On the issue of the minimum wage, no top contender for the presidency has been as aggressive as Bernie Sanders. But for workers, that’s not nearly enough. For the last six years, Sanders has been pushing a $15 an hour minimum wage. That’s a major improvement over the current rate but it’s not nearly enough to keep up with inflation. Even under Sanders, workers would, at best, fail to lose more ground. They wouldn’t gain anything. Just another case study of how capitalism is not reformable.
Let us now delineate the difference between liberals and leftists.
Bernie Sanders votes and caucuses with the Democratic Party, campaigns as an independent and self-identifies as a “democratic socialist”—an ideology without a party in the U.S. but that draws comparisons to Scandinavia. His stances on the issues are left of center but American politics have drifted so far right that he’s really a paleo-Democrat—there’s no daylight between Sanders 2020 and McGovern 1972. No wonder voters are confused!
Liberals and leftists want many of the same things: reduced income inequality, better working conditions, more affordable housing and healthcare. There are differences of degrees. A liberal wants the gap between rich and poor to shrink; a communist wants no class differences at all. They’re very different when it comes to foreign policy: liberals support some wars of choice whereas leftists would only turn to the military for self-defense.
Reading the last paragraph it is tempting to conclude, as I used to and many people still do, that there is enough overlap between the two to justify, even require, cooperation. Liberals and leftists both want to save the planet and the human race from climate change—why not join forces to fight the polluters and their allies the denialists?
The Nobel-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz is the ultimate liberal: a professor at Columbia, ex-chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers and former chief economist for the World Bank. An op-ed he recently published in The New York Times provides a perfect illustration of why a lasting working relationship between liberals and leftists will always be a pipe dream.
As is often the case with screeds by smart liberals, there is a lot to like in “Progressive Capitalism Is Not an Oxymoron.” (Let’s get the obvious out of the way: Yes it is.)
Stiglitz correctly identifies the problem: “Despite the lowest unemployment rates since the late 1960s, the American economy is failing its citizens. Some 90 percent have seen their incomes stagnate or decline in the past 30 years. This is not surprising, given that the United States has the highest level of inequality among the advanced countries and one of the lowest levels of opportunity.”
He correctly apportions the blame on “wealth-grabbing (or, as economists call it, rent-seeking),” businesses like hedge fund management that do not create anything but profits and the legacy of Reaganism: “Just as forces of globalization and technological change were contributing to growing inequality, we adopted policies that worsened societal inequities,” Stiglitz writes. “We relied more on markets and scaled back social protections.”
Then: “We could and should have provided more assistance to affected workers (just as we should provide assistance to workers who lose their jobs as a result of technological change), but corporate interests opposed it. A weaker labor market conveniently meant lower labor costs at home to complement the cheap labor businesses employed abroad. We are now in a vicious cycle: Greater economic inequality is leading, in our money-driven political system, to more political inequality, with weaker rules and deregulation causing still more economic inequality.” Boom! This.
Liberals like Stiglitz and leftists like me part ways when the discussion turns to solution. As Lenin asked: What is to be done?
Stiglitz answers: “It begins by recognizing the vital role that the state plays in making markets serve society. We need regulations that ensure strong competition without abusive exploitation, realigning the relationship between corporations and the workers they employ and the customers they are supposed to serve.”
“Government action is required,” he says.
We need “a new social contract between voters and elected officials, between workers and corporations, between rich and poor, and between those with jobs and those who are un- or underemployed,” he says.
Follow the link. Read the whole thing. I’ve included all the meat.
Stiglitz knows what is to be done. Mostly, he’s right. What he wants might not be enough. But it would do more good than harm.
What he does not know is how to make his proposals happen. Like the politics of all liberals, his is a toothless musing, a vacuous fantasy.
He said it himself: “Greater economic inequality is leading, in our money-driven political system, to more political inequality, with weaker rules and deregulation causing still more economic inequality.” This late-capitalism death spiral will not cure itself. There is no world in which corporations and their pet politicians and corrupt media propagandists will “recognize the vital role of the state.” They will not regulate themselves. They will not create “a new social contract.”
They are rich and powerful. The rich do not wake up one day and say to themselves, “Time to stop being a selfish ass, I’m going to redistribute my income.” The powerful do not care that the weak are miserable.
Money gets taken away from the rich one way: by force. The powerful are divested of their privileges the same way: when they have no choice.
Liberals and leftists identify many of the same problems. Only leftists understand that real solutions require serious pressure on the ruling elites. The credible threat of force—for example, a peaceful protest demonstration that could turn violent—may be enough to force reforms. But reforms always get rolled back after the left stops watching. Ultimately the rulers will have to be removed via revolution, a process that requires violence.
Liberals do not demand change; they ask nicely. Because they oppose violence and credible threats of violence, they tacitly oppose fundamental change in the existing structure of politics and society. Unlike leftists they are unwilling to risk their petty privileges in order to obtain the reforms they claim to crave. So, when push comes to shove, liberals will ultimately sell out their radical allies to the powers that be. And they will run away at the first sign of state oppression.
If you can’t trust your ally, they are no ally at all.
(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)
Clintonite corporatists still control the Democratic National Committee despite their long string of failure at the polls. But the overwhelming majority of Democratic Party voters—72%—are self-identified progressives.
44% of House primary candidates in 2018 self-IDed as progressive. If you’re after the Democratic nomination for president you have to be—or pretend to be—progressive. Even Hillary Clinton claimed to be “a progressive who gets things done.”
All the top likely contenders for 2020 claim to be progressive—but they would prefer that voters ignore their voting records and unsavory donors. “Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, and Kamala Harris have spent the past two years racing to the leftmost edge of respectable opinion,” reports New York magazine. “In recent weeks, they have also all reached out to Wall Street executives, in hopes of securing some funding for their prospective presidential campaign.” It does no good for your heart to be in the right place if your ass is owned by bankers.
“You don’t just get to say that you’re progressive,” Representative Pramila Jayapal, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told progressive donors recently.
Jayapal, a Washington Democrat, called the 2020 election a chance to “leverage our power.” She says it’s critical “that we have some very clear guidelines about what it means to be progressive.”
Here are those guidelines.
You can’t be a progressive unless you favor a big hike in the minimum wage. Elizabeth Warren, the first pretty-much-declared candidate for 2020, wants $15 an hour. But she told a 2013 Senate hearing that it would be $22 if it had kept up with increases in worker productivity. The official inflation rate makes that $24 today. And according to the real inflation rate (the official number as it was calculated before the Labor Department downgraded the calculation in 1980 and 1990) at ShadowStats.com, $22 in 2013 comes to at least $35 today.
If the minimum wage had kept up with inflation since 1968 using the same methodology used to track inflation at the time, it would be closer to $80 per hour.
What should be the progressive demand for the minimum wage? Nothing less than $25 per hour.
(For the record, I see no reason why the minimum wage should be lower than the maximum wage. But we’re talking about progressivism here, not socialism or communism.)
Thanks to Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign “free college became a litmus test for liberals,” notes The Atlantic. But a 2017 bill cosponsored by Sanders and Warren defines “college for all” rather narrowly. It only addresses public colleges and universities. It would “make college tuition free for families earning $125,000 a year or less and allow current student loan borrowers to refinance their debt at lower interest rates.”
A quarter of American college students attend private schools. Considering that the average cost is $35,000 a year and some run as high as $60,000, even families earning more than $125,000 need help too.
The progressive stance on college should be three-pronged. First, the obscene $1.5 trillion student loan business should be abolished. Student loans should be replaced by grants but if loans exist at all they should be a zero-profit government program. Second, all outstanding loans should be forgiven or have their interest rates dropped to a zero-profit basis. Third, the government should rein in out-of-control public and private college tuition and fees—which have gone up eight times faster than wages—by tying them to the official federal cost of living index.
Progressives agree that Obamacare didn’t go far enough. With 70% of voters in favor, even centrist Democrats like Kamala Harris have climbed aboard Bernie Sanders’ call for “Medicare for all” bandwagon. Warren, Gillibrand and Booker now say they want single-payer public healthcare. Being progressive, however, means demanding more than what mainstream politicians deem practical—it’s about pushing hard for more ways to improve people’s lives.
In 2020 progressives should be calling for nothing less than universal healthcare. If it’s good enough for the rest of the developed world and many developing countries like Botswana and Bhutan, why not us?
I cosigned a letter to Sanders calling on the Vermont senator to use his platform as the country’s most prominent and popular progressive to talk more about foreign policy and to openly oppose militarism. Now it’s time to get specific.
Progressives should demand that U.S. troops come home from any country that did not attack the United States—i.e., all of them. They should put an end to the disgusting drone wars. The bloated nearly-$1 trillion Pentagon budget should be shredded; let’s see what they can do with $100 billion (which would still be far more than Russia’s defense spending).
From banks that charge usurious credit card interest rates to employers who fire full-time employees and hire them back as “independent contractors,” there are plenty of other targets for progressives to go after.
Progressives: you are no longer the ugly stepdaughter of the Democratic Party. You own the joint.
Now’s the time to demand what’s yours, what you want and what’s right.
(Ted Rall, the cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)
If you lean left, the only presidential candidate who shares your values is Dr. Jill Stein. But she can’t win. The two major parties have left — sorry for the pun — you and your concerns high and dry.
Certainly, Donald Trump is not your man. Though he has recently made noises to the contrary, Trump has repeatedly argued that wages are too high and that America’s pathetically low minimum wage should remain at its present poverty level. He’s a fan of torture. Trump calls the police — the police! — “the most mistreated people” in America. The governing philosophy that best approximates his ideology is authoritarianism. His opposition to “free trade” and the Iraq War aren’t nearly enough to justify casting a vote for him.
Polls show Hillary Clinton heading toward the White House. But that prospect should make liberals shudder in horror. Like Trump, Hillary is an enemy of human rights and the struggle for equality and justice. But she’s worse than him in one important respect: she’ll send the Bernie Sanders wing of the party packing.
A right-wing Trump presidency would galvanize the Left. We saw that during the Nixon, Reagan and Bush Jr. years, which generated massive street protests. But DINOs (Democrats In Name Only) like Bill Clinton and Obama have the opposite effect. Satisfied that a Democrat is president, progressives tend to stay home, their criticisms muted to the point of nonexistence. Under Democratic presidents, outrageous acts of repression — like Obama’s brutal coordinated raids on the Occupy Wall Street movement — are received by liberals with little more than a mildly annoyed tweet. Look for the Left to be defanged under First Woman President/DINO Hillary Clinton.
Don’t vote for Trump. But don’t fall for the same identity politics crap that tricked progressives and liberals in 2008.
Obama made history as the first black president, but he didn’t share the liberal politics or values of most black Americans. On the issues that matter most, he turned out to be a right-winger: expanded old wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (he voted six times to fund the Iraq bloodshed), new wars in Libya and Syria and Yemen and Somalia, drones gone wild, and talk about mass deportations — no president has ever expelled more illegal immigrants than Obama.
Corporate media political observers say that progressive stalwarts Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders will influence cabinet picks and policy in a Hillary Clinton administration. But the tea leaves as well as her track record suggest that right-wing forces – particularly Wall Street and the war industry – will exert a much stronger gravitational pull.
Thanks to WikiLeaks, we know that top Hillary Clinton insiders consider Bernie Sanders to be a “doofus,” that she looks forward to an interventionist foreign policy, will continue to be highly secretive to the point that she would love to wage war covertly, and considers Wall Street bankers to be the most qualified people to write financial regulations.
Like her husband, she is likely to choose cabinet members who lean right. The one possible exception would echo Bill’s. Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, a liberal, is being considered for the relatively minor post of secretary of labor, where Robert Reich famously languished without portfolio or influence before leaving in disgust after a few years. All the others are conservatives.
Pro-Hillary Democrats argue that Clinton might nominate big-time liberals to the Supreme Court. But the judges she has on her shortlist for SCOTUS vacancies are closer to the centrist wing of her party. Obviously she will nominate Democrats for seats where Donald Trump would nominate Republicans. But I wouldn’t look for a seismic shift there.
What liberal Democrats should worry more about than anything else is probably her current saber-rattling with Russia and its president Vladimir Putin. First, she’s challenging the Russians’ alliance with Syria and threatening to shoot down Russian planes.
She’s blaming Russia to deflect revelations about her machinations against Bernie Sanders. “We have 17 intelligence agencies, civilian and military, who have all concluded that these espionage attacks [like the WikiLeaks DNC and John Podesta hacks], these cyberattacks, come from the highest levels of the Kremlin, and they are designed to influence our election,” Hillary Clinton says. Why does she expect us to take government agencies at their word? After all, these are the same idiotic spooks who supposedly convinced her that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass distraction. No one has presented the slightest evidence, much less proof, that Russia was involved in the hacks.
It’s irresponsible and scary to accuse a nuclear-armed nation of wrongdoing without solid proof. People in the know say that her over-the-top rhetoric has convinced Kremlin officials that she plans to start a war with Russia.
It’s no secret that Hillary Clinton has always been a foreign policy hawk, a corporatist on domestic economic matters, and an incrementalist in general. (Personally, I don’t see how you can call for incremental changes on problems like poverty and unemployment and keep a straight face. Here’s 10% of a job!)
Problem is, she is all but certain to enter office under conditions that will magnify her conservative instincts. House Republicans will still be in a position to block anything ambitious. And it will be all but impossible for Clinton to claim a mandate in an election where the vast majority of voters were motivated by fear and contempt for Trump rather than affirmative support for her and her proposals.
So if you are a member of the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party, there’s only one thing to do after Election Day. Roll up your sleeves and start organizing protests — regardless of who wins.
(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’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)
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.)
Hey Bernie supporters: Hillary has a talking point for you.
Confident that she has the Democratic nomination pretty much locked down and turning toward a general election contest against Donald Trump, Secretary Clinton’s surrogates and paid Internet trolls are targeting Sanders devotees via email and seeding comment threads on political websites with a low-key sales pitch.
It goes like this: We’re not asking you to vote for Hillary in November. We are asking you to work for and donate to “down ticket” Democratic candidates for Congress, governor, state rep and so on. Oh, and if you could kindly hold your fire against Hillary — because those attacks help Trump — that would be awesome too, thanks.
Like all things Clinton, this tightly scripted DNC-approved don’t-vote-for-me-vote-for-other-Dems argument carries more than a whiff of triangulation, big data analytics and well-managed focus groups. It also reeks of desperation.
At this stage in a presidential campaign, the likely nominee normally wants to unify the party by convincing voters who voted against her in the primary to see her as next best, good enough, and enough of a champion for some of her defeated opponent’s ideas to justify supporting her with some enthusiasm. I can’t recall, even following the bitter Democratic primary fight in 1980, Jimmy Carter telling Ted Kennedy’s acolytes not to bother with him but to please pull levers for Democratic state senators.
Hillaryites are sweating the progressive #BernieorBust movement — a recent poll of Sanders voters found one out of four swearing they won’t vote for Clinton in November, no way, no how. Like Miley Cyrus’ pledge to leave the U.S. if Trump wins, these promises are more hot air than statements of serious intent. But it’s not like that 25% drops to 0 by November 8th. Some Berners will stay home on election day. Disaffected Sanderians will give Jill Stein’s Green Party the biggest surge it has ever seen. (That’s probably how I’ll roll.)
And yes — despite the opinions of the center-right pundits who have been wrong about everything all year long — a significant number of liberal Democrats will defect to Donald Trump. As a friend told me, “I always vote Democratic. In this race, Donald Trump is the Democrat and Hillary Clinton is the Republican.”
If Hillary wins the nomination, she’ll need as many votes from former Berners as she can get. So why is she giving up on them already?
There are two answers.
- She doesn’t think she can convince Sanders’ supporters that she’s a good-enough second-best.
- She doesn’t want to try.
She may be right about the first point. Stretching back over more than two decades, Clinton’s public record in national politics is too long and too consistent to make a credible case that she has a left-of-center bone in her body. From Hillarycare to NAFTA to welfare reform to the crime bill to Iraq and Libya and Syria, she’s always sided with neo-con war profiteers and corporations over people. (Hillary’s folks claim that she was secretly against NAFTA, in private, before she came out in favor of it, in public. But secretly doesn’t count in politics.)
Hillary’s refusal to make concessions to Sanders’ surprisingly successful democratic-socialist insurgency is highly illuminating about who she is and where she stands.
Clinton and Sanders are now tied in national polls. Does anyone doubt that if he were as well known when he began his campaign last year as he is now, that he would have trounced her? Given Sanders’ popularity and the real threat he presented to her, a smarter and/or less pigheaded candidate than Hillary would have co-opted the man, his ideas and his supporters. But there’s zero sign that she’s considering him as her vice president or a cabinet position. She has stolen many of Sanders’ topics. But she hasn’t adopted any of his major ideas.
At one of the debates she misleadingly implied that she supports Bernie’s national $15/hour minimum wage. Actually, she supports a Scroogesque $12. (If the minimum wage had kept up with inflation, it would be over $22.)
She still doesn’t want to make public college tuition free, as Bernie Sanders does. Nor would she lift a finger to replace the insurance profit protection racket that is Obamacare with the universal healthcare available around the globe.
In Hillary Clinton we have a right-wing Democrat who campaigned as a right-wing Democrat and who will now tack even farther right this summer and fall. She’s so far right that she won’t even bother to pretend to throw a bone to progressives, much less bring Sanders or his ideas into an Abe Lincoln-style Team of Rivals à la Hillary.
No one should say they’re surprised when President Hill turns out to a rabid rightie.
(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. “Bernie” is now on sale online and at all good bookstores.)
President Obama’s second inaugural address was a barnstormer: aggressive, expressing a strong liberal vision, even merely progressive. Where was this man four years ago, when he actually had a chance of enacting the policies he said that he favored? Back then, he was a right wing accommodationist. Nobody really knows what’s going on inside his head, but it’s a fair guess that like a lot of other Democrats he only fight hard when he knows he can’t really win.
In Politics, It’s a Wild Wild Weird World
Hunter S. Thompson said: “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” But what do you do when things go from weird to completely psychedelic?
The political landscape at the beginning of the second term of America’s first biracial president – in the usual historical sense, calling him black kind of requires an asterisk – is a messed up, topsy-turvy, bass-ackwards place.
There is the president’s newfound liberal rhetoric, even going so far as to namecheck gays and lesbians in his Inaugural Address. Did anyone tell him or members of the media that Stonewall was an actual riot, that endorsing this landmark of liberation is to endorse violent revolutionary change? He came off as something as a peacenik, implying that he would be willing to talk to, say, Iran. How does that square with his onslaught of drones, a campaign that increasingly looks like a grim Vietnam-style war of attrition?
But it’s his timing I can’t figure.
Back in 2009, when he came into the White House with an overwhelming mandate for radical change in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, when he enjoyed Democratic control of both houses of Congress, when the Republicans were so whipped that opinion writers for the Wall Street Journal wondered aloud whether there was a future for the GOP, he tacked right. Now that obstructionist Republicans control the House, ordinary citizens have settled into a grouchy state of permanent discontent amid downward mobility and shrinking expectations, when there’s absolutely no reason to expect to get anything big or bold accomplished, the dude is breaking out as some sort of crazy progressive?
Then there’s the bizarre realignment of the two major parties.
Leading Republicans, spooked by the election results, polls that show that the voters of the future are liberal on gays, abortion and other social issues, and possibly from finally having picked up dogeared copies of the prescient tome The Emerging Democratic Majority at Books-a-Million, are freaking out in the weirdest possible way. Something has to be done! But not if it requires compromising on our core values. Um, guys…white guys…old white guys…the problem is that the voters don’t like Republican core values. Or you personally. So what is to be done? Something!
You almost have to feel sorry for Republicans. Sure, they started a bunch of crazy wars that killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people, and they opened a string of concentration camps around the world, and they rolled back 800 years of cherished civil liberties that go back to the Magna Carta. But it’s sad to watch the mighty crash like a dictator’s statue pulled down by invading Marines. Not only is a sorta black man in the White House, all the GOP’s classic election-stealing tricks – corrupting the Supreme Court, bullying recount officials with paid thugs, moving voting booths out of minority neighborhoods – aren’t enough to close the growing gap between their obsolete stances and an increasingly left-leaning electorate. Now they’re so desperate that they’re even flirting with rejiggering the Electoral College, an institution that historically benefits Republicans, in order to suck out two or three more terms with them in control of the House – forget the Senate – before fading away into Whig-like oblivion as the Democrats retaliate.
Not to say that the Democrats are walking the straight and narrow road of sanity.
Americans of all political stripes say there’s one issue that consumes them most. One thing that they think about all the time. Something personal, something that affects everything else. Happily, it’s something that the government not only can do something about, but has been able to address many times in the past. I am talking about, obviously, the economy. Unemployment. Underemployment. The fact that there are no jobs. And that the jobs that are being created are all crappy. Or are in another country. Americans have been remarkably consistent about this. It would be hard to think of another time when people told pollsters for four years in a row that the same issue was the number one issue in the country. Whatever his other challenges, President Obama certainly doesn’t have to wonder about what’s on our minds.
So what is his second-term agenda? Given that his laissez-faire approach to the economic collapse throughout his first term basically involved golfing a lot while hoping that magical market forces would revive on their own, you might think that he would focus in like a laser-guided drone on the economy – you know, the number one most important issue to most Americans – this time around. But no, everyone’s telling us that Obama’s ambitious second-term agenda is – wait for it – gun control, immigration and climate change.
Don’t get me wrong: one of the great tragedies of the last dozen years was that Al Gore, one of the few American politicians who understands the gravity and imminent threat of global warming, didn’t get to exercise the presidential powers he earned at the ballot box. Though I will be shocked! shocked! shocked! if Obama’s proposals rise above the level of the usual too little/too late/too vested in corporate profits to curb industrialization, it’s nice to see the issue get lip service. Restoring sanity to America’s immigration system – can’t get in legally, so sneak in and hide out for 15 or 20 years until the next amnesty – is long overdue. Though, again, I wouldn’t be surprised if we just end up with another Reagan-style amnesty that doesn’t open up the doors to a lot more legal immigrants. Gun control of assault rifles and high-capacity magazines, of course, is just boilerplate post-Sandy Hook elementary school massacre reactionism.
Fortunately, at least one of these issues will probably resolve itself. Already there are fewer illegals trying to sneak into the United States across the border from Mexico because the economy here is so terrible. Who is going to want to come to an impoverished nation full of gun nuts shooting at each other underwater?
Still, it’s disconcerting to watch smug Democrats lord it over clueless Republicans when the only difference between the two parties is one of tone. Republicans let you know that they hate you. Democrats talk nice and then let you down. Neither party gives a damn about the fact that you haven’t gotten a raise in 30 years. How can they? Their contributors are the top executives of the corporations who’ve been lining their pockets at your expense.
One of these days, you’ve got to think that the people are going to notice.
COPYRIGHT 2013 TED RALL
Sympathy for Newt and Open Marriage
You know the narrative. Right-wing family-values Republican gets caught doing secular-liberal totally-not-family-values stuff, usually involving sex:
Cruising for manlove in an airport men’s room.
Knocking up the maid.
Sending dirty emails to young male pages.
Hiring male hookers and smoking meth.
Asking wife #2 for an open marriage.
This kind of thing happens all the time. And it’s always red meat for leftie media commentators.
Liberal pundits love to call fallen Republicans hypocrites. They point out that liberal politicians are often more heterosexual and monogamous than many so-called conservatives—and remain married to the same spouse for life.
Now it’s Newt Gingrich’s turn.
In her divorce filing Ms. Gingrich the Second claims that Mr. Gingrich asked her for an open marriage so he could stay with her while carrying on with Callista, who became Ms. Gingrich the Third after Ms. Gingrich the Second refused said request. (You may need to re-read the previous sentence.)
Cue the holier-than-thou liberals.
CNN reporter John King opened a presidential debate with an assault on Newt’s alleged yearning for sexual freedom. A New York Times editorial called this “a perfectly reasonable question.”
Across the vertical seam in the op-ed graveyard Gail Collins could barely contain herself. “Beyond the hypocrisy of this sort of behavior from a guy who wants to protect the sanctity of holy matrimony from gay couples, there also seems to be a streak of almost crazed self-absorption that runs through the Newt saga,” Collins gloated. “Who would ditch a spouse of 18 years in a phone call? Shortly after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis? And, of course, he broke up with his first wife while she was battling cancer.”
That Newt Gingrich is pompous, nasty and one of the most hideous members of that physically repugnant tribe known as politicians can be stipulated by all but those blinded by hatred of Mormons and Kenyan-born socialists. Still, I think we on the Left are missing an opportunity for a teachable moment.
Progressives are fighting for human emancipation. The right to engage in sex with any consensual adult in any form is integral to this struggle to liberate ourselves from patriarchy, sexism, racism, homophobia and capitalism. How, then, can we justify mocking anyone—even a hypocritical Christian conservative—for expressing their sexuality?
When Senator Larry Craig was arrested, essentially for the crime of being a closeted gay or bisexual male, in that Minneapolis-St. Paul airport restroom, he needed our support, not our ridicule.
Imagine if supporters of gay rights from across the spectrum had refused to get sucked into stupid D-vs-R theatrics. Remember, the cops weren’t trying to catch a right-wing gay-bashing closeted senator. Craig was ensnared by one of countless sting operations conducted by police departments across the United States designed to harass all gays and lesbians. We should oppose such tactics forcefully and consistently. Defending Craig’s right to hit on other guys would have served the cause better than scoring cheap partisan points.
As for Newt’s alleged—divorce allegations ought to be swallowed with a massive dollop of sodium chloride—request for an open marriage, well, so what if he did?
When 40 to 50 percent of marriages end in divorce it’s clear that state-enforced monogamy for life isn’t working for everyone. Researchers estimate that up to six percent of American couples are in open marriages. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s their decision. It’s their choice. Asked privately, most liberals would agree.
Millions of Americans prefer alternative arrangements for their sex lives—open marriages, swinging, etc. Yet they are forced to sneak around. They’re not hiding from their lovers, but from their friends and neighbors and colleagues lest they be shamed and shunned. Unlike conventionally married couples (who cheat on one another in significant numbers), people in open relationships know exactly what their partners are up to.
Moreover, there are a lot of open relationships that no one thinks about. Does anyone doubt, for example, that the Clintons had a “don’t ask don’t tell” policy that essentially amounted to a license to cheat?
You shouldn’t have to hide or lie when you’re doing nothing wrong. Yet so-called “liberals” join their rightist counterparts in snickering about Craig’s “wide stance” and Gingrich’s request for an open marriage. The effect is to denigrate gays, lesbians and other sexually marginalized and oppressed people.
Nona Willis Aronowitz calls Gingrich “the poster child for the messy, miserable life people can have if they’re stuffed into rules they weren’t built to follow. He’s the poster child for how our sexist and repressive culture can hurt relationships. Gingrich was raised in, and now advocates for, a world that sets up incredibly narrow parameters for sex and love, and shames people who don’t adhere to those standards.”
We should tell right-wingers like Newt Gingrich: you’re one of us. You always were. The fact that you can’t live by your own supposed rules proves it.
Quit living a lie, Newt. More importantly, quit asking everyone else to live the stupid lie that defines your stupid out-of-date politics.
Hey Republicans! Are you a maid-knocking-up, men’s-room-trolling, sexting, bondage-loving, gay-bi-trans-whatever?
The Right’s not that into you. Join us.
COPYRIGHT 2012 TED RALL