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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

“Self Declared Spokesman For Blacks”: Why Did Bernie Sanders Put An Obama-Hater On The Democratic Platform Committee?

The liberal case against Hillary Clinton rests in large part upon her associations — people she surrounds herself with and whose judgment she relies upon. She has caught an enormous amount of flak, some of it fair, for her ties to figures in the finance industry or advisers with morally questionable worldviews. By the same token, what should we make of Bernie Sanders’s decision to appoint Cornel West as one of his advisers to the Democratic Party’s platform committee?

West, of course, has socialist views largely in line with Sanders’s own. But West also has a particular critique of the sitting Democratic president that goes well beyond Sanders’s expressions of disappointment. West’s position is not merely that Obama has not gone far enough, but that he has made life worse for African-Americans:

On the empirical or lived level of Black experience, Black people have suffered more in this age than in the recent past. Empirical indices of infant mortality rates, mass incarceration rates, mass unemployment and dramatic declines in household wealth reveal this sad reality. How do we account for this irony? It goes far beyond the individual figure of President Obama himself, though he is complicit; he is a symptom, not a primary cause. Although he is a symbol for some of either a postracial condition or incredible Black progress, his presidency conceals the escalating levels of social misery in poor and Black America.

This is actually not empirical. African-American infant mortality has declined, not increased, during Obama’s presidency:

The African-American unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest level since 2008. The African-American uninsured rate has fallen by more than half, and the administration has undertaken a wide range of liberalizing reforms to the criminal-justice system. The notion that Obama has made life worse for African-Americans rests entirely on affixing the blame for the 2008 economic collapse on him, without giving him any credit for the wide-ranging measures to alleviate it, or the recovery that has ensued. This is, in other words, the Republican Party’s method of measuring Obama’s record, and it’s the sort of grossly unfair cherry-picking that no good faith critic would use.

West does not merely lament the alleged worsening of conditions for African-Americans that he claims Obama has caused. He has a theory for it:

“I think my dear brother Barack Obama has a certain fear of free black men,” West says. “It’s understandable. As a young brother who grows up in a white context, brilliant African father, he’s always had to fear being a white man with black skin. All he has known culturally is white. He is just as human as I am, but that is his cultural formation. When he meets an independent black brother, it is frightening. And that’s true for a white brother. When you get a white brother who meets a free, independent black man, they got to be mature to really embrace fully what the brother is saying to them. It’s a tension, given the history. It can be overcome. Obama, coming out of Kansas influence, white, loving grandparents, coming out of Hawaii and Indonesia, when he meets these independent black folk who have a history of slavery, Jim Crow, Jane Crow and so on, he is very apprehensive. He has a certain rootlessness, a deracination. It is understandable.

“He feels most comfortable with upper middle-class white and Jewish men who consider themselves very smart, very savvy and very effective in getting what they want.”

West’s theory is essentially the mirror image of the notion, peddled by Dinesh D’Souza and Newt Gingrich, that Obama absorbed a racial ideology from one of his parents. For Obama’s unhinged right-wing critics, that parent is his father. For West, it is his mother. The racial biases he inherited allegedly define his worldview and turn him into a tool of racial bias — for black people, in the right-wing version, and against them, in West’s. Then you have West’s dismay at Obama’s excessive comfort with wealthy Jews, which he portrays as the result more than the cause of Obama’s lack of interest in helping African-Americans.

The Sanders revolution means that, rather than a full-throated celebration of Obama’s record akin to the treatment Ronald Reagan received at the 1988 Republican convention, the party’s message will include the perspective of one of the president’s avowed haters. Of course, Sanders himself has not said these things, and perhaps he is rewarding West for his campaign service. But if you are celebrating the changes Sanders is bringing about to the Democratic Party, you are celebrating the replacement of one cohort of advisers and activists with another. Sanders’s revolution means giving West’s views more legitimacy and influence in Democratic politics.

 

By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, May 24, 2016

May 30, 2016 Posted by | African Americans, Bernie Sanders, Financial Crisis | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Sanders’ White Posses”: Bernie Sanders And Racism Lite

In a statement on the Nevada rampage by some of his supporters, Bernie Sanders said a remarkable thing. He said, “Our campaign has held giant rallies all across this country, including in high-crime areas, and there have been zero reports of violence.”

Who lives in “high-crime areas”? We all know the answer: dark people. But it wasn’t dark people hurling chairs and death threats at the Nevada Democratic Party convention. It was Sanders’ own white followers. (The YouTube videos make that clear.)

One reason there’s been no violence at Sanders’ rallies is that outsiders aren’t disrupting them. It is Sanders’ white posses that are invading the events of others, be it Democratic Party meetings or Donald Trump rallies.

Now, the Sanders statement did say, “I condemn any and all forms of violence, including the personal harassment of individuals.” But then he likened this outrage to shots being fired into his campaign office.

The problem with this attempt at symmetry is that we don’t know who fired into his campaign office. It is my hope that the perpetrator is caught and thrown in jail. But we know exactly who threw chairs. The FBI, meanwhile, should be hot on the tails of the creeps who made death threats against a Nevada Democratic Party official and her family. That’s a federal crime.

Sanders should have made his condemnation of violence short and sweet. In doing so, he could have emphasized that the vast majority of his supporters are good, nonviolent people.

But then he went on, stoking the self-pity that has permeated his campaign. This was not the time to go into his allegedly unfair treatment at the hands of Democratic officials as he’s been doing ad nauseam.

If Sanders’ tying of political violence to “high-crime areas” were his only racially tinged remark, one might give it a pass. But he has a history.

There was his infamous waving-of-the-hand dismissal of Hillary Clinton’s commanding Southern victories, which were powered by African-American voters.

“I think that having so many Southern states go first kind of distorts reality,” he said.

Whose reality, one might ask. Actually, the overwhelmingly white electorates of Iowa and New Hampshire (where Sanders won big) got to go first. He didn’t have a problem with that.

This is a veiled racism that cannot find cover in Sanders’ staunch pro-civil rights record. Real black people seem to make Sanders uncomfortable (as Larry David captured on his “Saturday Night Live” skits).

Sanders’ idea of a black surrogate has been the academic Cornel West. West has called Barack Obama “a Rockefeller Republican in blackface” and “a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs,” among other nasty things. Ordinary African-Americans tend to revere Obama, so where did this crashing insensitivity come from?

It may have come from decades of being holed up in the white radical-left universe. In the 1960s, Sanders abandoned the “high-crime areas” of Brooklyn, his childhood home, and repaired to the whitest state in the nation. (Vermont had become a safe haven for liberals leaving — the word then was “fleeing” — the cities.)

Nuance alert: Sanders has done good work in attracting more white working-class voters to the Democratic side. His emphasis on economic issues is a welcome change from the party’s frequent obsession with identity politics. That is admirable.

Less admirable are the windy justifiable-rage explanations in what should have been a simple censure. And to then link expectations of violence to “high-crime areas” was pretty disgraceful. There should be no white-privilege carve-out for thuggery.

 

By: Froma Harrop, The National Memo, May 19, 2016

May 19, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Nevada Caucus, Sanders Supporters | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Bad Luck Bears”: Bernie Sanders; From The Guys Who Brought You George W. Bush

The team that brought you the George W. Bush administration in 2000 has gathered behind a new candidate: Bernie Sanders.

A host of prominent Ralph Nader backers has joined team Sanders in 2016, excited by his message discipline and aggressive fight against the establishment powers that be.

In the Democratic socialist from Vermont, they see a flag-bearer for the same issues while the Democratic establishment views him as a persistent pest who is raking in money by the fistful without a clear and obvious path to the nomination.

And the same way that Nader’s staunchest supporters had no kind words for the eventual nominee then-Vice President Al Gore, some of Sanders’s surrogates are spending their time bashing Hillary Clinton, making it even more difficult for the party faithful to rally around him.

Throughout Nader’s consecutive failed presidential bids, he picked up a cadre of high-profile endorsers ranging from actress Susan Sarandon to academic Cornel West. The rest of the roster backing both men includes actor Danny Glover, former National Nurses United Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro, musicians Ani DiFranco and Bonnie Raitt, country singer Willie Nelson, and Ben Cohen, one of the founders of Ben & Jerry’s, just to name a few.

“There are some pretty obvious parallels,” Oliver Hall, Nader’s lawyer and long-time friend said in an interview with The Daily Beast.

While the players on the bench supporting these candidates are remarkably similar, so far Sanders hasn’t drawn the collective ire of the Democratic Party quite nearly as much as Nader did. His campaign did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Beast.

After all, many personally blamed Nader for pulling Democratic votes away from Gore in 2000—ushering in Bush.

It’s tough to blame them for being angry. Bush edged out Gore by 537 votes, while Nader—the Green Party candidate—took over 97,000 votes in Florida, which Democrats thought could have tipped the scales in Gore’s favor.

The spoiler effect, a term ascribed to 1992 candidate Ross Perot, was redubbed as “The Nader Effect,” used as shorthand for a candidate that is going nowhere spoiling an election for a like-minded but more viable party nominee.

Nader has been adamant that he is not the one to blame, writing in 2004 on his presidential campaign site, that his voters wouldn’t have swung the election in Gore’s favor.

“In the year 2000, exit polls reported that 25% of my voters would have voted for Bush, 38% would have voted for Gore and the rest would not have voted at all,” he wrote.

The 2000 campaign efforts (some of which were led by his own supporters) to get Nader to drop out fell on deaf ears.

And 16 years later, a much more successful candidate has no interest in cutting his bid short either—despite almost daily urging from the Democratic establishment.

But still, the longer Sanders has stuck around the more he appears to get under Hillary Clinton’s skin.

Now the winner of 14 states, including a surprise victory in Michigan, Sanders is frequently painted as a message candidate spoiling the prospects of an establishment Democrat looking to finally secure the nomination after falling short eight years ago.

His staunch opposition to the Iraq War, something for which Clinton voted, and support for a single-payer healthcare program mirror some of the central tenets of Nader’s campaign.

Hall told The Daily Beast that the similarities between the candidates are apparent and even now he’s still tired of hearing that the latter is the reason Bush won in 2000.

“It’s ridiculous and pathetic,” he said in a phone interview. “If the Democratic Party is a serious organization, they need to tolerate free discussion of ideas.”

He contended that the same people who have accused Nader of indirectly leading the United States into its worst war since Vietnam are the ones imploring people to vote for Hillary Clinton this year.

“When Nader ran as a third party candidate, everybody attacked him,” Hall said. “Now they’re attacking Sanders for running as a Democrat.”

And as Sanders continues to exceed expectations in the primary, currently leading Clinton by a small margin in Wisconsin—the next contest—Hall questioned the former secretary of state’s strength as a candidate.

“How good of a candidate can Hillary Clinton be if she can’t handle debate in the primary election process? That’s the entire purpose of a primary election.”

And his endorsers have taken note.

West, a prominent academic and progressive Democratic stalwart, backed Ralph Nader in 2000 before giving Sanders his blessing in 2015. Once Gore was the nominee, he chastised him for picking Senator Joseph Lieberman as his running mate given his opposition to affirmative action. West referred to it as “an act of disrespect to the black community,” according to a 2000 article in the Chicago Tribune.

Earlier this year, West wrote an op-ed for Politico describing Sanders as being “better for black people” than Clinton.

West has not responded to a request for comment from The Daily Beast.

Sarandon, another Sanders backer who recently drew controversy for suggesting that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump might be ultimately better for the United States than Clinton, was also all in for Nader in the past. She served as the national co-chair for Nader’s steering committee in 2000 and was named as a plaintiff in a lawsuit he filed against the Federal Election Commission which alleged that corporations sponsoring debates could constitute as illegal corporate campaign contributions.

Documentarian Michael Moore also endorsed both candidates. In September 2000, he appeared at a fundraiser upon the Green Party candidate’s behalf, dispelling the idea that Nader was a spoiler in the race.

“A vote for Nader is a vote for Bush?” Moore said at the time. “No, a vote for Gore is a vote for Bush. A vote for Bush is a vote for Bush. A vote for Nader is a political Molotov.”

In 2000, Sanders publicly vouched for Nader himself, while the latter campaigned in Vermont.

“He’s an old-fashioned guy who believes that maybe the ordinary people should be running this country rather than the multinational corporations,” Sanders said introducing Nader at an event, according to an AP story at the time.

Sanders’s national spokesperson Symone Sanders also previously worked as a communications officer for the Ralph Nader-founded organization Public Citizen.

He changed his tune by 2004 though when Nader tried to run again, saying “virtually the entire progressive movement is not going to be supportive of Nader,” according to an AP story.

“We’ve got to come together to defeat George Bush, we have to develop a strong progressive movement to make sure we make the changes in this country that we need,” Sanders said in 2004. “But our main task right now is to defeat Bush and I think Nader’s effort could have some impact in dividing up that vote and that’s a negative thing.”

Nader himself did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Beast but he has expressed support for Sanders’s candidacy and his ideas.

The animosity between Nader and Gore supporters that bubbled up in the 2000 general election is already stewing in a similar capacity in the 2016 Democratic primary with surrogates like Sarandon and actress Rosario Dawson criticizing Clinton and the big-money interests they contend she stands for.

“Shame on you,” Dawson said referring to Clinton at a recent rally in New York. “I don’t have to vote against someone; I can vote for someone who’s on our side.”

She went on to criticize President Obama at a Harlem town hall days later, suggesting that he wasn’t able to keep up momentum to elicit big turnout in the 2014 midterm elections.

Another Sanders surrogate, rapper Killer Mike, got into similar hot water for quoting activist Jane Elliott’s line in February saying: “A uterus doesn’t qualify you to be president of the United States.” Implicit in the remark was not sexism, but rather that gender should not determine who one votes for.

The difference, of course, compared to the fervor around Nader is that these conflicts of opinion are not necessarily going to negatively impact the chances of a Democratic president being in the White House next year.

But from the start, Sanders’s campaign was concerned about appearing like just another Nader.

“The one thing he’s determined not to do is to be another Ralph Nader,” adviser Tad Devine said in April, 2015 as Sanders was preparing to announce his candidacy. “And the only way to avoid doing that is to avoid being a third-party candidate from the left in the general election.”

Time will tell if that promise holds up.

 

By: Gideon Resnick, The Daily Beast, April 5, 2016

April 6, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, George W Bush, Ralph Nader | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Winning Theme”: Clinton’s America Never Stopped Being Great

Sometimes, you take your laughs where you find them. For me, the funniest moment in an otherwise dreary and intermittently scary election year came when Candidate Trump visited the old state fairgrounds in Little Rock. A character seemingly straight out of a Charles Portis novel provided the most incisive commentary.

The author of “True Grit” is the state’s best novelist, a master of deadpan comedy in a tone-perfect Arkansas twang.

According to the newspaper, a Trump supporter carrying a “Make America Great Again” sign encountered a young man on his way into the arena to bask in the Great Braggart’s eerie orange glow.

“America’s already great, you dumb-butt!” the kid said.

He could have been Portis’s Norwood Pratt, the would-be country singer traveling the country with Joann the Wonder Hen, the College Educated Chicken. An ex-Marine, Norwood wasn’t one to mince words.

So there was Hillary Clinton on the night of her thunderous win over Sen. Bernie Sanders in the South Carolina primary.

“We don’t need to make America great again,” she said. “America never stopped being great. But we do need to make America whole again. Instead of building walls, we need to be tearing down barriers. We need to show by everything we are in this together.”

Ain’t that the truth? Maybe not in Trump World, where voters who never tire of proclaiming their holiness are voting for an aging playboy who brags about the married women he’s seduced. (In his book The Art of the Deal.) But he’s going to put Them back in their place, isn’t he?

Yeah, well, good luck with that.

Anyway, I suspect Hillary has found a winning theme.

Meanwhile, pundits seem oddly reluctant to say so, but Bernie’s candidacy imploded due to a classic political blunder when he accused his opponent of pandering to African-American voters by supporting President Obama.

“Hillary Clinton now is trying to embrace the president as closely as she possibly can. Everything the president does is wonderful. She loves the president, he loves her and all that stuff,” Sanders said sarcastically. “And we know what that’s about. That’s trying to win support from the African-American community, where the president is enormously popular.”

Never mind that she was Obama’s Secretary of State. Bernie delivered these remarks in an interview with BET’s Marc Lamont Hill on February 18. His poll numbers have plummeted like a stone ever since.

In early February, Gallup reported that Sanders’ net favorable rating stood at 57 percent to Clinton’s 44. By the March 1 “Super Tuesday” primaries, those numbers were reversed. Bernie dropped thirteen points as Clinton rose.

I wouldn’t presume to speak for black voters, but they tend to be very acute about being patronized. Indeed, 81 percent of Democrats generally have a favorable opinion of President Obama, along with a reported 97 percent of black voters in South Carolina.

Sanders’ remarks weren’t merely insulting, but tone deaf and objectively dumb. As South Carolina’s Rep. Jim Clyburn put it, “I don’t know how you can look at Mrs. Clinton’s history—she was not running for president in the 1970s when she came to South Carolina to work with those African-American juvenile detainees or juvenile inmates trying to better their conditions, when she went to work with Marian Wright Edelman, a native of Bennettsville, South Carolina, to come down here working with her trying to better the lives of children…So, what was she doing? Who was she pandering to back then?”

Not Barack Obama, Clyburn noted, who was in junior high school.

But then the Sanders campaign’s idea of a South Carolina surrogate was Princeton professor and controversialist Cornell West, author of this immortal trope:

“I think my dear brother Barack Obama has a certain fear of free black men. It’s understandable,” West said. “As a young brother who grows up in a white context, brilliant African father, he’s always had to fear being a white man with black skin. All he has known culturally is white…When he meets an independent black brother, it is frightening.”

Nothing scarier than a Princeton revolutionary.

West recently suggested that civil rights icons Clyburn and Rep. John Lewis had sold out to Wall Street.

“Tell you what,” President Obama might have responded if he were a character in a Portis novel, “don’t pee on my shoes and tell me it’s raining.”

As the results of this foolishness became manifest, some Sanders supporters began suggesting it was wrong for “red state” voters to have so much to say about the Democratic nomination.

Only Yankees need apply.

“Given the reality of a Republican presidential primary where the candidates are racing to outdo each other in their contempt for people of color…” Nancy LeTourneau writes in Washington Monthly, “is it any surprise that African Americans would assume that this country is facing the threat of a confederate insurgency?”

No surprise at all.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, March 2, 2016

March 3, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Black Voters, Hillary Clinton, Mainstream Media | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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