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“A Much Bigger Deal Than Usual”: Bernie Sanders Gives The Middle Finger To The DNC

Mixed messages over the past few days from camp Sanders on how hard he’s going to fight on the Democratic platform. Friday night, Rachel Maddow broke the news that the Sanders campaign wanted Clinton backers Dannel Malloy and Barney Frank removed from their positions as co-chairs of, respectively, the Platform and Rules committees; Maddow suggested Sanders was threatening to tie the convention in knots if they weren’t removed.

[UPDATE: Greg Sargent writes in to point out that Tad Devine said this to him about Frank and Malloy back on May 18, and so they did. Happy to correct the record.]

The Democratic National Committee said no dice to this on Saturday, and Sanders softened his tone a bit. Meet the Press’s Chuck Todd tried to lure Sanders into talking some platform smack, but he didn’t engage.

The old cliché about platforms is that no one reads them and no one cares. The new cliché, which I just invented, is: It’s still true that no one reads them, but that need not prevent millions of people from getting irate about what is and isn’t in them after they’ve been instructed on Twitter to get irate. So we have every reason to think that this platform fight is going to be a much bigger deal than usual. How hard Sanders and his appointments to the platform committee push—and on what exact points—will say a lot about how unified the Democrats are going to be.

Before we look at that, though, let’s just spend a paragraph noting how extraordinary it is that Sanders has appointments on the platform committee at all. Throughout history, party chairs have appointed these people. Whatever you think of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, her decision to let Sanders name five of the committee’s 15 members went way beyond what was necessary.

And then Sanders responded in his usual graceless way. Four of his appointees are fine to very good, but Cornel West is just a bulging middle finger to the president and the party. He despises the Democratic Party. What possible interest could he have in shaping its platform, except to enrage the kinds of Democrats—like, oh, the future nominee, for example—for whom he has such open contempt?

All right. I’ve read different accounts in which Sanders is going to demand about 20 different things, all of them uttered by him or leaked out by his campaign over the past month. One big one was going to be a demand that there be no vote in this Congress on the Trans Pacific Partnership. That’s exactly the kind of Sanders bluster that drives me nuts, since as he well knows Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan decide on that, and they don’t care what Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton think. And in any case, Clinton has already agreed to this piece of utterly meaningless theater. So we can check that one off the list.

Last week the media focused on Israel as a big point of contention. There is potential here for messiness, as Clinton has been a big Israel hawk ever since representing New York in the Senate. But I’ve been in contact with a couple of sources who think this is being overplayed. Even Sanders said on MTP:  “I have the feeling that while the media wants to make this into a great conflict, I think there’s going to be broad consensus within the Democratic convention on that issue.” It may well come down to just adding language accepting that the Palestinian people have to be seen as human beings. As those of you who monitor my columns for evidence of thought crimes might remember, this is the one issue for which I have nothing but praise for Sanders.

No, the major issues are probably going to be the ones at the heart of Sanders’s campaign: the big banks; the free stuff; the corrupt-system complaints. And here, Clinton should say no on the first two but cede ground on the third.

Breaking up the big banks isn’t her position. The guy who’s going to end up with about 300 fewer pledged delegates and more than 3 million fewer votes doesn’t get to say “you beat me, but you must adopt my position.” It’s preposterous and arrogant, which of course means he will do it. And she’ll probably have no choice but to arrive at some kind of semantic accommodation of him. But will he rail on about how her refusal to adopt his position shows that she’s corrupt and give us another two months of “release the Goldman-Sachs transcripts”?

As for free college, that’s just bad policy, and it would be nice if Clinton would say so, although alas she probably won’t be in a position to. Why is it bad policy? As Harvard’s Theda Skocpol explained at The Huffington Post, universal free tuition would “waste resources on upper-middle-income families that can afford to pay or borrow to cover at least some college costs.” Clinton’s plan for debt-free college is actually more progressive in that it targets those who really need help most, while still offering massive relief to those in the upper-middle brackets. I hope against hope that if the time comes she will just stand up and say this.

Finally, on corruption questions, she should just largely agree. She already does, on overturning Citizens United (another vastly overrated thing that will help, although not nearly as much as its proponents think or as Sanders has led his followers to believe, although of course I’m for it). Since most of these matters are for the courts to decide anyway, the only actual commitment she need make here is to nominate progressive judges, which she’s obviously going to do anyway.

We’ll have to see how Bernie plays it. If he wins California he’ll be feeling his oats. If he loses it narrowly we can probably expect another week of “the system is rigged” and resultant prickliness to follow. If she defeats him by more than four or five points, even he might finally accept reality.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, May 31, 2016

May 31, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Nicely Executed Double-Backflip”: If Bobby Jindal Can Support Trump, Any Republican Can

You’d sort of figure that of all the Republican pols who will eventually crawl their way back into the GOP tent after saying (publicly or privately) nasty things about Donald Trump, former Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal would have been last and least conspicuous — you know, maybe signaling an intention to vote for the mogul in a fine-print ad (like a legal notice) published the day before the general election.

But no: The rival who called Trump an “egomaniacal madman,” among other choice epithets, came out for the Donald in The Wall Street Journal about six weeks before the Republican National Convention, and close to a half-year before the general election.

To be sure, Jindal not only acknowledged but repeated some of his abuse.

I was one of the earliest and loudest critics of Mr. Trump. I mocked his appearance, demeanor, ideology and ego in the strongest language I have ever used to publicly criticize anyone in politics. I worked harder than most, with little apparent effect, to stop his ascendancy. I have not experienced a sudden epiphany and am not here to detail an evolution in my perspective.

No, it’s all about Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, who are in Jindal’s eyes more loathsome and dangerous than a pol he’s described as psychopathic, unprincipled, and “unserious.” Clinton will, says the grotesquely unsuccessful Louisiana governor, continue Obama’s “radical” policies without the “triangulation” that made Bill Clinton tolerable to conservatives.

It’s significant that the first data point Jindal deploys is the impact of the general election on the Supreme Court:

In my lifetime, no Democrat in the White House has ever appointed a Supreme Court justice who surprised the nation by becoming more conservative, while the opposite certainly cannot be said for Republican appointments. Mr. Trump might not support a constitutionalist conservative focused on original intent and limits on the court’s powers. He may be more likely to appoint Judge Judy. However, there is only a chance that a President Trump would nominate a bad justice, while Mrs. Clinton certainly would.

This is a nicely executed double-backflip: Republican presidents are constantly putting godless liberals like John Roberts on the Court; could Trump be a much greater risk? And even Judge Judy would be better than the baby-killing, Christian-hating, tyrant-enablers Hillary Clinton would nominate.

What Jindal’s really doing here is something we are going to see from a lot of Republicans in the very near future: an engraved invitation to Trump to reassure them with some sort of iron-clad public commitment to appoint justices that not only would blow themselves up before allowing Roe v. Wade to stand or Citizens United to fall, but who might bring the whole hog of “constitutionalist conservatism” to the Court, turning back the clock to the 1930s. For people like Jindal, a right-wing Supreme Court would covereth a multitude of Trumpite sins.

You might wonder who on Earth really cares what Bobby Jindal thinks about the general election. But by making his “lesser of evils” argument so absolute, and making it so early, he’s helped create a lot of safe space for other Republicans who haven’t called Trump a madman to cross the boundary into the Trump camp at their convenience, preferably on a slow news day.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, May 9, 2016

May 10, 2016 Posted by | GOP, Donald Trump, Bobby Jindal | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Elephant In The Room”: Southern States Do Not Distort The Primary

At the end of last night’s Democratic debate, Dana Bash asked Sanders whether he will take the contest to the convention in Philadelphia if neither candidate clinches the nomination via pledged delegates. Sanders responded by saying that he plans to win the nomination outright. But then he injected something that both he and his campaign staff have said frequently.

Look, let me acknowledge what is absolutely true. Secretary Clinton cleaned our clock in the Deep South. No question about it. We got murdered there. That is the most conservative part of this great country. That’s the fact.

For the last several weeks, this is a contention the Sanders campaign has made in various forms. Most recently, the candidate told Larry Wilmore that having the Southern states vote early in the primary “distorts reality.” If we combine that statement with what he said last night, the argument becomes: having Southern states vote early in the primary distorts reality because it is the most conservative part of the country. Of course, if that were true, it would hurt Sanders as the candidate who consistently lays claim to being the more progressive of the two.

I would propose that the Mountain West (where Sanders has notched up big wins lately) could challenge the claim that the Deep South is the most conservative part of the country. An analysis by The Hill on the five most conservative states turns up a mix of these two regions, giving us: Alabama, Alaska, Idaho, Kansas and Mississippi. Were the primaries in Alaska, and Idaho distorted by their conservatism? The other question this assertion raises is: do more conservative Republicans in a state mean that Democratic primaries there are “distorted?”

Ultimately, the elephant in the room about this claim is that the difference between conservative Mountain and Southern states is that the Democratic electorate in the latter is made up largely of people of color – with whom Sanders performs poorly. Do people of color distort reality because they are more conservative?

It is very possible that the answer to that question is “yes.” The truth is…we don’t have a lot of data on that. But I would suggest that anyone who asserts that argument is assuming that a political continuum from conservative to liberal is, by default, based on how white people would construct it. For example, I would imagine that liberals in the Mountain West states would prioritize things like repealing Citizens United and challenging Wall Street, whereas African Americans in the South would prioritize voting rights, ending systemic racism and programs to lift people out of poverty. How progressive one is would be measured by their record and platform on those issues.

The whole dismissal of the South by some Democrats is also very short-sighted. Not only are Hispanics becoming a key voting bloc in many of those states, it ignores the fact that the great migration of African Americans out of that area during the Jim Crow days is now being reversed.

The quiet return of African-American retirees and young professionals has the potential to reshape the South again over the next few decades, much as the exodus to northern cities reshaped it in the 20th century.

Years ago I was taught a lesson in the different ways that white and black liberals view the South. After having been raised primarily in Texas, I decided to settle in Minnesota. That decision was influenced by a desire to escape the racism that was so blatant in the South. I was shocked and confused when my African American friends up here talked about longing to return to the South. They patiently explained two things to me. First of all, the South is “home.” It’s where their people are. And they long to return to that sense of community. Secondly, many of them actually prefer to deal with the outright racism of the South rather than the subtle form they experience from so-called friends and allies in the North.

The fact that Bernie Sanders insinuates that Democratic voters in the South are more conservative and distort the primary process indicates that he hasn’t spent much time hearing from or thinking about the perspective of African Americans in that part of the country. That is probably true for a lot of Northern liberals. But if he’s looking for an answer to the question about why he is not winning their support, this is part of the reason.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 15, 2016

April 16, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Deep South, Democratic Primary Debates, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Thanks For Asking”: How Do You Make Change Happen? Show Up

In my travels and conversations this year, I’ve been encouraged that grassroots people of all progressive stripes (populist, labor, liberal, environmental, women, civil libertarian, et al.) are well aware of the slipperiness of “victory” and want Washington to get it right this time. So over and over, Question No. 1 that I encounter is some variation of this: What should we do!?! How do we make Washington govern for all the people? What specific things can my group or I do now?

Thanks for asking. The first thing you can do to bring about change is show up. Think of showing up as a sort of civic action, where you get to choose something that fits your temperament, personal level of activism, available time and energy, etc. The point here is that every one of us can do something — and every bit helps.

Simply being there matters. While progressives have shown up for elections in winning numbers, our movement then tends to fade politely into the shadows, leaving public officials (even those we put in office) free to ignore us and capitulate to ever-present, ever-insistent corporate interests. No more. Grassroots progressives — as individuals and through our groups — must get in the face of power and stay there.

This doesn’t require a trip to Washington, though it can. It can be done right where you live — in personal meetings, on the phone, via email and letters, through social media (tweet at the twits!), on petitions, and any additional ways of communication that you and other creative people can invent. Hey, we’re citizens, voters, constituents — so we should not hesitate to request in-person appointments to chat with officials back home (these need not be confrontational), attend forums where they’ll be (local hearings, town hall sessions, speeches, meet & greets, parades, ribbon-cuttings, receptions, etc). They generally post their public schedules on their websites. Go to their meetings, ask questions, or at least say hello, introduce yourself, and try to achieve this: MAKE THEM LEARN YOUR NAME.

OK, you’re too busy to show up at all this stuff, but try one, then think of going to one every month or two. And you don’t have to go alone — get a family member, a couple of friends, a few members of the groups you’re in to join you. Make it an excursion, rewarding yourselves with a nice glass of wine or a beer and some laughs afterward.

Then there are times (“in the course of human events,” as Jefferson put it) when citizens have to come together in big numbers to protest, to insist on being heard. Lobbyists are able to meet with officials in quiet rooms, but when we’re shut out, a higher form of patriotism demands that ordinary folks surround a public official’s district office or a high-dollar fundraising event to deliver a noisy message about the people’s needs.

This is especially necessary for officials who get a substantial or even majority vote from progressive constituencies… but still stiff us on such major needs as increasing the minimum wage, overturning Citizens United, endorsing a Robin Hood Tax on Wall Street speculators, and prohibiting the outrage of voter suppression. We have a right to expect them to respect our vote, and stand with us on the big issues. We’ve been too quiet, too indulgent with such office holders, and they won’t change until we start confronting them publicly.

Both in terms of having your own say and in demonstrating the strength of the grassroots numbers behind the policy changes we want, you and I are going to have to get noisier, more demonstrative, more out-front in demanding that elected officials really pay heed to those who elected them. Let’s make 2016 the year of reintroducing ourselves and our expectations to policymakers. At their every turn, we should be there, becoming a personal human presence (even an irritant) they cannot ignore.

 

By: Jim Hightower, Featured Post, The National Memo, April 13, 2016

April 14, 2016 Posted by | Democracy, Elected Officials, Progressives | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Gun-Toting, Citizens United–Loving Conservative”: GOP Fights For Hillary Clinton’s Right To Select SCOTUS Nominee

Many have accused Senate Republicans of embracing the nonexistent “Biden rule” and refusing to even hold hearings on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee for purely political purposes. However, on Sunday, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan explained that nothing could be further from the truth.

In a video posted on Twitter, the House speaker earnestly outlined the made-up principle Republicans are fighting to uphold: The American people should get a chance to weigh in on Justice Antonin Scalia’s replacement by selecting a new president (with a mere ten months left in office, President Obama, who was elected twice, doesn’t count).

Simply put: The #SCOTUS nomination is going to have to go to the American people in 2016. https://t.co/AN29xQbfNuhttps://t.co/yWPZzxKKwN

— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) March 20, 2016

Okay, but lets say the GOP Establishment’s various election plots don’t pan out, and Hillary Clinton is elected president in November. Then during the real lame-duck session (not the entire last quarter of Obama’s second term), Senate Republicans would be willing to consider Judge Merrick Garland, the centrist white guy praised by Democrats and Republicans alike, right? Wrong. “That’s not going to happen,” Mitch McConnell told Fox News Sunday. “The principle is the same. Whether it’s before the election or after the election. The principle is the American people are choosing their next president, and their next president should pick this Supreme Court nominee.”

As Chris Wallace confirmed, that means that Senate Republicans would let Clinton make a nomination rather than holding a vote on Judge Garland. “I can’t imagine that a Republican majority in the United States Senate would want to confirm, in a lame-duck session, a nominee opposed by the National Rifle Association, the National Federation of Independent Business that represents small businesses,” said the majority leader, attacking Garland’s judicial philosophy for the first time. “I can’t imagine that a Republican-majority Senate, even if it were assumed to be a minority, would want to confirm a judge that would move the court dramatically to the left.”

Clearly the smart (not to mention noble) move is to cross their fingers and hope that Clinton nominates a gun-toting, abortion-hating, Citizens United–loving conservative.

 

By: Margaret Hartmann, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, March 21, 2016

March 25, 2016 Posted by | Conservatives, Mitch Mc Connell, Paul Ryan, Senate Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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