Friday, June 17, 2016

Editorial: Keep Up the Good Fight

Bernie Sanders will keep his campaign for president going until the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, but he knows how to count. Hillary Clinton has outpolled Sanders by more than three million votes in Democratic primaries; she won a majority of states, including most of those that are expected to be battlegrounds in the general election; and she gained a majority of pledged delegates during the primary process. The pledged delegate count was 2,203 for Clinton and 1,828 for Sanders, with another 45 to be distributed in the final primary in D.C. on June 14. And Clinton has the support of a large majority of superdelegates, the party officials who will carry Clinton her over the threshold of 2,383 needed to win the nomination in Philadelphia in late July.

On Meet the Press June 12, Sanders said he looked forward to meeting with Clinton and discussing “whether she will be vigorous in standing up for working families in the middle class, moving aggressively in climate change, health care for all, making public colleges and universities tuition-free … After we have that kind of discussion, and after we can determine whether or not we are going to have a strong and progressive platform,” he said, “I will be able to make other decisions.”

Sanders had started laying off about half of his campaign staff after the June 7 primaries, in which Clinton won four of six states, including California and New Jersey, and got 391 delegates while Sanders got 303. Sanders wants to keep his progressive movement alive and have an impact at the convention July 25-28, with his delegates seeking to write progressive initiatives into the party platform and changing the rules to make it easier for insurgent candidates to run in the future.

Many Sanders supporters are resisting the calls of Democratic officials to unify behind Clinton, but that resistance should erode as Sanders supporters examine the differences between Clinton and Donald Trump, who has used economic populist rhetoric to appeal to working-class voters but whose business record shows disdain, if not contempt, toward workers, small businesses, minorities and women, as well as his penchant for lying, documented by PolitiFact.

Sanders has been successful in promoting issues dear to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. He has even helped rehabilitate the name of socialism, as a New York Times/CBS News poll in November 2015 found that 56% of Democratic primary voters said they felt positive about socialism as a governing philosophy while. 29% took a negative view. Even Clinton supporters approved of socialism, 52% to 32%.

Going into the Democratic convention, Hillary Clinton should accommodate Sanders’ progressive positions and make it clear that she is not conceding the working-class voters to Trump and the Republicans. And despite Sanders’ criticism of Clinton’s friendliness to Wall Street contributors, she had a relatively progressive record as a senator from 2001 to 2009. The DW-Nominate analysis of voting records by political scientists Keith Poole and Howard Rosenthal shows Sanders is among the most liberal members of the Senate, but Clinton ranked 11th most liberal in each of the four Congresses in which she served, PHenry noted at in March 2015. Clinton was slightly to the left of Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). Barack Obama ranked 23rd most liberal in the 110th Congress (2007-09).

Some white workers may fall for Trump’s line that he wants to make America great again, but they should be aware that Republicans refuse to pay what it costs to maintain that greatness — in funding for public schools and universities to train a new generation of workers, while putting the current jobless back to work rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure that used to be the envy of the world and building clean energy systems that will prevent the planet from being burned to a crisp before our grandchildren qualify for Social Security — assuming Republicans don’t manage to finally dismantle that jewel of the New Deal.

And Republicans certainly don’t want workers to join unions and bargain collectively so that they can share in the productivity gains that have gone almost entirely to corporate executives and shareholders for the past 40 years. That’s why wages have remained stagnant and the middle class is being squeezed out of existence.

The more Bernie continues to push Hillary to adopt progressive positions that will appeal to the working class, the better for Democrats and the left.

Take Down the Haters’ Firepower

Opportunists seeking to make hay from the Orlando, Fla., massacre ranged from the “Islamic State,” which claimed credit for the attack on the nightclub although the jihadists apparently never heard of the shooter before the deed, to Donald Trump, who blames Muslims for failing to turn in the extremists in their midst and called on President Obama to resign if he failed to blame the attack on “radical Islamic terrorism.” (Obama called the assault “an act of terror,” which would be fully investigated, but focused his remarks chiefly on the loss of lives.)

Omar Mateen’s father said his son (who was born in New York) may have been motivated by his anger at seeing gay men kissing each other in public. If he was a radical Islamic terrorist, he apparently had a lot in common with radical Christians who believe the Bible prescribes death for homosexuals.

In November 2015, homophobic pastor Kevin Swanson hosted Republican presidential candidates Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz at the right-wing National Religious Liberties Conference in Des Moines, Iowa. Before he introduced Cruz, Swanson noted, “Yes, Leviticus 20:13 calls for the death penalty for homosexuals. Yes, the Apostle Paul does say that homosexuals are worthy of death! His words, not mine!”

Swanson’s homophobia was well-known prior to the conference, Right Wing Watch noted, but that didn’t stop the Republican candidates from showing up to seek his approval.

And if the attack on the gay nightclub in Orlando qualified as a terrorist attack, so was the June 17, 2015, massacre in a Charleston, S.C. church where a white supremacist, Dylann Storm Roof, is charged with killing nine blacks, including the pastor, during a prayer meeting at the 200-year-old Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Roof reportedly was trying to spark a race war, but Republicans are silent on siccing the FBI on predominantly Christian white supremacist groups.

Mateen was investigated at least twice by the FBI for possible terrorist connections, but the feds apparently were unable to make a criminal case against him, so while he may have been placed on the terrorist watch list, he was still eligible to buy a semiautomatic assault rifle, high-capacity magazines and a pistol the week before his attack on the nightclub.

Since December 2012, when a gunman walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., with an assault rifle and and killed 20 children, six adults, and himself, there have been at least 1,000 mass shootings in the US, killing at least 1,140 people and wounding 3,942 more, reported. And that’s just a fraction of America’s total firearm deaths, which run more than 32,000 each year. The US has way more gun violence than its peers: According to United Nations data compiled in 2012, the US had 2.97 firearm homicides per 100,000 people, while Switzerland had 0.77, Canada 0.51, France 0.06 and Germany had 0.19.

Last December Republicans rejected, 45-54, an effort to block individuals on the terror watch list from purchasing firearms. Some Republicans complained that it gave too much authority to federal agents who compile those lists. If they don’t want to block gun sales to people who are suspected of criminal or terrorist intentions, but have not been convicted of a felony or violent misdemeanor, or have not been diagnosed as mentally unfit, Congress should at least reinstate the ban on assault weapons and/or large-capacity magazines, to limit the damage that a deranged person can inflict. — JMC

From The Progressive Populist, July 1-15, 2016

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