Tag: Hillary Clinton

We Put These People in DC, It’s on Us

George S LedyardIt has become fashionable lately to talk about corruption in government and the need to “throw them all out”. While Donald Trump ran on a right wing “drain the swamp” promise, the folks on the progressive left often talk in much the same way. They refer to the “establishment” Democrats as embodied by the DNC as irredeemably corrupt and advocate forming a new party with fresh faces to rework our government.

It is also the case that a good portion of the public has to a large degree lost respect for expertise and professionalism. Of course we see this in the tendency to discount scientific evidence that goes against right wing agenda on climate change and environmental protection. But nowhere is the disconnect greater than between the average citizen and the professionals who run our government, largely anonymously behind the scenes.
Washington, DC and its suburbs, is probably one of the most highly educated cities in the country. Certainly, it has more lawyers per square inch than any other city. But it is also full of folks with advanced degrees in government, political science, international studies, public policy, defense studies and so on. These are the professionals who typically spend their careers in intelligence, government, etc. They represent the institutional memory of the various agencies in DC. They provide the continuity that keeps things functioning as each administration comes and goes according to the whims of the voters at any given time.
These people are not elected by the voters. They are hired in much the same way anyone gets a job. They build resumes by working internships, the get advanced degrees, they start at the bottom and work their way up. They seldom make the news, that’s for their appointed bosses. But they are the ones that do the work and keep things functioning.

I bring this up because it occurred to me that Donald Trump is showing us just what it looks like when we decided to simply “throw the bums out” and bring in people who have absolutely no experience in government. Not only is Trump a government neophyte but he has surrounded himself with people whose entire experience has been in corporate America and have no backgrounds whatever in government.
Enough of the voters were persuaded by the propaganda that assassinated the character of Hillary Clinton that we brought in a man with no government experience at all. The theory was that we should run the US government more like a business. But Trump’s business experience is in real estate development, an area in which wheeling and dealing is standard operating procedure and the reputation for ethical behavior is exceedingly low.

One can see the same dysfunction in Congress. The Tea Party far right outsiders who came into Congress during the previous elections are the ones who have created legislative grid lock. They are ideologically driven and have no experience running a country or desire to compromise with even the moderates in their own party. And the lack of intellectual credentials among them is frightening.
I think that voters, from the left and the right, should look at the resulting chaos and understand that experience does actually matter. Bringing in a whole group of outsiders with no experience as a recipe for disaster. Only two groups of people are happy with the dysfunction of having amateurs at the helm and that is the Russians, who helped bring this on, and the super right wing libertarians who think government paralysis is a good thing.
In the future, it would be a good idea to look at a candidate’s resume rather than his ability to tell you what you want to hear. And we need to understand that success in one area does not necessarily transfer to success in another. While we do wish to have a government that is responsive to our citizenry, we really want people running the government who are experts at doing so. Populism and electing candidates because they remind you of yourself is not a good way to achieve good governance.

The Democratic Dilemma – Where to Go from Here?

George S LedyardThe Democrats are in flux. They have a very real set of issues.
First, the wealth divide, which can also be seen as a generational issue. The democrats moved away over time from their working class roots towards looking to the liberal elites who have made their fortunes in finance and tech in order to raise the kind of money it takes to run modern campaigns.
The Bernie Sanders progressives are far to the left of the bulk of the Democratic voters who are still part of the baby boom generation and while they are extremely supportive of civil rights and diversity issues, they are a bit gun shy of what the right wing propaganda depicts as socialism. That’s why we haven’t been able to get to single payer before now.
Campaign Finance ReformIf we can get the big money out of the electoral process, the party can place more focus on the young voters who are quite a bit to the left of their parents. Studies have shown that millennials are actually fine with describing their political positions as some variation of socialism. My generation, which was born at the time of the Red Scare and McCarthy stayed far away from that term.
But as long as it takes such huge sums to mount an effective campaign, it’s hard for the Dems to shift direction towards an agenda that their big bucks liberal supporters might find to be a bit much. Bill Clinton, Barrack Obama, and Hillary Clinton were all quite successful with their centrist focus, at least in terms of having the kind of fund raising machines it takes to win. The Dems may have lost the heartland but it wasn’t for lack of money, it was more where and how they spent it.
Bernie Sanders showed that a Presidential candidate can raise enough money from a real grass roots fund raising effort made up of small contributors. But the fact is that there is no state and local network of progressive candidates or a progressive party organization to mount down ticket races that requires the support of a national organization.
What Kind of Money It Takes to Run for President
Bernie’s fund raising supported his campaign but progressives have yet to demonstrate any staying power. They have not yet shown they can create the structure of a national movement. Bernie’s Movement was in some ways a “cult of personality”. It was all about making Bernie into the Great White Progressive Hope.

Democratic Baby Boomers
Hillary Clinton’s Supporters Were Older

Anyway, clearly the future belongs to the young. However there are probably more young, non-college educated, working class folks out there as there are nice educated liberal / progressive millennials. They will not be able to carry elections on their own for a number of years. The Baby Boomers, like myself, are more moderate and centrist. And They look to be around as a voting block for another three or four election cycles.|

Cornell West and Bernie Sanders
Dr. Cornell West and Bernie Sanders

The second is race. Like it or not, the developing progressive movement has not connected with minorities very well. Hillary Clinton did far better with Black voters than Bernie did, despite the endorsement of Bernie by a number of famous Black activists. In many ways, the Bernie Progressives were as much a white phenomenon as Trump’s Tea Party supporters. In the actual election Clinton got 88% of the Black vote cast but the numbers of Black voters who stayed home was in the  millions.
How Bernie Sanders Lost the Black Vote
White Young Bernie Sanders SupportersAfter eight years of Barrack Obama, the Black community is disillusioned with the whole system, They have consistently supported the Democrats with no measurable change in economic status, without changing the war on drugs, unequal imprisonment, unequal justice in the courts, grossly unequal violence at the hands of law enforcement. The white, college educated professionals who flocked to Bernie Sanders have not connected with minority voters to any large degree. This has to be figured out before we are going to see anything but cynical apathy on the part of minority voters.
So, the Democrats absolutely need to find candidates going forward that can appeal to minority voters and white liberal elites at the same time, as Barack Obama did. And they have to develop a platform which they strongly push at the local, state and national level that addresses the wealth divide. They are not going to win any support away from Trump, heartland supporters, on the social issues that liberals and progressives consider non-negotiable.
These issues represent a culture divide that will not be breached until the income and educational chasm is addressed. But, if, over time they can show they actually have a real plan that would benefit the poor and working class folks in this country without scaring the liberal elites with the money too badly, over time they should be able to get back that old Democratic identity as the party that represents the working and middle classes. The Progressives will have to stop assuming that success and money equal corruption or they will drive away the very support they will need to shift the Dem Party towards a more progressive agenda with progressive candidates.

Donald Trump and the “Arrogant” Liberal Elites

George S Ledyard

Hillary Clinton recently was quoted as saying

I think you could put half of Trump supporters into what I call a basket of deplorables. Right; their racist, sexist homophobic xenophobic islamophobic you name it, unfortunately there are people like that and he’s lifted them up.

This touched off a firestorm in which the Trump campaign depicted Clinton as arrogant, as a member of the Liberal Elite that has lost touch with the common people. But the fact is that much of the country, and in fact, the world,  looks at the Trump supporters with fear and loathing. To understand what is really going on here one needs to take the larger view.

It is difficult for the GOP to talk about this issue as they are constantly harping about “class war” whenever the Dems talk about the fact that we have an entire under class of people who do not participate in the economic benefits of living in the US. It is a knee jerk response to yell class war any time the issue of wealth inequality is brought up.

Because when they try to talk about the “contempt” of the so-called liberal elites for the working class, that is EXACTLY what they are talking about… CLASS WAR. And in one sense they are correct that this is a class issue.

The so-called liberal elites are in fact a segment of the society that has directly benefited from our country’s affluence. They represent a good portion of the most educated citizenry. So, they do tend to believe that they have better solutions to our nation’s issues than the less educated among us. I can’t disagree with that. The GOP and it’s Tea Party wing has tried to imbue what in Victorian times would have been called “the great unwashed” with a sort of Rousseau-ian nobility. They are somehow the “noble savages” of our time.

But the fact is that traditionally, these folks have been called “the mob” and only periodically have political parties like the “No Nothing Party” or particular populist politicians like Huey Long focused their efforts at mobilizing this group because all members of the establishment, regardless of liberal / conservative leanings are scared to death of these folks.

It has historically been a tight rope walk because there are far more of these folks than there are of the folks in the establishment. All the way back to the Revolutionary War our leaders have been terrified of the mob. Now, for the first time in our history we have that “mob” taking over one of our major political parties. They bought the propaganda put out by the GOP leadership but then decided that leadership was part of the problem. And in that, they would be correct.

Donald Trump has shown a genius for expressing the fear, anger, bigotry, xenophobia, etc that these folks feel. All at once the traditional GOP has lost control of its membership. The result is what we see.

The traditional way that the establishment has kept these folks under control is to get them to blame their problems on the wrong people. It’s the Indians, it’s the Blacks, it’s the Irish and Italians, the Chinese, the Mexicans, the Japanese, the Muslims. We have a long history of ethnic cleansing in this country when the anger of these folks has boiled over. Karl Marx , Class Warfare, Clas war, Social JusticeThe most terrifying event in history for our economic elites was the Russian Revolution because Marxism and the International Labor Movement threatened to refocus the discontent of this under class on the real source of their problems. But modern liberalism and the birth of the social safety met under FDR and the New Deal took the life out of the far Left.

So, rather than Donald Trump representing a solution for these people, he is actually a manifestation of the traditional way that the elite establishment has sought to control them. He has them focused on Mexicans, on Muslims, on Liberals, on everyone except the folks who actually have the ability to change things for these folks. How they can be gullible enough to believe that a billionaire son of a millionaire is the messiah for a bunch of folks who won’t in their entire lives make as much money as Trump has in petty cash is beyond me. But he talks the talk beautifully even if he doesn’t even try to walk the walk. 

So, America is in shock because here is a member of the elite establishment giving voice to the mob, to the great unwashed. America is used to ignoring these folks. The liberals have always understood they are there, and their basic economic program has been to make sure the social safety net is just enough to keep these folks in line so they don’t get out of control. The GOP traditionally (since the sixties anyway) has advocated policies that totally ignore these folks. They use wedge issues to get them to vote against their own economic self interest and this has worked for them until this election.

eda73-trump2bmussoliniWe are simply unused to see a member of the elite establishment talking like what the economic elite in the South would have been called “poor white trash”. So, while I do not believe that these folks represent anything but the darker side of our America, I don’t dispute that these folks have reason to be angry. They have been among the marginalized since the founding of the country and still are. They are simply not smart enough to understand who is responsible for their plight and they are ready made for a demagogue like Trump to control.


How Your Government Works

George S LedyardThe recent flap over the relationship between the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton State Department has created an appearance of influence peddling and pay per play government. The reality is that the uproar demonstrates that most Americans simply do not know how the government works.

In a country which is governed by laws and in which government regulations effect almost every area of economic life, a virtually constant need for rulings and decisions about how the laws and regulations apply exists. While so-called “normal” channels exist for getting the various permits, permissions, and decisions required to do business both domestically and internationally, to deal with immigration issues, foreign investment in US businesses, export of US technologies, and so on, it is also a constant effort on the part of businesses and individuals to get these decisions made as expeditiously as possible.

In every area of life, relationships are important and nowhere are relationships more important than in government. Every citizen has Congressmen and Senators in Congress that they elect to represent their interests. In theory, we all have the same access. But the reality is, and this has been true since the nation was founded, that the richest individuals and the most successful corporations go to the head of the line when they need access.

Your Senators and Congressmen spend a huge amount of their time helping their constituents navigate the maze of government regulation. They can contact an agency and help you make your case for a favorable decisions, they can contact another agency to find out the status of an immigration visa in process. Within certain ethical limits, they are there to represent the interests of their constituents. But it is a simple fact that big supporters of the party, companies that employ their constituents, even personal friends, will have “access” that ordinary people do not have.

This is not a Democrat or Republican issue, not a right / left issue, it is how things work and have always worked. One could certainly make a case for doing various things that would reduce the influence of wealth on our politics. We can make campaign finance reform a priority. We can repeal Citizens United and make the whole process more transparent. But nothing we will do will make relationships less of a central factor in getting anything done in our society.

clinton-foundationThe whole reason that Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation have come under fire has to do with the window into how relationships are formed and access is achieved in our society. The only difference between what happened during the Clinton years at the State Department and what has gone on in every administration, whether Republican or Democrat, is that the hacked emails let us see how the process works. We simply did not get the same kind of window on the relationships under under government officials.

The inference that foreign governments were making donations to the Clinton Foundation in order to get access and favorable decisions at the State Department is backwards thinking. The kinds of people making large donations to an international charity are doing so BECAUSE they already have these relationships. After her years as First Lady, her years as a Senator, and then in her years as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who is famous for her ability as a “connector”, built a huge network of friends, colleagues, professional and government acquaintances. She is one of those people who seems to “know everyone”. So, many of these folks donated to the Clinton Foundation because they knew both Hillary and, obviously, the former President, Bill Clinton. In other words, these relationships existed BEFORE donations were made to the Foundation. These were all influential people, government figures, etc who could expect to have access without doing anything at all regarding the Foundation.

Influence peddling involves benefiting personally from using ones position in government to influence government decisions improperly on behalf of some person or entity. But this is and has always been a gray area. Is a big campaign donor or wealthy constituent having his or her representative go to bat on their behalf some sort of ethical issue? It might be, depending on how it’s done, but it might just be the elected representative taking care of a constituent. Now, if some benefit accrues directly to the government official from doing this,. it is clearly an ethical violation.

So, people need to be clear about the relationship of the Clinton Foundation to the Clintons themselves. The Foundation is a not for profit charity that operates world wide. Unlike a charity like the United Way, which collects donations and then dispenses them to other charities that are actually engaged on doing various projects, the Clinton Foundation does most of its work directly. So, when right wing critics try to say that most of its donations are not dispensed to other charities, it is precisely because it is doing its own charitable work.

As a not for profit charity, the IRS looks closely at the Foundation finances. The Clinton family does not financially benefit financially from the money donated to the Foundation. They do not have access to those funds. The Foundation is regularly audited to ensure that its funds are used primarily for the charitable purposes intended.

So, to the extent that people who donated to the Foundation had access to Hillary Clinton and her staff, it was the same kind of access that one would expect any wealthy contributor, influential leader, or even just a celebrity might have. This is how the government works. Influential people have more access than regular people. This is in no way shape or form unique to Hillary Clinton and it would be difficult to see how any system would exist in which this wouldn’t be true.

So far, in reviewing the meetings set up on behalf of the see figures by Clinton’s staff, there is ZERO evidence of improper pressure being applied to any of the decision makers involved. In most instances, meetings took place with no positive result for the person requesting the meeting. In those instances in which there might have been a positive result, it appears to have been an outcome that one would normally have expected.

So, to sum up. we have a suggestion of scandal that actually involves no direct benefit to the Clintons, demonstrates no improper pressure on officials to sway their decisions, which amounts to little more than using ones relationships to get a hearing from an agency empowered to make that decision. This is exactly what every Congressman, Senator, and other government official that represents the interests of the voters will do. The fact that wealthy elites, big corporations, leaders of other nations get more access than regular citizens is just a fact of life and is absolutely no different under any party, any administration. It was this way under the Bushes and it was this way under Bill Clinton or Obama. I won’t be different under a Clinton or a Trump Presidency.

The one thing that can be said with certainty, is that this is another non-scandal. The only reason that people think that Hillary Clinton has acted differently is that we didn’t get an inside view of any other official’s emails via some hacker.


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

Clinton and Sanders: The big difference (Opinion) – CNN.com

Dr. Jeffrey Sachs wrote this piece about the difference between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. It does a lot to explain how the Democratic Party under Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, while they may have championed progressive social issues, have avoided dealing with our wealth inequality issues in order to keep the support of the big money Wall Street interests. In return, Wall Street interests have provided the financial support they needed to get and stay in office. Hillary Clinton would be a continuation of this very same policy.

To the great surprise of the Party establishment, Bernie Sanders has managed to mount a serious challenge to the Clinton campaign and has done so via massive participation of small contributors rather than the Super Pacs on which Clinton largely relies. This signals a serious revolt occurring in the Democratic Party. Large numbers of Democratic grassroots supporters are demanding real change. Large numbers of first time participants and independents are also flocking to the Sanders Camp, all supporters that Hillary Clinton will require to win against any Republican candidate.

While the Party establishment has engineered the primary process to favor their favored candidate, their dilemma is how to bring the Sanders supporters into the fold in their battle against the GOP in the general election. It is not by any means a given that Bernie’s supporters, motivated by a strong desire to see social and economic change in our country will turn out for Clinton.

Tuesday night’s primary results underscore that Americans want more than a continuation of the game that Bill Clinton played 25 years ago, says Jeffrey Sachs.

Source: Clinton and Sanders: The big difference (Opinion) – CNN.com