Posts Tagged ‘Democratic Party’

The big thing that Thomas Frank overlooks

July 31, 2018

Thomas Frank is one of my favorite writers.  I like his books.  I like his magazine articles.  I enjoy watching videos of his speeches and interviews.  But there is one thing he doesn’t quite get.

His basic idea is that the Democratic Party is losing because it has abandoned the American working class and the policies of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.   The leaves them vulnerable to the fake populism of Donald Trump and the right wing of the Republican Party.

Democrats rely on African-Americans, Hispanics and educated professionals of all races reacting against President Trump’s appeal to prejudice against African-Americans and immigrants.

That’s not enough, Frank writes.  Democrats need to stand up for working people of all races—provide free college tuition and Medicare for all, enforce the anti-trust laws and renegotiate NAFTA and other pro-corporate trade treaties.

All this is true and important.

Frank’s mistake is to think that the reason top Democrats are pro-corporate is that they fail to understand their situation.

Shortly after the 36th minute in the video above. he says that the reason the Clintons and their allies have abandoned American labor is that the signature achievement of their generation was to their successful revolt against the New Deal, and nobody will disavow their generation’s signature achievement.

If they really don’t understand, it is because, as Upton Sinclair once put it, “it is hard to make a man understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

The wealth and power of the Clintons, like that of the Obamas, is based on their allegiance to Wall Street and the corporate elite.  If they had advocated breaking up the “too big to fail” banks or prosecuting financial fraud, they wouldn’t get six-figure lecture fees from bankers and hedge fund managers.

On a lower levels of government, there is the revolving door between Congress and regulatory agencies on the one hand and Washington lobbyists, law firms and regulated industries on the others.  Neil Barofsky, whose job was oversight of the TARP bailout program, was warned that if he did his job too zealously, he would lose the chance of a good post-government job.  He’s not the only one.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee supports a whole ecology of fund-raisers, pollsters, media specialists and campaign consultants who depend on a system whereby candidates concentrate on raising money and spending it on designated funds.

So it’s not just a matter of waking up to what’s really going on.  It’s a matter of people knowing which side their bread is buttered on.  Or, as the Japanese might say, nobody willingly lets their rice bowl be broken.

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Russiagate, Hillary Clinton and the Democrats

March 14, 2018

Russia Collusion: Hillary Clinton, DNC & FBI are the real stars by Michael Doran for National Review.  [Added 3/15/2018]  A plausible account of how Christopher Steele and Fusion GPS’s Glenn Simpson created and sold the Russiagate story.  Long but interesting.

Christopher Steele as Seen by the New Yorker by Philip Giraldi for The Unz Review.  [Added 3/15/2018]

Russia Didn’t Abuse Facebook—It Used It Exactly As Intended by Joshua Geltzer for Wired.  [Added 3/15/2018]

Is Trump the New Clinton? by Musha al-Gharbi for The Baffler.  [Added 3/15/2018]

Clinton, Obama and the party of Wall Street

January 2, 2018

Even outspoken progressive Democrats such as Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and the authors of Daring Democracy hold back from doing two things.

They don’t talk about the U.S. state of permanent war, and they don’t criticize the record of Barack Obama.

Thomas Frank, who recently did three more interviews for the Real News Network, doesn’t talk about war and peace either, but he is at least willing to take an honest look at the Obama record and the record of Bill Clinton before him.

I have the three interviews on YouTube, with links that should take you to transcripts.

Presidents Clinton and Obama Helped Make the Democrats a Wall Street Party

The Democratic Party historically was opposed to big banks, going back to Franklin Roosevelt, William Jennings Bryan and Andrew Jackson.   That was almost a defining characteristic.

It was golden-tongued Bill Clinton who made the Democrats a second party of Wall Street, and persuaded the Democratic rank and file to accept it.   His argument was that Democrats couldn’t win unless they matched Republicans dollar-for-dollar in campaign spending, which they could not do if they were anti-Wall Street.

I voted for Clinton reluctantly.   In those days I thought that Democrats, however flawed, were better for working people than Republicans.

I disliked Clinton, not because of the sex scandals or his policies, but because of his treatment of employees of the White House travel office, which arranged accommodations for White House staff and the White House press corps accompanying the President on his travels.   He and Hillary Clinton wanted to close the travel office and turn its functions over to cronies of theirs, which they had a legal right to do.

When this became an issue in Congress, Clinton ordered a FBI investigation of the travel office employees to see if any of them were guilty of criminal wrongdoing.   He was willing to destroy the careers and ruin the lives of people who did not intend him any harm, but were merely in the way of something he wanted to do.

I did not fully realize until later the harm that Clinton’s signature policies did—the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement, the end of welfare for mothers with dependent children, the crime bill leading to mass incarceration and the deregulation of the banking industry.   As Thomas Frank noted in the video, all four of these things were long-time Republican goals.

Clinton even toyed with a bipartisan agreement with Newt Gingrich to cut Social Security.

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George McGovern and the path not taken

November 14, 2017

George McGovern in 1972 tried to unite the old New Deal liberalism and the New Left radicalism.

He courted African-Americans, feminists, college students, gays and lesbians, environmentalists and peace advocates, while at the same time promising to close tax loopholes for the rich and using the money to grant property tax relief for middle class Americans.

George McGovern in 1972

All the issues he campaigned on—especially economic inequality—have become every more relevant today.

Yet he went down to defeat, and all the Democratic candidates from then did their best to distance themselves from McGovernism.   He was supposedly the Democratic counterpart to Barry Goldwater.

But while Goldwater’s followers reacted to their defeat by doubling down on their beliefs and going on to elect Ronald Reagan in 1980, the Democratic leaders—Jimmy Carter, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama—have run away from the supposed taint of McGovernism.

I think the difference between the legacy of Goldwater and the legacy of McGovern is that Goldwater’s movement had the support of wealthy individuals and corporations, and McGovern’s didn’t.

McGovern at the start of 1972 was as little known as Bernie Sanders at the start of 2016.   Odds-makers gave him a 200 in 1 chance of winning the Democratic nomination.   When he did win, the Democratic Party as an institution did not support him.   President Nixon meanwhile stole the Democrats’ thunder, by creating the Environmental Protection Agency, calling for a guaranteed annual income and announcing that peace was at hand in Vietnam.

President Nixon discredited himself in the Watergate affair, and Democrats rebounded.   But the Democrats did not offer a credible alternative to Republican policies, and could not hold on to power.  Thus began a political cycle that continued ever since, of voters swinging back and forth between Republican and Democratic presidential candidates while the condition of the country grows worse.

The national figure today who comes closest to resembling George McGovern is Bernie Sanders—a Senator from a small state who seemingly came out of nowhere to lead a movement.

The top leaders of the Democratic Party are as hostile to Sanders’ followers as they were to McGovern’s 45 years ago, but the Sanders followers seem to have more staying power than their predecessors.

Even Bernie Sanders is not really a peace candidate, as George McGovern was.   That is the forgotten part of McGovern’s legacy that we need the most.

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Thomas Frank on the Democrats’ future

September 11, 2017

Scroll down for links to six recent Thomas Frank interviews on the Real News Network

Thomas Frank, who understands American politics as well or better than anyone else I know of, is giving a series of interviews on the state of the Democratic Party to the Real News Network.   I link to them below.

Most of my friends are liberal Democrats, like me, and they can’t understand why a working person would go against their own interests by supporting Donald Trump.  But then they themselves go against their own interests by supporting Hillary Clinton.

The problem is not Clinton as an individual.   As an individual, she is much more qualified to hold public office than Trump.

The problem is that the Democratic Party has come to depend on wealthy donors to finance its campaigns and it looks to well-to-do salaried professionals as its core voters.   Working people are coming to realize that the Democratic Party does not represent them.

It is not that large numbers working people are turning to Donald Trump.   The GOP is even worse than the Democrats.  It is that increasing numbers of working people—black, white and brown—see no point in voting for either party.

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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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The hollowness of the Democratic campaign

July 10, 2017

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, as part of a fund-raising e-mail, asked donors to vote on which of the following they prefer for the next DCCC bumper sticker.   They illustrate what’s wrong with the Democratic Party.

.

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What’s noteworthy about these slogans is that they are almost empty of content.  They only point they make is that Democrats are not Republicans.  This actually is the main Democratic talking point.

The middle two refer to an incident that most voters have probably forgotten or didn’t notice in the first place.   Also, in the context of present-day American politics, Resistance as a political stance is a defense of the status quo.   It doesn’t offer a path to anything better.

To show what I mean, here are meaningful slogans.

END THE WARS! DEMOCRATS 2018

DEFEND THE BILL OF RIGHTS! DEMOCRATS 2018

PUT AMERICANS TO WORK! DEMOCRATS 2018

HEALTH CARE FOR ALL! DEMOCRATS 2018

HANDS OFF SOCIAL SECURITY! DEMOCRATS 2018

I have a much longer list of issues in mind, but you get the idea.

Of course the present leaders of the Democratic Party would never adopt such slogans, and not just because they would open up so many incumbent Democrats to charges of hypocrisy.

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Democrats easing off on Russia hacking charge

March 19, 2017

Democratic war hawks are backing off their charges that Donald Trump’s victory was due to Vladimir Putin’s manipulations.

For war hawks, these charges may have served their purpose in making Trump back off from plans to make peace with Russia, and in casting suspicion on anybody who advocates peace with Russia.

For Democrats, the Russia conspiracy theory provided a basis for attacking Trump personally without having to propose constructive alternatives to his policies.   But if investigations produce no evidence of any Trump-Putin collusion, these attacks will backfire.

Update 3/21/2017:  Evidently I spoke too soon.   Trump opponents seem determined to keep the investigation of Trump-Russia contacts going as long as possible, even though every article I’ve read contains a paragraph somewhere that says there is no evidence of collusion between Trump campaign officials and Russian intelligence.

I suppose Democrats, war hawks and especially Democratic war hawks think they have nothing to lose by keeping the pressure on, even if nothing significant is uncovered in the end.

FBI director James Comey reported that the FBI has been investigating possible Trump-Russia connections since last July.   It will be interesting to know what, if anything, the investigation discovers.  The mere fact that an investigation is going on has no more significance that the fact of that Hillary Clinton’s handling of her e-mails was being investigated.

LINKS

Key Democratic Officials Now Warning Not to Expect Evidence of Trump / Russia Connection by Glenn Greenwald for The Intercept.

The Democrats’ Anti-Russia Campaign Falls Apart by Moon of Alabama.

The Missing Logic of Russia-gate by Robert Parry for Consortium News [Added 3/21/2017]

The GOP is going to try to rush the Russian investigation | Democrats shouldn’t let them by Alex Shephard for The New Republic.  The politics of the investigation.  [Added 3/21/2017]

Recommended Reading: Giant Russia Theory Edition by Nina Illingworth for Nina Illingworth Dot Com.   [Added 3/31/2017]  A definitive collection of links on reasons to be skeptical of claims that Russia “hacked” the 2016 election.

Why I’m not sorry I voted for Jill Stein

February 8, 2017

table-one

table-two

Hillary Clinton was not defeated by a white working class uprising in favor of Donald Trump.

And she was not defeated by the defection of liberals and progressives to Jill Stein.

She was defeated by her personal failure, and the failure of the Democratic Party overall, to hold the votes of its core supporters—black and white, male and female.

It is important to remember this because merely attacking President Trump (as justified as these attacks may be) will not, in and of itself, bring back the Democratic vote.

You can’t beat something with nothing.   Unless Democrats offer a path to prosperity and peace, they will very likely lose and, even if they win, their victories won’t matter.

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Thomas Ferguson on the Democrats’ future

November 10, 2016

Political scientist Thomas Ferguson is always worth reading and listening to.  In this interview with Paul Jay of the Real News Network, he said the Democratic formula of “Wall Street plus identity politics” is dead.

That formula is to take Wall Street money and then champion the interests of women and minorities in ways that don’t threaten Wall Street’s profits.

The problem from the standpoint of the Democrats is that so many people—including women and minorities—are more worried about keeping their jobs, earning a decent wage and paying their bills than they are about Donald Trump’s offensive way of speaking.

But it’s hard to do anything about jobs, wages and debt and stay in the good graces of big donors.

He said Donald Trump could be a popular and successful President if he follows through on certain of his campaign promises, particularly the one to begin a major public works—that is, infrastructure—program.

Is there a chance he would do that?  Too soon to say, Ferguson said.

LINKS

Democrats, Trump and the Ongoing Dangerous Refusal to Learn the Lesson of Brexit by Glenn Greenwald for The Intercept.  (Hat tip to Tim Mullins)

Populists vs. liberals in American history

August 16, 2016

One of the main things I’ve learned from reading American history is that political alignments in the past were very different from what they are now, and that, prior to the New Deal, “populists” and “liberals” were rarely found in the same party.

By “populist,” I mean someone who defends the interests of the majority of the population against a ruling elite.  By “liberal,” I mean someone who takes up for downtrodden and unpopular minorities.

3080664-president-andrew-jackson--20--twenty-dollar-billAndrew Jackson, the founder of the Democratic Party, was a populist.  He gained fame as the leader of a well-regulated militia, composed of citizens with the right to keep and bear arms, who defeated the British in the Battle of New Orleans and who fought for white settlers against Indians in what later became the states of Alabama, Mississippi and Florida.

He was regarded as a champion of poor workers, farmers and frontier settlers.  In an epic struggle, he broke the stranglehold of the financial elite, as represented by the Second Bank of the United States, on the U.S. economy.   Jacksonians fought for the enfranchisement of property-less white people.

In standing up for the common people, Jackson denied any claims to superiority by reason of education and training.  He defended the spoils system—rewarding his political supporters with government jobs—on the grounds that any American citizen was capable of performing any public function.

Jackson was a slave-owner and a breaker of Indian treaties.  He killed enemies in duels.  He was responsible for the expulsion of Indians in the southeast U.S. in the Trail of Tears.   He was not a respecter of individual rights.   He was not a liberal.

This was opposed by almost all the great New England humanitarian reformers of Jackson’s time and later.  They were educated white people who tried to help African Americans, American Indians, the deaf, the blind, prison inmates and inmates of insane asylums.  Almost of all them were Whigs, and almost all their successors were Republicans.

They were liberals, but not populists.  Like Theodore Parker, the great abolitionist and opponent of the Fugitive Slave Law,  they despised illiterate Irish Catholic immigrants in his midst.  Poor Irish people had to look for help to the Jacksonian Democratic political machines.

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Could the GOP become the pro-worker party?

August 15, 2016

My parents were New Deal Democrats, and I was brought up to revere the memory of Franklin Roosevelt and to believe that the Democrats were the party of working people.

DCdivided-300x253But a strange thing happened in American politics during the past 20 years.  Blue-collar workers and high school graduates have become the base of the Republican Party, while college-educated professionals are now the base of the Democratic Party.

As recently as 1992, when Bill Clinton ran against George H.W. Bush, he had a huge lead among workers earning less than $50,000 a year, and high school graduates and dropouts.  The elder Bush won by a similarly large margin among workers earning $100,000 a year or more, and narrowly carried college graduates.

In contrast, a CNN poll conducted right after the 2016 conventions gives Hillary Clinton a 23 percent lead among college graduates and an 18 percent lead among voters earning more than $50,000 a year.  Donald Trump is competitive among voters earning less than $50,000 a year and has a 26 percent lead among whites with high school educations or less.

This isn’t because Republicans actually represent the interests of working people.  Leaders such as House Speaker Paul Ryan—and including Donald Trump—still believe that the key to prosperity is deregulation and tax cuts for rich people, policies which have been tried and failed for the past 25 years.

But Trump, in his saner moments, at least talks about the concerns of working people.  Hillary Clinton at the moment seems more interested in reaching out to conservatives and anti-Trump Republicans.

My guess is that she will win in November, probably in a landslide, based on an alliance of racial and ethnic minorities, women and college-educated white professionals, plus the disgust of middle-road voters with Trump’s antics.

But if she governs in the interests of Wall Street, as her political record and donor list indicate she will, Republicans could reinvent themselves as champions of the working class.

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Five American parties on war and peace

August 6, 2016

The political platform of a political party is not binding on its candidates, but it is significant because it reflects what people who are most active in the party would like to see happen.

Since I think Americans should be open to voting for small political parties as well as large parties, I look at what the top five parties advocate concerning war and peace, which I think is the most important issue.

To sum them up:

  • The Democratic Party says it wants peace, but that it is threatened by ISIS, Syria, Russia, North Korea and others.
  • The Republican Party says peace is threatened by ISIS, Syria, Iran, Russia, China, North Korea and others, and no limitations should be placed on possible U.S. military action.
  • The Libertarian Party opposes military intervention and “entangling alliances” and believes in armed neutrality, like Switzerland’s.
  • The Green Party thinks the USA should be guided by the United Nations charter and only engage in military action when authorized by the UN Security Council.
  • The Constitution Party opposes undeclared wars, treaties that commit the United States to military action and membership in the United Nations and other international bodies.

None of these is exactly what I think.   I’m somewhere between the Democrats (their platform, that is) and the Libertarians and Constitutionists.

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Below is a slightly more detailed summary of the party platforms, with my comments.

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The five major parties and their candidates

August 5, 2016

As my friend John (Jack) Belli points out, five major parties are running candidates in this year’s election.

The five parties are the Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, Green and Constitution parties.   They are “major” parties because their presidential candidates are on the ballots in at least 20 states and could in principle win a majority of the electoral votes.

In this post, I merely provide Wikipedia links to the five major parties and their candidates, as basic and more-or-less neutral sources of information.  The links show that the three small parties are not only different from the two large parties, but very different from each other.  In subsequent posts, I’ll compare and contrast their platforms on important issues.

DEMOCRATIC PARTY

For President: Hillary Clinton.

For Vice-President: Tim Kaine.

REPUPLICAN PARTY

For President: Donald Trump.

For Vice-President: Mike Pence.

LIBERTARIAN PARTY

For President: Gary Johnson.

For Vice-President: William Weld.

GREEN PARTY

For President: Jill Stein.

For Vice-President: Ajamu Baraka.

CONSTITUTION PARTY

 For President: Darrell Castle.

For Vice-President: Scott N. Bradley.

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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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Thomas Frank at the Democratic convention

July 27, 2016

People say that a vote for a third-party candidate such as Jill Stein is a vote for Donald Trump.  But in reality, a vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote to empower future candidates such as Donald Trump.

Thomas Frank, author of Listen, Liberal, and Robert Scheer, editor-in-chief of Truthdig, talk about how the candidacy of Donald Trump is a product of the failures of Democratic leaders such as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

For the past 20 or so years, as Frank points out, the leaders of the Democratic Party have turned their backs on working people on the theory that such people have nowhere else to go.

Now Donald Trump has come along and given them somewhere else to go.  He doesn’t have good answers, but he is the only one of the two major-party candidates who is an alternative to the status quo.

If Hillary Clinton is elected, she will pursue the same policies, and, four years from now, there will be another Donald Trump—but one more self-disciplined, less openly racist and less obviously foolish and ignorant.  And that Donald Trump will likely be elected.

The video above is 47 minutes long, but worth watching.   Thomas Frank is an entertaining talker and he knows what he is talking about.

What’s the matter with the Democrats?

May 21, 2016

This was originally published on March 28, 2016

I looked forward to reading Thomas Frank’s LISTEN, LIBERAL -or- What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?  I finished reading it over the weekend, and it’s as good as I thought it would be.

It is an explanation of how the Democratic Party ceased to be an advocate for the interests of working people and organized labor, and instead became the party of the credentialed professional class, as exemplified by Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Thomas Frank is best known for his book, What’s the Matter With Kansas? which is about how a once-radical state became a stronghold of the right wing.  In this book, he explains how the party of the New Deal became the party of bank bailouts and pro-corporate international trade deals.

Thomas Frank

Thomas Frank

The change began with the split between college-educated idealists and blue collar union workers in the late 1960s.  Young radicals thought that the New Deal was yesterday’s news and that labor leaders such as the AFL-CIO’s George Meany were obstacles to peace in Vietnam and justice for minorities and women.

The young radicals triumphed in 1972 when they nominated George McGovern for President, under convention rules written so as to guarantee representation  for minorities, women and youth, but not for union members.

When McGovern went down in humiliating defeat, the party leaders rewrote the rules so as to prevent another McGovern from arising again.  They did not, however, return to their New Deal roots.  Instead they started to bid against the Republicans for support of the business class.

These two factions of the Democratic Party – social liberals and the business conservatives – eventually came together.

Their common ground was belief that the world should be run by an elite of smart people.  Their liberalism consisted of belief that there should be equal opportunity to enter this class based on educational credentials and professional achievement.

The idea was not to raise the material standard of living poor people and the working class in general, as in New Deal days.  It was to give everybody, through access to education, an equal chance to be part of the elite, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or social or economic class.

Then, if you still couldn’t succeed, it would be your own fault.  Maybe you didn’t study hard enough in the fifth grade.

This is not to say that Democrats became the same as Republicans.

Republican leaders wanted to be governed by an elite of tough, successful competitors.  Democratic leaders want to be governed by an elite of enlightened thinkers.

Republican leaders embrace economic inequality because they believe the laws of the free market are moral values.  Democratic leaders accept economic inequality because they believe the laws of the free market are scientific laws.  Republicans despise losers.  Democrats sympathize with losers, but do not think it is feasible to help them.

Republicans govern in the interests of the top 1 percent of income earners.  Democrats, as Frank wrote, govern in the interests of the top 10 percent.  [1]

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Will Hillary Clinton run as a conservative?

May 9, 2016

Back in 1972, Democratic voters nominated a candidate, George McGovern, who was unacceptable to the Democratic leadership.  Top Democrats such as Lyndon Johnson silently supported Richard Nixon, who won in one of the biggest landslides in American history.

GettyImages-480679428.0Hillary Clinton seems to be basing her campaign on the top that the same thing will happen in reverse—that the top Republicans and also upscale Republican voters will support her, or remain neutral, because they can’t support Donald Trump and she is a sensible conservative

This would be bad for the nation.  It also would be a disaster for the Democratic Party.

Trying to out-Republican the Republicans was the strategy of her husband, Bill Clinton, in the 1990s.  He stole the Republicans’ thunder by balancing the budget, cutting back welfare, support mass incarceration and deregulating finance.

Barack Obama used the same strategy.  His legislative program consisted of asking Republicans in Congress to enact their own past policy proposals.  The Republican responded by simply everything Obama proposed regardless of merit—except, of course, pro-corporate trade deals, military intervention and shielding Wall Street from prosecution.

From the standpoint of political expediency, this strategy worked to the extent that Clinton and Obama won re-election, the first Democrats to do so since Franklin Roosevelt.  The strategy failed to the extent that, during both their administrations, Democrats lost control of Congress.

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What are Bernie Sanders’ options if he loses?

May 2, 2016

What could Hillary Clinton offer Bernie Sanders if she wins?  What could he accept?  Above all, will he turn over his list of 2 million small donors and on what terms?

Peter+Daou+on+Twitter_+_THE+CAUSE_+If+Bernie+Wants+Real+Progress+He%E2%80%99ll+Align+HisSome of Clinton’s supporters say they aren’t willing to modify the Democratic platform in order to placate Sanders.  From their standpoint, that makes sense.

Sanders already has done immense damage to Clinton by raising peoples’ hopes.  The whole argument for Clinton is that nothing much good can be done, and she is the one qualified to keep things from getting worse.

I think Clinton’s election strategy will be try to persuade corporate conservatives that she is preferable to Donald Trump or Ted Cruz—which, from their standpoint, she is.  She will treat progressives and Sanders supporters as an embarrassment—which, from her standpoint, they are.

What she could offer Sanders is the promise of not trying to block him from retaining his Democratic Senate committee assignments and seniority rights.  This would be important to him carrying on the progressive fight from the Senate.

His endorsement of Clinton wouldn’t help her much, but the lack of an endorsement, or a lukewarm endorsement, would hurt.

Sanders’ core supporters back him because of his positions on important issues.  Some still are under the illusion that Sanders and Clinton stand for the same things, except that he is a bold idealist and she is a cautious pragmatist.  The first group would not be influenced by his endorsement or lack of endorsement; the second group might.

The big thing that Sanders has to offer is his donors list—the 2 million people who kept him in the race, mostly with donations of less than $200 each.

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Voter suppression in Brooklyn, USA

April 21, 2016

Democratic election officials in Brooklyn aremay be using the same tactics to purge voter rolls as used by Republicans in Florida, Wisconsin and other states.  Investigative reporter Greg Palast has the story.

Greg Palast

Greg Palast

Francesca Rheannon, whom you may know as the host of Writers’ Voice radio, did the civic thing by volunteering to work the polls in a town east of New York City.

“I just got off my 17 hour shift as an election official. In my election district, out of 166 Democratic voters, 39 were forced to file affidavit ballots. The last [election] I worked in, exactly ONE voter needed an affidavit ballot.”

That’s nearly one of four voters. Why? Their names had gone missing from the voter rolls.

An affidavit ballot (called a “provisional” ballot in most other states) is a kind of placebo ballot.  You get to pretend to vote – but the chance it will actually be counted is …well, good luck.  If your name is wrongly removed, kiss your vote – affidavit or not—goodbye.

Rheannon’s experience was hardly unique.  In Brooklyn alone, over 125,000 names were quietly scrubbed from the voter rolls in the five months leading up to the primary.

To put it in prospective, the number of voters purged equals about half of the number who got to vote. Scott Stringer, the New York City Comptroller will now audit the Elections Board–now that the election is over. Hey thanks, Scott.

Neal Rosenstein, the lead voting rights attorney for the New York Public Interest Research Group, which plans legal action, notes that part of the problem is that partisan hacks sit on the Elections board in New York—hacks from both parties.

Brooklyn is under the control of the Kings County Democratic Party, one of the last of the big city machines.  Would they attack their opponents’ voter registrations? 

I don’t have to guess: in my wasted younger days, I was in the Brooklyn County elections office with the hacks where we were assigned by the Party to challenge voters’ signatures en masse.  (I wouldn’t and nearly lost my state job.)

Am I saying the machine “fixed” the election for Hillary Clinton?  Without further investigation, it would be irresponsible for me to pronounce judgment.  Some of the purged may have moved, some have died.  But those who waited in line only to fill out affidavit ballots are unlikely to be deceased.

If the Machine had been aware of the mass purge underway, would they have stopped it? As they say in Brooklyn, Fahgeddabouddit.

Source: Greg Palast.

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Hillary Clinton is a candidate of the status quo

March 10, 2016

Andrew O’Hehir writes in Salon that Hillary Clinton and other establishment Democrats are just as dedicated to preserving the status quo are are establishment Republicans.

LATimesDemocratdebate950x534For Hillary Clinton and the political faction she embodies or represents, America is pretty much OK, both in itself and in its relationship to the world, and American politics are mostly OK too. Yeah, the Republicans have gotten really weird and increasingly crazy and some significant tweaks are needed to correct for that: We need to consolidate gains in LGBT rights and push back on women’s reproductive freedom and confront the lingering legacy of racism. We can make guns a little tougher to buy, make college a little more affordable and make sure that working people have slightly more resources and better healthcare.

Those are not bad things!  Moreover, it’s understandable that to many Democratic voters those sound like realistic and potentially achievable goals, whereas the Sanders agenda of “political revolution” and free stuff for everyone sounds unhinged and impossible.

The problem with all that is not the agenda itself but the reassuring frame of “regular-order democracy” around it, in which such things might actually happen. No such democracy exists, which was and is the fundamental point of the Sanders campaign.

You won’t hear Hillary Clinton use the term “oligarchy” to describe the way the United States is governed, as Sanders does in every stump speech. Why should she? She’s one of the oligarchs, or more properly one of their trusted employees. You won’t hear her say that free-market capitalism has utterly failed to improve the lives of ordinary people, or that the neo-liberal economic regime of low taxes and government austerity is a disastrous scam that has robbed from the poor and given to the rich.  Or that much of this resulted from the deregulation of financial markets carried out by her husband’s administration and a Democratic Congress, as directed by their oligarch overlords.

Hillary Clinton genuinely believes, I suspect, that things are not nearly as bad as hothead Bernie makes them sound, that most of the problems are things a competent and compassionate administrator can fix, and that the Democratic Party hasn’t made any fundamental mistakes. Change a couple of the proper nouns and that is exactly, word for word, what Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney believed too.

Read the whole thing.

The Clinton legacy and the Democratic Party

February 17, 2016

In the 1950s and 1960s, the Eisenhower and Nixon administrations taught the Republicans to accept the New Deal.

In recent times, the Clinton and Obama administrations taught the Democrats to accept Reaganomics.

Democrats cannot adequately represent working people unless they free themselves from that legacy.

Thomas Frank wrote a good article in The Guardian about this:

In my younger days, the Democratic party seemed always to be grappling with its identity, arguing over who they were and what they stood for all through the 1970s, the 1980s and into the 1990s.

Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton

What Democrats had to turn away from, reformers of all stripes said in those days, was the supposedly obsolete legacy of the New Deal, with its fixation on working-class people.

What had to be embraced, the party’s reformers agreed, was the emerging post-industrial economy and in particular the winners of this new order: the highly educated professionals who populated its clean and innovative knowledge industries.

The figure that brought triumphant closure to that last internecine war was President Bill Clinton, who installed a new kind of Democratic administration in Washington.

Rather than paying homage to the politics of Franklin Roosevelt, Clinton passed trade deals that defied and even injured the labor movement, once his party’s leading constituency; he signed off on a measure that basically ended the federal welfare program; and he performed singular favors for the financial industry, the New Deal’s great nemesis.

Source: Thomas Frank | The Guardian

In the Reagan era, I thought that since the Republican Party had become an ideological party of the right, the Democratic Party would become an ideological party of the left, and this would result in meaningful choice for voters.

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If Bernie Sanders doesn’t have a chance …

January 26, 2016

If Bernie Sanders doesn’t have a chance of winning, why is Wall Street so afraid of him?  As well as the Democratic establishment?  Also, don’t believe everything Hillary Clinton supporters say about Sanders’ health care plan.

The latent strength of the Republican Party

October 27, 2015

StateSenateControl-Post-Election-GIF.0

Democrats like to think that the political tide is running their way.  African-Americans and Hispanics are a growing proportion of the population.  Young people are more liberal than older people.  Public opinion is slowing shifting toward a liberal position on gay marriage and abortion rights.

But this may not translate into political power, at least not anytime soon.  The map above shows which political parties control state legislatures, before and after the 2014 elections.  The map below also shows how Republicans won most 2014 elections for governor, senator and representative.

I would have thought that the manifest failure of Sam Brownback in Kansas, Scott Walker in Wisconsin and Bobby Jindal in Louisiana would have caused voters to turn against the Republican Party, but this didn’t happen.

gopsocial.0

The reason is, as Matthew Yglesias pointed out in a recent article, is that the Republicans are more united as a political party, and more pro-active, than the Democrats.

Republicans have unified control of 25 states. Along with the usual set of tax cuts for high-income individuals and business-friendly regulations, the result has been:

  • An unprecedented wave of restrictions on abortion rights
  • The spread of union-hostile “right to work” laws into the Great Lakes states
  • New curbs on voting rights, to further tilt the electorate in a richer, whiter, older direction
  • Large-scale layoffs of teachers and other public sector workers who are likely to support Democrats

Source: Vox

He said the Republicans are likely to control the House of Representatives for the indefinite future.  The distribution of voters, with Democrats more concentrated in cities, favors the Republicans to begin with.  Control of state legislatures enables the Republicans to gerrymander districts so as to give them an even greater advantage.

There are two sources of political power in the United States, money power and people power.  The Republicans have both.  No matter how much certain Democrats cater to big business, the Republicans will always be able to out-do them.  But the National Rifle Association, the right-to-life movement and other conservative causes give the Republicans grass-roots support as well.

As Yglesias pointed out, there is no state, not even Vermont, in which corporate business is not influential.  And, I would add, no politician, not even Bernie Sanders, who could or wants to eliminate business as a factor in American politics.

Organized labor, on the other hand, is strong only in certain states, and the Republican Party has a feasible strategy for eliminating labor.

Yglesias went on to say:

Winning a presidential election would give Republicans the overwhelming preponderance of political power in the United States — a level of dominance not achieved since the Democrats during the Great Depression, but with a much more ideologically coherent coalition.

Nothing lasts forever in American politics, but a hyper-empowered conservative movement would have a significant ability to entrench its position by passing a national right-to-work law and further altering campaign finance rules beyond the Citizens United status quo.

Source: Vox

The Republicans, and the conservative movement within the Republican Party, got to where they are through decades of effort.  It’s unlikely that it will be reversed overnight.  It will take a concerted effort such as Howard Dean’s 50-state strategy on a permanent basis.

Democrats base their hopes on Republican failure.  But that will only give them temporary victories.  The political party that achieves a lasting majority will be the party that advocates policies that will achieve peace and prosperity, convinces the public the policies will work, and makes a good-faith effort to implement the policies.

LINK

Democrats are in denial.  Their party is actually in deep trouble by Matthew Yglesias for Vox.

Bernie Sanders might not get on the NY ballot

June 19, 2015

Update 6/23/2015.  This post turned out to be much ado about nothng.  The State Board of Elections ruled that Bernie Sanders’ party status will be no barrier to him appearing on the 2016 Democratic Presidential Election Ballot.

Bernie Sanders might not get on the ballot for the 2016 New York Democratic presidential primary.

berniesocialistThat’s because he’s not a Democrat.   He is a socialist who was elected Senator from Vermont as an independent.

Under New York law, you have to be a member of a political party in order to be a candidate in that party’s primary election, unless the governing committee of that party makes an exception.

The chair of the New York Democratic Party is former Gov. David Paterson and the executive committee chair is Sheila Comar.  The committee headquarters is in mid-town Manhattan, and the committee can be contacted by through its web site.

Sanders has said that he will support the nominee of the Democratic Party.  So unless the New York Democratic Committee opens the state primary, New Yorkers won’t get a chance to vote for him at all—unless he wins the nomination, of course.

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