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“Bad Luck Bears”: Bernie Sanders; From The Guys Who Brought You George W. Bush

The team that brought you the George W. Bush administration in 2000 has gathered behind a new candidate: Bernie Sanders.

A host of prominent Ralph Nader backers has joined team Sanders in 2016, excited by his message discipline and aggressive fight against the establishment powers that be.

In the Democratic socialist from Vermont, they see a flag-bearer for the same issues while the Democratic establishment views him as a persistent pest who is raking in money by the fistful without a clear and obvious path to the nomination.

And the same way that Nader’s staunchest supporters had no kind words for the eventual nominee then-Vice President Al Gore, some of Sanders’s surrogates are spending their time bashing Hillary Clinton, making it even more difficult for the party faithful to rally around him.

Throughout Nader’s consecutive failed presidential bids, he picked up a cadre of high-profile endorsers ranging from actress Susan Sarandon to academic Cornel West. The rest of the roster backing both men includes actor Danny Glover, former National Nurses United Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro, musicians Ani DiFranco and Bonnie Raitt, country singer Willie Nelson, and Ben Cohen, one of the founders of Ben & Jerry’s, just to name a few.

“There are some pretty obvious parallels,” Oliver Hall, Nader’s lawyer and long-time friend said in an interview with The Daily Beast.

While the players on the bench supporting these candidates are remarkably similar, so far Sanders hasn’t drawn the collective ire of the Democratic Party quite nearly as much as Nader did. His campaign did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Beast.

After all, many personally blamed Nader for pulling Democratic votes away from Gore in 2000—ushering in Bush.

It’s tough to blame them for being angry. Bush edged out Gore by 537 votes, while Nader—the Green Party candidate—took over 97,000 votes in Florida, which Democrats thought could have tipped the scales in Gore’s favor.

The spoiler effect, a term ascribed to 1992 candidate Ross Perot, was redubbed as “The Nader Effect,” used as shorthand for a candidate that is going nowhere spoiling an election for a like-minded but more viable party nominee.

Nader has been adamant that he is not the one to blame, writing in 2004 on his presidential campaign site, that his voters wouldn’t have swung the election in Gore’s favor.

“In the year 2000, exit polls reported that 25% of my voters would have voted for Bush, 38% would have voted for Gore and the rest would not have voted at all,” he wrote.

The 2000 campaign efforts (some of which were led by his own supporters) to get Nader to drop out fell on deaf ears.

And 16 years later, a much more successful candidate has no interest in cutting his bid short either—despite almost daily urging from the Democratic establishment.

But still, the longer Sanders has stuck around the more he appears to get under Hillary Clinton’s skin.

Now the winner of 14 states, including a surprise victory in Michigan, Sanders is frequently painted as a message candidate spoiling the prospects of an establishment Democrat looking to finally secure the nomination after falling short eight years ago.

His staunch opposition to the Iraq War, something for which Clinton voted, and support for a single-payer healthcare program mirror some of the central tenets of Nader’s campaign.

Hall told The Daily Beast that the similarities between the candidates are apparent and even now he’s still tired of hearing that the latter is the reason Bush won in 2000.

“It’s ridiculous and pathetic,” he said in a phone interview. “If the Democratic Party is a serious organization, they need to tolerate free discussion of ideas.”

He contended that the same people who have accused Nader of indirectly leading the United States into its worst war since Vietnam are the ones imploring people to vote for Hillary Clinton this year.

“When Nader ran as a third party candidate, everybody attacked him,” Hall said. “Now they’re attacking Sanders for running as a Democrat.”

And as Sanders continues to exceed expectations in the primary, currently leading Clinton by a small margin in Wisconsin—the next contest—Hall questioned the former secretary of state’s strength as a candidate.

“How good of a candidate can Hillary Clinton be if she can’t handle debate in the primary election process? That’s the entire purpose of a primary election.”

And his endorsers have taken note.

West, a prominent academic and progressive Democratic stalwart, backed Ralph Nader in 2000 before giving Sanders his blessing in 2015. Once Gore was the nominee, he chastised him for picking Senator Joseph Lieberman as his running mate given his opposition to affirmative action. West referred to it as “an act of disrespect to the black community,” according to a 2000 article in the Chicago Tribune.

Earlier this year, West wrote an op-ed for Politico describing Sanders as being “better for black people” than Clinton.

West has not responded to a request for comment from The Daily Beast.

Sarandon, another Sanders backer who recently drew controversy for suggesting that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump might be ultimately better for the United States than Clinton, was also all in for Nader in the past. She served as the national co-chair for Nader’s steering committee in 2000 and was named as a plaintiff in a lawsuit he filed against the Federal Election Commission which alleged that corporations sponsoring debates could constitute as illegal corporate campaign contributions.

Documentarian Michael Moore also endorsed both candidates. In September 2000, he appeared at a fundraiser upon the Green Party candidate’s behalf, dispelling the idea that Nader was a spoiler in the race.

“A vote for Nader is a vote for Bush?” Moore said at the time. “No, a vote for Gore is a vote for Bush. A vote for Bush is a vote for Bush. A vote for Nader is a political Molotov.”

In 2000, Sanders publicly vouched for Nader himself, while the latter campaigned in Vermont.

“He’s an old-fashioned guy who believes that maybe the ordinary people should be running this country rather than the multinational corporations,” Sanders said introducing Nader at an event, according to an AP story at the time.

Sanders’s national spokesperson Symone Sanders also previously worked as a communications officer for the Ralph Nader-founded organization Public Citizen.

He changed his tune by 2004 though when Nader tried to run again, saying “virtually the entire progressive movement is not going to be supportive of Nader,” according to an AP story.

“We’ve got to come together to defeat George Bush, we have to develop a strong progressive movement to make sure we make the changes in this country that we need,” Sanders said in 2004. “But our main task right now is to defeat Bush and I think Nader’s effort could have some impact in dividing up that vote and that’s a negative thing.”

Nader himself did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Beast but he has expressed support for Sanders’s candidacy and his ideas.

The animosity between Nader and Gore supporters that bubbled up in the 2000 general election is already stewing in a similar capacity in the 2016 Democratic primary with surrogates like Sarandon and actress Rosario Dawson criticizing Clinton and the big-money interests they contend she stands for.

“Shame on you,” Dawson said referring to Clinton at a recent rally in New York. “I don’t have to vote against someone; I can vote for someone who’s on our side.”

She went on to criticize President Obama at a Harlem town hall days later, suggesting that he wasn’t able to keep up momentum to elicit big turnout in the 2014 midterm elections.

Another Sanders surrogate, rapper Killer Mike, got into similar hot water for quoting activist Jane Elliott’s line in February saying: “A uterus doesn’t qualify you to be president of the United States.” Implicit in the remark was not sexism, but rather that gender should not determine who one votes for.

The difference, of course, compared to the fervor around Nader is that these conflicts of opinion are not necessarily going to negatively impact the chances of a Democratic president being in the White House next year.

But from the start, Sanders’s campaign was concerned about appearing like just another Nader.

“The one thing he’s determined not to do is to be another Ralph Nader,” adviser Tad Devine said in April, 2015 as Sanders was preparing to announce his candidacy. “And the only way to avoid doing that is to avoid being a third-party candidate from the left in the general election.”

Time will tell if that promise holds up.

 

By: Gideon Resnick, The Daily Beast, April 5, 2016

April 6, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, George W Bush, Ralph Nader | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Think Beyond The Moment”: What Sanders — And His Supporters — Must Remember Before November

Exactly one year before Election Day – on November 8, 2015 – Bernie Sanders was asked whether his agreement with Hillary Clinton on basic issues outweighed the conflicts that he proclaimed at every campaign appearance.

Speaking on television rather than on the stump, the Vermont senator conceded reluctantly that he and Clinton concur on some issues. But then he added an entirely gratuitous endorsement:

“And by the way, on her worst day, Hillary Clinton will be an infinitely better candidate and President than the Republican candidate on his bestday.”

That moment of reassuring reason is worth remembering as the debate becomes more rancorous. Clinton isn’t foreordained to win the Democratic nomination, so Sanders neither will nor should hesitate to emphasize their differences.

So far, in fact, his challenge has improved both her candidacy and the national discourse. It is healthy for Democrats to argue about the best ways to ensure more good jobs, higher wages, universal health care, affordable higher education, paid family leave, immigration reform, national security, and a clean energy future.

But the overwrought reaction of some Sanders supporters – who already insist they cannot imagine voting for Clinton because of her campaign donors, her paid speeches, her vote on Iraq, or her support for some of her husband’s policies two decades ago – evokes bad memories of another, truly disastrous presidential campaign.

It is no accident, as they say, that those who “feel the Bern” today include prominent supporters of Ralph Nader’s independent presidential campaign in 2000. Their urge to overthrow the mundane, demand the utopian, reject grubby compromise, and assert moral purity is as powerful today as four cycles ago; and perhaps even more so, especially among those who feel somehow “disappointed” by President Obama. But political decisions based solely on such emotional considerations can prove terribly costly to our country and the world – as we discovered when George W. Bush usurped Al Gore.

Nader and his supporters were not responsible alone for the appalling outcome of the 2000 election but – along with the Supreme Court majority and Gore himself — they bear a substantial share of blame. Their defamatory descriptions of the Democratic nominee were echoed across the media by reporters, columnists, and commentators who knew better — from the pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post to the cable networks.

Mocking Gore for his supposed personal flaws, such as an alleged propensity to exaggerate his achievements, was as fashionable in media and political circles then as it is to denigrate Hillary Clinton now. Clever people delighted in contrasting Nader’s — and even Bush’s! — “authenticity” with Gore’s stiff insincerity. (Indeed, many of the same pundits are still doing versions of the same stupid pundit tricks.)

Besides, according to the Naderites, there were no important differences between the Democratic nominee and his Republican opponent. Or at least none that merited as much concern as Gore’s earth-toned suits and the preppy character he did or didn’t inspire in a romance novel. A wave of such idiotic babble delivered America and the world into a catastrophic Bush presidency.

Fortunately, the parallels only go so far. Sanders chose a far more responsible route than Nader when he decided to run for the Democratic nomination rather than jump to a third-party line. He has focused on substantive issues and admirably dismissed fake scandals like Benghazi and Clinton’s emails. But by repeating his unfounded insinuation that Clinton’s paid speeches and Wall Street donors have somehow corrupted her, he is inflicting damage that will be very hard to mend.

Looking toward the likelihood that either Clinton or Sanders will face Donald Trump next fall, those corrosive tactics are shortsighted. Should Sanders win the nomination, he will want and need Clinton’s support. And should she defeat him, he will and should want her to win — if he believes what he said last November, and understands the exceptionally dangerous threat posed by a Trump presidency.

The next round of Democratic primaries could encourage still more destructive bashing, from either camp or both. The candidates and their supporters ought to think beyond the moment – and pay attention to filmmaker Michael Moore, an outspoken Sanders backer.

On the evening when his candidate won an upset victory in the Michigan primary, Moore tweeted this message: “A special congrats to Hillary for her victory in Mississippi on International Women’s Day. If you win the nomination, we will be there [with] you.”

Once a zealous backer of Nader, Moore eventually apologized for that tragic mistake. Evidently he would rather not feel that sorry again.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editor’s Blog, The National Memo, March 11, 2016

March 11, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democrats, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Democrats, Don’t Blow It”: Ask Yourselves, Whom Would You Prefer To Name Future Supreme Court Judges?

The death of Antonin Scalia has set off yet another epic partisan struggle as Senate Republicans seek to deny President Obama his constitutional right to nominate the next Supreme Court justice. They want to wait out Obama’s last year in office, hoping his successor will be one of their own.

If the Democrats choose Bernie Sanders as their presidential candidate, Republicans will almost certainly get their wish. Furthermore, the Republican president would probably have a Republican-majority Senate happy to approve his selection.

The makeup of senatorial races this November gives Democrats a decent chance of capturing a majority. Having the radical Sanders on the ballot would hurt them in swing states.

Some Sanders devotees will argue with conviction that these purplish Democrats are not real progressives anyway, not like our Bernie. Herein lies the Democrats’ problem.

No sophisticated pollster puts stock in current numbers showing Sanders doing well against possible Republican foes. The right has not subjected Sanders to the brutality it routinely rains on Hillary Clinton — precisely because he is the candidate they want to run a Republican against. Should Sanders become the nominee, the skies will open.

One may applaud Sanders’ denunciation of big money in politics, but a moderate Democrat in the White House could do something about it. A democratic socialist not in the White House cannot. Campaign finance reform would be a hard slog under any circumstances, but a seasoned politician who plays well with others could bring a reluctant few to her side.

Some younger liberals may not know the history of the disastrous 2000 election, where Republicans played the left for fools. Polls were showing Al Gore and George W. Bush neck-and-neck, particularly in the pivotal state of Florida.

Despite the stakes, prominent left-wing voices continued to back the third-party candidacy of Ralph Nader. You had Michael Moore bouncing on stages where he urged cheering liberals to vote for the radical Nader because there was no difference between Gore and Bush. Republicans, meanwhile, were running ads for Nader. That was no secret. It was in the papers.

When the Florida tally came in, Bush held a mere 537-vote edge. The close results prompted Florida to start a recount of the votes. Then, in a purely partisan play, the conservative majority on the Supreme Court stopped the recount, handing the election to Bush.

The bigger point is that Gore would have been the undisputed winner in 2000 had Nader not vacuumed up almost 100,000 Florida votes, most of which would have surely gone to him.

Same deal in New Hampshire, where Nader siphoned off more than 22,000 votes. Bush won there by only 7,211 ballots.

Now, Sanders is an honorable man running a straightforward campaign for the Democratic nomination. One can’t imagine his playing the third-party spoiler.

But what makes today similar to 2000 is how many on the left are so demanding of ideological purity that they’d blow the opportunity to keep the White House in Democratic hands. Of course, they don’t see it that way. This may reflect their closed circle of like-minded friends — or an illusion that others need only see the light, and their hero will sweep into the Oval Office.

The other similarity to 2000 is the scorn the believers heap on the experienced liberal alternative. They can’t accept the compromises, contradictions and occasional bad calls that attach to any politician who’s fought in the trenches.

The next president will almost certainly be either Clinton or a Republican. Democrats must ask themselves: Whom would you prefer to name future Supreme Court judges?

 

By: Froma Harrop, The National Memo, February 16, 2016

February 19, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democrats, Hillary Clinton, U. S. Supreme Court Nominees | , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

“The Killing Of America”: This Country Was Born In The Fires Of Violence, And Will Die In The Flames Of Viciousness

Our country is dying on the streets of Baltimore.

I have argued before that we will never have racial reconciliation in this country, so long as some whites embrace the “They had it coming!” argument to justify police violence against people of color. Now, I’m convinced that America will end in race war. I no longer believe Americans can live together in harmony. We are coming apart.

Two decades ago, in the fall of 1995, I also wondered if America was on its way to race war. In the two weeks between O. J. Simpson’s acquittal and the Million Man March, I feared that it would only be a matter of time before white men and black men took up arms against each other, determined to slaughter as many members of “the other side” as possible.

Those fears subsided, but two decades later, those concerns are stronger than ever. Ferguson, New York, Cleveland, North Charleston and Baltimore are the battles in the race war of our time.

I have always considered myself an integrationist. I always had faith that our society would atone for its original sin of slavery, would move from hatred to healing, would grow from the past and walk together towards a beautiful future. I believed that Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream would one day be reality.

Ferguson, New York, Cleveland, North Charleston and Baltimore prove that dreams only happen when you’re asleep.

I understand now why Richard Wright and Josephine Baker decided to leave the United States. I understand now why so many despair about the future of American race relations. I understand now why there’s no hope.

Our race problems cannot be fixed. Barack Obama cannot fix them. Bernie Sanders cannot fix them. Hillary Clinton cannot fix them. Our society is doomed, poisoned by a virus injected into our veins when the slave ships first hit American shores.

Remember Michael Moore’s great cartoon from the film Bowling for Columbine about America’s history of racist violence?

If your children are old enough to understand, require them to watch this video. Compel them to comprehend why our cities are filled with anger. Teach them to recognize that the sins of the Founding Fathers have been visited upon successive generations.

America is dying. America is over. It cannot survive. It is dying from within. This country was born in the fires of violence, and it will die in the flames of viciousness. There is no hope, no change–only hatred and pain.

UPDATE: From 2013, Michael Moore and Michael Eric Dyson on the Molotov cocktail of racism, fear and violence in America.

 

By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 3, 2015

May 4, 2015 Posted by | American History, Baltimore, Racism | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pay Close Attention To The Insurers Behind Rep Paul Ryan’s Curtain

Democrats who think Paul Ryan and his Republican colleagues have foolishly wrapped their arms around the third rail of American politics by proposing to hand the Medicare program to private insurers will themselves look foolish if they take for granted that the public will always be on their side.

Rep. Ryan’s budget proposal would radically reshape both the Medicare and Medicaid programs. It would turn Medicaid into a block grant, which would give states more discretion over benefits and eligibility. And it would radically redesign Medicare, changing it from what is essentially a government-run, single-payer health plan to one in which people would choose coverage from competing private insurance firms, many of them for-profit.

Poll numbers would seem to give the Democrats the edge in what will undoubtedly be a ferocious debate over the coming months and during the 2012 campaigns. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll (pdf) conducted February 27-28 showed that 76 percent of Americans considered cuts to Medicare unacceptable. The public is almost as resistant to cutting Medicaid, at least for now: 67 percent of Americans said they found cutting that program unacceptable as well.

According to a story in Politico this week, Democrats “with close ties to the White House” think Ryan has handed them a gift that will keep on giving. They believe the Ryan blueprint will enable them to portray Republicans as both irresponsible and heartless, hellbent on unraveling the social safety net that has protected millions of Americans for decades. That message will be the centerpiece of the Democrats’ advertising and fundraising efforts, unnamed party strategists told Politico.

Perhaps. But know this: Ryan et al would never propose such a fundamental reshaping of those programs unless they were confident that corporate America stands ready to help them sell their ideas to the public. Like big business CEOs, Congressional Republicans wouldn’t think of rolling out Ryan’s budget plan without a carefully-crafted political and communications strategy and the assurance that adequate funding would be available to carry it out.

Republicans know they can rely on health insurance companies — which would attract trillions of taxpayer dollars if Ryan’s dream comes true — to help bankroll a massive campaign to sell the privatization of Medicare to the public.

The Secret Meeting, and the Secret PR Plot

Four years ago, in a secret insurance industry meeting in Philadelphia, I saw numbers that were similar to those in the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. The industry’s pollster, Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies, told insurance company executives, who had assembled to begin planning a campaign to shape the health care reform debate, that Americans were rapidly losing confidence in the private health insurance market.

For the first time ever, he said, more than 50 percent of Americans believed that the government should do more to solve the many problems that plagued the U.S. health care system. In fact, he said, a fast-growing percentage of Americans were embracing the idea of a government run “Medicare-for-All” type program to replace private insurers.

The executives came to realize at the meeting that the industry’s very survival depended upon the successful execution of a comprehensive campaign to change public attitudes toward private insurers. They needed to convince Americans they “added value” to the health care system, and that what the public should fear would be more government control.

Knowing that a campaign publicly identified with the industry would have little credibility, the executives endorsed a strategy that would use their business and political allies — and front groups — as messengers.

The main front group was Health Care America. It was set up and operated out of the Washington PR firm APCO Worldwide. The first objective was to discredit Michael Moore’s documentary, Sicko, which was about to hit movie screens nationwide. Moore’s film compared the U.S. health care system to those in countries that had “Medicare-for-All” type programs run by governments. The American system, dominated by private insurers, did not fare well in Moore’s cinematic interpretation.

The front group painted Moore as a socialist but also went about the larger task of scaring the public away from “a government takeover of the health care system.” Part of that work involved persuading Americans that any reform bill expanding Medicare or including a “public option” would represent a government takeover.

The industry knew it had to enlist the support of longtime allies such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Business and the National Association of Health Underwriters to repeat the term “government takeover” like a mantra. It also had to get conservative talk show hosts, pundits and politicians to play along. And play along they did. In the debate preceding one key House vote involving a public option, a parade of Republicans took to the floor to repeat the industry’s favorite term: government takeover.

To help make sure the term stuck, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the insurers’ lobbying group, funneled $86 million to the Chamber of Commerce to help finance its advertising and PR campaign against any reform legislation that included the public option. It worked like a charm. Polls showed during the course of the debate that public opinion was increasingly turning against the Democrats’ vision of reform. By the time the bill reached President Obama in March 2010, the public option had been stripped out, and public support for reform was well below 50 percent.

“Government Takeover of Health Care”: 2010’s Lie of the Year, Courtesy of Insurers

As a testament to the success of the industry’s campaign, PolitiFact, the St. Petersburg Times’ independent fact-checking website, chose “a government takeover of health care” as its Lie of the Year in 2010. (The 2009 Lie of the Year was the fabrication that the Democrats’ reform bill would create Medicare “death panels.”)

While they were leading the effort to torpedo the public option, the insurers were lobbying hard for a provision in the bill requiring all of us to buy coverage from them if we’re not eligible for a public program like Medicare or Medicaid. They won that round, too. That provision alone will guarantee billions of dollars in revenue the insurers would never have seen had it not been for the bill the president signed.

But even that is not enough for the insurers. For many years, they’ve lobbied quietly for privatization of Medicare, with significant success. They were behind the change in the Medicare program in the 1980s that allowed insurers to offer what are now called “Medicare Advantage” plans. The federal government not only pays private insurers to market and operate these plans, it pays them an 11 percent bonus. That’s right: People enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans cost the taxpayers 11 percent more than people enrolled in the basic Medicare program.

During the Bush administration, the insurers persuaded lawmakers to allow them to administer the new Medicare Part D prescription drug program. That has been a major source of new income for the many big for-profit insurers that participate in the program.

Rest assured that insurers have promised Ryan and his colleagues a massive, industry-financed PR and advertising campaign to support his proposed corporate takeover of Medicare. If Democratic strategists really believe that Ryan has all but guaranteed the GOP’s demise by proposing to shred the social safety net for some of our most vulnerable citizens, they will soon be rudely disabused of that notion. The insurers and their allies have demonstrated time and again that they can persuade Americans to think and act — and vote — against their own best interests.

By: Wendell Potter, Center for Media and Democracy, April 7, 2011

April 10, 2011 Posted by | Big Business, Congress, Conservatives, Consumers, Corporations, Democracy, Democrats, GOP, Health Reform, Ideologues, Insurance Companies, Journalists, Lobbyists, Media, Medicaid, Medicare, Politics, Public Opinion, Pundits, Rep Paul Ryan, Republicans, Single Payer, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Voters | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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