Sunday, April 9, 2017

Truth and Criticism Rolls off of Trump

This is the problem: these media outlets refuse to actually empathize with his supporters in the sense of attempting to inhabit their subject positions. The liberal academic response to Trump’s election has been to promote books like Arlie Hochschild’s Strangers in the Their Own Land. While this is hardly the fault of Hochschild, the tendency among academics and liberal intellectuals has been to misread her analysis of empathy as an injunction to communicate with Trump supporters, effectively convincing them that they have something like false consciousness. An alternative has been to anoint J. D. Vance, author of the memoir Hillbilly Elegy, as the pope of the rustbelt. But rather than actually trying to empathize with Trump’s base, liberal cosmopolitans — precisely those figures they most detest — read these texts as novelties, exoticizing their subjects and refusing to understand the link between Trump’s populist strategies and his consistent support in large sections of the country.
It is not despite Trump’s lies that his supporters back him; we might go so far as to say it is because of them. What Trump’s campaign has done in a matter of months is remarkable. The discourse of “fake news” emerged following the alleged Russian hacking scandal, in which dubious headlines were widely distributed on social media, frequently originating from Russian sources. This was of course nothing new. Clickbait from the likes of Infowars and Breitbart was an admitted source of information for Trump, whether it was his insistence that Obama was not an American citizen or his claims that Muslims in New York cheered the demolition of the Twin Towers on 9/11. But here’s what’s so remarkable: within weeks of the term “fake news” entering into popular usage, Trump’s camp had already repackaged the term as the deceitful strategy of his adversaries. In other words, if the very concept was devised to describe potential Russian interference on Trump’s behalf, he’s completely transformed its meaning.
Now “fake news” is primarily used to describe any media reports Trump doesn’t like. When Democrats hear his bizarre rants against the media, they dismiss him as an irritable buffoon who isn’t competent to govern. Their critique is largely couched in the framework of a rule-bound formalism tied to the Democrats’ technocratic approach to politics. For the Democrats, the problem isn’t that the DNC is rigid, anti-democratic, and out-of-touch; it’s that Russians may’ve hacked our election. It’s not that Jeff Sessions is a troglodyte racist; it’s that he lied under oath. The official opposition appears more concerned with preserving some degree of decorum, not least of which is a presumed sanctity of the office, than they do with substantive political critiques of the Trumpist project. Indeed, there is nowhere for workers to turn at this point but into the arms of the populist wing of the GOP. Hillary Clinton disdainfully refused to visit union halls in key battleground states, seemingly unworried about the widespread perception that she was closer to Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan than the UAW or AFSCME.
Trump knows exactly what he’s doing when he violates decorum, and this is where Democrats and the corporate media miss the point. When NPR interviewed a few Trump supporters following the most recent press conference, a 69 year-old Mississippi resident’s response was representative: “I’m sick of them making up stories. You know, we’re intelligent people. We can make up our own mind on whether they’re telling the truth.” So what’s going on? In the press conference, Trump was quite clear: “The people get it [but] much of the media doesn’t get it.” Note the opposition of “people” to “media.” He continued, “Unfortunately, much of the media in Washington, D.C., along with New York, Los Angeles in particular, speaks not for the people, but for the special interests and for those profiting off a very, very obviously broken system. The press has become so dishonest that if we don’t talk about, we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people.”
Even if Trump is consistently caught fabricating various facts and statistics, his supporters view fact-construction as occurring in a field of power organized between two poles. On the one hand, “the people” are aligned with their representative Trump; on the other, “special interests” associated with major urban centers and most of the corporate media, the Democratic Party, and the establishment corners of the GOP continue to lie to “the people” in order to retain control. Given the mendacious presidencies of both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, as well as the apparent insincerity of Democratic candidates like Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, this isn’t such a stretch. When a party that purports to represent the American working class spends decades championing unbridled trade liberalization, the charterization of the public school system, and the destruction of the social safety net, it’s no wonder that critics of the status quo don’t look to Democrats for an alternative. Hillary Clinton represented a cosmopolitan, city-dwelling business class seemingly more interested in giving speeches on Wall Street than meeting with unions in key battleground states. Her very comportment screamed elite and aloof, and the Democrats weren’t deceiving anybody.

Who Are “The People?”

Meanwhile, Trump continued to take aim at the media, accusing them of distorting the truth. “But we’re not going to let it happen,” he remarked, “because I’m here again, to take my message straight to the people.” Trump would bypass the established system, interpellating “the people” in the process. This is precisely the project that political theorist Ernesto Laclau described as populism. Populist strategy relies on what he called a “double articulation.” First and foremost, populists construct a discourse around an antagonism between “the people” and what, borrowing from Poulantzas, he called “the power bloc.”[1] As Trump’s team would have it, this group includes Democrats and establishment Republicans, academics and cosmopolitan intellectuals, Wall Street, and the corporate media, all coming together in the figure of “the swamp.” The next day he repeated the refrain, tweeting, “The FAKE NEWS media (failing ‪@nytimes, ‪@NBCNews, ‪@ABC, ‪@CBS, ‪@CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”
“The people” isn’t equivalent to the category “voters” or “Americans.” Note Trump’s consistent strategy of denationalizing anybody who might oppose him. Obama is the most notorious example, of course, with his exclusion from “the people” through repeated allegations that his birth certificate was forged. Clinton is excluded by virtue of her presumed criminality. Her use of a private email server was no less secure than Trump’s holding of top secret meetings in the Mar-a-Lago dining room, but by repeatedly asserting that her actions were “crooked” and insisting that we — again, interpellating “the people” — “lock her up,” she too was excluded from this category.
But the move is of course not limited to politicians. Entire categories are expelled from “the people” by rhetorically stripping them of their membership in the nation. This is why nationalism is so essential to Trumpism: the entire enterprise revolves around protecting the rightful space of the “the people,” which is of course an imagined national territory. If “the people” is read as equivalent to the nation, or at least occupying its territorial space, the project of “making America great again” requires expelling “enemies of the people” from this territory. (Despite repeatedly using this phrase, Trump does not appear aware of its historical ties to Stalin.) Muslims are the most obvious example, collectively represented as constituting a monolithic terrorist threat to the domestic sphere. From his campaign promise of a Muslim ban through the travel ban imposed on seven predominately Muslim nationalities, this is an active project of protecting a sanctified private life from imagined violent encroachment. Black crime and Black Lives Matter are likewise assimilated into a uniform figure, represented as an attack on police, who (pace Giuliani & co.) are themselves represented as a key preserve of American national power and as defenders of “the people” against domestic threats. This takes on spatial significance when Trump promises “the people” he will protect “our inner cities,” a phrase he deploys regularly, apparently unaware that city centers have seen a secular decline in violent crime since the turn of the millennium. Latinx are stripped of their membership in the nation, their ethno-racial identities transmuted into (inter)national ones. Trump’s attack on a Latino judge in Chicago made this quite clear: Latinx residents are to be associated with Mexico and Central America; the courtroom is an inviolable national space to be protected from this threat. Likewise, the shop floor must be fortified against the inauspicious encroachment of cheap labor from the South.
And what about queer and trans people? They pose a threat to national vitality on two levels. Most obviously we might understand this homophobia as a pro-natal jingoism, preserving the twin sacred spaces of the bedroom and the bathroom from queer and trans people, respectively. But we might also think of this bigotry as an obsession with American masculinity. If male breadwinners’ dignity and self-perceptions of masculinity were wounded as the rustbelt deindustrialized and as wages stagnated both absolutely and in relation to productivity, revivalist nationalism (“Make America Great Again”) allowed the deliberate articulation of “the people’s” collective feelings of self-worth to household economic fortunes. What Trump did for the people he did for the nation, for both of whom he promises to safeguard the sacred space of the home. In every case, these groups are denigrated not for their inherent inferiority (racism), but for the way they threaten a national space (nationalism), which in turn threatens household interests (class).

Capitalist Anti-Capitalism

This is how Trump has consciously tried to resolve “the people”/power bloc antagonism, and quite successfully, I must add. As his critics continue to wring their hands over his falsehoods, certain that the latest Washington Post expos√© will unmask him to his base, his reinscription of “fake news” as an elitist assault on “the people” has only gained him support. But Laclau wrote of populism as a double articulation. If the popular-democratic contradiction is discursively resolved, this is articulated to a second contradiction: class struggle. All political programs, Laclau insists, serve objective class interests. The key right-populist move is to resolve the popular-democratic contradiction without threatening the pockets of capital. And this is precisely what Trump has done. By the end of February, Bank of America stocks were up more than 40 percent from Election Day, with Goldman Sachs up 36 percent and Wells Fargo up 27 percent.
At the mid-February press conference, Trump declared, “We’ve issued a game-changing new rule that says for each one new regulation, two old regulations must be eliminated. Makes sense. Nobody’s ever seen regulations like we have.” Health, safety, environmental, and other workplace regulations are represented as “job killing” restrictions deviously implemented by representatives of the power bloc. In articulating the populist discourse of “the people” to the immediate interests of big capital, Trump has pulled off what the German historian Arthur Rosenberg called “a manoeuvre notoriously characteristic of populist nationalisms worldwide — namely, instigating a movement that serves the interests of big capital but appears anti-capitalist at public meetings.”[2]
If we might think of a certain collective ire as resulting from both the 2008 crisis and from a more prolonged tendency toward deindustrialization, Trump’s genius has been to redirect it from capital to the state, and more specifically, toward the figure of the professional politician. “I can’t believe I’m saying I’m a politician, but I guess that’s what I am now,” Trump told the press corps. Collectively these politicians comprise “the swamp,” working with their media henchmen against the collective interests of “the people.” He can thus nominate an Exxon CEO for Secretary of State without upsetting his resolution of the popular-democratic contradiction, as he’s defined the problem as emanating from state administrators rather than capital. Tillerson is an “outsider” in this conception. One appointment after another, from Betsy DeVos to the failed nomination of Andrew Puzder, abets big capital, without appearing to threaten the terms of Trump’s populist arrangement.
Given this suturing of “the people” to the interests of big capital, the liberal strategy of simply exposing Trump’s lies, pointing to his preposterously unscripted oratory, and hoping to convey some sort of “truth” as antidote to his base misses the point. For even if we were to win them over on this count — and we won’t, but even if we were — the left has no alternative hegemonic project in which it might incorporate them. From the Clintons through Obama, the interests of workers have been disarticulated from any populist project, with Democrats primarily running in a mode negatively defined: Obama wasn’t W, and Clinton wasn’t a fascist. But what is the positive project of the Democratic Party? The very fact that it remains unclear whether any of the Republican contenders were closer to Wall Street than Clinton, or whether the latest wave of deportations is of Trump’s innovation or is a holdover from Obama’s policies, leaves a vast vacuum gaping from the center-right to the far left.
Indeed, it wouldn’t be a stretch to pin some of the most egregious moments of deregulation, trade liberalization, and welfare retrenchment on the Democrats. We can envision populist Republicans demanding that a nominee be immediately ushered into office on behalf of “the people,” but such an utterance from a Democrat would be unthinkable. In shutting down Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Republican politicians represented themselves as a grassroots movement; but when Democrats do likewise, they come off as inept, merely going through the motions. As Christian Parenti put it recently (2016) in a brilliant analysis of Trump’s use of language, “Ultimately, the Democratic establishment brought this loss on themselves. They spurned and tried to sabotage Bernie Sanders and his class message.[3] Trump took the Bernie-style populism, emptied it of real class politics, reduced it to a jumble of affective associations, and used it to beat-up the smug liberals of the professional managerial class. It worked.” Without the Clintonism, there would be no Trumpism; without Corey Booker and Arne Duncan, there would be no Betsy DeVos.

Trumpism as Direct Consequence of Clintonism

Cognitive linguist George Lakoff (2016) gets the matter exactly wrong when he suggests that Democrats simply need to “give up identity politics,” by which he explicitly means “women’s issues, black issues, Latino issues.” These are “human issues,” he insists, taking the #AllLivesMatter line. Of course when he implores Democrats to address “poor whites” in the following sentence, he pretends that this doesn’t constitute precisely the sort of identity politics he had just rejected. Whites in his account constitute universal subjects. Bill Clinton should be the model, Lakoff insists, as he “oozed empathy.” In other words, the content of the politics is irrelevant to his strategy; the idea is to engage in a project of hegemony as deception.[4]
As he proceeds, he calls for Democrats to focus on “values” rather than “facts” and for unions to go on the offensive, pretending to know nothing about sixty years of business unionism, with comprador bureaucrats aligned with a party that has actively undermined working class interests since at least the 1970s. While Lakoff may understand why Trump’s rhetoric is effective, he hasn’t a clue what might be effective in riposte. Trump’s rise isn’t solely attributable to his particular brand of charistmatic authority. Trumpism is the direct consequence of Clintonism, and as such, to conceive of Clintonism as a resurgent strategy for the left at this point is to willfully ignore a quarter century of partisan politics in this county.
When the purportedly left-wing alternative hollows itself out to the point where we can no longer be certain that its chief politicians weren’t key players in bringing about the present crisis, we have nothing left to which we can win Trump supporters over. Even if they were to realize that the guy is a capitalist Judas goat, where else would we send them? To quote the late anthropologist William Roseberry, the point of hegemonic language is not to solidify a shared ideology, but instead to construct “a common material and meaningful framework for living through, talking about, and acting upon social orders characterized by domination.”[5] There’s nothing in the Democratic program that even approaches this goal, and indeed, the party has actively undermined workers, people of color, queer and trans people, and women since before I was born. Carter brought us Reagan, Clinton brought us W, and Obama brought us Trump. Until Trump’s liberal critics accept this fact, they’ll either continue their righteous denunciations of his indecorous transgressions, or worse, simply repurpose his strategy for a hypothetical left divorced from the working class √† la Lakoff.
This piece was originally published in the Berkeley Journal of Sociology

Monday, April 3, 2017

Is Sanders about to back a Warren candidacy?

They spend an awful lot of time together.

Appearing alongside Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sanders said Friday that to simply write off Trump supporters was to fail to understand the issues affecting them—and the Democratic Party.
“Some people think the people who voted for Trump are racists, sexist and homophobes, just deplorable folks,” he said. “I don’t agree, because I’ve been there. Let us understand what’s going on.”
Even before losing the primary to Clinton last year, Sanders, an independent, has been a frequent critic of the Democratic Party establishment, claiming that it had become too accommodating of Wall Street and has lost touch with the U.S. working class. It was a theme he returned to during Friday’s sold-out event organized by his “Our Revolution” group.
Senator Bernie Sanders speaks at a Our Revolution rally in Boston, Massachusetts, March 31, 2017.MARY SCHWALM/REUTERS
“When we are competing against a right-wing extremist party who has an agenda that most Americans soundly and roundly disagree with, how in God’s name do they win elections?" he said. "And the reason is, in my view, is that the time is well overdue for fundamental restructuring of the Democratic Party."
He added: “We need a Democratic Party which is not the party of the liberal elite but a party of the working class of this country. We need a party that is a grass roots party, a party where candidates are talking to working people, not spending their time raising money for the wealthy and the powerful.”
During a day of appearances in the Boston area, Sanders also labeled Trump a “fraud.” And he returned to many of his core campaign issues, such as guaranteed healthcare for all Americans.
“If every major country on earth guarantees healthcare to all people and costs a fraction per capita of what we spend, don’t tell me that in the United States of America we cannot do that,” he said to loud cheers from the crowd.

Along with Warren, Sanders has been touted as an early candidate to earn the Democratic nomination and potentially run against Trump in 2020. Despite the fact that he will turn 79 years of age prior to the election, Sanders again failed to rule out a second bid for the White House.
“Too often the media gets involved in what I call political gossip,” he said in response to a question at an event earlier in the day at the EMK Institute, according to The Boston Globe. “The issue of today, in my view, is to try to address some of the concerns that I raised about a collapsing middle class, massive levels of income inequality, being the only major country not to guarantee health care. That’s what we focus on.”

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Protest Songs and Lyrics

Historical, Social Justice & Human Rights Songs

The purpose of this website is to make available, (as the pages get coded), song lyrics for Check it out by clicking here,
 teachers, historians, labour unions, activists or anybody with an interest in the history of protest songs, their origins and their uses in various political, human rights and social justice movements. While some issues have been resolved, like the right of women to vote in western nations, it wasn't without long and hard struggles. One additional purpose of this website is to illustrate, that though times may change along with technologies, human nature and most human rights issues remain mostly the same throughout history.
These song lyrics are historical information posted in fair use, for academic research, study, review, and for critical analysis purposes.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Bernie Sanders - Best Loved Politician

The "conservatives" are getting exactly what they claim to want. Practically the entire country is in their hands. They may learn that a government which ties a chord around its own throat and applies increasing pressure, while funneling off all the wealth to the top few percent cannot stand. If the opposing party only could present a viable option, it would soon be over for the Republicans. But mainstream Democrats seem not to be learning the proper lesson.

If you look at the numbers, Bernie Sanders is the most popular politician in America – and it’s not even close. Yet bizarrely, the Democratic party – out of power across the country and increasingly irrelevant – still refuses to embrace him and his message. It’s increasingly clear they do so at their own peril.
A new Fox News poll out this week shows Sanders has a +28 net favorability rating among the US population, dwarfing all other elected politicians on both ends of the political spectrum. And he’s even more popular among the vaunted “independents”, where he is at a mind boggling +41.
This poll is not just an aberration. Look at this Huffington Post chart that has tracked Sanders’ favorability rating over time, ever since he gained national prominence in 2015 when he started running for the Democratic nomination. The more people got to know him, they more they liked him – the exact opposite of what his critics said would happen when he was running against Clinton.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Rep Joe Kennedy III and Health Care

By MARY CLARE JALONICK, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — A familiar name from Massachusetts, Rep. Joe Kennedy III, is carrying his family legacy into a new era, battling Republicans who want to undo Barack Obama's health care law.
Kennedy, the 36-year-old grandson of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and great-nephew of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy and President John F. Kennedy, has been a low-key presence in the House since he was first elected in his Boston-area district in 2012. He emerged last week as a major Democratic voice against the Republican health care bill, delivering several speeches in a committee's all-night session that have been viewed millions of times on the internet
While the technology may be new, his support for the Obama-era health care law and more services for the poor are familiar Kennedy territory. Sen. Ted Kennedy was a fierce proponent of the law before his death from brain cancer in August 2009.
Now his great-nephew is fighting Republicans who are trying to unravel the 2010 law. Kennedy challenged House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who had called the GOP replacement bill an "act of mercy."
"With all due respect to our speaker, he and I must have read different scripture," Kennedy said. "The one that I read calls on us to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to shelter the homeless, and to comfort the sick. It reminds us that we are judged not by how we treat the powerful, but how we care for the least among us."
He added: "This is not an act of mercy. It's an act of malice."
His office posted the video on Facebook, and as of Sunday, it had almost 10 million views and more than 225,000 shares.
Kennedy acknowledged his family legacy but stressed that he can't allow it to overwhelm his actions.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Unionizing in Mississippi - Bernie

On Saturday, workers at a Nissan plant in Canton, Miss., will stop to march for a union and hear from a special guest: Sen. Bernie Sanders. The onetime presidential candidate, now the Democratic caucus’s point man on political outreach, is coming to the “March on Mississippi” to send a message about how organizing can lift workers’ quality of life.
“What I’m going to be saying is that the facts are very clear, that workers in America who are members of unions earn substantially more, 27 percent more, than workers not in unions,” Sanders (I-Vt.) said in an interview. “They get pensions and better working conditions. I find it very remarkable that Nissan is allowing unions to form at its plants all over the world. Well, if they can be organized everywhere else, they can be organized in Mississippi.”
The Mississippi march, organized by the United Automobile Workers and joined by the NAACP and the Sierra Club, comes as Democrats are reintroducing themselves to voters who drifted toward Donald Trump’s populism last year. Reinvigorated by President Trump’s near-daily political problems and by an agenda that has drifted closer to traditional Republican economics, they’re identifying themselves more closely with liberal policies and labor organizers.
“Some of the poorest states in this country, where large numbers of people have no health insurance and have experienced stagnating wages, have not had the support from progressives that they need,” Sanders said. “It’s time we change that. It means standing up for working men and women.”
On Friday morning, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) delivered a speech at Ohio State University about the how “dignity comes from work,” arguing for an agenda that would boost wages and offer more family leave.
“Populism is for the people — not these people or those people but all people,” Brown said. “True populism is not about who it excludes but who it embraces. The value of work isn’t a black issue or a white issue. It’s not a blue-collar issue or a white-collar issue. It’s not a liberal or conservative issue.”
Brown’s ideas, packaged in a 77-page report titled “Working Too Hard for Too Little,” mirror much of what Sanders ran on in the 2016 presidential primary — and much of what Hillary Clinton adopted for the general election. Some ideas go further.
Like Sanders, Brown argues for a $15 minimum wage, in sync with the campaign waged by the Service Employees International Union. Like Clinton, he pitches 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave. Brown, who was also one of the first senators to suggest expanding Social Security payments by raising Federal Insurance Contributions Act, or FICA, taxes, also suggests standardized overtime pay for workers making less than $47,476 and a crackdown on the process of paying workers as contractors to avoid giving them benefits packages.
“I can already hear the complaints coming from the corporate boardroom,” Brown said. “ ‘These ideas cost too much.’ ‘We’ll have to raise prices.’ Funny, you never hear those concerns raised over the cost of shareholder payouts or corporate bonuses. Corporations always want to talk about the cost of raising wages and benefits, but what about the cost of not raising them?”
Like Sanders, Brown is up for reelection in 2018. Unlike Sanders, he represents a state that broke solidly for Trump in 2016 after twice voting for Barack Obama, and he has already drawn an opponent in Josh Mandel, the Republican state treasurer seeking a rematch of their 2012 race.
The first step, as seen by Brown and other Democrats, is holding and winning back the blue-collar voters who rejected Clinton in 2016 after years of voting Democratic. They see appetite for the Trump-centric and personality-focused campaign that failed Clinton in the Midwest.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Bernie to work within party for now

(oops lost the link. But it's on Google News at this time)
On Sunday morning, the day after establishment pick Tom Perez was elected by party insiders to the position of DNC Chair, Senator Bernie Sanders appeared on CNN with Jake Tapper. During the course of the interview, something happened that will have those Democrats who are up for reelection in 2018, shaking: In a roundabout way, Sanders said he would not be providing the DNC with his email list, and would instead use it to help progressives running in Democratic primaries.

Sanders has long said he wants to transform the Democratic Party which has always been a game of paying dues and insider politics—and that position threatens the current leadership. If the events of the weekend prove anything, it has started a war. The establishment sent its message to Sanders, and Sanders fired back.

Many have long wondered how Sanders would keep his revolution alive after the election. Now it is becoming clear. It is to be his people powered weapon in a war on the Democratic leadership, with the ultimate purpose of presenting a genuine alternative to the Republican Party and Trump’s brand of corporate populism.

Establishment Democrats have no path to victory against the current administration because they do not have the tools. Trumpism cannot be defeated by corporate-friendly Republican lite.

Not only did 2016 prove the establishment had lost touch with the American people—after all, it had paved the way for a candidate all polling indicated was the weaker choice while touting as an endpoint the grossly incomplete legacy of the presidency of Barack Obama—it shook their donors’ confidence as well. Their candidate lost to Donald J. Trump, and the party suffered massive losses down ballot.

And yet, the leadership—like a corporation which has just had to do a massive recall—has been downplaying the problem and doubling down.

For progressives, this damage control has been taken as unwillingness on behalf of the party to “learn its lesson.” Frustrated, many have been flirting with the idea of changing their registrations. Some already have feeling that the only option left open to them is causing loss after loss.

However, this latest declaration from Sanders should make these voters reconsider. He’s raising an army because wars are often long, and filled with devastating losses. However, for the battles that are lost—this time an election where the voters are exclusively party insiders—there are battles won. Just last month, ‘Berniecrats’ swept California’s Democratic assembly district delegate elections, giving them effective control over the largest state Democratic Party in the country.

The left is finally waking up to its ability to affect change as millennials organize. Establishment Democrats like Sen. Claire McCaskill, one of Hillary Clinton’s most vocal allies during the primary, are starting to feel the pressure as they plan their reelection campaigns, and Republicans are refusing to do town halls thanks to protester interruptions. Every day there seems to be a protest.

This latest move by Sanders is a promise upheld to his supporters, and a warning to Washington elites: The revolution continues. Get on board or get voted out.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Plea to Bernie Sanders

Link to Huffington Post page

The Progressive Movement At The Crossroads: An Open Letter To Bernie Sanders

Dear Senator Bernie Sanders,
Prior to 2015, I was an Independent voter who had voted Democrat in every presidential election I had been old enough to participate in. I considered myself to be performing my civic duty by voting once every four years for the least-bad presidential candidate. I had never voted in a primary election nor a midterm election and I had never donated to nor volunteered for a political campaign. In my mind, there were no candidates worthy of that sort of support, none who represented my views on the issues facing our nation; so the lesser-evil became the only sensible option. In short, I was politically disillusioned and disengaged. 
All of that changed when you announced your candidacy in 2015.   
I was an early supporter of your campaign for the Democratic Party nomination and a founding member of your “Super Pack” of small-dollar donors, donating $10 a month starting in August 2015. During moments of the campaign when the odds seemed particularly stacked against you, your positive, progressive, politically revolutionary message shone through as a beacon of motivation and hope. In those moments, and there were more than a few, I would donate $50. I attended multiple rallies, voter registration drives and phone-bank sessions in the months leading up to the first primary contest. You inspired me, and millions of progressive Democrats and Independents alike, to stand and fight for a brighter political future. You showed us we are not alone in our values, that we can be a powerful force for change when we stand together. I cannot thank you enough for waking us up.
That being said, the chicanery of the Democratic National Committee leadership to subvert your campaign, as revealed in leaked DNC emails, combined with widespread voter suppression efforts by party officials and mainstream media outlets was, to say the least, hard to bear. For months, many millions of your supporters (the vast majority of whom followed your lead and voted for Hillary Clinton in the end) were crying out for the party elites to realize what was plain to see: You were the only candidate who could beat Donald Trump because of your strength with working class and Independent voters. National polling just days prior to the general election showed you crushing Trump by double-digits in a hypothetical matchup, whereas Clinton remained in a statistical tie. We are all now living with the results of the Democratic Party establishment’s colossal error in judgement.
Since the election, I’ve been searching for signs within the Democratic Party leadership indicating a lesson has been learned and the necessity for substantial reform is recognized. Unfortunately, those signs have been few and far between. The Democratic punditry is quick to place blame on any number of outside factors but loath to introspect. Due to seeming intransigence and lack of contrition by party leaders like Nancy Pelosi and others, party membership has reportedly dropped by 14 million in just over three months. 
The progressive movement you inspired, the “political revolution”, has thus reached the crossroads. The members of the Democratic National Committee must choose if they are willing to reform and be the vehicle for progressive change or not. That choice is fast approaching this week in the form of the DNC chair selection (February 23rd - 26th). 
You, of course, have been leading the push to reform the Democratic Party away from neoliberal corporatism and back into the party of working people. Your choice to implement that reform as the next DNC chair is Keith Ellison. Regardless of my own feelings about Congressman Ellison, he was an early supporter of your candidacy for president and was also a member of your platform delegation. He has clearly earned your trust and support. 
Ellison’s main opponent, Tom Perez, is a progressive the likes of Hillary Clinton. His recent admission at the DNC forum about the primaries being rigged along with the subsequent twitter retraction demonstrate both his blatant political opportunism and his quick capitulation to establishment elites in one fell swoop.
The selection of DNC chair is eerily echoing the Democratic primaries. The parallels are all present: progressivism vs neoliberalism, reform vs status quo, grassroots vs establishment. It even includes a premature, anonymous accounting of support, similar to the AP announcement of an inevitable Clinton nomination the day before the California primary.  
Many progressives, like myself, see this as the last chance for the Democratic Party to change its present course at the national level. For others, the last chance already came and went with the tainted primary race. Although their support may never return, ours can and will if real structural changes are implemented within the party. The first step toward that change, I think you would agree, is for DNC members to select Keith Ellison as chair. 
If Perez is selected, however, your brand of progressive reform will have been rejected once again by the Democratic Party establishment, proving that, even in the wake of a devastating election loss and a national repudiation of the status quo, they are incapable of reform. They would be demonstrating the definition of insanity by doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results. 
The herculean goal of reforming the Democratic Party is commendable and I truly hope still achievable, but if it’s proven otherwise, I would implore you to reconsider the idea proposed by your former campaign staffer, Nick Brana, to form your own party. The integrity of your ideas and ideals which you’ve expressed long before, during, and since the 2016 campaign inspired and united so many of us, who had all but given up on the political process, to get involved and be the change we wish to see. A party with such a powerful message as yours, with your honest leadership and the enthusiasm of the nation’s young people and progressive Independents would be a formidable, viable electoral force, indeed.
Those of us who have followed your lead to this point are eager to see evidence of your message being heeded, but we will not support a party if it doesn’t support us or share our values. We cannot gain significant power within a party whose leaders actively sabotage progressive candidates. Although I know you will always stand up for us, I hope that you will also stand with us outside the Democratic Party if its establishment refuses to change. Whether or not that is the case will become clear this week in Atlanta as members of the DNC choose their next leader and thus the future of the progressive movement within the party.  
A Progressive Voter

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Slow Boiling Domestic Coup

With members of the CIA and NSA leaking materials on Michael Flynn’s communications with Russian officials, we are witnessing a slow boiling domestic coup that will transform American governance and the Executive Branch’s relationships with intelligence agencies. It remains to be seen whether these moves signal broader attacks on the Presidency by agencies long accustomed to taking out administrations threatening the Agency’s perceived interests.
This moment tells us more about the CIA revolting against a particular administration than it does about Trump’s people engaging in unusually diabolical-illegal activities designed to undermine an outgoing administration. We know enough about Reagan’s pre-election dealings with Iran to know that the CIA and NSA knew about these transactions, yet these agencies were content to remain silent; apparently glad to see Carter ousted and welcoming a new era of unparalleled “peace time” military and intelligence spending. Similarly, American intelligence agencies knew of Nixon’s efforts to sabotage the Paris peace talks before the 1968 election, and the CIA did nothing to undermine a new president who was going to give the agency the war it wanted. The leaking of Flynn’s information tells us little new about how incoming administrations act, but it suggests something new about US intelligence agencies willingness to take out an administration not to their liking.
To be clear: I see nothing wrong with the leaks themselves. I like intelligence leaks. I think they are generally good for democracy and reveal important truths about power. I am not worried about leaks, I am worried about the CIA and other intelligence agencies making a significant power grab that is not being critically considered. This is a move that no future president will soon forget, and that will make him or her think twice before crossing these agencies.
The left’s widely shared disdain for Donald Trump makes the current rushing national wave of schadenfreude understandable, yet there are few on the left who appear worried about what this domestic CIA coup portends for American democracy. Because of the long history of liberals’ attractions to using the CIA, perhaps we should not be too surprised at this elation, but we need to cautiously think beyond this moment.
It is no secret that many at the CIA hold disdain for Flynn. His years at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and in command of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) coincided with efforts to move many of what had been CIA operational activities and covert operations away from CIA to DIA. With the CIA attacking the Trump administration so soon after the election with leaks of the Russian hacking report there were clear public fissures appearing between the Agency and the new Executive.
I assume that there are lots of reasons why many at the CIA and NSA wish to undermine the Trump administration—I even assume I may share a few of these reasons with them. While the agency is comfortable with much of the corporate looting that Trump appears ready to unleash, few in the agency like the sort of instability that Trump generates—and I suppose some within may take his ongoing barbs and attacks on Agency incompetence seriously.
As it is to many of us on the left, it is obvious to me that Trump is the most dangerous, unqualified, and reckless US President I have ever seen—much less imagined. And while it seems as if he will soon enough seize some opportunity to declare a national security disaster granting himself new unlimited powers, I know no reason to trust the CIA and other intelligence agencies any more than we trust Trump.
This attack on the Executive Branch is like nothing we’ve ever seen before. The most historically interesting element of this moment is the rarity of seeing the CIA operating, in real time, not in its usual historical role as a covert arm of the presidency (which Congressman Otis Pike argued was its primary function), but as the sort of rogue elephant that Senator Frank Church and others long ago claimed it is. As members of the Republic, no matter what momentary joy we might feel watching this rogue elephant canter towards our incompetent Commander and Chief, we must not ignore the danger this beast presents to one and all.
We should welcome calls to investigate Trump, Flynn, Bannon, Pence and others within the administration, but we need to also investigate and monitor the CIA for this latest in its long history of attempted coups.
David Price a professor of anthropology at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey, Washington. He is the author of Weaponizing Anthropology: Social Science in Service of the Militarized State published by CounterPunch Books.
More articles by: