Saturday, October 29, 2016

Editorial: The Campaign Goes On

The good news is, after the third and final debate, Hillary Clinton has staked out a substantial lead over Donald Trump in polls, both nationwide and in key states, in the closing weeks of the presidential campaign.

The challenge remains for Democrats to get people to actually turn out, preferably in early voting that makes it relatively easy in many states to cast a ballot in the weeks before the election, at times and locations that are convenient for working people. Surveys don’t elect presidents — voters do — and a 6- to 8-point lead at won’t mean squat on the evening of Nov. 8 if Democrats and progressive independents stay home or decide to cast their vote for Green Jill Stein, figuring Hillary’s election is in the bag.

After they vote for Clinton, progressives need to go down the ballot and vote for Democrats for the House and Senate, as well as in state legislatures, where Republicans gained control in 2010 midterms and have been punishing working people ever since.

After the historic level of obstruction of President Obama by the Republican majority in Congress, a Democratic majority is needed in both chambers to work with the new president. That is particularly important in the Senate, which has refused for seven months to move on Obama’s choice of Merrick Garland, a moderate judge on the D.C. Court of Appeals, to replace the late right winger Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.

Republican refusal to consider Obama’s nomination has left the high court split 4-4 on many controversial issues since Scalia’s death in February. And the obstruction is not limited to the Supreme Court: as of Oct. 24, there were 99 vacancies on federal courts and 59 nominees waiting, apparently in vain, for Senate action. At least 36 of those vacancies are considered “judicial emergencies,” but the Republican leadership, which has allowed confirmation of only 11 nominees this year, is in no mood to hand any more lifetime appointments to Obama, hoping against hope that Trump, the Caligula of Mar-a-Lago, will get the chance to refill the courts with right wingers.

After the election, Clinton must deal with the populist issues raised by Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary and Trump in the general election. Matthew Rozsa of noted that when Trump narrowed the margin between himself and Clinton between mid-August and mid-September, he did it by focusing on populist reform issues, such as trade policy — a subject that unites Americans across partisan and ideological lines, largely because it has massively contributed to economic inequality and job loss. Clinton is a battlefield convert on the issue, declaring her opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership when challenged by Sanders after she supported the trade deal while she was secretary of state.

Of course, Trump also is a recent convert on fair trade, as he has outsourced manufacturing of his apparel lines to Mexico, China and other foreign factories that feature lower wages. He also opted for cheaper Chinese steel and aluminum in building projects, including the Trump Hotel in Las Vegas. When Clinton noted at the last debate that he chose Chinese steelworkers over American steelworkers, Trump said Clinton shared the blame for letting him get away with it. “Make it impossible for me to do that,” he replied.

With WikiLeaks releasing portions of a 2013 speech to a Brazilian bank in which Clinton declared, “my dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders,” Clinton will face pressure to make sure that future trade deals don’t leave American workers on the sidelines.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren also laid down her marker Oct. 14 when she called for President Obama to replace Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Mary Jo White. Among other things, Warren cited the failure of White, a former federal prosecutor who also represented financial institutions as an attorney before she joined the SEC, to draw up a rule compelling public companies to disclose political spending. Obama is not expected to replace White, whose term on the commission expires in 2019, but the next president can name a new chair and Warren’s demand sends a signal to Hillary Clinton that she should appoint a more aggressive leader for the agency that regulates Wall Street.

Warren has been actively campaigning for Clinton, who has promised an aggressive antitrust agenda that she said would “take on abuses of market power” and protect the interests of consumers and workers.

Clinton promised to appoint strong leadership at the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission who would “robustly enforce enforce antitrust laws,” drawing a contrast with the more permissive approach that has reigned since the Reagan administration.

She promised to take steps so that laws are “aggressively” enforced to ensure that mergers and acquisitions don’t overly concentrate market power in a few hands. She also promised to order agencies to use existing authority to curb the overuse of harmful forced arbitration clauses. She also said the Securities and Exchange Commission should pursue the rulemaking authorized under the Dodd-Frank bank reforms to ensure that investors have appropriate legal recourse if they are wronged.

The proposed merger of AT&T with Time Warner, which would make AT&T the nation’s largest entertainment company, could be the first test of her mettle on antitrust enforcement. Consumer advocates have warned that AT&T could raise fees on competitors who want to access Time Warner’s content, such as CNN and HBO, or make it difficult for them to get it, thus driving consumers to its own offerings.

Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon said there were “a number of questions and concerns” about the proposed merger and that “certainly [Clinton] thinks regulators should scrutinize it closely.”

Trump said he would block the AT&T-Time Warner merger “because it’s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.” But, like so many of his populist talking points, it’s hard to put any trust in him. He also said he is going to cut “70 to 80 percent” of federal regulations if he wins the White House.

Trump made his anti-regulatory vow while speaking at a farmers’ roundtable in Boynton Beach, Fla. He did not explain how his administration would determine which rules to axe. “We want clean air, we want clean water,” Trump said. But the regulatory oversight of the Environmental Protection Agency was simply too much to bear, he said. The federal agency that enforces clean air and water laws has been a “total disaster,” and regulations on the whole “have been a total catastrophe,” he said.

Sanders, who has supported Clinton since he conceded the Democratic presidential nomination in July, told the Washington Post he plans to push liberal legislation with like-minded senators with or without Clinton’s support if she is elected — and to aggressively oppose appointments that do not pass muster with the party’s left wing.

Sanders said he and other senators have started plotting legislation that would achieve many of the proposals that fueled his insurgent run for president, including a $15 federal minimum wage, tuition-free public colleges, an end to “mass incarceration” and aggressive steps to fight climate change.

The senators, Sanders said, also plan to push for the breakup of “too big to fail” banks and to pressure Clinton to appoint liberals to key Cabinet positions, including treasury secretary. Sanders said he would not stay silent if Clinton nominated the “same old, same old Wall Street guys” to regulatory positions that are important in enacting and overseeing the financial policies he supports. “I will be vigorously in opposition, and I will make that very clear,” Sanders said.

Progressive populists should be ready to get back to work after the election to push Clinton and members of Congress to stop the TPP and pursue the progressive initiatives in the Democratic platform. Citizenship is a full-time job. Keep after your elected officials. — JMC

From The Progressive Populist, November 15, 2016

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