Posts Tagged ‘Election 2020’

A closer look at Tulsi Gabbard’s war on terror

January 17, 2019

After the 9/11 attacks, almost the whole world proclaimed its solidarity with the United States, including leading Muslim clerics and pro-US sympathizers in Iran.

This would have been a great opportunity for the United States to lead the world in suppressing Al Qaeda and other jihadist terrorists.

 Instead the George W. Bush administration chose to use the “war on terror” as an excuse to invade Iraq.  The Obama administration actually armed jihadist terrorists to overthrow the governments of Libya and Syria.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a Democratic congresswoman from Hawaii and a long-shot candidate for President, wants to replace the bogus war on terror with a real war on terror.

After serving with the U.S. military in Iraq, she concluded that intervention was a mistake.  She opposed “regime change” proxy wars against Libya and Syria.  She courageously questioned the official narrative about chemical weapons in Syria.

After some misgivings, she endorsed the nuclear deal with Iran.  She opposes U.S. support for the Saudi war on Yemen.

She is not a peace candidate.  She just wants to replace the bogus war on terror with a real one.

She has praised President Assad of Syria for fighting the Islamic State (ISIS) and Al-Nusra (successors to Al Qaeda) fighters.  She has praised President el-Sisi of Egypt for suppressing the Muslim Brotherhood.  She is aligned with Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, a radical authoritarian anti-Muslim nationalist.

She favors drone warfare and continued Special Operations missions against terrorists.  She has said that the root of terrorism is in “radical Islam” and criticized President Obama for his refusal to use that word.

The Al Qaeda terrorists were in fact members of an extremist Muslim sect, the Wahhabis or Salafists, who are the established religion of Saudi Arabia.  The Saudis have promoted their version of Islam all over the world, especially in Pakistan.

This is true, but it is not the whole truth.  Just being an extreme Muslim authoritarian doesn’t make you a terrorist.  The reason terrorism has cut an appeal is the U.S. military presence in so many majority-Muslim lands, U.S. manipulation of so many majority-Muslim governments and the death and destruction caused by U.S. forces in so many Muslim lands.

U.S. policy serves the interests of Saudi Arabia more than it does Americans.  That’s because of a long-standing deal, going back to the 1970s, in which the Saudis agree to guarantee an oil supply, buy U.S. weapons and keep the oil profits in dollars in return for U.S. military support.

Gabbard is right to oppose wars to serve Saudi interests.  Her policy would be an improvement over Trump’s, Obama’s and George W. Bush’s.  She is not a peace candidate, but right now she is closer to being one than any of other candidates I know about.

At the same time, her policy is compatible with maintaining the Pentagon budget and the military contractor establishment in all its bloated glory.

Killing terrorists, in and of itself, won’t end terrorism, any more than killing drug dealers will end drug addiction.

LINKS

Tulsi Gabbard Wikipedia page.

Tulsi Gabbard and the Great Foreign Policy Realignment by James P. Pinkerton for The American Conservative.

Tulsi Gabbard, controversial 2020 Democratic candidate, explained by Zack Beauchamp for Vox.

Tulsi Gabbard Is Not Your Friend by Branko Marcetic for Jacobin.

Yes, Tulsi Gabbard Opposed the Iran Deal by Branko Marcetic for Jacobin [Added 1/19/2019]

Tulsi Gabbard is more of an anti-war candidate

January 15, 2019

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat from Hawaii, is more of an anti-war candidate than Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren or any other presidential candidate who has announced so far.

She opposes “regime change wars” on principle, which no other high-profile politician has been willing to say since Rep. Ron Paul left Congress.  Such wars, as she pointed out in the interview, have caused hundreds of thousands of deaths and enormous suffering to ordinary people in the Middle East and elsewhere without making Americans safer or better off.

Ending regime change wars would be a big change for the better, but it wouldn’t necessarily mean giving up the U.S. empire of bases and cutting back the U.S. military mission to defense of the homeland and fulfilling treaty obligations to allies.  If you really want to crush Al Qaeda’s successors and imitators, the first step would be to stop arming them to so as to bring about regime change.

Most of the commentary on Gabbard’s announcement ignored all of this.  Instead it focused on her opposition to gay rights moe than 15 years ago..

She is one of a number of people who was raised as a social conservative, and changed their minds over a period of years.  I can understand this, because my own opinions, including on LGBT issues, have changed in the past 15 years.  But some commentators think this will sink her campaign before it gets started.

Gabbard comes from an unusual background.  According to her Wikipedia page, her father is part Samoan and a Catholic; her mother is a convert to Hinduism.  She was elected to the Hawaii state legislature at the age of 21, then was deployed to Iraq as a member of the Hawaii National Guard.  She is now serving her fourth term in Congress.

In 2016, she resigned from the Democratic National Committee in order to support Bernie Sanders’ campaign for president.

The video of of an interview with Joe Rogan gives a good overview of what she believes.  It runs an hour and 43 minutes, a little long to watch on a small screen.  Here are starting points of the highlights:

  • 7mn.  Why North Korea has nuclear weapons
  • 9mn.  Regime change wars (the key segment)
  • 22mn.  Authorizing war with Iran
  • 30mn.  Russian troll farms.
  • 32mn.  Why she supported Bernie Sanders
  • 49mn.  Paper ballots and electronic voting
  • 1hr4mn  Pros and cons of universal basic income
  • 1hr13mn  Affordable higher education and health care
  • 1hr22mn  Threats to civil liberties
  • 1hr33mn  Legalizing marijuana

I agree with everything she said in the Joe Rogan interview and most of her views as given on her Wikipedia page.

My main concern about her is her praise of the authoritarian nationalist government of President Narendra Modi of India and her alignment with  Hindu nationalists in the Indian-American community, which is reportedly a large source of her funding.  I also object to her statement in a 2014 interview that torture may be justified under certain circumstances.

Aside from this, I’m favorably impressed with her, not only because I think she is right on policy, but because of her calm, self-assured and well-informed way of answering questions.  Also, that she was not afraid to say “I don’t know.”

Win or lose, she will force the Democrats to debate war and peace issues on a more fundamental level than before.

LINKS

Tulsi Gabbard Wikipedia page.

Five Reasons I’m Excited About Tulsi Gabbard’s Candidacy by Caitlin Johnstone.  Lots of good links with this.

Tulsi Gabbard’s 2020 Campaign May Be Over Before It Starts by Ryan Bort for Rolling Stone.

Tulsi Gabbard Is a Rising Progressive Star, Despite Her Ties to Hindu Nationalists by Soumya Shankar for The Intercept.  Why her ties to right-wing Hindu nationalists are troubling.

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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What the 2018 results mean for 2020

November 24, 2018

The establishment Democrats won the 2018 primaries and general election.  They could win the 2020 presidential election if the presidential vote mirrors this year’s congressional vote.

By establishment Democrats, I mean the Democrats who, like Nancy Pelosi, seek to strike a balance between the desires of the donor class, who finance campaigns, and working people and racial minorities, who are their core voters.

The establishment Democrats focus on President Trump’s obnoxious personal behavior, the Russiagate investigations and racial and gender issues that don’t affect the power elite.

By progressive Democrats, I mean the Democrats who, like Bernie Sanders, raise money from small donors and regard the Wall Street banks and the billionaire class as enemies.

The progressive Democrats advocate policies such as Medicare for all, a $15 an hour minimum wage and the breakup of the “too big to fail” banks.

The establishment Democrats’ strategy is to win over independents and moderate Republicans who are disgusted with Donald Trump.  They see their mandate as putting things back the way they were before President Trump was elected.

The progressive Democrats’ strategy is to rally labor union members, people of color and other historic Democratic constituencies who’ve grown apathetic because of failure of the Democratic leaders to represent their interests.

Nancy Pelosi, who is almost certain to become Speaker of the House of Representatives in 2019, said she will pursue a policy of fiscal responsibility, which rules out much of the progressive agenda.

She will insist all new spending be on a pay-as-you-go basis—that is, every new appropriation be accompanied by a tax increase or a spending cut elsewhere.  She also will insist on supermajorities for tax increases on the bottom 80 percent of taxpayers.

This would rule out an ambitious infrastructure program, a Green New Deal jobs program, Medicare for all and most of the other programs of the progressive Democrats. What she will offer instead is strong support for reproductive rights and investigations into Trump administration scandals—although she has ruled out impeachment of the President.

Democrats got 8.9 million more total votes than Republicans in elections for the House of Representatives.  Their margin of victory in the popular vote was 8 percent, versus 2.3 percent for Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump.

Democrats raised much more money than Republicans, according to OpenSecrets.  The average Democratic Senatorial candidate raised $3.5 million; the average Republican, $1.5 million.   The average Democratic House candidate raised $612,203; the average Republican, $502,805.

Catalyst reported that 56 percent of voters lived in suburban census tracts, versus 26 percent in rural tracts and 18 percent in urban tracts.  The voters were 76 percent white and 63 percent age 50 or older.

The influence of big donations and the nature of the electorate explains why establishment Democrats did so well.  But progressives made gains.  Democrats gained compared to 2014 among their historic core supporters as well as independents and moderate Republicans.

∞∞∞

Democrats have good reason to be hopeful for 2020.  Right now President Trump has a 40 percent approval rating, compared to 46 percent for Barack Obama and 45 percent for Bill Clinton at this point in their presidencies.

The Republican loss of 39 or more Congressional seats is above average for an incumbent party in a mid-term election, but it is less than the 63 lost by Democrats two years into the Obama presidency and 54 lost two years into the Clinton presidency.

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How Trump could be defeated in 2020

November 8, 2018

When I was growing up in western Maryland, there was a frequently quoted saying: Never get into a pissing contest with a skunk.

So long as Democrats campaign against President Trump based on his personality and personal behavior, they will lose.  Like it or not, he will win in any clash of accusations and insults.

The Democrats’ new majority in the House of Representatives gives them an opportunity to shift the attention of the press and public away from the President’s Twitter account and toward issues that affect the well-being of the American public.

By holding hearings on issues such as, Medicare for All,  minimum wage, prescription drug prices, student loan debt, gun-related killings, voter suppression and so on, they can set the stage for a 2020 election campaign based on these issues.

If they are smart, they will focus on issues of particular interest to rural voters—water availability*, agri-business monopoly, optoid addiction, nuclear waste disposal*, access to health care in rural areas, transportation infrastructure in rural areas.

If they are foolish, they will focus on trying to impeach Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and President Trump himself.

I don’t know what the Mueller investigation will eventually reveal, but Democrats would be foolish to count on Russiagate as a winning issue.  It had nil effect on this year’s elections.

The same with investigations into corruption in the Trump administration.  Investigating corruption in the executive branch is an important duty of Congress, but it will have little political benefit unless the corruption can be shown to do material harm to Americans and unless Democrats can tie it to a constructive alternative proposal of their own.

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How Trump could win in 2020

November 8, 2018

Donald Trump

Donald Trump campaigned for President with both negative attacks and positive promises.  If he had done more to keep his positive promises, he might have made the Republican Party a majority party.

It is not too late.  If he proposes a meaningful infrastructure plan or a serious plan to lower the price of prescription drugs, he will put himself on the side of public opinion and force the Democrats into a no-win choice of giving Trump credit or opposing a beneficial proposal.

Trump’s other choice is to continue as he as—by stirring up antagonism to racial minorities, immigrants, feminists, Muslims, the press and “political correctness.”  This also could work, if the Democrats fall into the trap of reacting to Trump rather than setting a popular agenda of their own.

Ross Dothan explained how in a New York Times column written right before the 2018 election.

Imagine that instead of just containing himself and behaving like a generic Republican, Trump had actually followed through on the populism that he promised in 2016, dragging his party toward the economic center and ditching the G.O.P.’s most unpopular ideas.

Imagine that he followed through on Steve Bannon’s boasts about a big infrastructure bill instead of trying for Obamacare repeal.

Imagine that he listened to Marco Rubio and his daughter and tilted his tax cut more toward middle-class families.

Imagine that he spent more time bullying Silicon Valley into in-shoring factory jobs than whining about Fake News.

Imagine that he made lower Medicare drug prices a signature issue rather than a last-minute pre-election gambit.

This strategy could have easily cut the knees out from under the Democrats’ strongest appeal, their more middle-class-friendly economic agenda, and highlighted their biggest liability, which is the way the party’s base is pulling liberalism way left of the middle on issues of race and culture and identity.

It would have given Trump a chance to expand his support among minorities while holding working-class whites, and to claim the kind of decisive power that many nationalist leaders around the world enjoy.

It would have threatened liberalism not just with more years out of power, but outright irrelevance under long-term right-of-center rule.

It’s true that President Trump has kept his promise to try to revise unfavorable trade treaties and deal with unauthorized immigration.  I think his approach to trade is clumsy and erratic and his approach to immigration is needlessly cruel, but he has at least forced a national rethinking of these issues.

If he continued to press for restrictions on imports and immigration, if he proposed a serious infrastructure program and prescription drug program, if he managed to refrain from starting any new wars and if the next recession didn’t start until later 2020, he would have an excellent chance of winning.

None of these things are incompatible with the politics of polarization, any more than a Democratic push to strengthen labor unions and raise the minimum wage would be incompatible with being pro-Black Lives Matter, pro-feminist and pro-LGBT.

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Why Trump may win again

July 3, 2018

I underestimated Donald Trump.  I didn’t think he would be elected.  Although I knew the figures that showed declining support for Democrats, I thought they had enough residual strength to elect a President one last time.

I thought that his election might be a blessing in disguise from the standpoint of progressives.  Trump rather than Hillary Clinton would get the blame for failure to deal with the coming economic crash and ongoing quagmire wars.

I didn’t think that Trump could govern effectively because he was ignorant.  I forget how progressives ridiculed Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush for their supposed ignorance, and yet Reagan and Bush were transformational presidents while Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were not.  Trump is on track to be a transformational president, and not in a good way.

President Trump is transforming the Supreme Court so as to reverse all the pro-labor and pro-civil liberties decisions of the past 40 or 50 years.  The religious right was disappointed that Ronald Reagan and the two George Bushes never advanced their goals.  But I don’t think Trump will have any qualms about giving them what they want.

Trump is crippling the ability of the federal government to perform its lawful duties to regulate and provide public services.  He has raised corruption to a new level, which, strangely, works to his advantage because there is so much of it that I can’t keep track of it.

Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and other top Democratic leaders are not an effective opposition.  They are too wedded to pleasing their wealthy donors and to a pro-military foreign policy and pro-corporate economic policy.

What I hear from liberal Democrats are (1) a claim that Donald Trump is a puppet of Vladimir Putin and (2) outrage at the latest comment that Trump has made on Twitter.

They let Trump set the agenda.  They have no program of their own.  So even though an overwhelming majority of Americans disapprove of Donald Trump, that will not in itself bring victory.

Increasing numbers of Americans decline to vote in national elections.  They don’t think the leaders of either the Republican or Democratic party represent them.

A certain number vote for Trump not because they expect him to keep his promises, but to “send them a message.”

When Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980, it seemed to me that, since the Republicans had become an ideological party of the right, the Democrats would become an ideological party of the left.  The result, I thought, would be a real political debate based on issues.

This didn’t happen.  Instead the Democratic leaders became more pro-corporate and pro-military.

Now, nearly 40 years later, a true left-wing movement is emerging in America.  Politicians such as Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez even call themselves socialists.

I see that emerging movement as Americans’ only hope because the alternatives are the status quo, which does not work for most Americans, and Donald Trump’s blood-and-soil nationalism, which also will not work.

LINKS

Why Trump country is unfazed by the child separation crisis by Matthew Walther for The Week.

This Political Theorist Predicted the Rise of Trumpism | His Name Was Hunter S. Thompson by Susan McWilliams for The Nation.