Moderates who love incrementalism constantly say that is the only way to get things done but the current debate over healthcare shows that the exact opposite is true.
Joe Biden is running a presidential campaign predicated on the assumption that there is a middle ground between two extreme sides on every issue. Truth is, the mood of the electorate is binary on a lot of things and are they really wrong? It’s not like you can save just half the planet.
I’ve been saying, for over a year, that Donald Trump is a dog who caught a car: he wanted to run for president, not be president.
Looks like my theory is confirmed.
“Shortly after 8 p.m. on Election Night, when the unexpected trend — Trump might actually win — seemed confirmed, Don Jr. told a friend that his father, or DJT, as he calls him, looked as if he had seen a ghost. Melania was in tears — and not of joy,” writes Michael Wolff in an excerpt from his book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. There was, in the space of little more than an hour, in Steve Bannon’s not unamused observation, a befuddled Trump morphing into a disbelieving Trump and then into a horrified Trump.”
Clearly, Trump has pivoted.
The celebrity real estate magnate has stopped worrying. Long forgotten are his reluctant move to D.C., his fantasies of governing from his brass-trimmed Manhattan aerie. He has learned to love love love the bully pulpit. The presidency even comes with the ultimate Christmas gift for the megalomaniacal narcissist in your life: the power of life and death over humans, animals and plants!
Wolff’s revelation by way of Steve Bannon is worth reflecting upon for two reasons.
First is another first.
Trump may be America’s first certifiably insane president. He is probably the most ignorant — and we’ve had some doozies. He is certainly the first without any political or high-level military experience whatsoever. What we now know is at least as remarkable as those bulletpoints: Trump is effectively the first president drafted into the position.
Vice presidents have been elevated to the Oval Office unexpectedly. But the possibility of winding up behind the big desk was always on their minds. They were political creatures.
If Wolff and Bannon are to be believed — and so far, there is no reason not to — Trump didn’t want the job. His team wanted him to lose. “Once he lost, Trump would be both insanely famous and a martyr to Crooked Hillary,” Wolff writes. “His daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared would be international celebrities. Steve Bannon would become the de facto head of the tea-party movement. Kellyanne Conway would be a cable-news star. Melania Trump, who had been assured by her husband that he wouldn’t become president, could return to inconspicuously lunching. Losing would work out for everybody. Losing was winning.”
Wanting to lose explains Trump’s refusal to contribute to his own run. It explains his barebones campaign, with its weird lack of field offices, his sleepy national HQ and his cheapskate approach to TV ads. The dude ran for president yet refused to spend the night in a hotel room.
As Hillary Clinton might ask: What happened?
The voters insisted upon Trump.
It’s difficult for Democrats to hear, but it’s true.
Republicans voted for Trump because Republican voters always vote Republican. But it was the swing voters who put him over the top. They voted for Trump despite his crazy rhetoric, his violent rallies and his incoherent promises. They were determined to howl their ballotbox cris de coeur. After decades of NAFTA and outsourcing and Rust Beltification and H1-B visas for foreigners while American tech workers can’t find work, they demanded to be heard. They did that by voting for Trump.
Trump isn’t merely devoted to his base. He is beholden to them. They put him in the White House even though he didn’t want to go.
The second takeaway here is that Hillary was an even worse candidate than her biggest detractors (cough cough) believed. Ruminate on this: she lost to a man who tried to lose.
A man with no experience.
With no campaign.
You may be asking yourself here, why keep bashing Hillary? Why not leave her alone and move on?
Because Clinton won’t leave us alone. Because Clintonism, centrism, Third Wayism, DLCism are still running the Democratic Party. Because her corporate neoliberal BS was discredited at the polls yet the party bosses and Dem-aligned media outlets keep shoving it down voters’ throats. Because progressivism and socialism are more popular but can’t get any air until a big sharp stake is driven through the undead heart of soulless centrism once and for all (I’m looking at you, Tim Kaine and Kamala Harris.)
So think on that a while. Hillary Clinton was so sucky that she lost to the suckiest, stupidest, losingest candidate anyone ever dreamed of.
(Ted Rall’s (Twitter: @tedrall) brand-new book is “Meet the Deplorables: Infiltrating Trump America,” co-written with Harmon Leon. His next book will be “Francis: The People’s Pope,” the latest in his series of graphic novel-format biographies. Publication date is March 13, 2018. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)
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.)
Every damn second of every stupid day in this brain-dead nation, the insipid overlords of America’s inane corporate news media put out the same message: extremism is extremely bad.
9/11? Carried out by Muslim extremists. The couple who murdered two police officers in Las Vegas this week? Right-wing, anti-government extremists. Washington gridlock? A Republican Party taken over by intransigent extremists (the Tea Party).
In this official narrative, unquestioned by left and right alike, moderation and centrism are equated with reasonableness. So Hillary Rodham Clinton describes herself as a middle-way realist who values compromise — i.e., a moderate and therefore a Very Serious Person, and thus qualified to be president.
To be feared and marginalized, by contrast, are those the system defines as “extremists.” (Some might call them men and women of principle. But that would be on funny little blogs no one reads.)
If you criticize the mainstream (the current government, the biggest corporations, the most well-connected journalistic elites) in a sustained way — especially if you call those in charge out for breaking their own rules and laws — you will be categorized as one of these horrible “extremists.”
A recent example: Michael Kinsley, lately of Slate and The New Republic (the most centrist of moderate magazines), comparing Glenn Greenwald to Robespierre (within the context of the pretty extreme French revolution, extreme) in the New York Times (down to the tone of any given sentence, the most centrist of moderate newspapers), for the sin of complaining about NSA spying, drone assassinations, Guantánamo and other (when you think about it, extreme) U.S. government activities that violate — U.S. government laws.
Though, actually, “violate” doesn’t quite go far enough. Bombing countries without bothering to declare war against them pees all over the Constitution, numerous federal laws — the whole spirit of the American endeavor. Extreme, no?
This is some bass-ackward shit.
For asking that political elites obey their own laws on domestic spying and not assassinating American citizens on American soil — even being willing to mount an actual filibuster over it — Rand Paul gets portrayed as a wacky fringe loony-toons extremist. For listening to our calls and reading our email and dropping Hellfire missiles on American citizens — and children! — without a warrant, Barack Obama is a moderate.
What the “moderates” call “mainstream” is, in truth, about as extreme as it gets.
Ex-Obama Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, formerly of Goldman Sachs and thus the embodiment of reasonable centristness, is pushing a book in which he claims a tough-call-but-had-to-do-it middle ground for an action that was in reality about as extreme as can be: his reaction to the 2008-09 economic collapse. Geithner gave $7.77 trillion in taxpayer money to the banks and their top executives, no questions asked, and $0.00 to the homeowners and unemployed people whom the banks screwed. (Also, there’s this: he failed. The economy is still tens of millions of unemployed behind; consumer confidence is still shit. NPR still asks his opinion.)
Speaking of books, Hillary’s latest brief, called “Hard Choices” — a phrase meant to conjure Solomonic wisdom — kinda sorta admits she “got it wrong” by voting for the U.S. war against Iraq.
Democrats voting for Republican-led wars — that’s the “crossing the aisle” “bipartisan” “seriousness” Manhattan and Beltway pundits like Thomas Friedman and David Ignatius, both of whom did the same, approve of.
The war, of course, was an extreme affair. Between $2 trillion and $6 trillion down the shitter. 4,500 dead American troops. Hundreds of thousands whose brains will never be right again. At least a million — more like two million — dead Iraqis. Who can count them all? A Second World oil state, secular socialist and authoritarian, reduced by ten years of American occupation to civil war and total societal, political and economic disintegration, Third World going on Fourth.
And what about the way it began? Ginned up out of whole cloth. Even by U.S. standards, it takes some big stones to justify attacking a nation that never attacked, or threatened to attack, you. Pretending that you know about WMDs, and then getting caught lying, and then not only not apologizing and immediately withdrawing, but doubling down (c.f., the “surge”)?
Pretty damn extreme, if you ask me. (No one does. Cuz, like, my saying so makes me extreme.)
Hillary’s “hard choice”? In 2003, Bush was popular, so was invading Iraq. She assumed that, when she ran for reelection to the Senate in 2006, Bush and his war would still be the bee’s knees.
Hard choice, you see.
With “moderates” like this…
Yet the Moderate Class is so loud about the evils of extremism. Writing in the very moderate Washington Post opinion pages, a forum that promoted the Iraq War and publishes the full range of editorial opinion from center-right Democrat to center-right Republican, Paul Waldman asked “How much does right-wing rhetoric contribute to right-wing terrorism?” after the Vegas cop shooting.
Here’s a taste: “When you broadcast every day that the government of the world’s oldest democracy is a totalitarian beast bent on turning America into a prison of oppression and fear, when you glorify lawbreakers like Cliven Bundy, when you say that your opponents would literally destroy the country if they could, you can’t profess surprise when some people decide that violence is the only means of forestalling the disaster you have warned them about.”
Mmmaybe. But how about a little context? Assuming that “the fetishization of firearms and the constant warnings that government will soon be coming to take your guns” inspired the Vegas shooters, shooting cops isn’t good. But: (only) four people died, including the killers, in Vegas. Four dead due to right-wing extremism.
Millions died in the Iraq War. This slaughter wasn’t inspired by, but directly carried out by a bipartisan Congress coming together to support an attack editorial writers on both the Right and what passes for the Left agreed upon.
Why doesn’t anyone at the Post ask “How much does mainstream Democratic-Republican rhetoric contribute to U.S. state terrorism?” Here is how Waldman would write if he or his editors were sane:
“When you broadcast every day that an isolated Middle Eastern dictatorship is a totalitarian beast bent on reducing America to ashes and irradiated rubble, when you appease lawbreakers like Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and John Yoo, when you say that antiwar activists would literally destroy the country if they could, to score cheap political points, you can’t profess surprise when some people decide that war is the only means of forestalling the disaster you have warned them about.”
When you run an extremist government that markets itself as realistically moderate, your smartest move is distraction.
See Huge Crazy Extremist Kettle point at tiny extremist pot.
Like, even when a politician considered extremist within the bounds of the two-party “mainstream” gets defeated by an even more extreme extremist, mourn the loss of the slightly less extreme extremist as “A Bad Omen for Moderates.”
And ask things like this:
Why on earth would a 22-year-old from Florida with a “passion for Islam and teaching children about the Quran turn into something more disturbing”?
The New York Times approvingly quotes Veronica Monroy, a friend of a man who carried out a suicide bombing against Assad government forces in Syria: “He deplored any kind of negativity, and was always the first to lend a hand if you needed one. He was religious, but definitely not an extremist,” Monroy said. “He was loving and caring, and I know he came from a strong, loving, supportive home.”
Get the message? Jihad is extreme. Fundamentalists are severe and cold, not loving or caring — and they’re usually the damaged products of dysfunctional families. Extremism is “negative.” Follow a religion. Just don’t really follow all its tenets.
Like that stuff about giving up all your stuff and joining the poor: that would be extreme.
If you step back from the media maelstrom, it isn’t all that hard to frame another narrative: here was a young man, his father from Israeli-occupied Palestine, politicized by the global onslaught against and oppression of Islam, led by the U.S. Done with “doing typical adolescent things, such as playing video games,” he put his ass on the line and made the supreme sacrifice for his coreligionists.
Moner Mohammad Abusalha’s wasn’t my brand of “extremism.” Nevertheless, unlike Hillary’s vote to destroy Iraq, carefully calibrated to maximize her centrist warmongering cred as a “realist” “moderate,” it’s one I can respect.
(Ted Rall, Staff Cartoonist and Writer for Pando Daily, is the author of the upcoming “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.” Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)
COPYRIGHT 2014 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM
Democrats and Democratic front groups like MoveOn.org are trying to channel the Occupy movement back into the system with such “Astroturf” actions as “Occupy the Ballotbox” and “Occupy the Primaries.” What bizarre co-option schemes can we look forward to next?
The Left’s Case for Boycotting Obama in November 2012
Three years in, it’s obvious to all but the most willfully obtuse liberals and progressives that their 2008 votes for Obama have not paid off.
The president blames obstructionist Republicans for his lack of action on, well, everything. His blame-the-GOP argument would be plausible if not for one thing: Before the Republicans swept the 2010 midterms, Obama had enormous political capital, a supportive media and Democratic control of both houses of Congress.
Had Obama wanted, he could have governed to the left. Far to the left. To the left of FDR.
Remember how scared we were? The economy was in freefall. We lost 600,000 jobs the month he took office. We would have gone along with anything he asked for, including a new WPA program and permanent jobless benefits.
He didn’t ask.
Obama didn’t govern like a liberal because he didn’t want to. He didn’t want to because he’s not a liberal.
Many progressives are angry. They want to send Obama and his fellow phony Democrats a message next November. But they don’t know how to counter the central argument of the two-party trap.
It goes like this:
“Voting for Obama sucks. He’s just going to do more stuff I hate, like bailing out banksters and starting more wars while ignoring the terrible economy. But what else can I do? I can’t vote for some science-denying, Bible-thumping Republican ignoramus who’d be even worse.
“Not voting? That’s almost as bad as voting Republican. With so much at stake, there’s no choice but to hold my nose and vote Democratic.”
This powerful argument has kept liberals in the Democratic fold since 1976, when Jimmy Carter pushed the party to the right with his huge defense build-up.
Fear of a GOP nation drove them to vote for Bill Clinton, even though his major accomplishments—welfare reform, NAFTA and the WTO—were right-wing.
There’s always something at stake. Every election is “one of the most important elections of our lifetimes.” As a result, there hasn’t been a liberal presidential nominee for 40 years. Mainly, this is because liberal voters are willing to vote for right-wing Democrats.
A lot of liberals, feeling even more conned than usual, are asking me how to counter the two-party trap argument.
Here’s what I tell them:
First and foremost, your vote (or lack thereof) cannot and will not put Rick Perry or Mitt Romney or Sarah Palin in the White House. It’s simple statistics. By definition you can only change one vote: your own. And no state’s electoral votes have ever come down to a single vote.
No election in U.S. history has ever come down to one vote. Not even a local one.
Even in Florida in 2000, the outcome hinged on about 150 ballots. I don’t care how big your family or circle of friends is—you are not going to change 75 or more votes one way or the other. Mathematically speaking, your vote is purely symbolic.
Point two: Democratic Party strategists take liberal voters for granted. Don’t take my word for it; check out books by Washington insiders like former Clinton pollster Dick Morris and “The Political Brain” author Drew Westen. Democratic leaders obsess over “Reagan Democrats,” “soccer moms,” “security moms” or whatever catchphrase equates to “swing voter” during a given year—people who might vote Republican one election, Democratic the next. That’s why “Democrats” run as—and govern like—Republicans.
As for liberals, progressives and leftists, Democrats ask: Where else are they going to go?
Refusing to vote for Obama answers their question: If you don’t stop taking us for granted, we will take our votes elsewhere—whether to the Republicans, a third party, or limbo, boycotting the process altogether.
Point three: Voting for immoral leaders makes you immoral.
It’s one thing to be duped, as liberals were by Carter in 1976. It’s another to knowingly vote for a politician you know or at least strongly suspect will promulgate policies you believe are wrong—which is exactly what most liberals did when they voted for Obama in 2008.
Most Americans and the vast majority of lefties were against the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan. During the campaign Obama pledged to send even more troops there. From a moral standpoint, the blood of every Afghan wounded or killed after January 2009 is on the hands of those of us who pulled a lever, pushed a button or punched a chad for Barack Obama. (That includes me.)
Obama lied about other issues. He promised to close Gitmo, to push for a real healthcare plan (one with a public option), and to withdraw from Iraq. Now, however, we know that he lied.
Knowing what you know now, a vote for Obama in 2012 would be an enthusiastic vote of support for torture, extrajudicial assassinations, drone attacks, corporate healthcare, doing nothing about jobs and staying in Iraq. Your eyes are open. A liberal who votes for Obama would be directly responsible for the torture, the killings, and the suicides of the desperately unemployed.
The two-party trap is the sort of sick game that sadistic concentration camp guards like to play.
“I’m going to shoot this old man or this little boy. You decide which. If you refuse to choose, I’ll shoot both.”
There is only way to deal with ideological terrorists:
Let evil scum do what they like. You can’t stop them anyway. If the guard shoots both the man and the boy, it’s a terrible crime—but the blood is all on his hands.
For a progressive, voting for Obama is like asking the camp guard to shoot one person rather than two. In the short run, it seems like the right decision. In the long run, the man and the boy die—and it’ll partly be your fault,
COPYRIGHT 2011 TED RALL