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“Revolution Incorporated”: How Clinton Can Bring Sanders Supporters Into The Fold

With the Republican presidential race careening toward a fractious convention in Cleveland and Donald Trump warning of riots, the coming Democratic convention has garnered little comment. But don’t expect Philadelphia to be all brotherly love. Reconciling Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, and their respective camps, will take some work.

Yes, modern party conventions have been turned into slickly packaged made-for-TV unity fests: Carefully vetted speakers deliver carefully crafted messages, while any disagreements are settled off-camera. And yes, Barack Obama and Clinton made amends after a bitter primary season eight years ago. But there’s far more ideological conflict between this year’s candidates than between Clinton and Obama in 2008.

The most likely scenario at this point is that Clinton will be the nominee but Sanders will arrive in Philadelphia with a formidable number of delegates. In that case, the closest parallel is when Michael Dukakis overcame Jesse Jackson’s insurgent movement in 1988. That year didn’t end well for the Democrats, but it offers some useful lessons about achieving party unity, allowing ideological differences and generating passion.

Like Sanders, Jackson stunned the party establishment with a strong showing in the primary race. He won 13 primaries and caucuses and 7 million votes, amassing 1,200 delegates. Also like Sanders, he electrified young Americans. He helped register legions of new voters and outperformed Dukakis with voters under 30.

Going into the convention, Jackson and his followers demanded recognition for what they had built. They wanted Dukakis to acknowledge that they were integral to the Democratic coalition. They sought debate over the direction of the party and the country. And they thought Jackson had earned serious consideration for the vice presidency. Jackson delayed his endorsement, waiting for respect to be paid.

Dukakis, meanwhile, was eager to focus on the general election. He was tired of dealing with Jackson and intent on proving that he would stand up to him. He snubbed Jackson in his running-mate selection, and, by blunder or calculation, failed to tell Jackson before news leaked that he’d tapped Sen. Lloyd Bentsen. When Jackson learned of the pick from a reporter, he didn’t hesitate to broadcast his grievances, capitalizing on the six busloads of reporters that accompanied his caravan from Chicago to the convention in Atlanta. He suggested that he might contest Bentsen’s nomination at the convention. When he arrived, he was greeted by thousands of activists ready to march at a nod of his head.

Only as the convention got underway did Dukakis finally meet with Jackson. At a negotiated “unity” news conference, Dukakis promised that Jackson would be involved in the campaign “actively and fully in a way that will bring us together and that will build the strongest grass-roots organization.”

Jackson met with his delegates that morning and convinced them to keep their powder dry. “We came looking for noble works, not fireworks,” he told them. “Not show business, but serious business.” As William Greider wrote at the time for Rolling Stone: “Jackson’s speech was as deft as anything I’ve ever seen a politician achieve with his listeners — building their commitment to future struggles and simultaneously cooling them out about the one they had just lost.” A less-skilled orator might not have been able to pull it off. And a less-committed Democrat might not have wanted to.

Sanders, too, will finish the primary contest with an army of impassioned supporters eager for recognition of their revolution — some even urging a third-party run. Clinton’s campaign operatives will want Sanders to step back, salute and turn his fire on the Republican nominee. But Sanders will be in a position to determine what happens in Philadelphia and will have major influence on whether his supporters turn out for the nominee. Respect must be paid.

In contrast to Jackson in ’88, Sanders has no interest in the vice presidency. His focus is on the direction of the party. “When people respond by the millions to your message, then that message is now mainstream,” Sanders recently told the New Yorker. “That changes political reality. Smart politicians like Hillary Clinton and anybody else have got to move where the action is, and the action is on those issues that I’ve been raising.”

Like Sanders, Jackson built his campaign around a fundamental challenge to the party’s timid agenda, calling for raising taxes on the rich and corporations, reducing military spending, increasing social spending, and barring the first use of nuclear weapons. When Jackson continued to press this agenda beyond the primaries and ahead of the convention, some Democrats accused him of being divisive. Jackson countered: “We grow through debate and deliberation. We can have unity without uniformity.”

The Dukakis camp incorporated some of Jackson’s agenda into the party platform, though it was often masked in vague language. At the convention, three additional measures went to the floor for debate, including the first call for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. And in his prime-time speech, Jackson challenged the party’s direction, even as he praised Dukakis. Disagreements were aired, but the convention ended with Jackson’s family joining those of Dukakis and Bentsen on the stage in unity.

In Philadelphia, Sanders will demand a debate over the platform. He’ll push for rule changes, particularly curbing the role of unelected superdelegates. He will seek floor votes on key issues in dispute. His ideas, in fact, will have the support of most of the delegates. And he’ll get a prime-time address to make his case.

The Clinton campaign would be well advised to embrace some of Sanders’s ideas and graciously endure public debate on others. Endorsing tuition-free public college would generate excitement. Banning super PACs in Democratic primaries would acknowledge Sanders’s challenge to big money. Floor debates on issues such as breaking up big banks, national health care, a $15 minimum wage and the right to a union may be inevitable.

As 1988 demonstrated, unity doesn’t require the suppression of conflicting ideas. In fact, the nominee may be better served by being big enough to allow an airing of the party’s differences. Sanders has won a staggering percentage of young voters, the future of the party. They are more likely to stay engaged if they see their champion and their causes given a hearing and making headway at the convention.

One final lesson from 1988: While unity at the convention provides peace, it doesn’t promise passion.

Dukakis left Atlanta with a double-digit lead in the polls over George H.W. Bush. He was hailed for unifying the party and for “handling” Jackson. Jackson stumped across the country for the ticket, registering black voters and rousing audiences wherever he went. But Dukakis continued to frame the general election as a question of — and this may sound familiar — competence, not direction. As Rolling Stone’s Greider warned at the time: “Running for president on a promise to be competent and honest is thin gruel.”

Indeed, Dukakis sank after the convention, undermined by his own missteps and a viciously negative Bush campaign, featuring the infamous race-based Willie Horton ads. In November, he lost in a low-turnout election, with black participation falling even more than that of the general population.

Sanders has vowed to endorse Clinton if she gets the nomination. But he can’t transfer the passion he has generated to her. She’ll have to figure out how to inspire those voters or depend on the Republican nominee to terrify them into the voting booths.

 

By: Robert Borosage , President of The Institute for America’s Future; Opinion Page, The Washington Post, March 25, 2016

March 27, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Hillary Still Best Candidate To Defeat GOP”: The Nation, America’s Oldest Weekly Magazine, Endorse Sanders For President

The Nation magazine, America’s oldest continuously published weekly magazine, endorsed Democratic candidate Bernie Sander’s (I-VT) for President. “He has summoned the people to a ‘political revolution,’” they wrote in an editorial published Thursday. “We believe such a revolution is not only possible but necessary—and that’s why we’re endorsing Bernie Sanders for president.”

The editorial outlines numerous reasons to support his bid for the White House. He has attracted a majority of young Americans, historically a politically disinclined demographic, to his political positions. His decades-long defense of progressive causes such as the $15 minimum wage, immigrants’ rights, bank regulation, and LGBT rights has attracted legions of young Americans who increasingly support such unapologetically liberal stances. Sanders’s endorsement is just the third time in 150 years that the publication has endorsed a candidate, the first two being Jesse Jackson in 1988 and Barack Obama in 2008.

The editorial made no effort to conceal the fact that Sanders’s path to the White House is a dubious and fraught one. “His economic-populist message has resonated with many progressives and young voters, but he has yet to marshal deep support among the African-American, Latino, and Asian-American voters who form core constituencies of the Democratic Party,” said the editorial. But his support has been growing steadily. He has maintained a six point lead over Hillary Clinton, once the presumed Democratic presidential candidate, in New Hampshire. And in Iowa, he has narrowed Clinton’s lead from 34 points to a mere four.

That is not to say that The Nation’s editors dislike Clinton. They readily admit they would prefer her to any of the “extremists running for the GOP nomination.” She has unrivaled experience, and is incredibly intelligent and perceptive, they write. During the campaign, she has been lured left to champion of many of the same causes that Sanders brought to the fore. “She has responded to the populist temper of the times: questioning the sort of free-trade deals that Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have championed; calling for reforms on Wall Street and tax increases on the wealthy; courageously defending Planned Parenthood; challenging the National Rifle Association; and supporting trade unions,” the editorial said.

In a piece endorsing Clinton, Katha Pollitt, one of The Nation’s most prominent columnists, wrote about the seeming apathy of even wealthy, educated, white feminists to Clinton’s campaign. “You would think these women, of all people, would be jumping for joy at the prospect of someone so like themselves winning the White House.” But she still laid out a convincing argument for supporting Clinton.

It seems clear that the former secretary of state is still the best candidate to defeat the Republicans in the general election, given the numerous posts she’s held during her decades in government and the fact that Sanders is hampered by his self-applied label as a “democratic socialist.” She also would be the country’s first woman president, although it is not so unusual to have a female world leader today. Socially conservative countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the Philippines have previously had female heads of state. She would also be campaigning as a feminist at a time when the movement has gained newfound attention. According to a poll done by Vox, 78 percent of respondents said they believe in social, political, legal and economic equality between the sexes. A further 85 percent said they believe in equality for women.

But Clinton’s associations with big banks and Super PAC funding have left a sour taste in the mouths of Democrats looking for money to wield less influence in the country’s politics. The Nation editorial board wrote that “money in politics doesn’t widen debate; rather, it narrows the range of possibility. While Sanders understands this, we fear that his chief rival for the Democratic nomination does not.”

Sanders’s rising popularity and growing list of endorsements so close to the start of the primary season have surprised the political establishment. Clinton is now ramping up criticisms of Sanders’s platform in an effort to remain ahead in Iowa. But with The Nation’s endorsement, a rare event, Sanders and his supporters have already made their mark on the Democratic race.

 

By: Saif Alnuweiri, The National Memo, January 15, 2016

January 17, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, The Nation | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Sad But Self-Inflicted Fall Of Cornel West”: The Self Anointed ‘Prophet’ Is Yesterday’s News

Michael Eric Dyson’s blistering takedown of Cornel West in The Ghost of Cornel West for The New Republic not only closed the door on a decades-long friendship that arguably led the way in black American thought at the end of the 20th century, but also displayed how the roles of black leaders have evolved during Barack Obama’s rise to prominence.

Dyson starts off by describing West’s animus toward the president as a love that has turned into a hatred so severe that it would make the heavens shudder. He mentions the times when West called Obama a “Rockefeller Republican in blackface,” on Democracy Now! and a “brown-faced Clinton” in Salon magazine. He discusses a moment when West told him, Dyson, that he does not “respect the brother at all,” referring to Obama. All this in the first two paragraphs.

As the piece winds its way to the conclusion that solidifies the end of their personal and professional relationship, a narrative of West emerges as a man of supreme intellect who thought that he had reached the pinnacle of African-American thought. West had even gone so far as to start referring to himself as a prophet. He believed that he was the voice that the black community would run to when in need of clarity. Dyson was one of those voices early on, so West’s fall from grace in his eyes is all the more striking. He was a self-anointed prophet, who has publicly lost one of his most significant disciples and a friend.

Apparently, it was the release of Race Matters in the mid-’90s that placed West at the pinnacle, and he intended on staying there for life. He did not need to publish new, thought-provoking works. His lack of output was disappointing, and so were his verbal attacks toward others in the black community, especially at MSNBC contributor and professor Melissa Harris-Perry.

Still, he potentially could have recovered from both of these errors. Yet he decided to rest on his laurels from here to eternity, and as he did so, time, unbeknownst to him, began passing him by. When Obama showed up, and politely challenged West’s idyllic place at the summit, West responded venomously to challenge this young, brash usurper.

West was not the only person to challenge Obama’s place within the black community—Jesse Jackson had very choice words for Obama, too—but he is one of the few whose perspective has not evolved with the passage of time, and nothing could be more damning for an intellectual. Yet the key thing to remember is that Obama did not take West’s position at the summit; he instead built a taller mountain and sat atop it.

This recent evolution of black leadership in American society always makes me think about a conversation I had with my grandfather on the eve of the 2008 Iowa caucuses.

During the conversation, he explained to me that he intended on voting for Hillary Clinton for president because he did not believe that white people would allow Obama to become president of the United States. My grandfather was an educated man, a minister, and a veteran of the Korean War, but mentally it was absolutely impossible for him to believe that Obama could become the next president.

I did not agree with his perspective, but I knew where it came from, and it made me wonder more and more about how one’s environment and experiences can drastically shape what you can believe is possible in the world.

Most times when I tell this story, I need to follow it up with a simplifying analogy to explain how this perspective could have come into being. In this analogy, I condense America to a k-through-12 school.

At the beginning of America, blacks were unpaid laborers at the school. Then we became paid laborers, and then we were able to have our own classes, and through this structure, influential black teachers were able to emerge. These teachers made progress within the school and created lasting changes, but the goal was always to become one of these beloved teachers and to make change through this medium. Many of the most influential black leaders in America were teachers or educated through the church. W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington were both teachers. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X taught from the pulpit. Dyson and West used both media, the classroom and the pulpit.

Obama, on the other hand, specialized in neither, even though he taught at the University of Chicago. Instead he took the administrative route. He wanted to be the principal of the school, and that meant he could not teach full time, and this is where the conflict has largely emerged.

People like my grandfather did not believe that it would be possible to have a black principal. Many within the African-American community wanted to know if Obama would be able to teach class full time, because in their minds teaching was what black Americans had always done; and when he said that he could not, they questioned his motives and integrity.

When Obama won the presidency the opportunities for black thought and leadership expanded. My grandfather was beside himself with joy that night because he had lived to witness the previously thought impossible. What he thought was possible in the world had now expanded. Innumerable black Americans felt the same. A new level of attainment in public life was now possible.

Yet despite this progress, the need remained for great black teachers, and now a new question emerged: How would the teachers themselves handle no longer being arguably the most influential voice in the Obama era?

Dyson and other black leaders have taken a healthy position of comfortably and even vehemently disagreeing with Obama on policy issues, but respecting the man for the position he has earned and what it has done for the black community.

West clearly did not take this change well and instead opted to sternly rebuff this paradigm shift that undermined his influence.

Dyson details West’s anger when Obama did not give him tickets to the inauguration, and he mentions how West “lambasted” Obama when the then-junior senator from Illinois decided to announce his candidacy for the presidency in Illinois instead of at Tavis Smiley’s State of the Black Union meeting in Virginia.

West wanted Obama to visit his class, and he became incredulous when the candidate chose to speak in front of the people who elected him instead of those within the black community. West either did not see the shift or chose to ignore it.

When West did not receive inauguration tickets his fury was that of someone who did not understand that the party could go on without him.

He wanted everyone to love him for his brilliance, and forgot to use his intellect for the benefit of others. He stopped being a teacher, refused to be a student, and wanted to be a prophet.

The leadership roles that black Americans can obtain has changed in the last decade and this has required an evolution of thought amongst black intellectuals and leaders, and a re-examining of roles within the black community.

West was once both an intellectual and a leader, but as the times changed, he did not. And now progress, thought, and leadership have moved forward without him.

 

By: Barrett Holmes Pitner, The Daily Beast, April 22, 2015

April 26, 2015 Posted by | African Americans, Black Americans, Cornel West | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Sharp Focus”: A Reminder Of Our Collective Unfinished Work

Back in 2001, I got into a long argument with a friend about Jesse Jackson, who had just acknowledged having fathered a child with a mistress. I insisted that Jackson’s retirement from the American political scene was long overdue, and that Jackson probably should have called it a career after the 1984 “Hymietown” controversy. Jackson, I asserted, had long since become an obnoxious, ineffective blowhard.

My friend disagreed. While not defending Jackson’s adultery or anti-Semitic rhetoric, he suggested that the best way for Jackson to leave the political stage was for white racism to decline dramatically, and that the folks who wanted Jackson to go away should work harder to combat the manifestations of discrimination. After all, he stated, “If racism goes away, what does Jesse have to complain about?”

I haven’t spoken to that old friend in some time, but I keep thinking about his remarks whenever I see Al Sharpton speak out about police brutality. I can’t say that I’ve ever been a Sharpton fan; I don’t watch his MSNBC program, and even when he makes points I agree with about police violence against African-Americans, I can’t help wondering if it might be better for American race relations to have those points made by someone with, frankly, a less controversial track record than Sharpton.

Yet the point my old friend made about Jackson also applies to Sharpton, no? If we all work harder to combat racism, discrimination, income inequality and police brutality, would we not, in effect, retire Sharpton? Is Sharpton not a reminder of our collective unfinished work?

When we hear complaints about Sharpton’s rhetoric and image, do we really think about how we should best answer those complaints? Getting rid of Sharpton wouldn’t get rid of racism…but getting rid of racism would get rid of Sharpton, no?

I’ll admit it: when I see Sharpton, I still think of Tawana Brawley and Freddie’s Fashion Mart and the other controversies of his past, not his calls for racial justice in the present. For many years, I regarded Sharpton as a voice of racial discord and resentment, and it’s tough for those memories of Sharpton to fade.

However, I can’t deny the validity of the argument that Sharpton’s grievances have to be addressed before he can depart from the platform of American politics. There are millions of Americans—left, right and center—who secretly want Sharpton to shut up and go away. The best way to achieve that goal, of course, is to actually fix the problems Sharpton is talking about.

 

By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Post, December 27, 2014

December 28, 2014 Posted by | Al Sharpton, Police Brutality, Racism | , , , , | Leave a comment

“No, Chris Lane Is Not Trayvon Martin”: Right Wing Media Prefers To Hide Behind A Veil Of Intentional Ignorance

The white conservative media believes it has its own Trayvon Martin in the case of Chris Lane, an Australian baseball player who was killed in Oklahoma, where he had been studying, by three black teenagers in an apparently random act of violence (note: there’s actually some question as to the race of one of the three teens, the driver, who faces lesser charges).

Rush Limbaugh called it “Trayvon Martin in reverse, only worse.” The Drudge Report, where black-on-white crime always gets top billing, has been prominently featuring news about the case for several days. Former Tea Party congressman Allen West weighed in, tweeting, “3 black teens shoot white jogger. Who will POTUS identify w/this time?”

Jesse Jackson tried to extend an olive branch, tweeting that he was “Praying for the family of Chris Lane.” But armed with that, Fox News is now demanding that President Obama weigh in, just as he did for Martin’s case. “I thought it was at least good of Jesse Jackson to step up,” Fox and Friends host Brian Kilmeade said today. “I haven’t heard anything from Al Sharpton [or the White House],” he added. His colleagues agreed.

(For what it’s worth, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest told reporters yesterday that he wasn’t familiar with the case.)

As the right sees it, the president’s silence confirms the narrative shared by everyone from Glenn Beck to Allen West to Maine Gov. Paul LePage to Sean Hannity — that Obama is racist against white people, and that the media is, too, or at least duped into doing the bidding of allegedly racist black leaders like Sharpton, or something.

It’s incredible that in 2013 we’re really arguing about this, but from Henry Louis Gates to Travyon Martin — when the conservative media made George Zimmerman the Real Victim of the supposed anti-white lynch mob — we should expect nothing else. And it’s equally striking, yet also not particularly surprising, that Fox and Limbaugh and the rest really don’t seem to comprehend why the Trayvon Martin case became a thing.

It’s not that difficult to understand so we’ll spell it out: It was not only that a light-skinned Zimmerman killed an unarmed black teenager — but also that police didn’t do anything about it. The killing was horribly tragic, as is Lane’s senseless murder, but if Zimmerman had actually been arrested for the shooting, the sad reality is that far fewer Americans would know his name. But that’s not what happened. Instead, police let Zimmerman go under Florida’s “stand your ground” law. It smacked of institutional, state-sponsored racial favoritism of the worst kind. It was only after public outcry that state prosecutors took over the case and pressed charges. Some could argue that Zimmerman didn’t need to be convicted for justice to be done, but he did need to stand trial.

Likewise with Henry Louis Gates, the famed black professor who was arrested while he was trying to get into his own home in Cambridge, Mass., after he misplaced his keys. That’s not how police are supposed to operate, and that’s why Obama weighed in.

Lane’s murder is an entirely different matter. It’s disgusting, but the police did their job. They arrested three suspects, and vowed to try to throw the book at them. That’s how it’s supposed to go. Murder is sadly quotidian in a gun-soaked America, and this is, sadly, another, if particularly senseless, one.

If you want to actually understand race relations in this country, you need to understand the difference between these cases. But the right prefers to live behind a veil of intentional ignorance where the only kind of racism that exists today is black people disliking white people.

Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, August 22, 2013

August 23, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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