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“News From Iowa’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner”: It Was The Crowd That Actually Made The Biggest News

I watched the Democratic presidential candidates give their speeches last night at Iowa’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner. And I have to say that not much news was made. They all gave pretty familiar stump speeches.

The one thing some pundits are talking about is that Bernie Sanders “attacked” Hillary Clinton. But when it comes to these kinds of things, too few people note the difference between going after someone’s record vs going after them personally. Last night Sanders did what any candidate in his position would do – highlighted the distinctions between himself and the front-runner. I don’t consider that “negative” campaigning. It’s exactly what Sanders needs to be doing right now. Otherwise, why be in the race at all.

O’Malley was…well…O’Malley. Nothing new and therefore it probably doesn’t matter much.

Clinton gave a speech that anyone who has followed her campaign has mostly heard before. As the front-runner, she didn’t focus on her competitors. Instead, she’s paving the way for the general election by highlighting the difference between Democrats and Republicans. The one smart move Clinton made last night that neither of the other candidates bothered with was to give a shout-out to Vice President Joe Biden. Of course that was her way of inviting any of his supporters who had been holding out to caucus for her.

In some ways it was the crowd that actually made the biggest news last night. Clinton was the last to speak. And as she came to the stage, reporters who were in the arena noted that the Sanders section emptied out. That was not a good look for them at a Democratic Party event. I doubt very much that the Sanders campaign organized the walk-out. But this is exactly the kind of thing that gets him in trouble with the Democratic base he needs to appeal to in a state like Iowa.


By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, October 25, 2015

October 26, 2015 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democrats, Hillary Clinton, Jefferson-Jackson Dinner | , , , , | 3 Comments

“It’s Time To Hold America’s Gunmakers Accountable”: An Unaccountable Industry Involved In Selling Products That Kill People

It’s not just Congress that fails to respond after another massacre briefly focuses attention on the irrationality and permissiveness of our country’s firearms statutes. Those of us seeking change also regularly fall down on the job. We express outrage and move on, leaving the debate exactly where we found it.

Opponents of the big gun interests are often insufficiently innovative in what we propose. Let’s face it: We have been losing this fight.

The solutions we suggest are rarely big enough to deal with the problem comprehensively. This opens up advocates of change to predictable attacks. This suggested law, gun-industry apologists say, would not have prevented that shooting. More broadly: How will your little proposals ever get a handle on guns when there are already more than 300 million of them on the streets? (Part of the answer: Deal with ammunition.)

We put ourselves at a steep disadvantage from the outset. We often get angry at rank-and-file gun owners who, in turn, see us as elitist big-city folks who don’t respect the traditions of those who have had weapons in their families for generations. Pro-reform politicians often don hunting outfits and shoot deer or birds to curry favor with those who mistrust them. Mostly, the politicians look silly. Anybody can put on a costume.

The time has come to recast this battle as a fight to hold those who make billions of dollars from the sale of firearms accountable for what their products do to individuals and communities. We must call for corporate responsibility, and enforce it by law if it’s not forthcoming. And President Obama, whose outrage about guns many of us share, must be willing to go well beyond what he has done so far.

As is their way, the community organizers and activists at the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) are pushing the president to use the federal government’s purchasing power to promote safer guns. To do business with the government, companies would have to be willing to “remove the barriers to getting smart guns and gun safety technologies to market” and cooperate with law enforcement to “identify and isolate dealers that provide large numbers of guns used in crimes.”

Governments at all levels account for roughly 40 percent of gun-industry revenues. The federal government alone accounts for about 25 percent. Taxpayers have a right to demand responsibility from an industry that gets so much of our money.

The president won’t much like the slogan of a Metro IAF news conference scheduled for Thursday across from the White House in Lafayette Square — “Clergy and Citizens to President Obama: Stop Whining, Start Working to Curb Gun Deaths.” But the former community organizer might appreciate this: Since his administration has been reluctant to use the taxpayers’ power in the weapons marketplace to promote accountability from the big gunmakers, outside pressure might make it easier for him to do the right thing.

He also faces prodding from his fellow Democrats. Both Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley have put forward comprehensive gun proposals that are more adventurous than the ideas Obama has embraced. O’Malley deserves particular credit for going far beyond the highly constricted gun-policy conversation. His comprehensive plan includes a proposal that echoes the IAF in mandating that the federal government buy weapons only from manufacturers who adopt basic safety measures and the microstamping of weapons.

Arnie Graf, a longtime IAF organizer, explains that microstamping can allow law enforcement to trace guns and bullets used in crimes. “Smart guns” that could be used only by their owners would vastly reduce trafficking, prevent accidents and diminish suicides. And because a relatively small number of dealers are responsible for the sale of a large number of weapons used in crime, focusing on those dealers (and demanding that the gun companies stop selling to them) could further reduce gun violence.

So let’s talk less about the National Rifle Association and more about those whose interests the NRA serves, the big weapons sellers such as Sturm, Ruger & Co., Smith & Wesson, SIG Sauer, Beretta, Glock and Freedom Group. Let’s insist that Obama put his anger to work. And let’s use our proven capacity for technological innovation to reduce violence.

Responsible business people care about the well-being of their communities and live with all sorts of health and safety regulations. They above all should see how profoundly misguided it is that one of the least accountable industries in the United States involves enterprises selling products that kill people.


By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, October 7, 2015

October 14, 2015 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Manufacturers, Gun Violence | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Hillary vs. The World”: Opponents’ New Tactic Is To Paint The Party As Colluding With The Frontrunner

There aren’t going to be a lot of “Minnesota nice” jokes coming out of this weekend’s Democratic National Committee meeting here in the Twin Cities.

Sure, speakers did obligatory eye-pops at the promise of state fair food, made Garrison Keillor references, and sang Paul Wellstone praises. But there were two ardent, rabble-rousing speeches by underdog candidates that made it a Democrat-on-Democrat bloodbath all afternoon.

Coming into 2016, the DNC crafted a debate schedule apparently designed to usher Hillary Clinton through a gentle primary process. The committee may have protected her, today’s meeting showed at what cost. Clinton’s two main rivals used the DNC as a backboard for bankshots at her. The DNC itself was a target, and Clinton’s challengers hit at it repeatedly and to great applause.

Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley hooked his entire speech around a linguistic barb, calling out the Democrats’ lack of debates for being literally “undemocratic.” More daringly, Sen. Bernie Sanders warbled a doomsday tune: If the Democrats continue with “politics as usual,” “establishment politics or establishment economics,” he warned, then they “will not retain the White House, will not regain the Senate, will not gain the House and will not be successful in dozens of governor’s races.” The only part of his speech that wasn’t vicious criticism was clearly a lie: “With all due respect,” he said, “And I do not mean to insult anyone here.”

Well, on that last part Sanders might well tell true. By the time he had spoken, Hillary Clinton wasn’t there.

Cynics might say that was according to plan. The day’s speaking schedule, advertised as being in alphabetic order, put Clinton in a sweet spot: mid-morning, right after a wistful and mild Lincoln Chaffee. Not a bad expectation-setter, as opening acts go.

More fodder for those looking for conspiracy: Her speech went ten minutes longer than the committee claimed to allow. Her lack of nerves showed. She hit every mark, nailed every applause line and even summoned some laughs. (Truly, Donald Trump’s most significant Democratic donation is in-kind: He’s given Hillary a punchline that’s not about email, and a few more about hair.)

Her delivery reflected the deliberate lack of urgency her entire campaign wants to convey. Going into the committee’s meeting, the Clinton campaign placed a story claiming the primary all but over before a single vote has been cast. With 130 superdelegates already publicly committed, Clinton officials told “supporters and the undecided” that “private commitments increase that number to more than 440—about 20 percent” of what she needs to for the nomination itself.

I have my doubts about that story, mainly because it’s impossible to check. But as important as whether it’s true is that Clinton’s people want everyone to believe it.

Sanders’ success in turning out crowds has given him the most obvious retort. At the meeting itself, his supporters were raucous and eager to stand, rising from their chairs to thunder approval at a litany of not just good progressive causes (from mass incarceration to the minimum wage)—the same stuff of Hillary’s speech hours before. Even more insistently, they hooted encouragement at Sanders’ thundering against the establishment that Sanders was there to address. His argument was Sanders-centered but succinct: I am generating crowds and excitement, and without them, the Obama coalition is going to stay home.

O’Malley’s argument was necessarily more small-bore, but ingeniously formed. Sanders’ doomsaying was non-specific and grim—invoking the specter of loss but not focusing that much on what they’d lose to. O’Malley, on the other hand, mounted a race against Trump—and his platform was simple: “We’re better than this.” Without more debates, he asserted, the Democratic party will cede the whole conversation: “Will we let the circus run unchallenged on every channel, as we cower in the shadows under a decree of silence in the ranks?”

Sanders’ crowd may have been more ardent, but O’Malley’s rhetoric was craftier—lines like that prodded applause that seemed to fade in confusion, as if Hillary supporters could not help but endorse a distinction between their party and Trump, but then had to remember who was drawing the distinction from whom.

Both Sanders and O’Malley’s boldness fell short of breaking the Clinton omerta from the podium. They declined to furnish ad fodder for next fall. But in the press conferences afterwards, egged on by reporters to go from bank shots to point blank, both men were unable to resist direct jabs.

Both were asked they felt the debate schedule was rigged in Hillary’s favor, and both simply said, “yes.” O’Malley in particular couldn’t wait to say more. He was proud of how obvious he’d been: “I don’t think I was hinting, I thought I was pretty clear.” Sanders dredged up some sarcasm when a reporter wanted to know if by “establishment” he meant Hillary: “I’ll let you use your imagination on that.”

Who knows what Clinton makes of all this. Defensive mode, ironically, is what she does best.


By: Ana Marie Cox, The Daily Beast, August 29, 2015

August 31, 2015 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Hillary Doubters Are Wrong”: Yes, She’s Vulnerable, But She’s Still The Heavy Favorite

When it comes to Hillary Clinton and her place in the presidential primary, the political media needs to start being able to hold two ideas in mind at once. The first, and most familiar to anyone who has followed this campaign, is that Clinton is vulnerable.

Her email—and use of a private server—has grown from a scandal to a fiasco. The FBI has stepped in with an investigation to see if Clinton’s system was compromised by foreign hackers, and to see if she knowingly passed classified information—including “top secret” intelligence—through her server. Clinton is also due to face a House select committee for a public hearing on the 2012 attack on an American consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Maybe she’ll perform well and avoid missteps. But she might stumble, exposing herself and her campaign to more attacks and scrutiny.

There have also been challenges on key policy questions. To the most vocal progressive activists, Clinton still needs to account for her role in the Bill Clinton White House on issues like mass incarceration, police militarization, and the drug war. As first lady, for example, she pushed the “three strikes” provision of the 1994 crime bill and supported greater prison time for offenders. “There is something wrong when a crime bill takes six years to work its way through Congress and the average criminal serves only four,” she said at the time. The same is true for her positions in the Senate, where she voted in favor of federal police funding that flowed to SWAT teams and other vectors for militarization. There’s also her economic record: As a senator from New York, she backed a 2001 bill that would become the much loathed (among liberals) 2005 bankruptcy law. And she still hasn’t acknowledged or apologized for the racially tinged rhetoric used by her campaign in the most heated moments of her 2008 race against Barack Obama.

But, again, this isn’t the whole story. There’s still that other idea about Clinton to keep in mind, even as we consider her problems and weaknesses: Clinton is winning the Democratic presidential primary, and it’s not even close.

Despite the reporting around it—which has treated her as a losing candidate—the latest Quinnipiac poll shows Clinton with a wide lead over her opponents. She wins 45 percent of the Democratic Party, to 22 percent for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and 18 percent for Vice President Joe Biden. Aggregate polls show a similar picture; in the Huffington Post Pollster average, Clinton holds 48.9 percent of the primary vote, compared with 22.5 percent for Sanders and 12.5 percent for Biden. There’s no contest.

There’s an easy and obvious rejoinder: What about 2008? Wasn’t Clinton winning at this point in that primary; wasn’t she “inevitable”? And look what happened: She lost to a popular upstart with the public behind him.

This sounds persuasive, but it doesn’t fit the facts. As writer Harry Enten notes for FiveThirtyEight, Clinton was much weaker in the previous primary than she is now. “Back in 2008,” he writes, “she was trailing in early Iowa polls. She earned only a third of the vote in early New Hampshire polls and was below 40 percent nationally.” Now, by contrast, she’s well ahead in national polls, well ahead in Iowa, and only somewhat behind in New Hampshire.

Moreover, because primaries aren’t popularity contests, the most important measure of success is party support. Barack Obama wasn’t an upstart; behind his run was the party machinery, or at least the part that didn’t want Clinton. Today, where do Democratic fundraisers stand? What do Democratic interests groups think? How will Democratic lawmakers act?

On each score, Clinton isn’t just winning—she dominates. Most fundraisers are in her corner; it’s why Biden will have a hard time raising money if he decides to run. Interest groups are still quiet, but Democratic lawmakers are overwhelmingly pro-Hillary. Clinton has more than 100 endorsements from sitting Democrats, including seven governors and 29 senators. Biden, who doesn’t appear to have decided whether to run yet, has two. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has one. Bernie Sanders has none. This is unprecedented. Not only is Clinton ahead of her previous endorsement total, according to analysis by FiveThirtyEight, but she’s racked up more endorsements of significance at this stage of the race than any nonincumbent Democratic presidential candidate, ever. At this point in 1999, for instance, Al Gore had two-thirds as many endorsement points (a measure that weights senators and governors more than House representatives) as Clinton does now; at this point in 2003, John Kerry had less than one-tenth Clinton’s current support; at this point in 2007, Obama had less than one-sixth. The closest analogue to Clinton isn’t anyone in the Democratic Party—it’s George W. Bush, who had much greater endorsement support than Clinton at this stage of the 2000 Republican presidential primary and ultimately won easily, despite an early challenge from John McCain.

Of course, life is arbitrary, and Hillary’s campaign could still fall apart. It’s not hard to imagine how it might happen: The FBI investigation could lead to indictments, ending Clinton’s campaign with a court appearance. Or, she could refuse to answer any questions on her previous positions and open space for a challenger.

Then again, neither email nor crime is an impossible albatross; other candidates have had worse. George H.W. Bush had to deal with fallout from Iran-Contra, while Al Gore had Bill Clinton’s impeachment in the background. Both won their respective nominations with little difficulty. Sure, Clinton could lose. But it’s hardly a live possibility.


By: Jamelle Bouie, Slate, August 27, 2015

August 29, 2015 Posted by | Clinton Emails, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Why Progressives Must Stay United”: A Split Would Only Play Into The Hands Of The Right

A new report finds more U.S. children living in poverty than before the Great Recession. According to the report, released Tuesday from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, 22 percent of American children are living in poverty (as of 2013, the latest data available) compared with 18 percent in 2008.

Poverty rates are nearly double among African-Americans and American Indians. Problems are most severe in South and Southwest. Particularly troubling is a large increase in the share of children living in poor communities marked by poor schools and a lack of a safe place to play.

Which brings me to politics, power, and the progressive movement.

The main event at the Netroots Nation conference in Phoenix, Arizona last weekend was a “Presidential Town Hall” featuring one-on-one discussions between journalist and undocumented American Jose Antonio Vargas and presidential candidates Governor Martin O’Malley and Senator Bernie Sanders.

It was upstaged by ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter activists who demanded to be heard.

It’s impossible to overcome widening economic inequality in America without also dealing with the legacy of racial inequality.

And it is impossible to overcome racial inequality without also reversing widening economic inequality.

They are not the same but they are intimately related.

Racial inequalities are baked into our political and economic system. Police brutality against black men and women, mass incarceration disproportionately of blacks and Latinos, housing discrimination that has resulted in racial apartheid across the nation, and voter suppression in the forms of gerrymandered districts, voter identification requirements, purges of names from voter registration lists, and understaffed voting stations in black neighborhoods – all reveal deep structures of discrimination that undermine economic inequality.

Black lives matter.

But it would be a terrible mistake for the progressive movement to split into a “Black lives matter” movement and an “economic justice” movement.

This would only play into the hands of the right.

For decades Republicans have exploited the economic frustrations of the white working and middle class to drive a wedge between races, channeling those frustrations into bigotry and resentment.

The Republican strategy has been to divide-and-conquer. They want to prevent the majority of Americans – poor, working class, and middle-class, blacks, Latinos, and whites – from uniting in common cause against the moneyed interests.

We must not let them.

Our only hope for genuine change is if poor, working class, middle class, black, Latino, and white come together in a powerful movement to take back our economy and democracy from the moneyed interests that now control both.


By: Robert Reich, The Robert Reich Blog, July 22, 2015

July 30, 2015 Posted by | Economic Inequality, Progressives, Racial Inequality | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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