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“Is Bernie Sanders Actually Too Conservative For The Democratic Party?”: It’s How You Conceptualize The Government’s Obligations

It should be easy for Bernie Sanders to get to the left of Hillary Clinton. The Clintons have long dabbled in centrist Democratic Leadership Council politics, while Sanders is an avowed socialist, albeit a small-d democratic one.

As such, it’s no surprise that Friends of the Earth, a major environmental group, has endorsed Sanders for president in response to Clinton’s dithering over the Keystone XL pipeline. Leaders of large labor unions like the AFL-CIO admit that Sanders is generating more enthusiasm from the rank and file. Sanders is polling competitively in New Hampshire and drawing huge crowds elsewhere, all while raising $15 million from small donors.

Yet it was Sanders the socialist who was effectively heckled by Black Lives Matter activists at the Netroots Nation conference last month. Clinton didn’t attend the progressive confab, but she picked up on Sanders’ unease, and has since incorporated the racial-justice phrase into her speeches.

After Netroots, Sanders again faced a great deal of pushback from the left when he told Ezra Klein that he wasn’t a fan of open borders. “You know what youth unemployment is in the United States of America today?” Sanders asked incredulously. “If you’re a white high school graduate, it’s 33 percent, Hispanic 36 percent, African American 51 percent. You think we should open the borders and bring in a lot of low-wage workers, or do you think maybe we should try to get jobs for those kids?”

There was a time when this wouldn’t have been such a heretical viewpoint on the left. But that time has come and gone. These days, it’s hard to find a liberal this side of Mickey Kaus who thinks restricting immigration for the benefit of American workers is something progressives should contemplate. Some went so far as to argue Sanders’ opposition to open borders was “ugly” and “wrongheaded,” since “no single policy the United States could adopt” would “do more good for more people.” It didn’t take long for Sanders to backtrack slightly, telling Univison’s Jorge Ramos he’d consider opening borders between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

Kaus, our lonely liberal immigration skeptic, asked what happened to Sanders’ concern about American wages: “Do unskilled Mexicans have some magical properties that suspend supply and demand that unskilled immigrants from other countries lack?”

Sanders defended his immigration views when speaking to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. He acknowledged that his history representing a 95 percent white state may make minorities worry he is out of touch with their concerns. But that’s only part of Sanders’ problem.

Bernie Sanders is an old-school progressive who believes most of the country’s problems can be traced to class and economics. Meanwhile, contemporary progressivism is more committed to multiculturalism and the idea that America’s biggest injustices remain inextricably tied to race.

On a lot of substantive policy issues, this is a distinction without a difference. Most liberals recognize there is a strong relationship between economics and structural racism. Sanders favors most of the same policies his multicultural critics do and is even, on balance, pretty supportive of high levels of immigration.

But there are important differences rhetorically and in terms of how you conceptualize the government’s obligations. You don’t have to believe Sanders has anything in common with Joseph Stalin’s politics to recognize that he is also talking about “socialism in one country.”

Sanders favors a robust welfare state and wants the government to mandate generous wages and working conditions. But he wants those things for Americans, not necessarily all the people living all across the globe whose standard of living could theoretically be improved by residing in America instead. (Rand Paul gets similar grief when he occasionally advocates libertarianism in one country.)

This puts Sanders out of step with much of his party. It also gives Clinton an opening to Sanders’ left, at least rhetorically, on some racial issues, which could limit his following to college-educated liberal whites. This is crucial, because the ability to reach beyond these voters and win over minorities was the difference between Barack Obama and Howard Dean.

Unless Sanders can, at 73, update his socialism to fit in with the priorities and demands of today’s left, Clinton can keep him contained — and Joe Biden can keep his faint presidential hopes alive.

 

By: W. James Antle, III, The Week, August 4, 2015

August 5, 2015 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Immigration | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“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

“The Challenge For White Liberals”: A Conundrum That Usually Culminates In Some Sort Of Series Of Crossroads And Reckonings

It’s relatively easy for liberals to recognize and call out the racism of conservatives. But the interaction between #BlackLivesMatter activists and Bernie Sanders has given us an opportunity to examine our own unique brand.

I’m not here to judge or support the manner in which these activists confronted Sanders. I’ll simply note that many of the people criticizing them are the ones who have celebrated the same tactics when used in other situations: Exhibit A.

As so often happens when these opportunities present themselves, I am reminded of something “Zuky” wrote way back in 2007 about the “white liberal conundrum.” I’d like to take a moment to review what he said because it captures many of the interactions I’m reading on social media lately.

First of all, let’s define what we’re talking about:

Anti-racism is a rewarding but grueling journey which must be consciously undertaken and intrepidly pursued (both inwardly and outwardly) if one hopes to make serious progress along its twisting passageways and steep inclines. There’s no static end-condition at which an anti-racist can arrive and definitively declare, “Hallelujah! I am Not A Racist!” Rather, it’s a lifelong process of historical education, vigilant self-interrogation, personal growth, and socio-political agitation.

Now, let’s look at the difference between conservative and liberal racism.

Some might be surprised to learn that when people of color talk about racism amongst ourselves, white liberals often receive a far harsher skewering than white conservatives or overt racists. Many of my POC friends would actually prefer to hang out with an Archie Bunker-type who spits flagrantly offensive opinions, rather than a colorblind liberal whose insidious paternalism, dehumanizing tokenism, and cognitive indoctrination ooze out between superficially progressive words. At least the former gives you something to work with, something above-board to engage and argue against; the latter tacitly insists on imposing and maintaining an illusion of non-racist moral purity which provides little to no room for genuine self-examination or racial dialogue.

Ouch! If that one didn’t sting a bit, you’re probably not paying attention.

What usually happens when we’re confronted about this?

Countless blogospheric discussions on racism amply demonstrate the manner in which many white liberals start acting victimized and angry if anyone attempts to burst their racism-free bubble, oftentimes inexplicably bringing up non-white friends, lovers, adopted children, relatives, ancestors; dismissing, belittling, or obtusely misreading substantive historically-informed analysis of white supremacism as “divisive”, “angry”, “irrational”; downplaying racism as an interpersonal social stigma and bad PR, rather than an overarching system of power under which we all live and which has socialized us all; and threatening to walk away from discussion if persons of color do not conform to a narrow white-centered comfort zone. Such people aren’t necessarily racists in the hate-crime sense of the word, but they are usually acting out social dynamics created by racism and replicating the racist social relationships they were conditioned since birth to replicate.

Any of that sound familiar? Zuky goes on from there with a description that sounds an awful lot like what happened both at Netroots Nation and in the aftermath.

From what I can see, though, a solid majority of white liberals maintain a fairly hostile posture toward anti-racist discourse and critique, while of course adamantly denying this hostility. Many white liberals consider themselves rather enlightened for their ability to retroactively support the Civil Rights movement and to quote safely dead anti-racist icons, even though their present-day physical, intellectual, and political orbits remain mostly segregated…Armed with “diversity” soundbites and melanin-inclusive photo-ops, they seek electoral, financial, and public relations support from people of color. Yet the consistent outcome of their institution-building agendas is to deprioritize and marginalize our voices, perspectives, experiences, concerns, cultures, and initiatives.

Why is it so hard for white liberals to confront this bias? Because doing so will likely cost us…perhaps a lot.

For those white liberals and progressives who become serious about extracting racism from their worlds and their lives, who wish to participate in the dismantling of white supremacism, the white liberal conundrum usually culminates in some sort of series of crossroads and reckonings. They’re often forced to make tough decisions about which of their previous alliances and networks — newly illuminated and often unfavorably recontextualized by anti-racist analysis — are worth trying to maintain, which are too invested in the distortions of the white lens to salvage, and which new directions and networks to pursue.

On a personal note, I read this article by Zuky back when he first posted it in 2007 and I can tell you that putting his advice into practice is difficult and still mostly aspirational for me. But in the process of working on it, I’ve learned more about myself and the world we live in than I could possibly capture in a blog post. Zuky is absolutely right, doing so has meant that I have left some old alliances behind and found “new directions and networks to pursue.” In the end, I have no regrets.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, July 21, 2015

 

 

July 25, 2015 Posted by | Racism, White Conservatives, White Liberals | , , , , | 2 Comments

   

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