Posts Tagged ‘Bernie Sanders’

Sanders victory would spark a political crisis

July 25, 2019

Bernie Sanders

If Bernie Sanders actually were elected President in 2020, it would ignite a major and continuing political crisis.

Neither the Wall Street financial establishment nor the pro-war intelligence establishment (aka the “deep state”) would accept his victory as legitimate.

The Washington press corps would be against him.  Nor could he count on the support of leaders of his own party.  He threatens their sources of wealth and power by showing it is possible to be elected without big donations from rich and powerful interests.

We saw a taste of what could happen with the election of Donald Trump in 2016.  Democrats and liberals refused to accept his victory as legitimate.  A few of them proposed a silly plan to have the Electoral College disregard the instructions of voters.  I think we could expect a revival of this idea, this time on a bipartisan basis.

Then Democratic leaders and their sympathizers in the CIA put forth the idea that Trump’s victory was due to Russian agents hacking the Democratic National Committee and manipulating the voters via the Internet—the so-called Russiagate conspiracy.  Democrats still haven’t given up on using this to drive Trump from office.

(I think Donald Trump is a bad president, but I think he should be attacked for the things he actually did and I don’t think it is possible to undo the 2016 election.)

Some Russiagaters said the Russians also backed Bernie Sanders.  We’ll hear a lot more of this if Sanders ia nominated, and we’d probably get a new Russiagate investigation if he ia elected.

The Wall Street banking establishment has their own method of dealing with populist presidents.  It is to “lose confidence” in the administration, which pushes up bond interest rates, which in turn pushes the federal government budget out of balance.

Bill Clinton complained about being subject to the will of bond traders.  His friend and adviser, James Carville, said that if he died, he would like to be reincarnated as the bond market, because he would be all powerful.

Going further back in American history, Nicholas Biddle, president of the then Bank of the United States, deliberately induced a financial crisis by tightening credit in order to discredit his enemy, President Andrew Jackson.

Barack Obama was thwarted in enacting his very moderate political program by the intransigent opposition of Republicans in Congress.  In a Sanders presidency, we could expect the same thing not only from Republicans, but also from pro-corporate Democrats.

Maybe you think I’m alarmist.  I hope I am.  But I’m not predicting anything that hasn’t happened before.

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Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren?

July 22, 2019

I respect both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.  They are the only two current Presidential candidates, except maybe Tulsi Gabbard, that I’d vote for.  Unfortunately I can’t vote for both.

Warren has a better and deeper understanding of policy.  Sanders’ ideas (for example, the Walmart tax) are sometimes half-baked.

Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Via Vox

But Sanders has a better and deeper understanding of public opinion and political power.  When he started campaigning for a $15 an hour minimum wage and Medicare for all, these ideas were regarded as crackpot.  He understands that public opinion is not a given.  It can be changed.

He also understands that it is not enough to have correct ideas or even to have popular ideas.  You have to have a political force behind you that is powerful enough to push these ideas through.

That is why he gives so much support to striking workers and protest demonstrations.  They represent a potential counterforce to the power of big money.

He regards billionaires and CEOs of big corporations as his enemies, and his aim is a political revolution that takes away their power.

Warren’s aim, on the other hand, is to make the system work the way it should.  That’s why Wall Street regards her as the lesser evil.

So even though many of her specific proposals are similar to Sanders’ proposals, the two represent different philosophies.

Warren wants to win an argument.  Sanders wants to win a battle.

My main reservation about the two is that neither Warren nor Sanders are full-fledged peace candidates—although Sanders is closer to being one than Warren is

If both are on the ballot in next year’s New York Democratic primary, I would vote for Sanders.

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How socialist is Bernie Sanders?

April 11, 2019

Young Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders has de-demonized the word “socialism” in American politics.  But what does his socialism consist of?

For him, it means being on the side of working people and poor people and opposed to big business and rich people, and not being worried if somebody calls what he does “socialism.”

He is no Jeremy Corbyn.  He does not plan the overthrow of capitalism.  There is nothing Sanders proposes to which an old-time New Deal Democrat of the 1930s and 1940s would object.  The New Deal’s purpose was to reform and tame capitalism, not replace it.

This is meant as an observation, not a criticism.  Sanders deserves credit for pushing the limit of acceptable radicalism.

Below is a link to an old article by Murray Bookchin, the anarchist thinker, questioning Sanders’ socialist credentials.

Bookchin lived in Vermont when Sanders was mayor of Burlington.  A friend of mine who knew both of them said they didn’t get along.  This isn’t surprising.  Anarchists have disliked socialists since the days of Karl Marx, Mikhail Bukharin and the First International.

LINK

The Bernie Sanders Paradox: When Socialism Grows Old by Murray Bookchin for Monthly Review (1886)

Is there a real peace candidate in the race?

April 8, 2019

The Black Agenda Report carried a good article evaluating the political records of all the announced Democratic candidates on issues of war and peace.

Peace activists Medea Benjamin and Nicholas J.S. Davies wrote that Senator Bernie Sanders’ record is by far the best.  He voted against military spending bills 16 out of 19 times since 2013.

He opposes a U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and Syria and opposes military intervention in Venezuela.  He’s a leader is trying to get Congress to invoke the War Powers Act to stop U.S. support for the Saudi Arabian war against Yemen.

The biggest blot on his record is his support for the expensive and useless F-35 fighter project, in order to create jobs in Vermont.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a National Guard officer who served in Iraq, is an outspoken opponent of regime change wars and one of the few to oppose the new arms race with Russia.  But she voted in favor of military spending bills 19 out of 29 times, and has been a consistent supporter of expensive weapons systems.

Senators Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand deserve consideration.  Warren sponsored a resolution to renounce U.S. use of nuclear weapons except as retaliation for a nuclear attack.  Gillibrand has the second-best record of opposing proposed military budgets.

The spiritual writer Marianne Williamson is the only declared candidate who wants to dismantle the military-industrial complex and transition to a peace economy.  Politically, that is a fringe position.  It is realistic only in terms of what is actually needed.

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Bernie Sanders and the Democrats: links

March 15, 2019

Bernie Sanders Wants You to Fight by Meagan Day for Jacobin.

Actually the Democrats Don’t Care About Identity by Branko Narcetic for Jacobin.

A Way-Too-Early Handicapping of the 2020 Presidential Race by Thomas Neuburger for Down With Tyranny!

Eight Dem lawmakers pledge to end ‘forever war’

March 5, 2019

Eight Democratic lawmakers, including Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have signed a pledge to act to bring America’s “Forever War” to “a responsible and expedient conclusion.”

The pledge was also signed by Rep. Mark Pocan, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus; Reps. Ilhan Omar, Ro Khanna and Rashida Tlaib; and Senator Jon Tester, who’s considered a moderate, but was elected on an anti-war platform.

The pledge reads as follows:

The United States has been in a state of continuous, global, open-ended military conflict since 2001.  Over 2.5 million troops have fought in this ‘Forever War’ in over a dozen countries – including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Jordan, Niger, Somalia, and Thailand.

I pledge to the people of the United States of America, and to our military community in particular, that I will (1) fight to reclaim Congress’s constitutional authority to conduct oversight of U.S. foreign policy and independently debate whether to authorize each new use of military force, and (2) act to bring the Forever War to a responsible and expedient conclusion.

I applaud the signers of this resolution.  I also point out that the words “responsible and expedient” are doing a lot of work.  Was the U.S. exit from Vietnam “responsible and expedient”?

President Nixon said he wanted “peace with honor,” but this was not achievable. Those who supported the U.S. cause suffered a terrible vengeance.  But I don’t see how this could have been avoided by prolonging the war even longer than it was.

There aren’t any good choices for the U.S. military in winding down its wars.  Innocent people will suffer no matter what.  There is no substitute for victory, and victory in these wars is out of reach.

This is a good reason not to start new wars.

One important point about the resolution is that it mentions Yemen, Somalia and other wars in which U.S. is involved without large-scale commitment of troops.

The resolution was sponsored by Common Defense, an organization of anti-war veterans and military families.

LINK

Sanders, Warren, Ocasio-Cortez and Other Lawmakers Sign Pledge to End America’s “Forever Wars” by Alex Emmons and Ryan Grim for The Intercept.

War Weary: Why Washington Needs to Bring Its Troops Home by Doug Bandow for The National Interest.

Talkin’ Bout My Generation: The Forever War by Joe Haldeman by Alan Brown for Tor.com.  The Forever War is the title of a classic science-fiction novel by Vietnam veteran Joe Haldeman.

Bernie’s progress

February 28, 2019

Of all the announced U.S. presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders is the one who is unequivocally on the side of American working people (including but not limited to the “white working class”).

He has done more than any of the others to provide a rallying point for those who support labor in its battle with the oligarchy of wealth.

I wish he also was a peace candidate.  He’s moving in a good direction, he’s closer to being a peace candidate than anyone in the field except Tulsi Gabbard, but he does not challenge the U.S. neoconservative foreign policy in the same way that he challenges neoliberal economic thinking.  At least not yet.

LINKS

Six Thoughts on Bernie 2020 by Caitlin Johnstone.  Excellent.  She says it all.

Foreign Policy Distinguishes Bernie Sanders in 2020 by Peter Beinart for The Atlantic.  The case for Sanders.

Think Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are the same?  They aren’t by Bhaskar Sunkara for The Guardian.

The mirage of “electability”

January 11, 2019
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I don’t think much or have much to say about “electability.”   If I were a politician considering who to support, I’d have to think about it.
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As a mere voter, I just vote for the candidates I think would be best, based on their platform, record and proposals.  Voting “strategically” means voting based on a guess as to how others will vote.  We who vote our own minds have some influence, however small, on who are and who are not electable.
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My litmus test for who I’d support is twofold:
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  • Would they try to break the financial and corporate oligarchy’s lock on public policy and are they willing to do without donations from financial and corporate interests?
  • Would they try to break the military-intelligence complex’s lock on foreign and military policy and give up the goal of world military domination.
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The only prospective candidates I know who meet the first test are Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, in that order.  Neither Bernie Sanders nor Elizabeth Warren is a real peace candidate, although they are less militaristic that the Democratic leadership as a whole, which nowadays is even more hawkish than Republicans.
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The odds are against any truly progressive candidate.  Any progressive candidate will have to fight the power of big money, a political system rigged against them and a mainstream press aligned against them.
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Any progressive candidate is going to be under attack for irrelevant reasons, such as the BernieBros smear and the Pocahontas smear.  If someone else occupied the same niche as Sanders or Warren, something equivalent would a tagged to them.  Right now there’s a frantic search going on for something to hang on Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez.
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If you’re a progressive, there are two reasons to support a candidate who stands for what you believe in.  The first is that the candidate might just win.  The second is help to shift public opinion by raising questions and presenting fact that the public doesn’t usually hear.  Hammer away at public opinion long enough, and winning follows.
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The Green Party is widely regarded as the lunatic fringe.  But its idea of a Green New Deal has become mainstream.  Bernie Sanders was regarded as a crackpot for proposing Medicare for all.  Now this idea is mainstream, too.
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The current discussion as to which Democratic politician is “electable” is like a discussion of who should play the lead role in a movie or TV mini-series like the West Wing.  Do we want a likable old white guy with a working-class background (Joe Biden)?  Or a hard-nosed prosecutor who happens to be a black woman (Kamala Harris)?  Or maybe a sophisticated younger black man at home in the worlds of politics and finance (Corey Booker, Deval Patrick)?  Or maybe an appealing Kennedyesque young guy from Texas (Beto O’Rourke)?  Or an actual Mexican-American from the Southwest (Julian Castro)?
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None of these candidates is being promoted on the basis of their record or their platform
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News coverage of elections is largely based on who can win or who is likely to win.  It should be based on giving the public enough information that they can judge who should win.
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LINKS
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What Does Electability Mean in 2020? by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone.
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Thoughts on Warren and Sanders: How Much Change Is Needed in 2021? by Thomas Neuberger for Down With Tyranny!
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Should the Left Unite Behind Elizabeth Warren? by Eric Levitz for New York magazine.

Behind the BernieBros smear

January 11, 2019

[Introduction revised 1/15/2019]

Bernie Sanders supporters been dogged by the “BernieBros” tag, the idea that they opposed Hillary Clinton because they’re prejudiced against women.

Lambert Strether, writing on the Naked Capitalism web log, noted a recent charge of sexual harassment within the Sanders campaign and pointed out how easy these charges are to make and how hard to refute.

He predicted that the Sanders campaign is going to be singled out for such charges because supporters of the status quo regard him as a threat.  Here is what he wrote—

“Top Bernie Sanders 2016 adviser accused of forcibly kissing subordinate” [Politico]. “The woman did not report the incident at the time because the campaign was over. But over the past several months, [convention floor leader Robert Becker], who is not on Sanders’ payroll, has been calling potential staffers and traveling to early primary states to prepare for another presidential run — activities that Sanders’ top aides did not endorse, but did not disavow, either.”

• Apparently, nobody seems to have written Sanders a letter.  Odd.

Lambert here: Since the story will be weaponized, I’m going to put questions of truth or falsity aside.  A few comments:

(1) It was inevitable that #MeToo would merge with oppo. Now it has. A narrative initially framed as applying to a toxic campaign culture generally (whatever “toxic” means) has oddly, or not, been applied, at least in national venues, only to the Sanders campaign. (Contrast the two sex and meth deaths at Clinton donor Ed Buck’s house, where coverage has remained local to Los Angeles.)

(2) If Sanders and his campaign-in-waiting think this line of attack will go away, or can be dealt either by pointing to improvements made in the Sanders Senate 2018 campaign or by keeping relentlessly on-message regarding policy, they are naïve in the extreme.

(3) There will be more. That’s what Operation Mockingbird and Cointelpro tell us.  From today’s post on the “Integrity Initiative“: “[Simon Bracey-Lane] appeared on the American political scene as a field worker for Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential primary run, earning media write-ups as the “Brit for Bernie.”   Now, the young operator was back in the US as the advance man for a military-intelligence cut-out that specialized in smearing left-wing political figures like Jeremy Corbyn.” Anybody who thinks Bracey-Lane was the only sleeper in the Sanders campaign — or Democratic Socialists of America, for that matter — is also naïve in the extreme.  There were surely more.  Some of them will be anxious to share their stories (and then go on book tours).  The same will be true of political mercenaries generally.

(4) The Clinton operation dealt successfully with respected party elder Bill Clinton’s workplace abuse issues and rapes by attacking the women The Big Dog abused and assaulted. (James Carville: “Drag a hundred-dollar bill through a trailer park, you never know what you’ll find.”)  Hopefully the Sanders campaign can do better.

(5) Doing better than the Clintons would imply not counter-attacking the accusers.  If it were possible, I’d “shoot the messengers” (“#MeTools”) doing the weaponizing.  I think that’s the recommendation 2016 Sanders advisor Adolph Reed has been working up to (see this important article from Reed I flagged yesterday: “There’s no point trying to communicate with those whose resistance stems from such material investment; no matter what their specific content, their responses to class critique always amount to the orderly Turkle’s lament to McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest—’This is my f*cking job!’”)  It’s not clear to me that shooting the messengers will work, though it would be interesting to know how trusted the press is by the Sanders base.

(6) It’s also not clear to me what Sanders should do, other than hire somebody to deal with the matter, ideally a person both identitarian-proof and ruthlessly effective.  Sanders also needs to get the idea firmly fixed in his mind that he is not in the Senate now, and there is no comity.

Source: 2:00PM Water Cooler 1/10/2019 | naked capitalism

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Bernie Sanders wants to crusade for democracy

November 9, 2018

The big weakness of Bernie Sanders as a political leader has been the lack of a consistent peace policy.  His tendency has been to oppose wars launched by Republican Presidents and support wars launched by Democratic Presidents.

Now, according to an article in POLITICO, he is rethinking foreign policy.  His idea is to make American foreign policy a crusade in favor of human rights and democracy.

Bernie Sanders

The problem with that is that all the recent disastrous U.S. military interventions have been justified as a duty to support human rights and democracy.  What would keep Sanders from being led down the same path?

The Clinton administration bombed Serbia supposedly to protect the human rights of the Bosniak Muslims and Kosovar Albanians.  The George W. Bush administration invaded Afghanistan and Iraq supposedly to free the Afghan and Iraqi people from the tyrannies of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein.  The Obama administration engineered the overthrow of Qaddafi and attempted the overthrow of Assad supposedly to protect pro-democracy people.

Economic warfare against Venezuela and Iran, with a goal of reducing their people to destitution and misery, is justified in the name of protecting their human rights.  A ramp-up to military confrontation to Russia, with the risk of triggering nuclear war, is justified as resistance to the tyrant Vladimir Putin.

Here’s what Sanders had to say in a speech last September—

“Today, I say to Mr. Putin: We will not allow you to undermine American democracy or democracies around the world. In fact, our goal is to not only strengthen American democracy, but to work in solidarity with supporters of democracy around the globe, including in Russia.  In the struggle of democracy versus authoritarianism, we intend to win,” Sanders thundered.

He continued: “Inequality, corruption, oligarchy and authoritarianism are inseparable. They must be understood as part of the same system, and fought in the same way … Kleptocrats like Putin in Russia use divisiveness and abuse as a tool for enriching themselves and those loyal to them.”

Source: POLITICO Magazine

What statements like this imply is some kind of support for anti-Putin forces in Russia, continuation of sanctions against Russian oligarchs and possibly attempting to draw Ukraine and Georgia into NATO.

We’d be telling Vladimir Putin that our goal is to drive him from power.  That means it would be a matter of survival for him to interfere in U.S. politics and try to change that goal.

If I were part of the liberal democracy movement in Russia, the last thing I would want is some American politician announcing support for people like me.  It would be poison.

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Will the Democrats make a difference this time?

October 30, 2018

Donald Trump is a bad presidenteven worse than I expected him to be.  So it will be a good thing if Democrats can gain control of the House of Representatives, leaving Trump and the Republicans in control of only 2.5 of the three branches of government.

The trouble with the Democrats is that they regard Trump’s election in 2016  as a black swan kind of event that nobody could have foreseen and wouldn’t ever happen again. This means that their vision is limited to raging against Trump and not to moving the country forward.

The November-December issue of Mother Jones—a magazine I subscribe to and admire because of its excellent investigative reporting—contains three articles that illustrate the Democratic lack of vision.

The first is an interview with the war hawk Max Boot on why he switched from Republican to Democrat.  I think there is something wrong with the Democratic Party if its leaders feel comfortable with somebody like him.

The second is an article praising the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for freezing out progressives and recruiting candidates on the basis of their ability to raise money. This is supposedly the way to success—despite continuing Democratic losses since 2008 while following this policy.

The third is an article by Kevin Drum quoting polls that indicate that Trump voters are motivated by racial anxiety, not economic anxiety, but that Trump’s racial views are unpopular with the country at large.  Drum says Democrats should campaign on both economic issues and racial justice issues (which I agree with), but the logic of his argument is that only racial justice issues matter.

What I take away from the three articles is that none of these writers think the Democratic Party needs to change.  All its leaders need to do is to remind people of how bad President Trump is.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi says that if the Democrats regain the majority, she’ll push for a “pay as you go” budget.  Under Obama, this kind of talk meant a “grand bargain” in which the Democrats agreed to cutbacks in Society Security and Medicare in return for somewhat higher taxes in the upper income brackets.

Pay-as-you-go is certainly incompatible with a big infrastructure program or Medicare for all, both of which the country needs.

I don’t think the Democrats will get anywhere trying to reverse the results of the 2016 elections.  I don’t think they will get anywhere trying to reverse the Brett Kavanaugh appointment to the Supreme Court.  I don’t know what the Mueller investigation may ultimately turn up, but I don’t think Russiagate is a winning issue for Democrats.

The American people want medical care that doesn’t put them at risk of bankruptcy.  They want access to higher education that doesn’t put them at risk of lifetime debt.  They want a trade policy that benefits American workers.  They don’t want unending war.  They don’t want a tiny wealthy elite capturing an ever-greater share of U.S. income.

Donald Trump, Mike Pence, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan don’t offer them any kind of realistic hope.  But what do the Democrats offer?

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Can the U.S. guarantee every American a job?

June 1, 2018

Is it possible to guarantee a job at a good wage to everybody who wants one?  Senator Bernie Sanders is working on a proposal to do just that, and several other Democrats have endorsed the concept.

Nobody in this country has ever tried anything like this.

“Full employment” as usually understood means reducing unemployment to the lowest possible figure, now estimated at 1.5 percent.

President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal created millions of useful jobs, but fell far short of providing a job to every individual who wanted one.   He proposed a postwar economic bill of rights that included the right to a decent job, but it isn’t clear whether that was meant literally or as an aspiration.

At the present time, the most widely-discussed proposal for a job guarantee is the National Investment Employment Corps (NIEC) proposed by Mark Paul, William Darity Jr. and Darrick Hamilton, working with the Center for American Progress and the Center on Budget and Public Policy Priorities.

The NIEC would provide a job to any American 18 years old or older at a minimum annual wage of $24,600 for full-time workers ($11.83 an hour).  They would have a chance to advance within the program to $32,500.  Wages would rise with the rate of inflation or to keep pace with any increase in the national minimum wage.

Full-time workers would be given the same health insurance and other benefits as other federal employees, whose cost is estimated at $10,000 a year. There also would be an option for part-time work.

The Secretary of Labor would provide “employment grants” to state, county and local governments, as well as Indian nations, for NIEC workers to carry out community projects.  The Secretary also would work with federal agencies to identify kinds of needed work that aren’t being done.  Examples might be energy efficiency retrofitting, elder care, ecological restoration and preschool services.

Where local governments could not think up enough useful projects to provide full employment, the NIEC would step in and do the work itself.  On the other hand, it would not fund work that would displace already existing employees.  Investigators would check to prevent corruption or boondoggling.  That’s how it’s supposed to work.

Paul, Darity and Hamilton estimate NIEC would employ 10.7 million workers which, factoring in part-timers, would equal 9.7 million full-time job equivalents.

They estimate the annual cost of their program at $543 billion a year.  That would be offset, they say, by reduction in spending for food stamps, unemployment compensation, earned income tax credits and other federal programs to help the poor and unemployed, and by an increase in taxable income.

The Levy Economics Institute of Bard College has developed a less-detailed proposal, which is said to be the basis for Bernie Sanders’ proposal.  The main difference is that the Levy proposal is based on a wage of $15 an hour.

It sounds good.  What would be the problems?  I think thee are some serious ones.

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2016 and the fight against the money power

May 7, 2018

Political scientist Thomas Ferguson has spent his career tracing the influence of money on U.S. national politics.   In this interview from last week, he said the big story of the 2016 election is that it is politically possible to defeat big money.

Bernie Sanders raised 60 percent of his funds from small donors, who gave $200 each or less, Ferguson said.  This is unprecedented.  He said Sanders could well have won the Democratic nomination and the general election if he had started earlier and done things differently.

But even in defeat, he said, Sanders showed it is possible to fund a national political campaign without going to the wealthy and corporate donors that the leaders of both political parties depend upon.

Ferguson is noted for his “investment theory of political parties”—that wealthy interests invest in political parties and candidates, and that the only political issues that elections decide are issues on which the big donors disagree or that they don’t care about.

He says there are basically two elections.  There is the informal money election, conducted by big donors, which winnows the field   Then there is the actual vote, which chooses among the candidates pre-selected by the money election.

What Sanders—and also Trump, to an extent—showed is that large numbers of small political “investors” can offset the few big donors.   Sanders was the equivalent of an entrepreneur who funded a start-up with a GoFundMe fundraiser.

Trump himself raised 40 percent of his campaign funds from small donors, which is unprecedented for a Republican, Ferguson said.   But most of that was before he won the Republican nomination.

Starting in August, big money started to roll in—especially from Rustbelt manufacturing interests, who liked Trump’s promise to raise tariffs against foreign imports, and also from such far-right figures as Sheldon Adelson, Peter Thiel and Robert and Rebekah Mercer.

Hillary Clinton received most of the donations that came from Wall Street and the defense and aerospace industries.

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A working man runs without big money backers

November 27, 2017

Randy Bryce, an iron worker who has never held public office except in his union, is running for Congress against Speaker of the House Paul Ryan in 2018.

The odds are against him.  Ryan beat his Democratic opponent by 35 percentage points in 2016.

But Bryce has raised more money – $1.74 million – than any other Democratic congressional candidate at this point, and it’s all or mostly in donations of $22 or less.

Times are changing.   Nowadays you can run for office and have a chance to win, without being a rich person and without being beholden to rich people.

LINKS

When a Political Endorsement Actually Means Something – Bernie Sanders and Randy Bryce on Down With Tyranny!

Can “the Iron Stache” really take down Paul Ryan? by Tim Murphy for Mother Jones.

Bernie Sanders’ baby steps toward peace

September 27, 2017

On foreign policy, Democrats in Congress fall into two broad categories.   There is a small group that is anti-war under Republican administrations and pro-war under Democratic administrations.   There is a larger group that is consistently bipartisan and pro-war.

Bernie Sanders was relatively silent on foreign policy during the 2016 election campaign.   He was less militaristic than Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, but did not question the fundamental assumptions behind U.S. global military intervention.

Recently he made a foreign policy speech and gave an interview to The Intercept criticizing some bad aspects of American foreign policy.

Most importantly, he questioned the long-standing U.S. alliance with Saudi Arabia, which goes back to Henry Kissinger and the Nixon and Ford administrations.   Kissinger made a deal in which the U.S. would support and protect Saudi Arabia militarily in return for the Saudis assuring the U.S. of an oil supply and recycling its oil profits into purchases of arms made by U.S. companies.

This long-standing policy continues in the form of U.S. support for the Saudi government’s struggle with its rival, Iran, to be the dominant power in the Middle East.

Sanders said he does not regard Saudi Arabia as an ally—in contrast to President Trump, whose praise for Saudi Arabia contrasts with his hostility toward European democratic allies.

He correctly pointed out that the Saudis support jihadist terrorists and the radical jihadist ideology and he opposed U.S. support for the murderous Saudi attack on Yemen.

In contrast, Sanders supports the agreement with negotiated by President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, in which Iran agreed to stop its uranium enrichment program  in return for listing of international sanctions.

Mostly, though, Sanders criticized Trump administration policies mainly on procedural grounds, much like Al Gore’s and John Kerry’s criticism of President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq.   The criticism is less of what is being done as the way it is being done.

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Repealing and replacing Obamacare

September 22, 2017

Two Democrats—Senator Bernie Sanders [1] of Vermont and Rep. John Conyers of Michigan—have proposed bills to do something that President Donald Trump promised to do, but can’t and won’t do.

That is, they would repeal and replace Obamacare with something better.

I applaud what they’re doing, and I think Sanders deserves credit for making universal health care politically possible.

Tom Price

I don’t think Sanders or Conyers can get their bills through Congress at the present time, and I think President Trump would veto them if they did.

That’s just as well.   Implementation of both programs would require the cooperation of Tom Price, the current Secretary of Health and Human Services.   He is an opponent of traditional Medicare, which he would replace with a voucher system, and favors cutbacks in Medicaid.

But under both the Sanders and Conyers bills, he would appoint the administrators of the new program, and, under the Sanders bill,

The Secretary is … directed to develop policies, procedures, guidelines, and requirements related to eligibility, enrollment, benefits, provider participation standards and qualifications, levels of funding, provider payment rates, medical necessity standards, planning for capital expenditures and health professional education, and regional planning mechanisms.

Source: Health Affairs Blog

I’m pretty sure that neither Sanders nor Conyers intends to give Secretary Price the power to sabotage and discredit their plans.   Their proposals are talking points to rally support for universal health care and encourage thinking about how to make their bills better.

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Thomas Frank on Clinton’s attack on Sanders

September 9, 2017

Paul Jay of the Real News Network did a good interview with Thomas Frank, one of my three or four favorite political writers, on why Hillary Clinton is attacking Bernie Sanders at this late date.   The interview starts about five minutes into the video.

Frank says Clinton has no just reason to hate Sanders personally.   He conducted a relatively gentlemanly primary election campaign, and supported her loyally during the general election.   She should be grateful that he decided to run within the Democratic Party in the first place, and not as a third-party candidate, like Ralph Nader in 2000.

But what Sanders represents, which is the pro-labor New Deal tradition of the Democratic Party, is deeply threatening to the power of the corporate wing of the party, which is what Clinton and her husband have represented through their political careers.

I think the reason the Democratic Party has done so little to fight voter disenfranchisement and to register voters is that disenfranchised and unregistered voters are mainly in demographic groups that corporate Democrats don’t care about.

They would rather seek the votes of culturally liberal suburban Republicans, whose votes, as Frank noted in the interview, Clinton actually won in the 2016 election.

The argument of the corporate Democrats is that (1) the Republican leaders are so reactionary and dangerous that nothing else matters except defeating them, (2) this can’t be done without matching the Republicans dollar for dollar and so (3) Democrats can’t afford to advocate policies contrary to the interests of their big-money contributors.

This is why they found that Sanders campaign so threatening, Frank said.   Sanders showed it was possible to conduct a political campaign based on small donations.   As far as that goes, Clinton outspent Trump two to one, and she still lost.

Sanders and Clinton are both getting on in years, and I don’t think either has a future as a national political candidate.  But I think there will be a long struggle between Sanders and Clinton factions under different names.   The struggle will be bitter because the stakes are high—whether the U.S. government will be accountable to the common people or to a corporate and political elite.

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Fear and loathing of Bernie Sanders

October 14, 2016

Swat Team: The media’s extermination of Bernie Sanders and real reform by Thomas Frank for Harper’s magazine.  What the Washington Post’s coverage of the Sanders candidacy reveals about the liberal establishment mentality and the future of American journalism.

Jill Stein’s strange choice for Green VP

August 10, 2016

What was Jill Stein thinking when she picked Ajamu Baraka as the Green Party’s vice presidential candidate?

I don’t entirely disagree with Baraka.  It is true that Sanders isn’t as eager for war as Clinton, but he does not challenge the basic assumptions behind U.S. war policies.

The problem is that mere denunciation will not change anybody’s mind.  Baraka’s rhetoric will appeal only to those who already agree with him.

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Clinton conceded next to nothing to Sanders

July 28, 2016

Pearls Before Swine - pb160724comb_ts.tif

When Barack Obama was nominated for President in 2008, he offered Hillary Clinton, as the price of her support, a Cabinet post and the promise to back her candidacy in 2016.

Bernie Sanders asked much less in return for his support of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy—merely a non-binding Democratic platform that supported his progressive agenda.   He didn’t even get all of that.  The Democrats have come around to a $15 an hour minimum wage, but refuse to take a stand on fracking or the odious Trans Pacific Partnership agreement.

The difference between 2008 and 2016 is that Obama and Clinton were both candidates of the status quo (which I didn’t realize then) whereas the Sanders candidacy was a real threat to the moneyed interests that who support Clinton.

It is not that Sanders supported anything radical.   Although he called himself a socialist, he ran as a Hubert Humphrey Democrat.  He supported restoration of New Deal programs that worked well in the past and a few programs, such as Medicare for all, that have worked well in foreign countries, while having little to say about foreign policy.

But to enact these modest reforms would require a real political revolution because they are unacceptable to the kind of  bankers and billionaires who made Bill and Hillary Clinton rich.

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Bernie Sanders’ strength and weakness

June 17, 2016

Transcript of Bernie Sanders’ speech in Burlington, Vermont, on Thursday, June 16, 2016.

∞∞∞

Bernie Sanders, in (sort of) conceding the primary election campaign to Hillary Clinton, gave an excellent speech Thursday night about what Americans need from their government.

And the decision to give priority to defeating Donald Trump is an honorable decision.

The problem with this speech is that he said nothing whatsoever about military intervention, the threat of nuclear war or the quest for peace.

I think that Sanders might be more hesitant than Clinton or Trump to go to war.  But he said nothing, and nothing during his campaign, about the war system.

He criticized Clinton for voting to authorize President Bush to use military force against Iraq—which, by the way, was also supported by Al Gore and John Kerry.   But Sanders has been much less critical of military interventions conducted under Democratic administrations.

I don’t oppose Clinton because of her vote on Iraq intervention, but that she has not learned anything from that mistake.  She replicated the mistakes of Iraq in Libya, she supported radical jihadists trying to overthrow Assad in Syria, she supported the coup in Honduras, and she brought the United States into confrontation with Russia in Ukraine.

The main innovation of the Obama administration is to carry on the Bush administration policies without large scale use of American troops, by means of special operations teams, flying killer robots and subsidies to foreign fighters.

The killing of harmless people in foreign countries continues.   Brown lives matter.  All lives matter, not just American lives.

I don’t mean to deny Sanders credit for his courageous campaign, for rallying support for important domestic reforms and for enabling all sorts of disparate reform groups to join in a common cause.  I am proud that I voted for Sanders in the New York primary.  I recommend listening to the full speech, or reading it, because it sets forth the domestic agenda that Americans need.

But unless there is peace, it is hard to push domestic reform.  If there is war with Russia, domestic issues will not matter.

Bernie Sanders 2016 and Gene McCarthy 1968

June 10, 2016

Bernie Sanders’ insurgent campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination has the same significance as Eugene J. McCarthy‘s in 1968.

McCarthy was a moderate Democrat from Minnesota who chose to run against incumbent Lyndon Johnson on a platform of opposition to the Vietnam War.

Eugene J. McCarthy

Eugene J. McCarthy

He didn’t have an especially distinguished record, and he wasn’t the best possible candidate.  But he was the candidate who had the nerve to run while all the other war opponents held back.   He provided an outlet for all the pent-up anti-war sentiment.

He won a plurality of the votes in the New Hampshire primary, against two slates of delegates both pledged to President Johnson.   His victory emboldened Senator Robert F. Kennedy to run, and Johnson decided not to seek re-election.

Even if Kennedy had not been assassinated, he probably would not have been able to defeat the entrenched Democratic Party organization or to prevent the nomination of Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey.

What McCarthy and then Kennedy did do was to open the door for a peace faction which was a continuing force in the Democratic Party independent of McCarthy himself.   I think, or at least I hope, Bernie Sanders has opened the door for a Democratic Party social justice faction that will outlive the Sanders campaign.

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Sanders, Millennials and the future

June 7, 2016

Millennials for Sanders

If Donald Trump is the candidate of angry white men and Hillary Clinton is the candidate of women, Bernie Sanders is the candidate of the young.

Across demographic groups, public opinion polls show a majority of voters under 30 support Sanders.

This is partly because younger Americans live in a more unforgiving world than I did when I was their age, and they have a stronger desire for change.

I think there is another reason.  Someone who is 19 or 29 should have a longer time horizon than I do at age 79.

My circle of friends consists mostly of liberal Democrats in my age group.  For them, the big question is: What would happen if Donald Trump is elected?

A younger person might ask: What would happen if we have eight more years of war and economic decline?  What if things go on as they are now for decades?

I think of global climate change as a problem for a future I probably won’t live to see.  Millennials can expect to see California run out of water and Miami sink beneath the waves in their lifetimes.

A Millennial voter would be more concerned than somebody in my generation—I feel silly calling myself a member of the Greatest Generation—about building the long-range future than about winning the next election.

Clinton is a defender of the status quo.  Trump is a voice for anger and frustration.  Of the three, only Sanders represents hope for the future.

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What Sanders should demand from Clinton

June 6, 2016

hillary-clinton-bernie-sandersBernie Sanders would be a fool to endorse Hillary Clinton in return for concessions in the Democratic platform.

Voters don’t pay any attention to the platform, and candidates don’t, either.  The important thing for Sanders to demand is appointment of members and staff of the Democratic National Committee who will support pro-worker candidates instead pro-Wall Street candidates for Congress and state offices.

Hillary Clinton would be a fool to put Sanders people on the Democratic National Committee in return for his endorsement.

Sanders’ endorsement of Clinton wouldn’t mean that much.

Most of the Sanders supporters whom I know think of Sanders as a bold reformer and Clinton as an overly cautious reformer.  They’d vote for Clinton, regardless of what Sanders says, because they think of her, not as a lesser evil, but as a lesser good.

Sanders supporters like me, who think there is a fundamental difference between pro-worker and pro-Wall Street candidates, would not be swayed by a Sanders endorsement.  Our opinions were formed before Sanders entered the race.

What Sanders can offer Clinton that is of value is his mailing list of small donors.  That is a treasure of enormous value for any candidate or slate of candidates.  The only circumstance it which it would be worth handing over, would be if the Democratic National Committee and its staff were replaced with Sanders’ people.

Arguably such a deal would both improve Clinton’s chances of winning in November, and be in the long-range interest of progressives and working people—a win-win for both sides.  But it wouldn’t be in the interest of Clinton’s big donors, and I’d be amazed if she agreed to it.

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The Republican wing of the Democratic Party

May 27, 2016

When Howard Dean ran for President in 2004, he said he represented “the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.”

What I took him to mean was that he represented the traditional Democratic constituencies, especially  labor, in opposition to the Republican wing, which favored big business.

rwb-donkeysplitAs chair of the Democratic National Committee, he famously said that the Democrats ought to be able to get the votes of men who drove pickup trucks with Confederate flags because they benefit from affordable health insurance and other liberal programs as much as anybody else.

He had a 50-state strategy in which he sought to built the Democratic Party everywhere, not just in the so-called swing states.  During his tenure, 2005 through 2009, Democrats recaptured control of Congress and built their strength across nationwide.  Democrats lost ground under his more conservative successors, Tim Keane (2009-2011) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (2011- )

The case for the Republican wing for the Democratic Party is that the interests of working people are compatible with the interests of Wall Street bankers and Fortune 500 executives, and that the goal of party leaders should be to seek consensus, as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama attempted to do.   The blame would rest with the Republican Party for refusing to respond to their overtures.

The problem with this is that it provides no answer to the growing concentration of wealth and power the past 25 years, at the expense of all Americans except a small elite.

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