and whether that influence will continue if he wins.

Well, let’s unravel that statement with Michael Hudson. He’s joining us from New York. Michael is a distinguished research professor of economics at the University of Missouri Kansas City. His latest book is Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Bondage Destroyed the Global Economy. So let’s take a look at this article by Paul Krugman. Where is he going with this analysis about the Siberian candidate?

HUDSON: Well, Krugman has joined the ranks of the neocons, as well as the neoliberals, and they’re terrified that they’re losing control of the Republican Party. For the last half-century the Republican Party has been pro-Cold War, corporatist. And Trump has actually, is reversing that. Reversing the whole traditional platform. And that really worries the neocons.

Until his speech, the whole Republican Convention, every speaker had avoided dealing with economic policy issues. No one referred to the party platform, which isn’t very good. And it was mostly an attack on Hillary. Chants of “lock her up.” And Trump children, aimed to try to humanize him and make him look like a loving man.

But finally came Trump’s speech, and this was for the first time, policy was there. And he’s making a left run around Hillary. He appealed twice to Bernie Sanders supporters, and the two major policies that he outlined in the speech broke radically from the Republican traditional right-wing stance. And that is called destroying the party by the right wing, and Trump said he’s not destroying the party, he’s building it up and appealing to labor, and appealing to the rational interest that otherwise had been backing Bernie Sanders.

So in terms of national security, he wanted to roll back NATO spending. And he made it clear, roll back military spending. We can spend it on infrastructure, we can spend it on employing American labor. And in the speech, he said, look, we don’t need foreign military bases and foreign spending to defend our allies. We can defend them from the United States, because in today’s world, the only kind of war we’re going to have is atomic war. Nobody’s going to invade another country. We’re not going to send American troops to invade Russia, if it were to attack. So nobody’s even talking about that. So let’s be realistic.

Well, being realistic has driven other people crazy. Not only did Krugman say that Trump would, quote, actually follow a pro-Putin foreign policy at the expense of America’s allies, and he’s referring to the Ukraine, basically, and it’s at–he’s become a lobbyist for the military-industrial complex. But also, at the Washington Post you had Anne Applebaum call him explicitly the Manchurian candidate, referring to the 1962 movie, and rejecting the neocon craziness. This has just driven them nutty because they’re worried of losing the Republican Party under Trump.

In economic policy, Trump also opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the TTIP trade and corporate power grab [inaud.] with Europe to block public regulation. And this was also a major plank of Bernie Sanders’ campaign against Hillary, which Trump knows. The corporatist wings of both the Republican and the Democratic Parties fear that Trump’s opposition to NAFTA and TPP will lead the Republicans not to push through in the lame duck session after November. The whole plan has been that once the election’s over, Obama will then get all the Republicans together and will pass the Republican platform that he’s been pushing for the last eight years. The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement with Europe, and the other neoliberal policies.

And now that Trump is trying to rebuild the Republican Party, all of that is threatened. And so on the Republican side of the New York Times page you had David Brooks writing “The death of the Republican Party.” So what Trump calls the rebirth of the Republican Party, it means the death of the reactionary, conservative, corporatist, anti-labor Republican Party.

And when he wrote this, quote, Trump is decimating the things Republicans stood for: NATO, entitlement reform, in other words winding back Social Security, and support of the corporatist Trans-Pacific Partnership. So it’s almost hilarious to see what happens. And Trump also has reversed the traditional Republican fiscal responsibility austerity policy, that not a word about balanced budgets anymore. And he said he was going to run at policy to employ American labor and put it back to work on infrastructure. Again, he’s made a left runaround Hillary. He says he wants to reinstate Glass-Steagall, whereas the Clintons were the people that got rid of it.

And this may be for show, simply to brand Hillary as Wall Street’s candidate. But it also seems to actually be an attack on Wall Street. And Trump’s genius was to turn around all the attacks on him as being a shady businessman. He said, look, nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it. Now, what that means, basically, as a businessman, he knows the fine print by which they’ve been screwing the people. So only someone like him knows how to fight against Wall Street. After all, he’s been screwing the Wall Street banks for years [inaud.]. And he can now fight for the population fighting against Wall Street, just as he’s been able to stiff the banks.

So it’s sort of hilarious. On the one hand, leading up to him you had Republicans saying throw Hillary in jail. And Hillary saying throw Trump in the [inaud.]. And so you have the whole election coming up with—.

PERIES: Maybe we should take the lead and lock them all up. Michael, what is becoming very clear is that there’s a great deal of inconsistencies on the part of the Republican Party. Various people are talking different things, like if you hear Mike Pence, the vice presidential candidate, speak, and then you heard Donald Trump, and then you heard Ivanka Trump speak yesterday, they’re all saying different things. It’s like different strokes for different folks. And I guess in marketing and marketeering, which Trump is the master of, that makes perfect sense. Just tap on everybody’s shoulder so they feel like they’re the ones being represented as spoken about, and they’re going to have their issues addressed in some way.

When it comes–he also in that sense appealed to, as you said, the Bernie Sanders people when he talked about the trade deals. You know, he’s been talking about NAFTA, TTIP, TTP, and these are areas that really is traditionally been the left of the left issues. And now there’s this, that he’s anti-these trade deals, and he’s going to bring jobs home. What does that mean?

HUDSON: Well, you’re right when you say there’s a policy confusion within the Republican Party. And I guess if this were marketing, it’s the idea that everybody hears what they want to hear. And if they can hear right-wing gay bashing from the Indiana governor, and they can hear Trump talking about hte LGBTQ, everybody will sort of be on the side.

But I listened to what Governor Pence said about defending Trump’s views on NATO. And he’s so smooth. So slick, that he translated what Trump said in a way that no Republican conservative could really disagree with it. I think he was a very good pick for vice president, because he can, obviously he’s agreed to follow what Trump’s saying, and he’s so smooth, being a lawyer, that he can make it all appear much more reasonable than it would.

I think that the most, the biggest contradiction, was you can look at how the convention began with Governor Christie. Accusing Hillary of being pro-Russian when she’s actually threatening war, and criticizing her for not helping the Ukrainians when it was she who brought Victorian Nuland in to push the coup d’etat with the neo-nazis, and gave them $5 billion. And Trump reversed the whole thing and said no, no, no. I’m not anti-Russian, I’m pro-Russian. I’m not going to defend Ukrainians. Just the opposite.

And it’s obvious that the Republicans have fallen into line behind them. And no wonder the Democrats want them to lose. All of that–you’ve had the Koch brothers say we’re not going to give money to Trump, the Republicans, now. We’re backing Hillary. You’ve got the Chamber of Commerce saying because Trump isn’t for the corporate takeover of foreign trade, we’re now supporting the Democrats, not the Reepublicans.

So this is really the class war. And it’s the class war of Wall Street and the corporate sector of the Democratic side against Trump on the populist side. And who knows whether he really means what he says when he says he’s for the workers and he wants to rebuild the cities, put labor back to work. And when he says he’s for the blacks and Hispanics have to get jobs just like white people, maybe he’s telling the truth, because that certainly is the way that the country can be rebuilt in a positive way.

And the interesting thing is that all he gets from the Democrats is denunciations. So I can’t wait to see how Bernie Sanders is going to handle all this at the Democratic Convention next week.

 

Michael Hudson is a former Wall Street economist. A Distinguished Research Professor at University of Missouri, Kansas City (UMKC), he is the author of many books, including Super Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire (new ed., Pluto Press, 2002). His new book is: Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Bondage Destroy the Global Economy (a CounterPunch digital edition). Sharmini Peries is executive producer of The Real News Network. This is a transcript of Michael Hudson’s interview with Sharmini Peries on the Real News Network.

COUNTERPUNCH

How the Democrats got over the Rainbow

July 25, 2016

After acknowledging that Hillary Clinton would win the Democratic presidential nomination, Bernie Sanders called on supporters of his defeated primary campaign to continue working to transform the Democratic Party. But that strategy has been tried before. Lee Sustar, a veteran contributor to Socialist Worker, looks back at Rev. Jesse Jackson’s “Rainbow challenge” in the 1980s–and explains how the Democratic Party absorbed that effort and killed the left’s hope for a mass membership Rainbow Coalition.

Jesse Jackson speaks during the 1984 Democratic presidential primary campaign

Jesse Jackson speaks during the 1984 Democratic presidential primary campaign

CAN BERNIE Sanders succeed where Jessie Jackson failed three decades ago in attempting to transform the Democratic Party?

Following his speech last month in which he conceded that Hillary Clinton would win the nomination, a reported 7,000 supporters answered Sanders’ call to declare that they would run for public office–including challenging Democratic incumbents in primary campaigns–and carry on the values that his campaign put forward.

Sanders claims that the party’s platform to be adopted at this week’s nominating convention will be the most left wing ever, and his drawn-out negotiations with the Clinton campaign before endorsing her raised expectations that the self-described socialist candidate will continue fighting for his billionaire-bashing, pro-worker talking points.

But if Jackson’s campaigns of three decades ago are any guide, Sanders and his supporters will discover that the Democratic Party is highly adept at accommodating progressive rhetoric and candidates–while avoiding any significant changes in the party’s pro-corporate machinery and policies.

And that’s after two runs for the Democratic presidential nomination in which Jackson, in some ways at least, represented a greater threat to the party status quo than Sanders does today.

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TO MANY on the left, Jackson appeared an unlikely standard-bearer in 1984. As founder of the Chicago-based Operation Breadbasket, Jackson had been oriented on Black capitalism back to the days of the civil rights movement–often to the frustration of his mentor, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

When Jackson criticized King’s plan for a Poor People’s March on Washington, King replied, “If you are so interested in doing your own thing that you can’t do what the organization is structured to do, go ahead. If you want to carve out your own niche in society, go ahead, but for God’s sake, don’t bother me!”

Jackson did strike out on his own with People United to Save Humanity (PUSH), which continued its orientation on building African American businesses. But by 1983–as liberals inside and outside the Democratic Party were pulled to the right by the increasingly conservative climate–Jackson, who traveled constantly, emerged as a leading voice against the right-wing polices of Republican President Ronald Reagan. He said in a speech:

Blacks have their backs against the wall and are increasingly distressed by the erosion of past gains and the rapidly deteriorating conditions within Black and poor communities. As Black leaders have attempted to remedy these problems through the Democratic Party–to which Black voters have been the most loyal and disciplined group–too often they have been ignored or treated with disrespect…

An increase in voter registration and political representation would have a profound impact upon the status quo of the Democratic Party…Never again should Blacks live and operate below their political privilege and rights.

Enthusiastic crowds saw Jackson as a figure who could lead the unfinished struggles of the civil rights and Black Power movements. After months of chants of “Run, Jesse, run!” Jackson threw his hat in the ring.

Jackson had a late start, little organization and less money–and he faced stiff opposition from almost the entire rising Black political establishment. Detroit Mayor Coleman Young said, “The major task of Black America today is to get rid of Ronald Reagan. We cannot afford to support a Black candidate who cannot win.” U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel of New York served as vice chair of the national campaign of former Vice President Walter Mondale, who eventually won the nomination. Many Black elected officials lined up with mainstream Democrats to denounce Jackson’s ties to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

Nevertheless Jackson swept the Black vote across the U.S. in the 1984 campaign. He won 3.5 million votes in the primaries and caucuses–21 percent of the total–and came in first in four states.

On the left, only a handful of revolutionary socialist groups–including the International Socialist Organization–resisted the pressure to join Jackson’s campaign.

As Sheila Collins, a key activist in the campaign, wrote, “The Jackson campaign was the first in which a variety of civil rights activists, Marxists, social democrats (in and out of the Democratic Party), Black nationalists and even some disaffected Republicans worked together to create an ideological convergence.” Barry Commoner, the 1980 presidential candidate of the Citizens Party, a small social democratic environmentalist group, threw his support to Jackson.

The 1984 campaign gave rise to the Rainbow Coalition, which aimed to shift the Democratic Party to the left.

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WHEN JACKSON decided once again to seek the Democratic nomination in 1988, African American elected officials concluded that they had no choice but to get on board this time. It was clear that Jackson would get the votes of the Black establishment’s base, so they resigned themselves to trying to use the Jackson campaign to boost their own clout in the Democratic Party.

The Democratic Party establishment got ready for another Jackson challenge.

In the aftermath of the 1984 campaign, a faction of conservative elected officials and party functionaries had launched the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) with the goal of distancing the party from African Americans and unions. Even the word “liberal” was banished as the DLC tried to curry favor with Wall Street and corporate CEOs.

Southerners, including an obscure Arkansas politician named Bill Clinton, played an important role in the DLC as the party tried to keep white Democrats in the region from defecting to the Republican Party. To that end, the DLC engineered the “Super Tuesday” primary election–a single day earlier in the primary season, with a large number of contests concentrated in the South, to boost the chances of conservative white presidential candidates.

What the geniuses at the DLC forgot was that the Southern Democratic primary electorate was increasingly African American as whites shifted to the Republicans. Thus, on March 8, 1988, a massive Black turnout lifted Jackson to victory a second-place finish in 16 out of 21 primaries–which made Jackson the frontrunner in the delegate count.

Jackson followed with a victory in the Michigan party caucuses, with 55 percent of the vote. He ended the race with 7 million votes, or around 30 percent of the total.

Jackson’s success broke through racial barriers in many parts of the U.S.–like Michigan for example. His campaign championed not only the historic struggle of African Americans, but called for “economic justice” for working-class people whose unions were under attack and whose living standards were declining even as the economy boomed.

Jackson’s success shocked party bosses and the media. A Time magazine cover summed up the feelings of a surprised U.S. ruling class with the headline: “JESSE!?”

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DESPITE THE panic in the mainstream media, though, Jackson’s 1988 campaign was far more moderate than his 1984 run. The Black nationalists and leftists who had played an important role in 1984 were sidelined by machine politicians such as Charles Rangel.

Jackson also tailored his speeches to mainstream politics–for example, he criticized Ronald Reagan’s intervention in the 1980s Gulf War between Iraq and Iran for risking “our boys” in an ill-defined mission. He denounced the administration’s efforts to unseat Panamanian President Manuel Noriega for being too mild and sounded an anti-drug theme that provided a liberal cover for police crackdowns in poor urban neighborhoods. Jackson also hedged on his longstanding support for Palestinian rights by saying he would not talk to the Palestine Liberation Organization until it renounced “terrorism.”

Nevertheless, many on the left argued that Jackson’s calls for “economic justice” during the 1988 campaign injected “class consciousness” into presidential politics. Indeed, thousands of Black and white workers turned out for Jackson rallies and voted for him, delivering him a victory in Michigan’s crucial primary. Jackson’s talk about the “coalition of the rejected” had some real substance in this case.

The fact that significant numbers of white workers were willing to break with racism to vote for Jackson was welcomed by everyone committed to interracial class unity. AndJackson’s speech at the 1988 Democratic National Convention sounded pro-worker themes that the DLC–committed to the idea that the Democrats must follow the Reaganite Republican Party as it turned to the right–had wanted to avoid:

We find common ground at the plant gate that closes on workers without notice. We find common ground at the farm auction, where a good farmer loses his or her land to bad loans or diminishing markets. Common ground at the schoolyard where teachers cannot get adequate pay, and students cannot get a scholarship, and can’t make a loan. Common ground at the hospital admitting room, where somebody tonight is dying because they cannot afford to go upstairs to a bed that’s empty waiting for someone with insurance to get sick. We are a better nation than that. We must do better.

But at the same time, Jackson had been steadily downplaying his anti-racist rhetoric, before and during the 1988 campaign. At the previous year’s convention of his Rainbow Coalition organization, he even went so far as to say that the question of racism had been “solved.”

Jackson’s selection of Ron Brown as his chief negotiator at the 1988 Democratic National Convention showed where he had taken the Rainbow. Brown was a California Democrat with no history of involvement in grassroots struggles, but a long record of working inside the party machine. He had once made his living as a lobbyist for Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier during Duvalier’s murderous dictatorship in Haiti.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

DESPITE JACKSON’S moderation, most left-wing groups, including many Maoist revolutionary organizations, concluded that work within the Democratic Party was essential. Max Elbaum, a veteran leader of the Maoist movement, made the case for this approach:

…[T]he political program of the Jackson/Rainbow movement, while not revolutionary, went well beyond the parameters of mainstream politics. Yet by bringing this program into the Democratic primary contests, the Jackson campaign found a mechanism to present its message to tens of millions and mobilize a nationwide apparatus. This meant a direct confrontation with white supremacy–in the form of a white electoral backlash–as well as conflict with accomodationist Black leaders who were crucial to maintaining the hegemony of bourgeois politics in the African American community.

Especially for activists who continued the New Communist Movement legacy of seeing the fights as indispensable for uniting workers of all colors, the Jackson/Rainbow motion thus offered a tremendous opportunity–even the more so when it seemed that Jackson was willing to build a Rainbow Coalition that would undertake non-electoral as well as electoral activism and remain independent of official Democratic structures, and even distinct from his own campaign structures…

[T]he Rainbow offered the prospect of a durable, mass-based and independent vehicle–one which revolutionaries could loyally help build, while retaining the freedom to advocate their own point of view.

But Jackson did the opposite with the Rainbow Coalition–he prevented it from becoming a permanent mass membership organization. He later orchestrated its merger into Operation PUSH to create Rainbow/PUSH, which serves as Jackson’s personal political vehicle rather than a membership group.

Meanwhile, key Jackson operatives moved into the Democratic Party hierarchy. Donna Brazile, who had been a national Rainbow coordinator of the first Jackson campaign, went on to become Al Gore’s campaign manager in the 2000 elections–today, she is a cable TV news commentator. Ron Brown went on to become U.S. Secretary of Commerce under the candidate he supported in the next presidential election: the DLC’s Bill Clinton.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

THE DISSOLUTION of the Rainbow into the Democratic Party can’t be seen as simply a reflection of Jackson’s personal proclivities or the ambitions of his key allies. Rather, it flows from the nature of the party itself.

After a century of basing much of its power on the segregationist Dixiecrats in the South, the Democratic Party was compelled to open its doors to Southern African American voters and encourage the rapid growth in the number of African American elected officials. The aspirations of Black voters, in turn, pressured Black officials into backing Jackson by 1988.

Meanwhile, for much of the left, having concluded that supporting the Democratic Party in elections was the best way to relate to African American workers, there was no point any longer in maintaining separate revolutionary organization. Most dissolved.

In any event, the impact of the Rainbow Coalition on the Democratic Party was fleeting at best. In his 1992 run for president, Bill Clinton made a point of humiliating Jackson by denouncing the rap artist Sister Souljah at a Rainbow/PUSH event.

Clinton also sought to distance his campaign from any perceived Democratic Party identification with civil rights by leaving the campaign trail during the primaries to preside over the execution of a mentally disabled Black man, Ricky Ray Rector. In Georgia, he visited a penitentiary and staged a photo op with a work gang of hundreds of Black men.

Rather than challenge Clinton from the left, the majority of the Black political establishment adapted to the Democrats’ right turn. The Congressional Black Caucus, for example, is a major recipient of corporate campaign contributions.

By the time Barack Obama became the Democratic Party presidential nominee in 2008, the party was able to offer liberal imagery, with references to the civil rights and labor movements, but maintain business-friendly policies in practice.

The Sanders campaign, of course, has called attention to that contradiction between the Democrats’ words and actions with the aim of challenging the “billionaire class.” And now that Sanders has endorsed her, the Clinton campaign may well throw Sanders a few rhetorical bones.

But behind the scenes, the pressure, bribery and co-optation is going full tilt. That’s why today, as in 1988, the work of building an activist and influential left must take place outside the Democratic Party.

https://socialistworker.org/2016/07/25/how-democrats-got-over-the-rainbow

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