Sunday, April 17, 2016

Editorial: Play Hard But Nice, Dems

This is the time in the election cycle when partisans in a close race start to lose their minds, and the Democratic presidential race is leaking vitriol all over the place.

Some Bernie Sanders supporters are saying that they would have a hard time reconciling with Hillary Clinton if she wins the nomination, because of her ties with Wall Street, her support of military interventions as a senator and as secretary of state in the Obama administration and her taking contributions from corporate lobbyists.

Some Clinton supporters are saying Sanders doesn’t deserve to be the Democratic nominee because he’s too far left, his biography will be fodder for the right-wing scandal machine and he’s only been a Democrat since last November after a political career as an independent democratic socialist took him from the Burlington, Vt., mayor’s office during the 1980s to the House of Representatives in 1991 and then the Senate in 2007.

Some of Sanders’ more vigorous supporters have characterized Clinton’s orientation as right wing, but her record puts her more in the center-left. Clinton’s record in the Senate was more liberal than 70% of fellow Democrats, according to, and she was rated a “hard-core liberal” and barely more moderate than Sanders by, Harry Enten noted at “There have been a few issues on which Hillary Clinton has taken more centrist positions. She, of course, voted for the Iraq War (she now says that was a mistake). Clinton has been mostly pro free trade” (although in the past year she has expressed opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership). And she has been against marijuana legalization, although she said she would consider the evidence gained from the use of medical marijuana in 23 states and in Washington, D.C., and legalized recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington.

Patrick Caldwell noted at that Sanders has been increasingly direct in attacks against Clinton’s past positions. But his own voting record shows he’s often voted for similar measures. At times he’s voted in favor of bills to keep the controversial detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, he voted for the controversial 1994 crime bill that increased penalties for repeat offenders and added funding to build more prisons, and he voted for the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 that established the 3-year and 10-year bans on allowing immigrants who overstayed their visa to return to the country.

Sanders has the strongest record with organized labor, voting 98% of the time with unions during his 25 years in Congress, according to the AFL-CIO legislative scorecard, but Clinton isn’t far behind with a 94% record with the labor federation during her eight years in the Senate.

On the Republican side, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has a 0% record on labor issues during his four years in the Senate, Ohio Gov. John Kasich had a 13% record with labor during 18 years in the US House. As governor Kasich resisted calls for right-to-work legislation but he signed into law a bill to restrict bargaining by public-employee unions in 2011. It was overturned by voters later that year.

Donald Trump has never served in public office but he has gained significant blue-collar support — including union members — with his denunciation of “free trade” deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and his proposals to slap tariffs on Chinese exports and deport millions of undocumented immigrants. The real-estate developer makes these promises despite his own outsourcing of Trump-branded clothing to factories in China and Mexico and his hotels that have resisted organizing efforts. Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas has refused to negotiate with the union that won a certification election in December. Trump also supports “right to work” laws that weaken labor’s ability to organize and collect dues and he has said that American “wages are too high.”

We are confident that progressive voters will recognize the chasm between the Democratic nominee — be it Clinton or Sanders — and the Republican nominee — whether it’s Trump, Cruz, Kasich or some other right-winger who the Establishment foists upon the Republican convention in July. With at least one seat on the Supreme Court already at stake, and several other sitting justices looking shaky, and the very real opportunity to put Democrats back into the majority in the Senate and a longshot chance to win back the House — this is no time for progressive voters to sit out the election.

In Wisconsin, 11 cities, villages and townships voted by overwhelming margins April 5 for proposals to amend the Constitution to declare that corporations are not people, that money is not speech, and that citizens (and their elected representatives) have a right to organize elections in which their votes matter more than billionaire dollars, John Nichols noted at George Penn, a volunteer with Wisconsin United to Amend, said the results make it plain that “Wisconsin voters are starting to understand that our political system is broken and it needs to be reformed.”

In Washington, “Democracy Spring” protests sought to bring attention to corporate influence over elections and governance and the assault on voting rights. More than 400 activists were arrested April 11 when they brought their demonstration to the Capitol steps. More than 250 groups—ranging from the AFL-CIO to the NAACP to Common Cause to Public Citizen to the National Family Farming Coalition to the National Organization for Women and the Franciscan Action Network — planned to launch a “Democracy Awakening” mobilization the weekend of April 16-17.

“Almost every American agrees our democracy is seriously out of whack—that our elections and government are dominated by wealthy special interests. And yet Congress is doing nothing. So today we say no more,” said Democracy Spring’s lead organizer Kai Newkirk.

Putting our democracy back in the hands of the people is a worthy cause, and so is a constitutional amendment clarifying that corporations are not people, that money is not speech and that people have a right to organize elections, as well as a right to vote in those elections and to have their vote counted. But the quickest way to get there is to elect a Democratic president who will name progressive justices who will vote to overturn Citizens United, reinstate the Voting Rights Act and restore the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively. And we’ll need a Democratic Senate to confirm those nominees, which needs a net gain of at least four senators and a Democratic vice president to take the gavel away from Mitch McConnell. And while we’re at it, let’s take the gavel away from Paul Ryan before the teabaggers in the “Freedom Caucus” replace him.

If you think Sanders is the better Democratic nominee, and you live in the 16 states or three territories or the District of Columbia whose primaries or caucuses remain on the calendar, get out and support him. He trails Clinton by 219 pledged delegates going into the New York primary on April 16, but he will need to blow out Clinton by 60% or more in the remaining statest. The difficulty of catching up is illustrated in the results of the Wyoming caucuses, which Sanders won 56% to 44% on April 9. It’s the 17th state he’s won, but because of the proportional allocation of delegates he and Clinton still split the state’s 14 delegates evenly.

Sanders could make up that gap with “superdelegates,” 712 elected Democrats and party officials who currently favor Clinton by 469-31, with 212 holding back, according to the New York Times’ count, but those superdelegates could switch their allegiance. However, some rogue Sanders backers reportedly have mounted their own effort to contact superdelegates and persuade them to switch. Among those efforts, the Washington Post reported, is a website (, which redirects to that provides phone numbers and addresses for superdelegates. Site creator Spencer Thayer, a Chicago activist, described the goal this way in an April 3 Twitter message: “So who wants to help start of a new website aimed at harassing Democratic Superdelegates?”

That is not the way to win friends and influence people. Play hard but play nice. Put a stopper on the vitriol. — JMC

From The Progressive Populist, May 1, 2016

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Selections from the May 1, 2016 issue

COVER/Thomas Frank
How Dems created ‘Liberalism of the Rich’

Play hard but nice, Dems


Trump just bought the country club

RURAL ROUTES/Margot McMillen
Let the sun shine on GMO foods, please

Treasury spanks corporate tax dodger;
North Carolina ‘bathroom law’ has broader implications;
‘Democracy Spring’ arises to protest plutocracy;
Senate races heat up;
Former coal baron sentenced;
Sanders did better in Colorado than reported, but no one told him;
Senate lets judge through logjam;
Obamacare reaches new lows;
Michigan governor is target of RICO lawsuit in Flint water crisis;
Drop in stamp prices puts more stress on Postal Service;
New Orleans justice system breaking down;
Wisconsin voter ID laws back in court after election day woes;
Farewell to Al Jazeera America ... 

Fracking linked to groundwater contamination

Donald Trump channels Howard Beale

Jobs report: moving up: with no way out

Beautiful day in Mr. Cruz’s (gated) neighborhood

Bernie’s big Wisconsin win adds momentum

Nominating candidate with integrity crazy

Wall Street should pay a sales tax, too

Wrong focus

HEALTH CARE/Joan Retsinas
Long-term care insurance: Wall Street’s folly

Ryan admits he was wrong. It’s a start

Attack of the ‘liberal’ economists

Keep Trump’s hands off the nuclear trigger

Donald Trump, the theologian

BOOK REVIEW/Seth Sandronksy
Fear is our forté

Through the looking glass

MOVIES/Ed Rampell
Brainwashing’ explores right wing agitprop

Trump’s America: outhouse on a hill

and more ...