Brown, McCaskill, And Sanders Fighting The Good Fight

One of my favorite Democrats in the Senate is Sherrod Brown. If you watched any news this past weekend, you were treated to his pissing off the insufferable Orrin Hatch, during a meeting of the Senate Finance Committee last Thursday night.

Brown called bullshit on the Republican claim that their tax “reform” bill was all about increased incomes for middle-class folks. The senator from Ohio said:

I just think it would be nice, just tonight, before we go home, to just acknowledge, well that this tax cut really is not for the middle class, it’s for the rich. And that whole thing about higher wages, it’s a good selling point, but we know companies just don’t give away higher wages. They just don’t give away higher wages just because they have more money. Corporations are sitting on a lot of money now. They’re sitting on a lot of profits now. I don’t see wages going up. So, just spare us the bank shot, spare us the sarcasm and the satire, and let’s move forward.

Hatch, of course, grew indignant and began touting his former impoverishment, saying,

I come from the poor people, and I’ve been here working my whole stinking career for people who don’t have a chance, and I really resent anybody saying I’m just doing it for the rich. Give me a break. I think you guys overplay that all the time, and it gets old. And, frankly, you ought to quit it…I get kind of sick and tired of it.

Now, one has to credit Hatch for properly calling his career “stinking.” But beyond that, anyone who thinks he has spent that stinking career working “for the [sic] poor people,” for “people who don’t have a chance,” I have a degree from Tr-mp University I’ll sell ya. As for Hatch being sick and tired, Brown said:

I get sick and tired of the richest people in this country getting richer and richer and richer….

He was gaveled down by the snowflake from Utah.

That leads me to my own senator, Claire McCaskill, who was just here in Joplin for a town hall-style meeting on Saturday (she was rudely treated by only one right-winger in the audience; that’s progress). During the meeting, she tried to educate the locals:

As I go around the state, particularly in some of the rural communities, where it is tough in terms of jobs and it is tough in terms of the AG economy, so, talking about a tax code that we could reform to really help those folks, but instead, Republicans are putting forth a bill that is really focused on people that make more than $1 million dollars.

McCaskill doesn’t just talk truth about Republicans while here in Missouri. She also had a few things to say during a Senate Finance Committee meeting last week, also featuring Orrin Hatch:

Clearly, that notorious fighter for the poor, Mr. Hatch, had no idea what was in the bill he was defending. But, aw shucks, neither does the man Republicans are counting on to sign it, should they succeed in ramming it through Congress.

Now we come to an appearance by Bernie Sanders on CNN’s State of the Union. Here is the Vermont senator’s exchange with host Jake Tapper:

TAPPER: President Trump is accusing Democrats of being obstructionists on the tax issue. He tweeted — quote — “If Democrats were not such obstructionists and understood the power of lower taxes, we would be able to get many of their ideas into the bill.” What’s your response?

SANDERS: Well, that’s total nonsense. Democrats have been completely shut out of this process, just as they were shut out of the health care legislation process. Here is the fact. And Trump should understand this. What this legislation is about is fulfilling the promises, Republican promises, made to wealthy campaign contributors. There is a reason why the billionaire class provides hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign contributions to Republicans. And now is payback time.

What this legislation is about, Jake, is giving 50 percent of the tax benefits to the top 1 percent, and at the end of 10 years in the House bill, forcing almost 50 percent of the middle class to actually pay more in taxes. What this legislation is about, absolutely insanely, is repealing the estate tax, a $269 billion tax break, not for the top 1 percent, but for the top two-tenths of one 1 percent, a handful of the wealthiest families in this country, like the Walton family and the Koch brothers family and other very wealthy families….And, by the way, Jake, one other point.

When they run up a $1.5 trillion deficit, as they will in this legislation, they’re going to come back — and that’s what Paul Ryan is saying — they’re going to come back with massive cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, because they say, oh, my goodness, the deficit and the national debt are too high.

This is a terrible, terrible piece of legislation, and it must be defeated.

That was quite a takedown of the phony Republican tax (and, for now, healthcare) bill. But Sanders wasn’t finished:

TAPPER: So, Republicans’ response to the idea that 50 percent is going to the top 1 percent is, the top 1 percent pays a disproportionate amount of taxes. I do want to better understand your objection to this aspect of the bill. Is it the size of the tax cut going to the wealthy that bothers you or the idea that the wealthy are getting any tax cut at all?

SANDERS: Well, first of all, what the Republicans are forgetting about is, yes, the rich pay more in taxes because we have massive income and wealth and equality in America. Fifty-two percent of all new income in America is going to the top 1 percent. Duh. Yes, the rich are going to be paying more in taxes.

Now, Sanders just about said it all right there—just about. The most beautiful part of what he said, the most concise framing of the issues voters may hear in the next two election cycles, was what he said next:

SANDERS: But does anybody watching this program really believe that the major crisis facing our country—when the middle class is shrinking, when our infrastructure is falling apart, when young people can’t afford to go to college, are leaving school deeply in debt, when 28 million people have no health insurance—does anyone really think that the major crisis facing this country is the need to give hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks to the very richest people in this country?

That was what wrestling fans might call a flying spinning heel kick. In one sentence, in 81 extemporaneous but eloquent words, Sanders struck his Republican opponents with the truth. 

Good for him. And although Republicans won’t listen, if voters do, good for the country.


This Post Isn’t For Everybody

I have recently written about inclusion in the Democratic Party, as well as Bernie Sanders’ role in the party’s future. A regular contributor to our discussion on this blog wrote me to express his feelings about my opinions, his experience here, and to discuss his views on Democratic politics. Originally, I meant only to respond to him, but after I thought about it, I realized there are other people out there in my blogging family who share his views. Thus, here is my reply to “thgeneralist”:

Okay. Let’s get something straight that I am sure is my fault, for which I apologize. If you feel like I (I can speak only for myself on this matter) have belittled you, then I have sent you the wrong message. Your views are important and appreciated, despite the fact that I don’t always agree with them or, sometimes, attempt to challenge them. Perhaps I do so in ways that sound belittling, but I assure you that’s not what I mean to communicate. I guess I have more work to do expressing myself clearly, but sometimes I just assume that my long (sometimes too long) responses indicate how valuable I find our interactions. Again, my bad for making you feel like our dialogue is not valued.

Also, as far as there being enough room for you and me in the same party, I absolutely don’t know where I gave you the impression that we can’t live under the same tent. I know all sorts of people who either are Democrats or who vote with the party but call themselves independent. I’ve never met one of them with whom I always agree. Nor do I expect to ever meet such a person. I recognize that in many cases, it is I who hold some unorthodox positions for a liberal Democrat (for instance, my stance on a strong military and how that power can serve as insurance to help maintain liberal democracies around the world, but not “create” them).

I also recognize that I am not a revolutionary in the Bernie sense. And that’s not because I don’t share many of his goals. It’s because I think, living and campaigning in Vermont all those years, he doesn’t really understand the wider electoral landscape. I can assure you, if he lived where I live, he wouldn’t think for a minute that his attempt to transform the country overnight into a European-style social democracy, complete with the high taxes that go with it, is as achievable as he sometimes makes it sound. For God’s sake, we are at this moment witnessing Republicans trying very hard to undo a very modest change in our health insurance system, Obamacare, because it is seen, falsely, as a “government-run” system. We have a lot of work to do before we are even close to achieving Bernie’s revolution of American healthcare, not to mention his other proposals.

That leads me to your false charge that I am a “Corporate Democrat.” I hesitate to call it false because I’m not exactly sure what you mean by it. But if you follow some on the left like I do, people like Cenk Uygur and that whole self-righteous bunch of litmus-test leftist purists, then I think I know what you mean. They use that term to describe people who don’t see American politics the same way, say, Bernie sees our politics. They use that term for Democrats who don’t think it is wise, given our system, to unilaterally disarm when it comes to fundraising, who believe that businesses are good for America but also believe that those businesses ought to be good for their workers. It is possible to value business while also aggressively championing labor. Neither can exist without the other.

And, thus, I could have been pissed off at your accusation, but I chose not to be. Because I think I understand why you, or others who read this blog, would falsely label me as a “corporatist,” despite the fact that for years I worked my ass off on behalf of a labor union and still remain a union officer. I think your accusation springs from the fact that I’m a progressive who doesn’t believe in the possibility, here in America, of revolutionary progress. That’s because I think I know American politics fairly well. We are not a revolution-friendly electorate, largely because of what FDR and LBJ did so long ago. People, generally, aren’t ripe for the kind of radical transformation Bernie talks about because they are relatively comfortable (“Thanks, Obama!”). They see problems, but not the kind of problems that demand revolutionary change. Heck, Bernie couldn’t even convince a majority of Democrats to buy into his revolutionary message (and I don’t even want to get into the whining about how he was “cheated” out of the nomination; that is nonsense). 

What I understand is this: our differences as Democrats aren’t so much tied to policy as they are tied to how to get from here to there. On that matter, you and I are miles apart, apparently. You say Bernie champions “causes that will resonate with most Americans.” Well, maybe they would so resonate if our politics were conducted in a vacuum. But when you mix in the severe attacks he and his policies would undergo in a real election—the inevitable and well-funded demagoguery over the taxation necessary to fund his goals, for instance—then that alleged resonance will get muffled very quickly. Suddenly the things he champions will strike the ears of many voters with a cringing dissonance. That’s just the nature of American politics at this point in time. A majority of people aren’t ready for sudden, disruptive change, and Republicans would make Bernie sound like Hugo Chávez bent on turning America into a highly dysfunctional Venezuela. Tr-mp represented, among other things, sudden, disruptive change. And he only got 46% of the vote and barely squeaked out an Electoral College advantage. And he used Bernie, the Russians, and ten thousand lies to get that “win.”

I don’t “slam” Sanders because of his radical policies. I criticize him because he seems not to recognize the reality of American politics outside the bubble of his energetic followers. He translates the narrow enthusiasm he sees at rallies and other events into a wider craving for revolutionary change. But we are still, essentially, a 50-50 country. Change, if and when it comes, will come slowly. I wish it weren’t that way. I wish we had a different electoral system, one in which the winner of the popular vote gets to be president and do things like appoint Supreme Court judges. But we don’t. We have a system that elevated an ignorant buffoon to the White’s House who will change the course of the judiciary for at least a generation, all in the direction of reactionary ideology. And Bernie, unwittingly to be sure, helped put that buffoon there by not realizing how little chance the Sanders’ campaign had of winning the primary and how much damage it was doing to the eventual anti-Tr-mp nominee by attacking her integrity—and by Bernie hesitating to endorse her until the last possible minute. I know that analysis makes a lot of Bernie people mad, but that’s the way a lot of Democrats see it.

I also fiercely criticize Bernie because he still refuses to taint himself by actually becoming a Democrat. He seems too good, too self-righteous, to ever attach himself to an entity that might say and do things he doesn’t like. And by that I mean say and do things that don’t match up exactly with his own economic vision, the only vision he seems to have or care about. He doesn’t seem to mind rounding the edges off issues like, say, reproductive rights, but he resists rather dramatically people who don’t share all of his views on economic justice or trade, or he simply seems to ignore them (he finally got around to a late, lukewarm “endorsement” of our Georgia congressional candidate, Jon Ossoff, for instance). 

What I want to tell you and others is this: the Democratic Party is a political association with certain policy goals but with uncertain and evolving strategies on how to achieve those goals. Most people who call themselves Democrats share most of the party’s goals, but have different views on how to get there. Much of the variation on that goal-achieving strategy has to do with one’s view of the electorate. I have met people here in southwest Missouri who, election after election, actually believe Democrats can win here. They base that belief on the enthusiasm they see at local events and other indicators. But when you step back and look at the local landscape from a higher perspective, you see very quickly that Democrats, particularly Bernie-friendly Democrats, cannot do well here. Heck, a few elections back we actually had two Democratic candidates for the House seat who were really Republicans who called themselves Democrats. Most of their policy positions were indistinguishable from the average Republican. And they still got trounced. In politics it is vitally important to know the electoral landscape, to know where to put scarce resources, to know where and how to put up a robust goal-achieving fight. That’s not to say local Democrats shouldn’t try to change the landscape. But the changes will come slowly, incrementally. There will be no Democratic Party revolution here in southwest Missouri, I can assure you. 

Again, I apologize for making you feel belittled or for making you feel like you have to put up with “shit in order to listen to and participate in the conversation.” I do agree with you that we are all, in our own way, “trying to do the right thing.” And, yes, that includes Anson Burlingame, as hard as that is for some readers of this blog to process. And because we are all trying to do the right thing we tend to get passionate about it at times. I plead guilty to that. I am still so bothered by “president” Tr-mp that I get heated when people try to tell me it was “corporate Democrats” who derailed Bernie’s candidacy and who made Tr-mp’s tainted victory possible. No. That’s not true.

Image result for bernie sanders and tom perezHillary Clinton won the popular vote. The Democratic Party platform was Bernie-approved. What happened was that not enough people, particularly working class voters in crucial states who had previously voted for Obama, understood what a Tr-mp win would really mean. In some cases they believed his populist lies and voted for him. In other cases they assumed he would lose and stayed home. But in too many cases they believed that Hillary Clinton was corrupt and untrustworthy. And some of them believed she was corrupt and untrustworthy because Bernie Sanders told them so. Thus, I confess that still burns my ass. But I could get over that if it weren’t for the fact that when I listen to Bernie and some of his supporters talk about the Democratic Party these days, in much the same way they talked about Hillary Clinton, I think about how such talk brought us Agent Orange. And I think about how such talk will keep him in power.



The Message, The Messenger, And How Democratic Party Unity Is A Two-Way Street

The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.”

—Matthew 8:30

A after a recent piece I posted on a reported stupid move being considered by Senate Democrats (“Some Senate Democrats Are, Well, Idiots“), one writer, Jim Hight, told me the following:

Yes, Democrats are their worst enemies. I hope Elizabeth warren takes over the Majority Partly Leader when (and if) Democrats take the Senate. I write “and if” because the party will always lose unless this tiff with the Bernie supporters ends. As long as the in-fighting continues, Republicans will continue to tear the country apart.

Another writer, DG, commenting on Jim Hight’s observation, said this:

…a united party must appear very shortly. Jim Hight suggests Elizabeth Warren as a possible leader to unite the scaredy cats on the left. That may well be a good start but we need more. […]

Of course I voted for Hillary, but I am a Bernie supporter. That is, I very much support his views…we need a very progressive movement. Bernie has started one. You can see it with the protests and marches that are taking place everyday somewhere in this country. It’s an angry, disgusted and desperate cry to stop this dangerous bullshit republican take over before it gets way out of hand. Thank God they are!

I know what I have to say below, which I write with some trepidation, will make some people mad. It will upset some folks. But so be it. I’m here to express my opinion. As a Democrat, I’m here to give you my honest take on what I see and where I think we are going as a party and who should lead us there. Here goes:

It happens that Bernie Sanders was on MSNBC’s “All In with Chris Hayes” on Tuesday. Sanders appeared with the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Tom Perez, who is, bless his heart, trying like hell to hold onto the Sanders folks, trying to keep them from bolting from the Democratic Party when it comes time to vote. Sanders and Perez are on what they are calling a “Unity Tour.” Hayes played a video clip of Sanders saying the following:

Our job is to bring millions of people into the political process. Our job is to radically transform the Democratic Party. And when we are united, we are strongest as a party, as a  nation, as a resistance movement.

Hayes then asked Sanders the obvious question:

You’re talking about reforming, reviving, transforming the Democratic Party.  Do you consider yourself a Democrat?

That’s a fair question, isn’t it? Sanders ran as a Democrat in last year’s presidential primaries. His campaign manager said a year ago that Bernie would remain a Democrat after it was all over. And Bernie just said “when we are united, we are strongest as a party.”  But here is how Bernie answered Hayes’ “Do you consider yourself a Democrat?” question:

No. I’m an independent.  And I think if the Democratic Party is going to succeed—and I want to see it succeed —it’s gonna have to open its door to independents. There are probably more independents in this country than Democrats or Republicans. It’s got to open its doors to working people and to young people, create a grassroots party. That’s what we need.

With jaw-dropping audacity, Sanders sat right next to the DNC chairman (whom Sanders opposed during the DNC election process) and said that although he, Bernie Sanders, wanted to “radically transform the Democratic Party,” he didn’t want to become a Democrat. He essentially said he is happily married to some gal named “Independent.” It is that gal, Ms. Independent, to whom he owes his fidelity, his first and final allegiance and loyalty. Okay. I get it. In other words, Bernie wants to not only go home to Ms. Independent at night, but he wants to have a girlfriend on the side in the daytime, one whom he isn’t quite ready to leave Ms. Independent for, but nevertheless one whom he thinks he should get to sleep with while he simultaneously demands she radically change her ways and become the girl of his dreams. Apparently, he wants the Democratic Party to become his perfect mistress.

Well, to hell with that nonsense. Don’t get me wrong, I think many of Bernie’s ideas are something that Democrats could hang their hats on, could run on and win on (Hillary actually ran on many of them, which is why Bernie’s call for “radically” transforming the party makes little sense to me). But we need someone to come along and talk a lot like Bernie does, but do so while actually marrying the party, committing to it, warts and all. Bernie isn’t that guy. Weirdly, he thinks he can reform the party from the outside; he thinks he can change her ways while still going home to Ms. Independent at night. He thinks he can still retain what he thinks is his moral integrity even while he is flirting, sometimes with the crude entitlement of a Bill O’Reilly, with Ms. Democrat. He flirts while talking smack, enticing her with his rap about rich people getting away with murder while the lower and middle classes suffer, using his position of power to dominate her, to exploit her weakness, to make her give in to his demands. In Bernie’s case, the Democratic Party was a campaign fling, the handy dame he used to run for president against Hillary Clinton. He used the party when he wanted something, even if it was something many Democrats wanted, too. But Bernie’s would-be mistress is not, and apparently never will be, his wife. Why? Because the Democratic Party is not something Bernie wants to come home to at night and snuggle with. He’s not the snuggling, spooning type. He seems to be, to put it crudely, the O’Reilly of party politics.

And make no mistake about it. Bernie can talk the talk. He can paint a broad picture of the economic and political landscape that most Democrats, but not all, find appealing. He is the Picasso of populism on the left. Mind you, he’s short on details, but, as we found out from Tr-mp’s Russian-aided triumph, details don’t really matter all that much to the electorate these days. You merely have to have a monster to attack. You have to have a villain to gun down (as Chris Hayes suggested during his Bernie interview). You have to Image result for demon and the pigshave a devil to cast out. How you gun down your villain, how you cast out your devil, is the hard part, of course. But Tr-mp’s razor-thin Electoral College win shows us that the “how” doesn’t much matter, doesn’t interest people all that much in the voting booth. What does interest them, what does matter, is that you say you want to gun down the villain, shoot the bad guy; you say you want to cast out the demon from a possessed system and send it into the swine, and then send the swine over the cliff.

Bernie told Chris Hayes:

What the party has got to focus on are the most important issues facing working people – that’s the decline of the middle class; that’s the need to take on the billionaire class and Wall Street and the insurance companies and bring people together, a) against Trump`s absolutely reactionary agenda, and, b) fight for a progressive agenda which, among other things, includes a Medicare for all single-payer program.

As I said, Bernie is short on details on how to get all that done. Fighting for a single-payer insurance system is music to my ears (and music to the ears of 80% of Democrats and 60% of independents. But someone has to write down the actual notes on paper, complete with the lyrics about how to win that fight and make it happen in a reluctant, splintered Congress. Someone has to tell us how that can be accomplished in a country so divided as ours, with an electorate so susceptible to the right-wing propaganda that would surely come with such a fight. Vermont, Bernie’s own state, tried the single-payer route. It didn’t work out too well.

To reiterate, the details are less important, at this stage, than the rhetoric. Tr-mp doesn’t have much of value to teach anyone, but he did educate us on how one can win an election without a 48-point policy plan. You simply pick out a couple of bad guys, like the Wall Street oligarchs whose handprints are all over Tr-mp and his administration, and go after them, relentlessly. If our next presidential candidate and our congressional candidates in 2018 and 2020 can successfully do that—if we get a Democratic Congress, and a legitimate president in the White’s House—then we can, and will have to, talk details later. Maybe all we can get done at first are much-needed improvements to the Affordable Care Act. Maybe we can get more. But we have to get in power first.

All that leads me to what you will see below in a video from Wednesday’s Rachel Maddow Show. All that leads me to Elizabeth Warren. She is a Democrat. She is actually married, willingly, to the Democratic Party. She recognizes the party is not all it should be, but sees it for what it can be, the vehicle for real reform, the vehicle to bring about the necessary change that Sanders and his followers say they want. But she also realizes that one cannot demand change from outside the party. She realizes that one cannot demand that the pursued radically change before the pursuer will half-heartedly commit. Warren realizes, as her support for Hillary Clinton demonstrated last year, that change comes from a committed relationship, not from a one-sided, I’ll-tell-you-what-I-want-before-I-give-you-my-love affair. She’s in bed with the party. She doesn’t have another lover on the side to whom she can go if the Democratic Party lets her down in this way or that.

And that’s why I prefer her to Bernie Sanders. I’ve always had reservations about Bernie because Bernie has so many reservations about the Democratic Party. I’ve always had trouble trusting Bernie because Bernie has so much trouble trusting Democrats. Commenter Jim Hight above says “the party will always lose unless this tiff with the Bernie supporters ends.” He’s probably right. We do have to work it out. We do have to heal the divisions between the Sanders voters and the Democratic Party. But that’s not a one-sided task, not a mending that can be done only by Democrats kneeling at the feet of an independent Bernie Sanders and asking for his forgiveness and promising we’ll do whatever he wants us to do.

Bernie did a lot to hurt Hillary Clinton and, as an unintended consequence, helped elect Donald Tr-mp. Oh, I know he didn’t mean to. I know he finally got on board in the end. But he owes the party some kind of a mild mea culpa, some kind of acknowledgement that, long before he eventually came on the anti-Tr-mp general election campaign team, that he did real damage to the person he had to know, as time and primary elections went by, would be the party’s general election candidate. At the very least he owes it to the party to, for God’s sake, join it. He needs to become one of us. He needs to commit. He needs to stop his flirting. He needs to curb his I-am-entitled-to-reform-a-party-I don’t-belong-to arrogance.

Below you will find the entire episode of Wednesday’s Rachel Maddow Show. I could have chopped it up, but I decided to use the whole thing for two reasons. One is that her opening, pre-Warren segment will piss you off and make you realize why Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are absolutely right about who it is that currently runs and ruins the system, using wealth as their tool. The second reason is that you will see why Elizabeth Warren, as reluctant as she is to become a national candidate to run against Tr-mp in 2020 (she has a Senate election in 2018, which takes priority), is someone who is a real Democrat, someone who really believes the party can be the vehicle to do the things that both she and Bernie, and so many progressives, believe should be done. Rachel’s interview with her, and the way Warren conducted herself and answered the questions, shows why her fidelity to the Democratic Party and her belief in its potential means much more to me than Bernie sitting next to the chairman of our party and refusing to commit to it.

Here is last night’s segment in full. You owe it to yourself, as a Democrat, as an independent, or simply as an interested observer of politics, to watch it all:

Bernie, Finally, Joins the “Stop Trump” Movement

Bernie Sanders unequivocally endorsed Hillary Clinton today. Good for him. Good for the Democratic Party. And, hopefully, good for the country.

Since I have spent a lot of time criticizing him for his behavior up until today, I owe him my thanks for belatedly doing the right thing. I watched his speech today in New Hampshire, and when he got around to talking about Hillary Clinton, he didn’t mince words. He actually endorsed her like he meant it, even though he knew that doing so would disappoint and aggravate some of his most loyal supporters. He effectively contrasted her positions on the issues with those of Trump and reminded everyone of something essential:

If you don’t believe this election is important, take a moment to think about the Supreme Court justices that Donald Trump will nominate, and what that means to civil liberties, equal rights and the future of our country.

I don’t think those of us who have been critical of Sanders should ignore just how important today is. Sure, Bernie’s delay was somewhat damaging, as was some of the things he and his supporters said and did during the primary season. But it was close to essential to get Bernie on board Clinton’s campaign. His passion and energy, as well as the passion and energy of those who will follow his lead, will help Democrats at all levels. We need all hands on deck. As Bernie mentioned today, Democrats not only need the White House, but the Congress, if there is any hope of getting progressive policies enacted.

Bernie also said something that Democrat-friendly people, who don’t necessarily like Hillary Clinton personally, should think about:

This campaign is not really about Hillary Clinton, or Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders, or any other candidate who sought the presidency. This campaign is about the needs of the American people and addressing the very serious crises that we face. And there is no doubt in my mind that, as we head into November, Hillary Clinton is far and away the best candidate to do that.

If you have any amount of sympathy for what Bernie Sanders was fighting for, if you have any amount of sympathy for the principles the Democratic Party represents, then it is imperative to get past your difficulties with Hillary Clinton’s personality or with her much-examined history. There is just too much at stake.

clinton and sanders.jpgBut Bernie statement above isn’t quite correct this election cycle. In an important sense, in a sense Bernie never touched on today, this election is about a candidate, a very unusual and unstable candidate. Trump’s utter unfitness for office, his manifestly disqualifying temperament, should be on voter’s minds. If Hillary Clinton is to win, she must focus not just on addressing the needs of the American people, but in reminding them, again and again, of just how existentially dangerous Trump is. Those tempted to not vote for her because they think she’s not progressive enough or because she has taken money from big shots or because they just can’t stand her personality need to know what they are risking.

I was talking to a neighbor the other day, a highly educated neighbor who said she was considering voting for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. I asked her why. She said she thought Hillary Clinton was too ambitious, and it was clear she didn’t much like her. It really didn’t seem to have all that much to do with Clinton’s policy positions. It just appeared she didn’t like Clinton. Of course I challenged her on that “ambitious” remark, saying that I don’t often hear people criticize male politicians for their ambition. But I also challenged her to think about the fact that a vote for Johnson, or any third-party candidate, is in effect a vote for Trump. It’s a vote that Hillary should get but won’t. And multiplied that could mean a Trump victory that would hurt a lot of people, both here and around the world.

I don’t know what she thought about my challenge, but I do know that people need to think about not just the policies that would flow out of a Clinton or Trump administration, or the personnel that would populate the government by virtue of a win by either, but people need to think long and hard about the damage—long-term damage—that Trump can do to our country by the sheer force of his incorrigible ignorance and chronic bigotry and self-obsessed temperament.

It occurred to me, after hearing Trump cynically say last night, “I am the law and order candidate,” that no one would be all that shocked to hear him say, upon taking office, “I am the law.” That is why Sanders’ endorsement today was so important. And that is why, again, I want to thank him for not being Ralph Nader.

Bernie’s Game Of Chicken

Bernie Sanders is playing a game. And it is a very dangerous game.

Appearing today on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” just after yet another weird Trump press conference from Scotland, Sanders said he would vote for Hillary Clinton because “the issue right here is I’m going to do everything I can to defeat Donald Trump.” There was no Hillary endorsement, just a knock against Trump, whom Sanders rightly called a “pathological liar.” That was about as much as a positive response as Democrats could expect from him, I admit, but—and there is always a but with Bernie—he wasn’t ready to stop his fight over the Democratic party platform and remaking the party in his ideological image. And he said Hillary Clinton had not yet come far enough his way.

In other words, Bernie is tempting fate. When asked if he might want to think of withdrawing from the race, now that everyone but Bernie Bros knows it is over, Bernie said,

Why would I want to do that when I want to fight to make sure that we have the best platform that we possibly can, that we win the most delegates that we can?

He still wants to win delegates? Now why would he want to keep going after more delegates? Power? Is the man playing this game so he can have as much power as possible? Is his ongoing struggle over the soul of the Democratic Party, a party he obviously doesn’t like, worth risking a Trump presidency? I get the impression, from listening to him, that he thinks it is. In fact, and I hate to say this, but I get the impression that what he named this morning as the quite quixotic “goal” of his campaign—“to transform this nation”—is more important than actually electing a Democrat this fall.

Maybe it’s just me, but this man appears to be a disturbing cross between Ted Cruz and Donald Trump: an uncompromising ideologue mixed with an ego much bigger than his delegate count.

Bernie was asked if he was concerned that only about 55% of his voters, according to some polls, were going to vote for Clinton. He wasn’t too worried about it. When asked about disunity in the party, he said,

You talk about disunity, I talk about people in the political process and wanting to have a government and party that represents all of us.

You see? Unity schmunity. Who cares about unity in the party when the party needs to be rebuilt from the ground up? Who cares about unity in the party when Bernie isn’t done having his way with it? Who cares about unity when Bernie still has all those damn delegates!

He was asked what to do about American companies that, say, move to Mexico. He gave the exact same answer Trump has given many times: slap tariffs on them—even though the president can’t do that. When he was told that he sounded just like Trump on that issue he said,

So what?

Yeah. So what? Who cares if Bernie sounds like Donald Trump? Who cares if significant numbers of his voters say they will actually vote for Trump or “anybody but Hillary”? Who cares if Trump is president?

If Bernie cares all that much, he has a funny way of showing it. Appearing a little later on “CBS This Morning,” he was reminded he had yet to endorse Clinton and was asked why he hasn’t done so. He said,

Because I haven’t heard her say the things that I think need to be said.

There you have it. His endorsement is, apparently, contingent on her yielding to his demands. He said he hopes that happens before the convention. But it may not happen before then, he added. They’re in negotiations right now—weeks after the last vote was cast. It took Mrs. Clinton only four days to suspend her campaign and endorse Barack Obama, after it was clear she couldn’t win the nomination in 2008. Yesterday evening I received an email from Bernie that ended with this:

bernie email ending.jpg

Hard to miss that “CONTRIBUTE” button.

Mind you, Bernie’s not doing this for himself. Oh, far from it. He’s not in it for himself, just as Donald Trump says he’s not in it for himself. Bernie, like Trump, says he is in it for the folks. He’s just raising money and keeping this going for, as he said in his email, “the 12 million Americans who voted for a political revolution.” Never mind that almost 16 million Americans didn’t vote for a Bernie-led political revolution during the Democratic primaries and caucuses. Bernie told CBS’s Charlie Rose this morning:

Look, it’s not just me. Charlie, what this campaign has been about is people wanting to transform America.

Transform America? Yes. That could happen for sure. If Mrs. Clinton doesn’t say what Bernie wants her to say, if the Democratic Party doesn’t bend to the will of Bernie Sanders, there may very well be a new America.

And it will have TRUMP stamped all over it.

O Finally Weighs In: “The Values That Unite Us As Democrats”

Science Explains Drumpf

Don’t know if you’ve seen the Vox video below, but you should. You also should check out Amanda Taub’s, “The rise of American authoritarianism,” in which she notes that a couple of political scientists—Marc Hetherington and Jonathan Weiler—had “essentially predicted Trump’s rise back in 2009.” How? Taub explains:

That year, Hetherington and Weiler published a book about the effects of authoritarianism on American politics. Through a series of experiments and careful data analysis, they had come to a surprising conclusion: Much of the polarization dividing American politics was fueled not just by gerrymandering or money in politics or the other oft-cited variables, but by an unnoticed but surprisingly large electoral group — authoritarians.

Their book concluded that the GOP, by positioning itself as the party of traditional values and law and order, had unknowingly attracted what would turn out to be a vast and previously bipartisan population of Americans with authoritarian tendencies.

This trend had been accelerated in recent years by demographic and economic changes such as immigration, which “activated” authoritarian tendencies, leading many Americans to seek out a strongman leader who would preserve a status quo they feel is under threat and impose order on a world they perceive as increasingly alien.

These Americans with authoritarian views, they found, were sorting into the GOP, driving polarization. But they were also creating a divide within the party, at first latent, between traditional Republican voters and this group whose views were simultaneously less orthodox and, often, more extreme.

Over time, Hetherington and Weiler had predicted, that sorting would become more and more pronounced. And so it was all but inevitable that, eventually, authoritarians would gain enough power within the GOP to make themselves heard.

At the time, even Hetherington and Weiler did not realize the explosive implications: that their theory, when followed to its natural conclusion, predicted a looming and dramatic transformation of American politics. But looking back now, the ramifications of their research seem disturbingly clear.

Disturbingly clear, indeed. We know that the authoritarians now control the Republican Party. That fight is over and the surrendering is going on as I write. But it remains to be seen if they will control the entire country. It’s possible they will—and Bernie Sanders is out there flirting with that possibility right now by aiding and abetting Drumpf—but until the time comes to find out, at least we should understand what is happening to our country:

More Bernie Buts

My fellow Democrats. Get used to it. Stop kidding yourselves. There will always be a “but” with Bernie. He’s not one of us.

He likes the Democratic Party, but. He likes Obama, but. He will support Hillary Clinton, but. He condemns the nastiness in Nevada, but.

It is clear that Bernie is not in this thing to be president anymore. He’s not in this to win the nomination—for him to continue to say he is amounts to defrauding his donors—and at this point he isn’t in it to defeat Drumpf. He’s in it because he first wants to destroy the Democratic Party as it now is and then become the leader of a revamped party, a party created in his image. That’s it. That’s what he’s doing.

Last night in California, at another big rally, he attacked Democratic leaders. The crowd booed those leaders. Bernie’s okay with that. He doesn’t care. Just like, at first, he didn’t much care that some of his supporters went wild in Nevada, that some of them threatened the chairwoman—a volunteer—of the state Democratic Party. He eventually put out a statement condemning what happened, but it came with a patented Bernie-but.

Last night, after all that had happened in Nevada over the weekend, where his supporters were furious at the “establishment,” Bernie sent out this tweet:

bernie tweet

Yes, Democrats are Bernie’s enemy. He’s running against Democrats. He literally loathes the party. So, why would we expect him to enthusiastically embrace it after this is all over? The most we will get from him, after Hillary Clinton wins the nomination and after he conducts a nasty fight at the convention over the party platform, will be a lukewarm endorsement of her—largely on the grounds that a Drumpf is unacceptable. That will be it.

It’s sad, but that is what it is.

Will Bernie Folks Listen To Van Jones And Noam Chomsky?

CNN contributor Van Jones, you may remember, once worked for President Obama as his Special Advisor for Green Jobs, or as some liked to call it, the “green jobs czar.” You also may remember that Glenn Beck repeatedly attacked him after his appointment in 2009, essentially suggesting he was, like Obama, a left-wing terrorist who hated white people. Other conservatives attacked him, too, including Republican members of Congress. Those ol’ boys were mostly offended because Jones, just before Obama appointed him, attended a lecture at Berkeley, in which he was asked why Democrats couldn’t get that famous stimulus packaged passed in 2009 even though they had 58 votes in the Senate:

QUESTIONER: …how were they, Republicans, able to push things through when they had less than 60 senators, but somehow we cant?

JONES: Well the answer to that is, they’re assholes.

QUESTIONER: I was afraid that was the answer.

JONES: As a technical, political kind of term. And Barack Obama is not an asshole. Now, I will say this: I can be an asshole, and some of us who are not Barack Hussein Obama, are going to have to start getting a little bit uppity.

As you can imagine, since this was pre-Drumpf, everyone on the right was outraged that the Scary Negro’s appointee, himself an even scarier Negro, called lily-white legislators “assholes,” even though it was true and even though he did so before the Scary Negro appointed him. Here’s a screen grab from Fox “News”:

I want to particularly call out one Republican congressman who went after Jones. His name is Mike Pence from Indiana, who is now the governor of that Drumpf-loving state. Back in 2009, Pence was very upset with Jones and demanded his resignation, saying, “His extremist views and coarse rhetoric have no place in this administration or the public debate.” Yes. Pence said that. He said that extremist views and coarse rhetoric have no place in government or in public debate. None. Nope. No place.

Except when they do.

Less than a month ago, while meekly endorsing Ted Cruz, Pence said,

I particularly want to commend Donald Trump, who I think has given voice to the frustration of millions of working Americans with a lack of progress in Washington, D.C.”

Hmm. Things have changed a bit since 2009. Not long after Pence made that statement about Drumpf giving “voice to the frustration of millions of working Americans,” Cruz got shellacked in Indiana’s GOP primary. Shortly after that, Pence endorsed the extremist views and coarse rhetoric approach:

I’m fully supportive of our presumptive nominee, and I do think Donald Trump will do well in the State of Indiana. I’m going to campaign hard for the Republican nominee because Indiana needs a partner in the White House.

He meant, of course, that Indiana needs a partner in the White’s House, even if that partner is really, truly a profane extremist. Apparently, Pence, like other Republicans in bed with Drumpf, don’t mind white folks doin’ all that fussin’ and cussin’; they just don’t like uppity Negroes doin’ it. Ain’t acceptable.

In any case, Van Jones resigned in September of 2009, after it became clear President Obama wasn’t in the mood for a fight. There were important things to get done and Jones was a distraction. That was too bad for the Obama administration but good for Jones. He has enjoyed a pretty good career since then, including a lot of face time on television, where he appears often, these days as a Bernie supporter.

But even though Jones is a Bernie man, he ain’t nuts. He isn’t about to let the Bern get the best of him or his country. I have never seen him badmouth Hillary in the way most Bernie people do when they get in front of a camera. He’s cool about it. That’s why he made a video for van jones, an organization that also went all-in for Bernie, but apparently understands that things are getting out of hand with some Bernie folks. The video is a warning that Drumpf can win the general election if we, liberals and leftists and anyone else who doesn’t like Orange Man, don’t “work together” to make sure the profane extremist doesn’t make the White’s House his home.  (You can watch the video at  and then come back for a word from a leftist’s leftist, Noam Chomsky.)

The comment section accompanying the video is an interesting read. There are some real Hillary haters on there, folks who won’t vote for her no matter what. Even if it means a President Drumpf, they don’t care. They want a “clean conscience.” Which brings me to Noam Chomsky.

Chomsky is a real radical leftist. Over the years he has said some things I agree with and some things I think are ridiculous. No need to go into that here. What I want to do is post something he said to yet another leftist, Amy Goodman, on her fine program, Democracy Now! After raising the point that corporate forces are funding elections and writing legislation and that a “countervailing force” is necessary to defend “popular interests, needs and concerns,” Chomsky said this:

noam chomskyBut now, going back to who should you push the button for, well, my own—in the primaries, I would prefer Bernie Sanders. If Clinton is nominated and it comes to a choice between Clinton and Trump, in a swing state, a state where it’s going to matter which way you vote, I would vote against Trump, and by elementary arithmetic, that means you hold your nose and you vote Democrat. I don’t think there’s any other rational choice. Abstaining from voting or, say, voting for, say, a candidate you prefer, a minority candidate, just amounts to a vote for Donald Trump, which I think is a devastating prospect, for reasons I’ve already mentioned. So—but meanwhile, do the important things.

I have to admit that surprised me. We are, after all, talking about Noam Chomsky. But even though clearly he doesn’t like Hillary Clinton—heck, even Bernie isn’t quite radical enough for him—he still has enough sense to see that even radical leftists should not commit national suicide by voting for a third party candidate or not voting at all.

Now, I say this to all you earnest Bernie folks out there: If Noam Bleeping Chomsky can “push the button” for Hillary, you can too! We can’t afford to let the assholes win! “Do the important things.”

Kamikaze Bernie

Hell hath no fury like an ideologue scorned.

After the New York primary on April 19th, in which Hillary Clinton trounced Bernie Sanders 58-42, the pundits on television were using a surprisingly appropriate metaphor. It went something like this: “How will Bernie eventually land the plane” of his losing campaign? bernie planeHmm. I liked that. Bernie has a choice. He is the pilot. He can land his plane safely on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier, the USS Democratic Party, or he can do something else.

Apparently, he has chosen something else. A kamikaze attack.

Last night, Jane Sanders, earnest and able wife of Bernie, was on MSNBC’s All In With Chris Hayes. She made sure we all knew that Bernie was serious about taking his airplane all the way to a “contested convention.” He ain’t goin’ away. “There’s gonna be a fight on the issues, no matter what,” she affirmed. “Everybody knows, anything can happen in politics,” she said later. Bernie’s gassed up and ready to crash.

Well, well. What else should we have expected? He’s been telegraphing his intentions for some time now. It’s not exactly going to be a surprise attack.

In any case, I want to offer another apt metaphor for what Jane Sanders did last night on Chris Hayes’ show. She unceremoniously tossed the great liberal economist Paul Krugman under the Bernie bus. Why? Because it’s the Bernie way. If you don’t subscribe, word-for-word, to Bernie’s world view; if you don’t think Bernie’s ideas are realistic or realizable; if you don’t buy Bernie’s unique mathematical theories about delegates; then you are dead to him and his surrogates. It’s pretty much that simple.

But before I get to Mrs. Sanders running over Paul Krugman with the Bernie bus, I want to first take a quick look at who Krugman is and why most Democrats respect him. Krugman is an op-ed columnist (and a blessed blogger!) for The New York Times. He earned a B.A. in economics (summa cum laude) from Yale in 1974, followed by a PhD in economics from MIT in 1977. He has taught at Yale, MIT, Stanford and Princeton and currently is—let me get this right—the “Distinguished Professor of Economics at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.” He has published around 20 books, from “Market Structure and Foreign Trade” in 1985 to “The Conscience of a Liberal” in 2009, a book I have in my library and from which I learned a lot of liberalology. In 2008 Krugman won a Nobel Prize and, if that ain’t good enough for ya, he holds a John Bates Clark Medal, which he got in 1991 and which The Economist says is “slightly harder to get than a Nobel prize.”

You get the idea. You may not like Krugman. You may think, as some folks do, that he is a left-wing nut. Or, you may think he is a phony progressive sellout and thus a suck-up to Hillary Clinton, as apparently a lot of Bernie fans do, including his wife, who had the following exchange with Chris Hayes on Monday night:

HAYES: I want to give you a chance to respond to critics of yours. Paul Krugman in The New York Times has been really hammering the Sanders campaign, but there are others who basically sasanders on hayesy that the Sanders campaign, by soliciting donations to make Bernie Sanders the nominee, is essentially running a con on its donors. What do you say to those people?

SANDERS: Really? What is John Kasich doing? And what is Ted Cruz been doing? No. We’re running on the issues. You know that. And I don’t take Paul Krugman seriously anymore. I used to. I think there are a lot of other, better economists and people who seem to have better critical thinking. So, that’s a disappointment. But I don’t read him, so I can’t tell you what he says anymore.

She doesn’t take the liberal economist “seriously anymore,” and there are “other, better economists and people who seem to have better critical thinking.” Now you see why I spent some time looking at Krugman’s résumé. It’s just silly for a Democrat to talk about him that way.

So, what has pissed off the Sanders team so much that they now are trashing yet another liberal Democrat, this one a distinguished economist? A blog post. Well, really, more than one blog post, but especially his latest one, “Bernie’s Bad End,” which began:

This is really depressing: Sanders claiming that there will be a contested convention, and suggesting that the nomination fight was rigged. Can someone tell Bernie that he’s in the process of blowing his own chance for a positive legacy?

No, Professor Krugman. No one can tell Bernie anything. He is not tellable. He operates in his own universe where math bends to his will; where the Democratic primary is “rigged” sanders in indianaagainst him despite his receiving a minority of votes; where the superdelegates he once loathed are now his path to victory—if they will only do what he says they should do.

Krugman noted that Bernie could have turned “defeat in the primary into a moral victory.” But, the prize-winning economist said, “he would have had to accept the will of the voters with grace.” Grace? Bernie knows no grace. He is the most graceless loser (and winner, for that matter) since, well, Donald Drumpf. You can’t beat Bernie. You can only hope to contain his Bernie-or-bust ego. You can only hope his metaphorical plane misses the flight deck and lands harmlessly in the sea.

Saint Rachel Maddow, who no one in his or her right mind could accuse of being a squishy liberal, or, Allah forbid, could accuse of being in bed with the right wing (like I have been so accused on this blog), pointed out on her Monday show that what Bernie is proposing— rachel on berniethat because Hillary Clinton can’t wrap up the nomination with pledged delegates by the last primary contest on June 14, he will essentially force a “contested convention”—represents “real radicalism.” Why? Why would Maddow say such a thing?

Because, using Bernie’s logic, Barack Obama—who did not have anywhere near a majority of pledged delegates going into the 2008 convention—would have had to suffer through a nasty floor fight with Hillary Clinton over superdelegates in order to win the nomination, which would have been quite radical, as well as a lasting disaster.

Hillary could have done what Bernie is saying he will do. She could have been a kamikaze. But she chose not to, even though she was much, much closer to Obama in the delegate count than Bernie is to her—Obama had only a 4% lead in pledged delegates and Hillary, right now, has a 11% lead—and she was actually leading the future president in the popular vote. Rachel remembered for us that Hillary went to the convention floor in Denver in August of 2008, not to fight for herself, but to certify Obama’s legitimacy as the nominee. To do anything else, she knew, would have hurt Democrats in the fall.

If only Bernie had that kind of grace, or, really, if only Bernie cared about the Democratic Party enough to be a team player and land his plane on the flight deck, long before the convention in July, rather than deliberately crash into it. But it has become painfully—and as a former fan of Bernie Sanders I mean “painfully”—obvious that Bernie is not a team player, if the team is the Democratic Party trying to defeat a Drumpf-led GOP. There may not be a clichéd “I” in team, but as all observers of this Democratic primary fight now know, there is an “I” in Bernie. A big one.

For her part, the courageous Saint Rachel, who called what Sanders is proposing “fantastical, which is not the same as fantastic,” knew there would be a backlash against her relatively aggressive segment on Bernie’s lack of grace and realism. She sweetly welcomed the “hate mail” she knew was coming. “Your accusations and swear words do hurt my feelings,” said Rachel, “but they also make me stronger.”

Well, I don’t know how much profanity-laced hate mail she has received since last night, but I will end with something posted to her site, something that sort of reveals a phenomenon that Bernie didn’t necessarily create, but a phenomenon that he is certainly exploiting. Someone named LynneAlex posted:

Rachell – you have become a corporatist in your success and evident in your support of Hillary. You can no longer call your self a progressive. Hillary was a “proud” Goldwater conservative Republican along with her family. The apple has not fallen far from the tree and calls herself democrat in name only. She has a record as a hawk and has strong corporate ties. What is there to support for progressives? Nothing. I have been a very loyal viewer and sad to say you have lost at least one. Back to listening solely to Amy Goodman a true progressive.

My, oh, my. When you turn on St. Rachel, when you boot her out of the progressive tent for telling you the truth, you have to wonder if maybe your affection for Bernie has morphed into something else. But, as Jane Sanders proved, that’s the Bernie way. Paul Krugman tries to tell the truth about Bernie and, poof, he’s gone. Black voters in the South make Hillary a winner and those victories become meaningless and irrelevant. She smashes him in the New York primary and elsewhere and the excuse is that non-Democrats didn’t get to pick the Democratic nominee. The superdelegates side with Hillary and the system is “rigged.”

All of us who once so respected Bernie Sanders and admired his vision for a future America are, or have a right to be, disappointed with the way his story, and possibly the Democratic Party’s November story, looks like it will end. We can only hope, and at this point it is a faint hope, that someone will convince him to abandon his crash-and-Bern approach before it is too late.

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