Category Archives: Bernie Sanders

MSNBC and the Next Election: Racism is the Issue

After Donald Trump unexpectedly won the 2016 election, the Democrats and the mainstream media they shape sought to explain the disaster as a result of Russian meddling. Such meddling, which had been alleged for months, was documented in an (unconvincing) intelligence report prepared by the lame-duck Obama administration, made public Jan. 6, 2017; Congress followed up, demanding the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate Russian interference and possible collusion between any Russians and the Trump team. After two years the report concluded that there was no evidence of collusion, causing many downcast looks among news anchors reporting the bad news. Suddenly Trump’s impeachment–for which the MSNBC and CNN anchors openly cheer–looked less likely.

I for my part was happy to see closure to the Russiagate farce. (If in fact that has happened. Some seem hell-bent on never letting it die.) It was all along an opportunistic application of Cold War Russophobia to the effort to topple Trump. It had been painful to watch so many Democrat Party shills, including progressive African-American women, railing about Russian interference in “our” elections as though this had truly happened, was an “attack on our country” and had brought Trump to power! Nonsense.

We hear little lately about Trump and the Russian connection; it’s now all about Trump and the people of this country. The current case for impeachment rests on Trump’s racism (now routinely referred to by reporters, matter of factly, in their “objective” news reporting), his divisiveness, his spreading of hate. This racist category pertains to Trump’s cruel treatment of immigrants, his fear-mongering about an “invasion,” his targeting of African-American critics, his declared “nationalism,” his dog-whistle appeals to the white nationalists, etc. Trump has been accused of racism for years but never so routinely, journalistically.

The solution to Trump? The most conservative Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden, who claims he’s the best option to defeat the racist, polarizing president and bring people together again. Credit Card Joe is surely Wall Street’s pick, and he’s the apparent favorite of the DNC. (Biden presided over the gay wedding in May 2017 of DNC treasurer Henry R. Munoz III.) He preaches a return to normalcy, declaring that if Trump has one term, it will call the Trump era something that will “go down as an aberration, an anomaly. But eight years will fundamentally change the nature of who we are.” So let’s avert disaster, and return to the responsible government we enjoyed in the Obama-Biden period!

The Democratic Party has long been the more anti-racist party, championing civil rights laws, recruiting people of color. It has become increasingly the party of identity politics, sometimes at the expense of progressive economic politics. It radiates pride in its promotion of racial and gender equality, just as the Republicans project pride in their promotion of a traditional white-dominated America based on love of God and country.

Targeting Trump as a racist makes sense, of course, it being the truth. He is not one of the most egregious type of racists, overtly embracing a Nazi-like ideology. But he has discriminated against African-Americans in his real estate businesses, used the n-word, questioned a Hispanic judge’s objectivity in handing a case involving himself, praised “both sides” in Charlottesville, used highly offensive language in tweets attacking women of color. He himself of course has said repeatedly that he is “the least racist person on earth,” while (in his usual “counterpunch”) accusing Rev. Al Sharpton of being (presumably anti-white) racist. He is too old, too disconnected, too surrounded by racist strategists, too insensitive to see the racism in himself.

The question is: if Trump’s racism (as opposed to the now-discredited Russian ties, or other issues including his wreaking destruction on the world economy; dangerous foreign policies implemented by a gutted, understaffed State Department; manifestations of mental illness) becomes the key charge, whether in the impeachment hearings more and more Democrats crave, and/or in the election next year, how will Trump’s forces react?

One imagines the Trump supporters include self-defining, proud racists, white supremacists. But surely most would deny being racist, and probably argue that Trump’s tweets if sometimes over the top aren’t racist either. We’re talking about maybe more than half the white population. (Trump won 58% of white non-Hispanic votes in 2016.) Polls do not indicate that Trump’s base is dissipating; they have not been so dismayed by his racist words and policies that they would abandon him.

We thus have a society more polarized than ever in recent history on matters of race. At least a third of the people are comfortable with Trump’s characterizations of Muslims and Mexicans. Decades of work by progressive and radical left groups has produced landmark legislation and considerable positive social change. But part of the country has either been unmoved by all this, or rejected it in part; white fear of blacks and Hispanics advancing at their expense, or acquiring to much influence in popular culture, remains a powerful political phenomenon. White supremacist groups seem to be growing.

*****

I see MSNBC has become positively hostile to Bernie Sanders, absurdly comparing him to Trump as a populist appealing to the alienated with vague proposals for change, notably universal health care, which the anchors pooh-pooh as unrealistic. They keep repeating that Bernie has been dropping in the polls without mentioning how they are doing their best to make that happen. By rooting for Biden in general, but also Warren, Harris, and Buttigieg, as acceptable alternatives to Biden. But not Bernie.

MSNBC was instrumental in getting Trump the Republican nomination. Joe and Mika treated their friend with kid-gloves in 2015, perhaps hoping with John Podesta, whom we know from a leaked memo wanted Trump or Carver to get the nomination (as an easy defeat). MSNBC and CNN both favored Hillary Clinton all along during her campaign and worked both to limit Sanders’ exposure and to dismiss him as a mere hero to quixotic youth.

MSNBC repeatedly denounces “socialism” in principle, in general, treating the very word and concept as “toxic.” (MSNBC is one big advertisement for the conclusion that, goddam it, kids, socialism is dead!)

But racism is alive, and Trump is the Racist-in-Chief! So vote for someone who can win against him! That means maximum outrage at Trump and his tweets, minimal attention to the capitalism he personifies. Anybody who can defeat Trump! Danny Deutsch, host of an MSNBC program, “marketing professional” and political commentator in Morning Joe, has actually said on air that he would vote for Trump over Sanders. Capitalism over socialism, even bogus-socialism. Don’t even use the word, he says.

But, whatever the DNC thinks, capitalism is in fact the central issue, and those who understand this, and understand the need for some form of socialism, should not shut up in deference to capitalist propagandists like Deutsch and the whole MSNBC crew that reflects its advertisers’ ruling-class ideology. How could it be otherwise?

Just as the workers of the world have no country, we in this country have no anti-capitalist party poised anywhere close to a seizure of power. We have the two-party capitalist rot, with the party in power increasingly (if not quite) fascistic, the other evermore politically correct and rooted in identity politics but loath to take on Wall Street or even discuss the real problems.

“Don’t be silly,” laughed DNC head Debbie Wassermann-Schultz in 2016, as Bernie won primary after primary. “Bernie will never win.” How silly to think MSNBC would now give respectful treatment to Sanders.

Let pompous Joe pontificate and mild Mika mumble sweet encouragement as they both try to impose Biden on the people. Assuring us he’s still favored in the polls. Glossing over his gaffes. Doing for Biden what they did for Clinton, this time working to end the anomaly and restore–what?–law and order? Biden and Harris both have strong records on that.

Survivor 2020, and some Ghosts from Recent Elections Past

Gore Vidal once remarked that the United States has only one political party with two right wings.  At the risk of betraying my own political bias:  I couldn’t agree more!  Still, maybe 2020 will be different?

The ultra-marathon-up to the next election has already begun in the Summer of 2019 with the Democratic Party debates.  MSNBC, a kind of Fox News for liberals network, hosted the first round, fielding twenty candidates, split evenly over two nights.  Most of the presidential contestants in this “high concept game show” format were treated as bunting, or so many doodles in the margins of a Big Pharma script, more to be seen than heard..  As boutique diversity merges into statistical redundancy, the DNC theory seems to be: the more contestants, the more emphatic shall be the “win” of the eventual “winner.”  But, wasn’t that the Republican formula in 2015/16?

No matter how the contest is set up, upsets are always possible–or, even desirable.  For example, witness Hillary Clinton’s nomination over Bernie Sanders — “Oops!” — only four years ago.  Then, lo and beholden to all the bankers who’ve bailed him out, Donald Trump “burned,” so to speak, Clinton in the general election, which he only lost by a whopping 3 million votes — and Clinton wasn’t all that popular to begin with!  Just ask Bernie Sanders, or Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.

Indeed, contrary to conventional expectations, upsets were the order of the day during the last quadrennial election cycle.  God forbid that we should be allowed to elect a Socialist-sounding Jew from Vermont! Hillary Clinton, and her big bank backers, certainly did not want that; so, why not hand the country off to a Reality TV show host like the big bank beholden Trump, instead? Was that the sound of our one political party rubbing its two right wings together?

Because American politics have become so like sports by other means, it is worth reiterating that the 2020 DNC strategy has not only copied the 2016 Republican playbook:  they have actually expanded upon it by simply adding more players.  Recall that the Republican side of the post-Obama campaign began with a baker’s dozen of contestants with “unelectability” literally tattooed on their foreheads — including that tweety faux-pachyderm, Trump.  Given the “surprising” results of 2016, it is notable that Team Trump chose not to challenge Barack Obama in 2012, despite Trump’s weirdly well-publicized “birther” campaign against Obama, which foreshadowed both Big Media’s free press pass for all things Trump, as well as the aura of illegitimacy that has framed the Presidency ever since…Trump was “elected“?  One wonders how far an illegitimate fruit can fall from an illegitimate tree?

Indeed, Trump’s strange election eerily echoes the hollow resonance of the most bizarre quadrennial in recent history, when George Bush the Second rode a single Supreme Court vote into the Oval Office, in 2000. However, before delving into that doozy, its follow-up, in 2004, deserves special mention.

There once was an anti-war candidate named Howard Dean (from Vermont, of all places!) whose front-runner status got Debbie Wasserman-Schultzed, as it were, by Presidential campaign veteran Dick Gephardt, in Iowa.  Before the Gephardt take-down, Dean had been riding high on his opposition to the occupation of Iraq, which was clearly going very badly.  Dean’s potential nomination meant that the anarchy in Iraq — a direct result of the illegal American-led invasion — would factor prominently in the general election. In the event, the anti-war buck was preemptively stopped in Iowa, allowing the Iraq war hawk John Kerry a “surprise” win. From Iowa, Kerry cruised to the nomination, only to play second fiddle to his Skull-and-Bones Yale fraternity mate, the incumbent Bush, and a disastrous war policy had been saved.

Later, Howard Dean was given a participation award in the form of the DNC Chairmanship.  Since then, the former anti-war candidate has swiveled full circle to become a cranky Yankee who has vilified 2020’s anti-war star, Tulsi Gabbard.  Put another way:  Howard Dean was eaten by the one party political machine, only to be regurgitated in a more palatable form — if not rocking the War Party’s boat is anyone’s idea of a more palatable form.

Now, back in 2000, nothing very military was going on.  The one party political apparatus had coughed up two equally unappealing Junior fur balls:  Al Gore and George W. Bush.  Incidentally, Bush would have never gotten his day in Supreme Court if Gore had won his home state, Tennessee.  In fact, well before Dan Rather “called” Florida for Gore on election night, “dirty tricks” in South Carolina had pushed Bush — in a tight race — past Senator and Vietnam War veteran John McCain.  McCain was later given a participation trophy for services rendered:  the Republican nomination in 2008, where he was soundly squashed by the relatively unknown upstart Barack Obushma — I mean, Obama — who had himself “upset” Hillary Clinton (of all the usual suspects!) for the Democratic side of the one party nomination in 2008.

Ironically enough, both Obama and Trump have an “upset” of Hillary Clinton in common.  That Obama and Trump share two sides of the same big bank coin:  is this insight becoming increasingly more obvious?  For example, despite 8 years of the “Change”-ling Obama, America is still making Afghanistan a “Great Game” again under Trump, as if Bush the Second’s war-mad regime were still ghosting about in office 18 years later, like it never left.  And the War Party rolls on…

However, before the War Party got really rolling, in 2001, there was Green Party Candidate Ralph Nader, who remains the most interesting figure in the scandalous 2000 election.  In 2000, Nader scooped all mainstream media pundits by correctly identifying his major party opponents as “Tweedledee and Tweedledum.” Nevertheless, unlike our current “Fake News” President, Nader was not granted a free press pass for “bucking the System.”

And not only that.  Nader’s campaign was seen as so threatening to the one-party-with-two-faces that he was physically denied access to the sites of nationally televised debates between TweedleBush and TweedleGore1, for fear of Nader’s potentially “disruptive” influence.  Pointing out the obviousness of duopoly:  how “disruptive,” indeed!

Meanwhile, back in 2019, the “Survivor 2020” program seems hell-bent on appearing to include everyone — even if you’re Andrew Yang and your mic’s not turned on.  “Technical glitches, folks; just technical glitches.  We’ll get everyone a Universal Basic Income right after these words from our sponsors!”  Of course, it’s a game predicated on extinction, the last contestant standing.  No one wants to go home a dinosaur, having voted a dinosaur in office.  Next thing you know, extinction’s your next door neighbor!

Not to beat a dead horse race, but to rest my case, I recall a certain debate between status quo Auntie Hillary and Grandpa Donny-boy Trump, in 2016, at Washington University in St. Louis, where Hillary, wearing an irradiant shade of white, accused an obviously lurching Trump of being a “puppet.”  In true Trump form, the Donald shot back:  “No, you’re the puppet!”  Each political actor then accused the other of being “the puppet” in a seemingly spontaneous exchange of pointless, puppet blows.  Which was an uncanny moment of Truth for both of these foremost Liars vying for the Presidential Throne; each recognized the “Other’s” puppet status, quite equally — and for All to see!

In case there are any questions about the Duopoly:  See Gore Vidal…

  1. See: John Hagelin vs the Federal Election Commission, decided on June 10, 2005.

The BS about Medicare-for-All Has to Stop!

It is increasingly clear that the wagons have circled both in the Democratic National Committee and in the news media to shut down any possibility of a national health plan as proposed by Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) or Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

The media for their part, keep touting — almost a year and a half before Election day, and just under a year after next year’s Democratic primary voting and caucusing, that two “centrists” (who should be called the Establishment candidates, both neo-Liberals in the Clinton mold) — Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the “leading candidates” for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Biden is quoted favorably for perpetrating the lie that establishing a new “single-payer” program of government insurance covering everyone would mean “starting from scratch” and taking away everyone’s current employer-funded, or Obamacare subsidized health insurance.

Meanwhile Harris, who was against Medicare for All before she was for it, and who now talks about “funding” it with taxes on Wall Street, is treated like the voice of reason, when in fact she’s just blowing smoke and confusing the issue deliberately.

So let’s get this straight.  Funding a program of what Bernie Sanders and health care activists call Medicare for All, would cost an estimated $30 trillion over the next 10 years (that last bit about over ten years tends to get left out of articles criticizing the plan), as in this report in the National Review.  But it’s not just right wing media that obfuscate.  In a CNN interview of Harris, reporter Kyung Lah just says Sen. Sanders says the plan will  “require a middle class tax cut” to fund.

But Lah doesn’t say, and Harris, who is smart enough to know, but doesn’t want to admit publicly, that the US healthcare system today already costs more than $3 trillion per year and will cost much more than $30 trillion over the next 10 years.

Here’s the real story. As things stand presently, health care costs in the US account for 18% of total US Gross Domestic Product. That is to say, 18 % of all economic transactions in the US, government and private sector, go for medical care. That’s 18% of $21.1trillion in 1019, or about $3.7 trillion. In constant dollars over the course of the next decade that would be $3.7 trillion.

That figure includes the cost of Medicare for the elderly and disabled — a program that is already funded by taxes paid by individuals and their employers (the federal budget for Medicaid, financed by those taxes, is about $600 billion this year). Add to that the amount for Medicaid, which provides health benefits for one-in-five Americans unable to obtain private insurance and which is funded by the federal government and the states (also about $600 billion this year), and taxpayers are already funding some $1.2 trillion of the US health care bill through taxation. Then add in the cost of private insurance, paid by both employers and employees, or for those working at stingier employers, or for themselves, through insurance offered under the ironically named Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), which is about $2.2 trillion, and the cost of medical care paid out-of-pocket because it’s not covered by increasingly loophole-plagued insurance plans (another $400 billion, and Americans and their employers are already paying a total of $3.6 trillion per year for health care. But this haphazard free-marked/government-funded tacked-together chaos that we call American-style healthcare still leaves  30 million citizens uninsured!

Now note that all of those expenditures — all $3.6 trillion of it — would be eliminated to be replaced by dedicated taxes paid by citizens and private companies to fund a real Canadian-style system of what is being called Medicare for All. On top of that, there would be no more worrying about paying medical bills, worrying about whether pre-existing conditions would be covered, worrying about losing a house because of medical expenses, or losing benefits if one lost a job, or needed to go out on strike to fight for better pay or working conditions. Your publicly funded health care would be a right, just like the right of free speech or the right to vote.

So saying, as CNN reporter Lah does so disingenuously, that the Sanders Medicare for All plan will “require a middle-class tax hike” is a grotesque fraud on the public. Medicare for All, which even a right-wing Koch-Brothers study claimed disparagingly would cost $30 trillion in tax funding over a ten-year period, while true, would actually cost some $6-7 trillion less in constant dollars than the current joke of a “system” we have in the US.

I would point out, for those who don’t know it, that Canada, our neighbor to the north, has had a kind of “Medicare for All” system in place since 1976 — in fact it’s called Medicare. And that system, which covers the medical care of all Canadians, no exception, and is financed entirely by taxes paid by individuals and businesses, is so popular that even though Canada and its provinces (which actually administer the system) all have been governed more often by conservatives than liberals or socialists over the intervening years, not one government, even the arch-conservative federal government of Stephen Harper that preceded the current one led by Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau, dared to cut it or to try to undo it. To do so would be to face immediate ouster, so popular is Canada’s Medicare program.

I would add that even in the UK, which has a truly socialist health care system, where much like our huge and, from a point of quality, if not access, excellent Veterans Health Care System, features public hospitals owned by the government and physicians and support staff who are government employees paid salaries, not fees for service, no conservative government has dared to try and undo the system put in place by a Labour government just after the end of World War II nearly three-quarters of a century ago.

Harris deserves to be pummeled in upcoming debates, at her campaign appearances and in the media for her failure to admit that Sanders’ Medicare for All plan would not increase the costs of healthcare by raising taxes, but would reduce those costs by freeing those 160 million Americans who are currently in costly bondage to their employers, depending on them for offering mostly crappy private health insurance coverage that they would lose if they lost those jobs, would end taxes for increasingly privatized Medicare and for hard to get and always threatened Medicaid, and would slash the costs of prescription drugs (now running at close to $500 billion a year).

Meanwhile, while in place of those taxes, and while eliminating private payment and employer payment of insurance premiums, there would surely have to be taxes paid by individuals and businesses to fund a new public insurance system like Medicare for All, Harris and other half-hearted “backers” of the Sanders program — and Sanders himself — should be calling for massive cuts in military spending, now at a record $1.3 trillion per year, with some of the savings going to fund public healthcare. That would be real “national defense”!

I don’t object to Harris’s proposal in her pathetic CNN interview, that taxes be increased on Wall Street and the Financial sector to fund health care,  but that’s small beer compared to the funds available from cutting the US military down to size and ending the current imperial policy of endless wars and of military action instead of diplomacy in foreign affairs.

First though, we need an honest debate about Medicare-for-All — not one that hides the issue behind false warnings about “increased middle-class taxes” to fund it.

Everyone will save money under Medicare-for-All, and we will have a far, far healthier population to show for it.  Even Sanders himself has done a poor job of making this point in his campaigning. Why doesn’t he just say it: Americans will be financially, and medically, better off if they paid a bit more in taxes to obtain full coverage under Medicare for All and eliminated the premiums they and their employer now pay increasingly costly and less adequate private insurance coverage.

The clear advantage of government-provided over privately funded health care is why every other developed nation in the world, and many less developed ones, has some form of nationally-funded health care system that treats health care as a right, why every one of those countries has spends less total money as both a share of GDP and national budget, and on a per-capita basis than we do in the US, and yet, in all developed country cases and in many less developed countries, also have better health statistics (life expectancy, infant mortality rates, incidence of diabetes and untreated high blood pressure, etc.).

Time for some god-damned honesty about this issue from both our politicians and the media!

Is Tulsi Gabbard Qualified?

I want Tulsi Gabbard in the Democratic Presidential debates because she speaks out against wars. She raises the topic unasked. She wants various wars ended or not launched. She wants impeachment made automatic for presidents who launch wars. What’s not to love?

I also want Mike Gravel included for the same reason. If anything, he’s even better than Gabbard. But Gravel openly says he doesn’t want to be elected; he just wants to improve the debates. I wish Gabbard would say the same thing. Here’s why.

February 15, 2003, saw the biggest public demonstration in world history. It was against the obvious lies being used to launch a war against Iraq. Whistleblower Katharine Gun risked her freedom to expose the war in March 2003. The United Nations refused to support the war, and its Secretary General joined many world governments in denouncing the war as a fraud and a crime.

By the spring of 2004, over a year later, the lies had been exposed to the satisfaction of most of those who had either believed them or pretended to. The New York Times had publicly apologized. Senators and Congress Members had been compelled to apologize or squirm like weasels. Polls had found a slim majority of the public now saying the war should never have been started. Camilo Mejia had chosen prison over a second tour.

But in April 2003, Tulsi Gabbard had joined the Hawaii Army National Guard, and in July 2004 — JULY FRICKIN TWO THOUSAND AND FOUR, she VOLUNTEERED to take part in the war on Iraq, which she did until 2005. She has, as far as I know, never expressed regret or apologized; it is certainly not part of her standard stump speech — quite the opposite. She has never left the military, and she has never stopped bragging about having performed the “service” of helping to destroy Iraq — even when opposing any similar wars in the same breath.

Now, that combination is a clear cut above your typical warmongering politician, your . . . well, to put it briefly, your Joe Biden-type. Having someone who learns and improves and takes better positions is a benefit to the debates. I’m glad Gabbard has apologized and improved her views on gay rights. I believe her and applaud her. But has she said she’s learned anything about war? Has she, in fact, learned anything about war? Has she apologized? Has she stopped promoting the military? Has she stopped posing in uniform? She’s only removed photos of herself in uniform from her website when the military has complained to her. When repeatedly asked in the first round of primary debates whether she’d ever support a war on Iran, she eventually caved and said yes, if Americans were attacked. Well, what does anyone imagine the Trump gang is putting so many Americans so close to Iran for?

Gabbard seems unable to mention war without both bragging about having participated and believing it to be insanely destructive. The public response to this seems to be schizophrenic. Those who love militarism support that part of what she says. Those who oppose it support that part. The wonderful, principled, and courageous Dennis Kucinich tweeted this during the debate: “Thank you for your strength challenging wars, @TulsiGabbard. Your record of service to America in the military and Congress is commendable.” How is participating in criminal mass-murder both a commendable service and something it’s strong to challenge?

Gabbard’s website includes among her qualifications:

  • Served two tours of duty in the Middle East (Iraq / Kuwait)
  • Currently serves as Major in Army National Guard

We can also look to her voting record. She has voted against cutting the military budget. But she has voted to keep the AUMF in place. When the U.S. House of Representatives last week passed numerous amendments to create accountability for foreign bases, repeal the AUMF, prevent a war on Iran, finally end the war on Korea, and dozens of other things we don’t usually dare dream of, producing the least awful National Defense Authorization Act in many years, Gabbard didn’t vote.

Gabbard says she wants to end the war on Afghanistan. At the same time, in the same breath in the debate, she suggests that only a member of the military should be president. Is that the kind of nation YOU want to live in?

Here’s where I think we’ve gone wrong. Some of our best peace activists are veterans. It helps that they are veterans both because they know war and because of the widespread and misplaced respect for veterans. Pro-troop propaganda has made us recognize that those making decisions for war from air-conditioned offices are more to blame than direct participants in war. But we’ve gone too far. We’ve come to imagine that participating in an evil war is actually a good thing, even while rates of suicide and depression among veterans suggest that they know better than we do.

This distortion of morality around the propaganda of troopism is compounded by our cartoonish notion of responsibility as developed in a culture of adversarial and retributive justice. We imagine that if someone is responsible for something (such as a president for a war) everyone else is absolved of all responsibility for it. After all, if you prosecuted and convicted a president, nobody could claim you hadn’t achieved vengeance. It would be time for the final credits to roll. But this is equally true: if soldiers didn’t fight, wars would not exist. If something would not exist or not be as strong without your participation, then you are responsible for it, you deserve some bit of the infinite and never-depleted substance of responsibility, as do many, many others.

Is there a value in knowing war up-close? Of course, there is. And there are aid workers and peace activists and war victims who know war up-close. Did it help to elect Eisenhower president because he said he knew war? Perhaps it helped in Egypt. Perhaps it hurt in Iran. The examples of veteran presidents are too few and too much like all the non-veteran presidents to draw any conclusions.

But what about the value of having known enough to oppose war? Why did Barack Obama claim to have opposed the war on Iraq, even while having voted to fund it as soon as he got a chance? Why does Donald Trump pretend both to have opposed the war on Iraq and to be really smart? Because it’s generally not a good idea to give unprecedented reckless imperial power to somebody who’s slow on the uptake. But Donald Trump didn’t just promise to end wars and stop launching them, he also promised a bigger military that would more boldly slaughter whole families. Tulsi Gabbard wants to avoid at least certain wars and end some of the same ones Trump promised to end and then escalated. But does she want to reduce military spending? Does she want to close any bases? Does she want to make the United States party to international law? Does she want to convert to a peaceful economy?

If not Tulsi Gabbard, then who? Well, within the Democratic field of candidates, the vast majority of them are far worse than she is on war and peace. Bernie Sanders isn’t. He’s a million miles from perfect. He also lacks the sadly crucial characteristics needed for the infantile exercise in tokenism that elections have become. But he opposes wars and military spending without feeling compelled every time he does so to also brag about having participated in what he is opposing. How is that not a leading platform for everyone who cares about peace?

The Case for a New Third Party in America

In the late 1850s, the United States experienced a political realignment when the Whig Party disbanded and many of its members including Abraham Lincoln joined the nascent Republican Party because of the betrayal of the Whig leadership over the issue of slavery and its extension.

American politics may be poised for a similar realignment today as popular disaffection with the two major parties and their domination by corporate money and interests increases. Polls show that 57 percent of Americans want a major new party, including 71 percent of millennials.

The reason for these figures are not hard to discern: from climate change, to rising cost of education, to a lack of a universal health care system to a policy of endless war, the Washington ruling elite has failed its citizenry.

A Princeton and Northwestern University study found that there is no correlation between public preferences, expressed in opinion polls, and the decisions made in Congress let alone by the Executive Branch. The study concluded that the “preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”

The Movement for a People’s Party (MPP) was founded in 2017 and has begun to attract a considerable following in an attempt to reverse the trend towards oligarchy.

Party founder Nick Brana, who in 2016 served as national outreach director for Bernie Sanders, stated in an interview that “we are now at a historic moment just like in 1852 when the Whig elites went against their base when they adopted a pro-slavery position that led to the formation of the Republican Party. Similarly today, the Democratic Party has abandoned its working class base, creating a fissure between the party and the people, that necessitates the foundation of a new party.”

Brana points to the rapid formation of new political parties in Mexico and Europe in the midst of wide-scale disaffection with neoliberal policies as a model for the United States.

He sees the Green Party as equivalent to the Free-Soilers and other 19th century parties which set the groundwork for more successful parties like the Socialists and Populists at the turn of the 20th century.

These latter parties amassed large followings not only in urban centers like New York but also in the Southwest among farmers by promoting the regulation or break up of Wall Street banks that had plunged them into debt by selling them usurious loans.

According to Brana, the Green Party today is too wedded to an electoral strategy and runs candidates who do not have a strong local connection to the communities in which they are running.

The MPPs strategy is different in that it is focused on grass-roots organizing.

Its members have rallied for climate justice with Zero Hour, demonstrated for peace at the women’s march on the Pentagon, boycotted Driscoll’s batteries on behalf of exploited farmworkers, picketed with striking teachers and hotel employees, promoted the public banking movement, participated in civil disobedience with the poor people’s campaign, and helped institute ranked choice voting in Maine.

MPP political director Carol Ehrle, a former journalist and media relations specialist, stated that the MPP was focused on establishing coalitions with progressive and non-profit organizations and labor unions like the AFL-CIO whose executive council endorsed MPP. In 2017, the AFL-CIO passed a resolution stating that “whether candidates are elected from the Republican or Democratic Party, the interests of Wall Street [over working people and labor] have been protected” and that “the time has passed when we can passively settle for the lesser of two evils politics.”

In his 2016 book Bernie and the Sandernistas, Jeffrey St. Clair, editor of Counterpunch website, criticized Bernie Sanders, the left-wing Democratic Party stalwart, for being a fake revolutionary who failed to speak out enough against U.S. foreign policy and directed his followers into the counter-revolutionary fold of the Democratic Party.

According to St. Clair, during the 2016 presidential campaign Sanders should have done precisely with the MPP is now doing – mobilize his followers to support civil disobedience and direct-action protests and link up with those directly challenging corporate power.

The MPP on its website is calling for a new economic bill of rights that would guarantee employment, food, clothing, leisure, a living wage, housing, healthcare, social security, education and freedom from monopolies and unfair competition to every American.

Based on the model of FDR’s New Deal, it wants to set up a massive public works program that will help generate full employment and revitalize America’s infrastructure.

Other planks call for free Medicaire for all, free public college and quality education, the abolishment of free-trade agreements that benefit large corporations, a fair tax code that increases inheritance taxes and tax on the wealthy, banning offshore oil drilling and fracking, improvement of public transportation, sustainable agriculture and strong legislation that supports labor unions and workplace democracy, including through encouragement of workers cooperatives.

A skeptic would suggest that these latter measures are unfeasible in the American system and that some of the measures are being advanced by the Democratic Party.

Public opinion polls show, however, that most of these measures are widely supported by the electorate, while the Democratic Party leadership remains wedded to large corporations.

The frontrunner in the 2020 Party primary, Joe Biden stated that the “rich and powerful” are not a problem and has a long record of supporting corporate friendly legislation. Many of the other contenders also have dubious backgrounds, including Kamala Harris who upheld the death penalty in the state of California as a District Attorney and covered up for prosecutorial misconduct.

If a third party should emerge anywhere, Oklahoma, the state where I live, is a prime target. Over a decade of austerity policies have decimated public and higher education and cut basic services there to third world levels. A Guardian article in 2017 described a dire situation where a teacher was seen panhandling to buy supplies for her classroom, county jails were dangerously overcrowded and riddled with abuse, and families had to wait ten years just to get on a wait list to obtain state support for caring for a disabled child – all while nearly one in four children struggled with hunger.

The state legislature in the face of this crisis remained fixated on sustaining low tax rates for the oil corporations which fund its representatives. Fracking pioneer Harold Hamm, the 43rd wealthiest man on the planet, is a prime donor of the state’s Republican Party, while the Democrats receive substantial funding from oil industry billionaire, George Kaiser, a self-professed “red state robber baron” who helped turn the state into his own private tax haven.

Historian Richard Hofstadter compares third parties in American history to bees who sting and then die. Their sting is nevertheless sharply felt, even if for a fleeting moment, along with their buzz.

The MPP is a promising new organization which could yield a major impact. The time is indeed ripe for a new third party to blossom and there is no time to lose.

Trump Invites Debates over Omnivorous Crony Capitalism

Donald J. Trump’s 2020 election strategy is to connect his potential Democratic opponents with “socialism.” Trump plans to use this attack on the Democrats even if Senator Bernie Sanders, who proudly calls himself a “democratic socialist,” doesn’t become the presidential nominee (Sanders has been decisively re-elected in Vermont).

Senator Elizabeth Warren is distancing herself from the socialist “label.” She went so far as to tell the New England Council “I am a capitalist to my bones.”

Sanders and Warren are not what they claim to be. They are both updating Roosevelt’s New Deal and more closely resemble the Social Democrats that have governed western European democracies for years, delivering higher standards of living than that experienced by Americans.

The original doctrine of socialism meant government ownership of the means of production – heavy industries, railroads, banks, and the like. Nobody in national politics today is suggesting such a takeover. As one quipster put it, “How can Washington take ownership of the banks when the banks own Washington?”

Confronting Trump on the “socialism” taboo can open up a great debate about the value of government intervention for the good of the public. Sanders can effectively argue that people must choose either democratic socialism or the current failing system of corporate socialism. That choice is not difficult. Such an American democratic socialism could provide almost all of the long overdue solutions this country needs: full more efficient Medicare for all; tuition-free education; living wages; stronger unions; a tax system that works for the people; investments in infrastructure and public works; reforms for a massive, runaway military budget; the end of most corporate welfare; government promotion of renewable energies; and the end of subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear power.

In my presidential campaigns I tried to make corporate socialism – also called corporate welfare or crony capitalism – a major issue. Small business is capitalism – free to go bankrupt – while corporate capitalism – free to get bailouts from Washington – is really a form of corporate socialism. This point about a corporate government was documented many years ago in books such as America, Inc. (1971) by Morton Mintz and Jerry Cohen.

Now, it is even easier to make the case that our political economy is largely controlled by giant corporations and their political toadies. Today the concentration of power and wealth is staggering. Just six capitalist men have wealth to equal the wealth of half of the world’s population.

The Wall Street collapse of 2008-2009 destroyed eight million jobs, lost trillions of dollars in pension and mutual funds, and pushed millions of families to lose their homes. Against this backdrop, the U.S. government used trillions of taxpayer dollars to bail out, in various ways, the greedy, financial giants, whose reckless speculating caused the collapse.

In May 2009, the moderate Senator from Illinois, Dick Durbin, said: “The banks – hard to believe when we’re facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created – are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place.”

Is there a single federal government agency or department that can say its most powerful outside influence is NOT corporate? Even the Labor Department and the National Labor Relations Board are under more corporate power than union power.

Who better than Trump, on an anti-socialist fantasy campaign kick, can call attention to the reality that Big Business controls the government and by extension controls the people?  In September 2000, a Business Week poll found over 70 percent of people agreeing that big business has too much control over their lives (this was before the horrific corporate crimes and scandals of the past two decades). Maybe that is why support in polls for “socialism” against “capitalism” in the U.S. is at a 60 year high.

People have long experienced American-style “socialism.” For example, the publicly owned water and electric utilities, public parks and forests, the Postal Service, public libraries, FDIC guarantees of bank deposits (now up to $250,000), Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, etc.

What the public is not sufficiently alert to is that Big Business has been profitably taking over control, if not outright ownership, of these public assets.

In the new book, Banking on the People, by Ellen Brown, readers can get an idea of the way large banks, insurers, and the giant shadow banking system – money market funds, hedge funds, mortgage brokers, and other unregulated financial intermediaries – speculate and shift deep risk and their failures onto Uncle Sam. These corporate predators gouge customers, and, remarkably, show a deep aversion for productive investment as if people matter.

Moreover, they just keep developing new, ever riskier, multi-tiered instruments (eg. derivatives) to make money from money through evermore complex, abstract, secret, reckless, entangled, globally destabilizing, networks. Gambling with other people’s money is a relentless Wall Street tradition.

The crashes that inevitably emerge end up impoverishing ordinary people who pay the price with their livelihoods.

Will the Democrats and other engaged people take Trump on if he tries to make “socialism” the big scare in 2020? Control of our political economy is not a conservative/liberal or red state/blue state issue. When confronted with the specifics of the corporate state or corporate socialism, people from all political persuasions will recognize the potential perils to our democracy. No one wants to lose essential freedoms or to continue to pay the price of this runaway crony capitalism.

The gigantic corporations have been built with the thralldom of deep debt – corporate debt to fund stock buybacks (while reporting record profits), consumer debt, student loan debt, and, of course, government debt caused by drastic corporate and super-rich tax cuts. Many trillions of dollars have been stolen from future generations.

No wonder a small group of billionaires, including George Soros, Eli Broad, and Nick Hanauer, have just publicly urged a modest tax on the super wealthy. As Hanauer, a history buff and advocate of higher minimum wages, says – “the pitchforks are coming.”

Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution in the Crosshairs of US Imperialism

With the likes of John Bolton and Elliot Abrams directing US foreign policy, the US government has abandoned all pretense of “plausible denial” for its illegal regime-change initiatives. The “humanitarian” bombs may not be falling but, make no mistake, the US is waging a full-bore war against the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela.

Back in 1998, Venezuela had had nearly a half a century of two-party rule. A duopoly, not unlike the Republican and Democratic parties in the US, alternated in power imposing a neoliberal order. Poor and working people experienced deteriorating conditions of austerity regardless of which party was in power.

Then third-party candidate Hugo Chávez was elected president. He initiated what has become known as the Bolivarian Revolution, which has inspired the peoples of the world while engendering the enmity of both the US imperialists and the Venezuelan elites.

This article explores the contributions, shortcomings, and lessons of the Bolivarian Revolution’s two decades, in the context of the US regime-change efforts from its inception to current attempts by the US to install the unelected Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s president.

  1. Forging a new national identity based on a people’s history. History, it is said, is written by the victors. The historical narrative typically reflects the class that enslaved the Africans, dispossessed the Indigenous, and exploited the workers. There are exceptions. In the US, we have the legacy of Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States.

In Venezuela, Chávez revised his country’s history and thereby wrought a sea change of national consciousness. Prior to Chávez, Venezuela was arguably the most sycophantically pro-US country in South America. Miami was looked to for cultural affirmation; baseball was the national pastime.

Chávez took special inspiration from the leader of the South American struggle against Spanish colonialism and named his project after Simón Bolívar, known as the “Liberator.” Bolívar was not merely a national leader, but a true internationalist. The Bolivarian project is about the integration of nations based on mutual respect and sovereignty. Bolívar presciently declared in 1829: “The United States appears to be destined by Providence to plague Latin America with misery in the name of liberty.”

This new Venezuelan national identity and consciousness, based on their history told from the bottom up, may prove to be the most lasting legacy of the Bolivarian Revolution.

  1. Inclusive society. Fundamental to the Bolivarian project has been the inclusion of the formerly dispossessed: especially women, people of color, and youth.

As professor of Latin American history at NYU Greg Grandin observed, this inclusiveness has awakened “a deep fear of the primal hatred, racism, and fury of the opposition, which for now is directed at the agents of Maduro’s state but really springs from Chávez’s expansion of the public sphere to include Venezuela’s poor.”

For example, when an opposition demonstration came upon an Afro-descendent street peddler, he was presumed to be a chavista because he was dark-skinned and poor. The opposition demonstrators poured gasoline over him and set him on fire. Then the horrific image was posted on social media.

A less gruesome example occurred at the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, DC. North American activists in solidarity with the Bolivarian government protected the embassy in accordance with international law from being usurped by representatives of US-backed Juan Guaidó for 36 days. Before the protectors were evicted by the US Secret Service on May 16, counter-protesting opposition expatriate Venezuelans would wave bananas at African American solidarity activists, chanting “go back to the zoo.” Such is the racist loathing that fuels the Venezuelan opposition.

  1. Special option for poor and working people. Why should a state of all the people have a special option for those who are poor and working? Because these are the people who most need the social welfare services of the state. Billionaires don’t need government schools, hospitals, and housing, but the masses of Venezuelan people do.

The Bolivarian project had halved poverty and cut extreme poverty by two-thirds, while providing free health care and education. On May 27, the United Nations cited Venezuela as one of the top countries for guaranteeing the right to housing, recognizing the over 2.5 million public housing units built.

  1. Democracy promotion. The role of a state aspiring to be socialist is not simply to provide social welfare, but to empower the people.

The Bolivarian project has experimented in what is called “protagonistic democracy”: cooperatives, citizens councils, and communes. Some succeeded; others did not.  One of the first priorities was to eradicate illiteracy. The Bolivarian state has promoted community radio stations, low-cost computers, internet cafés for senior citizens, and other venues for popular expression. Venezuela now has one of the highest rates of higher education attendance in the world. These are not the hallmarks of a dictatorship.

  1. 21st century socialism. More than even Bernie Sanders, the Bolivarian Revolution put socialism on the agenda for the 21st century. For this we owe the Venezuelans a debt of gratitude, not for providing us with a playbook to be copied, but for demonstrating that the creation of a better world is principally a process.

This was not the primary transgression placing Venezuela in the crosshairs of US imperialism. Promoting socialism may be regarded as blasphemy, but the original sin is the following.

  1. Multi-polar world and regional integration. The greatest challenge to the Empire, to the world’s sole superpower, is a multi-polar world based on regional integration. In 1999, Chávez helped strengthen OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries). In 2004, he helped initiate ALBA (Alliance for Our Peoples of America), followed by PetroCaribe in 2005, UNASUR (Union of South American Nations) in 2008, and CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) in 2011. Venezuela has consistently demonstrated solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and other oppressed peoples.

When the small fish organize, the big fish gets nasty. Above all, this is why the world’s hegemon has targeted Venezuela.

The traumatic transition from Chávez to Maduro

 Chávez, suffering from cancer, died on March 5, 2013. The reaction in Venezuela was polarized. The elites danced in the street. The majority, composed mainly of poor and working people, were traumatized.

The bully to the north, smelling blood, saw an opportunity. The US had conspired to overthrow the Bolivarian Revolution from the beginning, backing a short-lived coup in 2002 followed by a boss’s strike. With the passing of Chávez, the imperialist offensive doubled down.

A snap election was called according to the Venezuelan Constitution for April 14 to replace the deceased president. Chávez, anticipating his demise, had designated Nicolás Maduro as his successor. Although polls had shown Maduro with a 10% lead going into the election campaign, he won with a narrow 1.5% margin.

I was in Caracas as an election observer when Maduro won. My observation of the election was like that of former US President Jimmy Carter, who had declared a year before that of the 92 elections the Carter Center had observed, “The election process in Venezuela is the best in the world.”

Within minutes of the announcement of Maduro’s victory, the main opposition candidate, Henrique Capriles, came on TV to denounce the election as fraudulent and call on the people to “show their rage.” Thus began the opposition’s violent offensive, the guarimbas, to achieve by violence what they could not achieve in democratic elections.

The opposition charges of fraud were investigated by Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) and found groundless, based on a 100% audit of the electronic vote backed up with paper receipts. Capriles still maintained the charge of fraud, and the US became the sole nation to refuse to recognize the Maduro presidency. The opposition violence continued, taking over 40 lives.

Upon assuming the presidency, Maduro inherited existing problems of crime, inefficiency, corruption, inflation, and a dysfunctional currency exchange system. These were problems that existed during the Chávez period and even prior to that. These problems persist in varying degrees to the present, despite concerted programs to address them.

President Maduro has had his feet held to the fire by the imperialists from the get-go. Far from having a respite, shortly into his presidency, Venezuela was hit with petroleum prices plummeting from a high of nearly $125/barrel to a low of close to $25/barrel. Despite efforts to diversify the economy, Venezuela remains dependent on oil exports for most of its foreign exchange, which is used to fund the social programs.

US regime-change war intensifies

The US regime-change war continues to intensify with increasingly harsh sanctions. These unilateral measures are illegal under the charters of the United Nations and the Organization of American States, because they constitute collective punishment. Trump’s security advisor, John Bolton, elucidates: “It’s like in Star Wars, when Darth Vader grips someone. That’s what we’re doing economically with the (Venezuelan) regime.”

In 2013, the US waited until after the presidential election in Venezuela to declare it fraudulent. Taking no chances, the US declared the 2018 election fraudulent four months before it was held. Joining Trump in this rush to pre-judgement were eleven Democratic senators including Bernie Sanders.

The charges of fraud were based on three issues: setting the date of the election, disqualifying opposition parties, and barring opposition candidates. Maduro had continually called for dialogue with the opposition to set the election date. But each time a date was mutually agreed upon, the opposition backed out after their US handlers intervened. As for the disqualified parties, they had lost their ballot status because they had boycotted past elections. They then refused to reapply for ballot status, because their intention was not to participate in the electoral process.

Opposition candidates, namely Leopoldo López and Henrique Capriles, were barred from running, because they had committed criminal acts that warranted their exclusion. López clearly incited violence that resulted in deaths and would have received far harsher treatment had he committed such acts in the US. Capriles was convicted of economic fraud, “administrative irregularities,” during his tenure as a state governor. While the courts found Capriles guilty, this action against a political opponent damaged the Maduro government’s international image.

Overall, the charges of fraud by the radical right opposition were mainly pretenses to delegitimize the upcoming election. However, several moderate opposition candidates did run, defying the US demand that the election be boycotted.

Henri Falcón was the leading opposition candidate to run in 2018, championing a neoliberal platform of privatization, austerity for workers, and subservience to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The US, which would ordinarily gleefully embrace such a platform, instead threatened Falcón with sanctions for breaking the election boycott.

The explanation for this seemingly anomalous behavior by the US government is that the stakes in Venezuela are much higher than just the presidency. The regime-change project is to exterminate the Bolivarian Revolution, reverse its social gains, and return Venezuela to a subservient client state where the world’s largest oil reserves would be freely exploited by US corporations.

Orwellian world of US foreign policy

As CEO of the capitalist world order (that is what is meant by exercising “American world leadership”), then US President Obama declared in 2015 that Venezuela constituted an imminent and extraordinary threat to US national security. He didn’t mean a military or even an economic threat. That would have been preposterous. What Obama was implicitly confirming is that Venezuela poses a “threat of a good example.” Venezuela is at the top of US imperialism’s hit list because of the good things, not for its faults.

President Trump has intensified Obama’s regime-change policies aimed at Venezuela. Condemning the Bolivarian Revolution, Trump opined: “Socialism is not about justice, it’s not about equality, it’s not about lifting up the poor.” Might he have been really thinking of capitalism? His national security advisor John Bolton tweeted that removing the democratically elected President Maduro by violent coup and installing the US-anointed and unelected Guaidó is protecting the Venezuelan constitution.

On the other side of the aisle, Senator Sanders accused Chávez of being a “dead communist dictator.” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez described the US regime-change war as a contest of “authoritarian regime versus democracy,” with the questionable presumption that the US is the democracy.

In the Orwellian terminology of US politicians and corporate media, a fraudulent election is one where the people vote their choice. A dictator is the democratically elected choice of the people. And the so-called dictator is an authoritarian if he resists rather than surrenders to the bullying power.

Surrender does not appear to be on the agenda for the Bolivarian Revolution, with US asset Guaidó forced to negotiate in Norway after his failed coup attempts. Despite the suffocating sanctions and threats of military action, the poor and working people in Venezuela who are most adversely affected by the US war against them remain the strongest supporters of their elected government.

Make Orwell fiction again!

How Russiagate replaced Analysis of the 2016 Election

An honest and accurate analysis of the 2016 election is not just an academic exercise. It is very relevant to the current election campaign. Yet over the past two years, Russiagate has dominated media and political debate and largely replaced a serious analysis of the factors leading to Trump’s victory. The public has been flooded with the various elements of the story that Russia intervened and Trump colluded with them. The latter accusation was negated by the Mueller Report but elements of the Democratic Party and media refuse to move on. Now it’s the lofty but vague accusations of “obstruction of justice” along with renewed dirt digging. To some it is a “constitutional crisis”, but to many it looks like more partisan fighting.

Russiagate has distracted from pressing issues

Russiagate has distracted attention and energy away from crucial and pressing issues such as income inequality, the housing and homeless crisis, inadequate healthcare, militarized police, over-priced college education, impossible student loans and deteriorating infrastructure. The tax structure was changed to benefit wealthy individuals and corporations with little opposition. The Trump administration has undermined environmental laws, civil rights, national parks and women’s equality while directing ever more money to military contractors. Working class Americans are struggling with rising living costs, low wages, student debt, and racism. They constitute the bulk of the military which is spread all over the world, sustaining continuing occupations in war zones including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and parts of Africa. While all this has been going on, the Democratic establishment and much of the media have been focused on Russiagate, the Mueller Report, and related issues.

Immediately after the 2016 Election

In the immediate wake of the 2016 election there was some forthright analysis. Bernie Sanders said, “What Trump did very effectively is tap the angst and the anger and the hurt and pain that millions of working class people are feeling. What he said is, ‘I Donald Trump am going to be a champion of the working class… I know you are working longer hours for lower wages, seeing your jobs going to China, can’t afford childcare, can’t afford to send your kids to college. I Donald Trump alone can solve these problems.’ …What you have is a guy who utilized the media, manipulated the media very well. He is an entertainer, he is a professional at that. But I will tell you that I think there needs to be a profound change in the way the Democratic Party does business. It is not good enough to have a liberal elite. I come from the white working class and I am deeply humiliated that the Democratic Party cannot talk to the people where I came from.”

Days after the election, the Washington Post published an op-ed titled “Hillary Clinton Lost. Bernie Sanders could have won. We chose the wrong candidate.” The author analyzed the results saying, “Donald Trump’s stunning victory is less surprising when we remember a simple fact: Hillary Clinton is a deeply unpopular politician.” The writer analyzed why Sanders would have prevailed against Trump and predicted “there will be years of recriminations.”

Russiagate replaced Recrimination

But instead of analysis, the media and Democrats have emphasized foreign interference. There is an element of self-interest in this narrative. As reported in “Russian Roulette” (p127), when the Clinton team first learned that Wikileaks was going to release damaging Democratic National Party emails in June 2016, they “brought in outside consultants to plot a PR strategy for handling the news of the hack … the story would advance a narrative that benefited the Clinton campaign and the Democrats: The Russians were interfering in the US election, presumably to assist Trump.”

After losing the election, Team Clinton doubled down on this PR strategy. As described in the book Shattered (p. 395) the day after the election campaign managers assembled the communication team “to engineer the case that the election wasn’t entirely on the up and up …. they went over the script they would pitch to the press and the public. Already, Russian hacking was the centerpiece of the argument.”

This narrative has been remarkably effective in supplanting critical review of the election.

One Year After the Election

The Center for American Progress (CAP) was founded by John Podesta and is closely aligned with the Democratic Party. In November 2017 they produced an analysis titled  “Voter Trends in 2016: A Final Examination“. Interestingly, there is not a single reference to Russia. Key conclusions are that “it is critical for Democrats to attract more support from the white non-college-educated voting bloc” and “Democrats must go beyond the ‘identity politics’ versus ‘economic populism’ debate to create a genuine cross-racial, cross-class coalition …” It suggests that Wall Street has the same interests as Main Street and the working class.

A progressive team produced a very different analysis titled Autopsy: The Democratic Party in Crisis. They did this because “the (Democratic) party’s national leadership has shown scant interest in addressing many of the key factors that led to electoral disaster.” The report analyzes why the party turnout was less than expected and why traditional Democratic Party supporters are declining. It includes recommendations to end the party’s undemocratic practices, expand voting rights and counter voter suppression. The report contains details and specific recommendations lacking in the CAP report. It includes an overall analysis which says “The Democratic Party should disentangle itself – ideologically and financially – from Wall Street, the military-industrial complex and other corporate interests that put profits ahead of public needs.”

Two Years After the Election

In October 2018, the progressive team produced a follow-up report titled “Autopsy: One Year Later“.  It says, “The Democratic Party has implemented modest reforms, but corporate power continues to dominate the party.”

In a recent phone interview, the editor of that report, Norman Solomon, said it appears some in the Democratic Party establishment would rather lose the next election to Republicans than give up control of the party.

What really happened in 2016?

Beyond the initial critiques and “Autopsy” research, there has been little discussion, debate or lessons learned about the 2016 election. Politics has been dominated by Russiagate.

Why did so many working class voters switch from Obama to Trump? A major reason is because Hillary Clinton is associated with Wall Street and the economic policies of her husband President Bill Clinton. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), promoted by Bill Clinton, resulted in huge decline in manufacturing jobs in swing states such as Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Of course, this would influence their thinking and votes. Hillary Clinton’s support for the Trans Pacific Partnership was another indication of her policies.

What about the low turnout from the African American community? Again, the lack of enthusiasm is rooted in objective reality. Hillary Clinton is associated with “welfare reform” promoted by her husband. According to this study from the University of Michigan, “As of the beginning of 2011, about 1.46 million U.S. households with about 2.8 million children were surviving on $2 or less in income per person per day in a given month… The prevalence of extreme poverty rose sharply between 1996 and 2011. This growth has been concentrated among those groups that were most affected by the 1996 welfare reform.

Over the past several decades there has been a huge increase in prison incarceration due to increasingly strict punishments and mandatory prison sentences. Since the poor and working class have been the primary victims of welfare and criminal justice “reforms” initiated or sustained through the Clinton presidency, it’s understandable why they were not keen on Hillary Clinton. The notion that low turnout was due to African Americans being unduly influenced by Russian Facebook posts is seen as “bigoted paternalism” by blogger Teodrose Fikremanian who says,The corporate recorders at the NY Times would have us believe that the reason African-Americans did not uniformly vote for Hillary Clinton and the Democrats is because they were too dimwitted to think for themselves and were subsequently manipulated by foreign agents. This yellow press drivel is nothing more than propaganda that could have been written by George Wallace.”

How Clinton became the Nominee

Since the 2016 election there has been little public discussion of the process whereby Hillary Clinton became the Democratic Party nominee. It’s apparent she was pre-ordained by the Democratic Party elite. As exposed in the DNC emails, there was bias and violations of the party obligations at the highest levels. On top of that, it should now be clear that the pundits, pollsters and election experts were out of touch, made poor predictions and decisions.

Bernie Sanders would have been a much stronger candidate. He would have won the same party loyalists who voted for Clinton. His message attacking Wall Street would have resonated with significant sections of the working class and poor who were unenthusiastic (to say the least) about Clinton. An indication is that in critical swing states such as Wisconsin and Michigan Bernie Sanders beat Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary race.

Clinton had no response for Trump’s attacks on multinational trade agreements and his false promises of serving the working class. Sanders would have had vastly more appeal to working class and minorities. His primary campaign showed his huge appeal to youth and third party voters. In short, it’s likely that Sanders would have trounced Trump. Where is the accountability for how Clinton ended up as the Democratic Party candidate?

The Relevance of 2016 to 2020

The 2016 election is highly relevant today. Already we see the same pattern of establishment bias and “horse race” journalism which focuses on fund-raising, polls and elite-biased “electability” instead of dealing with real issues, who has solutions, who has appeal to which groups.

Mainstream media and pundits are already promoting Joe Biden. Syndicated columnist EJ Dionne, a Democratic establishment favorite, is indicative. In his article “Can Biden be the helmsman who gets us past the storm?” Dionne speaks of the “strength he (Biden) brings” and the “comfort he creates”. In the same vein, Andrew Sullivan pushes Biden in his article “Why Joe Biden Might be the Best to Beat Trump“. Sullivan thinks that Biden has appeal in the working class because he joked about claims he is too ‘hands on’. But while Biden may be tight with AFL-CIO leadership, he is closely associated with highly unpopular neoliberal trade deals which have resulted in manufacturing decline.

The establishment bias for Biden is matched by the bias against Democratic Party candidates who directly challenge Wall Street and US foreign policy. On Wall Street, that would be Bernie Sanders. On foreign policy, that is Tulsi Gabbard. With a military background Tulsi Gabbard has broad appeal, an inclusive message and a uniquely sharp critique of US “regime change” foreign policy. She calls out media pundits like Fareed Zakaria for goading Trump to invade Venezuela. In contrast with Rachel Maddow taunting John Bolton and Mike Pompeo to be MORE aggressive, Tulsi Gabbard has been denouncing Trump’s collusion with Saudi Arabia and Israel’s Netanyahu, saying it’s not in US interests. Gabbard’s anti-interventionist anti-occupation perspective has significant support from US troops. A recent poll indicates that military families want complete withdrawal from Afghanistan and Syria. It seems conservatives have become more anti-war than liberals.

This points to another important yet under-discussed lesson from 2016: a factor in Trump’s victory was that he campaigned as an anti-war candidate against the hawkish Hillary Clinton. As pointed out here, “Donald Trump won more votes from communities with high military casualties than from similar communities which suffered fewer casualties.”

Instead of pointing out that Trump has betrayed his anti-war campaign promises, corporate media (and some Democratic Party outlets) seem to be undermining the candidate with the strongest anti-war message. An article at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) says, Corporate media target Gabbard for her Anti-Interventionism, a word they can barely pronounce.”

Russiagate has distracted most Democrats from analyzing how they lost in 2016. It has given them the dubious  belief that it was because of foreign interference. They have failed to analyze or take stock of the consequences of DNC bias, the preference for Wall Street over working class concerns, and the failure to challenge the military industrial complex and foreign policy based on ‘regime change’ interventions.

There needs to be more analysis and lessons learned from the 2016 election to avoid a repeat of that disaster. As indicated in the Autopsy, there needs to be a transparent and fair campaign for nominee based on more than establishment and Wall Street favoritism. There also needs to be consideration of which candidates reach beyond the partisan divide and can energize and advance the interests of the majority of Americans rather than the elite. The most crucial issues and especially US military and foreign policy need to be seriously debated.

Blaming an outside power is a good way to prevent self analysis and positive change. It’s gone on far too long.

Pseudo-Socialist Bernie Sanders Finally Opposes Charter Schools

After wavering and making confusing statements about charter schools three years ago when he was running for President, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, who is running for President again, finally came out and issued a broad education plan on May 18, 2019 which, among other things, opposes charter schools.

Part two of Sanders’ ten-part “Thurgood Marshall Plan for Public Education” is titled, “End the Unaccountable Profit-Motive of Charter Schools.’

Sanders begins this part of his education plan for the nation by repeating the incorrect and refuted narrative, stubbornly promoted by the left, democrats, and “progressives,” that charter schools had humble, positive, grass-roots origins, as opposed to being conceived, organized, and implemented by neoliberals committed to destroying the natural and social environment.

After that, Sanders properly notes that: “Charter schools are led by unaccountable, private bodies, and their growth has drained funding from the public school system.” He also provides data showing that charter schools are significantly more segregated than public schools.

Sanders rightly demands that: “The damage to communities caused by unregulated charter school growth must be stopped and reversed.”

Reversing charter schools should include making reparations to public schools because of the severe harm charter schools have inflicted on them for more than 25 years.

Sanders goes on to call for a ban on for-profit charter schools and a moratorium on public funds for charter school expansion. Any time the funneling of public funds to the rich is stopped, that is a good thing for the economy, society, and people.

The remaining points in Sanders’ education plan correctly call for greater accountability in the notoriously low-transparency scandal-ridden charter school sector.

All these statements and demands should be supported because they serve education, the economy, society, and the national interest.

Finally, while Sanders states that “Every human being has the fundamental right to a good education,” this is not the same as saying education is a basic human right. The phrase “fundamental right” means something specific under U.S. law, namely that a law is “fundamental” if it is explicitly or implicitly expressed in the constitution. This does not, however, speak to whether said right enshrined in the constitution is an inalienable human right that government must guarantee in practice.

For its part, the billionaire-backed National Alliance of Public Charter Schools is self-servingly mischaracterizing Sanders’ opposition to charter schools as an attack on “what African Americans want”—the same African Americans that have been disrespected, abandoned, and betrayed by thousands of charter schools that have closed over the years.

Unfortunately, when all is said and done, despite the many positives of his belated position on charter schools, Sanders, as he did three years ago, will again play the calculated role of betraying millions of people who do actually want a much better society. Millions want an alternative to capitalism. People are fed up with an economy that cannot provide for the needs of the people. Sanders knows he will not be President and can afford to sound bold, daring, and pro-social. As he did three years ago, he will hand-over millions of supporters and voters to the Democratic party, which has long supported charter schools and other antisocial arrangements. Of course, this “hand-over” did not go so smoothly in 2016, but it is the aim of Sanders’ 2020 campaign for President.

Everyone, regardless of political affiliation, should vigorously oppose nonprofit and for-profit charter schools. These privately-operated, test-obsessed, segregated schools that oppose unions and have high teacher turnover rates have caused immense harm to the social environment. The call of the times is to defend public education and deprive the rich of their ability to dictate affairs in education and other spheres.