Sunday, January 17, 2016

Editorial: The Race Gets Serious

Enough progressive Democrats are feeling the Bern that Hillary Clinton is feeling the heat in what has become a real race for the Democratic nomination for president. Clinton has watched her commanding lead in the polls evaporate as the Iowa caucuses approach on Feb. 1, and while she still can count on the party establishment, Bernie Sanders has the momentum, particularly among younger voters who are attracted by his populist insurgency.

Polls show Sanders has positive favorability ratings, while Clinton and the leading Republican candidates, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, have negative favorability ratings. Sanders also performs better than Clinton in matchups against Trump and other potential Republican nominees.

However, Bill and Hillary Clinton have been pounded by right-wing media for two dozen years and since Hillary has embarked on her own political career the wingers have targeted her anew. House Republicans set up the House Select Committee on Benghazi, the eighth committee to investigate the attack on the US diplomatic mission and a CIA compound in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012. After the first seven congressional probes failed to uncover wrongdoing, House Republicans in May 2014 set up the Benghazi committee, taxpayer-financed, to take down the former secretary of state, as House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy admitted. It has proceeded with leaks of damaging documents and testimony, often taken out of context, and the proceedings have dragged into the election year, raising concerns that a final calumny will be issued shortly before the November 2016 election.

Even the New York Times embarrassed itself with reports claiming that Clinton may have committed crimes with her use of personal email for official government business. Those reports were later debunked.

Clinton has survived these attacks, while Sanders has been largely ignored by the corporate media. If the Vermont independent senator takes the lead in the Democratic race you can expect the corporate media to catch up with reckless reporting on what Sanders’ brand of “democratic socialism” might mean for America if he makes it into the White House.

We understand that Sanders represents a 21st-century update of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. He would strengthen and expand Medicare and Social Security; he’d re-regulate Wall Street and crack down on reckless megabankers; he’d replace “free trade” bills that enable multinational corporations to move manufacturing jobs out of the country; he’d provide free public education through the university level.

These populist positions enjoy the support of majorities — in some cases supermajorities — of the American electorate. But when Fox “News” and right wingers on the “mainstream” news channels get done with Sanders, he’ll be depicted as the second coming of Josef Stalin. Meanwhile, real capital-S Socialists have little use for Sanders because they see him as too willing to work with capitalists and support military interventions overseas.

Sanders also has rejected the use of “super PACs” run by allies to supplement the resources of the official campaign, nor will he take corporate or PAC contributions for his own campaign. So Democrats would have to rely on a campaign financed by small-time contributors — a million of them contributed $73 million in 2015 to keep the Sanders campaign afloat so far. (Clinton raised $112 million for her campaign during 2015. She also raised $18 million for the Democratic National Committee and state Democratic Parties nationwide, and she has super PACs working on her behalf.) But Republicans are prepared to spend more than a billion dollars to beat whoever the Democrats put up.

This is not to say that Sanders’ professed socialism or his reliance on principles is bad, but potential supporters need to recognize what they’re getting into. Many older Democrats remember what happened when a principled liberal senator and war hero from South Dakota (George McGovern) was swept into the Democratic nomination in 1972 by a grassroots campaign that relied on youthful supporters. Then McGovern ran up against an unscrupulous incumbent in the general election who used every dirty trick he could to gain an advantage. Richard Nixon won every state except Massachusetts and D.C. as he rolled to re-election

If you want to shake things up in the Democratic Party and on Wall Street, Bernie is your man — and you don’t need to apologize to anybody for supporting him. If you want a center-left Democrat who had a progressive voting record in the Senate but with whom Wall Street is comfortable, a candidate whose vulnerabilities have been pretty clearly identified and who is willing and able to raise millions of dollars and accept the assistance of super PACs to combat the right-wing attacks that will only get worse, Hillary is your woman.

Either one of the Democratic frontrunners is far better than anybody the Republicans have to offer. So get out to your caucus or vote for your candidate and let the best candidate win.

Obama Should Have Dropped the Mike

President Obama delivered a solid valedictory State of the Union Address to Congress on Jan. 12. He was trying to set the terms of the debate for his final year in office, while knowing that any initiatives he proposes will be received with disdain by the Republicans in charge of the House and Senate and deep-sixed.

Obama allowed himself a boast that the US has the strongest, most durable economy in the world. We’re in the midst of the longest streak of private-sector job creation in history, with 14 million new jobs, an unemployment rate cut in half and the auto industry thriving seven years after GM and Chrysler faced bankruptcy. And he’s done this while cutting deficits by almost three quarters — all while Republicans were insisting it couldn’t be done.

We wonder if Obama was messing with the Republicans when he announced that he would like to see the equivalent of a “new moonshot” to cure cancer. We expect to see a cancer advocate appear on Fox News expressing concern about the downside of Obama’s war on cancer.

President Obama expressed regret “that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better. I have no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I’ll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this office.”

We think Obama sells himself short. If the South had seceded again in the runup to Obama’s inauguration, instead of Republicans simply vowing to oppose everything he proposed, Dems might have kept control of Congress and Obama could have passed more bills.

When Franklin D. Roosevelt took over the Presidency in 1933, Democrats controlled 64% of Senate seats and 73% of the House. And those numbers increased over the next couple elections — during their peak during 1937-38, Dems controlled about 80% of seats in both chambers. Even with many of them being southern conservatives, the partisan advantage helped FDR when it came to reforming federal programs to help working people survive the Depression.

Obama had a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate for about 14 weeks in 2009. In that time Democrats managed to pass a stimulus bill that kept public works projects going around the nation, bailed out GM and Chrysler with loans that saved more than a million auto industry jobs and helped pull the economy out of the tailspin. And Dems passed the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd Frank bill regulating Wall Street. Republicans fought them at every step.

Finally, Obama called for Congress to approve the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He said it would protect workers and the environment and support good jobs in America. Organized labor and environmental advocates disagree that the TPP will do any such thing. They say they were excluded from negotiations while representatives of multinational corporations were welcomed into the talks. Republicans probably will wait until after the election to take up the agreement. Now is the time to buttonhole your congressmember and if he or she is a Dem urge a vote for American workers and against the TPP. If your congressmember is a Republican, demand a vote against the trade bill negotiated by the Kenyan dictator. Whatever works. — JMC

From The Progressive Populist, February 1, 2016

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