What’s the next step toward Medicare for All?

Sean Petty, a registered nurse in New York City and member of the board of directors of the New York State Nurses Association, makes the case that single-payer health care advocates can advance the struggle politically and organizationally.

Taking to the streets for single-payer health care in Los Angeles (Molly Adams | flickr)

Taking to the streets for single-payer health care in Los Angeles (Molly Adams | flickr)

THE PRESS conference earlier this month where Bernie Sanders announced his “Medicare for All” legislation shows both the massive opening and the serious challenges facing the struggle for truly universal health care in the U.S.

Sanders’ legislation comes after a summer of successful struggle to stop Trumpcare. The Senate Republicans’ latest attempt to “repeal and replace” Obamacare collapsed this week after a handful of both hard-right and more “moderate” Republican senators came out against it.

Donald Trump tweeted angrily about John McCain, but a very important reason for the defeat of the various Trumpcare proposals was the upsurge of protest organized by liberal organizations, unions and other health care advocates.

The angry demonstrations at events held by Republican lawmakers throughout the year, as well as actions in Washington, helped expose how the GOP plans for “repeal and replace” would have worsened an already ailing system governed by Obamacare–particularly by dismantling Medicaid and Medicare. Beyond the protests, popular opinion ran heavily against Trumpcare.

This opposition went far beyond single-payer advocates, but it helped our movement by reminding millions of people how critical federally funded health care is–and getting them to more seriously consider Medicare for All as an alternative to both Trumpcare and Obamacare.

The effect of this on Sanders’ proposal has been telling. For almost three decades, the mainstream of the Democratic Party has systematically undermined and marginalized proposals for single-payer health care. But this month, 16 Democratic senators, including most of the known hopefuls for the 2020 presidential nomination, lined up in support of Sanders’ legislation.

Of course, it’s easy for liberal Democrats to support Sanders’ bill when it has no chance in becoming law under a majority Republican Congress, with Donald Trump in the White House. The Democrats can appeal to millions of people persuaded by the case for Medicare for All, without having to face the fury of the for-profit health care industry.

But even at the level of purely rhetorical support, Sanders’ legislation is a big deal. It is a crack in the political edifice on the issue of single-payer health care, which opens up opportunities to mobilize greater pressure from outside Washington. Whether the crack gets widened or sealed up is a critical question facing our re-energized movement.

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THIS IS a useful moment to pull the lens back and look at what it will take to make Medicare For All a reality.

The first dynamic to understand is that we haven’t seen anything close to the opposition that will cohere among the health care industry and the ruling class as a whole when a Medicare for All proposal like Sanders’ gets closer to being enacted.

Health care accounts for as much as one-fifth of all economic activity in the U.S., according to estimates. There is a considerable amount of wealth at stake in the profits of the prescription drug industry, from medical supply and equipment sales, and, of course, for private insurance.

Medicare for All would allow the government to bargain with health care companies with an unprecedented leverage and economic scale–and it would be a huge blow to private insurers, even if it doesn’t totally eliminate them. Moreover, Sanders’ bill is filled with taxes on the rich and powerful–higher taxes on business, wealth taxes, a more progressive income tax structure, and even a one-time tax on offshore financial holdings.

The opposition to single-payer will manifest itself in two general ways.

The most blatant will be an extremely well-funded propaganda campaign that claims Medicare For All would produce “death panels” and financial ruin to every household in America.

The resounding defeat last year of a Colorado ballot initiative that would have changed the state constitution to permit universal coverage for every resident gives a taste of how the economic and political powers–including plenty of Democrats who claimed to oppose Trumpcare this year–would line up against single-payer.

Likewise, in California and New York, it was Democrats who did the dirty work of the insurance industry in blocking legislation to move toward a statewide Medicare for All system.

The second, less obvious way opposition will take shape is the “Trojan Horse” effect.

Right now, powerful mainstream Democrats like Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Kristen Gillibrand have nothing but nice things to say publicly about Sanders’ bill. But there has been and will be intense pressure to water down single-payer legislation.

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NONE OF this means the fight for Medicare for All is unwinnable.

In fact, Sanders’ introduction of this legislation–at this political moment and with support beyond himself, at least for now–shows how easily a government-run system that guarantees universal coverage could be embraced by the majority of people.

Right now, Sanders is probably the most popular politician in the country. Certainly, he is at the federal level, where his favorability rating being higher than his unfavorability is unique. Sanders stands for a progressive political agenda that has partially filled a massive void in mainstream politics.

His Medicare for All bill isn’t perfect. Members of Physicians for a National Health Program are critical of the legislation for allowing co-payments for some medical necessities, including drugs and biologics. There are questions about how far-reaching and systematic its funding mechanisms are, and whether four years is too long of a rollout.

But supporters of Medicare for All have shaped the bill in important ways. It bars deductibles and most co-pays, fully funds abortions and covers undocumented immigrants. The pressure to reverse these important provisions will be relentless. The larger the movement–and the larger the Left within that movement–the more people we will have a bill worth fighting for.

With Medicare for All, Sanders–in stark contrast to Democratic Party leaders–is offering something concrete and popular that would change most everyone’s life for the better.

But Sanders’ popularity obviously isn’t enough. The most important factor that will determine whether we see such a program in our lifetime is whether the widespread popularity and unprecedented momentum is organized so that it becomes an active force, felt in workplaces, communities and the media.

There are many ideas about how to build from the grassroots. Do we need a national march? Do we need to focus on “base-building”? Do we need different forms of coalitions and activist organizations? The answer is all of the above–but the question of strategy and timing will take some time to figure out.

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ACTIVISTS AROUND this issue need to recognize that we won’t win this battle by continuing to do what we currently are doing, just on a grander scale. Whatever organizing we do, we need to be clear on some things.

First, this isn’t an inside game. Medicare for All won’t be won by concentrating on how many members of Congress we persuade, but on how many tens of thousands of people are convinced to take action in various forms for single-payer.

Our organizing needs to be focused on this fact. We need to figure out how to build networks and organizations that can bring in larger numbers of activists, who can then make collective decisions about how to reach the next layer of people.

One step in this direction would be to broaden our approach to the issue–which needs to center both how transformative a future Medicare for All system would be, but to highlight the suffering that goes on in the health care status quo as the price we pay for not having single-payer.

In the public mind, the health insurance industry should be no different than the tobacco industry. We need to create a climate where health insurance industry profits are seen for what they are–blood money–and any politician unwilling to do something about it is treated accordingly.

Second, health care has to become a central issue of a re-inspired labor movement. Many people currently think of health care as related to their job, so there’s a natural connection.

Unions already played a role in mobilizing opposition to Trump’s health care disaster–though not in the numbers they could have. But Medicare for All could become a main issue for labor.

One possibility would be to organize workplace committees in support of Medicare For All. This has already taken shape in National Nurses United and New York State Nurses Association, and could be built on and serve as a model for other unions.

For health care unions, in particular, the question of workplace issues and how to make the health care system accessible come together, creating the basis for a stronger struggle.

We need to think in unprecedented ways about how to use union power to win this struggle. In this context, I could see an argument for a national day of strike action for Medicare For All.

Striking for political reasons–or really striking in general–isn’t something the labor movement is very familiar with in recent decades. But the tradition does exist. Also, the unions that are strongest on Medicare for All are also unions with more experience of going on strike recently.

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THERE ARE many other initiatives being discussed to build wider and active support for Medicare for All.

One that has been discussed this year is a proposal from some members of the Democratic Socialists of America for a national march for single-payer in Washington, D.C.

If such a mobilization gave expression to the wide support for Medicare for All that has developed especially through the course of this year, it would be a major step forward in projecting the importance of this issue. But that also raises the question of organization: What forces would be involved in planning and carrying out such a march?

National initiatives like a march or a day of action in support of Medicare for All can be focus for local organizing to win wider numbers of people to activism on this issue. There will also be more statewide initiatives, as in California and New York. And possibilities for local organizing around health care develop all the time–including workplace action backed by unions, up to the level of strikes.

One opportunity for organizing will arise soon–Sanders is supposed to tour the country to build support for his legislation. Our organizations need to find ways to meet people inspired by Sanders’ proposal and bring them into organizing.

There’s a long way to go before we’ll have built organization that can express the widespread sentiment for Medicare for All. But activists can use the opportunities as they arise to build in that direction.

https://socialistworker.org/2017/09/28/whats-the-next-step-toward-medicare-for-all

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Why identity politics and class politics can’t be separated

Some liberals are eager to detach identity politics from economic populism. But economic justice is social justice

09.23.20173:00 AM
During last year’s Democratic primary race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, the disagreements between the two candidates were most apparent when it came to the economy. While Sanders built his campaign around economic issues like income and wealth inequality, campaign finance and free trade, Clinton often downplayed the importance of economic issues and even tried to characterize Sanders’ focus on things like inequality and Wall Street corruption as an unhealthy obsession.

“Not everything is about an economic theory, right?” said Clinton at one point during a speech to her supporters. “If we broke up the big banks tomorrow — and I will if they deserve it, if they pose a systemic risk, I will — would that end racism? Would that end sexism? Would that end discrimination against the LGBT community? Would that make people feel more welcoming to immigrants overnight?”

“No!” replied the triumphant crowd, as if their candidate had just delivered a devastating coup de grâce to her opponent.

Of course, no one — not least Sanders — had ever made the absurd claim that breaking up big banks or addressing any other economic problem would magically end racism or sexism or any other kind of bigotry. This was a deliberate attempt by Clinton to smear her opponent — who had much more credibility on economic justice than she did — as being out of touch with the concerns of women, people of color and the LGBTQ community. More importantly, though, it was an attempt to separate the economic realm from the social and cultural realms, which made it easier for Clinton to prove her progressive bona fides.

As an economic centrist who had long taken big donations (or speaking fees) from Wall Street and corporate America, Clinton lacked credibility with progressives when it came to economic issues. Thus she tried to discredit Sanders as an “angry white male” who couldn’t grasp the real concerns of women and people of color (even though Sanders is a Jew who grew up in 1940s America and has an equal if not better record than Clinton on social issues like LGBTQ equality).

Ultimately, Clinton and other corporate Democrats were trying to muddy the waters with these disingenuous arguments in order to create a false tension between economic populism and social liberalism. Only a straight white male like Sanders, the logic went, could become so fixated on economic issues like income and wealth inequality, because he did not experience racism, sexism or homophobia on a daily basis. This argument was based not only on a cynical version of identity politics that gave greater importance to a candidate’s race or gender than his or her politics, but on a false dilemma between class politics and identity politics. Furthermore, it implied that the social democratic policies advocated by Sanders — e.g., Medicare for All, raising taxes on the wealthy, increasing the minimum wage, strengthening Social Security, defending labor unions, etc. — would disproportionately benefit white males.

This implication is, as many progressives pointed out at the time, utterly untrue. In fact, women and people of color would almost certainly benefit more from Sanders’ populist economic agenda, as they are disproportionately affected by the economic injustices it was designed to counteract. Sanders made this point during his campaign last year when he observed that African-Americans were hit the hardest during the financial crisis, losing half their collective wealth after being unfairly targeted by the big banks (along with other minority groups) with subprime mortgages during the buildup of the housing bubble.

That economic justice and racial justice are deeply intertwined was given further credence last week when a new study was released by the Institute for Policy Studies revealing that median black household wealth in the United States will fall to zero by 2053 if current trends continue, while the median white household wealth is on path to climb to $137,000.

“By 2020 median Black and Latino households stand to lose nearly 18% and 12% of the wealth they held in 2013, respectively, while median White household wealth increases 3%,” write the authors. “At that point — just three years from now — White households are projected to own 85 times more wealth than Black households and 68 times more wealth than Latino households.”

These stunning numbers display how much the economic problems that Sanders highlighted during his campaign impact the very people he was unfairly accused of ignoring. They also demonstrate how class politics and identity politics are closely linked, and that the dichotomy or binary opposition between them, as created or perceived by certain liberals, is spurious.

After Clinton lost to Donald Trump last November, Sanders argued that the Democratic Party must adopt a populist economic agenda in order to come back strong from 2016. This predictably set off a backlash from neoliberals, who accused Sanders of being a “white male brogressive” who wanted to put women, minorities and LGBTQ people “on the backburner for economic populism.” One critic even opined that Sanders wanted to “defend white male supremacy.”

The fact that Sanders’ economic populism would help the very people he is accused of putting on the “backburner” demonstrates the sheer lunacy of these attacks. If Sanders were advocating completely jettisoning identity politics for economic populism, of course, it would be another story. But only confused liberals see class politics and identity politics as incompatible and invariably at odds with each other. The senator was actually making the opposite point: “To think of diversity purely in racial and gender terms is not sufficient,” wrote Sanders. “Our rights and economic lives are intertwined.” Rather than calling for the Democratic Party to drop identity politics, he was making the point that race, gender and class are interconnected, and that economic justice is social justice.

Sanders was, however, rejecting the cynical form of identity politics that — as Briahna Joy Gray puts it in her excellent Current Affairs essay “How Identity Became a Weapon Against the Left” — wields identity to “neutralize political pushback.” The kind of identity politics, in other words, that Clinton frequently deployed during her campaign to counter legitimate criticisms — exemplified by the time she suggested that she couldn’t be a part of the “establishment” because she is a woman.

Over the past few decades, as economic inequality has skyrocketed to pre-Great Depression levels and communities of color have seen their wealth decline, the economic and corporate elite have co-opted the language of diversity and weaponized identity to defend the economic status quo. But the same people neoliberals claim to represent are the ones who suffer most under the status quo. As the authors of the aforementioned study write, “without a serious change in course, the country is heading towards a racial and economic apartheid state.” Economic populism offers an alternative, and a politics of class solidarity is the way to achieve this alternative.

CONOR LYNCH
Conor Lynch is a writer and journalist living in New York City. His work has appeared on Salon, AlterNet, Counterpunch and openDemocracy. Follow him on Twitter: @dilgentbureauct.

U.S. Political System Requires a Fundamental Transformation

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a rally of health care advocates, grass-roots activists and others outside the Capitol in Washington on Tuesday. (Andrew Harnik / AP)

Leaders of both major parties are wrong to think of the 2016 election as some kind of fluke. I believe a political realignment is underway, and those who fail to discern its outlines could end up powerless and irrelevant.

With all respect to Hillary Clinton, her newly published memoir, “What Happened,” doesn’t really tell what happened. It is perhaps inevitable that she would focus on the daily twists and turns of the campaign. It is understandable that she would blame James Comey, Vladimir Putin and the media for damaging her prospects—and that she would downplay her own strategic and tactical missteps.

But take a step back and look at the election through a wider lens. Clinton, with all her vast experience and proven ability, was defeated by Donald Trump, a reality television star who had never before run for office, displayed near-total ignorance of the issues, broke every rule of political rhetoric and was caught on videotape bragging of how he sexually assaulted random women by grabbing their crotches.

That’s not just unlikely, it’s impossible. At least it should have been, according to everything we knew—or thought we knew—about politics. Yes, Comey’s last-minute revival of Clinton’s email scandal robbed her of momentum. Yes, her neglect of the Rust Belt was a terrible mistake. Yes, the Russians were working hard to defeat her, with the blessing—and at least the attempted collusion—of the Trump campaign.

But the election never should have been close enough for relatively minor voting shifts in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania to elect the likes of Trump. The election never should have been close enough for Clinton to lose Florida and barely eke out a win in Virginia.

In retrospect, the alarming possibility of an election-night surprise should have been apparent. Trump never should have won the Republican nomination over a field that included so many talented politicians. And Clinton never should have had to work so hard to win the Democratic nomination over Bernie Sanders, an aging socialist from Vermont who wasn’t even a Democrat until he entered the race.

None of what happened should have happened. And it is a mistake to blame Clinton’s character flaws, Trump’s mastery of Twitter or the media’s compulsion to chase every bright, shiny object. Something much bigger and deeper was going on.

My view is that the traditional left-to-right, progressive-to-conservative, Democratic-to-Republican political axis that we’re all so familiar with is no longer a valid schematic of American political opinion. And I believe neither party has the foggiest idea what the new diagram looks like.

I don’t think Trump can see the new spectrum either, as evidenced by the way his approval ratings have plunged since his inauguration. But both he and Sanders deserve credit for seeing that the old model has outlived its usefulness.

Look at the issues on which Trump and Sanders were in basic agreement. Both doubted the bipartisan consensus favoring free trade agreements, arguing they had disadvantaged U.S. workers. Both spoke of health care as a right that should be enjoyed by all citizens. Both pledged to strengthen, not weaken, entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare. Both were deeply skeptical of U.S. involvement in foreign wars, vowing to do their nation-building here at home. Both advocated mammoth, job-creating investments in infrastructure. Both contended “the system” was rigged to favor the rich and powerful at the expense of everyone else.

Leave aside for the moment the fact that Trump has not fulfilled his promises. The overlap in what he and Sanders said they would do is striking—as is the contrast between what both Clinton and Trump’s GOP rivals were saying.

Trump was uniquely transgressive on one issue—immigration. He addressed the anxieties of white working-class voters by presenting immigrants as all-purpose scapegoats.

The Trump and Sanders campaigns revealed that there are large numbers of voters whose views are not being reflected by Democratic or Republican orthodox positions. Are the parties adapting? Democrats seem to be inching toward support of truly universal health care, while Republicans have thus far thought better of taking health insurance away from millions of people. Perhaps this is a start.

But I see no evidence yet that either party is engaged in the kind of fundamental rethinking I believe is called for. So it is a mistake to assume that Trump is necessarily a one-term president or that Sanders is done politically. You know the saying: In the land of the blind, a one-eyed man is king.

Contributor
EUGENE ROBINSON uses his twice-weekly column in The Washington Post to pick American society apart and then put it back together again in unexpected, and revelatory, new ways. …

A tale of two leaders of the left: New books by Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton

Bernie’s new book is a forward-thinking guide for the young; Hillary’s looks back at who she can blame for 2016

Well before folks could get their hands on Hillary Clinton’s new memoir of the 2016 presidential election, “What Happened,” word was out that VIP tickets for her book tour were running upwards of $2,000. In contrast, Bernie Sanders launched “Bernie Sanders’ Guide to Political Revolution” with a few media interviews and a slate of agenda items for the new Senate session to consider. Folks wanting a copy of the book could find it in the teen non-fiction section of their local bookstore.

The contrast between high priced VIP tickets to an event for a memoir about losing the election and a down-to-earth how-to guide for progressive politics aimed at young readers offers us clear evidence of the vastly different ways that Clinton and Sanders see their roles as national leaders.

Sanders is looking forward and Clinton is looking back. Sanders is engaging the young and working to build momentum for his progressive agenda. Clinton is naming names, bristling at her unfair loss and cashing in.

While Clinton’s book hits stores on September 12, enough of it has been leaked to show that at least one goal of the memoir is to blame Sanders for inflicting “lasting damage” on her campaign during the 2016 Democratic presidential primary. Even more, she argues that the Sanders campaign helped Trump win.

She also has some blame for President Obama, whom she faults for telling her to hold back in her attacks on Sanders. According to Clinton’s version of events, if she had gone after Sanders more aggressively, she might have won. She felt, she writes, like Obama put her in a “straightjacket.”

Before I move on to comparing the tenor of these two books and the fact that they confirm the vast difference between Clinton and Sanders, not just on policy but on leadership itself, let’s start by saying something obvious. If anyone should be writing a “what happened” memoir, it is Sanders, not Clinton.

While the lawsuit that alleged fraud over the Democratic National Committee’s handling of the 2016 presidential primary came to an end a couple of weeks ago, the legal proceedings, along with the hacked DNC emails, showed that the DNC leadership exhibited a clear case of bias against the Sanders campaign. DNC lawyers argued that they did not have a legal obligation to be neutral. And so the case was dropped.

The lawsuit is really only the tip of a much larger iceberg that surrounded the #DemExit movement. From the debate schedule to superdelegates to the disputes over the DNC platform itself, Sanders and his supporters had plenty to gripe about.

But rather than write a book about all of the ways that he got screwed by the DNC, Sanders took the high road and helped campaign for Clinton, then, after she lost, he focused on advancing his agenda. Meanwhile basically every public statement Clinton has issued since the election has focused on how the presidency was stolen from her.

After he lost his presidential run, Sanders launched the “Our Revolution” website to help continue his campaign’s momentum well after he was running. Its goal was to support and empower a new generation of progressive political leaders. In contrast, Clinton supporter Peter Daou just launched Verrit, a site endorsed by Clinton which offers users verified pro-Clinton quotes they can share online. Many of these sharable quotes are meant to show how awesome she is.

The leaked sections of “What Happened” portray Clinton as a victim of Sanders, of Obama, of Putin, of Comey and so on, but also as someone still indignant about the reality of her loss. Despite the fact that the book is meant to offer an intimate side of her, it reads like the petty account of a sore loser.

In contrast, Sanders offers his book as a gesture of solidarity towards future political activists. When he discusses his campaign in the opening of the book, he does so with pride, mentioning the fact that he won more of the millennial vote than Clinton and Trump combined.

He also dedicates the book to the younger generation, which he praises as the most tolerant and intelligent in U.S. history. “The current generation of young people is the smartest, most idealistic, and least prejudiced generation in the modern history of the United States,” Sanders writes. “This is a generation that is prepared to think big and move this country in a very different direction than we have been traveling for years.” The goal of his book, he explains, is to help the young turn their idealism into action.

Where Clinton’s attacks on Sanders get really low is in her resuscitation of the Bernie Bros myth. In the passage where she complains about the Sanders campaign, she goes on to write, “Some of his supporters, the so-called Bernie Bros, took to harassing my supporters online. It got ugly and more than a little sexist.”

Now, here’s the problem: Clinton was, in fact, the target of a whole lot of misogyny, but the sources of those attacks were not the so-called Bernie Bros. In fact, the “Bernie Bro” narrative, as Glenn Greenwald explained for the Intercept back in January 2016, was a potent political tactic  and a journalistic disgrace:

It’s intended to imply two equally false claims: (1) a refusal to march enthusiastically behind the Wall Street-enriched, multiple-war-advocating, despot-embracing Hillary Clinton is explainable not by ideology or political conviction, but largely if not exclusively by sexism: demonstrated by the fact that men, not women, support Sanders (his supporters are ‘bros’); and (2) Sanders supporters are uniquely abusive and misogynistic in their online behavior.

Back when Greenwald wrote the piece, an Iowa poll showed Sanders with a 15-point lead over Clinton among women under 45, while one-third of Iowa women over 45 supported him. Even more recently, Sanders had a 58 percent favorability rating among all women voters and an 80 percent one among Democrats. That poll, conducted in April of this year, concluded that Sanders was the most popular active politician in the nation.

But, still, for Clinton, she lost because Sanders impugned her character and allowed his supporters to hurl sexist epithets her way.

Another stark difference between the new books by Sanders and Clinton is the way that they treat the idea of party loyalty.  Sanders’ volume really doesn’t talk about political parties per se, although it does clearly divide what he describes as left and right political agendas. Instead it focuses on policy, platforms and effective means of political action. Nowhere does he speak of loyalty to a party or even a cause. Instead the key word he uses to link his readers to his vision is “solidarity.”

Meanwhile, Clinton goes on a tirade about Sanders as a disrupter of the Democratic Party. She points out, rightly, that Sanders was not a DNC insider and professed no “loyalty” to the party. But when she ends her adulatory jag about the Democrats, she writes, “I am proud to be a Democrat and I wish Bernie were, too.”

She wishes he were proud to be a Democrat too? Seriously?

It’s not just a weird passage that exposes how Clinton favors party loyalty over listening to the needs of the people; it’s also completely tone-deaf politically. In the latest Gallup poll numbers, only 28 percent of American identify as Democrats and 41 percent are Independents. It’s Clinton’s attachment to party loyalty that is the problem. It favors a cronyist DNC oligarchy over paying attention to what voters want.

Sanders is a leader who advocates solidarity. Clinton wants party loyalty. It’s a clear breakdown in political leadership. One vision is of a leader working with and for the people. The other is a vision of how the people serve the leader and the system. Clinton’s assumption that Sanders voters should have been hers is another clear sign of how she thinks of voters as belonging to her, rather than having their own right to vote the way they want.

But perhaps the best sign of how these two books teach us about the radically different leadership styles of Clinton and Sanders takes place as Clinton dismisses Sanders on policy. Clinton mocks Sanders for what she saw as copying her ideas and then “super-sizing” them to make himself more appealing to voters. She describes him as a “serial over-promiser.”

She goes on to recount how Jake Sullivan, her top policy aide, told her that Sanders’ campaign strategy reminded him of a scene from the movie “There’s Something About Mary,” where a hitchhiker says he has a plan to roll out seven-minute abs to top the famous eight-minute abs.

“Why, why not six-minutes abs?” Ben Stiller’s character asks.

Clinton mocks: “That’s what it was like in policy debates with Bernie. We would promise a bold infrastructure investment plan or an ambitious new apprenticeship program for young people, and then Bernie would announce basically the same thing, but bigger. On issue after issue, it was like he kept promising four-minute abs, or even no-minutes abs. Magic abs!”

But here’s the thing. The Sanders vision is not equivalent to “magic abs.” In fact, as his book clearly shows, his policy ideas are progressive, practical and possible. And even more, they are what the nation wants.

“The Bernie Sanders Guide to Political Action” is actually filled with clear and helpful information designed to help young activists better understand the challenges facing this nation. It contains infographics, illustrations and resources that help break down issues like income inequality, climate change, healthcare, law enforcement reform, prison system reform and student loan debt. Each chapter includes ways to learn more about an issue and ways to get involved. It is straightforward, concise and inspiring.

While Clinton is going on about “magic abs,” Sanders is writing a book that helps his readers understand how current government structure works and what they can do to make it better. The contrast couldn’t be starker.

In one excellent example, Sanders walks readers through the effects of a low minimum wage, revealing how a “starvation wage” that has workers earning less than the cost of living but putting in 40 hours a week actually serves to subsidize companies like Walmart. He shows how it is middle class taxpayers who help subsidize the cheap labor used by Walmart since their employees need federal and local assistance to survive.

And, while Clinton mocks Sanders for his idealistic desire to think big, Sanders starts his book reminding readers that his views are those of the bulk of Americans: “On major issue after major issue, the vast majority of Americans support a progressive agenda.” For Clinton, though, the progressive agenda wanted by the majority is nothing more than the hocus pocus of magic abs or the dreams of those who want a pony.

This tweet from David Sirota says it all:

There are so many things a leader could do at this moment of crisis. Clinton chose to slam Bernie Bros & hawk Verrit. I wonder why she lost?

That’s the real tragedy to Clinton’s discourse. She literally sees political vision as nothing but a fantasy. She has so thoroughly imbibed the corporatist, pro-status quo version of the Democratic party that she can’t even notice how pathetically uninspiring her positions are for those young voters she referred to as basement dwellers on the campaign trail.

Against the snarky, negative tone of Clinton’s book, Sanders offers his readers a combination of political passion and practical advice. When it refers to him personally, it does so by quoting a Sanders tweet that links to the issue being covered. The tweets are used to show how Sanders has been standing up for these issues for years. It is a technique that privileges the cause, not the ego. The effect is a subtle form of leadership that is grounded in the idea that a progressive leader is only as strong as the people being inspired and mentored.

“Young people are the future of our country,” Sanders explained to Teen Vogue. “As citizens of the United States, they have a responsibility to participate in our democracy and to help create a government which works for all, rather than just the few. This book will expose them to an unusual political campaign, the excitement of politics and what being a progressive is all about.”

Some will likely say that it is not fair to compare two books that have such radically different goals. Clinton’s is a look back at what happened with her campaign; Sanders’s is a book designed to help energize and guide future progressive political action. Hers is a memoir; his is a political guide to action. One is personal. The other is about political vision and action.

Or maybe comparing these books is exactly what we should be doing because they portray vastly different ideas for the future of left politics in this nation.

Perhaps even more interesting is the fact that media coverage of the two books has been vastly uneven. Article after article has covered Clinton’s attacks on Sanders. Not one piece I have seen thus far on Clinton’s Bernie-bashing has considered the fact that he has a book out now, too.

Those stories that have covered it often missed the point. Chris Cuomo on CNN’s “New Day” interviewed Sanders about his new book and suggested that some have been reading it as a sign of a potential future run for the presidency. Cuomo asked Sanders whether he planned to run again or back a younger candidate with a progressive message.

Demonstrating why Sanders is a completely different type of leader than Clinton, he quipped back, “Well there is a third school of thought, Chris, and that is that the media never, ever gives up,” said Sanders. “And instead of focusing on real issues, they keep talking about never-ending campaigns.”

Perfectly demonstrating that for Sanders, as it is for many of us, the goal is political progress, not ego-building, he went on: “We never stop elections, people are sick and tired of it. They want me to go back to Washington to deal with climate change, to deal with healthcare, to deal with education, to deal with issues that impact their lives,” he continued. “They do not want to see never ending elections.”

And they really don’t want to spend all their time thinking back on a lost election.

These two books offer different visions of political leadership, different narratives about political possibility and different views about our future. One is constructed to build collective support; the other is a story about a leader betrayed and unfairly thwarted. One offers a practical guide to political action; the other is filled with stories of magic abs and ponies. One hopes to make a real difference in our nation; the other mocks the idea of even trying.

Sophia A. McClennen is Professor of International Affairs and Comparative Literature at the Pennsylvania State University. She writes on the intersections between culture, politics, and society. Her latest book, co-authored with Remy M. Maisel, is, Is Satire Saving Our Nation? Mockery and American Politics.

Sanders promised a “revolution,” but campaigned as a democratic reformer. Ultimately that may not be enough

Bernie Sanders’ revolution is still alive — but is democratic socialism a realistic goal?

Since Bernie Sanders’ historic presidential run ended last year, the senator from Vermont has attempted to keep his “political revolution” alive in order to bring about lasting change. Though he lost his Democratic primary run against Hillary Clinton more than a year ago, today Sanders is the undisputed face of progressive politics in America, and consistently ranks as the most popular politician in the country. He is in a very good position, then, to promote his cause and continue his political revolution.

Yet even as Sanders has become a household name in America, some uncertainty has lingered about his political revolution and what it truly represents. Is, for example, Sanders a democratic socialist — as he calls himself — or is he more of a social democrat? And just how radical — and revolutionary — is his political revolution? The word revolution does, after all, historically denote the abrupt and often violent overthrow of a government and/or social system.

In one interview with Rolling Stone last year, Sanders was explicitly asked by Tim Dickinson whether he supported an “overthrow of the capitalist system” like one of his political heroes, five-time Socialist Party presidential candidate Eugene Debs. The senator’s response was unequivocal. “No, no, no. Now you’re being provocative,” said Sanders, who went on to lay out what he actually meant by political revolution:

What we have got to do is not only overturn Citizens United, but we have got to move, in my view, to public funding of elections. We have to pass universal legislation that makes everybody in this country who is 18 or older eligible to vote, so we do away with the Republican voter suppression around the country.

This, of course, is what one would call a reformist agenda rather than a revolutionary one — which is essentially what the Sanders campaign was all about. Though Sanders identified as a “democratic socialist” and advocated a “political revolution,” in reality the Vermont senator was more of a social democrat who espoused a bold though decidedly moderate agenda. Sanders did not advocate an overthrow of the government or the collective ownership of the means of production, but a nonviolent popular movement fighting for progressive reforms akin to the New Deal legislation of the 1930s.

And this is ultimately what Sanders meant by a political revolution. Using the Democratic primaries as a launch pad, the senator aimed to create a sustained grassroots movement similar to transformative social movements of the past (e.g., the Civil Rights movement, women’s suffrage, the labor and socialist movements, etc.). “Change never takes place from the top down, it comes from the bottom up,” the senator frequently repeated during his run, suggesting that electoral politics is limited in what it can accomplish.

Whether one believes in reform or revolution (or, indeed, counterrevolution), it is hard to argue with this theory of change. History shows us that social movements drive progress and that political apathy is the lifeblood of the ruling class. This may sound like common sense, but Americans have become so accustomed to the spectator sport that is modern electoral politics that it was actually radical for Sanders to drive this point home last year. And he has continued to do so over the past year. Indeed, last week he made a stop in Naperville, Illinois to give a presentation on his new book, “Bernie Sanders’ Guide to Political Revolution,” and the message was familiar.

“The struggle of American democracy has been to become a more encompassing democracy, to involve more and more people,” said Sanders to group of high school students. ”And none of that happened by accident. It happened because people stood up and struggled and fought to make that happen.”

Not surprisingly, the senator’s new “guide” to political revolution advocates reforming the system rather than overthrowing it. This is to be expected from a social democrat like Sanders, who believes that it is both possible and preferable to reform our political system and economy through legislative means. But not all of Sanders’ supporters are on the same page. There is a growing subset of progressives who believe that while social democratic reform is a step in the right direction, the end goal should be true democratic socialism — meaning an economic democracy in which workers rather than plutocrats hold power.

This debate between social democrats and democratic socialists was recently on display in the pages of the New Republic and Jacobin Magazine. In the former publication, veteran progressive journalist John Judis wrote an  excellent article on the resurgence of the American left and why he believes it should embrace a social democratic agenda going forward.

The “old nostrums about ownership and control of the means of production simply don’t resonate in 2017,” writes Judis, who contends that social democracy, “while lacking in utopian appeal, does provide a vision that goes very far beyond the status quo in the United States.” The author of “The Populist Explosion” goes on to suggest that American socialists should “do what the Europeans did after World War II and bid goodbye to the Marxist vision of democratic control and ownership of the means of production.”

“They need to recognize that what is necessary now — and also conceivable — is not to abolish capitalism, but to create socialism within it,” Judis concludes.

Responding to Judis’ piece in Jacobin, founding editor Bhaskar Sunkara and Joseph Schwartz, national vice chair of the Democratic Socialists of America, observe that while Judis has good intentions, his reformist vision would ultimately lead progressives “into the dead end of twentieth-century social democracy.”

“History shows us that achieving a stable welfare state while leaving capital’s power over the economy largely intact is itself far from viable,” they write. “Even if we wanted to stop at socialism within capitalism, it’s not clear that we could.”

This is a crucial point that social democrats like Judis must grapple with. Even the French economist Thomas Piketty — an avowed European social democrat — concludes in his bestselling book on inequality, “Capital In the Twenty-First Century,” that the “golden age” of capitalism in the mid-20th century, when inequality levels actually declined, was a historical aberration that is unlikely to repeat itself. While social democrats are often seen as the pragmatists of the left, it is the democratic socialists who recognize the structural forces of capitalism and the inevitable antagonism between labor and capital.

Of course, the question of political pragmatism depends largely on one’s perspective. In the short term, the social democrats who are currently trying to take over the Democratic Party and carry out a progressive agenda in the halls of Congress are certainly more pragmatic than the democratic socialists who obstinately reject the Democrats. The United States has a winner-takes-all voting system that favors two major parties. Until we see electoral reforms that not only eliminate money from politics but create proportional representation  and ranked-choice voting, working with (and within) the Democratic Party seems to be a necessity. This does not mean the left should limit itself to electoral politics, however; as Sanders has argued over the past two years, there must also be a sustained popular movement that pressures elected officials to pass the needed reforms.

This may be the pragmatic way forward in the short term, but in the long run the left must also deal with the question of what comes after the current stage of capitalism and how to create this future. Social democracy cannot be the end goal, lest we repeat what happened at the end of the 20th century. At the present moment it is imperative to work within the system and fight for meaningful reforms. But eventually a true “political revolution” may be necessary to confront capital in the 21st century.

 Conor Lynch is a writer and journalist living in New York City. His work has appeared on Salon, AlterNet, Counterpunch and openDemocracy. Follow him on Twitter: @dilgentbureauct.

Bernie Sanders Answers Hillary’s Criticisms in Her New Memoir

NEWS & POLITICS
“I think the response is we have got to think going forward.”

YouTube Screengrab

America’s most popular politician, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., appeared on Stephen Colbert’s “Late Show” Thursday night where he was asked to respond to leaked excerpts from Hillary Clinton’s new book in which she blamed the senator for causing “lasting damage making it harder to unify progressives,” as well as accused him of joining the presidential race to “to disrupt the Democratic Party.”

Instead of firing back at Clinton, the longest reigning Independent senator in U.S. history, explained that he didn’t divide progressives at all. “Actually, the case is that the progressive movement today, and grassroots activism, is stronger than it has been in many, many years,” Sanders told Colbert.

“As a result of our campaign, millions of young people began to vote for the first time, became engaged in the political process . . . we have got to stand together against [President Donald] Trump’s efforts to divide us up, take on the billionaire class and make that political revolution so that we have a government that works for all of us, not just the one percent,” Sanders explained.

Colbert sarcastically pointed out that those were the exact attacks Clinton was talking about.

“But I understand,” Sanders continued. “Look, Secretary Clinton ran against the most unpopular candidate in the history of this country and she lost and was upset about that and I understand that,” he said. “But our job now is really not to go backwards. It is to go forward. It is to create the kind of nation we know we can become. We have enormous problems facing us and I think it’s a little bit silly to keep talking about 2016.”

Colbert pointed out another common criticism from Clinton which was that Sanders had made “pony” promises, and wouldn’t be able to deliver on them when people expected him to.

“I said that in America, we should join every other industrialized country and guarantee health care to all people as a right, and there is now growing sentiment for that effort,” Sanders explained. “So that’s not a pipe dream.”

Sanders then pointed out his plan to raise the minimum wag to $15 an hour, because it’s currently a “starvation wage.” He added that he now has 31 co-sponsors in the Senate to enact that legislation.

Clinton will be a guest on the “Late Show” on Tuesday, September 19 to promote her new book. The late-night comedian asked Sanders what he thought he should ask her when she comes on.

“I think the response is we have got to think going forward,” Sanders replied. “And I would like her to join us in a fight for 15 [dollar minimum wage], in a Medicare-for-all single payer system, in taking on the fossil fuel industry so that we transform our energy system away from fossil fuel and move to energy efficient and sustainable energy.”

Hillary Hates Again


When “mainstream” (corporate) media talks about the terrible role that hate is playing in American political life the discussion is usually about partisan contempt between Democrats and Republicans or heated conflicts between “radical extremes” like the alt-right and the so-called alt-left (Antifa). You don’t hear much about the longstanding and dripping contempt the Democratic Party’s neoliberal corporate and professional class “elite” has for progressive and social-democratic forces within that party – this even though most of those “progressive Democrats” generally line up dutifully behind the party’s ruling class masters at the end of the day.

This hate, too, deserves attention.

Smearing “Doofus Bernie”

Take the case of Bernie Sanders, currently the most popular politician in the United States.  Bernie, it should be recalled, sheep-dogged for Mrs. Clinton (whose approval rating stands below even that of Donald Trump today) during the last quadrennial election cycle.  He promised support for the party’s locked-in top-down nominee (Hillary) from day one. He gave that support to Hillary against the wishes of many of his backers in the summer and fall of 2016.  He did this even after the spiteful Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee collaborated with other highly placed Democrats and their corporate media allies to rig the primary race against him.

He was treated in very shabby fashion the by those forces during the primaries. Bill Clinton in New Hampshire called Sanders and his team “hermetically sealed” purists, hypocrites, and thieves and mocked Sanders as “the champion of all things small and the enemy of all things big.”

Hillary sent her daughter Chelsea out to absurdly charge that Sanders’ single-payer health care plan would “strip millions and millions and millions of people of their health insurance.”

Former top John Kerry and Obama communications strategist David Wade used his perch at  Politico to call Sanders “the zombie candidate” – a “doomed” challenger at risk of “becom[ing] Trump’s best ghost-writer for the general election” and a “Nader” who would destroy the Democratic Party’s nominee with “friendly fire attacks.”

In April of 2016, for example, Hillary told MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough that a dreadful hit-job interview and smear campaign conducted by the New York Daily News against Sanders “raise[d] a lot of questions”about Sanders’ qualification for the presidency.

Hillary’s prizefighter Paul Krugman preposterously likened Sanders’ common-sense and majority-backed health insurance proposal (Medicare for All) to “a standard Republican tax-cut plan and  smeared Sanders as a practitioner of “deep voodoo economics” and “unicorn politics.”  (Krugman enjoyed calling Sanders’ supporters “dead-enders.”)

Hillary’s good friend the blood-soaked mass-murderer Madeline Albright told female voters there was a “special place in Hell” for them if they backed Bernie.

The liberal feminist icon Gloria Steinem’s curiously claimed that young women were voting for Sanders because “when you’re [a] young [woman], you’re thinking ‘where are the boys?’ The boys are with Bernie.”

The silly, power-worshipping Rolling Stone publisher Jan S. Wenner (the man who took childish fake-progressive ObamaLust to frightening new heights in 2008) insultingly and inaccurately described Sanders as just “a candidate of anger.” (“But it is not enough to be a candidate of anger. Anger is not a plan…”)

An endless stream of establishment “liberal” media talking heads and pundits (with Krugman as leader of the pack) treated Sanders’ moderately leftish neo-New Deal agenda as a radically outlandish pipedream beyond the pale of serious discussion. They constantly repeated claims that Sanders’ lacked Hillary’s supposed ability to defeat Trump despite one match up poll after another showing Bernie doing substantially better than Mrs. Clinton against The Donald.

This was all consistent with a February 2016 document Wiki-leaked in October of last year.  It showed top Clinton campaign operative Mandy Grunwald suggesting that Hillary essentially red-bait and otherwise smear Sanders.  Grunwald suggested calling Sanders a false promiser of “socialist…free stuff” that “middle class” Americans would only pay for with higher taxes – and to denounce Sanders for supposedly advocating giant slashes to the military budget (Sanders made no such demand., sadly). The main idea – standard centrist neoliberal Clinton-Tony Blair-Barack Obama-Bob Rubin-Lawrence Summer “pragmatism” – was to portray Sanders as an impractical leftist dreamer and then to present Hillary by favorable contrast as the “progressive” realist who knew how to “get things done” (Obama’s recurrent boast) in the real world.

A different Clinton campaign e-mail released in October showed Hillary’s campaign manager John Podesta referring to Sanders as “doofus Bernie” because the Vermont Senator had the basic decency to note that the Paris Climate Agreement fell short of what was required to stem global warming.

Clinton operatives and media allies repeated over and over the false charge that Sanders’ supporters at the Nevada state Democratic Party convention became a raging mob of “chair-throwing” thugs on par with the worst hooligans at Donald Trump’s rallies.

The Clintonistas invented the ugly, identity-politicized smear-term “Bernie Bros” to falsely paint out Sanders supporter as a bunch of bitter old sexist white men (there were plenty of women and people of color among Sanders’ disproportionately young base).

Rigged

Beyond the insults, put-downs, and smears, there was of course the rigging of the primary nomination process. There are abundant reasons to believe that Hillary benefitted from electoral and administrative shenanigans across the (seemingly endless) primary season. The fixing process was evident in Las Vegas, when the Nevada Democratic Party chair “shut down debate behind a screen of uniformed police” after the party excluded 58 Sanders delegates with sudden “rules changes” clearly made to block Sanders’ rightful claim to have won Nevada.

In July of 2016, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairperson Debbie Wasserman-Schultz was forced to resign from her position after thousands of Wiki-leaked emails showed the DNC exhibiting a clear bias for Hillary over Sanders and other Democratic Party presidential candidates.

Wasserman-Schultz’s successor was interim DNC Chair Donna Brazille, who was later shown by WikiLeaks to have used her position as a CNN commentator to have relayed questions ahead of primary campaign debates to the Clinton campaign.

Then there was the open mockery of democracy behind the fact that much of Hillary’s convention delegate lead over Sanders – enough to give her the nomination without a contest on the convention floor – derived from the 525 explicitly unelected and so-called superdelegates pledged to her before Sanders even declared his candidacy.

Sanders Stumps for the Lying Neoliberal Warmonger

Despite all this and more, Sanders did his best, as originally promised, to try to drag Hillary Clinton’s horrifically bad and noxious neoliberal campaign across the finish line in November.  As the Democratic National Convention approached, Sanders endorsed Mrs. Clinton and dropped his totally reasonable criticism of her as captive to Wall Street billionaires and the moneyed elite. Re -directing his “populist fire” against Trump, the Senator travelled to Wisconsin, Michigan, and other battleground states (some of which he’d won during the primary campaign) on Hillary’s behalf. (Queen Hillary never deigned to set foot again in Wisconsin after she got nominated.

I saw Sanders speak in Iowa City the Friday before the general election. With former liberal Iowa Senator Tom Harken at his side, Bernie bellowed, pleaded, and begged for folks to vote for the “lying neoliberal warmonger” (Adolph Reed Jr’s all-too accurate words, not Bernie’s). His brief primary tussle with the reigning corporate Democrats was forgotten as he warned an at-best mildly enthusiastic crowd about the all-too real evils of Donald Trump.

Hillary Clinton was always a tough sell.  The strain of trying to bring her across was evident on the Senator’s face.  The contrast was remarkable between the relatively small and polite gathering he attracted barnstorming for dismal Hillary and the giant and raucous crowds he’d attracted here when running on his own.

Still, Sanders hit the trail, beseeching voters on her behalf, with full knowledge that she was running a terrible operation. The Friday before the election he told some of his friends in Iowa City confidentially that he wasn’t sure he could bring her across: her campaign was just so awful, so clueless, dull, and conservative. She didn’t really have a serious policy agenda, Sanders noted.

Yet still he came out, ever the good Democratic Party company man(beneath the “Independent” veneer), swallowing his pride and fearing the Republican candidate enough to say over and again that  “we must defeat Donald Trump, you must vote for Hillary Clinton.”

Ingratitude: “The Worst Kind of Asshole”

How does Hillary pay Bernie back for his dedicated and energetic efforts on her behalf? In her soon-to-be-released political memoir What Happened? she accuses Sanders of causing “lasting damage” that opened the door to Herr Donald. She claims that Sanders “had to resort to innuendo and impugning my character” because the two Democrats “agreed on so much.”

“Some of his supporters, the so-called Bernie Bros,” Hillary writes. “took to harassing my supporters online. It got ugly and more than a little sexist.” The “Bernie-Bro” smear repeated.

“When I finally challenged Bernie during a debate to name a single time I changed a position or a vote because of a financial contribution, he couldn’t come up with anything,” Clinton wrote. “Nonetheless, his attacks caused lasting damage, making it harder to unify progressives in the general election and paving the way for Trump’s ‘Crooked Hillary’ campaign.”

So primary challengers aren’t supposed to challenge at all.  They are supposed to be thoroughly cowed patsies for the front-runners.  No, they are supposed to act out the same role The Washington Generalsplayed vis-a-vis The Harlem Globetrotters: perpetually failed props. As one correspondent wrote me last Tuesday, reflecting on Mrs. Clinton’s cold ingratitude: “How dare [Bernie] have acted like a primary was meant to be anything other than a foregone conclusion? Really, Hillary Clinton is giving the strongest support for the concept of ‘sheepdog candidate’ that I’ve ever seen, and she’s offering it willingly.”

In What HappenedClinton says that Sanders “isn’t a Democrat,” claiming that “He didn’t get into the race to make sure a Democrat won the White House, he got in to disrupt the Democratic Party.” Never mind Sanders’ repeated promise from the day he enlisted in the presidential race as a loyal Democrat that, in his words in January of 2015: “No matter what I do, I will not be a spoiler. I will not play that role in helping to elect some right-wing Republican as president of the United States.”

After discussing how she disagrees with Sanders’ view of the Democratic Party, Clinton writes that “I am proud to be a Democrat and I wish Bernie were, too.”

Wow. This is the thanks that the Hillary Clinton has for Sanders’ energetic and self-effacing efforts to save her sorry, vapid, sold-out, and uninspiring political career.  After everything Bernie did for her, after all the exhausting campaign stops he made for her, she still has the sneering sociopathic audacity to lay her abject failure partly at Sanders’ feet. As a different correspondent wrote me last Tuesday:

“Reprehensible. The worst kind of asshole kicks their own sheep dog when he/she left the pen door open. Madame Deplorable simply cannot face the fact that she alone is responsible for achieving the seemingly impossible i.e., allowing the crass, bloviating, two-legged toxic waste dump Trump from defeating himself. Her closest aides have confessed that she could not even name the reason that she desired to become president, other than, ‘It’s my turn. Gimme. Gimme.’”

One thing Trump got right: Hillary is “nasty.”

Conservative, corporate-imperial Hillary continues to look for others to blame for her longstanding pre-existing condition of severe unpopularity.  It’s Russia’s fault.  It’s Comey’s fault.  It’s Bernie’s fault: the sheepdog just wasn’t sheepish enough.  He wasn’t supposed to do what politicians do during primary and other election campaigns, which is find and exploit their opponent’s main weaknesses.

“An Asset to Her Campaign”

The Clintons had had such different hopes for the Bernie run. It wasn’t for nothing that, as the New York Times reported in the spring of 2015, “Mrs. Clinton cheerily welcomed Mr. Sanders into the race.”  The Clintons figured at that time that the only real threat to de-rail Hillary (as Obama did in 2007 and 2008) on the road to her inevitable. God-ordained Democratic presidential nomination this time was Elizabeth Warren. But with Warren appearing to have meant it when she said she wasn’t up for a presidential run (not ready for fighting Hillary’s daunting money machine, perhaps) and with little else to contest Hillary’s ascendancy on “the left” (Martin O’Malley and Jim Webb…seriously?), Hillary now faced a rather different political and public relations problem.  She was in danger of enjoying an all-too obviously Wall Street-funded dynastic coronation as the Democratic nominee.  She saw it as useful to face a challenge from a progressive candidate like Sanders, who could never (she calculated) receive the funding or media approval required to make a serious bid. That way, her pre-selected nomination could look less transparently plutocratic and more like a passably “democratic” outcome of “a real debate.” Ashley Smith puts things very well in a trenchant analysis on SocialistWorker.org:

“Hillary Clinton certainly doesn’t regard Sanders as a threat. She knows that the election business follows the golden rule: Whoever has more gold, wins. Clinton is expected to amass a war chest of more than $1 billion, mostly from Wall Street and Corporate America, to pay for advertising, an army of paid staff and Astroturf support. This will overwhelm Sanders’ fundraising goal of $50 million and his underdeveloped volunteer infrastructure…In fact, Clinton regards Sanders as an asset to her campaign. He will bring enthusiasm and attention to Democratic primaries that promised to be lackluster at best. He will also help her frame the election in populist terms that have widespread support. That benefits the Democrats and undermines the Republicans, who have little to say about inequality, except that they like it…No wonder Clinton celebrated Sander’s entry into the race” (emphasis added).

But then Bernie, probably even to his own surprise, got more support than he was supposed to! (Why that surprised anyone has always been a bit of a mystery to me, given the neoliberal-capitalist hollowing-out of America and the related desperation of masses of U.S. citizens for the slightest glimmer of substantively social-democratic decency on the part of anyone in the political class.) Bad sheepdog! Bad Bernie! For getting that popular support and at least briefly running with it in a major party campaign that came “surprisingly” close to unseating Hillary, Bernie simply cannot be forgiven. How pathetic.

A Goldwater Democrat

“I’m proud,” Hillary says, “to be a Democrat.”  But what kind of Democrat? The kind who has spent the great bulk of adult life helping push the Democratic Party ever further towards the corporate and imperial right – well to the right of the post-World War II Republican Party, in fact. In 1964, when Hillary was 18, she worked for the arch-conservative Republican Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign. Asked about that high school episode on National Public Radio (NPR) in 1996, then First Lady Hillary said “That’s right. And I feel like my political beliefs are rooted in the conservatism that I was raised with. I don’t recognize this new brand of Republicanism that is afoot now, which I consider to be very reactionary, not conservative in many respects. I am very proud that I was a Goldwater girl.”

It was a revealing reflection.  The right-wing Democrat Hillary acknowledged that her ideological world view was still rooted in the anti-progressive conservatism of her family of origin.  Her problem with the reactionary Republicanism afoot in the U.S. during the middle 1990s was that it was “not conservative in many respects.”  Her problem with Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay was that they were betraying true conservatism – “the conservatism [Hillary] was raised with.” This was worse even than the language of the Democratic Leadership Conference (DLC) – the right-wing Eisenhower Republican (at leftmost) tendency that worked to push the Democratic Party further to the Big Business-friendly right and away from its working-class and progressive base.  Bill and Hillary helped trail-blaze that plutocratic “New Democrat” turn in Arkansas during the late 1970s and 1980.

The rest, as they say, is history – an ugly corporate-neoliberal, imperial, and racist history that I and others have written about at great length.  (I cannot reprise here the voluminous details of Mrs. Clinton’s longstanding alignment with the corporate, financial, and imperial agendas of the rich and powerful. Two short and highly readable volumes are Doug Henwood, My Turn: Hillary Clinton Targets the Presidency [OR Books, 2015]; Diana Johnstone, Queen of Chaos: The Misadventures of Hillary Clinton [CounterPunch Books, 2015].  On the stealth and virulent racism of the Clintons in power, I highly recommend Elaine Brown’s brilliant volume The Condemnation of Little B: New Age Racism in America [2003].)

And yet strident “liberals” I know here in Iowa City are seriously and enthusiastically talking about Madame Deplorable running yet one more time in 2020.

Stop Hillary before she hates again!

Postscript

Meanwhile, the rapacious fury of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma suggest that Sanders (of whom I was no great fan thanks above all to his failure to break from the American imperial project) was on to something when he had the basic environmental decency to say in one of the primary debates that climate change – and not Russia or Iran or North Korea – is the single greatest threat to Americans’ “national security.”

Which reminds me: Has Rachel Maddow lost her mind? Irma’s on a lethal rampage in the Caribbean, Jose in her wake. Houston is just starting to dig out of Harvey and the massive chemical pollution that ensued. Nuclear war beckons on the Korean peninsula. And when I had MSNBC on at the gym last night, Rachel was going on and on about. – what else? – Russia and Trump, Russia and Trump (specifically how they supposedly collaborated to hijack Facebook last year). The night before that I saw Rachel say that for all the “non-ideological madness” of Trump there have been two and just two consistent themes in the Trump presidency: 1. Love of Putin/Russia and 2. Hatred of immigrants. Now, #1 is absurd given the conflict with Russia that Trump has participated in (look at the recent diplomatic staff war just for one example). But even more significantly, Russophobic Maddow deletes probably the most consistent and deadly theme in Orange Beast’s presidency: eco-cidal climate change-denial and environmental arch-de-regulation of energy…certainly themes of utmost relevance in relation to recent and current extreme weather events. Insane. Anthro-/capitalo-genic climate change is the biggest issue of our or any time (Please see my latest essay on Truthdig: “The Silence of the Good People”). The Earth is our witness to that. And she prattles on about Russia, Russia, Russia, as if whatever it might have done to U.S. politics comes remotely close to the power of just the nation’s leading oil corporations in “undermining our great democracy.”

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