Category Archives: Bernie Sanders

The Wisdom Of Serpents

Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
— Mathew 10:16

While there is a lower class, I am in it, while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.
— Eugene Debs, Statement to the Court upon being convicted of violating the Sedition Act, September 18, 1918

Last month I called Bernie Sanders’ Democratic party primary run “sheepdogging” my term for a move the national Democratic party seems to execute every presidential primary season when there’s no incumbent White House Democrat. The job of the sheepdog candidate is to herd leftish voters and activists back into the Democratic party one more time by giving perhaps sincere but limited and ineffectual voice to some of their issues.
— Bruce A. Dixon.  “This is what happens when we follow the Democrat sheepdog.  And what can happen if we don’t”, Black Agenda Report, June 3, 2015

I keep watching the ways in which people, left leaning liberals anyway, and even some I thought were leftists, fall over themselves to believe in the Alexandria Ocasio Cortez victory. Now, I don’t believe, I should make clear. But I find what is interesting is the ways in which this story became a kind of fairy tale and found traction. First, it’s New York. If this occurs in Port Huron or Tampa or Bakersfield — there is no story. Secondly, this woman came out of the Democratic Party machine, out of Ted Kennedy’s office and Bernie Sanders campaign. Does that not tell you something? But third, there is something curious about her whole story. And her web page says her father was a small business owner and other places it says he is an architect. None of this matters, mind you, except that she is certainly not well known in the Bronx by activists or anyone else. She strikes me, personally, as culturally a Westchester County product, not the Bronx. And I guess I find her a bit too telegenic, too perfect an image. Not to mention she is already parroting DNC rhetoric about Russiagate and already making friendly with the fascist opposition against Venezuela. One would think a Latina would know better, no? The U.S. is, after all, on the verge of possible military intervention in Venezuela — and house and senate Democrats are perfectly aligned with this thinking. When did anyone last hear a Democrat voice support for the Bolivarian revolution? Then there is the fact that her most intense support came from white affluent gentrifiers in her district. So a radical she is not.

Now this is not about Ocasio-Cortez. I think soon enough the reality will set in. Or maybe it is. I will return to that. But my question has to do with why anyone wants to believe in a Democrat in the first place? Now, the very first presidential election I ever voted in, yay those many year ago, was 1972. I voted for Democrat George McGovern of South Dakota. That was the last time I voted Democrat as well. And it is an interesting side bar note here that current Democratic Party shills like Maddow and Jonathan Chait love to compare all left leaning democrats to McGovern. And the truth is, Goldwater lost just as badly but the Republicans responded by doubling down on the extreme paleo conservatism of Barry and got themselves 8 years of The Gipper. But I digress.

Let’s take a look at what the Democratic Party has been up to lately…

Here, from Forbes magazine…:

…the Senate on Monday voted in favor of a $716 billion military spending bill for the 2019 federal fiscal year. The House had already passed it last month. This is $82 billion higher than the current budget, which itself was more than the Trump administration requested. Who says those in the Beltway can’t pull together for a common cause?  This year, 67.5% of House Democrats and 85% of Senate Democrats voted in favor.

Ponder that a moment. Over 700 billion. I mean that is getting close to double what it was under Bush or Obama. And yet people are living under freeway overpasses, in packing crates, and in make shift encampments on the edge of every city in America, literally. Over 42 million Americans, as of 2016, were listed as food insecure. 13 million children. Now the Democrats also defeated a proposal put forth by Sanders’ surrogates that looked for very tepid limited restrictions on fracking and an also mild statement on Palestinian rights. Both were shot down by the Dems.. (per Lauren McCauley):

Former U.S. Representative Howard Berman, American Federation of State, County, and Muncipal Employees executive assistant to the president, Paul Booth, former White House Energy and Climate Change Policy director Carol Browner, Ohio State Representative Alicia Reece, former State Department official Wendy Sherman, and Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden…

In other words the Democrats want no change.

Meanwhile the drinking water in Flint Michigan is no better than it ever was. Then we have the Democrats whole-hearted support of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, who, with U.S. approval and help and support have destroyed Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world. Dan Glazebrook wrote last year (it’s worse now):

And on 23rd January, the UN reported that there are now 22.2 million Yemenis in need of humanitarian assistance – 3.4 million more than the previous year – with eight million on the brink of famine, an increase of one million since 2017.

The United States is directly helping a mass genocide of the Yemeni people. And very few Americans care. No Democrats care. Well, let me clarify, for this is a perfect example of the Democratic Party and its record. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Bernie Sanders introduced a bill to limit (sort of) U.S. involvement in the aforementioned genocide. It was soft stuff. But 15 Democrats helped Republicans table the bill. Little discussion came out of that. And it was bullshit legislation anyway.

Now, this is all sort of tweezing apart stuff that is so horrific and nightmarish that it’s hard to know how to describe it. The war against defenseless Yemen began under Obama. You remember him? That Democratic President. Trump, of course, intensified support for the genocide. And Democrats are not complaining. Children are starving and dying from famine and cholera…but there is no coverage of this, really. Why is there no outrage about Israel shooting down unarmed protestors? Well, Chuck Schumer signed a bill with other Democrats to make criticism of Israel a crime. Killing OK, criticizing NOT OK.

Now, ahead of Mike Pence’s (the Dominionist bat shit nuts VP) visit to Ecuador, a number of Democrats signed a bill to bring Julian Assange back to stand trial. James Cogan writes…

The signatories are a roll-call of leading congressional Democrats: Robert Menendez, Dick Durbin, Richard Blumenthal, Edward J. Markey, Michael Bennet, Christopher Coons, Joe Manchin, Jeanne Shaheen, Diane Feinstein and Mark Warner.

They went out of their way to get behind shutting up Assange and throwing him in a dark cell in Leavenworth and then just forgetting about him.

Cogan adds…:

…in a sweeping conspiracy theory, the CIA, FBI and NSA portrayed the 2016 publication by WikiLeaks of emails and documents from the Democratic National Committee (DNC), and then emails sent by top Democratic Party figure John Podesta, as the product of a nefarious Russian plot to undermine Hillary Clinton and assist the victory of Donald Trump.

Many liberals, if not most, and certainly the majority of Democrats are all on board to prosecute Assange. Trump very usefully serves that purpose, you see. The hatred of Trump (who seems to work very hard to be hated) allows for the Democrats (and their liberal enablers) to escalate the new Russophobic propaganda and divert attention from things like the increased defense budget, the private prison complex that profits hugely from the ICE raids and illegal deportations, and the continuing (even growing) crimes of mass incarceration. No, people are given to partisan fighting over issues like gay marriage, or flag desecration, or gender neutral pronouns or whatever. They do not have public fights about foreign policy because both major parties are in total agreement. Trump is only carrying out policy that Obama started, largely, and that Hillary would have continued as well (only likely worse). For foreign policy is the black hole in American consciousness.

The US has been in Afghanistan for sixteen years. Why do people not talk about this? Sixteen years. That’s a permanent occupation. The U.S. under Democratic leadership and under the direction of Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, destroyed Libya and assassinated its leader Muammar Gaddafi. Clinton then famously laughed about it on TV. Libya is now holding outdoor slave sales. It is a failed state where once it was one of the most advanced and stable countries in the region. Or Syria. The targeting of the Assad government was a unanimous decision of both parties. Or sanctions against Iran…again both parties. Or militarizing Africa (or support for war criminal Paul Kagame), both parties. In fact, Democratic presidents Obama and Clinton were far worse than Republicans in terms of protecting western Capital in Africa and building up AFRICOM.

Or take the recent Democratic Party attack on the Trump/Kim Jong-Un summit. Ajamu Baraka wrote:

If more proof was needed to persuade anyone that the Democrats are indeed a war party, it was provided when Senator Chuck Schumer and other Democrat leaders in the Senate engaged in a cynical stunt to stake out a position to the right of John Bolton on the summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un.

Schumer demanded terms that no nation anywhere on earth at any time in history, could accept. Ergo, he wanted this summit to fail. And that failure then would make it easier to justify an invasion of the DPRK.

You see, the Democratic Party is the party of finance capital, of Wall Street, and the only difference from Republicans is that Democrats tend to express themselves in the terms of identity politics. Trump’s presidency expresses itself in the terms of nativist xenophobic racists. But honestly, they all vote mostly the same.

Obama’s electoral coalition was driven by the professional class that had arisen to manage the various segments of the financialized economy. Since they derive significant benefits from late capitalism, the professionals eschew class-struggle based politics.
— Peter Lavenia. “The Revenge of Class and the Death of the Democratic Party“, Counterpunch, November 16, 2016

Never mention class. Things that have some importance, such as marijuana legalization were decidedly better under Democrats. And that certainly matters. But remember, all those small incremental gains by Democrats did little or nothing to change the staggering inequality of the system itself. But people are terrorized. That is why Ocasio-Cortez is embraced so uncritically. People are genuinely terrified. They are without protection at work, and they are unprotected by any sort of comprehensive medical program. They are unprotected from the militarized racist police forces of every American city and town. A militarization, it should be noted, that began in ernest under Obama.

But perhaps most important in any discussion of the Democratic Party are their ties to the CIA.

Patrick Martin writes:

An extraordinary number of former intelligence and military operatives from the CIA, Pentagon, National Security Council and State Department are seeking nomination as Democratic candidates for Congress in the 2018 midterm elections. The potential influx of military-intelligence personnel into the legislature has no precedent in US political history.

If the Democrats capture a majority in the House of Representatives on November 6, as widely predicted, candidates drawn from the military-intelligence apparatus will comprise as many as half of the new Democratic members of Congress.”

This is interesting for a variety of reasons, not least of which is that the DNC does nothing to hide this but rather sees it a sure fire vote getter.

Martin again:

The total of such candidates for the Democratic nomination in the 102 districts is 221. Each has a website that gives biographical details, which we have collected and reviewed for this report. It is notable that those candidates with a record in the military-intelligence apparatus, as well as civilian work for the State Department, Pentagon or National Security Council, do not hide their involvement, particularly in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They clearly regard working as a CIA agent in Baghdad, an Army special ops assassin in Afghanistan, or a planner for drone missile warfare in the White House or Pentagon as a star on their résumé, rather than something to conceal.

Among these new candidates running as Democrats are former CIA operatives (Abigail Spanberger), a military intelligence officer with two tours in Iraq (Patrick Ryan), a naval intelligence officer, who also served in the US European Command in Stuttgart, Germany (Jonathan Ebel), a deep cover op for the CIA in Latin America ( helly Chauncey), a twenty three year Navy Seal veteran with several tours in Iraq (Joel Butner), a Pentagon advisor to David Petraeus (Andy Kim), a former member of the 82nd Airborne and part of a Joint Special Operations Task Force on counter-terrorism in Afghanistan (Jason Crow). This is just a sampling. There are also a host of former State Department candidates, too.

One example (quoting Martin again…) is:

Sara Jacobs is another State Department official turned Clinton campaign aide, working on “conflict zones in East and West Africa,” particularly the campaign against Boko Haram in Nigeria, and helping to “spearhead President Obama’s efforts to improve governance in the security sector of our counterterrorism partners,” according to her campaign website. She was a foreign policy adviser to the Clinton campaign and is now seeking the Democratic nomination in California’s 49th District …

But, in fact, there are forty some others. The Democratic Party is now the party of the CIA and Pentagon, and in both cases with a heavy emphasis on intelligence. Career military and CIA veterans make up the best financed of Democratic Party candidates. Again, these bios are seen as a plus for the DNC — and this in no small measure is the result of Hollywood film and TV. The infiltration of Hollywood by the Pentagon, CIA, and FBI is now hardly even a secret. Almost every show with anything to do with the military has CIA advisors right there in the writers’ room. And if the story has to do with cops, you can count on veteran law enforcement advisors, too.

The anti-Trump fervor is understandable, and justified, but the Democrats are not the opposition. They are better spoken version of the same Imperialist state. And domestically, these veteran CIA operatives and military intel veterans are hardly going to embrace progressive causes. They are hardly going to look to dismantle the racist militarized police apparatus or challenge the racist judicial system. They are not going to seek reforms for mass incarceration. Most of them have experience with black sites and torture, with the pacification of entire populations, and with all manner of counter insurgency tactics.

The Democratic Party is the party of affluence. And these candidates reflect a growing hostility to the working class and a growing embrace of conservative law and order values. And in that sense Ocasio-Cortez fits right in.

Nick Pemberton wrote:

The Democrats have engaged in the deregulation of the economy. They have attacked unions. They have cut funding for public schools and replaced them with prisons. They have promoted pipelines and wars for oil. They have supported vicious trade deals that hurt workers and destroy the environment. If the world was to run as is with Democrats in place of Republicans we would still become extinct in the near future. If not by nuclear annihilation, then by climate change.

So, back to Ocasio-Cortez for a moment. Teodrose Fikre wrote:

Year after year, election after election, we keep falling for the latest fresh faces who promise to go to DC and drain the swamp of corruption and nepotism. The results always end up the same way, hope being paid back with hopelessness as the politicians we put our faith in sell their souls in order to retain power and celebrity. This is how the establishment remains fixed no matter who gets elected; the people in charge are not the politicians we elect but the donors who fund their campaigns and the insiders who determine rank and privileges within the party infrastructure. ( ) No more voting for the lesser of two evils and no more listening to people who try to convince you that supporting ideas outside of the Democrat/Republican divide is wasted energy. Don’t fall for the merry-go-round of personalities who keep being unleashed to sheepdog voters back to this two-party racket.

PS. More than 90% of mainstream media is owned by six corporations (read six people), they don’t allow true change agents to have access to the airwaves. Be cautious and twice skeptical when unknown candidates are given millions in free advertisement by the same interests they’re supposedly fighting.

Ocasio-Cortez was on Colbert, she was given a feature in Vogue. (Cynthia McKinney, who has a good deal more integrity than almost anyone else in her rotten party, was never invited on Cobert when she stood alone to call out President Bush on his Carlyle Group links, Saudi connections, and illegal invasion of Iraq. Why? Not telegenic or perky enough?).

So let me summarize…..The Democratic Party is now drawing heavily from military intelligence, the CIA, Pentagon and State Department (with specific emphasis on those with intelligence experience). These sorts of backgrounds suggest most of these candidates have knowledge of propaganda and psy-ops, as well as a basic value system that is consonant with American exceptionalism. They know a lot, we presume, about marketing strategies and about disinformation. So, is it not peculiar to anyone that this new face of pseudo socialism pops up right now — literally out of nowhere? See, to me it feels very Obama like. It’s perception management meets electoral long game strategic thinking. Honestly, all the talk of keeping an eye on her (Ocasio-Cortez) and making sure she honors her principles, etc…all of this feels wildly naive and almost delusional, frankly. One has to learn to read the codes. And since it is a proven fact that the Democrat Party is utterly corrupt, in bed with Wall Street and big corporate entities in agriculture, telecoms, and pharmaceuticals, as well as the military itself — why would one want to give a candidate FOR this utterly corrupt party the benefit of the doubt?

Now on my bullshit meter (a term I don’t really like but whatever) the needle went directly to red. In fact it broke and stuck in the red zone. So, the subjective side is I just found everything about her fake. I recoiled with that awful feeling of being faced with a fraud. Apparently many did not have that response. But I did. Bernie was called a *sheepdog*. The political slang for a left leaning candidate who cant and doesn’t want to win but who will draw disaffected voters back into the party. Bernie eventually endorsing Hillary Clinton, of course. I’m wondering why Ocasio-Cortez is not so perceived? Except I suspect she does want to win and to keep on winning. OC in 2024!!! That is what I think might well happen. She ticks off all the boxes. She has to wait until she turns 35 if I’m not mistaken, but this feels every bit a trial balloon. We shall see.

Meanwhile….here is something to support and make known: Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee

Making the 2018 Elections a Struggle for Peace, Jobs and Justice

As we head into a pivotal mid-term election year, it is clear the Democratic Party establishment has not learned a key lesson from the 2016 election. That is, that many of the party’s former and current constituents reject the party’s establishment leadership and its lackluster program. These voters are looking for alternatives. In 2016, en masse they deserted the party for a new kind of politics they found in Bernie Sanders and some saw in Donald Trump.

Voters passed judgment on the leading figures of both parties. Distrust and discontent disrupted politics as usual. The opportunity to fill this void with left-of-center electoral initiatives abound. It starts with building on the momentum of Bernie Sanders’s campaign that resonated with tens of millions. In some fashion or another, ready or not, the 2018 midterm elections must become an arena of struggle for peace, economic security and racial justice.

Sanders’ leadership in 2016, and still today, falls short in two key areas to meet this challenge. First, during his campaign he did not offer Americans a bold new foreign policy. To start with, a plan to end the war on terrorism and the foreign military adventures that have made us less safe and destabilized and laid waste to a dozen nations. Secondly, after November, instead of calling for discussion on forming a new political party he and his advisors chose to form yet another 501c entity, Our Revolution, primarily as a vehicle to move the Democratic Party to the left. It would behoove Sanders to reconsider both choices. The Democratic Party’s electoral structure is certainly a vehicle for advancing progressive and even left candidates, but the party’s owners are not likely to hand over its bank accounts to Sanders, labor unions and people’s organizations.

Months after the elections the Clinton-Obama-Pelosi centrists still hold the reins and drive a shameless hubris as they scramble to blame someone for the party’s declining appeal and its 2016 losses. No, it was not Obama and Clinton’s support of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) or Bill Clinton’s betrayal of labor unions on NAFTA.  It was not due to Hillary’s use of the term “super predators” in 1996 to describe black youth involved in criminal activity. No, it was not the shortcomings of the bureaucratic, insurer-friendly Obamacare.

No, it was the Russian television network Russia Today brainwashing its 8 million American viewers. No, it was Russian cyber meddling in the election, for which months later we have zero evidence. Same goes for alleged Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. No, the loss was due to FBI director James Comey’s late in the game letter to congress about Clinton’s emails. No, it was WikiLeaks alleged release, in collaboration with Russia, of emails showing the Democratic National Committee (DNC) sought to derail Bernie Sanders’ campaign. Which, as we learned was the case.

After a full-court media campaign to convince Americans of Russian meddling, many remain skeptical. In a May 2017 CBS poll, 55 percent of Americans considered the allegations a distraction that “get in the way of getting things done.” In October, 41 percent still agree they were a distraction.1

Clinton again blamed Bernie Sanders in her post-election book tour, dubbed by some The Denial Tour.  “His attacks caused lasting damage, making it harder to unify progressives in the general election….” Not exactly the kind of message designed to heal and unify the party going into 2018 elections. Since polls show Bernie is the most admired politician in America, topping 70 percent, to say her grumbling is a political misstep for the party is an understatement.

Yet, even as Clinton’s own poll ratings dropped to 30 percent, she continued to maintain the loss was due to something other than an uninspiring campaign and the neo-liberal, anti-working class politics the Democratic Party’s centrist leadership has pedaled for 30-plus years. Clinton even blamed the Democratic National Committee (DNC), led by a loyal Clinton supporter, Debbie Wasserman Schulz, saying it “…was on the verge of insolvency. Its data was mediocre to poor, nonexistent, wrong.”2

A crisis of legitimacy

Both Sanders and Trump’s campaigns rode on a crisis of legitimacy in the two parties. Today, only 18 percent of voters consider themselves strong Democrats. The no longer Grand Old Party is slightly worse off at 15 percent. So far, Trump maintains most of his loyal voter support, which we should keep in mind, is only around 25 percent of the total electorate.

The attendant political volatility arising from the 2016 election combined with numerous international crises, presents an opportunity for demagogic appeals to patriotism, xenophobia and racism to deepen and spread. At the same time, it is an opening to advance a working-class political and economic program to provide meaningful, concrete solutions to address people’s grievances and discontents. A program, we might call a Sanders plus program, the plus being a plan for peace.

The Sanders wing of the Democrats is hesitant, waiting. Will Sanders break with the party? Be sidelined? Clearly, Sanders is taking on the establishment, pushing his economic program of social benefits, but it appears his aim is to reform or take over the party. A tough job when those hanging on to power, did not mention Sander’s program until September, when 15 Democratic senators finally endorsed single-payer national health insurance. In the House, progressive Democrats have signed on Bernie’s program for free post-secondary education, paid parental leave and expanding social security. However, there is little evidence of serious actions being taken on the part of the leadership to rally Americans behind the legislation. After Sanders introduced his single-payer bill, Hillary Clinton and other Democratic leaders, notably Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer, told voters they do not support single-payer. Again, the failure of the leadership to learn the lessons of 2016.

Understandably then, Americans give the leadership low marks when it comes to presenting alternatives to Trump’s reactionary program. A Washington Post – ABC News poll in late October this year found only 28 percent of voters thought the Democrats were offering real alternatives.3 Nearly one half of Democratic responders and 65 percent of independents said the leadership was just criticizing Trump. One attempt to launch an alternative program failed miserably.

The Democrats “Better Deal” falls flat

In July, a Pelosi–Schumer road show unveiled the party’s alternative to the Trump-GOP program: “A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future.” In a Washington Post, Op-ed, Pelosi said the Deal, “represents a renewed Democratic commitment to the hard-working men and women across the United States who have been left out and left behind for too long.” It rained hard in Berryville, Virginia that day, the site of show. Reviews rained even harder on the Democrat’s proposal. It made no mention of Sanders’ far-reaching social benefit program that would lift up the left out. Their effort to make a splash with the working class was drowned in empty words, rhetorical promises and contrived apologies for abandoning working-class voters.

If Schumer, Pelosi, Clinton et al wanted to rebuild the party they only need reach out to the millions who responded to Sanders program for expanding social benefits at the expense of the billionaire class. Instead all we hear is Russia, Russia, Russia. Some pundits allege the Democratic leadership is tone-deaf to political reality, but their silence is due to an unwillingness to break with their corporate sponsors any more than are the masters of the once Grand Old Party. Instead both parties, and institutions in their orbits, are worried Americans are losing faith in the long-standing institutions of the limited “democracy of the few” embodied by the two-party capitalist system.

In January, Linda Chavez, a former Reagan cabinet member turned media pundit, put it this way in her New York Post column: “Democracy can only exist as long as the people trust its institutions. The greatest calamity of this election cycle has been the weakening of that trust.” Another reading of her statement is both Sanders and Trump upset the well painted façade of democratic governance. Neither candidate could be trusted to be loyal administrators of the bi-partisan imperialist foreign policy and neo-liberal economic program of capitalism.

While Chavez may lament this decline, those seeking a more just, peaceful society have an opportunity to step into this vacuum and begin building a new political party responsive to, and with, our nation’s multi-national working class, white and blue collar, youth and students. The massive discontent with politics as usual offers fertile ground. The first step is to agree on a working-class program for economic security, peace and racial justice. The next is to bring it into the 2018 mid-term election and beyond.

Resolutions at the AFL-CIO Convention in October showed emerging sentiment among labor union leaders for independence from the two parties and for renewing the idea of a Labor Party. A resolution calling for a pro-worker agenda and “an independent political voice,” stated: “The time has passed when we can passively settle for the lesser of two evils.”4

According to the People’s World reporting from the convention, 50 delegates met for a discussion on the idea of a Labor Party.5 Postal Workers President Mark Dimondstein led a convention floor discussion and roused an applause when he said: “The Democratic Party was not delivering anything even when it had control of the White House, the Congress and the Senate.” This echoed the position of another resolution on electoral politics that concluded that: “continuing to follow the same model, expecting different results, is not an effective strategy for labor.”6

Help wanted: political leaders who stand for something

Propelling the urgency for bold alternatives in 2018 and beyond is that another capitalist economic crisis is looming on the horizon. Absent an alternative such a crisis will enlarge the opening for demagogic solutions like those offered by Trump’s GOP, as well as, austerity measures authored by the corporate allies of both parties. Might it be possible that Our Revolution will find an independent political footing to meet this challenge? Might progressive labor unions unite with people’s movements and Our Revolution to meet this challenge? These possibilities deserve urgent attention if we are to prevent Trump’s new GOP from consolidating power.7

Single-payer advocates welcomed senate Democrats finally getting behind Medicare for all legislation, but there is a steep hill to climb to win over skeptical workers fed up with just about every establishment Democrat. Democratic Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio said, in a New York Times interview in June, following the loss of Jon Ossoff in Georgia, that the party had become “toxic” in much of the country as voters see Democrats as “not being able to connect with the issues they care about.”8

In the same article D. Taylor, the president of the union Unite Here, representing hospitality workers across the country said, “Millions of Americans are desperate to be led by political leaders who stand for something, are willing to take risks, and are willing to tell the truth and engage Americans where they live. That just isn’t happening.” Labor unions and people’s movements who wait for the Democratic Party to make it happen will still be waiting in 2024. Now is the time to build and organize the mass sentiments revealed by the Sanders’ campaign. It’s no time to hesitate or go slow. It is time to take bold risks with confidence and trust that people will respond.

Although the Tim Ryans of the Democratic Party are not likely to call their own foreign policy “toxic,” 2016 showed millions of voters were concerned about Hillary Clinton’s aggressive support of military interventions. Sanders’ repeated criticism of her record resonated broadly with young people, progressives and among the working class. In the fall, Trump even told his voters at rallies that a vote for Hillary would be a vote for more war.

Yet, since the election the Democratic leadership has lent tacit support to Trump’s military budget increases and his ratcheting up of aggression against Venezuela, Iran, North Korea and China. Particularly egregious is the support of both parties’ leaders, for Saudi Arabia’s murderous war against the people of Yemen. Aggression that began with support from the Obama Administration. Not a word of criticism, except for a handful of progressive Democratic officials.

An electoral counter to such dangerous jingoism requires fielding dozens of congressional candidates on a program for peace. This is the glimmer of rationality that peace-loving, oppressed and war-torn peoples around world desperately await U.S. activists to initiate in the citadel of imperialism. Left and progressive organizations that avoid this work shirk their international responsibilities.

A good place to start is to press candidates and incumbents to support a new direction in foreign policy as advanced by AFL-CIO resolution: War is not the Answer.9 It calls on the president and congress “to bring the war dollars home and make our priority as a nation rebuilding this country’s crumbling infrastructure, creating millions of living wage jobs and addressing human needs such as education, health care, housing, retirement security and jobs.  Furthermore, it calls “for a foreign policy based on international solidarity of all workers, mutual respect of all nations and national sovereignty…”

If candidates won’t sign on, challenge them. Pressure them. Americans are tired of war. The AFL-CIO resolution reflects this sentiment. Make 2018 a struggle for peace. General election and primary challengers running on a plan for peace may not win, but such a presence is urgently needed to elevate the struggle for peace, economic security and racial justice.

  1. Americans worried about Russian influence on elections,” October 30, 2017. SurveyMonkey poll conducted from October 23 to October 26.
  2. CNN, Chris Cillizza, Editor-at-large. “In election blame game, it’s time for Hillary Clinton to take her share,” June 1, 2017.
  3. Washington Post. “Trump’s approval rating remains historically low and confidence has declined.” Washington Post-ABC News poll, October 29-November 1, 2017. November 13, 2017.
  4. Resolution 2: “An independent political voice.” Resolutions, 2017 AFL-CIO Convention.
  5. John Wojcik and Mark Gruenberg. People’s World, “AFL-CIO calls for a break with “lesser of two evils” politics,” October 25, 2017.
  6. Resolution 48: “Exploring new directions for labor in electoral politics.”
  7. See my analysis of this danger in the December 2017, Adonde Press pamphlet, “The 2016 Election: Analysis, Lessons and Task Ahead.”
  8. Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin. New York Times. “Democrats Seethe After Georgia Loss: ‘Our Brand Is Worse Than Trump.’”, June 21, 2017.
  9. Resolution 50: “War is not the Answer.” Resolutions, 2017 AFL-CIO Convention.

Preparing For The Coming Transformation

The year 2017 has been another active year for people fighting on a wide range of fronts. The Trump administration has brought many issues that have existed for years out into the open where they are more difficult to deny – racism, colonialism, imperialism, capitalism and patriarchy and the crises they create. More people are activated and greater connections between the fronts of struggle are creating a movement of movements. These are positive developments, bright spots in difficult times. They are the seeds of transformative change that we can nurture and grow if we act with intention.

The crises we face have been building for decades. They are reaching a point of extremism that will create an even greater response by people. What that response is, where it goes and what it accomplishes are up to all of us to determine.

The overreach by the plutocrats in power may bring a boomerang effect, energizing the population to take action and demand the changes we desire and need. We may reach a moment, a turning point, when the movements for economic, racial and environmental justice, as well as peace, can win significant changes, beyond the comfort zones of those in power. The boomerang will only occur if we educate and organize for it, and its size will also depend on us.

We have no illusions that this work will be easy. Those in power will do all that they can to derail, misdirect and suppress our efforts. Our tasks are to resist their tactics and maintain our focus on our end goals. This requires understanding how social movements succeed and being clear in our demands for transformative change.

We see several key areas where people are energized to work for changes that are opportunities to expand the current movement of movements into a powerful force that will overcome the stranglehold by the corporate duopoly parties. This is the first of two articles to help prepare us for the work ahead. In the second article, we will describe these key issues in greater depth and what we need to do to create the transformative moment we need.

The Long Development of this Transformative Era

The era of transformation has been developing over many decades. If we view it through presidential administrations, a frame of reference used commonly in the United States, we see that both major parties represent the interests of the wealthy and corporations, not the majority of the population, and that they effectively divide and weaken popular movements.

After Bill Clinton’s administration loosened regulations on finance, setting the stage for the 2008 crash, brought in trade agreements like NAFTA and weakened the social safety net, and George W. Bush’s administration expanded military aggression around the world and the domestic security state, as well as further enriching the wealthy, people were hungry for change. Barack Obama effectively built his ‘hope and change’ campaign around this desire, vaguely but eloquently promising what people wanted. His words allowed people to imagine that a transformation was coming.

Obama raised expectations, but he did not fulfill them. His cabinet was made up of Wall Streeters from Citigroup. He continued and expanded foreign wars, the wealth divide grew and tens of millions went without healthcare even after his private insurance-based Affordable Care Act became law. The frustration that had been building during the Clinton-Bush years burst onto the scene with Occupy, Fight for $15, Black Lives Matter, debt resistance, immigration reform, Idle No More and other fronts of struggle.

After Occupy, the media told us the people’s struggle went away, but, as we show in the daily movement news reporting on Popular Resistance, all of those struggles expanded. The corporate media’s failure to cover the national mass protest movement does not change reality — the resistance movements continue, are growing and are impacting popular opinion and policies.

Where We Are and What We Must Do

In 2013, we wrote a two part series describing the status of the movement and what the movement must do. In the December 2013 article, “Closer than We Think” we described the eight stages of social movements, an analysis by long-time civil rights and anti-nuclear activist, Bill Moyer. The movement had gone through the “Take-Off”, Stage Four of the social movement when encampments covered the country, seemingly overnight, and brought the issues of the wealth divide, racist policing, climate change, student debt and other issues to the forefront. The meme of the 99% against the 1% illustrated the conflict between people power and the power holders. We passed through Stage Five, “the Landing,” where the encampments disappeared and people asked, “What happened? Did we accomplish anything?”

Our second article in January 2014 focused on the tasks of the movement and explained that we were now in Stage Six, the final stage before victory. This is a long-term phase that could last years where the goal is to build broad national consensus of 70% to 90% support among the public for the goals of the movement and to mobilize people as effective change agents.

During this phase, the contradictions in the system become more obvious to people. For example, as the United States and world experience the harsh realities of climate change in massive storms, widespread fires, droughts and famine, the government’s response is inadequate. When Obama was president his administration was an anchor on the world, weakening international climate and trade agreements. His secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, used her influence to promote fracking. The Trump administration has gone further, denying climate change, erasing words and phrases that describe it from government reports, silencing scientists and undermining the inadequate steps made to confront climate change that were put in place in the Obama era.

The inadequate response to the climate crisis is one example of many multiple crisis situations that exist in which the government does not respond, responds inadequately or even takes actions that make these crises worse. In some cases, the power holders go too far, as we see in the recently passed tax bill, designed to protect the donor class, and in abusive police practices as the racism and violence of our society are exposed. The overreaction in the end helps build the national consensus we need to achieve our objectives.

The contradictions arise because there are obvious solutions to each crisis we face, but those in power refuse to put them in place. National consensus for these solutions grows during this phase, and the failures of the money-dominated political system become more obvious.

As a result, a transformative moment is building now. It can be seen in the 2016 presidential campaigns where people showed frustration with both corporate parties. Electoral challenges inside the parties showed populist anger based on hundreds of millions of people struggling every day to survive in an unfair economy. Donald Trump built his campaign around economic insecurity from the right and Senator Bernie Sanders did the same from the left. Now, Trump is betraying conservative populists with economic and healthcare policies that add to their insecurity and with the wealthiest cabinet in US history serving the interests of Wall Street, the self-interest of elected officials and adding to the distrust of the DC duopoly. The realization of Trump’s betrayal is only beginning to show itself in the lives of those who supported him.

The Democrats have been struggling to come to grips with how they lost to Donald Trump. A large part of the party is in denial, blaming their failures on the fiction of Russiagate — claiming the Russians were responsible for their loss rather than a widely-disliked candidate who represented Wall Street and war for her entire career. The Democrats continue their internal divide: the divide between Wall Street donors who want the party to serve their interests and voters who want the party to represent their interests. Invariably the Democrats will be unable to turn their backs on their donors and will nominate a fake change agent who will spout popular progressive rhetoric and dash those hopes when in office.

It is critical for us to step out of the limitations of two and four year election cycles and recognize that social transformation does not arise by electing the perceived least evil. Social transformation occurs through a people-powered movement of movements that arises over decades of struggle and shifts the political reality so that the power holders must respond.

Issues Driving the Backlash 

There will be a backlash. It will look to the Democrats like a backlash against Trump’s extremism, but it will be broader. It will be a backlash against the extremism of the corporate duopoly. Their bi-partisan policies always put the wealthy and big business interests first. The boomerang will be built on the conflict between the necessities of the people and the planet vs. the greed of the wealthy.

There are a number of fundamental issues that are priorities for large majorities of the population, around which people are mobilizing and where national consensus is developing. They have the potential to connect our movements into a powerful force.

One of our tasks is to develop clear demands so that we cannot be side-tracked by false or partial solutions. If these fundamental issues are addressed through bold and transformative solutions, they will shift the political culture and our political system in a significant way towards the people-powered future we need. They will create change at the root causes of the crises we face.

These transformative issues include economic inequality, lack of access to health care, ensuring Internet freedom and a people’s media, confronting climate change and environmental disasters, ending US Empire and militarism at home, and addressing domestic human rights abuses, whether it is exploitation of workers, mass incarceration, racism or disrespect for Indigenous sovereignty. Throughout all of these issues there is a thread of racial injustice so our struggles must not just solidify around class issues, but must also solidify around the necessity of ending systemic racism.

We will address these issues and next steps in greater depth in the first newsletter of the new year. We wish all of you a peaceful week and hope you are able to spend time with loved ones. We are committed to being with you through the struggle and to doing all we can to stop the machine and create a new world.

Why WikiLeaks Was Right: Rigging the Democratic Way

It took some time of muzzling and concealment before the horror, but various Democrats have finally come clean about the Hillary Clinton machine: things were, it seems, rigged, stacked, and doctored.  This was the language of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump from opposite sides of the political spectrum, the code of anti-establishment anger, the message for disruptive change.

Such anti-establishment creatures were ultimately reviled by orthodox party priests as futile hopes, misguided and bound to lose.  In the great tradition of US presidential politics, they had to be neutralised.

As each less credible than the last figure fell before the Trump juggernaut, Clinton felt she could hold her own on the Democratic wing, keeping Sanders at bay and ultimately convincing a broken Democratic party machine that her famed outfit would steady the ship for an effortless docking in the White House.

Donna Brazile’s revelations, to that end, can hardly be deemed “explosive,” as Politico puts it.  (Damp squib, more like.)  The Podesta emails available on the WikiLeaks site already showed a picture of concern and application against the Sanders threat, a nursed fear that his message was biting.  Tactics are discussed, dirt suggested as to how best to stall and eliminate the Bernie momentum.

In her book Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the White House, the former Democratic National Committee chairwoman reveals collusion and bad smell complicity.  She insists, however, that there was nothing “criminal” in it, though it “compromised the party’s integrity”.  “If the fight had been fair, one campaign would not have control of the party before the voters had decided which one they wanted to lead.”

Brazile is, as ever, careful with the water: she is always ready to wash her hands vigorously in the anticipation that she might be accused of bad faith and shape changing.  She claims to have “promised Bernie when I took the helm of the Democratic National Committee after the convention that I would get to the bottom of whether Hillary Clinton’s team had rigged the nomination process, as a cache of emails stolen by Russian hackers and posted online had suggested.”

The more Brazile goes into the story, the more the story seems old and known. What matters is that she has woken up to it, to Clinton as ruthless and omnivorous.  “Right around the time of the convention, the leaked emails revealed Hillary’s campaign was grabbing money from the state parties for its own purposes, leaving the states with very little to support down-ballot races.”

Brazile’s revelations stimulated interest among certain Democratic politicians, notably Elizabeth Warren who decided to recapitulate the rigging theme in three of five national television interviews.  “We recognize the process was rigged,” explained Warren to Judy Woodruff of PBS, “and now it is up to Democrats to build a new process, a process that really works, and works for everyone.”

Unfortunately for Warren, much of this is fuming after the horse has bolted, the wringing of hands at milk long spilt.  She might well have picked another option, glaringly obvious and daring, but decided to fall into line with the DNC machinery when her protest would have counted most.  Warren ultimately joined forces to give Clinton ballast on the campaign trail.  The ignorance card is only bound to take you so far.

A former Sanders campaign strategist sees the play by Warren for what it is.  “There is a Bernie donor base that’s very important if you want to be in national political office. This is a play for that.” To that end, “Repairing that relationship is more important than poisoning the well with the Clintonites.”

That may well do much to continue undermining the reform agenda, which the Democrats have yet to embrace.  While Clinton attempts to monetise her abysmal failure to defeat Trump through speeches, publications and interviews, Brazile is now reconsidering her slant.

Did she ever actually say, let alone suggest, that the process had been tampered with, sewn up and manipulated in favour of Clinton?  No.  On Twitter, she fretted: “Today’s lesson: Being quoted by Donald Trump means being MIS-quoted by Donald Trump.  Stop trolling me.”

In another statement, Brazile seemed to have undergone a remarkable transformation, suggesting that the author of Hacks had been abducted and substituted.  The problem, as ever, was who was capitalising on her sudden insight.  “Trump looks for a daily excuse to distract from his job.  No, the primary system wasn’t rigged!  States control primary ballots.”

Perhaps this is hardly surprising, when one considers the Russian mania that suffuses her Twitter postings, the usual bellyaching blame game that keeps company with Clinton.  “Russia,” she writes in a re-Tweet of a link from The Guardian, “funded Facebook and Twitter investments through Kushner associate.”  On November 4, she chirps in smug satisfaction how, “Report shows the complex way Russian hackers went after Hillary Clinton and the Democrats.”

Another re-Tweet features a piece by Joy-Anne Reid in The Daily Beast as another attempt to throw critics off the scent, hoping that attention will not be paid to the atrocious conduct of the Clinton machine: “Donna Brazile’s Bombshell Isn’t that Hillary Clinton rigged the race, but that the Democratic Party Blew it.”

All that is true, but the ugly, grizzled picture of Democratic decline and fabled suicide was epitomised by its poor choice of candidate, the party establishment’s inadvertent admission that ossification had set in.   The Warrens fell silent, and Sanders retreated, leaving his supporters to grieve and observe the unfolding calamity.  Trump duly scooped up the remains. WikiLeaks was, after the dust had settled, discomfortingly right.

The Rising of Britain’s “New Politics”

As the Tories plot to get rid of Prime Minister Theresa May, John Pilger analyses the alternative Labour Party, specifically its foreign policy, which may not be what it seems.

*****

Delegates to the recent Labour Party conference in the English seaside town of Brighton seemed not to notice a video playing in the main entrance.  The world’s third biggest arms manufacturer, BAe Systems, supplier to Saudi Arabia, was promoting its guns, bombs, missiles, naval ships and fighter aircraft.

It seemed a perfidious symbol of a party in which millions of Britons now invest their political hopes. Once the preserve of Tony Blair, it is led today by Jeremy Corbyn, whose career has been very different from Blair’s and is rare in British establishment politics.

Addressing the Labour conference, the campaigner Naomi Klein described the rise of Corbyn as “part of a global phenomenon. We saw it in Bernie Sanders’ historic campaign in the US primaries, powered by millennials who know that safe centrist politics offers them no kind of safe future.”

In fact, at the end of the US primary elections last year, Sanders led his followers into the arms of Hillary Clinton, a liberal warmonger from a long tradition in the Democratic Party.

As President Obama’s Secretary of State, Clinton presided over the invasion of Libya in 2011, which led to a stampede of refugees to Europe. She gloated notoriously at the gruesome murder of Libya’s president. Two years earlier, she signed off on a coup that overthrew the democratically elected president of Honduras. That she has been invited to Wales on 14 October to be given an honorary doctorate by the University of Swansea because she is “synonymous with human rights” is unfathomable.

Like Clinton, Sanders is a cold-warrior and an “anti-communist” obsessive with a proprietorial view of the world beyond the United States. He supported Bill Clinton’s and Tony Blair’s illegal assault on Yugoslavia in 1998 and the invasions of Afghanistan, Syria and Libya, as well as Barack Obama’s campaign of terrorism by drone. He backs the provocation of Russia and agrees that the whistleblower Edward Snowden should stand trial. He has called the late Hugo Chavez – a social democrat who won multiple elections – “a dead communist dictator”.

While Sanders is a familiar liberal politician, Corbyn may well be a phenomenon, with his indefatigable support for the victims of American and British imperial adventures and for popular resistance movements.

For example, in the 1960s and 70s, the Chagos islanders were expelled from their homeland, a British colony in the Indian Ocean, by a Labour government. An entire population was kidnapped. The aim was to make way for a US military base on the main island of Diego Garcia: a secret deal for which the British were “compensated” with a discount of $14 million off the price of a Polaris nuclear submarine.

I have had much to do with the Chagos islanders and have filmed them in exile in Mauritius and the Seychelles, where they suffered and grieved and some of them “died from sadness”, as I was told. They found a political champion in a Labour Member of Parliament, Jeremy Corbyn.

So did the Palestinians. So did Iraqis terrorised by a Labour prime minister’s invasion of their country in 2003. So did others struggling to break free from the designs of western power. Corbyn supported the likes of Hugo Chavez, who brought more than hope to societies subverted by the US behemoth.

And yet, now that Corbyn is closer to power than he might have ever imagined, his foreign policy remains a secret.

By secret, I mean there has been rhetoric and little else. “We must put our values at the heart of our foreign policy,” said Corbyn at the Labour conference.  But what are these “values”?

Since 1945, like the Tories, British Labour has been an imperial party, obsequious to Washington and with a record exemplified by the crime in the Chagos islands.

What has changed? Is Jeremy Corbyn saying Labour will uncouple itself from the US war machine, and the US spying apparatus and US economic blockades that scar humanity?

His shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry, says a Corbyn government “will put human rights back at the heart of Britain’s foreign policy”. But human rights have never been at the heart of British foreign policy — only “interests”, as Lord Palmerston declared in the 19th century: the interests of those at the apex of British society.

Thornberry quoted the late Robin Cook who, as Tony Blair’s first Foreign Secretary in 1997, pledged an “ethical foreign policy” that would “make Britain once again a force for good in the world”.

History is not kind to imperial nostalgia. The recently commemorated division of India by a Labour government in 1947 – with a border hurriedly drawn up by a London barrister, Gordon Radcliffe, who had never been to India and never returned – led to blood-letting on a genocidal scale.

Shut up in a lonely mansion, with police night and day
Patrolling the gardens to keep the assassins away,
He got down to work, to the task of settling the fate
Of millions. The maps at his disposal were out of date
And the Census Returns almost certainly incorrect,
But there was no time to check them, no time to inspect
Contested areas. The weather was frightfully hot,
And a bout of dysentery kept him constantly on the trot,
But in seven weeks it was done, the frontiers decided,
A continent for better or worse divided.

— W.H. Auden, ‘Partition’.

It was the same Labour government (1945–51), led by Prime Minister Clement Attlee – “radical” by today’s standards — that dispatched General Douglas Gracey’s British imperial army to Saigon with orders to re-arm the defeated Japanese in order to prevent Vietnamese nationalists from liberating their own country. Thus, the longest war of the century was ignited.

It was a Labour Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, whose policy of “mutuality” and “partnership” with some of the world’s most vicious despots, especially in the Middle East, forged relationships that endure today, often sidelining and crushing the human rights of whole communities and societies. The cause was British “interests” – oil, power, wealth.

In the “radical” 1960s, Labour’s Defence Secretary, Denis Healey, set up the Defence Sales Organisation (DSO) specifically to boost the arms trade and make money from selling lethal weapons to the world. Healey told Parliament, “While we attach the highest importance to making progress in the field of arms control and disarmament, we must also take what practical steps we can to ensure that this country does not fail to secure its rightful share of this valuable market.”

The double-think was quintessentially Labour.

When I later asked Healey about this “valuable market”, he claimed his decision made no difference to the volume of military exports. In fact, it led to an almost doubling of Britain’s share of the arms market. Today, Britain is the second biggest arms dealer on earth, selling arms and fighter planes, machine guns and “riot control” vehicles, to 22 of the 30 countries on the British Government’s own list of human rights violators.

Will this cease under a Corbyn government? The preferred model – Robin Cook’s “ethical foreign policy” – is revealing. Like Jeremy Corbyn, Cook made his name as a backbencher and critic of the arms trade. “Wherever weapons are sold,” wrote Cook, “there is a tacit conspiracy to conceal the reality of war” and “it is a truism that every war for the past two decades has been fought by poor countries with weapons supplied by rich countries”.

Cook singled out the sale of British Hawk fighters to Indonesia as “particularly disturbing”. Indonesia “is not only repressive but actually at war on two fronts: in East Timor, where perhaps a sixth of the population has been slaughtered … and in West Papua, where it confronts an indigenous liberation movement”.

As Foreign Secretary, Cook promised “a thorough review of arms sales”. The then Nobel Peace Laureate, Bishop Carlos Belo of East Timor, appealed directly to Cook: “Please, I beg you, do not sustain any longer a conflict which without these arms sales could never have been pursued in the first place and not for so very long.” He was referring to Indonesia’s bombing of East Timor with British Hawks and the slaughter of his people with British machine guns. He received no reply.

The following week Cook called journalists to the Foreign Office to announce his “mission statement” for “human rights in a new century”. This PR event included the usual private briefings for selected journalists, including the BBC, in which Foreign Office officials lied that there was “no evidence” that British Hawk aircraft were deployed in East Timor.

A few days later, the Foreign Office issued the results of Cook’s “thorough review” of arms sales policy. “It was not realistic or practical,” wrote Cook, “to revoke licences which were valid and in force at the time of Labour’s election victory”. Suharto’s Minister for Defence, Edi Sudradjat, said that talks were already under way with Britain for the purchase of 18 more Hawk fighters. “The political change in Britain will not affect our negotiations,” he said. He was right.

Today, replace Indonesia with Saudi Arabia and East Timor with Yemen. British military aircraft – sold with the approval of both Tory and Labour governments and built by the firm whose promotional video had pride of place at the Labour Party conference – are bombing the life out of Yemen, one of the most impoverished countries in the world, where half the children are malnourished and there is the greatest cholera epidemic in modern times.

Hospitals and schools, weddings and funerals have been attacked. In Ryadh, British military personnel are reported to be training the Saudis in selecting targets.

In Labour’s 2017 manifesto, Jeremy Corbyn and his party colleagues promised that “Labour will demand a comprehensive, independent, UN-led investigation into alleged violations … in Yemen, including air strikes on civilians by the Saudi-led coalition. We will immediately suspend any further arms sales for use in the conflict until that investigation is concluded.”

But the evidence of Saudi Arabia’s crimes in Yemen is already documented by Amnesty and others, notably by the courageous reporting of the British journalist Iona Craig. The dossier is voluminous.

Labour does not promise to stop arms exports to Saudi Arabia. It does not say Britain will withdraw its support for governments responsible for the export of Islamist jihadism. There is no commitment to dismantle the arms trade.

The manifesto describes a “special relationship [with the US] based on shared values … When the current Trump administration chooses to ignore them … we will not be afraid to disagree”.

As Jeremy Corbyn knows, dealing with the US is not about merely “disagreeing”. The US is a rapacious, rogue power that ought not to be regarded as a natural ally of any state championing human rights, irrespective of whether Trump or anyone else is President.

When Emily Thornberry linked Venezuela with the Philippines as “increasingly autocratic regimes” – slogans bereft of contextual truth and ignoring the subversive US role in Venezuela — she was consciously playing to the enemy: a tactic with which Jeremy Corbyn will be familiar.

A Corbyn government will allow the Chagos islanders the right of return. But Labour says nothing about renegotiating the 50-year renewal agreement that Britain has just signed with the US allowing it to use the base on Diego Garcia from which it has bombed Afghanistan and Iraq.

A Corbyn government will “immediately recognise the state of Palestine”. But it is silent on whether Britain will continue to arm Israel, continue to acquiesce in the illegal trade in Israel’s illegal “settlements” and continue to treat Israel merely as a warring party, rather than as an historic oppressor given immunity by Washington and London.

On Britain’s support for Nato’s current war preparations, Labour boasts that the “last Labour government spent above the benchmark of 2 per cent of GDP” on Nato. It says, “Conservative spending cuts have put Britain’s security at risk” and promises to boost Britain’s military “obligations”.

In fact, most of the £40 billion Britain currently spends on the military is not for territorial defence of the UK but for offensive purposes to enhance British “interests” as defined by those who have tried to smear Jeremy Corbyn as unpatriotic.

If the polls are reliable, most Britons are well ahead of their politicians, Tory and Labour. They would accept higher taxes to pay for public services; they want the National Health Service restored to full health. They want decent jobs and wages and housing and schools; they do not hate foreigners but resent exploitative labour. They have no fond memory of an empire on which the sun never set.

They oppose the invasion of other countries and regard Blair as a liar.  The rise of Donald Trump has reminded them what a menace the United States can be, especially with their own country in tow.

The Labour Party is the beneficiary of this mood, but many of its pledges – certainly in foreign policy – are qualified and compromised, suggesting, for many Britons, more of the same.

Jeremy Corbyn is widely and properly recognised for his integrity; he opposes the renewal of Trident nuclear weapons; the Labour Party supports it. But he has given shadow cabinet positions to pro-war MPs who support Blairism, and tried to get rid of him and abused him as “unelectable”.

“We are the political mainstream now,” says Corbyn.  Yes, but at what price?

Senate Debates Billions for Insurers while Public Demands Medicare for All

Billions More for Crony Capitalist Insurance or Improved Medicare for All

This week we attended a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee where there was broad bi-partisan support for giving billions more to the insurance industry to “stabilize the market.” The government already gives for-profit insurance $300 billion annually and their stock values have risen dramatically since passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), so the rush to give them more was disheartening.

That was contrasted with a meeting with the staff of Senator Bernie Sanders about the improved Medicare for all bill he plans to introduce on September 13. Sanders, along with other Senators, is seriously trying to figure out how to transform health care from being a profit center for big business to being a public good that serves the people. That means doing away with the health insurance industry, not giving them billions of public dollars.

The contrast reinforced the need to advocate for improved Medicare for all and push for the best healthcare system we can create.

Healthcare a Commodity or a Human Right?

Senators are back from their long summer recess, and they started off with health care back at the top of the agenda. The Senate HELP committee held its first of four hearings on September 6, and Senator Bernie Sanders is preparing to introduce a Medicare for All bill on September 13. The two efforts are a clear example of the underlying dilemma that we have faced in the United States for the past 100 years: Is health care a commodity or a public good? It can’t be both.

The failed efforts to repeal and replace the ACA took up a lot of time and energy this year and left the country in no better position to deal with the ongoing healthcare crisis. Now, time is really short because private health insurers are announcing their rates for 2018, and they are, not surprisingly, screaming for more money because they have to (*gasp*) pay for health care.

A group of us attended the first Senate HELP committee hearing to convey the message that the people are ready to undertake the serious work of creating a National Improved Medicare for All. Typically, before and sometimes during a hearing, attendees are allowed to hold signs as long as they are not disruptive. On that day, the committee chair, Senator Lamar Alexander, ordered that signs be put away before the hearing even began. He told Dr. Carol Paris, a steering committee member of the Health Over Profit for Everyone campaign, that “we are not talking about improved Medicare for All now.”

Instead, the entire hearing focused on “stabilizing the insurance market,” even though their stock values have quadrupled since 2010. Five health insurance commissioners from different states testified before the senators and answered questions. It appeared that all had been well-prepped by the health insurance industry. The committee members patted each other on the back for being bi-partisan, unfortunately they were working together for the insurance industry, not for the people.

The bi-partisan hearing discussed three main points: making sure that public dollars were available to subsidize insurance costs, reinsuring private health insurers so they would be protected if they had to spend ‘too much’ money on health care and incentives to entice private insurers back into areas that are not profitable. Coincidentally, these were the same points raised in the bi-partisan proposal published this year by the Center for American Progress, a Democratic Party think tank financed in part by health insurance lobbyists. Both parties are clearly on the side of health care as a commodity.

Not one person participating in the hearing questioned whether health care belonged in the market. At least one Senator, Rand Paul, complained about Big Insurance coming to Washington with their hands out and said he would rather pay directly for health care than give the money to Big Insurance. His ideology is far from supporting Improved Medicare for All, but he did call out the corruption.

Perhaps the most disappointing of the day was Senator Al Franken, who has completely bought into the ‘health care is a commodity’ camp. Not only did he advocate for subsidizing and reinsuring private insurers, but he called for a federal reinsurance program to cover the costs of people who need health care, at least after Big Insurance takes their cut. And Franken, who tried to make jokes about the hearing, called for more money to advertise and lure youth into the insurance market, which is about as unethical as pushing cigarettes or candy, and wants heavier enforcement of mandates to purchase health insurance. Franken touted a ‘virtuous cycle’ of giving more money to health insurers so that they lower premiums and more people buy insurance. The problem is that there is nothing very virtuous about spending billions to subsidize an industry that has a greater responsibility to pay its Wall Street investors than to pay for necessary health care. The insurance industry has shown itself to be insatiable, and ready to use their power to extort Congress because they hold people’s lives in their hands.

It was a difficult hearing to attend. The whole time we wanted to stand up and ask whether they could possibly see how ridiculous this all appeared and whether they thought private health insurers added any benefit. But, the Capitol Police made it clear from the start that they would arrest anyone who disrupted without warning, and we had a meeting scheduled with Senator Sanders’ staff after the hearing. We did manage to squeeze out a few “Medicare for All’s” during the hearing.

Healthcare Without the For-Profit Insurance Industry

The meeting with Senator Sanders’ staff was like night and day. We began from the premise that health care is a human right and had a frank discussion of how that could be achieved. The text of his upcoming bill was not available, but for 90 minutes we discussed many of the details of the bill. This meeting was scheduled because of a letter that the Health Over Profit for Everyone steering committee sent to the Senator’s health staffers raising concerns about what was reported to be in the bill. An initial response was lacking, but once the letter was widely circulated in progressive blogs, the staff were ready to meet.

There has been a movement for National Improved Medicare for All in the United States for a long time. People in the movement have debated and reached consensus about how an improved Medicare for all system ought to be structured. Much of that is embodied in John Conyers’ legislation, HR 676: The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, which has 118 co-sponsors. Senator Sanders and his group, Our Revolution, are raising funds and working to build more support for Improved Medicare for All, but they still need to cooperate with those who have been advocating for this if they want full support.

Fortunately, Senator Sanders has demonstrated that he is responsive to public pressure. He started the year off not intending to introduce Medicare for all legislation, but he received push back and changed his mind. Then he started talking about fixing the ACA and introducing a public option, and there was pushback against that. There has also been pressure about the contents of the bill. When it was learned that there would be co-pays, many organizations, including Physicians for a National Health Program, contacted his office to say that co-pays add more complexity to the system and cause people to delay or avoid necessary health care. His staff reported that co-pays have been removed in the bill except for purchasing drugs, in order to encourage the use of generic drugs.

In the process of winning a single payer healthcare system, the movement for National Improved Medicare for All has the role of being the watchdog to make sure that we create the best system we can. We want this system to work for everyone and to be a system that improves health, a system that the United States can be proud of. This is a role that will be ongoing even after we win because we will have to improve the system and constantly guard against those who would try to privatize it so they can profit.

After meeting with Senator Sanders’ staff, we felt more reassured that his intention is to ultimately create a strong National Improved Medicare for All system. There are many provisions in the bill that are to be applauded – providing care to every person in the United States and offering fairly comprehensive coverage – and a few that we will have to work on – such as including long term care, abolishing investor-owned health facilities and a more rapid transition period. On September 13, if all goes well, the text of the bill will be released and we will assess it.

The People Can Win Improved Medicare for All

All in all, we are in a strong position. The Senate HELP committee hearing showed how out of touch many of our legislators are with the people, who favor Improved Medicare for All or are just yearning for affordable health care no matter what form that takes.

And, we know members of Congress can be moved, some more easily than others. This week the architect of the ACA in Congress, former Senator Max Baucus, who had us arrested with six others in 2009 when we stood up and called for single payer to be included in the debate, joined the choir. Baucus said single payer is the answer, commenting “we’re getting there, it’s going to happen.” We were arrested demanding that he put single payer on the table and he refused, calling for more police instead. Now, more than 100,000 preventable deaths later, he supports it. The ACA was born out of the corruption by healthcare profiteers and everyone involved from Obama to Baucus knew it, and everyone from Alexander to Franken knows that remains true today.

The tide is shifting in the United States. After a century of what Professor David Barton Smith, a health historian calls, “more palatable approaches” that have each “self-destructed,” we are clear that health care is a public service, not a financial profit center. We are ready to do the work to make what was once considered impossible, National Improved Medicare for All, become inevitable. Each week, new support for single payer arises. The other surprise this week was the support of centrist Democrat, Senator Jon Tester of Montana, who explained that his farmer parents never had insurance until they were old enough for Medicare.

Hopefully, more legislators will arrive at the wisdom that, as Professor Smith describes:

The practical mechanics of how to make such a universal health insurance system work are a lot easier than patching together the existing hopelessly fragmented private-public health insurance system. The Medicare program actually does this quite well and the cry of Medicare for all has never been silenced. Indeed, no one has ever objected to their ‘mandated’ coverage under Medicare.

The people have the power to finally make the government do the right thing. No more compromises. No more false solutions. Onward to National Improved Medicare for All.

• First published at Health over Profit

Sanders Has His Priorities Backwards: We Can’t Delay Medicare for All

image from ATTN.com.

We thought that Senator Sanders was on track to introduce and advocate for a national improved Medicare for All bill, but Tuesday he stated publicly at a Planned Parenthood rally that his priorities are to first defeat the Republican health plan, then to improve the Affordable Care Act with a public option or allowing people to buy-in to Medicare, and then we can work for single payer.

This was confirmed by his deputy communications director Josh Miller-Lewis who said “[Sanders has] said many times over the last six months that we need to move toward a Medicare-for-all system, but in the short-term we should improve the ACA with a public option and by lowering the Medicare eligibility age to 55.”

This is the line being used by the Democrats to take the single payer movement off track. It’s the same line that worked so effectively in 2009-10. I wrote about that with Kevin Zeese in 2013 in “Obamacare: The Biggest Insurance Scam in History.”

We have to be smarter than that this time. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was a huge bail out for the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries at a time when almost 50 million people in the US were without health insurance. It set up markets to sell insurance that everyone was mandated to buy, unless they were covered by a public insurance, hired people to sell the insurance and subsidized the purchase of health insurance with $100 billion every year. Think about it – that $100 billion is going straight into the bank accounts of the private health insurance companies who are designed to spend as little as they can on actual health care.

Neither another public insurance nor an option to buy into Medicare will solve the healthcare crisis in the United States. They won’t cover the tens of millions who are still without health insurance. They won’t get rid of the co-pays and deductibles that make people with health insurance avoid or delay seeking care due to cost. They won’t bring down the prices of health services and pharmaceuticals. They won’t end bankruptcy due to medical illness.

Only a National Improved Medicare for All single payer healthcare system will achieve those goals.

We are already spending enough on health care in the US to provide comprehensive health care to everyone. We have a bill that lays out the framework for a National Improved Medicare for All healthcare system: HR 676. A majority of Democrats in the House have signed on to it as co-sponsors.

So, why are they trying to convince us to accept a public option or a Medicare buy-in? It’s because they are corrupted by money – campaign contributions that they receive from the corporations that profit from the current system. You may say, well, Bernie doesn’t take corporate money, so why would he go along with this charade? It may be because he has greater allegiance to the Democratic Party than he has to the supporters of Medicare for All, his base. He may fear losing positions on committees or his new position of leadership within the party.

What do we do?

We have to be clear and uncompromising in our demand for National Improved Medicare for All NOW! We can’t put this fight off any longer because those in power will always try to knock us off course. The people and their families who are suffering under the current healthcare (non)system can’t wait any longer.

We have to put Bernie back on track!

Flood his office with phone calls: 202 224 5141.

Contact your Senators and urge them not to support a public option or Medicare for some. Tell them to support National Improved Medicare for All now. And ask them if they would like to be the single payer champion and introduce a senate companion bill to HR 676.

Perhaps Senator Elizabeth Warren is that champion. She admitted this week that the ACA was a conservative model and that the next step is single payer. She is urging Democrats to support Medicare for All.

Keep organizing and mobilizing for National Improved Medicare for All. The next series of events will be around Medicare’s birthday at the end of July. Click here to read the call to action.

Social movements have always been told that they are asking for too much. National Improved Medicare for All is not too much – it is what we need. And we will win this struggle!

• First published in Health Over Profit

The U.S. Political Scene: Whiteness and the Legitimacy Crisis of Global Capitalism

The U.S. political scene has been undergoing a facelift in an effort to restore the decreasing legitimacy of the transnationally-oriented capitalist class. This transformation has been characterized by a right wing that has sought to portray itself as economically nationalistic in an attempt to expand support among the working class (primarily, among working class whites) whose economic stability has dwindled during the neoliberal era.

Why is this the case?

Beginning in the 1970’s, faced with declining rates of profit and accumulation, as well as rising international competition, capital needed to break free from the national constraints that had been put on it during the fordist-keynesian “new deal” era. One of those “constraints” had been the responsibility of ensuring the social reproduction of its national labor force. “Going global” has allowed capitalists to do away with this concern, as they now could tap into an ever-growing global pool of marginalized workers.

Rise of Capitalist Globalization

By the late 20th century and into the 21st century new technologies and organizational advancements allowed companies to more easily operate across borders. New transnational networks of production and finance began to form.

Capitalist globalization had a major impact upon workers, not just in the global south, but in the ‘developed world’ as well.  As is often the case, the most marginalized workers feel the effects of anti-worker policies earlier and deeper than those in more stable and better-paid positions. Yet as globalization deepened it also began to undermine many of the once-stable unionized industries.

The neoliberal order resulted in a new reality for many white workers, who previously were guaranteed a set of benefits that they had come to expect (benefits that were both material and ideological). Global capitalism and neoliberal policies resulted for many of them job insecurity and wage stagnation, but also in a reduction in the “wages of whiteness”: the subjective feeling of superiority over negatively racialized groups—one of these has been rage against workers from other parts of the world perceived as the culprits.

The U.S. Political Scene

Within the U.S. political scene into the 1990s conservative and liberal establishments together developed new mechanisms of capital accumulation while chipping away at the power of labor, such as NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement).  On the conservative side: xenophobic candidates like Pat Buchanan and anti-NAFTA business leaders such as Ross Perot were sidelined. On the liberal side the remnants of strong labor voices were silenced. A grand bargain was struck between a conservative militaristic establishment and a liberal establishment espousing a sort of anti-worker multiculturalism (with its growing identitarian acceptance of peoples from different ethnicities and sexual orientations, alongside viewing workers as cogs to be seamlessly integrated into a new globalized economy).  Under these circumstances profits grew tremendously for transnational capital (aided especially by newfangled financial mechanisms).  Meanwhile workers faced stagnation, dispossession, and heightened job insecurity.

In the wake of the biggest financial crisis for generations (2007–2008) and with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan raging on (2001– ), the liberal establishment failed to make any substantial adjustments. Rather than alter the course (or ideology), the response of the liberal establishment has been to engage in an amplified multiculturalism under the umbrella of the system—to call on hope, to engage in some limited reforms (such as the affordable healthcare act, which while a positive first step only went a small part of the way toward the health care access that the population needs). Even these reforms (to partially offset the growing unaffordability of health care for lower income Americans) were fought tooth and nail by conservative forces. On other issues such as foreign policy, the Democrats in power largely locked arms with their Republican counterparts: promoting interventionist policies abroad and the swelling tentacles of a global intelligence apparatus.

This brings us up to the 2016 Hillary Clinton candidacy and her salivating over policies of military interventionism and new supranational treaties (like the TPP, the Trans Pacific Partnership). This essentially set her campaign up as a defender of the status quo, a fact strategically exploited by the xenophobic come-populist rhetoric of the Donald Trump campaign.  While losing the popular vote by close to three million, the electoral arena (the best one that money can buy) played out through the country’s undemocratic Electoral College system (impacted as well by decades of gerrymandering and mass voter suppression), allowing the Republican Party’s astonishing return to power; with the flipping of only a few rust-belt districts tipping the scales in Trump’s favor.

It is important to understand how the forces behind Trump (and their ideological mechanisms) are now operating through the U.S. political scene. It is within this context that we need to make sense of the political reversals that have taken place for the Democratic establishment, and the GOP’s current domination of the country’s federal branches.

We wish to argue that the reason for which Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” and rhetoric resonated with so many white workers and middle strata is because the ideological terrain had in part already been prepared for it.  The field in which Trump planted the seed of xenophobia and hatred among white people had been tilled by neoliberalism and fertilized with money from the Koch brothers, Rupert Murdoch– and other ruling elites. In fact, it has roots also in the nation’s formative history, through the violence against negatively racialized populations, most notably against Native and African Americans. In this sense, Trump’s slogan and campaign promise to “Make America great again” is not new or original at all, but merely the newest iteration of the Tea Party’s plan to “take the country back”, tapping into the same sentiment of aggrieved entitlement.

The Trumpian-right also mixes into this sentiment a rightist populist critique of globalization. Yet, Trump’s election has not come to represent a rupture but rather a continuation of strategies deployed by the transnational capitalist class (TCC), with a different guise.

Beneath the surface of the U.S. political system one can see how power is entrenched. Barack Obama’s inner circle was made up largely by members of the Council on Foreign Relations, while Hillary Clinton’s campaign was backed by “enlightened” finance tycoons and liberal-hawk leaning sectors of the TCC, such as Warren Buffett, George Soros, Michael Bloomberg and others. While the populist rhetoric of Trump’s inner circle may sound more anti-establishment, its members are blatantly ultra-elitist and are thoroughly entwined with global business interests.

With recent U.S. wars unpopular and disastrous, during his election campaign Trump criticized some of the wars and interventions launched under George W. Bush and Obama. He differentiated between what he described as “smart” and “dumb” wars. One brief sliver of hope was the possibility of detente, in which the world’s two major nuclear-armed powers could have begun to roll back tensions. Yet, criticized ceaselessly by his liberal opponents and in the mainstream media as “Putin’s puppet”, by Trump’s third month in office his foreign policy had largely fallen into line with the military-industrial-security-state apparatus.

Trump today boasts of improving the lives of U.S. workers, but there is little indication that he intends to materially improve conditions for anybody other than his ruling elite buddies—just the opposite– as his proposed plans seek to dump billions more into the Pentagon budget, while eliminating state subsidized lunches for impoverished youth, privatizing education, and striping subsidized healthcare from tens of millions of lower income people.

His electoral win in the rust belt states, though, was an indication of the discontent among many white workers. To hold on to this support he will need to keep them on board. Here he appears to be trying to convince capital not just by his rhetoric but also through various tax breaks and subsidies to engage in some limited labor-capital compromises in the rust belt, in Michigan, Ohio, and even Wisconsin.  Holding these states could help to ensure GOP victories on the national level for many years to come.  A South-Mid-West-Rust-Belt Electoral College strategy clearly appears to be the GOP’s best winning strategy.

Right-populism as a strategy for offsetting legitimacy crisis among aggrieved white workers

The ruling class is engaging in various ideological strategies to renew its legitimacy. Key among these are ideological mechanisms of splitting and disorganizing the working classes, including the old tried-and-true racism, jingoism and xenophobia. And as under Trump a wing of the transnationally oriented elite sings the song of protectionism to confuse and recruit.  With this in mind, his administration is attempting to make inroads with some labor unions especially those present in the rust-belt.

The pressures and structural features of the U.S. political scene bend heavily in favor of capital, and in particular transnational capital.  State leaders need access to capital, and capital is in the hands of transnational business people tied into the global economy.  Politicians must still appeal to their home audiences, through constant declarations of patriotism and other theatrics. This is the constant juggling act of major political actors in the country – attempting to hold legitimacy whilst deepening practices that will allow transnational capital’s continual profitability.

In apparent contradiction, Trump’s strategy of rejecting the TPP, has helped to varnish himself as an “economic nationalist”, a fighter for U.S. workers. This was key for his winning the Rust Belt, where so many manufacturing jobs have been lost over recent decades, many that had been held by white workers.

The TPP symbolized the most unconstrained attempt by transnationally oriented elites to impose policies on an array of countries (including the U.S.) where the major beneficiaries are transnational corporations. Does Trump’s opposing the TPP mean that he opposes transnational capital?  Quite to the contrary, it represents an alternative strategy: while a partial pump on the breaks, he extends at the same time many other factors beneficial to the TCC (lowering taxes, gutting of regulations and environmental protections, expanding military-industrial-prison contracts, while promoting a host of new bilateral agreements that can aid cross-border accumulation). All of this entails reproducing the dominant order, and under a refurbished conservative ideology.

The intensifying crisis of legitimacy has become highlighted by the emergence of various political currents, and not just on the right. Prominent amongst these new entities are the movement that evolved around the presidential candidacy of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (supported by anti-war politicians such as Tulsi Gabbard), which showed that a social democrat could obtain a large number of votes in the U.S.  The Sanders’ campaign was inspiring in many ways; however, he failed to make a systematic critique of U.S. militarism. Also, while he criticized “crony capitalism”, a deeper structural critique of capitalism was, of course, absent.

Yet the fate of the 2016 presidential election was rooted partly in the broader crisis of legitimacy of global capitalism. As Clinton and Obama were standard-bearers of the status quo, Trump was able to exploit this through his populist rhetoric and rightist critique of globalism.

In early 2017, following Clinton’s defeat in the Electoral College, Sanders’ emboldened progressive current attempted to wrestle away the party’s leadership. Yet the establishment within the party prevailed – one that can mock Trump, but not provide even a social democratic alternative. The power-brokers within the DNC wager that growing revulsion with Trump, as his fake populism is exposed, will be enough to rejuvenate them and that fear-mongering and guilt-tripping will ward off any challenge from the likes of Sanders.

By no means accidentally, the calls to take the country back (to “make it great again”) come at the expense of already racially oppressed groups, and at the cost of women and children who will be hurt by cuts to social programs. Scapegoating is important in the U.S. political scene, especially as the transnational capitalist class will not easily reverse the policies that benefit them. The Trump-right has sought to make up for the loss in the material wages of white workers through an increase in their “public and psychological wage” (as W.E.B. Du Bois described it) —via the promotion of racism and xenophobia.

As the anti-migrant rhetoric intensifies, such as reflected in the rise of a neo-fascistic “alt-right”, the goal of increasing the value of citizenship and whiteness can be observed when we compare Obama and Trump’s immigration policies. Obama became known as the “Deporter-in-Chief” because he deported so many people. It is possible that Trump may deport more people than Obama did, but, even if not, he will do this in a much more visible and dramatic way – similarly to what he attempted with the Muslim ban. The effects of the policies will have real consequences for migrants, just as Obama’s did, but a large part of the harm will come from a more blatant normalization of bigotry.

In Conclusion

Relying upon recycled mantras of xenophobia and nationalism, the Trumpian right seeks to head off the legitimacy crisis of transnational capital. However, rather than propose an alternative to transnational capital, they propose an alternative strategy for reproducing it. Also disconcerting are the growing threats of war, as neo-conservative groups (so heavily involved in the U.S. war crimes of recent decades) appear to have reasserted their influence over the white house.

Progressive, left, and social movement forces in the U.S. need to build on successes of the past as well as move beyond them, taking on, for instance, a more pro-active position against militarism and a deeper critique of capitalism. Reaching out across racial and gender lines to working and lower income people, such a movement cannot allow for itself to fall under the hegemony of corporatist political actors. Rather it must be a project that provides a real fight back to the Trumpian right and the permanent war state it now inhabits.

Why This Isn’t the Time for a Public Option or Medicare for Some

This has been a tumultuous week for healthcare reform. First there was the pleasantly quick defeat of the American Health Care Act in the House of Representatives Friday afternoon. Then, that evening, Senator Sanders spoke at a town hall in Vermont with Senator Pat Leahy and Representative Peter Welch where he announced that he would introduce a Medicare for All bill. Medicare for All and Bernie supporters lit up social media with their excitement over the announcement. This should have been great news, but it wasn’t exactly.

Over the weekend, more information was revealed in a series of interviews with Sen. Sanders. Sunday, he said on CNN that single payer legislation wouldn’t have the votes, so the first priority will be to improve the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with a public insurance, called a public option, and possibly lowering the age of Medicare eligibility to 55.

There are a number of reasons why this isn’t the time for tinkering with the ACA. We have a healthcare crisis now and the means to solve it. The ACA is fundamentally flawed and cannot be tweaked into a universal program. And Sanders’ proposals are exactly the same ones used in 2008-10 to divide and weaken the movement for National Improved Medicare for All. We can’t be fooled into going down that path again.

The Current Crisis and its Solution

Right now in the United States almost 30 million people have no health insurance. On top of that, tens of millions of people who have health insurance can’t afford health care. When people experience a serious accident or illness, they face a stark choice: seek care and risk financial ruin or go without it and risk disability or death. Hundreds of thousands of families go bankrupt each year due to medical illness and an estimated 29,000 people die each year due to lack of access to care.

Think about how the country galvanized when 3,000 people were killed in the attacks on 9/11 or when the 2,000th soldier was killed in Iraq, but that amount of death happens ten times a year or more in the US and we hardly hear a peep of outrage.

Health outcomes in the United States are not very good. A recent study found:

Notable among poor-performing countries is the USA, whose life expectancy at birth is already lower than most other high-income countries, and is projected to fall further behind such that its 2030 life expectancy at birth might be similar to the Czech Republic for men, and Croatia and Mexico for women. The USA has the highest child and maternal mortality, homicide rate, and body-mass index of any high-income country, and was the first of high-income countries to experience a halt or possibly reversal of increase in height in adulthood, which is associated with higher longevity. The USA is also the only country in the OECD without universal health coverage, and has the largest share of unmet health-care needs due to financial costs.

Yet, of all of the industrialized nations, the United States spends the most per person on health care, in some cases double the amount and those countries cover everyone. We are already paying for universal comprehensive health coverage, but we aren’t getting it because the bottom line of the system in the US is profits for a few rather than health for all.

The US has the most complex and heavily bureaucratic system in the world because it is a market-based system with a few public programs to try to fill in the gaps. A third of our healthcare dollar goes to administration for the hundreds of different insurance plans with their differing coverage, networks and rules. And we pay the highest prices, by far, for health services and pharmaceuticals because there is no rational system to set a fair price.

To begin to solve the healthcare crisis in the US, we need a system that is based on health and the money to pay for it. The proven solution is a universal not-for-profit, publicly-funded system that provides all medically-necessary care. House Resolution 676: “The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act,” which has 72 co-sponsors, is the model for that system. This would address the fundamental causes of the healthcare crisis.

The good news is that not only do we have the money to pay for this system, but there is also widespread support for it. For decades many independent polls have shown more than 60% support by the general public, plus more than 80% support by Democratic Party voters, rapidly growing support by Republicans who earn under $75,000 and majority support by health professionals.

Why a Public Option and Medicare for Some Plans will fail

Steve Bannon, President Trump’s chief strategist, had an interesting statement in the New York Magazine recently. He criticized the Republican’s American Health Care Act (AHCA) because it was “written by the insurance industry.” That same criticism can be made of the Democrat’s ACA, which was basically written by Liz Fowler, a former executive for WellPoint. She also oversaw the regulations’ process.

The ACA is fundamentally flawed because it treats health care as a commodity, not a public necessity. It has achieved the best that it can do, and similar to other attempts at the state level that don’t address the roots of the crisis, it is starting to deteriorate with stagnant coverage and rising premiums and out-of-pocket costs.

Attempts to improve the ACA with a public insurance or Medicare for some will bring coverage to a few more, but they will similarly fail over time because they will not change the system or control healthcare costs.

Sen. Sanders and others are pushing a public option. This would be a public insurance that people could choose instead of private insurance. It sounds good in theory but has not worked in practice because it draws the sickest patients and struggles to cover their care while keeping premiums and out-of-pocket costs affordable. Private insurers are experts at attracting the healthiest enrollees. In fact, I have argued that a public insurance is just what the private insurers want (though they are unlikely to admit it) because it serves as a relief valve to take sick people off their hands. That leaves private insurers to focus on the young, employed and wealthy, from which they can collect premiums and who won’t need much in the way of health care.

Sen. Sanders is also raising the possibility of lowering the age of Medicare to 55, just as Alan Grayson suggested in 2010. This is another gift to the insurance industry because it takes a group that is more likely to have health problems off of their books. It will place more of a burden on the Medicare system without bringing the cost savings needed to cover health needs. I call this Medicare for some to contrast it with Medicare for all.

The basic reasons that Medicare for all works are because the administrative simplicity of one universal plan provides over $500 billion a year in administrative savings and its ability to negotiate fair drug prices means over $100 billion per year in savings on pharmaceuticals. The savings offset the cost of paying for care and getting rid of out-of-pocket costs that currently keep people from seeking necessary care.

Rather than wasting time and effort on a public option or Medicare for some, which will still leave people out and maintain the high costs of health care, we need to mobilize to win national improved Medicare for all. Like other industrialized nations, we need to create a universal high quality health system. It doesn’t make sense to leave anybody out when we have the resources to achieve it and public support for it. The only thing lacking is support from members of Congress. But as we witnessed last week with the defeat of the AHCA, changing the minds of members of Congress is within the power of the public.

The public option and Medicare for some are being used to divide and distract supporters of Medicare for all in order to weaken them and make them believe they are asking for too much, just as happened during the health reform efforts in 2008-10. We can’t be taken off track again.

What is the real purpose of a public option or lowering the age of Medicare when neither is an effective nor a lasting solution? It is only because the Democrats are unwilling to take on the powerful health insurance and pharmaceutical industries. The problem is that we can’t solve the healthcare crisis until we do.

• First published in Health Over Profit