Saturday, February 27, 2016

Editorial: No Time to Panic / Play Nice, but Keep Brass Knuckles at Hand

No Time to Panic

A week after Bernie Sanders pummeled Hillary Clinton by 22 points in New Hampshire, causing pundits to focus on her campaign in disarray, Clinton had stabilized her team and beat Sanders by five points in the Nevada caucuses and she was hoping to engineer a blowout in South Carolina.

After the Nevada caucuses, Clinton narrowly led Sanders 52-51 in delegates allocated by the caucuses in Iowa and Nevada and the primary in New Hampshire, but when you add 451 “superdelegates” — Democratic elected and party officials — who support Clinton and 19 who support Sanders, Clinton led Sanders in the delegate count, 503-70, and 880 delegates will be awarded in the Southern-dominated Super Tuesday primaries on March 1. Those superdelegates gave Hillary an early lead toward the 2,383 delegates she needs to win the nomination, but those superdelegates can switch their support if constituents end up favoring Sanders.

Whatever happens on Super Tuesday, Sanders should keep going until the national convention because, regardless of whether he wins the nomination, he is intent on leading a political revolution that will create a progressive populist movement.

Sanders still has some huge assets, including millions of small-dollar donors, and the Democratic Party’s proportional allocation system lets him continue to win delegates even if Clinton wins majorities in the remaining states. His message is clearly resonating with Democratic primary voters — particularly younger and blue-collar voters who respond to his appeals to provide free higher education, reject inequitable trade laws, overhaul Wall Street regulations and reform campaign finance laws to reduce corporate control of government — and the Sanders campaign believes that the campaign could still overtake Clinton. “We haven’t gotten near our potential yet with Democratic primary voters,” Tad Devine, Sanders’ top strategist told Alex Seitz-Wald at (Feb. 22). “But she [Clinton]’s got to place to go but down.”

The reasons candidates quit is not because of delegate projections, Devine said, but because they run out of money when their donors get anxious and close their checkbooks. “We can probably continue this race all the way through California. I don’t see the pressure to get out because we’re not dependent on the big donors,” Devine said. “As long as the people who support us think it’s important to continue, then we will continue.”

Also, whether Sanders is headed to the White House or back to the Senate next year, he will want Democrats to regain control of Congress. In the Senate, that will require a net gain of at least four seats if Dems keep the White House and the vice president can break the tie, or a net gain of five to give Dems the majority outright. Out of 34 seats up for election this year, 24 are defended by Republicans, and many of those are in battleground states, so Democrats have a good chance to win back the Senate if they field aggressive candidates and if they can turn out the youth vote that has supported Sanders.

Democrats’ best chances for pickups are in three states: Florida, where Marco Rubio (R) is giving up his seat; Wisconsin, where Sen. Ron Johnson (R) faces a rematch with former Sen. Russ Feingold (D), whom Johnson unseated in 2010; and Illinois, where Sen. Mark Kirk (R) is likely to face US Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D).

Four more states where the Democrats hope to unseat incumbent senators include New Hampshire (Kelly Ayotte), Pennsylvania (Pat Toomey), Ohio (Rob Portman) and North Carolina (Richard Burr). Other longshot targets include Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and the open seat given up by Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.).

But Dems also have to defend the Nevada seat given up by Harry Reid (D) and the seat Sen. Mike Bennet (D-Colo.) is trying to keep.

Those are states Democrats will need to do well to carry them for the presidential nominee, so they might as well win the Senate races as well.

The House, where Republicans hold a 246-188 majority, with one vacancy (John Boehner’s old seat in Ohio), is a tougher challenge because of gerrymandering, which Democrats inadvertently enabled when they neglected to turn out in 2010 for mid-term elections, allowing Republicans to seize control of 22 state legislatures from Democrats. The GOP majorities then redrew congressional districts to maximize Republicans and that advantage likely will last through 2022. Progressives can’t afford to ignore any election day.

Play Nice, but Keep Brass Knuckles at Hand

The sudden death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia at a West Texas resort Feb. 13 was a big disappointment to hard-core conservatives who had celebrated in the past decade as five right-wing judges on the Supreme Court shattered longstanding legal precedents, overturned the rights of voters and unions and expanded the rights of corporations and the superrich with decisions such as Citizens United. The plutocrats who control the Republican Congress were waiting for the court majority to overturn some of the few remaining progressive precedents of the 20th century and complete the judicial coup to make the United States an oligarchy.

The death of Scalia put that coup at risk, as a new justice named by Obama could lead an attempt restore the rights of workers and the controls on corporate power that Scalia’s court had taken away. Senate Republicans’ determination that they will not accept any appointee from President Obama to replace Scalia is only the latest sign of the disrespect Republicans have for the president and their determination to obstruct him at every turn and deny him any legislative legacy.

The Hill magazine reported Feb. 22 that conservative leaders had sent a blunt message to McConnell: Keeping Scalia’s seat open on the Supreme Court is more important than keeping a Republican majority in the Senate. The following day, McConnell announced that Obama shouldn’t even bother to make a nomination.

The refusal of the Senate to confirm a new justice means that the Supreme Court may be deadlocked 4-4 at least for the rest of the year — and McConnell has not committed to give the next president an up-or-down vote if the Senate remains in Republican hands.

That means circuit court decisions will rule until the court gets a new justice, unless Anthony Kennedy, the occasional swingman, sides with the four liberals. But when circuit courts conflict on issues, and the Supreme Court is deadlocked, your rights will depend on what part of the country you live in. Among the issues that could lead to circuit conflicts are affirmative action, abortion restrictions, gerrymandering, defunding public unions, administrative discretion on enforcement of immigration laws, enforcement of environmental regulations and, of course, the never-ending legal challenges to the Affordable Care Act.

President Obama should proceed to nominate a highly qualified candidate for the Supreme Court and voters should press their senators to act on that nomination.

As Charles Pierce advises at, Obama should find “the most ridiculously qualified candidate he can find among whatever demographic or social group is most disadvantageous to the Republicans” and campaign for Senate candidates in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Illinois, all places with vulnerable Republican incumbents, with the impeccable Supreme Court nominee alongside him.

If Republicans follow through with their threat to deny Obama’s nominee even the courtesy of a hearing, much less a vote, the president should take advantage of the next recess to appoint Ralph Nader as a temporary justice, to serve during the balance of the Senate’s term. Mr. Nader could do a world of good on the court, even if for only a few months, and his presence on the court might convince Mitch McConnell and Charles Grassley that a relative moderate such as Judges Sri Srinivasan or Jane Kelly, who were both unanimously confirmed for positions on circuit courts in 2013, wouldn’t be a bad choice for the Supreme Court. — JMC

From The Progressive Populist, March 15, 2016

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