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“Sanders Makes The Case For A Single-Issue Candidacy”: A Specific Message, Which He’s Eager To Connect To Any Issue

About a month ago, during the sixth debate for the Democratic presidential candidates, PBS’s Judy Woodruff asked Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders about U.S. race relations in the Obama era. Clinton responded by emphasizing some areas of improvement, while also describing “the dark side of the remaining systemic racism that we have to root out in our society.” Her efforts as president, she said, would focus on criminal justice reforms, education, jobs, and housing.

When the question about racial divisions went to Sanders, the Vermont senator immediately turned to “the disastrous and illegal behavior on Wall Street.” When the moderator asked if race relations would be better under a President Sanders, he responded, “Absolutely.” Why? Because if he’s elected, he’ll change tax policy to stop “giving tax breaks to billionaires.”

The exchange stood out for me because it was such a striking reminder about Sanders’ approach. He has a specific message, which he’s eager to connect to practically any issue. It’s easy to imagine Sanders going to lunch, getting asked what he’d like to order, and hearing him respond, “I’d like a turkey on rye, which reminds me of how the economy is rigged against working families.”

Last night, I believe for the first time, Sanders acknowledged that one of Clinton’s criticisms of his candidacy is probably correct.

“[L]et us be clear, one of the major issues Secretary Clinton says I’m a one-issue person, well, I guess so. My one issue is trying to rebuild a disappearing middle class. That’s my one issue.”

At another point in the debate, Sanders even connected the Flint water crisis to, of all things, Wall Street.

Keep in mind, it wasn’t long after Clinton raised concerns about Sanders being a “single-issue” candidate that he rejected the label out of hand. “I haven’t the vaguest idea what she’s talking about,” he said a couple of weeks ago, adding, “We’re talking about dozens of issues so I’m not quite sure where Secretary Clinton is coming from.”

But the answer in this latest debate was different, though it was probably more of a repackaging than a reversal. Sanders is still “talking about dozens of issues,” but as of last night, he’s effectively making the case that the issues that are most important to him – economic inequality, an unfair tax system, trade, Wall Street accountability, etc. – fall under the umbrella of a broader issue: rebuilding the middle class.

In other words, Sanders is willing to present himself as a single-issue candidate, so long as voters recognize the fact that his single issue is vast in scope.

This isn’t altogether expected. In recent weeks, Clinton’s principal criticism of Sanders is that his areas of interest are far too narrow. As of last night, Sanders has stopped denying the point and started presenting it as a positive.

And who knows, maybe it is. Democrats have been focused on the interests of the middle class for generations, and when Sanders made his “one-issue” declaration, the audience applauded.

But it’s not every day that a candidate announces during a debate that one of the central criticisms of his candidacy is broadly accurate.

During last night’s debate, Clinton let Sanders’ acknowledgement go without comment – she did not repeat the “single-issue candidate” criticism – but it creates an interesting dynamic in their race. Remember, as we discussed a month ago, Clinton wants voters to see Sanders as a well-intentioned protest candidate. The White House is about breadth and complexity, the argument goes, and even if you agree with Sanders, it’s hard to deny his principal focus on the one issue that drives and motivates him.

A president, Clinton wants Democratic voters to believe, doesn’t have the luxury of being “a one-issue person.” A president’s responsibilities are simply too broad to see every issue through narrowly focused lens.

Sanders is willing to gamble that progressive voters will back him anyway. It’s a risk that will likely make or break his candidacy in the coming weeks.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 7, 2016

March 8, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Primary Debates, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“A Phony GOP Parody”: Why The Democratic Candidates Need To Get Obama’s Record Straight

There is an imbalance in the argument at the heart of the 2016 presidential campaign that threatens to undercut the Democrats’ chances of holding the White House.

You might think otherwise. The divisions among Republicans are as sharp as they have been since 1964. Donald Trump may be building on the politics of resentment the GOP has pursued throughout President Obama’s term. But Trump’s mix of nationalism, xenophobia, a dash of economic populism and a searing critique of George W. Bush’s foreign policy offers a philosophical smorgasbord that leaves the party’s traditional ideology behind.

Jeb Bush, the candidate who represents the greatest degree of continuity with the Republican past, is floundering. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, both Cuban Americans, are competing fiercely over who is toughest on immigration. So much for the party opening its doors to new Americans. As for the less incendiary John Kasich, he probably won’t be relevant to the race again until the primaries hit the Midwest.

Add to this the GOP’s demographic weakness — young Americans are profoundly alienated from the party, and nonwhites will only be further turned off by the spectacle created by Trump, Cruz & Co. — and the likelihood of a third consecutive Democratic presidential victory is in view.

But then comes the imbalance: If there is a common element in the rhetoric of all the Republican candidates, it is that Obama’s presidency is an utter disaster, and he is trying to turn us, as Rubio keeps saying, into “a different kind of country.” You’d imagine from hearing the Republicans speak (Kasich is a partial exception) that we were in the midst of a new Great Depression, had just been defeated in a war, had lost our moral compass entirely, had no religious liberty and were on the verge of a dictatorship established by a slew of illegal executive orders.

Oh, yes, and the president who brought about all these horrors has lost the authority to name a Supreme Court justice, no matter what the Constitution — which should otherwise be strictly interpreted — says.

You can laugh or cry over this, but it is a consistent message, carried every day by the media whenever they cover the Republican contest.

The Democrats offer, well, a more nuanced approach. True, Hillary Clinton has embraced Obama more and more, seeing him as a life raft against Bernie Sanders’s formidable challenge. In particular, she knows that African American voters deeply resent the way Obama has been treated by Republicans. (No other president, after all, has ever been told that any nomination he makes to the Supreme Court will be ignored.) Tying herself to Obama is a wise way of shoring up her up-to-now strong support among voters of color.

Nonetheless, because so many Americans have been hurt by rising inequality and the economic changes of the past several decades, neither Democratic presidential candidate can quite say what hopefuls representing the incumbent party usually shout from the rooftops: Our stewardship has been a smashing success and we should get another term.

Sanders, in fact, represents a wholesale rebellion against the status quo. He tries to say positive things about Obama and how the president dealt with the economic catastrophe that struck at the end of George W. Bush’s term. But the democratic socialist from Vermont is not shy about insisting that much more should have been done to break up the banks, rein in the power of the wealthy, and provide far more sweeping health insurance and education benefits.

A good case can be made — and has been made by progressives throughout Obama’s term — that if Democrats said that everything was peachy, voters who were still hurting would write off the party entirely.

But ambivalence does not win elections. Running to succeed Ronald Reagan in 1988, George H.W. Bush triumphed by proposing adjustments in Reagan’s environmental and education policies but otherwise touting what enough voters decided were Reagan’s successes.

Democrats need to insist that while much work remains to be done, the United States is in far better shape economically than most other countries in the world. The nation is better off for the reforms in health care, financial regulation and environmental protection enacted during Obama’s term and should be proud of its energetic, entrepreneurial and diverse citizenry.

If Clinton, Sanders and their party don’t provide a forceful response to the wildly inaccurate and ridiculously bleak characterization of Obama’s presidency that the Republicans are offering, nobody will. And if this parody is allowed to stand as reality, the Democrats will lose.


By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, February 19, 2016

February 21, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democrats, GOP Presidential Candidates, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“There Is No Post Racial America”: Can Bernie Sanders Win The African-American Vote?

Bill Clinton, so the saying goes, was America’s first black president.

Novelist Toni Morrison dubbed him so, noting that he displayed “almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald’s-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas.”

The analogy stuck because people saw Clinton’s rapport of kinship and familiarity that crossed racial lines.

His wife is not blessed with the same attributes. This became starkly apparent in 2008 when she faced a formable political challenger for the Democratic presidential nomination and lost as African-American voters flocked to him.

This go-around, it’s not an upstart biracial senator from Illinois who is challenging Hillary Clinton for the coveted prize in this election cycle. It’s a 74-year-old white guy with a Mister Rogers appeal.

Bernie Sanders is the exclamation point on bad news for Clinton. In the Iowa caucuses, Sanders’ virtual tie in votes showed that Clinton can’t rest on her substantial resume.

Clinton cannot take black voters for granted. Sanders may not win enough African-American support to snag the Democratic nomination away, but he’ll give her a considerable run for it, even in Southern states like South Carolina, whose Democratic primary will take place at the end of the month.

Sanders’ appeal is that he acknowledges something that African-Americans know viscerally: There is no post-racial America. He has also offered a forthright critique of wealth and income equality in America, along with measures to rectify it. All he has to do is package his message right.

The election of Barack Obama did not substantially alter the lives of most black Americans. True, it was a collective emotional achievement for much of America, and especially for black America. Yet it’s ludicrous to believe that one man in the highest office of the land, even serving two terms, was going to undo the entrenched realities of race in America.

African-Americans, segregated and humiliated first by slavery and then by segregation, and further still by subtler forms of bias and discrimination that are still with us, are lagging behind other people of other races and ethnicities in employment and economic and educational attainment.

By the time the recovery began from the most recent recession, African-Americans had lost the most ground and now have to make harder strides to catch up.

Those without wealth invested in stocks and those whose work skills are less in demand — especially people whose families are less firmly entrenched in middle class — are struggling. And Sanders speaks well to these voters, especially to a new generation that is worried that they won’t be able to achieve, not due to personal failings but because systems of government such as taxation and justice are rigged against them.

In Iowa, Sanders swept Clinton with voters under 30, winning by a 70-point margin. He also won resoundingly with voters aged 30 to 44.

Iowa, some shrug, is overwhelmingly white. True.

But what if younger African-American voters aren’t as beholden to the idea that they must stick with the Clinton team, even if Hillary is a surrogate of Obama? Some evidence of this is appearing.

In recent weeks former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner has become a vocal advocate, along with the attorney who represented the Walter Scott family. Some rappers have begun advocating for him, plying their networks on social media. And the revered scholar Cornel West has been actively campaigning and took to Facebook with a post that begins, “Why I endorse Brother Bernie….”

It reads, in part: “I do so because he is a long-distance runner with integrity in the struggle for justice for over 50 years. Now is the time for his prophetic voice to be heard across our crisis-ridden country, even as we push him with integrity toward a more comprehensive vision of freedom for all.”

All Sanders has to do is speak ferociously for the underdogs of society, for the masses of people who have been left behind. And he is very adept at connecting these dots.

A good example is Sanders’ platform on racial justice. It seeks to address what he defines as “the five central types of violence waged against black, brown and indigenous Americans: physical, political, legal, economic and environmental.”

And he fully defines each, with grim examples of the harm they have caused. Then he offers his solutions.

Black Americans know these realities in ways that are starkly personal.

The question is: What must Sanders do to convince black voters that he can and will address them?


By: Mary Sanchez, Opinion-Page Columnist for The Kansas City Star; The National Memo, February 4, 2016

February 7, 2016 Posted by | African Americans, Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Just Get Out Of My Way”: This Progressive Doesn’t Need Your Lectures

Have I mentioned lately how much I’m enjoying the lectures from self-avowed liberals who insist my respect for Hillary Clinton is proof that I am not a “real progressive”?

I haven’t had this much fun since I had my sinuses packed with 40 miles of gauze after polyp surgery.

It’s not just men — my sisters, you disappoint me — but it’s particularly entertaining when the reprimands come from young white men who were still braying for their blankies when I started getting paid to give my opinion. They popped out special, I guess.

I became a columnist in the fall of 2002. Immediately, I found myself on the receiving end of right-wing vitriol so vile it made “The Sopranos” cuddly by comparison. My first death threats came within weeks, after I wrote that the Confederate flag should be retired. After I supported stronger gun control measures, an NRA zealot posted on a gun blog what he thought was my home address and identified me as “unarmed.” I was a single mother at the time. I bought new locks and kept writing. But by all means, do tell me what I don’t understand about being a progressive.

First, though, let me tell you what you clearly don’t understand about me — I almost added, “and women like me,” but that would be presuming to speak for other women, which would make me sound just like you.

I am a 58-year-old wife, mother and grandmother, who first knew I was a feminist at 17. I was a waitress at a family restaurant and a local banker thought he could stick his hand up my skirt because my hands were full of dinner. In the time it took me to deposit that steaming pile of pasta onto his lap, I realized I was never going to be that girl.

Like so many other women, I soon learned that knowing who you are is no small victory, but making it clear to the rest of the world is one of the hardest and longest nonpaying jobs a woman will ever have. I’ll spare you my personal list of jobs with unequal pay and unwelcome advances. No good comes from leading with our injuries.

It helped — it still helps — that my working-class parents raised me to be ready for the fight. My father was a union utility worker, my mother a nurse’s aide. Both of them died in their 60s, living just long enough to see all of their children graduate from college and start their lives. I’ve said many times that my parents did the kind of work that wore their bodies out so that we would never have to. That, too, is my legacy.

But, please, tell me again how I don’t know what it means to be a progressive.

Last month, I started teaching journalism at Kent State University. One of the first things I did was to lug to my office the large metal sign that used to hang over the tool shed at my father’s plant. “THE BEST SAFETY DEVICE IS A CAREFUL MAN,” it reads. Nice try, management.

I’m stickin’ with the union, Woody Guthrie sang.

Every time I walk into my office, that sign is the first thing I see. Remember, it whispers.

What does any of this have to do with why I admire Hillary Clinton? Nothing. But it has everything to do with why I don’t need any lecture from somebody who thinks he or she is going to tell me who I am because I do.

One of the hallmarks of a progressive is a willingness to challenge a power structure that leaves too many people looking up and seeing the bottom of a boot. I want power for the people who don’t have it. And for the rest of my conscious days, I will do my small part to help get it. I love it when detractors describe Clinton as too angry and not “warm and fuzzy” enough. I want a leader, not a Pooh Bear.

I don’t want to diminish anyone who supports Bernie Sanders. I’m married to Sanders’ colleague, Sen. Sherrod Brown, which is how I’ve gotten to know him over the last 10 years. He’s a good man.

If you support Sanders in this Democratic presidential primary, I don’t assume that you hate women.

See how that works?

But if you tell me that, should Sanders lose, you won’t vote for Hillary Clinton, then stop calling yourself a liberal or a progressive or anything other than someone invested in just getting your way.

There is so much at stake here. The fight for women’s reproductive rights is not a sporting event. Our cities are rife with racial tensions, and too many of us white Americans fail to see this as our problem, too. The Affordable Care Act is not enough, but it is the first fragile step toward universal health care. It is already saving lives of people who had nothing — no health care, no safety net, nothing — before it passed.

Finally, the growing gulf between the obscenely privileged and everyone else is a reason to get out of bed every morning — if we care about the future of the people we are supposed to be fighting for.

If you would sacrifice those who need us most because you didn’t get your way, then please, save me your lectures and get out of my way.


By: Connie Schultz, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Columnist and Professional in Residence at Kent State University’s School of Journalism; The National Memo, February 4, 2016

February 5, 2016 Posted by | Democrats, Hillary Clinton, Liberals, Progressives | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Shorthand For Progressivity”: New York Values Are At The Heart Of The American Political Divide

New York City is playing an unexpectedly outsized role in the presidential race, with both of the two major parties being sharply divided by candidates who embody very different sides of the city. It’s perhaps not surprising in an age of economic inequality that New York, itself a city where the enormous gap between the 1 percent and the working class is greater than that found in Brazil, would produce two such starkly contrasting figures as Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Trump, the boastful, putative billionaire with his gaudy skyscrapers, is the perfect representative of the Manhattan uber-rich, just as Sanders is the voice of the New York of the trade-union movement and the once-thriving Jewish socialist culture that Irving Howe captured in his 1976 book, World of Our Fathers.

The two men both have husky outer-borough accents, leading them to pronounce words like huge (“yuge”) alike even as they shout starkly different messages. Yet as the results from the Iowa caucuses make clear, the two parties have responded quite differently to the rival versions of New York being offered. Trump’s undeniable saturation in New York values is turning out to be a liability among Republicans, even as midwestern Democrats have shown a surprising affinity for Sanders’s version of New York socialism.

Speaking to ABC News last night, Ted Cruz credited his win in Iowa to how he successfully stuck the label of “New York values” on Donald Trump. “As I travel the country here in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada, everyone knows what New York values are,” Cruz said.

When Cruz first attacked “New York values,” many pundits thought he’d made a mistake, especially after Trump delivered a moving invocation to the city’s heroic response to 9/11 in the Republican debate in mid-January. But there is every reason to think that the attack was key to Cruz’s success. Forty-two percent of Iowa Republicans told entrance pollsters at the caucuses that the most important quality in a candidate was that he or she “shares my values.” Of that large block, 38 percent supported Ted Cruz, and 5 percent were for Trump. Simply put, Iowa Republicans accepted the idea that Trump was a cultural alien. Meanwhile, Trump’s own attempts to portray Cruz as an alien—by calling attention to his Canadian birth and loans from Goldman Sachs—fell flat.

Trump is not the first New York Republican to find that voters in his party just can’t stomach his origins in a city that many conservatives see as a modern Sodom and Gomorrah. In 2008, Rudy Giuliani looked on paper like a great candidate, widely admired in the GOP as a hero of 9/11. Yet Giuliani’s campaign floundered in the fields of Iowa, where his cultural liberalism, including a record of supporting reproductive freedom and LGBT rights, hurt him. In Iowa in 2008, came in 6th with 3 percent of the vote. (Admittedly, Giuliani avoided campaigning there because he knew he would do so poorly, but his campaign never picked up steam afterward). Given the track record of Trump and Giuliani, it seems unlikely that a strong New York personality, even one tied to foreign-policy hawkishness or hostility towards immigrants, can win over heartland conservatives.

The opposite is true of the Democrats. Sanders finished a very close second in Iowa, within a hair’s breadth of winning—an impressive achievement won against long odds given Clinton’s advantages in funding, name recognition, and endorsements. It’s notable that Clinton did not attack Sanders for his New York values, or even for his professed socialism. Her line of attack was that his policies, like universal healthcare, were politically infeasible—not that they were undesirable.

Instead, in her speech expressing “relief” over the Iowa results (which weren’t yet final), Clinton adopted a conciliatory stance and tried to appropriate Sanders’s politics by claiming to be “a progressive who gets things done for people.” Clinton sounded positively Sanders-esque in declaring that, as president, she would “protect our rights, women’s rights, gay rights, voting rights, immigrant rights, workers’ rights.”

Among the Republicans, association with New York is a political millstone around the neck that can sink a candidate. But if the New York values that Republicans dread are cosmopolitanism and egalitarianism, then among the Democrats, there’s no controversy around them, only disagreement as to how best to achieve them. In American politics, New York values has now become a shorthand for progressivity. That’s something both parties agree on, even as New York values lie at the fault lines of American politics.


By: Jeet Heer, The New Republic, February 2, 2016

February 4, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, New York Values | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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