Tag: Bernie Sanders

Deomocrats and the “Forgotten” Heartland

George S LedyardMuch of the conventional wisdom since the disastrous electoral loss in Nov 2016 is that the Democratic Party lost because it had become too focused on identity politics and the educated liberal urban bastions on the two coasts. Bernie Sanders has maintained that a lack of an economic agenda that clearly benefits the working and middle classes was what turned voters away from the Democrats.
But a recent article in Vox provides a very different take on this issue. It points out that populism is on the rise all over the world in democracies which have far more socialized economic systems than what we have.

This had occurred to me a while ago. I had been trying to envision what possible Democratic / Progressive platform would have brought any significant number of Donald Trump’s supporters to our fold. My answer was, there isn’t one.
diversityThe whole basis of the Democratic / Progressive liberal agenda is diversity. It is about championing the rights of minorities and vulnerable populations. It is about LGBT rights, It is about a woman’s right to choose.  It is fundamentally about ensuring that all Americans have a level playing field when it comes to economic opportunity.
Of course, as Bernie Sanders has so aptly demonstrated, liberals have fallen far short of achieving this level playing field. But the Vox article is fairly convincing in maintaining that this wasn’t actually the reason we lost the election.
The fact is that I cannot envision what agenda would both preserve the fundamental focus on civil rights, minority rights, women’s rights, maintaining the social safety net, and be based on the philosophy of mixed public / private management of the country’s economy. It is fundamental to Liberal and Progressive philosophy that the government has a crucial role in managing those things which we determine to be “public goods” on behalf on the American people.
These include clean air, clean water, the environment in general, our rivers, the ocean, endangered species, fish runs, and the social safety net (sometimes called the welfare system). Health care has, since its inception, been a mixed bag. The government has policies which heavily “regulate” the industry, and via medicare, medicaid, and the veteran’s administration covers some financing, but the majority of our system is private. It is an “employer based” system and insurance is provided by private insurers.
Trump SupportersSo, what do we see on the right? It certainly is not a monolithic group. The GOP base is made up of a disparate groups and philosophies. But one unifying element is an almost visceral dislike of the Federal Government. The Tea Party wing of the Republican Party, which has hijacked the Party’s agenda, wants to see smaller government, less regulation, a strong focus on property rights (as opposed to the public good), and far less Federal civil rights interference in state and local matters.
It is impossible to separate our current “populism” from “nativism”. The core demographic supporting Donald Trump and the farther right politicians is non-college educated whites. And they are Christians. This group is adamantly opposed to immigration. It wants to see deportation of undocumented residents. It wants to see a Wall built on the Mexican border. It wants to see an almost total ban on immigration from Islamic countries.
This group has gradually been influenced over a period of decades to become an anti-diversity, increasingly white supremacist group. They are convinced that diversity is a war against our Eurocentric values and heritage. They are xenophobic and more isolationist than we have seen for many years.

The Alt Right
The Alt Right Movement

My point here is that these people are rabidly opposed on a very fundamental level to almost EVERYTHING we liberals and progressives stand for. They do not believe that the government should have much of a role in anything beyond defense and law enforcement. They believe that the social safety net is a giveaway of public money to undeserving minority moochers. They are made uncomfortable by cultural values different than their own, especially when they are introduced into their previously homogeneous communities.
So, I would ask, would an vehemently anti-abortion person be persuaded by an economic program designed to benefit their demographic to vote for a Party that is firmly committed to “choice”? I would say nothing would do that.

I would ask what would persuade a voter who hates the Federal Government, is convinced that all politicians are corrupt, and feels that just about everything the government does that he sees is bad, to vote for a candidate that believes in a single payer, national health system administered by the government? I would say nothing.
Black Lives MatterI would ask what would persuade a voter who is fundamentally frightened by minorities and immigrants, who wishes to see the clock turned back to when white exceptionalism was the rule in our country and minorities just had to go along, to vote for a candidate from a party that is fundamentally associated with equal opportunity and rights for all… that has made “inclusion” the basis of its philosophy? I would say nothing.
I think it is time to understand that the country is polarized between extremes that really are not going to be reconciled. One side is not going to be persuaded to join the other side. This is a conflict that is going to have winners and losers. The losers will not be happy. And nothing we can do as liberals and progressives will change that fact.
Diversity PictureSo, no, the Democratic Party does not have to abandon its focus on diversity and identity politics. What it needs to do is incorporate a more progressive agenda into a plan that targets it liberal / progressive base. It isn’t about winning over the Tea Party folks in the heartland, or the uneducated workers on the rust belt. It is about finally coming up with a program that actually does improve the lot of the folks that have been Democratic supporters all along.

ACLU Civil Rights

Let’s make it clear to our minority populations that we have a real commitment to ending the war on drugs, shifting decriminalization to support via education, rehabilitation, mental health services, business development in the urban centers, etc. Let’s have a comprehensive plan to provide economic incentives and create educational / vocational alternatives for our workers who will be increasingly replaced by the robotics revolution.
To take back the country we need to motivate the folks that have traditionally been our base of supporters, not try to win over a group of folks that isn’t going to be won over no matter what we do. Instead, we need to maintain the focus we have had but actually start to deliver the goods. It was disinterest in our base this election that gave us Donald Trump, not a huge mandate.
Check out the article on Vox
No easy answers: why left-wing economics is not the answer to right-wing populism

We Are Better Than This

George S LedyardRecently, as the primary season has really heated up I have been seeing more and more posts and memes on social media that qualify as serious Hillary bashing. Of course I have grown used to that coming from the Republicans. Their ability to take an event, twist the facts and change reality a la “Willie Horton”, or the “swift boating” of John Kerry, is unmatched.
The trouble is, these scurrilous attacks are coming from my “peeps”, fellow Progressives who support Bernie Sanders. I look at the distortions, the vitriol, and I wonder “Do I even know you people? Because you sound just like the folks I thought we were all fighting against.

First of all I would say, if you aren’t sure how to behave, take your cue from the man we are supporting for President. Throughout this campaign he has manged to be forceful, passionate, powerfully motivating without getting down in the mud. He has tried to stick to the issues, has highlighted the differences between himself and Secretary Clinton, and acted like a leader who believes that the issues speak for themselves.

There is no way that Bernie Sanders would approve of this. He has asked his supporters to desist from disrupting Clinton’s campaign events while supporting their right to demonstrate. While the GOP stooped to name calling, humiliating each other’s spouses, and talking about how big their manhood was, Bernie has attacked Clinton on the issues and stayed clear of making it personal or stooping to sensationalist fictionalizing of Clinton’s record.
We are better than this. If you want to convince people to understand why Bernie is the better candidate you don’t do it by character assassination but by cogent argument. Talk about the fact that she voted for the Iraq War powers. Talk about the fact that she advocated the overthrow of the Libyan regime and how well that has turned out. There is plenty here to criticize. Talk about her past opposition to raising the minimum wage, her previous support for big international trade deals and her recent change of heart (thanks Bernie).
I am sick to death of how civil discourse has deteriorated in this country. The ultra right talk shows, the conservative bloggers, and now even their political candidates have dragged us down. We cannot and should not stoop to that same level of behavior or we just become thuggish, as they are.
An inability to unite, to create strong alliances, to compromise when required, has crippled progressive social movements for years. The present moment is a perhaps once in a lifetime concurrence of opportunities to move things forward in a big way. Let’s treat each other respectfully. By all means fight the good fight. But the folks who are supporters of Hillary Clinton will not be persuaded to change that support by childish tantrums and dishonest, alienating, and at times bullying behavior. Let’s clean up our act or we’ll have a truly disastrous election.

The New Progressives – After the Nomination, Strategy for Going Forward

I read this article which was shared by a friend on my Facebook timeline. I think it highlights some real issues concerning the future of the movement and how it proceed in the face of increasing likelihood that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee.

Once again, the age old argument about whether it is better to work within the system or in opposition to the system comes to the fore. The 2016 election presents a particular problem for progressive activists and making the right choice about how to proceed. If their candidate of choice can’t win the nomination, and they try to mount a third party challenge, write in a different candidate, or simply not participate in the voting, we could easily have a repeat of the Bush / Gore election when Ralph Nadar broke ranks and ran as a third party candidate. That decision gave the election to Bush and the result was eight years of, not just not progressive administration and policies, but eight years of undoing years of progress.

The tone of this article is that the “establishment” Democratic Party is the enemy. It describes how the “centrists” co-opt the agenda of the Left and then somehow hold the Left hostage (hence the Stockholm Syndrome illusion). Personally, I believe this is the source of the ineffectiveness of the Left in moving its agenda forward. The activist movements, Occupy, Black Lives Matter, etc are important. But what drives change is the movement of the center.

It is a fact that the majority of our citizens exist at just Left and just Right of the center of our political spectrum. Now that center moves over time depending on circumstance. In recent years, it has definitely moved Right. But it is still the case that the majority of voters are moderate and will normally support the establishment of their chosen political Party.
What is perhaps unique in 2016 is just how polarized things have become. Both political Parties have found themselves dealing with serious insurrection within the ranks. The GOP has completely lost control of its membership. None of the establishment picks for the GOP nomination received more than token support. The two candidates left standing are both outsiders who are far to the Right of what the establishment party leadership is comfortable with. The fact that it was their 8 year barrage of extreme anti-government, anti-Obama propaganda that caused this situation is neither here nor there. They are now stuck with resorting to trying for a contested convention to try to stop Donald Trump.

The Democrats are in marginally better control of their membership and it looks almost certain that Hillary Clinton will prevail and be the nominee. But far from being the automatic nominee that was predicted, she has struggled, barely staying ahead of Bernie Sanders in the delegate lead and showing huge weaknesses in voting blocks that she will need in the general election. While Hillary Clinton’s great strength exists with African American voters and, not surprisingly female voters, Bernie Sanders has destroyed her with younger voters and the independents that will be crucial to win against the Republican nominee.

This situation has provided leverage for the progressives that we haven’t seen for years. It represents an opportunity to move the progressive agenda forward and get buy in from the establishment “centrists”. But it remains unclear whether the activist Left will take advantage of this situation or, in a pique of righteous outrage refuse to support the Party nominee. In my opinion this would be a disaster and would almost certainly result in a victory for the GOP. It would, in my opinion, be an example of “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory”.
The only way things are really going to change in the country is to move the center. Yes, activism is important, but the Civil Rights Movement did not prevail until Lyndon Johnson threw the weight of the Federal government behind it. The Anti-Vietnam War movement didn’t really accomplish much until it put a million people on the mall in DC. Those weren’t the hard core activists, those were the very centrists that the activists disdained as “limousine liberals” etc.
There has been a movement away from the center towards the extremes by a large number of people on each side of the political spectrum. This fact is the direct result of a government that, for many years has failed to deliver to its people. The Left and Right activists have basically driven the discussion for a number of years leaving the majority centrists feeling like the whole political discussion isn’t addressing their concerns and isn’t being conducted as they would wish.

With the GOP looking like it will certainly nominate a candidate with abysmal national approval ratings, a unified Democratic Party looks to win and win big. But can it and will it unify? Hillary Clinton is a tested and experienced candidate. Yet, she is as unpopular with the extremists on the Left as she is with the folks on the Right. Many committed Progressives have actually said that they will not vote for her or support her, no matter what.
I find this attitude appalling. It smacks of hubris. It says that for the sake of being “right”, for the sake of feeling “righteous”, they would be willing to sink the whole ship rather than have a captain they didn’t like. This despite the fact that this political ship is the only hope of moving the ball forward towards a progressive future. It is a fact that, if this ship sinks, the ship captained by the other guys wins the race and it is also a fact that that they are absolutely committed to, not only preventing moving that progressive ball forward, but actually undoing decades of progress.

Activists always have the dilemma of pushing a society in ways that are uncomfortable. But often they are out of sync and push harder or faster than the society will move. That can even create a backlash that can be counter productive. This is a unique time. The establishment Democrats absolutely need the support of the progressives who are at the Left side of the Party. Because of the tremendous showing by the Sanders supporters, the Sanders Progressives have a tremendous leverage to get Hillary Clinton to commit to progressive policies that she might other wise not champion. But, if these folks refuse to unify with the Party, they lose all chance of effecting the outcome in anything but a disastrous way. We could find ourselves with the Anti-Christ (from a progressive / liberal standpoint) as President and a bunch of self righteous activists bitching about how corrupt the “system” was. This just strikes me as a sort of suicide wish among people who purport to be acting for the benefit of all the people. It certainly will not benefit anyone if this happens except the very people who are the real enemy.

Read the article below and see what you think…

The Democratic Stockholm Syndrome | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

After weeks of hard and increasingly heated campaigning, Hillary Clinton scored a decisive victory over Bernie Sanders in last night’s New York Democratic primary. Despite losing a majority of the state’s counties, she won in huge margins in New York City and the popular vote overall.

Source: The Democratic Stockholm Syndrome | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

Bernie Sanders and Public Education

Bernie Sanders and Public Education

Bernie Sanders plan to publicly fund college tuition isn’t some radical, socialist plan. It is merely an expansion of what we already have had and the vast majority of Americans would consider a basic Right and that is tax payer funded education for K – 12.

Schools, Bernie Sandres, public education
Public Education

This plan is adding four more years to what we routinely cover with public funding (not private, for profit funding). Bernie Sander’s plan is an investment in our citizens and is actually the first, and most important step in addressing our vast income inequality and the cycle of poverty in which many Americans are mired.

The folks who oppose this plan keep harping on the higher taxes it would entail. But people are ALREADY paying for school (or they are choosing not to go because of the expense). They are taking out loans from financial institutions that are for profit, so that extra cost is built in on top of the actual tuition cost. These loans can handicap their ability to invest later on. Make it impossible to buy a home or save for retirement.
student debt, public funding of education, Bernie Sanders
Crippling Student Debt
Publicly supported education means that the entire society invests in the current generation of students. They do not end up with crippling loans and can begin to build wealth right out of school. Since this is tax supported, the wealthiest Americans make the larger investment while the poor may actually truly be going to school for free. This is the single most important element in breaking the cycle of poverty and starting to address our vast income inequality.
 
It’s not as if we don’t already do this. We have publicly supported education K – 12. What Bernie is proposing is at the state and local level being able to expand that to include 4 years of college level education. So we would have K – BA publicly supported. I would also include vocational schools in this program as there is a huge need for skilled workers in many areas.
 
So, what we are talking about is shifting where the costs for school get covered. Right now we have an extremely unequal system in which everyone incurs the same costs (this isn’t really true because the rich send their kids to elite schools, but let’s assume kids going to the same school) attending a certain community college. The wealthier kids may have parents that can pay for all or most and they graduate with no debt and begin to build wealth. The poor kids graduate and the early years of their careers are spent paying back that crippling debt. Over the course of their working lives, the folks who started so late investing in their own lives because they started in debt means that their total wealth development over the course of their careers is a fraction of what the debt free kids were able to achieve.
Bernie Sanders, publicly funded education
Public support of education would mean that poor kids could attend school and enter the work force on a level playing field with the kids who came from more well off backgrounds. And this isn’t even taking into account that because of the cost issue, many kids simply do not go on to higher education, despite the fact that it is increasingly difficult to find any kind of living wage job if you haven’t been to college.
Public education, Bernie Sanders plan
Invest in Our Young People
This is virtually a no brainer. I can understand people opposing this purely on a self interest, class basis. If you are one of the richest Americans, you will be paying proportionally more for this. But, even if you are middle class and your taxes go up to cover this, you will be able to send your kids to college and it will be publicly funded. So you are still better off. Of course there are always the folks that don’t have kids and whine about paying for other people’s kids. To that I say “Suck it up and stop complaining. If these kids get education and decent jobs, maybe you won’t have to be paying for the massive industrial prison system we currently use to keep them in line.” In other words, we are already incurring the costs of NOT doing this.

Big Union Leaders Betray Sanders and Workers | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

Bernie Sanders and Union Support

Published onFriday, April 08, 2016 by Common Dreams

Big Union Leaders Betray Sanders and Workers by Ralph Nader

Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders waves as he marches with supporters in the Labor Day parade. (Photo: AP/Jim Cole) Around a conference table inside the large Washington headquarters of the AFL-CIO, a furious exchange occurred between labor union presidents. It was late February and up for decision by the Executive Council was whether the country’s principal labor federation was going to make a primary season endorsement of Hillary Clinton as favored by the leaders of the largest unions.

According to insiders, tempers flared when smaller unions challenged the Hillary-endorsing big unions such as AFSCME (public employees), the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, the Service Employees (SEIU) and the Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). These large unions came out for Clinton in late 2015 and early 2016 before they sensed the growing rank and file workers’ preference for the lifetime advocate for workers and union backer, Bernie Sanders.
“Time is of the essence. When will workers again have such a scandal-free, consistent labor champion as Bernie Sanders seriously going for the Presidency inside the Democratic Party?”
Listening to the nurses union head speak out for Sanders’ strong pro-labor history, Lee Saunders, president of AFSCME, interrupted her, exclaiming: “I will not allow you to do a commercial for Sanders.” She retorted, “You mean for the only candidate who has a 100% labor record?” A union leader of postal workers charged the unions backing Hillary as being “completely out of touch with their workers.” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka then cut off their microphones.

All over the country, the observation by the postal workers’ leader rings true. Even as Lee Saunders read the names of the Democratic presidential contenders at a large Washington state AFSCME membership meeting last October, “only Sanders’ name brought loud, sustained applause,” according to Bloomberg News. Few union leaders allow a worker referendum to make the endorsement decisions. The 700,000-member Communications Workers of America (CWA) does, and the result was a “decisive endorsement of Sanders,” reported Rafael Navar, the union’s political director.

Whether it is the level of enthusiasm, campaigning to get out the vote or talking up their candidate’s record on such issues as minimum wage increases, abolition of public university and college tuition, full Medicare for all (single payer system) and credibility in standing up to Wall Street, Hillary’s votes and statements do not come close to respecting the working families of America compared to Bernie’s consistent 30-year record. Based entirely on her lawless record as a pro-war Senator (Iraq), as a war-making Secretary of State (Libya), and her $5,000-a-minute speeches before closed-door, big-business gatherings (in addition to millions in big-money campaign contributions), Clinton will continue to be the sponsor of War and Wall Street.

The volunteer Labor for Bernie grassroots drive is not just growing rapidly but cutting across all union categories and gaining support with non-union workers. There is a potentially massive pool of American workers supporting Senator Sanders as he wins primary after primary, leading up to the April 19th contest in New York – the adopted state base for the Clintons, who are backed by all their monied interests. This unaffiliated labor awakening bears watching, especially by the long-entrenched, affluent big union leaders.

First, Labor for Bernie is fomenting defections by local unions defying their Hillary-endorsing national organizations. So far, over 80 of these union locals have endorsed Bernie Sanders.

“The volunteer Labor for Bernie grassroots drive is not just growing rapidly but cutting across all union categories and gaining support with non-union workers.”

Typical of this exodus is Northern California Food and Commercial Workers Local 5, whose executive board voted 30 to 2 for Sanders, reflecting the views of most of its 28,000 members. Local 5’s Mike Henneberry said “For us it was not a very difficult decision. Compare an individual who’s been supporting workers since he was mayor of Burlington [Vermont] with someone who’s been on the Board of Walmart.”

The Service Employees Local 1984 (SEIU), New Hampshire’s largest public sector union, disagreed with its national union and came out for Sanders in November. The big union leaders don’t smell revolt yet, but they must be worried. If the Clintons continue to play dirty tricks, with the big unions, as was suspected in Iowa and Nevada against the Sanders campaign, the seeds of challenges within the ranks of these unions will be planted.

Should Hillary become president and come out for anti-worker trade treaties, return to her former coolness on a living wage and other labor issues and cater to Wall Street, the insurrection could congeal against the big unions who will have taken credit, of course, for her victory, without having delivered a mandate for a labor agenda.

It is the AFL-CIO’s practice of endorsing Democrats without demanding before and insisting after the election that candidates champion ‘card check’, revision of trade treaties, repeal of anti-union labor laws and stronger job safety regulation. The Democratic Party treats the mostly shrinking labor unions as having nowhere else to go. And most union leaders meekly oblige by their chronic submissiveness.

The man to watch is strategist and former labor union insider Larry Cohen. He was for many years the president of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) that has endorsed Sanders. He’s going all over the country helping the Sanders campaign, urging major labor unions, still undecided, like the Steel, Auto, Firefighters and Electrical Workers (IBEW) to come out for Bernie.

But Mr. Cohen is looking beyond the elections to take the energy from the Sanders campaign and politically mobilize tens of millions of non-unionized workers behind a new Congress furthering a new economy as if workers mattered.

Time is of the essence. When will workers again have such a scandal-free, consistent labor champion as Bernie Sanders seriously going for the Presidency inside the Democratic Party? Had Sanders had two more months without this big union opposition, his current momentum could have allowed him to overtake Clinton by now.

Facing a possible four or eight years of the corporatist and militarist Clinton, coupled with U.S. multinational corporations exporting whole industries, not to mention accelerating labor-replacing automation, the hurdles for Americans believing in democracy, justice and peace becomes far, far greater.

So the time for preventive civic and worker engagement with all electoral contests is now!

Source: Big Union Leaders Betray Sanders and Workers | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

Regarding Kasparov and “Socialism”

Gary Kasparov’s Misguided Critique of Bernie Sanders

What Bernie Sanders is proposing has just about nothing to do with Soviet style, completely centralized government. Bernie is not proposing nationalization of our heavy industry, he hasn’t put forward any five year plans. The only people talking about mass relocation of any people are the Republicans. He opposes the modern security state.

Bernie is saying that certain things concerning our health and liberty should not be run as “for profit” enterprises. Health care should not be for profit. he is simply saying that we should expand Medicare, a program we ALREADY have and is hugely popular and successful, to cover all ages, not just the elderly.

Higher education should be publicly funded, just as K-12 ALREADY is publicly funded. If you want to call free public education, socialism, than most Americans are Socialists. Stopping public education at high school graduation is totally arbitrary and it makes sense to change it.

The war on drugs coupled with a privatized prison industry has created a huge prison / industrial complex. We need to get back to publicly controlled prisons in which there is no built in profit motive to keep people incarcerated. Mass incarceration as a way to control our unsolved social issues should be unacceptable.

Bernie Sanders
Transparent Right wing propaganda meant to scare voters away from Bernie Sanders. Another Lenin? Not in this universe. Lenin had people like Bernie Sanders shot.

None of this is Soviet style “Socialism”. It is Social Democracy. Plenty of nice liberal, democratic countries ALREADY have systems like this and trying to say they are like the old Soviet Union is a false equivalency and is basically pure, and not convincing, propaganda.

Source: (12) George Ledyard

What is “Radical” and What is Not

What is “Radical” and What is Not

Bernie Sanders – Radical?
Most of what Bernie Sanders advocates, we ALREADY have in some form. And they are massively popular programs with the public.

Tax payer funded public education for K – 12 is a fundamental underpinning of our society. There would be zero support for getting rid of tax payer supported from anyone, regardless of political party affiliation. Bernie Sanders proposal that we provide tax payer supported education through the four year degree level isn’t “radical”, it’s merely an expansion of an existing program that is totally non-controversial. America long ago decided that income should not be the determiner of access to education. That was back in the day when a high school diploma was needed to ensure success. Now, it is a college degree and it only makes sense to simply extend the program through the four year college level. Our existing state and community college system would be the mechanism. What is “radical” about that?

Single payer health care… We have two Federally funded health care systems in the US. Medicare and the Veteran’s Administration are tax payer funded systems for covering the costs of health care for our elderly and our veterans. Virtually no one in the American public thinks we should get rid of these programs. What Bernie advocates is merely an expansion of these programs to cover everyone and not just the old and veteran communities. In a country in which the number one cause of personal bankruptcy is medical expense and the largely privatized health care system has the highest costs of health care in the world this only makes sense.

Let’s stop calling things “radical” when they aren’t. “radical is putting the Bankers up against the wall. Radical is nationalization of industries. “Radical” is NOT taking already existing successful programs and expanding them.