Friday, March 27, 2015

Editorial: Dems Need Prez Race

Some progressive Democrats are starting to freak out that Hillary Clinton might have a clear route to the Democratic presidential nomination without a serious challenger.

Several groups have been urging Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to run for president, but Warren has made it clear that she is not interested. Warren apparently is not excited about the prospect of spending most of the next year trooping through Iowa and New Hampshire, even if we think her economic populist rhetoric would resonate well with Democrats and independents in those states.

The good news is that a few reputable Democrats, as well as an independent who is actually pretty close to a New Deal Democrat, are trying to make a race. Potential candidates include former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, former Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Progressive Dems should stop wishing for Warren and start supporting Sanders or O’Malley, who actually want to run for president and would provide a progressive alternative to Hillary.

H.A. Goodman, in a recent column, noted that the Electoral College favors Democrats in 2016. “To win the White House a candidate needs 270 electoral votes; far fewer than the 332 votes Obama won in 2012 to beat Romney. Martin O’Malley and Elizabeth Warren can defeat anyone Republicans have to offer in 2016, primarily because they possess ideas and attributes that resonate with the majority of Americans.”

Voters didn’t buy Romney’s conservative pitch in 2012 and they are unlikely to be convinced next year by Scott Walker’s ability to beat up on unions, which is popular among right-wing donors but is less persuasive to blue-collar voters that Republicans need to peel away from the Democrats.

Goodman noted that Wisconsin went blue in 2012 despite Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) being Romney’s running mate. Since then, the economy has continued to improve, despite Republican predictions that it would collapse and Republican obstruction of Democratic jobs bills, while the Affordable Care Act has helped 16 million Americans get health coverage. That has cut the national uninsured rate by 35% since the law went into effect.

Like Wisconsin, other battleground states that went for Obama can easily vote for a Democrat once again in 2016, Goodman noted. Pew Research reported, “Nearly three-quarters of Americans (73%) say there should be a way for people in the United States illegally to remain in this country if they meet certain requirements.” In addition, 51% of Americans support labor unions, most Americans believe in global warming, 73% of Americans favored increasing the minimum wage in 2014, and 52% of Americans support same-sex marriages.

“On almost all of these issues, Scott Walker and Ted Cruz don’t side with the majority of Americans. As for Rand Paul and Jeb Bush, some of the mainstream values they espouse (immigration reform) are overshadowed by extremely conservative policies on the economy, wealth inequality, climate change, and issues like the minimum wage,” Goodman wrote. “Conversely, all the Democratic candidates in 2016 ... hold views that resonate with most voters.”

In O’Malley’s case, Quentin Misiag of the Daily Iowan at the University of Iowa, has likened the former Maryland governor to John F. Kennedy. And O’Malley has executive experience with eight years at the helm of Maryland government and before that as mayor of Baltimore, where, supporters say, he reversed the Eastern industrial city’s decline, Misiag noted.

Joan Walsh notes on page 13 that O’Malley supports restoring the Glass-Steagall law to separate commercial banks, whose deposits are federally insured, from more speculative banking operations. He also supports abolishing the lower tax rate for capital gains, increasing the minimum wage and overtime-pay threshold, greater collective bargaining rights, expanding Social Security and more infrastructure spending.

Sanders is all that and more — progressive to the point of socialism. He was a founder of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, he was re-elected senator in 2012 with 71% of the vote and he has visited Iowa, New Hampshire and other early-primary states to test support for a potential campaign, but he is not interested in mounting a purely symbolic campaign and he is not interested in being a spoiler who would throw the election to the Republicans.

Sanders wants progressives to show they can mount a winning campaign. That’s not an unreasonable request — and if progressives don’t want to see a right-winger elected to the White House next year they’d better stop whining about how we’ve lost our democracy. Instead start organizing to get people to believe they can beat the billions of dollars that the Koch Brothers and their plutocrat allies will put up to elect the right winger of their choice.

Finally, progressives ought to calibrate their criticism of Hillary Clinton. She is a centrist liberal in much the same caste as her husband and Barack Obama. She would be friendlier to Wall Street and corporate interests than we would care to see in the White House. But Hillary would not be the enemy of progressive policies, and particularly organized labor, that Jeb Bush or Scott Walker would be. And an Italian funeral during any Democratic administration could turn around the Supreme Court and enable the liberal wing on that court to reconsider Citizens United.

Recent polls show Mrs. Clinton more than 40 points ahead of non-candidate Warren and comfortably ahead of potential Republican rivals, even with the media-manufactured controversy over her use of a private email server when she was secretary of state. But she also was in a strong position in 2008, before Barack Obama overtook her. We think she could benefit from a challenger to sharpen her campaign skills. So bring ’em on, whether Sen. Warren wants to join the fray or not.

Peace By Other Means in Palestine

Benjamin Netanyahu won another term as Prime Minister of Israel in a close election that was tarnished not only by his interference in domestic politics in the United States two weeks before the election, but also with his promise to right-wing Israelis that he would not allow an independent Palestinian state, reneging on a longstanding commitment to a peaceful solution to that conflict, and his last-minute appeal for his base to counter Israeli-Arab votes on election day.

On March 23, the Wall Street Journal reported that Israel had spied on the US talks with Iran and leaked information to Obama’s political opponents in Congress. After Netanyahu addressed Congress, 47 Republican senators wrote a letter to Iranian leaders, warning that any agreement reached with President Obama would not be binding on Congress or future administrations.

Netanyahu has shown himself to be untrustworthy and President Obama has told him that the US would have to “reassess our options.” He should start by lending support to the UN Security Council’s resolution that would define the principle for a two-state solution as based on Israel’s 1967 borders. The US previously has refused to endorse the resolution, which allows for mutually-agreed swaps of territory between Israel and the future Palestinian state.

American Jews also are reassessing their support for Israel with Netanyahu in charge. The left-leaning pro-Israel group J Street stepped up criticism of the prime minister. The Jewish Daily Forward reported March 22 that J Street’s President Jeremy Ben-Ami made clear that J Street is “very glad to hear the Obama administration is reconsidering its approach to the Israeli Palestinian conflict.”

Obama also could soften opposition to Palestine’s efforts to join the International Criminal Court, which is supposed to happen on April 1. Under current US law, the Palestinian Authority will forfeit $400 million in aid if it pursues war crimes charges against Israel. The US should help Israel maintain its security but the US should not block Palestine from seeking redress of grievances in a recognized international legal forum. — JMC

From The Progressive Populist, April 15, 2015

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