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“Misreading The Nature Of His Revolution”: Bernie Sanders Is Attacking The ‘Establishment.’ He’s Only Half Right

In the Republican race for president, there are few slurs more cutting than when one candidate says another is too close to “the establishment.” But we hadn’t heard that from the Democrats until yesterday, when Bernie Sanders tarred Hillary Clinton with the dreaded “E” word. The problem is that it isn’t so dreaded among Democrats, and if Sanders thinks it is, then he may be misreading the nature of his revolution and the voters who are rallying behind it.

This started last night on Rachel Maddow’s show on MSNBC, when Maddow asked Sanders about Clinton’s endorsements from Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign. Here’s what Sanders said:

“I would love to have the endorsement of every progressive organization in America. We’re very proud to have received recently the endorsement of MoveOn.org. We’ve received the endorsement Democracy for America. These are grassroots organizations representing millions of workers.

“What we are doing in this campaign, it just blows my mind every day because I see it clearly, we’re taking on not only Wall Street and economic establishment, we’re taking on the political establishment.

“So, I have friends and supporters in the Human Rights [Campaign] and Planned Parenthood. But, you know what? Hillary Clinton has been around there for a very, very long time. Some of these groups are, in fact, part of the establishment.”

This argument would be unworthy of note if it came from a Republican, but Clinton quickly criticized Sanders, tweeting, “Really Senator Sanders? How can you say that groups like @PPact and @HRC are part of the ‘establishment’ you’re taking on?”

On one level, Sanders is absolutely right: Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign are indeed part of the Democratic establishment. They’ve been around for a long time, they have deep ties with other left-leaning advocacy groups and Democratic politicians (not least the Clintons), and they’re the kind of place where you’ll find former and future members of Democratic administrations. They endorsed Clinton for a lot of reasons — because she has a history of supporting their issues and interests, because people within the organizations have personal ties with her and the people around her, and almost certainly because they see her as the most likely nominee, and they want as much access and influence in the next Democratic administration as they can get. That’s what advocacy groups do.

But Sanders is wrong if he thinks that significant numbers of Democratic voters look at groups like those and say, “Yuck, the establishment.” Or even that the dissatisfaction that is driving voters to him is directed at the Democratic establishment itself.

(A brief aside: There are some gay activists and intelligentsia who do indeed believe that the Human Rights Campaign is a bunch of sellouts. Without wading into the substance of that question, it’s safe to say that the proportion of Democratic voters who have any idea what that might be about is tiny).

This is where the difference with the Republican side is so stark, and where Sanders’s success is a product of a fundamentally different phenomenon than what’s fueling the campaigns of Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. On the Republican side, anger at their elected officials, their party leaders, and the broader network of Washington-based organizations and individuals that make up that thing we call the establishment is intense. That anger almost constitutes its own ideology, even though it’s barely about issues at all, but is more concerned with tactics. It has been nurtured by “outsider” candidates, and by conservative media figures like Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham who fancy themselves a kind of counter-establishment. It vilifies people like Mitch McConnell and the departed John Boehner who are supposedly too willing to knuckle under to Barack Obama without forcing dramatic and quixotic confrontations. It promotes intra-party revolts and primary challenges to Republicans, and promulgates a narrative in which everything that has gone wrong for them in the last seven years is because of that establishment’s weakness and betrayal.

There’s nothing like that on the Democratic side. Yes, Sanders voters are dissatisfied. But they’re drawn to Sanders because of his ideological purity, his frank discussion of fundamental progressive values, his big ideas unencumbered by any buzz-crunching pragmatism about the mundane realities of governing, and his focus on the pathologies of the political system, particularly the influence of big money. They don’t despise Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid the way so many Republican voters despise McConnell and Boehner. They certainly aren’t going to take Clinton’s endorsements from the likes of Planned Parenthood as a reason to vote against her.

There’s also nothing comparable on the left to what those on the right hear from their favorite media figures. To begin with, liberal media isn’t nearly as central to the progressive movement as conservative media is to the conservative movement, either in influence or audience size. But even if it were, people like Maddow aren’t on the air every day railing against the Democratic establishment the way Limbaugh, Ingraham, and others rail against the Republican establishment.

Sanders is right that the Democratic establishment isn’t going to support him, but the biggest reason for that is that they don’t think he’s going to win the nomination and they don’t think he could win the general election if he were the nominee. Now it may be that this is the last time he brings this up, and he’ll go back to talking about the things that actually draw people to his revolution. But if he thinks it’s because they want to fight the establishment, he may have been spending too much time watching what’s going on in the Republican race.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, January 20, 2016

January 21, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Establishment, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“A Stinking Open Sewer”: Unhappy Anniversary: How Anthony Kennedy Flooded Democracy With ‘Sewer Money’

On today’s anniversary of the Citizens United decision, which exposed American democracy to increasing domination by the country’s very richest and most reactionary figures – the modern heirs to those “malefactors of great wealth” condemned by the great Republican Theodore Roosevelt – it is worth recalling the false promise made by the justice who wrote the majority opinion in that case.

Justice Anthony Kennedy masterminded the Supreme Court’s January 21, 2010 decision to undo a century of public-interest regulation of campaign expenditures in the name of “free speech.” He had every reason to know how damaging to democratic values and public integrity that decision would prove to be.

Once billed as a “moderate conservative,” Kennedy is a libertarian former corporate lobbyist from Sacramento, who toiled in his father’s scandal-ridden lobbying law firm, “influencing” California legislators, before he ascended to the bench with the help of his friend Ronald Reagan.

While guiding Citizens United through the court on behalf of the Republican Party’s billionaire overseers, it was Kennedy who came up with a decorative fig leaf of justification:

With the advent of the Internet, prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions. This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.

 As Jane Mayer’s superb new book Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right reveals in excruciating but fascinating detail, Kennedy’s assertion about the Internet insuring disclosure and accountability was nothing but a little heap of happy horse-shit. “Independent” expenditures from super-rich right-wing donors have overwhelmed the opponents of their chosen candidates, promoting a durable Republican takeover of Congress — often through the deployment of false advertising and false-flag organizations.

Late last year, Kennedy confessed that his vaunted “transparency” is “not working the way it should,” a feeble excuse since he had every reason to know from the beginning that his professed expectation of “prompt disclosure” of all political donations was absurdly unrealistic.

The Citizens United debacle led directly to the Republican takeover of the Senate as well as the House. Last week, the Brennan Center for Justice released a new study showing that “dark money” – that is, donations whose origin remains secret from news organizations and voters – has more than doubled in Senate races during the past six years, from $105 million to $226 million in 2014.

During the past three election cycles, outside groups spent about $1 billion total on Senate races, of which $485 million came from undisclosed sources. In the 11 most competitive Senate races in 2014, almost 60 percent of the spending by “independent” groups came from those murky places, and the winners of those races benefited from $171 million of such spending.

In elections gone by, when anonymous smear leaflets would appear in local races — funded by nobody knew whom — political operatives would shake their heads and mutter about “sewer money.”

Today we can thank Anthony Kennedy, who was either poorly informed or willfully ignorant, for turning American democracy into a stinking open sewer.

What a legacy.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editor’s Blog, The National Memo, January 21, 2016

January 21, 2016 Posted by | Anthony Kennedy, Citizens United, Democracy | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Pressure Pushes Christie Into Self-Deportation Camp”: In A Constant State Of Fear About Bothering Right-Wing Activists

In New Jersey, gun ownership is already illegal if you’ve been convicted of any number of serious crimes, including homicide, kidnapping, and sexual assault. State lawmakers passed legislation to expand the list to include other serious crimes, including carjacking, gang criminality, and making terroristic threats.

The bill passed the state House and state Senate unanimously. As Rachel noted on the show last night, Gov. Chris Christie (R) rejected it anyway, apparently because he’s running for president – and he’s living in a constant state of fear about bothering right-wing activists.

And that’s not all. The Republican governor also shared some new thoughts yesterday about his approach to federal immigration policy. NBC News reported:

Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie is the latest Republican candidate to support “self-deportation” for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States.

In an interview with the Washington Examiner published Monday, Christie was asked if he supported “attrition through enforcement.”

“I think that would be the practical effect of it, yes,” Christie said in response to a question about his support for E-verify, a workplace enforcement program.

The full transcript of Christie’s conversation with the Washington Examiner’s Byron York is online here.

Note, the governor didn’t literally use the phrase “self-deportation,” but he did endorse a description of what such an approach would entail. Christie specifically expressed support for a system that would “encourage” undocumented immigrants “to leave on their own.”

When York asked, “So you would envision something like what Ted Cruz has called ‘attrition through enforcement’?” Christie responded, “I think that would be the practical effect of it, yes.”

Nearly four years after President Obama defeated Mitt Romney among Latino voters, 71% to 27%, Republicans still haven’t changed their posture.

Keep in mind, in 2010, Christie said he supports a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already in the United States. As recently as April 2015, Christie told an audience at the Conference of the Americas, “I’m not someone who believes that folks who have come here in that status [illegally] are going to engage in self-deportation.”

It’s a genuine shame to see what a Republican primary can do to some people.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 20, 2016

January 21, 2016 Posted by | Chris Christie, Immigration, Self Deportation | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“McCain’s Loyalty To Palin Goes Unrewarded”: The Loyalty And Respect Appears To Be A One-Way Street

After Sarah Palin announced her support for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign late yesterday, it was hard not to wonder: what does John McCain have to say about this? The answer, apparently, is not much.

The man who first gave Sarah Palin a starring national role in August 2008 will try to avoid getting involved in the Trump endorsement storyline – for now, at least.

“Senator McCain has great respect and appreciation for Governor Palin,” a senior aide told NBC News. “As he has said since Senator [Lindsey] Graham exited the race, he will not be taking sides and endorsing a primary candidate at this point in the race.”

This level of restraint really can’t be easy.

In case it’s not obvious, Palin’s new pal is on record publicly mocking John McCain’s war record. Indeed, at a forum in Iowa in July, Trump said McCain is “not a war hero,” adding, “I like people that weren’t captured, okay?” Pressed to apologize, Trump refused.

Six months later, this same candidate picked up an endorsement from McCain’s former running mate – the person responsible for putting Palin on the national stage – and the senator still maintains the line about “great respect and appreciation” for the former governor.

I guess the alternative is a statement in which McCain asks, “Good lord, what have I done?”

Keep in mind, as Rachel noted on the show last night, the Arizona Republican, even after the 2008 fiasco, has been steadfastly loyal to Palin, praising her repeatedly, and emphasizing how “proud” he is to have chosen her for the GOP ticket. At one point, McCain said, “I love Sarah. I think she is still the best decision that I have ever made.”

And he did not appear to be kidding.

But after yesterday, it’s hard to escape the fact that the loyalty and respect appears to be a one-way street

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 20, 2016

January 21, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, John McCain, Sarah Palin | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Health Reform Realities”: A Simple, Straightforward Single-Payer System Just Isn’t Going To Happen

Health reform is the signature achievement of the Obama presidency. It was the biggest expansion of the social safety net since Medicare was established in the 1960s. It more or less achieves a goal — access to health insurance for all Americans — that progressives have been trying to reach for three generations. And it is already producing dramatic results, with the percentage of uninsured Americans falling to record lows.

Obamacare is, however, what engineers would call a kludge: a somewhat awkward, clumsy device with lots of moving parts. This makes it more expensive than it should be, and will probably always cause a significant number of people to fall through the cracks.

The question for progressives — a question that is now central to the Democratic primary — is whether these failings mean that they should re-litigate their own biggest political success in almost half a century, and try for something better.

My answer, as you might guess, is that they shouldn’t, that they should seek incremental change on health care (Bring back the public option!) and focus their main efforts on other issues — that is, that Bernie Sanders is wrong about this and Hillary Clinton is right. But the main point is that we should think clearly about why health reform looks the way it does.

If we could start from scratch, many, perhaps most, health economists would recommend single-payer, a Medicare-type program covering everyone. But single-payer wasn’t a politically feasible goal in America, for three big reasons that aren’t going away.

First, like it or not, incumbent players have a lot of power. Private insurers played a major part in killing health reform in the early 1990s, so this time around reformers went for a system that preserved their role and gave them plenty of new business.

Second, single-payer would require a lot of additional tax revenue — and we would be talking about taxes on the middle class, not just the wealthy. It’s true that higher taxes would be offset by a sharp reduction or even elimination of private insurance premiums, but it would be difficult to make that case to the broad public, especially given the chorus of misinformation you know would dominate the airwaves.

Finally, and I suspect most important, switching to single-payer would impose a lot of disruption on tens of millions of families who currently have good coverage through their employers. You might say that they would end up just as well off, and it might well be true for most people — although not those with especially good policies. But getting voters to believe that would be a very steep climb.

What this means, as the health policy expert Harold Pollack points out, is that a simple, straightforward single-payer system just isn’t going to happen. Even if you imagine a political earthquake that eliminated the power of the insurance industry and objections to higher taxes, you’d still have to protect the interests of workers with better-than-average coverage, so that in practice single-payer, American style, would be almost as kludgy as Obamacare.

Which brings me to the Affordable Care Act, which was designed to bypass these obstacles. It was careful to preserve and even enlarge the role of private insurers. Its measures to cover the uninsured rely on a combination of regulation and subsidies, rather than simply on an expansion of government programs, so that the on-budget cost is limited — and can, in fact, be covered without raising middle-class taxes. Perhaps most crucially, it leaves employer-based insurance intact, so that the great majority of Americans have experienced no disruption, in fact no change in their health-care experience.

Even so, achieving this reform was a close-run thing: Democrats barely got it through during the brief period when they controlled Congress. Is there any realistic prospect that a drastic overhaul could be enacted any time soon — say, in the next eight years? No.

You might say that it’s still worth trying. But politics, like life, involves trade-offs.

There are many items on the progressive agenda, ranging from an effective climate change policy, to making college affordable for all, to restoring some of the lost bargaining power of workers. Making progress on any of these items is going to be a hard slog, even if Democrats hold the White House and, less likely, retake the Senate. Indeed, room for maneuver will be limited even if a post-Trump Republican Party moves away from the scorched-earth opposition it offered President Obama.

So progressives must set some priorities. And it’s really hard to see, given this picture, why it makes any sense to spend political capital on a quixotic attempt at a do-over, not of a political failure, but of health reform — their biggest victory in many years.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, January 18, 2016

January 21, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Health Reform, Hillary Clinton, Single Payer | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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