Tag Archives: John Edwards

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Bernie Sanders Could Win. America Could Become Socialist. Are We Witnessing the Failure of Propaganda?

The independent senator from Vermont says the economic system is rigged against working-class Americans. He’s right.

The electoral political system is a subsidiary of those who rule the economy. Which is why Bernie Sanders never stood a chance. The political system was rigged against him.

And yet, despite the formidable institutional obstacles stacked against him, Sanders is doing great: largely considered a shoo-in to win New Hampshire, leading in Iowa, closing the gap nationally. Surprised pundits are marveling at his popular momentum, ground organization and fundraising prowess. There is now a credible path to the Democratic nomination and, if he runs against GOP frontrunner Donald Trump, to the White House.

Center-right Hillaryworld wants to know: how did this happen?

Leftists wonder: is this cause for hope?

It is an amazing story. Everyone in a position to block Sanders’ campaign did everything they could to sabotage him.

Knowing that coverage is the essential oxygen of politics, the media mostly ignored him. By one measure, corporate media gave Trump 23 times more coverage than Sanders! On the few occasions when they spilled a little ink on Bernie, it was to insult him and his socialist politics. (My personal Exhibit A was a New York Times piece that carried a photo that emphasized his bald spot.)

Marginalization always used to work. Remember John Edwards? His 2008 primary campaign was doomed because TV networks refused to cover him. But the media’s cold shoulder isn’t hurting Bernie.

In the bag for Hillary Clinton and remembering the lesson of 2008 — the more voters hear from her the less they like her — the Democratic National Committee fed her aura of inevitability by refusing to give Bernie the exposure and legitimacy offered by a robust round of debates. Debates, the few of them the manipulative DNC chair and Hillary toady Debbie Wasserman Schultz allowed to take place, were scheduled for the nights known for low television viewership.

That tactic backfired. Hillary did better than Bernie in the first three debates. But no one saw her flex her foreign-affairs muscles.

Bernie got nothing but chicanery from the DNC, to the point that the Sanders camp had to sue to access its own voter data. Which only reinforced his image as a rebel — not easy for a U.S. senator — and further endeared him to his supporters.

Despite everything, Sanders could win.

Moreover, it’s not just Sanders the candidate who is doing well. His “unusual” politics are becoming usual.

Sanders’ self-labeling as a democratic socialist — universally considered political suicide in the United States — is catching on. In one of the most surprising poll results of the 2016 race, a recent survey of likely Iowa caucus-goers finds that more of them call themselves socialist (43%) than capitalist (38%).

Where did Iowa’s socialists come from? They certainly weren’t indoctrinated by the mainstream system. No ideology, not even radical Islam, has come under heavier systemic assault than socialism. From the Palmer Raids of a century ago to McCarthyism to the Tea Party’s (sadly mistaken) insinuations that President Obama is a secret red, socialism has been the bête rouge of mainstream American politics: reviled in ridiculous movies, misrepresented and excluded from acceptable public debate, even on the watered-down liberalism that passes for a “left.” Even in schools, socialism and communism are lied about — if they’re mentioned at all.

My friend the film critic Cole Smithey calls what we’re seeing “the failure of propaganda.”

It’s certainly a notable moment. The ruling elite’s old tricks are indeed failing them. But it’s too early to declare propaganda dead and gone. Propaganda works. That’s why those in power keep using it.

Here’s what I think is really going on: old institutions have been discredited. Sanders’ growing support and Iowa’s surprisingly socialist hordes reflect public contempt for everyone in charge.

Pundits have mostly focused on populist anger on the right, embodied by the wild neofascist-lite pronouncements of Donald Trump. But there is just as much rage on the left excluded from the Democratic Party since George McGovern’s 1972 defeat to Richard Nixon. Divided or not, one thing Americans can agree upon is that they don’t trust government — on the right to leave them alone, and on the left to help them out.

Propaganda is still effective. But when it’s broadcast by elites who are widely despised, its effect is opposite of what’s intended.

Hillary Clinton racks up endorsements from unions and left-leaning organizations like Planned Parenthood. In the past, these would have given her a boost. This year, it reinforces a negative framing of her as bought and paid for by special interests.

In days of yore the endorsement of a young actress starring in a hip TV show would have been a feather in Hillary’s cap. In 2016, it’s hard to imagine how poor Lena Dunham will wash away the stink of Hillary’s hard-edged corporatism.

Hillary has an incredible resume: first lady, senator, secretary of state. This year, she’d be better off as an outsider. Credentials subtract from her credibility. What’s wrong now, voters feel, is partly her fault.

Bernie Sanders’ campaign gets accused of improperly accessing Hillary’s data on DNC servers. In the old days, the smell of an ethical breach might have doomed his candidacy. Now, because Democratic voters are disgusted by the DNC’s brazen attempt to fix the primaries for Hillary, the controversy looks like another sleazy attack on Bernie the outsider.

Because the public distrusts journalists, the media blackout works in Bernie’s favor. Through the lens of this new politics of contempt, if the powers that be want to censor the “wild and crazy” socialist senator, he musn’t be that bad after all.

What Bernie really needs is for Hillary to receive Obama’s endorsement (which she obviously, foolishly, wants.) That would be the end of her.

The same reverse-propaganda paradigm holds true for socialism. As America’s continuously lauded state religion, capitalism takes the blame for all its associated evils: layoffs, stagnant wages, home foreclosures, health insurance companies that don’t pay claims. If socialism is anti-capitalism, an alienated populace has evidently concluded, it doesn’t matter that they don’t know very much about it. Socialism can’t be that bad.

If elected, President Sanders will be ineffective. Either that, or he’ll sell us out. Such is the nature of this system: it chews up and spits out those who don’t go along to get along.

A Sanders victory would nonetheless mark an important prerevolutionary moment. As Ché Guevara observed, people will not resort to armed struggle before they exhaust every last opportunity to nonviolently reform the existing system by casting their votes in elections.

A Sanders Administration would be our best, last, 100% doomed shot at fixing a rigged regime.

(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. “Bernie” is being released today.)

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The Book of Obama: From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt

How did a charismatic young president elected in an atmosphere of optimism and expectation lead the United States to the brink of revolution? From a chance encounter in the early 1980s to the Democratic primaries of 2007-08, I was one of the first to size up Barack Obama as we know him now: conservative, risk-averse and tone deaf. In The Book of Obama I revisit the rapid rise and dizzying fall of Obama–and the emergence of the Tea Party and Occupy movements–and draw a startling conclusion: We the People weren’t lied to. We lied to ourselves, both about Obama and the two-party system. We voted when we ought to have revolted. Here’s the story of what went wrong — and a prescription for real change.

In The Book of O(bama): From hope and change to the age of revolt, Rall lays out his case, and it’s a strong one, for why we should revolt instead of vote, how the only hope we have for real change in this country is to trash the broken Democratic-Republican duopoly and create something new that better serves a diverse nation. —Phoenix New Times

Political Analysis/History, 2012
Seven Stories Press Trade Paperback, 6″x9″, 240 pp., $14.95

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“Ted Rall is a terrific journalist and a take-no-prisoners political cartoonist.”
—San Diego Union-Tribune

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: The Last Civil Rights Struggle

Sluts of America, Arise!

“A sitting United States president took sides in what many people consider the last civil rights movement,” Adam Nagourney of The New York Times wrote in reaction to Barack Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage.

The last civil rights movement?

No.

Sadly, even as he belatedly championed equality for some, the president’s statement expressed a pernicious, widely accepted form of prejudice.

Look for the caveat as you read: “I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors, when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together…at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”

In Obama’s worldview, in other words, it’s okay to be gay. But only if you behave like straight people—straight as in hetero, and straight as in conventional.

Obama is exposed as a monogamist: one who discriminates against people who have sex with multiple partners. Monogamism is commonplace. And it is bigotry. Monogamism is no more justifiable than racism or sexism or homophobia and, one day, it will be as reviled.

Mia McKenzie of the blog Black Girl Dangerous responds to Obama: “So, basically, what the President is saying is that same-sex couples who are in relationships that look a certain way (monogamous, for example) should be able to have all the rights of straight people. Hmm. What about those of us, queer and straight, who aren’t into monogamy but are into committed relationships? (And, for the record, you can be poly and be committed to multiple people).”

To which I’ll add: What about people, straight and gay, who sleep with multiple partners? What about those who don’t want committed relationships? Shouldn’t they get tax breaks and insurance benefits too?

And what about the open, tricky, ever-so-dirty secret—that many people in “incredibly committed monogamous relationships” cheat, that they’re de facto polygamists or just garden-variety sluts? (“A full 99 percent of Americans say they expect their spouse to be faithful,” according to U.S. News & World Report in 2008 but, The New York Times reported the same year, “University of Washington researchers have found that the lifetime rate of infidelity for men over 60 increased to 28 percent in 2006.” Hmm. Not to mention, obviously, that not all cheaters confess their sluttery to pollsters.)

Like all oppressed people, sluts have their work cut out for them.

“The Ethical Slut” (1997) by Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt unleashed a landmark broadside against monogamy with a simple argument: anything that two consenting adults do is okay as long as they approach one another, and their other partners, with honesty and openness. Casual hook-ups, open relationships, swinging, group sex, and other alternative forms of sexual expression, wrote Mmes. Easton and Liszt, are not immoral so don’t feel guilty about them. “We believe it’s okay to have sex with anybody you love, and we believe in loving everybody,” they wrote.

Fifteen years later, however, tens of millions of sluts live underground, compelled to sneak around. Unlike straights and Obama-approved monogamous gays, America’s secret sluts have to hide their sex lives from their friends, families and coworkers. (Ethical sluts tell their partners the truth.) “My FWB and I had an awesome foursome with this couple we met online” isn’t the smartest Monday-morning conversation starter for the wannabe upwardly mobile.

Monogamy may be a myth, to paraphrase the title of the 1989 book that found that roughly half of all married Americans cheat, but as Obama’s statement suggests, it’s harder to kill than herpes.

Now here comes “The Monogamy Gap: Men, Love and the Reality of Cheating” by Eric Anderson (Oxford University Press, 256 pages, $49.99), a devastating critique of monogamy that has been ignored by book reviewers and buried by the mainstream media.

“The Ethical Slut” says it’s OKAY to be slutty. “The Monogamy Gap” goes further. It states loudly, brashly—and mostly convincingly—that while monogamy is right for some people, it’s wrong for most. Which makes monogamism a form of bigotry not only based on a lie, but like other forms of discrimination, downright bad for society.

Not so deep down, we know he’s right. When there’s a public sex scandal—John Edwards, Eliot Spitzer, etc.—you don’t hear a lot of expressions of anger or disgust, just harrumphs and how-about-thats from people, most of whom can easily imagine themselves “guilty” of the same “crime”: hard-wired horniness.

“I suggest that we need multiple forms of culturally acceptable sexual relationship types—including sexually open relationships—that exist without hierarchy or hegemony,” Anderson writes.

Men, Anderson asserts, are trapped in a state of “dyadic dissonance” in which they are painfully torn between monogamist social programming and their sexual desires to sleep with multiple partners. “If [men] entertain with their partners the possibility that sex and love are separate and that they could maintain the love with their partner while seeking thrilling sex with outsiders (an open sexual relationship), they risk losing their partners. Even mentioning this is thought to be an affront to love. Love, they falsely believe, is enhanced through sex, and sex with outsiders is falsely believed to detract from the love of a couple. We all too often believe that if our partner ceases to desire us sexually, he or she ceases to love us.”

What is a [stymied] manslut to do?

“In desiring but not wanting to cheat,” Anderson continues, “men set out to rectify their dissonance through pornography, visualizing themselves having sex with someone else while having sex with their partner, and/or flirting with others online. Eventually, however, these imagined/cyber forms of extradyadic sex are not enough. Men strongly desire to have sex with someone else, and they often begin to feel anger or aggression at their partner because (at one level) it is their partner that is preventing them from having the type of sex that every cell in their body demands.”

So they screw around.

But cheaters aren’t bad people. They’re just sluts. They’re wired that way. Many—most of us—are sluts. Don’t be shocked. After all, contemporary marriage—based on love rather than property, monogamous rather than polygamous—is still in its experimental stage, less than a century old. And the rate of divorce suggests that the experiment isn’t going well.

Anderson says monogamism forces us to choose between guilt and frustration: “Although cheating remains almost universally taboo in modern societies, my research suggests that cheating might actually save relationships [because] cheating permits men to have the sex with others they somatically desire…with cheating they do not have to deal with the threat of losing their partners by mentioning their sexual desires for others.”

I have some issues with “The Monogamy Gap.” Anderson concludes that “it is only in open relationships where long-term sexual and romantic satisfaction can be found for people who somatically desire sex with others,” yet he hardly considers the needs and desires of heterosexual women. Do they want open relationships? Maybe. Maybe not. Also, Anderson’s preferred model—one or several core committed, longer-term relationships plus à la carte “hit it and quit it” assignations—leaves out other formats, such as swinging (which is barely discussed).

Overall, however, I strongly recommend “The Monogamy Gap” for anyone who wonders why a society that elevates monogamy can’t seem to follow its rules. America needs to begin this discussion.

(Ted Rall’s next book is “The Book of Obama: How We Went From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt,” out May 29. His website is tedrall.com.)

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Democracy at Work

Fellow cartoonist Tim Kreider said it first and said it best. I’m paraphrasing here, but he did a cartoon depicting an Aztec ritual human sacrifice. One onlooker remarks to the other, “Yeah, but it’s the best system yet conceived.” Or something like that.

Anyway, this cartoon is fairly self-explanatory. I hope.

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