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“He’d Do Well To Stay There”: Bernie Sanders Should Stick To The High Road

Bernie Sanders started his campaign stumping for his ideals without savaging the likely Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton. That was an attractive combination.

Now that he’s done a lot better than anticipated (though way down in delegates), his people are wondering whether he has made a mistake by not lunging for Clinton’s throat.

The answer is no. He’d be even further down, because virtuous politicking has been the source of his charm.

Sanders has never been much of a team player. He is an independent, not a Democrat, but Team Democrat has respected his candidacy. And it has given him a platform he’d never have gotten on his own.

But the welcome mat shows holes. The impressive sums Sanders raises go to his campaign only. Clinton raises money for her campaign and for other Democrats down the ticket. Adding to an unpleasantness, the Sanders camp lashes out at Clinton’s fundraising as somehow sordid.

Exactly how are you going to get your liberal priorities passed without a friendlier House and Senate?

Not Sanders’ problem. Never has been. And that accounts for his modest accomplishments in Washington.

The Sanders campaign prides itself in speaking “the truth,” so here’s some:

Sanders did not fight alone for single-payer health care. He failed to attract a single co-sponsor for his recent single-payer bill, his fans explain, because the health care industry intimidated lesser liberals in the Senate.

But John Conyers proposed single-payer in the House and gathered more than 90 co-sponsors. (Conyers endorsed Clinton in the Michigan primary.)

Sanders recently accused Clinton of taking “significant money from the fossil fuel industry” — a claim for which The Washington Post awarded him three “Pinocchios.”

Oil and gas doesn’t even make the list of the top 20 industries contributing to the Clinton campaign. Fossil fuel money accounts for only 0.15 percent of her campaign and outside PAC sum. But Sanders gooses the numbers by dishonestly labeling donations from lobbyists who also work for other industries as fossil fuel money.

Sanders portrays himself as a one-man army fighting Wall Street abuses in the Senate. Actually, the one-man army has been one woman, named Elizabeth Warren.

Before joining the Senate, Warren championed the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — detested by predatory lenders for shielding the little guys. Clinton was among the bureau’s most enthusiastic boosters and pushed other Democrats to sign on.

Sanders would have certainly won the financial industry’s enmity if it took him seriously. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page virtually ignores him, turning its wrath on the far more dangerous Warren.

Now, Clinton’s $225,000-per-speech fees from Goldman Sachs are fair game for the political opposition. But then the opposition has to show what Wall Street got in return other than her insights and her company.

A quid pro quo is hard to pin down. For example, the head of the D.E. Shaw group has given more than $800,000 to the Clinton effort. His company holds much distressed Puerto Rican debt and opposes letting the island file for bankruptcy. Clinton is for it.

Do note that the financial services industry is among New York state’s largest employers and is No. 1 for payroll. Clinton represented the state, and senators do confer with large hometown employers.

Speaking of which, Sanders waves his fist against wasteful military spending but voted to fund the $1.2 trillion F-35 fighter — one of the most expensive, most cost-overrun and most plagued weapons systems in U.S. history. Seems the maker, Lockheed Martin, employs a bunch of Vermonters.

Sanders looks best when he conducts politics from the high road. He’d do well to stay there for the sake of his legacy.

 

By: Froma Harrop, The National Memo, April 5, 2016

April 6, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Crucial Step Forward”: The Democracy Restoration Act, Securing Voting Rights For All

The right to vote is at the heart of our American democracy. Political participation by citizens is the great equalizer — it is the one thing that allows all Americans, no matter how powerful or weak, to make decisions about who will lead and who will help to advance their interests and protect their families. On April 10, Congress took an important step towards ensuring that this crucial right becomes available to even more Americans. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) introduced the bi-cameral Democracy Restoration Act (DRA). This important legislation would restore the right to vote in federal elections to the previously incarcerated immediately after their incarceration period is complete. Doing so would enable these individuals to resume the right and responsibility inherent in our role as Americans — asserting our voice through the ballot box.

The DRA was first introduced in 2009 by former Sen. Russell Feingold. Previously, the bill received strong support, but never quite enough to become a reality. This time, however, is different. There is an enthusiastic and bi-partisan movement underway to reform those parts of our criminal justice system that do not work.  We can see this at the national as well as the state level:  Congress is considering reforming the federal sentencing structure to make sentences fairer in an effort to help eliminate mass incarceration; the Department of Justice has instituted a “Smart on Crime” initiative that would result in better decision-making by prosecutors; and several states, most notably Kentucky, are considering legislation that would restore voting rights to the formerly incarcerated in its state prisons. Other states have also made significant changes to their laws to open up the franchise to the formerly incarcerated, most notably in Delaware, and Virginia – a state that had previously been cited as having one of the most draconian felon disfranchisement laws on the books. So the moment to finally restore voting rights to the formerly incarcerated, who have paid their debts for their crimes, is now.

Unlike other attempts to restore voting rights, the DRA is the most comprehensive effort. Under the legislation, once an individual has completed his or her incarceration period, their right to vote in federal elections will be automatically restored.  Individuals will not be limited because of any ancillary issues related to their incarceration such as outstanding fees and fines or the fact that they have been released from prison but remain on probation. This is a significant feature of the DRA.

Our nation requires the formerly incarcerated to become fully integrated members of their communities with respect to all of their other rights and responsibilities such as securing employment, paying taxes and obeying laws. Why, too, should they not, upon completion of their incarceration, be afforded the right to vote? Voting is as essential to being a full-fledged member of our communities as are any of the other rights and responsibilities that these individuals will be expected to uphold. Evidence has shown that the formerly incarcerated are less likely to recidivate when they are encouraged and supported in their efforts to re-engage with society. In a law review article on voting and subsequent crime, an analysis of the possible causal relationship between voting, or civic reintegration and recidivism is examined and provides strong evidence. A sound case is made for the argument that when the formerly incarcerated are civically engaged, there is a strong association between that engagement and the avoidance of illegal activity.

Taking part in our democracy and having a voice in how our communities are governed is perhaps the most significant way for any American to feel that they have a stake in our nation.  The Democracy Restoration Act is a crucial step forward in ensuring that we stay true to our promise to make this a nation that provides equality for all.

 

By: Nicole Austin-Hillery, The Brennan Center For Justice, April 15, 2014

April 19, 2014 Posted by | Voting Rights | , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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