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“The Moment Of Truth”: Why The Sanders Movement Is Just About Dead

This is the moment of truth for Bernie Sanders and his supporters. It’s the moment that determines whether everything they’ve accomplished to this point is translated into real power and real change, or fizzles into nothing, leaving behind only bitterness and resentment. And right now, the latter course is looking much more likely.

What happened in Nevada over the weekend was an expression of some key features of the Sanders campaign, even if it involved only a small number of Sanders supporters taking things to an extreme that most of them would never contemplate. It showed just how hard it’s going to be to convert the campaign into a lasting enterprise that has any influence over American politics. And at the moment, Bernie Sanders himself — the one person with the power to shape where this movement goes from here — hasn’t shown that he understands what’s happening or what he ought to do about it.

To briefly catch up: In February, Hillary Clinton won the Nevada caucuses over Bernie Sanders by a margin of 53-47. But because Nevada is one of the states with absurdly arcane procedures involving multiple conventions leading up to the party gathering that took place last weekend which chose the final allocation of delegates, both campaigns did their best to out-organize each other in an attempt to win a few extra delegates. After some arguing and disputes over credentials, the party finally awarded more delegates to Clinton. Sanders supporters basically went nuts, with a lot of yelling and screaming, some tossing of chairs, and eventually a torrent of harassment and threats aimed at the state party chair.

I’m not going to try to adjudicate what happened in Nevada, beyond saying that it looks like Clinton won the caucus, Sanders tried to work the system to grab some extra delegates, but then Clinton worked the system to grab them back, which doesn’t seem particularly unfair in the end. At the very least it was equally unfair to everyone.

That doesn’t mean that Sanders hasn’t had some legitimate process complaints all along. When he says that the leadership of the DNC aren’t neutral but are basically behind Clinton, he’s right. And I get that Sanders is in an awkward position. Telling his supporters to tone down their criticisms lest they damage the nominee would mean acknowledging that he isn’t going to win, and doing that would demobilize his supporters.

We should also appreciate that the Clinton campaign is all too happy to see this kind of meltdown, because it only makes Sanders and his supporters look like desperate dead-enders who can’t accept reality. And if she does become president, she’d probably be happier if she never faced any organized pressure from the left. But at the moment, Sanders has chosen to spend his time suggesting that the Democratic Party is corrupt, and any outcome other than him being the nominee just proves it. That is a recipe for the destruction of everything he’s accomplished up until now.

This is the problem with framing your campaign and everything you want to do as a “revolution.” You can’t have a partial revolution; either you overthrow the old order or the old order survives. And Sanders is encouraging his supporters to believe that if there’s anything of the old order left, then all is lost.

But the reality is that if the Sanders campaign is to become the Sanders movement — a force that has lasting impact on the presidency of Hillary Clinton and American politics more generally — it will only happen because he and his supporters manage to exercise influence through that system they despise. When he goes to visit Clinton in the Oval Office and tells her, “We still need a revolution!”, what is she going to say? Okay Bernie, thanks for coming, it was nice to see you.

If he and his people want to actually exercise some influence, they’ll have to start thinking about mundane things like presidential appointments, executive branch regulations, and the details of complex legislation. Victories in those forums will be partial and sporadic. From our vantage point today, is there anything to suggest that’s an enterprise he and his people will be willing to devote their efforts to? What happens if Clinton offers Sanders something — changes to the party’s platform, or input on her nominees? Will his supporters say, “This may not have been all we wanted, but it’s still meaningful”? No, they won’t. They’ll see it as a compromise with the corrupt system they’ve been fighting, a sellout, thirty pieces of silver that Sanders ought to toss back in her face. That’s because Sanders has told them over and over that the system is irredeemable, and nothing short of its complete dismantling is worthwhile.

This is the danger inherent in a critique that stands apart from substantive policy issues. The Sanders supporters who are now losing their minds certainly want the policy changes Sanders has advocated, like single-payer health care and free college tuition. But that isn’t what’s motivating them most powerfully right now. If it were, they’d be strategizing on how to maximize the chances of achieving those changes given the reality that Bernie Sanders is not going to be the next president of the United States.

Instead, they’re most emotionally invested in the Sanders campaign as a vehicle of rebellion and revolution, a blow against that big amorphous blob of people, institutions, procedures and norms called “the establishment” or “the system.” Because they are convinced that the system is corrupt and only the Sanders campaign is pure, any loss by Sanders can only be evidence that corruption has triumphed. If more Democrats prefer Hillary Clinton to be their nominee, it can only be because the game was rigged.

To be honest, at the moment it looks like there’s no going back. Sanders could come out tomorrow and tell his supporters that even if they don’t get their revolution, it’s still worth working for every bit of positive change they can achieve. But that would mean disavowing everything he’s told them up until now.

There are millions of people who voted for Sanders in the primaries and will happily support Hillary Clinton in the general election — indeed, that describes the vast majority of Sanders supporters. Even most of the core activists who made up his revolutionary vanguard will probably cast the same vote, if for no other reason than to stop Donald Trump. And many of them will take the inspiration they felt and the things they learned working on this campaign and use them in new efforts for change. But the idea of a lasting, effective movement led by Bernie Sanders and built on the ideals and goals of his campaign? That’s just about dead.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, May 18, 2016

May 21, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton, Sanders Supporters | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“What Was Susan Sarandon Thinking?”: We Can Blame Her Ideology For The Dysfunction Of Our Politics

In an interview Monday with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, Susan Sarandon said that it was a “legitimate concern” that Bernie Sanders’s most passionate supporters wouldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton, should she be the Democratic Party’s nominee. Then, she said she could see the logic in voting for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, because “some people feel Donald Trump will bring the revolution immediately.”

Hayes clarified — did Sarandon mean “the Leninist model” of voting for Donald Trump? Picking the worst possible candidate in recent history in order to “heighten the contradictions” between Trump’s decisions in office and the newly heightened potential for a real “revolution”?

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Sarandon responded. “Some people feel that.”

This campaign cycle has seen the Democratic Party maintain some level of stability, even though it’s been thoroughly shaken up by a successful insurgent candidate and the huge viral movement behind him. Compared to our Republican friends, Democrats — even new, energized Democrats — have kept a level head and our eyes on the ball: winning in November. And not only the presidency. If Donald Trump is the Republican nominee for president, which looks likely, we could take the Senate and even, maybe, the House of Representatives.

But if Sanders supporters, including myself, take our cues from Susan Sarandon, we can blame her ideology for the upcoming Trump presidency. And more than that, we can blame her ideology for the dysfunction of our politics.

Though Sarandon took to Twitter after her remarks to clarify that she would “never support Trump for any reason,” her ideology remains the same: that Bernie Sanders represents a “political revolution” against “establishment” politics, and that this establishment itself is a greater threat to American democracy than even the Republicans’ most extremist views.

If you believe this, so be it. But I would hope you consider a few things before doing so.

Do you know your options for your local congressional race? Who most closely aligns with your views? What about among candidates for the Senate? For governor?

These are the real “establishment.” These are what Bernie Sanders would need, as president, in order to ensure his über ambitious legislative agenda has a snowball’s chance in New York’s unusually warm winter.

When Bernie Sanders talks about a “revolution,” it is this: a revolution in political pressure on all levels of government. He wants to do more than he was ever able to do as an independent senator from Vermont.

Winning the presidency would be a huge mandate, but what if Sanders loses? Susan Sarandon, to take her word for it, wouldn’t mind if Sanders supporters “brought on the revolution” by electing Donald Trump.

These are two completely different revolutions.

One requires democratic engagement, vigorous debate, political organization, and systematic, long-term effort.

The other is a vain hope that the people most at risk of a Trump presidency — immigrants, refugees, Muslims, the poor, women — would be so at risk as to prompt some larger push back. To be honest, I really don’t know what kind of “revolution” this is. Protests in the streets? Tea Party obstructionism?

Surely, something will happen if Donald Trump becomes president and makes good on his promise to find and deport upwards of 11 million people, ban Muslims from entering the United States, and start trade wars with China and Mexico. It’s simply unavoidable.

But I would hope whatever happens, should Bernie Sanders lose the nomination — or win it and lose the presidency — fits his definition of revolution. We need a political revolution. Americans are traditionally very bad voters. We’re typically disengaged from politics. Our political media doesn’t hold our political leaders accountable, and neither do their constituents.

If we accept Sarandon’s definition of revolution, which requires installing what would be the worst president in a century, surely, none of that will change.

If we accept Bernie’s definition, we can have it all, even if he loses: a Democrat in office, and millions upon millions of politically engaged Americans holding her feet to the fire.

 

By: Matt Shuham, The National Memo, March 30, 2016

March 31, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Susan Sarandon | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Now That Mubarak Is Out, Who’s Next?

With Hosni Mubarak stepping down in Egypt, tyrants around the world may be anxiously wondering who will be the next to fall. Here are some gentle suggestions:

Kim Jong Il, North Korea

Sometimes called the Hermit Kingdom, North Korea has been ruled since 1994 by the ruthless and retrograde Kim Jong Il, who took over after his father’s 46 years at the helm. Kim Jong Il holds numerous titles, but rules as the chairman of the National Defense Commission, the “highest office of state,” since the presidency itself was permanently dedicated to Kim Il Sung in a 1998 constitutional revision. The Kim family’s combined 63 years of leadership has not been kind to the people of North Korea, creating the world’s most fearsome state, where surveillance and famine are equally prevalent. To prevent its citizens from receiving news from abroad, the North Korean authorities forbid Internet use, jam foreign radio broadcasts, and monitor international calls. Meanwhile, the beleaguered population is deluged with Cold War-like propaganda through the Korean Central News Agency. A grim system of labor camps and detention facilities is used to forcefully control any dissent. Given the closed and secretive nature of the regime and the society it lords over, it is impossible to know precisely how many North Koreans are in the modern-day gulags. Some estimates suggest as many as 150,000 people are currently being held in detention.

Now ailing, Kim Jong Il is reported to have plans to install his son, Kim Jong Un, as the country’s leader, likely prolonging the misery of the long-suffering North Korean people.

Muammar al-Qaddafi, Libya

Forty-one years ago, a young army captain named Muammar al-Qaddafi led a military coup against King Idris of Libya. Now 68 years old, Qaddafi has been in office since the first term of U.S. President Richard Nixon, who called him the “mad dog” of the Middle East. In Libya’s long history of ruthless, ossified dictators, Qaddafi is in a league of his own.

Better known abroad for his long-winded antics than his governing style, at home Qaddafi is less amusing than fearsome. Although power theoretically lies with a system of people’s committees and the indirectly elected General People’s Congress, in practice those structures are manipulated to ensure the continued dominance of Qaddafi, who holds no official title. It is illegal for any political group to oppose the principles of Qaddafi’s 1969 revolution, which are laid out in the Green Book, a multivolume treatise published by Qaddafi in the early years of his rule. (A flip through its pages will yield a bizarre mix of Arab nationalism, socialism, and Islam.) 

After decades of Qaddafi’s bizarre and repressive rule, key institutions — to the extent that they operate at all — are largely incapable of meeting ordinary people’s needs. An estimated 500 people are currently being held for political crimes. Rife with corruption and without even the rudiments of a functioning modern state, Libya today is ill-equipped to succeed in the contemporary world.

Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe

There was once a time when Robert Mugabe was the darling of the West among fellow African leaders. Having defeated the white-majority rule of Rhodesia to create his black-majority state, Mugabe looked at first like another Mandela. But even in those early days, he distinguished himself for his use of violence as a means to govern. His early targets in the 1980s were tribes that had favored other resistance leaders; his forces slaughtered as many as 30,000 members of the Ndebele minority.

In recent years, Mugabe has grown even more ruthless. His target of choice these days is the principal opposition group, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). His thugs have harassed and even attempted to assassinate high-level opposition figures, as well as regular voters (or presumed opposition voters). Others have felt his wrath too; a 2005 campaign labeled “Operation Drive Out the Trash” bulldozed the homes of 700,000 slum-dwellers. Equally devastating, Mugabe has overseen the complete destruction and impoverishment of what had been one of Africa’s economic success stories. GDP growth was negative off and on between 2001 and 2008, and by the end of that period, inflation had hit a rate of tens of thousands of percent.

The past several months have brought another uptick in political killings — perhaps because Mugabe has much to worry over: The MDC was the leading party in the most recent elections, and public discontent is growing toward Mugabe’s murderous rule. If Zimbabweans take a hint from Egypt, the Mugabe dictatorship’s days may be numbered.

The Castros, Cuba

In 1959, the revolutionary Fidel Castro overthrew Cuba’s former strongman, Fulgencio Batista, beginning a 50-year transformation of Cuba into a dismal communist state. Although medical issues prompted Fidel to formally hand over the presidency to his brother, Raúl, in 2008, Cuba remains a one-party state in which nearly all political rights and civil liberties are severely curtailed.

Start with political organizing, which is strictly banned outside the auspices of the state’s Communist Party. Dissent can result in harassment and long prison terms. Freedom of movement, including the right to leave the island and the right to choose one’s residence, are severely restricted. The government maintains strict control over all media outlets, these days also tightly controlling Internet access and content. Academic freedom is nonexistent, and any unauthorized gathering of more than three people may result in fines or imprisonment.

Today, years of economic stagnation have weakened the state services that once provided the regime its sole legitimacy. Under Raúl Castro, very limited reforms have taken place, including modest economic openings and the release of several dozen political prisoners in 2010. Nonetheless, the future of Cuba remains in the hands of an aging set of leaders for whom a true political opening remains anathema.

By: Freedom House, Original Post: February 11, 2011

February 13, 2011 Posted by | Dictators | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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