Bernie Sanders: To Reform the Party, Democrats Must Split from Corporate America

ECONOMY
Sanders said the Democrats must reform the party and primary process, and not rely on wealthy donors to beat Trump.

Photo Credit: Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has a clear message and strategy to help mend the wounds that have left the Democratic Party divided. After months of polling as the nation’s most popular politician, he should be taken more seriously — even as an outsider.

In an op-ed published in Politico, Sanders began with a strong rebuke of President Donald Trump and everything that Trump’s policies and rhetoric stand for. But that’s a given to a party at a crossroads, facing the question of what’s next.

So far, Sanders — who is technically an independent — and the Democrats have been on the same page with this message. But the two factions diverge when Sanders talks about reform from within the party. Scan “Resistance” on Twitter, and you’re apt to find thousands of accounts who believe that Sanders hurt Clinton’s chances for victory.

Yet deflecting blame for Clinton’s loss onto Sanders seems to give too much credit to him and implies that Clinton was predestined to be the primary victor. Critiquing one’s primary opponent is an utterly normal thing to do in any primary, but in the end, the Clinton-Sanders rift is both an ideological and political set of differences. And that’s especially true when the two figures are removed.

But back to Sanders’ recent critique of the party. Sanders praised the Democratic victories across the United States on Tuesday and said it was “an important first step in pushing back against Trump’s radical agenda.”

“But this will not happen without an effective opposition party,” Sanders continued. He went on to argue that, despite the victories, “the longer-term trend for the Democratic Party is worrisome.”

There’s plenty of merit to that claim, even if many don’t want to believe it to be true. Only 37 percent of Americans hold a favorable view of the Democratic Party, a new CNN poll revealed. It’s the lowest mark for the party in more than 25 years of polling. A majority, 54 percent, said they had an unfavorable view of the party. Note that Sen. Sanders is far more popular than the Democratic Party at large: in an October Harvard-Harris poll, 53 percent of those polled had a favorable opinion of Sanders. That sounds low, but he was still the most well-liked politician by far: Mike Pence had 45 percent favorability, Trump polled at 41 percent and Hillary Clinton 39.

Sanders pointed out how the party’s power and influence across the country has vastly diminished since 2009, including the loss of “more than 1,000 seats in state legislatures across the country.”

Citing tax reform and repeated health care failures, Sanders wrote that what’s most “absurd about this situation is that the American people strongly oppose almost all elements of the Trump-Republican agenda.”

Sanders argued that “the [Democratic] party cannot remain an institution largely dominated by the wealthy and inside-the-Beltway consultants.”

He added, “It must open its doors and welcome into its ranks millions of working people and young people who desperately want to be involved in determining the future of our nation.”

To reform the party, Sanders said, “First, it is absurd that the Democratic Party now gives over 700 superdelegates—almost one-third the number a presidential candidate needs to win the nomination—the power to control the nominating process and ignore the will of voters.”

Second, he argued that the Democrats stand for “making voting easier, not harder,” and that it “must apply to our primaries.”

“Our job must be to reach out to independents and to young people and bring them into the Democratic Party process. Independent voters are critical to general election victories. Locking them out of primaries is a pathway to failure,” Sanders wrote.

But perhaps his final point is the toughest for many to finally come to terms with.

“If we are to succeed,” Sanders wrote, “we must fully appreciate [Donna] Brazile’s revelations and understand the need for far more transparency in the financial and policy workings of the Democratic Party.” He added, “Hundreds of millions of dollars flow in and out of the Democratic National Committee with little to no accountability. That simply is not acceptable.”

The “revelations” in question referred to former interim Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairwoman Donna Brazile, wrote last week that the DNC had an “unethical” agreement in place that put the Clinton campaign in charge of directing the party’s funds, staffing and overall strategy long before she had won the primary.

Brazile, who oversaw the DNC during a crucial stretch of the presidential primary, shined a light on why Sanders’ shot at winning the primary was likely doomed from the start.

 

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In wake of Brazile revelations, Sanders intensifies call for reviving the Democratic Party

By Patrick Martin
10 November 2017

In television interviews and an open letter to political supporters, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has renewed his pledge of eternal fealty to the second-oldest capitalist party in the world. He sent out the mass email under the title, “Revitalizing the Democratic Party” on Monday, on the eve of the off-year elections in New Jersey and Virginia, which the Democrats won by wide margins.

The statement is the first major response from Sanders to the revelations by former interim Democratic National Committee chair Donna Brazile about the takeover of the DNC by the Hillary Clinton campaign in August 2015, six months before the first votes were cast in the contest for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The joint fundraising agreement between the Clinton campaign and the DNC gave Clinton veto power over DNC appointments and actions, even though the leading party body was required by its own rules to remain neutral in the nomination contest between Clinton, Sanders and several other candidates.

Rather than condemn the blatant collusion, which led to the DNC putting its weight behind Clinton at every point during the nomination fight, Sanders cited Brazile’s revelations as an argument for uniting with the former Clinton aides who now run the DNC, like the current DNC chair Thomas Perez, who was secretary of labor in the Obama administration and backed Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Sanders wrote, “What the recently released book excerpt from former interim DNC Chair Donna Brazile made clear is that unless we get our act together, we are not going to be effective in either taking on Donald Trump or in stopping the extremist right-wing Republican agenda.

“In order to do that, we need to rethink and rebuild the Democratic Party. We need a Democratic Party that opens its doors to new people, new energy and new ideas. We need a Democratic Party that is truly a grassroots party, where decisions are made from the bottom up, not from the top down.”

Contrary to Sanders, the Democratic Party is owned and operated by Wall Street, not by the American people. It is one of the two capitalist parties, controlled by the financial aristocracy, which exist to give the illusion of political choice in elections, while both carry out the instructions of the billionaires.

This perspective is not a new one for Sanders. Despite his nominal “independence” from the two-party system, he sought the Democratic presidential nomination while pledging from the outset to support the eventual Democratic nominee. Once defeated by Clinton, he threw his full support to the candidate who was the favorite of Wall Street and the military-intelligence apparatus.

His main task during the 2016 campaign, which continues today, is to give this corrupt party of corporate America a populist and even “socialist” gloss. In his long email statement, accordingly, Sanders outlined a series of cosmetic reforms that he urged his supporters to demand from DNC Chair Perez and the Democratic National Committee Unity Reform Commission, which is comprised of former Clinton and Sanders supporters as well as additional members selected by Perez.

These include reducing, but not eliminating, superdelegates, opening up participation in primaries and caucuses, and making the DNC’s own procedures and budget more transparent. In support of this pathetic effort, Sanders urged his supporters to sign a petition to Perez urging action on the reform proposals at the commission’s final meeting on December 8-9. Significantly, he said nothing in the email about the decision by Perez to remove several Sanders supporters from the bylaws and rules committees of the DNC.

Sanders continued in this vein in a series of interviews after the Democratic election victories on Tuesday. Interviewed by Anderson Cooper on CNN Wednesday, he praised Donna Brazile for displaying “an enormous amount of courage” in exposing the backroom deal between the DNC and the Clinton campaign, but declined to describe the nomination campaign as “rigged.” He continued, “Anderson, to be very honest with you, my job, our job is to go forward, is do everything we can to defeat this right-wing agenda of the Republican Party in the Trump administration, not to look backwards. “

On Thursday, Sanders spoke at length with the Washington Post about his call for reform of the DNC, including changes in how the DNC decides on financial backing for candidates for local, state and federal office. “We don’t have transparency,” he said. “This is tough stuff, but it means to say that you can’t have a few people in a meeting saying: Well, we can’t support the guy in Kansas. We can’t support the guy in Montana, or whatever. That process has to be much more open.”

In other words, the “reform” of the Democratic Party is a grubby struggle over which candidates will receive the money doled out by the DNC from its fundraising from the “millionaires and billionaires” whose support Sanders claimed to disavow.

According to the Post, Sanders told them that the Brazile revelations should not become a distraction. “The media likes all the divisiveness, and Clinton versus Sanders—fine,” he said, but he did not want to pursue the issue further.

These comments from Sanders do not represent any shift in his orientation, but only establish more definitively that he is continuing the political course set during his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. Shocked by the mass support from young people and sections of workers for his (purely nominal) pretensions to socialism, Sanders seeks to divert this leftward movement among working people back within the straitjacket of the corporate-controlled two-party system, to establish a roadblock against any break by the working class from the Democratic Party.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/11/10/sand-n10.html

Democratic Party crisis explodes in wake of Brazile revelations

By Patrick Martin
6 November 2017

The political crisis in the Democratic Party, brought to the surface with the publication Thursday of excerpts of a campaign memoir by the former interim chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), Donna Brazile, erupted into mutual denunciations over the weekend.

Brazile made public an unprecedented agreement between the DNC (under previous chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz) and the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign that involved Clinton paying off the DNC’s debts and providing it a monthly subsidy in return for gaining control over the appointment of DNC officials and the right of approval over key operational decisions.

The deal was concluded in August 2015, six months before the first votes were to be cast in caucuses or primaries, when the DNC was required by its own rules to remain neutral in the contest between Clinton, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and several other candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination.

A further revelation from Brazile’s book was made public Saturday: she acknowledged discussions among leading Democrats in September 2016, after Hillary Clinton had collapsed at a ceremony in New York City marking the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, over whether Clinton should be replaced as the presidential candidate because of health concerns. Brazile writes that she herself considered Vice President Joe Biden as the logical replacement, but did not make the proposal.

Within hours of this report, 100 former Clinton campaign aides, headed by campaign chairman John Podesta and campaign manager Robby Mook, put their signatures on an open letter denouncing Brazile’s criticism of the Clinton campaign.

The “Open Letter From Hillary For America 2016 Team” makes use of the same Russia-baiting technique employed by the Democrats in their political conflict with the Trump White House, but this time directed against a former top Democrat. In assailing Brazile, the first paragraph of the open letter declares: “It is particularly troubling and puzzling that she would seemingly buy into false Russian-fueled propaganda, spread by both the Russians and our opponent, about our candidate’s health.”

The health questions about Clinton were fueled, however, not by Moscow, but by video broadcast over American cable television networks showing the candidate being lifted into a vehicle by aides and Secret Service agents, in visible distress. The characteristic duplicity of top campaign officials, who initially sought to conceal the incident, added to the ensuing furor.

Even more revealing is what is missing from the Clinton camp’s “Open Letter”: there is no reference whatsoever to the main revelation stemming from Brazile’s book—the secret joint fundraising agreement between the Clinton campaign and the DNC, six months before the first caucus in Iowa, giving Clinton effective control of the party apparatus. The Clinton aides do not dispute that this backroom deal occurred and make no attempt to justify it.

On Sunday morning, Brazile appeared on the ABC News program “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” The host, himself a former top political aide in the White House of Bill Clinton, provided a platform for Brazile to repeat her exposure of the collusion between the Clinton campaign and the DNC and discuss the “Open Letter” from the former Clinton campaign officials.

She bitterly denounced the Clinton camp, both for its treatment of the DNC while she was in charge, and for their ferocious response to her new book. “George, for those who are telling me to shut up, they told Hillary that a couple of months ago,” Brazile declared. “You know what I tell them? Go to hell! I’m going to tell my story.”

Brazile also touched on a topic of intense but largely behind-the-scenes discussion in official Washington: the July 2016 murder of Seth Rich, a low-level IT staffer at the DNC, who was shot to death in what police called a failed robbery attempt. The Trump White House and ultra-right media allies, including Alex Jones of InfoWars and Sean Hannity of Fox News, have portrayed Rich, rather than Russian hackers, as the likely source for the DNC emails obtained by WikiLeaks, and his killing as a retaliatory “hit” ordered by the Clinton campaign.

Brazile reportedly suggests in her book—which will not be available to the public until Tuesday—that Rich’s death, warnings from the Obama administration about Russian hacking and repeated online threats from Trump supporters had made her extremely concerned about security issues, to the point where she had her home swept for bugs and installed multiple security devices. In her interview Sunday with Stephanopoulos, she spoke of her fears for her own personal safety. Her mention of Seth Rich, entirely unsolicited, seemed a veiled warning to the Clinton camp that more revelations about 2016 campaign skullduggery could be forthcoming.

Current DNC Chair Tom Perez was interviewed Sunday on “Meet the Press” on NBC and directly rejected the two main issues raised by Brazile. He maintained, “The charge that Hillary Clinton was somewhere incapacitated is quite frankly ludicrous,” although he did not attribute that concern to Russian propaganda.

He went on to argue that Clinton won the Democratic primary contest by four million votes, and the DNC was not in control of those elections, which are run by the state governments, while noting that the caucuses, which are controlled by the party apparatus, were mostly won by Sanders, not Clinton. Perez would concede only that “the DNC fell short during critical moments of the primary,” in terms of openly favoring Clinton over Sanders.

Significantly, neither Sanders nor any of his top aides or supporters made an appearance on any of the Sunday television talk shows. Sanders issued a statement on Brazile’s revelations suggesting that the conduct of the 2016 campaign was a diversion from the effort to mobilize opposition to the Trump administration.

The fact is that Brazile informed Sanders of the joint fundraising agreement and the takeover of the DNC by Clinton more than a year ago, and he has chosen to say nothing about it. This is part of his effort to prop up the Democratic Party and prevent the millions of working people and youth who supported his campaign from drawing the political conclusion that it is necessary to break with the Democrats in order to conduct any genuine struggle against the billionaires who dominate the US political system.

The conflict within the Democratic Party has erupted under conditions where the Republican Party is bordering on civil war, with several Republican senators denouncing Trump as a threat to American democracy—and then announcing they would retire from office rather than oppose him—and a vicious conflict developing between the party establishment and the fascist-minded elements around Trump, spearheaded by his former chief political aide and campaign manager, Stephen Bannon, now returned to his position as chief executive of the ultra-right Breitbart News.

In recent days, it has been reported that in an upcoming book titled The Last Republicans, the author cites interviews with George H. W. Bush and his son George W. Bush in which the two last Republican presidents before Trump denounce the current occupant of the White House and reveal that they refused to vote for him in 2016. In response, Trump tweeted an attack on his Republican presidential critics.

The ABC “This Week” program on which Brazile was interviewed began with the presentation of a new Washington Post/ABC News poll showing public support for Trump falling to its low point for the year, only 37 percent, with 59 percent opposing. Trump’s showing was the worst for any first-year president since modern polling began. Other polls have shown public support for the Republican-controlled Congress hitting new lows as well.

The vast majority of working people are increasingly alienated from the two-party political system in the United States, correctly regarding both the Democrats and the Republicans as tools of the super-rich and looking for an alternative. The central political question is the building of a political movement of the working class that will fight the capitalist system as a whole and advance a program to defend jobs, living standards and democratic rights, and oppose imperialist war.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/11/06/dems-n06.html

Former Democratic chairman reveals Clinton rigging of 2016 nomination campaign

By Patrick Martin
4 November 2017

The Hillary Clinton campaign used its financial resources to take control of the Democratic National Committee more than six months before the first primary vote, using the party machinery to insure Clinton won the presidential nomination, according to a new book by a top Democratic insider.

Donna Brazile, longtime vice chairman of the party, campaign manager for Al Gore in 2000, and interim chairman of the DNC from July 2016 to February 2017, makes the explosive revelation in her newly published account, Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the White House.

A chapter of the book was excerpted Thursday on the Politico web site, under the headline, “Inside Hillary Clinton’s Secret Takeover of the DNC.” Brazile writes that soon after she became interim chairman after the Democratic convention in July 2016, she began investigating charges of collaboration between the previous DNC chair, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and the Clinton campaign.

She discovered in the DNC files a signed agreement between the Clinton campaign and the DNC, dated August 2015, in which the Clinton campaign was given effective control of DNC decision-making in return for bailing out the DNC financially.

The DNC was near bankruptcy, and Clinton campaign manager Robbie Mook agreed to pay off its $10 million debt and provide a monthly stipend, which ultimately totaled another $10 million. Brazile continues: “in exchange for raising money and investing in the DNC, Hillary would control the party’s finances, strategy, and all the money raised. Her campaign had the right of refusal of who would be the party communications director, and it would make final decisions on all the other staff. The DNC also was required to consult with the campaign about all other staffing, budgeting, data, analytics, and mailings.”

Brazile admits the grossly anti-democratic character of this arrangement, given that the Democratic presidential nomination was a contest between at least five candidates at that point, two of them, Clinton and Sanders, with substantial support. In all previous such contested races, the rules of the DNC had required it to remain neutral.

“The funding arrangement with HFA and the victory fund agreement was not illegal,” she claims, “but it sure looked unethical. If the fight had been fair, one campaign would not have control of the party before the voters had decided which one they wanted to lead. This was not a criminal act, but as I saw it, it compromised the party’s integrity.”

Brazile is defensive about the legality of the arrangement for good reason: it involved a brazen effort to evade restrictions imposed by federal campaign finance laws, which limit to $2,700 the amount that an individual can give to a presidential campaign.

Under the deal brokered with the DNC, wealthy donors could pump $353,400 into the party’s coffers, $10,000 to each of 32 state parties that participated in the scam, and $33,400 to the DNC itself, in each case, the maximum allowed under federal law. All these funds would be deposited in the accounts of the various state parties and the DNC. Most states would send their money back to the DNC, and the DNC would funnel the whole sum to the Clinton campaign. In the end, the state parties retained less than one percent of the $82 million raised in this effort.

Similar money trails have been a staple of both Democratic and Republican fund-raising efforts for the last several presidential election cycles, but the 2016 campaign was the first in which such flimflam was conducted before the party had selected a presidential nominee, and months before a single vote had been cast in a caucus or primary.

There are several important aspects of the Brazile account. It confirms that the DNC emails released by WikiLeaks—which the US intelligence agencies and the media claim, without providing evidence, were obtained through Russian hackers—provided an accurate picture of the collaboration between top DNC officials and the Clinton campaign. The leaked emails were damaging to Clinton because they were true, not because they were false, or “fake news.”

Some 12 million people, with a preponderance of youth and students, voted for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries and caucuses, attracted by his claim to be a socialist and his denunciation of the grip of “millionaires and billionaires” on the US economy and political system.

But he was seeking the presidential nomination of one of the two parties controlled by the billionaires and unshakably committee to their interests, as demonstrated by the blatant purchase of the DNC for $20 million by Hillary Clinton, the favored candidate of the financial aristocracy in 2016.

The US ruling elite was shocked and surprised by the mass support for a candidate claiming to be socialist—none more so than Sanders himself. His major service to Wall Street was to divert this popular following back into safe channels, by wrapping up his campaign and throwing his support to Hillary Clinton at the convention.

Brazile notes in her memoir that she called Sanders in September 2016 to tell him about her discovery of a formal agreement between the Clinton campaign and the DNC. “I had promised Bernie when I took the helm of the Democratic National Committee after the convention that I would get to the bottom of whether Hillary Clinton’s team had rigged the nomination process,” she writes.

She described the joint fund-raising agreement between the Clinton campaign and the DNC, telling Sanders, “I’ve completed my review of the DNC and I did find the cancer,” but pleading with him, “But I will not kill the patient.”

Brazile continues: “Bernie took this stoically. He did not yell or express outrage. Instead he asked me what I thought Hillary’s chances were. The polls were unanimous in her winning but what, he wanted to know, was my own assessment?”

This gives a glimpse of the real politics of Sanders, who agreed to Brazile’s entreaty not to “kill the patient,” i.e., expose the Democratic Party and the Clinton campaign by making public this stinking backroom deal.

Some of Sanders’s former campaign aides have vocally denounced the DNC and the Clinton campaign in the wake of Brazile’s revelations. Mark Longabaugh, a former adviser, called the DNC-Clinton deal “outrageous,” while former campaign manager Jeff Weaver called it “egregious” and “undemocratic,” while describing the fundraising scheme as “a laundering operation.”

But Sanders himself continued to downplay the revelation, suggesting that to focus on the 2016 campaign was a diversion from opposing the policies of the Trump administration. After President Trump tweeted about the Brazile book, calling for a Justice Department investigation, Sanders responded, also on Twitter, “We won’t be distracted from your efforts to give billionaires tax cuts, take health care from millions and deny climate change.”

Democratic Voters Are Done with Party Centrists—and the Progressives Are a Majority

NEWS & POLITICS
On the left, the voters are once again way ahead of the politicians.

Vermont senator Bernie Sanders speaking with supporters at the Phoenix Convention Center.
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr

A new poll shows most Democratic voters want their party to move left, with new people in charge. In other words, they want a political revolution.

They’ve got the right idea.

If the party establishment thinks Robert Mueller’s investigation will save it, it’s probably wrong. After President Richard Nixon and Vice President Spiro Agnew were both removed from office for malfeasance, Jimmy Carter barely eked out a win in 1976. Four years later, Ronald Reagan’s victory ushered in 12 years of Republican leadership in the White House.

That’s a lesson for today’s Democrats. High crimes and misdemeanors don’t automatically translate into enthusiasm for the other party, especially in today’s murky political environment. Corruption is more likely to lead to cynicism than to citizen involvement, unless voters are given something to believe in.

A Left Majority Led By Women and People of Color

Democratic voters apparently know what they believe in. In the latest Harvard-Harris poll, a sample of the party’s base voters was asked: “Do you support or oppose movements within the Democratic Party to take it even further to the left and oppose the current Democratic leaders?”

52 percent of those polled said they support those movements, while 48 percent said they oppose them. That’s a call to political insurrection. These voters want to change the party’s ideology. They “oppose” (that’s a strong word, “oppose”) the people who have been running it for decades.

If the implications for the party’s upcoming races seem clear, the long-term implications are even more stark: 69 percent of voters aged 18 to 34 said they support those insurrectionary movements.

Among other things, the Harvard-Harris poll disproves the “Bernie Bros” canard so beloved by the party’s establishment. Democratic insiders have repeatedly insisted that the party’s left is dominated by white males. The implication is that the left is somehow sexist and/or racist.

But the poll shows that support for the left is greater among female voters (55 percent), Hispanic voters (65 percent), and African-American voters (55 percent) than it is among whites (46 percent) or men (49 percent).

Identity and Economy

It shouldn’t be surprising that Democratic women and people of color are more left-leaning than their white, male counterparts. They’re more likely to suffer the economic consequences of racism and sexism – forms of oppression that are structural as well as social in nature. Some of those signs of structural oppression include:

African Americans are the only racial group in the country who are still worse off economically today than they were in 2000. Black people in this country are more likely to lack health insurance, and the black-white wage gap is worse today than it was in 1979.

Women working full-time in the United States last year earned only about 80 cents for every dollar a man made, according to the latest Census Bureau data. (The marginal decrease in the gender wage gap was due at least in part to falling wages among men.)

Black women working full-time earned only 63 cents for every dollar earned by a white male, Native women earned only 57 cents and Latinas earned only 54 cents. Households led by women were much more likely to be impoverished than male-led households.

While some Democratic leaders, along with their media backers, have tried to argue that the left’s agenda is antithetical to “identity politics,” that dichotomy would have been rejected by pioneers like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Margaret Sanger, both of whom were leftists.

As for younger voters, they’ve grown up under the most economically unequal conditions in more than one hundred years. Social mobility is down. Millions are burdened with staggering student debt. The entry-level job market has been poor since at least 2008, and their generation has been plagued with under-employment that’s likely to cripple their lifetime earning potential.

Is it any wonder they’re unimpressed with party leaders whose main claims to leadership are their lengthy résumés as members of the ruling elite?

Leftward Movement

Wisely, these voters are looking to “movements,” and not to the party itself, for answers. That’s where change is likely to be born – from the activism of those who understand that economics and identity are inseparable. It’s certainly not going to come from leaders who seem determined to purge the representatives of those movements, while at the same time trying to elevate corporate lobbyists to leadership positions.

Nothing could be more antithetical to the wishes of the party’s base, as expressed in this poll.

There are those who say the party’s base voters are wrong, as a hedge-funder turned Democratic operative did recently. They claim that a “left” agenda will lead the party to defeat. They’re wrong, for at least three reasons.

Working Class

First, many of the left’s ideas appeal to voters across the political spectrum. A number of polls – see herehere, and here, for example – have shown that most voters, including most Republicans, support expanding Social Security.

Donald Trump won the GOP nomination – and ultimately the presidency – in part because he adopted left-seeming positions on trade, job creation, and cracking down on Wall Street. A bitter irony, I know.

Despite improvement in the topline economic numbers, voters remain deeply uncertain about their economic prospects and the nation’s future. 60 percent of respondents to the Harvard-Harris poll said the country is “off on the wrong track.”

Economic uncertainty affects voting across racial and ethnic lines. Regarding Trump voters, pollsters Pete Brodnitz and Jill Normington told House Democrats earlier this year:

“We suffer from the lack of an identifiable positive agenda. Without it, voters will turn to Trump for progress. With it, we can make significant gains.”

That doesn’t mean Democrats should adopt a race-based approach. Turnout was down significantly for black and Hispanic voters last year, which may well have changed the race’s outcome. An “identifiable positive agenda” on the economy is likely to bring out more working-class people of color as well.

Democrats don’t need a “white” strategy. They need a “working class” strategy.

The Vanishing Persuadables

Second, establishment Democrats have spent far too long trying to appeal to that rapidly-vanishing creature known as the “persuadable” voter – perhaps because that approach suited their own ideology (or self-interest) very neatly. Survey datashows that fewer such voters exist with every passing year.

In this environment, turnout is a much more decisive factor than persuasion. Conservatives are more likely to vote than liberals, and early polling indicates that Republicans will outperform Democrats on turnout again in 2018.

To boost turnout, Democrats should look to candidates and policies that mobilize left-leaning voters.

A Movement is More Than a Party

The third point is the simplest one of all. it’s hard to argue that the leftward path leads to defeat when the party’s had so many losses under its current, more right-leaning ideology. Arguments about how to win are most persuasive when they come from people who win on a regular basis. Democrats are out of power in all three branches of the federal government and two-thirds of the states, which means the party’s current leaders don’t have much credibility on the subject.

With any luck, Mueller’s investigation will bring Donald Trump and his team the justice they so richly deserve. But that won’t save the Democrats.

The party’s voters are looking to movements to bring them new leaders and a leftward shift. That’s smart. Movements have energy, independence, and commitment. They can reshape a party’s leadership, infuse it with new ideas, and populate it with activists. That’s because a movement is more than a party. It’s something broader and deeper, something that infuses its members’ lives with purpose and meaning.

Party leaders will fight back, of course. In fact, they already are. But their record of failure shows that the tide of history is against them. On the left, at least, the voters are once again way ahead of the politicians.

 

Richard (RJ) Eskow is a blogger and writer, a former Wall Street executive, a consultant, and a former musician.

https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/dems-want-ditch-leaders-and-move-left?akid=16310.265072.1SHY-3&rd=1&src=newsletter1084703&t=22

The Democrats’ McCarthyite witch hunt

3 November 2017

This week’s congressional hearings on “extremist content” on the Internet mark a new stage in the McCarthyite witch hunt by congressional Democrats, working with the intelligence agencies and leading media outlets, to legitimize censorship and attack free speech on the Internet.

One after another, congressmen and senators goaded representatives of Google, Twitter and Facebook to admit that their platforms were used to sow “social divisions” and “extremist” political opinions. The aim of this campaign is to claim that social conflict within the United States arises not from the scale of social inequality in America, greater than in any other country in the developed world, but rather from the actions of “outside agitators” working in the service of the Kremlin.

The hearings revolved around claims that Russia sought to “weaponize” the Internet by harnessing social anger within the United States. “Russia,” said Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, promoted “discord in the US by inflaming passions on a range of divisive issues.” It sought to “mobilize real Americans to sign online petitions and join rallies and protests.”

The McCarthyite witch hunts of the 1950s sought to suppress left-wing thought and label all forms of dissent as illegitimate and treasonous. Those who led them worked to purge left-wing opinion from Hollywood, the trade unions and the universities.

Likewise, the new McCarthyism is aimed at creating a political climate in which left-wing organizations and figures are demonized as agents of the Kremlin who are essentially engaged in treasonous activity deserving of criminal prosecution.

To this end, the congressional witch-hunters released a series of “Russia-linked” social media posts expressing opposition to police violence and social inequality. These were meant to serve as “smoking gun” examples of how Russia worked to sow social divisions within the US.

The argument that it takes a Vladimir Putin to divide the United States is, frankly, laughable. So far this year there have been 273 mass shootings in which four or more people were killed. More than 1,000 people are killed by police every year.

The United States is bursting at the seams with social discontent. Inequality, war, the pressures caused by poverty-wage jobs—all are sources of enormous social anger.

The Democrats’ absurd narrative stems from their attempt to rationalize away their disastrous defeat in the 2016 election, blaming it on a Kremlin-backed conspiracy instead of their own indifference to the social misery that pervades the country.

At Wednesday’s hearings, Schiff declared that the problem is “not just foreign” and complained that the algorithms used by social media companies “tend to accentuate content that is fear-based or anger-based.”

“That helps it pick up an audience and go viral and be amplified,” he said, with the consequence of “widening divisions among our society.”

When was the last time Schiff or any of his colleagues held a hearing on the real sources of division and social discontent in America? Are they holding hearings on the soaring wealth of the financial elite, on the criminal conduct of the wars in Afghanistan or Syria? No, Schiff’s concern is to prevent the people from learning anything that would fuel their “anger.”

To this end, he asked representatives of Facebook, Twitter and Google what “societal obligation” they have to change the fact that “what ends up percolating to the top of our feeds tends to be things we were looking for.”

In this statement, Schiff makes clear the real content of the Democratic Party’s furor about “fake news” and “Russian meddling.” What concerns Schiff and his colleagues is not “fake news,” but true news that goes “viral” and gets “amplified” because it reflects popular anger.

The problem, according to Schiff and his fellow congressional witch-hunters, is that people looking for politically critical viewpoints can actually find them on the Internet, as opposed to what they find in the corporate-controlled newspapers and TV broadcasters.

Amid soaring social inequality, a spiraling political crisis and the continuous threat of nuclear war, millions of people have grown justifiably hostile to the capitalist system and the political establishment. The immense popularity of the Internet reflects the fact that it provides people with the chance to obtain information that news outlets such as the New York Times, working with the intelligence agencies, seek to keep from them.

The ruling elite sees the combination of social disaffection and the unlimited access to information provided by the Internet as an existential threat that must be combated through censorship. As Clint Watts, a former US Army officer and FBI agent, put it at Tuesday’s hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee: “Civil wars don’t start with gunshots, they start with words. America’s war with itself has already begun. We all must act now on the social media battlefield to quell information rebellions… Stopping the false information artillery barrage landing on social media users comes only when those outlets distributing bogus stories are silenced—silence the guns and the barrage will end.”

The fact that censorship is spoken of so openly means that a major intensification is coming. The American ruling elite, to use the words of Watts, believes it is already engaged in a civil war with its own population and is more than willing to use censorship to “silence” sources of “rebellion.”

Google, Facebook and Twitter are already engaged in censorship, each of them announcing that they are hiring “thousands” of people to moderate and review content. Earlier this month, Google removed from its list of “preferred” channels on YouTube the Russian-sponsored TV station and online news outlet RT, which reports stories largely censored by the mainstream press. Twitter likewise blocked RT from using its advertising service.

In April, Google implemented a change to its search algorithm that slashed traffic to left-wing, antiwar and progressive websites by more than 55 percent. Last month, it removed almost all pages from the World Socialist Web Sitefrom its news service, Google News, together with articles from leading left-wing journalists such as Pulitzer Prize winner Chris Hedges.

This drive to destroy freedom of speech must be opposed! It is the spearhead for the dismantling of democratic rights not just in the United States, but all over the world.

Andre Damon

WSWS

This party isn’t gonna get any better

The hopes for rebuilding and strengthening the left lie outside the Democratic Party.

Clockwise from top left: Nancy Pelosi, Tom Perez, Cory Booker and Chuck Schumer

Clockwise from top left: Nancy Pelosi, Tom Perez, Cory Booker and Chuck Schumer

TWO STORIES have gotten attention in recent weeks as key indicators of what direction each of the major political parties is heading in the lead-up to the 2018 midterm elections.

Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, one of Donald Trump’s leading Republican critics, announced that he wouldn’t run for re-election after it became apparent he wouldn’t win a primary challenge from Kelli Ward, the rabid xenophobe whose campaign is part of Steve Bannon’s master plan remake the Republican Party in Donald Trump’s vile image.

A few days earlier, Democratic National Committee (DNC) chair Tom Perez purged a number of Bernie Sanders’ key allies from the organization’s leadership posts and its rule committee.

Many of the progressives were replaced with current and former lobbyists for big banks and energy corporations. Also appointed was Donna Brazile, best known most recently for using her job at CNN to leak debate questions to the Clinton campaign–“an interesting choice for a committee that focuses on ‘rules,'” as Branko Marcetic noted for In These Times.

Put the two stories together and what do you have? At a time of growing polarization in which people are moving toward both ends of the political spectrum, the Republican Party is moving further to the right while the Democratic Party is…also moving further to the right.

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BERNIE SANDERS’ stunning success last year as a self-proclaimed socialist running for the Democratic presidential nomination created justifiable excitement on the left about the prospects for socialism to finally break out of isolation after many decades in the American wilderness.

Since then, Sanders’ popularity has only increased. A recent Harvard-Harris poll has him as the most popular politician in either party, with especially strong support registering among young people generally and Blacks and Latinos of all ages.

It isn’t hard to see why. While Sanders is pushing for policies like a single-payer health care system that would benefit the vast majority of the country, other leading Democrats have little to offer beyond hoping that the Robert Mueller investigation of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia will somehow lead to the president’s impeachment.

No wonder many supporters of the Democrats are getting restless. The same Harvard-Harris poll shows that 52 percent of Democrats support “movements within the Democratic Party to take it even further to the left and oppose the current Democratic leaders.”

Even more encouragingly, the AFL-CIO convention passed a resolution last week calling for labor to form an “independent political voice” because “the time has passed when we can passively settle for the lesser of two evils.”

These expressions of frustration with corporate Democrats are important, but they shouldn’t give the left a false sense of confidence that the maneuverings of Perez and the DNC represent the last gasp of a clueless old guard whose time has passed.

In fact, as the outlook for the 2018 midterm elections starts to take shape, it’s looking more likely that the party apparatus knows what it’s doing in maintaining control than the progressives who think they’re reshaping the party from the inside.

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ALL THIS takes place in the context of political volatility around the world.

Countries that have failed to restore living standards to the level before the Great Recession of 2007-08 have seen increasing polarization, creating crises for parties of the center–and the rise of more radical parties and leaders on both the right and left.

In the U.S., Trump’s victory in the Republican primaries was both the culmination of a decades-long move to the right and a dramatic shift in the GOP’s internal power dynamics–to the extent that its traditional corporate power brokers now have to accommodate and sometimes follow the ideologically hardened nationalism and fascist flirtations of sections of the party’s base.

Jeff Flake’s problem in Arizona wasn’t that Kelli Ward and Steve Bannon are wildly popular–Harvard-Harris puts Bannon’s approval rating at 16 percent–but that they increasingly dominate a party shifting even further to the right.

The Democrats, of course, have their own polarization to deal with. But unlike their weakened and divided Republican counterparts, the Democratic leadership has remained united around a vision of corporate liberalism–with political platforms that read like generic corporate brochures about the benefits of a diverse workplace and the wonders of retraining programs when you inevitably get laid off.

This party unity in spite of the discontent of its base was clear last year when Sanders won 45 percent of primary voters, but was backed by only 8 percent of the elected officials, staffers, lobbyists and donors who made up the party’s “superdelegates.”

Republicans have reflected the polarization of this period so much more clearly than Democrats in part because there is much less room for radical left-wing politics inside parties owned by the 1 Percent than there is room for radical right-wing politics.

The militants inside the Republican Party have been funded by a constellation of billionaires with overlapping reactionary agendas, ranging from libertarianism to Christian theocracy to fascism.

These ideologues may cause some discomfort among party donors in the boardrooms of ExxonMobil and Morgan Stanley, but ultimately, all sides can agree on the general principle of empowering the wealthy and keeping everyone else divided and oppressed.

This doesn’t work as a blueprint for the radical left, which has to be built by large numbers of working people in the labor movement and grassroots organizations “speaking with an unquestionably independent political voice,” as the AFL-CIO resolution put it.

Instead, we have the worst of both worlds: hundreds of unions and civil rights organizations that have been completely captured by a Democratic Party owned by Silicon Valley, Wall Street and the Pentagon.

Rather than acting as “pressure groups” inside the party, this professional left more closely resembles, as Jane Hamscher once famously put it in the early days of the Obama administration, a “veal pen” that forms a left flank to protect the party from the wrath of their own members.

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OF COURSE, this is precisely the situation that many progressives are hoping can be changed by the wave of Sanders supporters fighting from the inside for the soul of the Democratic Party.

“A striking feature of the current political moment is that many activists on the Left are flocking to the Democratic Party, Frances Fox Piven and Lorraine C. Minnite wrote at In These Times.

“But the Democrats are not merely gaining voters,” they continue. “They are gaining activists, people who are committing not only to pull the party lever in the voting booth, but who are determined to rejuvenate and transform the party, beginning at the local level.”

It’s easy to see why that scenario would be attractive to people. But the hard truth is that an organization which has dominated American politics for as long as the Democrats doesn’t allow itself to be “transformed” without a fight–and there aren’t many indications so far that the party’s left is up for even the kind of battle that would change its current rightward direction, much less really transform the Democrats.

The response of the Sanders wing to the DNC purge, for example, was anything but threatening.

“I’m concerned about the optics, and I’m concerned about the impact,” complained James Zogby, one of the purged DNC executive committee members. “”I want to heal the wound of 2016.” Zogby voiced similar sentiments on Twitter: “This doesn’t bring the party together, it deepens the divide at a time we need all hands on deck.”

Not exactly a Bannon-like threat to go to war against the party hacks who sold their souls to corporate interests.

Zogby’s comments reflect the larger timidity of the party’s left wing to wage any kind of fight that will threaten organizational unity in upcoming elections. Unlike Bannon and the Tea Party before him, Sanders Democrats aren’t planning to wage primary challengesagainst centrist House and Senate incumbents in 2018.

The fear of continued Republican rule in Congress in the Trump era is understandable. But as long as that fear continues to be the primary architect of liberal strategy, Democrats will continue moving rightward, assuming its base will follow.

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THE IDEA that progressives have no choice but to work inside the Democratic Party in order to stop Trump and Bannon rests on the assumption that there’s nothing we can do to stop the Republicans outside the halls of Congress.

This might be the biggest problem with the electoral focus of the left: It’s taking attention away from the sources of our greatest power.

One professional football player started a protest last year that has revived a discussion of racist police murders and inspired hundreds of other players to engage in workplace protests in defiance of their employer and the president of the United States.

Hundreds of thousands of women have come forward with their stories of sexual abuse, which has not only dramatically changed awareness of the issue, but led to the investigation, suspension and termination of dozens of powerful executives.

These actions offer a glimpse of the social power just of uncoordinated individuals. Imagine how powerful those protests could be if civil rights groups called for millions of us to kneel outside district attorney’s offices until cops were arrested for killing Black and Brown people. Or if unions organized a campaign to identify and fire the thousands of managers guilty of sexual harassment every day.

Yes, it’s possible for the left to do protests and electoral work at the same time. But they’ll only be effective if they flow from a unified strategy, based on an understanding that our greatest power lies outside of a rigged political system.

The fight to get Congress to pass a “clean” DREAM Act, for example, would be greatly strengthened if it was based less on appeals to Democrats and Republicans to do the right thing, and more on the credible threat that there will be widespread and sustained upheaval on many campuses and in workplaces and communities if 800,000 DACA recipients lose their legal status on March 1.

Similarly, we should be clear that the growing support for single-payer health care will only have a chance at becoming law when we’ve built a powerful movement including patients and health care workers together.

We’re, of course, nowhere near that level of struggle. By contrast, engaging in electoral work inside the Democratic Party, particularly at the local level, feels more productive to many progressives at the moment. It’s the path of least resistance–but people should ask themselves why that is.

The current popularity of Bernie Sanders and progressive politics shows that for the first time in decades, it’s possible to see a future U.S. with a genuine left-wing party, which could have a transformative impact not only here, but around the world.

But that project has to be rooted among people committed to building that alternative not on the Democrats’ terms, but on the explosive potential of popular struggle.

Otherwise there’s a very real danger that we will lose a new radical generation to the doomed project of “reshaping” the Democratic Party in much the same way that bunny rabbits reshape a python after they walk through its open jaws: briefly.

Editor’s Note: This article was initially published with an ableist word, “lame,” in the headline, which has since been deleted. This was a mistake we regret, and we apologize for it.

https://socialistworker.org/2017/10/31/this-party-isnt-gonna-get-any-better