Tag Archives: Bernie Sanders

SYNDICATED COLUMN: 5 Things Democrats Could Do To Save Their Party (But Probably Won’t)

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Coupla weeks ago, I speculated that we may soon witness the end of the Democratic Party as we know it. I was kind. I didn’t mention the fact that the party is all out of national leaders. I mean, can you name a likely, viable Democratic candidate for president in 2020? Can you name three?

I followed up with more crystal-balling in a piece predicting that the meek will not inherit the earth if and when Trump gets dragged out of 1600 Penn by Senatorial impeachment police. The meek — the Democrats — could have/should have been the Anti-Trump Party. But they’ve dropped the ball. After the deluge, Paul Ryan.

With everyone so focused on the Trump Administration dead pool — how will he go? when? — we’re overlooking that Republicans could come out of the Trump debacle stronger than they went in. How crazy is that?

Now I want to look at another facet of this political Rubik’s cube: what the Democrats could do to avoid political irrelevance.

explainersmall            Not that they will.

  1. Democrats should stop calling themselves “The Resistance.” It’s an insult to the actual resistance fighters of World War II who were tortured and murdered. It’s also an attack on Strunk and White’s diktat not to stretch words beyond their plain meaning. Resistance to Republicans hasn’t been part of Democratic politics for generations. Quit the hype. Under-promise, over-deliver.
  2. Democrats should actually resist Trump and the Republicans. They shouldn’t have gone along with any of his nominees, but their promise to filibuster pencil-necked right-wing libertarian freak Neil Gorsuch would be a nice place to start. No Democrat, including those from purple/swing states, should vote for any GOP nominee or legislative initiative. Let’s not hear any more stupid talk of finding “common ground” with Trump on infrastructure spending or anything else. The GOP controls all three branches of the federal government so they’ll get whatever they want — and they should own whatever happens as a result. Democrats shouldn’t get their hands dirty.
  3. Democrats ought to articulate an alternative vision of what America would look like if they were in charge instead of Trump and the Republicans. It’s nice (not least for the 24 million people who would’ve wound up uninsured) that the repeal and replacement of Obamacare imploded. But that victory goes to rebellious Republicans, not Democrats. Here was a national debate over the ACA — Obama’s signature achievement — and Democrats didn’t even participate! How crazy is that? Never mind that they wouldn’t have gotten a vote on it — Democrats should have proposed their own bill reforming the ACA, one that moves left by adding single payer. Every Republican idea should be countered by an equal and opposite Democratic idea. Other countries call this act of self-definition shadow governance or, in a time of war perhaps loyal opposition. Whatever you call it, refusing to let your adversaries frame the acceptable ideological range of political debate is basic. In other words, a standard party-out-of-power tactic (e.g., the Tea Party 2009-2016).
  4. Democrats need to stop disappearing between elections. Campaigns are exhausting and it’s natural to want to catch one’s breath and conduct a postmortem to determine what went well and wrong. But it’s gotten to the point that the only time left-of-center voters hear from the Democratic Party is the year of a major election, for the most part only a few months before November and then only to ask for money. In the era of the 24-7 news cycle and the Internet, that hoary see-you-in-two-to-four-years approach is as outmoded as Bernie Sanders’ and Hillary Clinton’s cut-and-paste stump speeches and network TV shows that take summers off for something called “vacation.” A modern party should become part of our everyday lives. Every burg needs a Democratic Party storefront bustling with activity. Every Republican officeholder needs a ferocious Democratic challenger, even at the localest of local levels. Door-to-door campaigning and grassroots organizing should happen every day of every month of every year — in every state, regardless of presidential race electoral vote considerations, just like Howard Dean said.
  5. Bernie Sanders says Democrats can and should do class issues and identity politics. He’s right. As we’ve seen with the increased acceptance of LGBTQ people in recent years, the two are intertwined: gays’ incomes have risen But here’s the rub: you can’t really take on poverty and income disparity while accepting contributions from banks and other corporations whose interest lies in perpetuating economic misery by keeping wages low. The biggest lesson Dems should internalize from Bernie’s candidacy is his reliance on small individual donations.

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

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Smooth Transition of Power

We keep hearing that Democratic officials are being polite and deferent to president-elect Donald Trump because they respect America's tradition of smooth transitions of power. Given what Trump has said during the campaign, and the people he has appointed so far, however, that may not be appropriate.

We keep hearing that Democratic officials are being polite and deferent to president-elect Donald Trump because they respect America’s tradition of smooth transitions of power. Given what Trump has said during the campaign, and the people he has appointed so far, however, that may not be appropriate.

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Now, A Postmortem By Someone Who Actually Saw Trump’s Win Coming

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You’ve read post-election analysis by the discredited corporate pundits who thought Hillary was a shoo-in. Since I saw Donald Trump’s “upset” coming, my take on what happened and why may be of more interest.

As with any large-scale disaster, the ascent of a spectacularly unqualified buffoon to the most powerful political office on earth came about as the result of numerous system failures and operator errors. Here’s a bird’s-eye view of what went wrong.

System Failures: Problems Hardwired Into the Machine

  1. Democrats took their progressive base for granted.

Following George McGovern’s landslide loss to Richard Nixon in 1972, the Democrats’ conservative southern wing seized control of the DNC and other leadership apparatus. Center-right Dems won four presidential races with Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, but at a cost. Election after election, liberals and progressives — the party’s base and thus its greatest potential source of votes, donations and enthusiasm — were taken for granted as the party moved right in search of swing voters. Where else, the Clintonian Brahmins asked smugly, could lefties go? The answer was nowhere: snubbed, unmotivated and disgusted, they stayed home this November.

  1. No safety net for workers displaced by globalization and deindustrialization.

NAFTA wasn’t the beginning; it was the last nail in the coffin of the postwar boom that elevated blue-collar manufacturing jobs to professions paying enough to finance the American Dream. Year after year, millions of workers lost good jobs and were forced to make do with two lousy ones. Inner cities, and not a few suburbs, rotted and died. Neither major party talked about the Making of America Not Great Anymore, much less tried to do anything about it. Trump scored big Rust Belt points merely by acknowledging the long-ignored pain of millions.

  1. In media coverage of the horse race, some candidates are more equal than others.

If you were designing American democracy from scratch, you’d probably make it a rule that every candidate for office receives the same attention from the media. (France does this.) But we’re light years away from that ideal. Trump received more TV minutes and column-inches than his Republican rivals because he was (a) outrageous and (b) a celebrity. Clinton’s coverage overshadowed Sanders’ because media gatekeepers were (a) enamored of their pre-fab “first woman president follows first black president” narrative and (b) couldn’t imagine that an elderly socialist from Vermont could be a serious contender. Who would be president-elect today had Rand Paul, Carla Fiorina and Bernie Sanders been given a fair chance to make their cases to the voters? Probably not Trump.

Operator Errors: Screw-Ups By Individual Politicians and Organizations

  1. Hillary’s campaign partied like it was 1996.

Campaigning has changed since the Clintonian heyday of the ’90s, but Hillary’s strategists didn’t get the memo. Trump ad-libbed outrageous vidbytes at his rallies, making them must-see TV and earning billions in free exposure; Hillary stuck to her deadly dull stump speech, doomed to be ignored. While Trump worked Twitter like a tween at 3 am — ensuring that story-hungry editors would see his hilarious rants when they arrived at their desks — it took 12 Clinton staffers to compose a single tweet whose made-by-committee provenance made it dead on arrival. She spent many millions on a repeat loop of anti-Trump TV ads featuring clips everyone had already seen. Considering that she barely survived Bernie Sanders’ primary challenge, it should have been obvious to her team that the Democratic party has moved left (as has the nation). So why did her 2016 campaign follow the old Dick Morris move-right-for-the-general-election model from 1996, moving right in order to “reach out to Republican megadonors“? Meanwhile, Morris himself understood the new reality. “But Trump is doing more than driving populist Democrats into Republican arms,” Morris wrote. “He is separating the establishment left of the Democratic Party from its populist base. His candidacy separates the blue-collar social populists from their partisan moorings even as his economic populism appeals to the Sanders left.” He wrote that in May.

  1. The DNC ignored polls that showed Bernie was a better candidate than Hillary.

Trump’s “surprise” win wasn’t shocking to people who were paying attention. Throughout the primary and general election, the DNC brushed off head-to-head tracking polls that showed that Hillary Clinton never enjoyed a commanding lead over, and sometimes fell behind, Donald Trump. Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, consistently held a double-digit lead, sometimes as high as 20 percent, over Trump. As it turned out, Trump would have lost to Sanders. In a change year when Americans were in the mood for radical populism, Sanders offered all the stuff voters liked about Trump — his anti-free trade message, economic populism, opposition to stupid foreign wars, the fiery, outspoken energy of a loud New Yorker — minus his manic loopiness and offensive comments about women and minorities. Granted, Bernie’s poll numbers would have suffered under an onslaught of ads depicting the Vermont senator as the second coming of Stalin, Soviet May Day parade footage and “The Internationale” playing incessantly. But the Cold War is over. Americans are more afraid of cost-cutting CEOs than commissars.

  1. Hillary Clinton didn’t appoint Bernie Sanders as vice president, or to a cabinet position.

Democratic voters wanted Hillary — a lifelong right-wing Democrat — to balance the ticket by choosing a progressive running mate like Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker or her rival Bernie Sanders. But she never considered any of them, going instead with some guy who’s name I still struggle to remember. Ironically, no one understood the disastrous implications of Hillary’s choice better than right-wing blogger Wayne Allyn Root in The Blaze: ” Hillary desperately needed a shot in the arm; an exciting and edgy vice president by her side…Tim Kaine isn’t just boring… Kaine is an affront to every Bernie Sanders supporter – which happens to be all the youth and energy in the entire Democrat Party.”

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: The 4 Things Hillary Could Do To Close the Deal Against Trump

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She’s ahead in the polls by roughly three to four points. Given her opposition, however, Hillary Clinton ought be doing a lot better than that.

Consider Clinton’s structural advantages over Donald Trump.

Whereas top Democratic Party officials are so supportive of her that they even cheated to defeat her primary opponent, hundreds of leading Republicans – including the speaker of the house and the last two presidential nominees – have declared war against him. She’s been wildly outspending him in televised political advertising. She has campaign field offices in most counties; he doesn’t have any in most states. The news media despises him.

Then consider her personal advantages.

Trump is a novice, never having run for political office. She has served in the cabinet, presented herself for the Senate twice, run for president, weathered countless scandals and political storms. Whereas he rants and raves incoherently, her experience has taught her how to debate, crisis manage, issue sound bites, and carefully calibrate her every phrase for maximum impact and minimum risk. His main advantage is the perception of authenticity – and it’s a big one, having gotten him where he is now – but it has come at a huge price as all his years of running off at the mouth on and off camera are coming home to roost weeks before election day.

Donald Trump has infuriated more than half the voters: women. He has insulted one out of 10 male and female Americans: Latinos, some of whom are registering to vote just to cast a ballot against him. And let’s not forget Muslims.

Given all that, why is he doing so well? Why is she doing so badly – or more accurately, so not well?

Part of Hillary’s problem is personality. Truth be told, she really isn’tlikeable enough.”

“The vote for president is a ‘feel’ vote,” Chris Cillizza wrote in The Washington Post. “Do you think this person is someone who understands you and the problems (and hopes and dreams) you have for yourself and your children?” Polls have consistently shown that most Americans think she doesn’t.

It’s not all sexism: Clinton yells into microphones and overly enunciates. Her voice is objectively irritating. Then there’s her incredibly ugly, unbelievably hideous wardrobe: it’s hard to like someone who makes your eyes burn.

But let’s face it. Hillary Clinton, probably like you and definitely like me, can’t do anything about her personality. At 68, that stuff is baked in. Still, there’s a lot she could do to close the deal against Donald Trump — to widen her within-the-margin-of-statistical-error lead to a chasm, the insurmountable landslide that her institutional and other advantages would have guaranteed a better candidate.

It’s about policy, stupid.

            Recommendation #1: Guarantee Bernie Sanders a high-profile position in the cabinet. (She should have made him vice president, but it’s too late for that.)

Even after the Democratic convention in which Sanders endorsed her, more than a third of Bernie voters – roughly 1/6 of the electorate – still weren’t behind her. Annoyed that Clinton didn’t grant any significant concessions to the party’s progressive base, many of them will vote for Jill Stein or stay home. I’ve been prognosticating about American politics for decades, and I’ve never been more certain of a prediction: a firm guarantee that Bernie Sanders will have a seat at the table for the next four years would singlehandedly put an end to Trump’s chances.

            Recommendation #2: Promise to be a one-term president.

One thing that drives voters crazy is politicians who spend most of their time in office weighing every decision against their future reelection campaign. Nothing would do more to allay voters’ worries that she is a slave of her Wall Street masters than to turn herself into a lame duck on day one — and free herself of the burden of worrying about 2020. Anyway, Hillary Clinton is old and not in the greatest of health. Can anyone really imagine her finishing out the presidency at age 77, the same age as Ronald “Alzheimer” Reagan?

            Recommendation #3: Turn her weaknesses into strengths by promising to finish her own unfinished business.

One of Hillary Clinton’s biggest weaknesses is her support of NAFTA and other job-killing “free trade” deals. Since she can’t run away from her record, why not embrace it by calling for a major national jobs retraining and financial assistance program for people who lose their jobs to globalization, as well as a $25/hour minimum wage? Similarly, her awkward reluctance to concede that Obamacare is too expensive should be replaced by an acknowledgement of what everyone already knows – the Affordable Care Act should have at least included a “public option” – and a promise that she will add one in January. She could also claimed that she learned a valuable lesson from her email scandal; she could promise to be the most transparent president in history by putting a live camera in the oval office and the cabinet, and promising not to conduct government business (other than national security matters) in private.

Recommendation #4: No more optional wars.

You know you’re on the wrong side of an issue when Donald Trump is the calm reasonable one. On foreign policy, Hillary Clinton has quite the reputation as a warmonger. She voted for wars against Afghanistan and Iraq, even though neither had anything to do with 9/11. As Secretary of State she encouraged President Obama to finance the Islamist fundamentalists who turned Libya and Syria into hell. Now she’s saber-rattling with Russia. Americans hate these endless wars. And militarism does us a lot more harm than good. Hillary Clinton should issue an October Surprise: if elected, she should say, she will never deploy American military power anywhere on earth other than to directly defend the American homeland.

I know she probably won’t take my advice. But here’s the thing: she’ll win if she does.

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. Please support Ted by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Hillary’s Strategy: Snub Liberal Democrats, Move Right to Nab Anti-Trump Republicans

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Hillary Clinton’s strategy for the general election is to try to peal away anti-Trump Republicans. That’s why we are seeing her move to the right.

Sorry, Bernie Sanders supporters. She’s just not that into you.

To those of us who have been paying attention, Clinton’s post-primary migration toward conservatism comes as no surprise. There’s a reason her campaign appealed to progressives primarily by referencing her work for the Children’s Defense Fund in the 1970s, when David Bowie was an up-and-coming glam rocker. Team Clinton had to go that far back to find evidence of her supposed liberalism.

Nevertheless, many lefties drawn to the Sanders campaign have been struggling to convince themselves that voting for the She-Wolf of Goldman Sachs is acceptable because (a) Trump and (b) somewhere down deep under Hillary’s Dr. Evil outfits there’s an adorable Bernadette waiting to get out and do some good for the world.

Now we have three crucial pieces of evidence that proves that that’s wishful thinking.

First came the revelation that her hawkish approach to foreign-policy sprang not out of the vacuum but from her hobnobbing with a bunch of disreputable neoconservatives who belong in prison rather than advising a possible future president: war criminal Henry “Secret Bombing of Cambodia” Kissinger, Iraq War schemer Robert “Project for a New American Century” Kagan, Bush deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage and Max Boot, renowned as the unstupid neocon.

The second tell was her back-and-forth flip-flopping over the TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership or “free trade” agreement designed to destroy whatever is left of America’s manufacturing industry. As Secretary of State, she was for it. Under pressure from Bernie, she came out against it. Now her minions on the Democratic platform committee have arranged to omit her supposed opposition to TPP from the platform — and her pick for vice president, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, is a virulent supporter of outsourcing American jobs. She’ll sign the TPP.

Kaine, a conservative “Third Way” Democrat in the, well, Clinton mold, is the third giveaway. “If Clinton has reached out to Bernie supporters, it appears that she has done so to stick triangulating thumbs in their eyes,” commented progressive icon Normon Solomon.

If your Democratic Party is the party of FDR and JFK, Clinton’s predictable return to her right-wing roots is a betrayal of core values. Working people need one of America’s two major political parties to care about them.

But even if all you care about is winning, and defeating Donald Trump is Job One because you’re that kind of pragmatist, this rehashed Dick Morrisism of the 1990s looks like political suicide. It comes down to a simple question: where is there more potential for Hillary Clinton to expand her voting base? Among progressives who supported Bernie Sanders? Or among anti-Trump Republicans?

My instincts say – scream! – the former. As the cliché goes, Democrats fall in love and Republicans fall in line. As we saw last week in Cleveland, Republicans (Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio) who swore swore swore that they would never support Donald Trump wound up doing exactly that. Republicans are wired for obedience, conformity, rah rah rah.

Not to mention, for mysterious reasons entirely outside the historical record, they’re convinced that Hillary Clinton is a radical socialist communist feminist and they hate her for it. (If only.)

Like Fox Mulder in the X-Files, Bernie’s people want to believe. Most are scared of Trump, but they need some concessions before saying #ImWithHer: a promise to back a federal $15 an hour minimum wage, a public option in the Affordable Care Act, free public college tuition, fewer wars.

Let’s do a little back-of-the-envelope arithmetic.

The latest national polls show Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump neck and neck. According to the survey that is most favorable to her, 85% of Sanders supporters plan to vote for her, 9% for Trump. But those votes for Hillary are extremely unenthusiastic ones. Soft. Squishy. On Election Day, many of those people will end up staying home or supporting Green Party candidate Jill Stein.

Not counting caucus states, over 13.1 million people voted for Sanders. Conservatively, 15% of these Berners – just shy of 2 million voters – currently say that they won’t vote for Clinton. Extrapolate those results to the approximately 66 million Democrats who turned out in the 2012 general election, and you get 10 million.

Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney by fewer than 5 million votes.

Bear in mind: I’m calculating this using the most favorable scenario for Hillary. Odds are, it will be worse.

Based on her move-to-the-right strategy, Clinton’s advisers believe they can get more than 10 million Republicans to move to her from Donald Trump — in other words, nearly 20% of the Republican general election turnout in 2012.

An obscure April poll found 19% of Republicans voting for Hillary, were Trump to win the nomination, but I don’t buy it. The Republican Party is a mess to be sure. But it isn’t that fractured. Republicans aren’t so opposed to Trump that they’re open to Hillary Clinton. I think anti-Trump Republicans are more likely to move over to Gary Johnson, the Libertarian.

Are Clinton’s advisers stupid? Or is she so completely enthralled to her corporate donors that she can’t be anything other than a Wall Street stooge? Only those inside the campaign know.
(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. His next book, the graphic biography “Trump,” comes out this Tuesday, July 26th and is now available for pre-order.)

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Hillary Cheated

Who are you going to believe: us, or your lying eyes? That’s the good word from Democratic Party powers that be and their transcribers in the corporate media, in response to the “allegations” by Bernie Sanders supporters that the nomination was stolen by Hillary Clinton.

I used scare quotes around the word “allegations” because the truth is plain to see and undeniable by anyone with a microgram of honesty: Hillary Clinton cheated. If the rules had been followed, Bernie Sanders would be the nominee.

As with all things Clinton, of course, definitions matter. It depends on what the meaning of “cheat” is.

To most people, “cheating” means breaking the rules of a contest. By this standard definition, there’s no doubt that the Clinton campaign, its political allies and the Democratic National Committee cheated in favor of Clinton and against Sanders. They broke the law. They disenfranchised voters. They broke party rules. And they violated long-standing customs that are so widely accepted that they are essentially de facto rules of the Democratic Party and the American political system.

Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, ran a clean campaign.

Like many other voters, I subscribe to a somewhat broader definition of cheating in political elections. To me, Richard Nixon-style “dirty tricks” – the disgusting tactics George W. Bush used against John McCain in South Carolina in 2000 – rise to the level of cheating because they deny voters the facts that they need in order to make an educated decision in the voting booth. Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said that people are entitled to their own opinion, not their own facts, and outright lies about your opponent’s – and your own – positions and experience not only violate Moynihan’s dictum but constitute the essence of cheating in the political arena.

If Hillary Clinton manages to dodge both an Emailgate-related indictment as well as fallout from her husband’s corrupt tarmac rendezvous with the now-tainted Attorney General Loretta Lynch for the next few weeks and formally secure the nomination she’s been working on since at least the year 2000, it will be a historic moment for identity politics. But it is absolutely imperative that no one watching the first woman to accept the presidential nomination of a major American political party be fooled into believing that she did it on the up and up.

Hillary Clinton did not run a clean campaign.

She cheated.

If we want to be the kind of country that doesn’t care about that sort of thing, if fair play isn’t an American value, fine with me. But let’s go into this general election campaign with our eyes wide open.

Caucus after caucus, primary after primary, the Clinton team robbed Bernie of votes that were rightfully his.

Here’s how. Parties run caucuses. States run primaries. The DNC is controlled by Hillary Clinton allies like chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Democratic governors are behind Clinton; state election officials report to them. These officials decide where to send voting booths, which votes get counted, which do not.

You thought this was a democracy? Ha.

In the first in the nation Iowa caucus, Bernie Sanders pulled off a surprising tie where he was expected to lose badly — Hillary won by just 0.2%. However, party officials never bothered to send vote counters to the most rural parts of the state, where Bernie was favored over Hillary. About 5% of Iowa caucus votes were never counted. At other caucus sites, Democratic officials loyal to Hillary purposefully undercounted Sanders caucusers. No doubt about it, Bernie should have won that one, as well as votes in other states that would have been affected by a big Sanders upset.

Voters in pro-Sanders precincts in Arizona faced long lines because pro-Hillary elections officials didn’t provide enough voting booths. With lines of three hours or more still to go, the media called the state for Hillary.

New York State was arguably the most important contest of the primary season. Had Bernie Sanders defeated Hillary Clinton in her adopted home state where she had served 1 1/3 terms as senator, he would have dealt her campaign a blow from which she might never have recovered, along with a pile of delegates. Because of her local roots and the fact that New York was a closed primary state in which independence were not allowed to vote, it was a long shot for Bernie. But like the LAPD in the O.J. Simpson case, the Clinton team wasn’t taking any chances.

Did they drop a line to Governor Andrew Cuomo, who endorsed Clinton? Or did state elections officials act on their own initiative? Either way, Bernie Sanders stronghold, the borough of Brooklyn where he was born, was targeted for massive voter suppression. At least 125,000 New Yorkers were illegally purged from the rolls, had their votes lost/thrown away, or were not permitted to vote due to broken voting machines – all in Brooklyn.

Even Mayor Bill de Blasio, who endorsed Clinton, was angry. “It has been reported to us from voters and voting rights monitors that the voting lists in Brooklyn contain numerous errors, including the purging of entire buildings and blocks of voters from the voting lists,” De Blasio said. “The perception that numerous voters may have been disenfranchised undermines the integrity of the entire electoral process and must be fixed.”

The skullduggery continued through the last major primary, California. The night before, the Associated Press put its thumb on the scale, declaring Hillary the nominee in an epic act of voter suppression. Who knows how many Sanders voters decided to stay home once they heard it was all over?

Hillary Clinton was declared the winner by a substantial margin, but after it turned out that state election officials, who report to Governor Jerry Brown, who endorsed Clinton, didn’t bother to count a whopping 2.5 million provisional ballots. According to investigative journalist Greg Palast, the nation’s leading expert on the manipulation of elections, Bernie Sanders actually should have won the state of California along with the majority of its delegates. (Disclosure: I work with Palast as a Fellow of his Investigative Fund.)

One of the most disreputable moves of the campaign was the Associated Press poll of party superdelegates, party insiders who are allowed to vote for whoever they want but, because they are party insiders, inevitably support the establishment candidate. Truth is, the superdelegate system itself is official cheating. But the AP survey made a terrible system even more deadly to democracy.

If they cared about free elections, the superdelegates wouldn’t have stated their loyalty in public. The DNC ought to have told superdelegates that they would lose their status if they expressed their opinions before the convention. As it was, Bernie Sanders started the race miles behind the finish line.

The only way Bernie could have caught up would have been to have scored one landslide win after another. As it was, he came close to doing that. His surprising early momentum, big rallies and popularity with younger voters might have convinced superdelegates to back him, but after they told the AP they were for Hillary Clinton, it was too late for them to change their minds.

I’m out of space. So I can’t get into the DNC’s attempts to deny Bernie Sanders airtime in the form of widely seen debates against Hillary Clinton, her ridiculous claim that she supported Bernie’s $15-an-hour federal minimum wage at the same time that her website confessed that she didn’t, the Nevada Democratic convention in which Sanders supporters were denied seats by Clintonites in charge and then falsely accused of violence, and Clinton’s sleazy “I was for the TPP before I was against it, and now that the primaries are over, I’m for it again” gambit.

That stuff isn’t the usual hardball.

It’s cheating.

(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. His next book, the graphic biography “Trump,” comes out July 19th and is now available for pre-order.)

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Mass Shootings Are The New Normal. Get Over It.

What is wrong with Americans?

Okay, that’s a very open-ended question with many potential answers.

What I’d like to talk about this time is: why is it that Americans only begin to get serious about a problem after it’s too late to solve it?

Currently, I’m thinking about the latest, depressingly predictable response to the Orlando massacre.

As usual, right-wingers like Donald Trump want to restrict immigration. But even setting aside the obvious moral and practical economic objections to nativism, how would that prevent future mass shootings (in part) in the name of the Islamic State? Orlando shooter Omar Nateen wasn’t an immigrant. He was born in Queens, New York; his parents were from Afghanistan. If the Republicans’ goal is to get rid of potentially self radicalized Muslims, it’s too late. There are 3.3 million Muslims in the United States. Many are full-fledged citizens.

Any group of people that numbers in the millions includes some who are mentally ill, some who are politically radical, some who are religious fundamentalists, and some who are some combination of all three. Since it’s illegal to deport U.S. citizens, millions of whom are Muslim, a few of whom are crazy – and the United States insists on pursuing an endless “war on terror” against Muslim countries – there’s no way that a policy of reduced immigration can prevent future attacks by homegrown Islamists.

On what passes for a Left, Democrats like Hillary Clinton are pushing for tighter restrictions on guns. As usual.

Indeed, it’s hard to argue that civilians require military grade weapons like the semi-automatic AR-15 assault rifle used to kill 49 people at the Pulse nightclub. Hunters don’t use them. If the AR-15 is legal, why not hand grenades? Had Nateen been forced to use a pistol or long gun instead, his bullets would have been smaller, the death toll lower. Some of his victims might have been able to overpower him as he tried to reload.

Here again, however, it’s too late to fix the problem. The cat is out of the bag. Two years ago, the national sport shooting foundation estimated that there were between 5 million and 8.2 million assault-style rifles in American homes. Sales of these weapons always spike after mass shootings, so it’s a safe bet that that number has risen by at least 1 million or two since then.

Even if Hillary Clinton were to succeed beyond her wildest dreams, assault weapons were banned permanently, what about those millions of AR-15’s already in circulation? Would she be willing to send jackbooted federal thugs door to door to search every home until every last one of them, or at least the lion’s share, were rounded up and melted down? Of course not.

The truth is, this ship sailed back in 2004 when Congress allowed the federal ban on assault weapons to expire without being renewed. Congress’s failure to act over the last 12 years has transformed the United States into a nation awash in military hardware.

Mass shootings are the new normal. Get over it.

“It’s too late to do anything about it, now let’s act” mania appears to have become as much of a part of our national character as the myth that everyone is a member of the middle class.

Progressives and liberals who form the base of the Democratic Party, most of whom supported Bernie Sanders during the primaries, are engaged in a robust debate over whether to switch over to Hillary Clinton this fall, support a third-party candidate like Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein, or stay home on election day. It’s the same old question: Do you vote for the lesser of two evils? Isn’t that voting for evil?

Democrats for Clinton are trying to convince Bernie Sanders voters that November represents an existential threat, that if Donald Trump is elected everything we know and love about America will be destroyed. They don’t get it.

What the Clintonites don’t understand is that it’s already too late. Yes, if Donald Trump gets in, there’s a strong danger that what’s left of American democracy will yield to something radically new and terrifying, full-fledged authoritarianism. But Hillary Clinton also represents something horrible: a continuation of the neoconservatism that led to the invasion of Iraq, has made the United States a target of Islamist terrorism, complete capitulation to the banking class whose power structure relies upon the vast majority of American workers toiling for longer hours and shrinking wages – in effect, the last nail in the coffin of the idea that ordinary people have the right to imagine themselves and their children living better than they have in the past.

The existential battle isn’t in November. It was a couple of weeks ago, when Hillary Clinton appeared to nail down the Democratic presidential nomination. Whatever happens now, whether authoritarian Trumpism or steady-as-she-goes downwardly mobile Clintonism, we are screwed.

Perhaps no issue better illustrates my point than climate change.

I remember watching Jacques Cousteau on television in the 1970s, when he repeatedly warned that the oceans (along with the rest of the planet) were warming, and that it would soon – might already be – too late to stop it. The politicians and corporate executives, of course, ignored him and the other scientists who said the same thing. Now, finally, the political class is giving lip service to the crisis, though action remains in short supply.

The fact is, Cousteau was probably right. It was probably too late to save the planet back then. It’s certainly too late now. The climate science is clear. The polar ice cap is never coming back; Antarctica is melting away. The process can’t be reversed. Even if every internal combustion engine in the world stopped running tomorrow morning, human beings have pumped too much energy into the closed system that is our atmosphere to reverse global warming.

My intention isn’t to bum you out. All I’m saying is, let’s stop focusing on problems we can’t do anything about and work on those we still can.

(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. His next book, the graphic biography “Trump,” comes out July 19th and is now available for pre-order.)

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: What Hillary Must Do to Win Over Bernie Voters

   Unless you follow politics closely, you could be forgiven for thinking that Hillary Clinton has locked up the Democratic presidential nomination. This is not true. She still doesn’t have the requisite number of delegates. That could, and probably will, happen next month when her lead in superdelegates puts her over the top at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia – when the superdelegates actually, you know, cast their actual votes.

The media, however, doesn’t want you to know that Bernie Sanders is still in the race. And so, based on that flimsiest of measures – an opinion survey of superdelegates who are allowed to change their mind at any point before July’s DNC – they’ve called the Democratic race for Clinton.

This completely illogical reasoning logically leads pundits to the question of the month: how can the Hillary Clinton campaign convince progressive supporters of Bernie Sanders – whose race was largely based on the assumption that Clinton is so far to the right that she might as well be a Republican – to vote for her?

Every four years mainstream political writers and commentators push Democrats to the right after the primaries, arguing that swing voters decide presidential elections. Like trickle-down economics, however, that doesn’t seem to have been true any time in the recent past. Political parties seem to perform best when they motivate their base to turn up at the polls. Given the fact that Republican voters are congenitally more likely to fall in line behind their nominee even if he turns out to be a potato – or, this year, a proto-fascist – than Democrats, it’s obvious to everyone that Hillary Clinton will need as many Bernie Sanders supporters as possible in November if she indeed becomes her party’s nominee.

Obvious to everyone but Hillary.

Last week, NBC’s Lester Holt asked her about Sanders: “Can you name one idea that he’s put forward that you want to embrace? That he has really changed your position on?”

Her answer: a big fat negatori.

“Well, it’s not that so much as the passion that he brought to the goals that–his campaign set,” said Clinton.
Granted, I can’t think of anything she could do to get me to vote for her. But there are millions of Sanders voters who could be convinced not to sit home on election day, support a third-party candidate like Jill Stein or Gary Johnson, or defect to Donald Trump. She’ll need those voters if there are any more Orlando-style terrorist attacks (great for Trump’s fear-based campaign) or, for that matter, after presidential debates in which I expect Trump to savage her.

Maybe Debbie Wasserman Schultz can schedule those debates for the middle of the night on Kazakhstani state television.

Except when she’s hanging out with investment bankers and Walmart board members, Hillary Clinton reflexively refuses to compromise. If she continues her “I have nothing to learn from Bernie and he’ll be lucky to get a speech at the convention” attitude, however, better get prepared for President Trump.

What do Bernie Sanders supporters want? As Trump says, everything is negotiable. So let’s negotiate!

“Add back the public option to the Affordable Care Act,” Howard Dean suggests to Hillary in the New York Times. “Let Americans vote with their feet about whether they want to be in a single payer or the current system.”

The problem with that is, big insurance companies bribed her with $13 million in campaign contributions to get her to say that single payer “will never, ever come to pass.”

Dean wants Clinton to back Sanders’ “massive overhaul of the criminal justice system, starting with emptying for-profit prisons and juvenile detention centers.”

Nice idea, except that here too, she’s owned: she collected as many big donations from lobbyists for the for-profit prison industry as Marco Rubio.

He also wants her to embrace Bernie’s push for reforming Wall Street – but how likely is it that someone who made over $100 million giving speeches to scumbags in the financial services industry will turn against her backers?

“She should release the transcripts of her speeches and explain any of the objectionable things she said in them,” says Stephanie Rioux. If Clinton were going to show us her speeches, it would already have happened.

It may not feel like it now, but Hillary Clinton is in a pickle.

Her supporters keep citing her willingness to support Barack Obama after her defeat in 2008 as an example Bernie Sanders ought to emulate now. But Clinton and Obama were ideologically virtually identical. Both were members of the right-wing Democratic Leadership Council. True, Obama pretended to oppose the Iraq war, which Clinton supported. But Obama wasn’t in the Senate in 2003. When he did get the chance to vote on Iraq, he voted six times out of six in favor of funding it. And he continued the war long after he took office.

Conversely, there’s a huge gap between Clintonism and Sandersism. Bernie Sanders is essentially a Democrat circa George McGovern in 1972: he favors big government antipoverty programs, socialized medicine, and a limited role for the US military overseas. He’s skeptical of free trade agreements, and hasn’t met a Wall Street banker that he likes. Hillary Clinton isn’t just against all that – she’s diametrically opposed, essentially a Republican circa George W. Bush in 2003, many of whose advisers she shares.

“Sanders supporters…are motivated not by animosity toward Hillary Clinton but by a sophisticated analysis and belief that the system is irreparably broken and compromised,” says Sanderista Jonathan Tasini. Actually, only the second half of that sentence is true. As anyone who has attended a Bernie rally can tell you, there’s plenty of animosity toward Clinton.

So what does Hillary Clinton do if she wants to win?

She’ll have to sell out some of her big corporate donors – and she’ll have to do it in a big way. If she goes big, she could appoint Bernie Sanders as her vice president – a sure path to victory – or as an economic czar, like giving him both the secretary of the treasury and the head of the Federal Reserve Bank.

Failing that, she’ll have to adopt at least a few of Bernie’s major platform planks. But here’s the rub. Even if she does, are Bernie’s supporters naïve enough to think that she would follow through?

(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. His next book, the graphic biography “Trump,” comes out July 19th and is now available for pre-order.)

 

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: How the Media Manipulated the Democratic Primary

IMG_2255Though it might not always seem like it, the news media is composed of human beings. Humans aren’t, can’t be, and possibly shouldn’t be, objective. Still, there’s a reasonable expectation among consumers of political news that journalists of all political stripes strive to be as objective as possible.

At their minimum, media outlets ought to be straightforward about their biases.

They certainly shouldn’t have, or appear to have, their thumbs on the scales.

Unfortunately, all too often, it appears that the political system is rigged – and that the major media companies play an important role in gaming the system. That’s what has happened throughout this year’s Democratic primaries, in which the vast majority of corporate media outlets appear to have been in the bag for Hillary Clinton, the establishment candidate, against self-described “democratic socialist” insurgent Bernie Sanders.

Examinations of coverage have confirmed the impressions of cable news junkies that Sanders has been the victim of a blackout, thus depriving him of a chance to make his case to voters. When the chairwoman of the Democratic Party, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, scheduled the first round of Democratic debates at times the party hoped nobody would be watching – again, a seemingly obvious ploy to deprive Sanders of exposure – corporate media outlets had little to say about it.

Then there has been the media’s complicity in spreading Clinton campaign talking points that bore little relation to the truth.

MSNBC and other DNC-aligned media outlets kept pointing out that Clinton won 3 million more votes than Sanders. True, technically. But that’s pretending that caucus states didn’t exist. Sanders did better than Clinton in caucuses.

Most recently, they conflated pledged delegates – those won by a candidate based on votes cast – with superdelegates, the Democratic politicians and party officials who will be able to vote however they want at the convention this coming July. Back in November, an Associated Press survey found that Hillary Clinton – unsurprisingly – enjoyed the support of the vast majority of the superdelegates. Assuming that the superdelegates will not change their minds, the AP called the Democratic race for Hillary Clinton on Monday, the night before a set of important primaries, including California. Does anyone doubt that calling a race over as the effect of depressing voter turnout?

It’s impossible to quantify that effect, to know how many people didn’t bother to show up at the polls because they were told it was all over. In California, however, Hillary Clinton won 56% of the vote in a state where polls showed the two candidates neck and neck. (California’s state election officials also did their best to keep voters away from the polls.)

As a journalist, I’m reluctant to categorically argue that the AP ought to have held its statistical analysis of the race until after Tuesday’s vote. News ought not to be suppressed. When you have it, you ought to report it. Similarly, I’m not sure that the New York Times was wrong to report the AP story. However, I do question the editorial wisdom of running it as a banner headline. The United States is a democracy. We elect our leaders based on votes actually cast by real people, not polls. Even after Tuesday’s vote, Hillary Clinton still didn’t have enough pledged delegates to claim the Democratic nomination. Since those superdelegates aren’t going to vote until July, she won’t be able to really claim the nomination until then.

Agreed, it’s a silly system. But it’s the system the Democrats have. They – and the media – ought to abide by it. Besides which, think how embarrassing it will be if the Justice Department indicts Hillary between now and July. There’s a lot to be said for leaving things hanging.

The thing that disgusts me most about this system – besides the perpetual state of war, the manufacturing of mass poverty, the prison industrial complex, the miserable state of the justice system, the fact that it’s impossible to make a decent living working 40 hours a week – is that it doesn’t even pretend to follow its own rules in a consistent way. Consider, for example, how the New York Times couldn’t wait to report its “Hillary Clinton becomes first woman nominee from a major political party” story until after the primaries in California et al. Would one or two days have made a big difference? (Well, yes. Sanders might have won California.) If the idea is to get the story out first, no matter what, even if it suppresses the vote, I can respect that. But then they ought to be consistent.

It was a very different story back in 2004. A few weeks before the general election in November, the New York Times researched and came to the conclusion that George W. Bush, the incumbent, may have cheated in at least one of the presidential debates against Sen. John Kerry. Photographs of the debate clearly showed a suspicious bulge in Bush’s shoulder; the Times did report the story as a light he-says-she-says piece. But then experts concluded that the tongue twisted former governor of Texas had been using a receiver paired with an earphone in order to get advice and retorts to carry from an unknown co-conspirator.

Editors at the paper decided to hold a serious exposé until after the election so that its coverage would not affect the results. Then they killed it. Four more years of Bush followed.

Actually, the corporate media’s policy is brutally consistent. If holding a story benefits the forces of reactionary conservatism, it gets held. If releasing it does so, it gets released. Time after time, the system exposes itself for what it is.

(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. His next book, the graphic biography “Trump,” comes out July 19th and is now available for pre-order.)

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This is How We Unify the Party

So this is how American political parties are supposed to unify at the end of the primaries: everyone is supposed to vote for the winner, even if that winner is anathema to everything most members of that party believe in. Best system anyone ever invented, eh?

So this is how American political parties are supposed to unify at the end of the primaries: everyone is supposed to vote for the winner, even if that winner is anathema to everything most members of that party believe in. Best system anyone ever invented, eh?

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