Why Aren’t Bernie Sanders-Style Democrats Getting More Support from the Party Leaders in Washington?

NEWS & POLITICS
In Kansas, the Democrats barely lifted a finger to help James Thompson, a progressive who came painfully close to winning. That’s a losing strategy.

Photo Credit: Screenshot / YouTube

Since losing the presidency to a Cheeto-hued reality TV host, the Democratic party’s leadership has made it clear that it would rather keep losing than entertain even the slightest whiff of New Deal style social democracy.

The Bernie Sanders wing might bring grassroots energy and – if the polls are to be believed – popular ideas, but their redistributive policies pose too much of a threat to the party’s big donors to ever be allowed on the agenda.

Even a symbolic victory cedes too much to those youthful, unwashed hordes who believe healthcare and education are human rights and not extravagant luxuries, as we saw when the Democratic establishment recruited Tom Perez to defeat the electorate-backed progressive Keith Ellison for DNC chair.

The Democrats demonstrated this once more this week when, in a special election triggered by Trump’s tapping of Mike Pompeo for CIA director, a Berniecrat named James Thompson came painfully close to winning a Kansas Congressional seat that had been red for over two decades, and his party didn’t even try to help him.

If Thompson’s picture is not on the Wikipedia page for “left-wing populism,” it really should be. Following a difficult upbringing during which he was homeless for a time, he joined the Army and attended college on the GI bill. He went on to graduate from Wichita State University and Washburn University before going into practice as a civil rights lawyer. He owns guns and looks natural in a trucker hat.

In a Reddit AMA, Thompson said he was “inspired to run by Bernie” and talked about “progressive values” like universal healthcare, education, and a $15/hour minimum wage. He also spoke in favor of taxing and legalizing marijuana, regulating Wall Street and overturning Citizens United. It’s no surprise he received the endorsement of Our Revolution, the progressive political action organization spun out of Sanders’ candidacy.

After beating an establishment Democrat in the primary, Thompson promised to take on Trump and the Republicans, as well as the state’s unpopular Republican governor Sam Brownback and Kansas-headquartered oligarchs the Koch brothers.

In one campaign ad, Thompson shoots an AR-15 rifle at a target before delivering a broad, class-based appeal: “People of all colors, all races, all religions, they want the basic same thing … they want to be able to provide for their family, provide a good education for their kids. We’ve got to get back to this country being about the working class family.”

While his candidacy initially seemed like a long shot in a district that had re-elected Pompeo just last year with 60.7% of the vote, in the weeks before the election, the race grew unexpectedly close.

This led to a sudden infusion of cash from the National Republican Congressional Committee to Thompson’s opponent Ron Estes, who in the end raised $459,000, $130,000 of it from the NRCC. He also received massive donations from representatives of big business and help from such national figures as Paul Ryan, Mike Pence, Ted Cruz, and the president himself, who tweeted about the race.

Estes spent much of his money on TV attack ads, like the one that claimed Thompson supports using tax dollars to fund late term abortions, as well as abortions performed because parents don’t like the gender of their baby.

Given our current political climate, you’d think the Democrats would have jumped at the chance to take back a Congressional seat and demonstrate opposition to Trump, but you’d be wrong. While Thompson managed to raise $292,000 without his party’s help, 95% of which came from individuals, neither the DNC, DCCC, nor even the Kansas Democratic Party would help him grow that total in any substantial way. His campaign requested $20,000 from the state Democratic Party and was denied.

They later relented and gave him $3,000. (According to the FEC, the Party had about $145,000 on hand.) The national Democratic Party gave him nothing until the day before the election, when it graced him with some live calls and robo-calls. He lost by seven percentage points.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Perez confirmed the DNC would not be giving Thompson a dime. “We can make progress in Kansas,” he said. “There are thousands of elections every year, though. Can we invest in all of them? That would require a major increase in funds.” Fact check: the DNC has a fund just for Congressional elections, of which there are just ten this year.

Contrast this with what Perez said just a few months earlier when he promised “a 50-state strategy” complete with “rural outreach and organizers in every zip code.” In a post-victory interview with NPR, he specifically name checked Kansas as a place Democrats could win. Why the sudden about face?

In defending their decision, party mouthpieces have taken the absurd line that giving Thompson money would have actually hurt his chances of winning, because then everyone would have known he’s a Democrat, and Kansans hate Democrats. (Let’s take a moment to appreciate these are the same people who keep saying the party doesn’t need a new direction.)

“You do not get to the single digits in a district like this if you’re a nationalized Democrat,” DCCC communications director Meredith Kelly told The Huffington Post. “End of story. That’s just the way it is. There are just certain races where it is not helpful to be attached to the national D.C. Democrats.” End of story, idiot.

Nobody must have told Kelly that Thompson was already attached to the “national DC Democrats” by virtue of being in their party, a fact Estes was happy to exploit in an attack ad that showed him waist deep in a literal swamp he hoped to drain.

“The liberals are trying to steal this election by supporting a Bernie Sanders backed lawyer, because they know he will vote how Nancy Pelosi tells him to,” he claimed. Seems Thompson got all the bad parts of being a Democrat this time around, and none of the good ones.

One person the party does not think will be hurt by their help is Jon Ossoff, who is running in a similarly red, but much wealthier, district in Georgia. To date, the DNC has raised some $8.3m for him and has committed to sending nine field staffers to organize on-the-ground efforts.

Although he is young, he’s an acolyte of the Democratic establishment, having worked for Representatives John Lewis and Hank Johnson, and he endorsed Hillary Clinton in the primary. He went to Georgetown followed by the London School of Economics and speaks fluent French. He has the support of several Hollywood celebrities.

Democrats think Ossoff is just the guy to bring his affluent suburban district back into the fold. (Clearly, losing a national election was not enough to reverse course on that most doomed of 2016 strategies: trading blue collar whites for wealthy, suburban ones.)

Georgia Democratic Party spokesman Michael Smith said this is the state organization’s chance to “deliver the White House its first electoral defeat.” Liberal bloggers are wetting their pants over this “weather vane” of early Trump backlash. It’s like Thompson’s campaign never even happened.

By refusing to fund the campaigns of anyone but centrist, establishment shills, the Democratic Party aims to make the Berniecrats’ lack of political viability a self-fulfilling prophecy: starve their campaigns of resources so they can’t win, then point to said losses as examples of why they can’t win.

If that means a few more red seats in Congress, so be it. The more they do this, though, the less of Bernie’s “political revolution” will be absorbed by the Democratic Party and the more will go shooting off into third parties and direct action.

Feel free to keep eating your own, Democrats. At this rate, we’ll have a socialist party in no time.

*The original version of this article referred to Joe Pompeo. It has since been changed to Mike Pompeo.

 

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Does Hillary Clinton Understand the Biggest Divide in American Politics?

Posted on Jul 25, 2016

By Robert Reich

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is missing a crucial point of this election.(Susan Walsh / AP)

This post originally ran on Robert Reich’s website.

Does Hillary Clinton understand that the biggest divide in American politics is no longer between the right and the left, but between the anti-establishment and the establishment?

I worry she doesn’t – at least not yet.

A Democratic operative I’ve known since the Bill Clinton administration told me “now that she’s won the nomination, Hillary is moving to the middle. She’s going after moderate swing voters.”

Presumably that’s why she tapped Tim Kaine to be her vice president. Kaine is as vanilla middle as you can get.

In fairness, Hillary is only doing what she knows best. Moving to the putative center is what Bill Clinton did after the Democrats lost the House and Senate in 1994 – signing legislation on welfare reform, crime, trade, and financial deregulation that enabled him to win reelection in 1996 and declare “the era of big government” over.

In those days a general election was like a competition between two hot-dog vendors on a boardwalk extending from right to left. Each had to move to the middle to maximize sales. (If one strayed too far left or right, the other would move beside him and take all sales on rest of the boardwalk.)

But this view is outdated. Nowadays, it’s the boardwalk versus the private jets on their way to the Hamptons.

The most powerful force in American politics today is anti-establishment fury at a system rigged by big corporations, Wall Street, and the super-wealthy.

This is a big reason why Donald Trump won the Republican nomination. It’s also why Bernie Sanders took 22 states in the Democratic primaries, including a majority of Democratic primary voters under age 45.

There are no longer “moderates.”  There’s no longer a “center.” There’s authoritarian populism (Trump) or democratic populism (which had been Bernie’s “political revolution,” and is now up for grabs).

And then there’s the Republican establishment (now scattered to the winds), and the Democratic establishment.

If Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party don’t recognize this realignment, they’re in for a rude shock – as, I’m afraid, is the nation. Because Donald Trump does recognize it. His authoritarian (“I’ am your voice”) populism is premised on it.

“In five, ten years from now,” Trump says, “you’re going to have a worker’s party. A party of people that haven’t had a real wage increase in 18 years, that are angry.”

Speaking at a factory in Pennsylvania in June, he decried politicians and financiers who had betrayed Americans by “taking away from the people their means of making a living and supporting their families.”

Worries about free trade used to be confined to the political left. Now, according to the Pew Research Center, people who say free-trade deals are bad for America are more likely to lean Republican.

The problem isn’t trade itself. It’s a political-economic system that won’t cushion working people against trade’s downsides or share trade’s upsides. In other words, a system that’s rigged.

Most basically, the anti-establishment wants big money out of politics. This was the premise of Bernie Sanders’s campaign. It’s also been central to Donald (“I’m so rich I can’t be bought off”) Trump’s appeal, although he’s now trolling for big money.

A recent YouGov/Economist poll found that 80 percent of GOP primary voters who preferred Donald Trump as the nominee listed money in politics as an important issue, and a Bloomberg Politics poll shows a similar percentage of Republicans opposed to the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. FEC decision.

Getting big money out of politics is of growing importance to voters in both major parties. A June New York Times/CBS News poll showed that 84 percent of Democrats and 81 percent of Republicans want to fundamentally change or completely rebuild our campaign finance system.

Last January, a DeMoines Register poll of likely Iowa caucus-goers found 91 percent of Republicans and 94 percent of Democrats unsatisfied or “mad as hell” about money in politics.

Hillary Clinton doesn’t need to move toward the “middle.” In fact, such a move could hurt her if it’s perceived to be compromising the stances she took in the primaries in order to be more acceptable to Democratic movers and shakers.

She needs to move instead toward the anti-establishment – forcefully committing herself to getting big money out of politics, and making the system work for the many rather than a privileged few.

She must make clear Donald Trump’s authoritarian populism is a dangerous gambit, and the best way to end crony capitalism and make America work for the many is to strengthen American democracy.

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/does_hillary_clinton_understand_biggest_divide_american_politics_20160725

A Confederacy of Dunces: The Democratic Establishment’s Assault on Sanders Begins

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Sen. Bernard Sanders, who’s running to Hillary Clinton’s left for the Democratic presidential nomination, has become a target for his outspoken challenge to the status quo. (Associated Press)

“When a true genius appears in your world, you may know him by this sign; that all the dunces are against him in a confederacy.” 
—Jonathon Swift

Well, it’s started.  You knew it would.  The Democratic establishment is going into attack mode as their anointed one  – Hillary Clinton – is in danger of losing.

Take a look at some of the assaults that have been launched within the last five days:

  • Sandy Goodman, a former producer at NBC Nightly News published a piece on the Huffington Post, entitled, Voting for Sanders is Voting Republican. The fact that Bernie does better than Hillary against Republicans is an inconvenient fact Goodman ignores in this ludicrous hit piece;
  • Paul Krugman’s column last Friday suggested that progressives voting for Sanders weren’t being “adults,” and had no idea how change occurred – in Krugman’s world, change doesn’t come from the people, apparently. It comes from party apparatchiks working with the plutocracy;
  • Thomas Friedman, another New York Times columnist, essentially called Sanders a communist – something he knows isn’t true, but it’s a great scare tactic;
  • President Obama said Bernie Sanders’ ideas haven’t been tested yet and went on to heap praise on Hillary.  It wasn’t an endorsement, but it came mighty close.

All of these are coming from credentialed liberals who have been staunch supporters of the Democratic Party.  And therein lies the problem. The Democratic Party’s interests are no longer aligned with the people’s interests and they haven’t been for a long time.

And this comes after Debbie Wassermann Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, set up the modern era’s first stealth debate program, designed to guarantee a coronation for Ms. Clinton and keep real progressives like Sanders and O’Malley under wraps.

But it’s not just the press and the Party.  Civil institutions, environmental groups, and unions that should be with the people – and therefore with Sanders – are lining up to back Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party’s traditional PAC candidate.

The bottom line is, the institutions that used to represent the people no longer derive their power from the people, so they are threatened by Sanders, because he does.

Make no mistake, this is about power.  

After decades, a right wing cabal of the uber-wealthy, in conjunction with corporations, has literally seized control of government.

Not only have they rolled back controls on Wall Street, turned elections into a bidding war in which politicians are purchased like livestock, and pared government funds down to the point where it can no longer function; they’ve also set up the rules so that corporations are our largest recipients of welfare and the 1% walks away with all the spoils. Incredibly, they’ve convinced people it’s good for them.

And Democrats have been co-authors of the problem. Even when poll after poll showed that the majority of American people are left of center on an issue-by-issue basis, Democrats inched to the center and then to the right of center … where, until a few months ago, is where you’d find Hillary, by the way.

Bottom line, until Sanders, the terms of the national debate were dictated by the Plutocracy, and there was no way to pierce the carefully constructed interlocking web of money, media, and myth the Oligarchs constructed.  Oh, there were voices – but they were largely consigned to the fringes of society, with little or no chance of breaking through to reach the masses of people who’ve been duped, fleeced and fooled into believing that government is inevitably inept, taxes are a curse, and an uber-free market our salvation.

Some of the players in media are a part of this process; some are merely so immersed in the system they’ve forgotten that it wasn’t always this way.  But either way …

The Revolution has not been televised—but the counterattack will be.  

Up until now, the mainstream media has all but ignored Sanders, despite the record crowds, the good poll numbers, and the record-breaking contributions from everyday Americans.

But of course, the better he does with the people, the more he threatens their power base — which is their relationship with corporations and the uber-rich and the PACS they fund.  So now that he has become a real threat to their dominance, brace yourself for the well-financed counter attack that’s coming soon, to a media outlet near you.

It will be nasty.  It will be swift. It will be merciless. They will use fear; they will use bigotry, they will use greed – and oh, yes, they will use money.  Lots of money.

The most dangerous of all, though, may be those who are so inured to the system, they can’t see the prospect of real change – of a real, and much needed – revolution.

In Sanders we have a leader who – against all odds — has broken through the rigged system, reached out to us, and given voice to the 99% who’ve been left behind.

If we choose courage over fear; tolerance over jingoism, hate and bigotry; a belief in our own industry, resourcefulness and ability over the siren song of magic markets and easy money; if we stand together, we can put this evil genie back in its bottle, and we can take back our country and make government work again, and make it work for us.

That is the source of our power.  And it is the only power that can take on the confederacy that is gathering now, to hold on to what they’ve taken.

John Atcheson is author of the novel, A Being Darkly Wise, an eco-thriller and Book One of a Trilogy centered on global warming. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the San Jose Mercury News and other major newspapers. Atcheson’s book reviews are featured on Climateprogess.org.