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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

   

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