As the primaries come to a close, Bernie Sanders has upped the ante in his fight against the Democratic establishment, leading many Democrats to worry about party unity going into the general election.
This late in the game, it’s extremely unlikely that Sanders will manage to wrest the nomination from Hillary Clinton. She’s hundreds of delegates ahead, not counting super delegates that have pledged their non-binding allegiance to her, and many in the Democratic establishment have criticized Sanders’ decision to stay in the race.
“Bernie made his point,” said an unnamed Colorado Democrat to Politico. “It’s time to bring the party back together. The longer he waits, the more damage he does. The question is whether or not he cares. The rest of us do.”
Sanders knows that, which is why he has begun focus on committee assignments and other minutiae at the Democratic National Convention in July. But that hasn’t stopped him from focusing fire on his rival.
“We need a campaign, an election, coming up which does not have two candidates who are really very, very strongly disliked. I don’t want to see the American people voting for the lesser of two evils,” he said on ABC’s This Week on Sunday, describing the low favorability ratings both Clinton and Donald Trump face going into a presidential election match up.
Comments like that have signaled Sanders’ increasing investment in a divided Democratic Party as the primary calendar runs down to its last six contests. “The ‘burn it down’ attitude, the upping the ante,” wrote Josh Marshall on Talking Points Memo, “seems to be coming from Sanders himself. Right from the top.” While blame was initially cast on Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ fiery campaign manager, commentators started placing blame more directly on Sanders himself after his statement following the supposed scuffles that took place in the Nevada Democratic convention — Sanders placed most of the blame for his delegate’s rowdiness on “Democratic leadership us[ing] its power to prevent a fair and transparent process from taking place.”
Sanders has also been outspoken in his criticism of Debbie Wasserman Schulz, chair of the Democratic National Committee, who has been accused of tilting the nomination process in Clinton’s favor, primarily by scheduling what few debates the Democrats had early in primary season on odd days and over long weekends. Sanders has even endorsed Tim Canova, a Democrat currently fighting a Sanders-style insurgent primary campaign against Wasserman Schulz in South Florida.
“Clearly, I favor her opponent,” Sanders said in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper. “His views are much closer to mine than as to Wasserman Schultz’s.” He also said that if he were elected president, he would not reappoint Wasserman Schultz as chairperson of the DNC.
Nevertheless, Sanders has been able to extract concessions from the party. It was announced earlier today that Sanders would be given more seats in the party’s convention platform committee, a key body that decides party positions and policies. The agreement was part of a strategy advocated by both Sanders and Clinton allies to ameliorate the party divide and give a stronger voice to the substantial following Sanders now commands.
While Sanders initially wanted the committee to be split evenly between his and Clinton’s delegates, with one neutral appointment by the DNC chair, the announced changes were a victory in themselves for Sanders. The original rules allowed Schulz to appoint all 15 members of the committee — a move that likely could have led to a repeat of the chaos at the Nevada Democratic convention, but in Philadelphia on primetime television. One can only imagine the ways in which Donald Trump would try to use such a display to his advantage.
Clinton has been forced to tack further left in this election than most predicted she would, incorporating parts of Sanders’ message into her stump speeches. Following her surprise defeat in the Michigan primary, Clinton gave a concession speech that sounded remarkably like Sanders’s speeches, tapping into a growing anger over the behavior of American corporations outsourcing jobs and abusing the tax code.
We are going to stand up to corporations that seems have absolutely no loyalty to this country that game them so much in the first place. Look at Nabisco laying off 600 workers in Chicago and moving a production line out of the country.They have no problem taking taxpayer dollars in one and giving out pink slips with the other. Look at the Eden Corporation in Ohio. They get millions of dollars in tax credits and government contracts to make electrical equipment. But that has not stopped them from using accounting tricks to move their headquarters overseas and avoid paying their fair share of taxes here at home. Now they are shutting down a factory, eliminating more than 100 jobs, moving that work out of the country. And to top it off, they gave their CEO a payout worth more than $11 million. Now, we should make corporations pay for these so-called inversions with a new exit fare.
Her pivot towards anti-corporatism could be explained by the overblown fear that Trump will peel off white, working class Sanders supporters who espouse his anti-free trade, protectionist economic policies
In a comprehensive analysis by The Washington Post, a quarter of Sanders supporters had strongly unfavorable views of Clinton. Meanwhile, three quarters of respondents held negative views of the all-but-coronated Republican presidential candidate. More Sanders supporters said they would vote for an unnamed third party candidate than for Trump, effectively saying they would vote for literally anyone over the repeatedly-bankrupt businessman. Like much of what the racist billionaire says, his claims that independent voters will flock to him once Sanders is out of the race are more bluster than substance.
By: Sail Alnuweiri, The National Memo, May 23, 2016
When Verizon workers went on strike last week, they were mainly protesting efforts to outsource work to low-wage, non-union contractors. But they were also angry about the company’s unwillingness to invest in its own business. In particular, Verizon has shown a remarkable lack of interest in expanding its Fios high-speed Internet network, despite strong demand.
But why doesn’t Verizon want to invest? Probably because it doesn’t have to: many customers have no place else to go, so the company can treat its broadband business as a cash cow, with no need to spend money on providing better service (or, speaking from personal experience, on maintaining existing service).
And Verizon’s case isn’t unique. In recent years many economists, including people like Larry Summers and yours truly, have come to the conclusion that growing monopoly power is a big problem for the U.S. economy — and not just because it raises profits at the expense of wages. Verizon-type stories, in which lack of competition reduces the incentive to invest, may contribute to persistent economic weakness.
The argument begins with a seeming paradox about overall corporate behavior. You see, profits are at near-record highs, thanks to a substantial decline in the percentage of G.D.P. going to workers. You might think that these high profits imply high rates of return to investment. But corporations themselves clearly don’t see it that way: their investment in plant, equipment, and technology (as opposed to mergers and acquisitions) hasn’t taken off, even though they can raise money, whether by issuing bonds or by selling stocks, more cheaply than ever before.
How can this paradox be resolved? Well, suppose that those high corporate profits don’t represent returns on investment, but instead mainly reflect growing monopoly power. In that case many corporations would be in the position I just described: able to milk their businesses for cash, but with little reason to spend money on expanding capacity or improving service. The result would be what we see: an economy with high profits but low investment, even in the face of very low interest rates and high stock prices.
And such an economy wouldn’t just be one in which workers don’t share the benefits of rising productivity; it would also tend to have trouble achieving or sustaining full employment. Why? Because when investment is weak despite low interest rates, the Federal Reserve will too often find its efforts to fight recessions coming up short. So lack of competition can contribute to “secular stagnation” — that awkwardly-named but serious condition in which an economy tends to be depressed much or even most of the time, feeling prosperous only when spending is boosted by unsustainable asset or credit bubbles. If that sounds to you like the story of the U.S. economy since the 1990s, join the club.
There are, then, good reasons to believe that reduced competition and increased monopoly power are very bad for the economy. But do we have direct evidence that such a decline in competition has actually happened? Yes, say a number of recent studies, including one just released by the White House. For example, in many industries the combined market share of the top four firms, a traditional measure used in many antitrust studies, has gone up over time.
The obvious next question is why competition has declined. The answer can be summed up in two words: Ronald Reagan.
For Reagan didn’t just cut taxes and deregulate banks; his administration also turned sharply away from the longstanding U.S. tradition of reining in companies that become too dominant in their industries. A new doctrine, emphasizing the supposed efficiency gains from corporate consolidation, led to what those who have studied the issue often describe as the virtual end of antitrust enforcement.
True, there was a limited revival of anti-monopoly efforts during the Clinton years, but these went away again under George W. Bush. The result was an economy with far too much concentration of economic power. And the Obama administration — preoccupied with the aftermath of financial crisis and the struggle with bitterly hostile Republicans — has only recently been in a position to grapple with competition policy.
Still, better late than never. On Friday the White House issued an executive order directing federal agencies to use whatever authority they have to “promote competition.” What this means in practice isn’t clear, at least to me. But it may mark a turning point in governing philosophy, which could have large consequences if Democrats hold the presidency.
For we aren’t just living in a second Gilded Age, we’re also living in a second robber baron era. And only one party seems bothered by either of those observations.
By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, April 18, 2016
Across the land, heroic male legislators are rising up to protect the lives and virtue of women and girls from sexual predators.
They are not, as one might hope, enacting laws that would prevent men convicted of domestic violence from owning firearms, even though that would surely save precious female lives.
Nor are they working with colleges and universities to ensure fair investigations of campus sexual assault, even though this would greatly help many a female coed.
And, alas, they aren’t doing anything to help or prod police agencies to process the backlogs of rape kits, even though this would surely put many more violent sex offenders behind bars.
No, the state legislators — instigated mostly by Republican members — are obsessed with women and girls’ use of the bathroom. They’re freaked out that someone who was born male but who now identifies as female could wind up in the neighboring stall.
North Carolina is the latest state to mount this little charade of chivalry. In a special session Wednesday, with mere minutes for members to read and digest the bill’s language, the legislature decreed that municipalities could not pass antidiscrimination laws protecting people on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. In other words: People in the state must use the bathroom designated by the gender on their birth certificate.
The move is part of a broad backlash against the American public’s growing acceptance that sexual orientation and gender identity are privacy issues that deserve respect and civil rights protection. It flared up in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling clearing legal obstacles to gay marriage.
When it comes to bathrooms, legislators express concern about sexual predators using more open bathroom access to attack vulnerable women and girls. Yet there is no trend of such attacks. A more honest conversation with transgender people would make that point. But honest dialogue isn’t how this is playing out — although it did play a decisive role in convincing South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard to veto his state legislature’s bathroom bill.
What proponents can’t get over is that national attitudes have shifted rapidly in regard to lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender people. People have by and large given LGBT people a fair hearing and have decided they deserve fair treatment. Much of what remains of the opposition is draped with the cloak of religion. Hence the plethora of so-called religious freedom laws and amendments, whose real aims are such things as keeping homosexuals from becoming foster parents or barring transgender people from using the restroom they choose — in other words, keeping them from being accepted in society. Georgia, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas are a few of the states where such bills have been passed, executive orders have been issued, or where such measures are under consideration.
Corporate and sporting entities see the danger. The NFL has warned Georgia that it could lose the opportunity to host the Super Bowl. The NCAA has made its intolerance for legalized discrimination known to Missouri and Indiana. And companies as diverse as Wal-Mart, Monsanto, Disney and MasterCard have also asserted their distaste for doing future business where these proposals may pass into law.
The companies get it. They know that “open to the public” means all of the public. No one is saying that anyone’s church must marry gay people.
Here is what proponents of the bills do not tell you: Sexual orientation and gender identity are not universally protected in America. In many cities and states, you can be fired, denied a house or an apartment simply because the boss or seller or landlord believes that you are gay.
The lack of legal protection for the LGBT people is what these disingenuous legislators are using as a basis for further deceiving constituents. They want the right to discriminate, enshrined and in many cases codified as a religious right, even when they are operating in a public square.
That’s what is most offensive — invoking God as a pretext.
Those who stood for slavery and against civil rights tried that ploy. Proponents of the anti-LGBT measures don’t like the comparison, but the shoe fits.
Ratcheting up fears in response to social change and then claiming that it’s your religious right to discriminate is an old trick. Alongside housing covenants, bank red-lining, scare tactics about crime, including sexual assault by black men, these arguments were shamefully hypocritical. These are old songs, with new refrains.
By: Mary Sanchez, Opinion-Page Columnist for The Kansas City Star; The National Memo, March 25, 2016
“The Supreme Court Fight Is About Democracy”: Conservatives Want To Bring Back Pre-New Deal Jurisprudence
There’s a reason beyond garden-variety partisanship that Senate Republicans resist even holding hearings on President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. Their gambit evades a full and open debate over the conservative judicial agenda, which is to use the high court in an aggressive and political way to reverse decades of progressive legislation.
The central irony here: The very conservatives who use “judicial activism” as a battering ram against liberals are now the aggressive judicial activists. It’s precisely because Garland’s record reveals him to be a devout practitioner of judicial restraint that an intellectually frank dialogue over his nomination would be so dangerous to the right. It would expose the radicalism of their jurisprudence.
Some conservatives are quite open about this, and few have been more candid than George F. Will, my Post colleague. To begin with, he deserves credit for making clear in his most recent column that Garland really is a stout advocate of judicial “deference” and for pointing out the absurdity of the Republicans’ refusal to take up his nomination. And in the past, Will has been unusually direct in defining the stakes in our battles over the role of the courts.
In a 2014 column aptly headlined “Judicial activism isn’t a bad thing,” he wrote: “Conservatives clamoring for judicial restraint, meaning deference to legislatures, are waving a banner unfurled a century ago by progressives eager to emancipate government, freeing it to pursue whatever collective endeavors it fancies, sacrificing individual rights to a spurious majoritarian ethic.”
Will’s attack on “a spurious majoritarian ethic,” of course, is another way of criticizing the workings of democracy. Where does this lead?
It leads to the Citizens United decision (which Will supports as emphatically as I oppose it) that overthrew decades of precedent and a century of practice involving limits on the power of big money in politics; to the Supreme Court’s evisceration of the Voting Rights Act; and to the scrapping of all manner of legislation aimed at protecting workers’ rights, the environment and consumers. Historically, it’s an approach that, more often than not, leans toward employers over employees, creditors over debtors, property owners over less affluent citizens, and corporations over individuals.
We know what this approach looks like because it’s the one the court pursued for decades before the New Deal. It is this pre-New Deal jurisprudence that conservatives want to bring back. Some conservatives have talked openly about the “Constitution in Exile,” referring to the way our founding document was once read to overturn many New Deal and Progressive Era laws. Starting in the late 1930s, the court moved to a different approach that gave Congress broad latitude to legislate on matters related to social justice and economics and saw its task as intervening primarily on behalf of individual rights.
Will’s outright embrace of “judicial activism” has brought him some critics on the right. One of them is Ed Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a leading defender of the Senate Republicans’ current strategy. “Most contemporary conservative proponents of judicial restraint,” Whelan has written, “are also proponents of originalism and see judicial restraint merely as supplementing originalist methodology when that methodology fails to yield a sufficiently clear answer to a constitutional question.”
Whelan added that his approach would, like Will’s, allow judges to “enforce the rights, and limits on power, that the Constitution, fairly construed, sets forth.” But it would also “prevent judges from inventing rights and powers that are not in the Constitution.”
Here’s my translation of Whelan: He’s instructing Will to notice how originalism — the conservative theory that insists we can apply the original meaning of the Constitution’s words and the Founders’ intentions with some ease — leaves judges with plenty of power to toss out progressive laws. At the same time, it gives conservatives grounds to oppose liberals on such issues as abortion and gay marriage.
I’ll stipulate that there are some legitimate conservative arguments against liberals on their own forms of social-issue activism. But I’d insist that we will understand this court battle better if we pay attention to Will’s straightforward language: Through originalism and other doctrines, conservatives have embraced an astonishingly aggressive approach to judging. It allows them to reach outcomes through the courts that they cannot achieve through the democratic process.
At heart, this is a debate over how we define democracy. It’s also a struggle over whether government will be able to serve as a countervailing force to concentrated economic power.
By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 20, 2016
In most presidential elections, Supreme Court nominations are a major issue for elites and a substantial concern for significant parts of the conservative movement. Other voters usually see the future makeup of the court as a side matter, or not essential to their decisions at all.
Justice Antonin Scalia’s death on Saturday will change this.
The issue of conservative judicial activism had already begun to take hold among liberals because of a series of fiercely ideological and precedent-shattering 5-to-4 decisions.
You read that right: After decades during which conservatives complained about “liberal judicial activism,” it is now conservatives who are unabashed in undermining progressive legislation enacted by the nation’s elected branches. Scalia will be remembered fondly on the right as the brilliant exponent of the theory of “originalism” that provided a rationale — or, in many cases, a rationalization — for decisions that usually fit conservative ideological preferences.
In 2010, Citizens United v. FEC rewrote decades of precedent on Congress’ power to regulate how campaigns are financed, facilitating a flood of money into elections from a small number of very wealthy Americans. Three years later, Shelby County v. Holder ripped the heart out of the federal government’s enforcement power in the Voting Rights Act. Last week, conservatives on the court halted the implementation of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, his central initiative on climate change.
This is merely a partial list. The court’s conservatives have also regularly undercut the power of unions and the ability of citizens to wage legal battles against corporations.
Such decisions already had the potential of broadening the range of progressive constituencies invested in making the court a major election issue, including political reformers, African Americans, environmentalists and organized labor.
But Scalia’s death means that Obama or his successor — if that successor is a Democrat — could overturn the current conservative majority on the court, which could lead it to revisit many of the most troubling decisions of recent years.
And Republicans did themselves no favors in the coming argument by moving in a hard political direction even before most of the tributes to Scalia had been published — and even before the president had actually picked someone: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) proclaimed that no Obama nominee would be considered, period.
“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice,” McConnell said. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”
Republicans claimed precedent for ignoring court appointees from presidents on their way out the door. During Saturday night’s debate in South Carolina, Marco Rubio said that “it has been over 80 years since a lame-duck president has appointed a Supreme Court justice.” Ted Cruz made a similar point.
Well. A Senate controlled by Democrats confirmed President Reagan’s nomination of Anthony Kennedy on a 97-0 vote in February 1988, which happened to be an election year. By what definition was Reagan not a lame duck when he put Kennedy forward on Nov. 11, 1987?
Obama rejected the rejectionists. He said Saturday he would name a new justice and that there would be “plenty of time . . . for the Senate to fulfill its responsibility to give that person a fair hearing and a timely vote.”
My hunch is that Obama will try to put the Republicans’ obstructionism in sharp relief by offering a nominee who has won support and praise from GOP senators in the past. Three potential candidates who fit these criteria and won immediate and widespread mention were Merrick Garland and Sri Srinivasan, both judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and Jane Kelly, a judge on the 8th Circuit. (I should note that Garland is a dear friend of long standing.)
Whatever choice Obama makes, he will try to make it as hard as possible for Republican senators — especially those struggling for reelection this year in blue or purple states — to claim that he had picked an ideologue. Obama could also argue he had deferred to the Republicans’ Senate majority by offering a candidate whom many of them had supported in the past.
An extended court fight would allow progressives, once and for all, to make clear it is their conservative foes now using judicial power most aggressively. The partisan outcome of this year’s election just became far more important. This fall, Americans will not just be picking a new chief executive. They will be setting the course of the court of last resort for a generation.
By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, February 14, 2016