Thursday, January 11, 2018

Jake Novak Tries To Burn the Bern

CNBC "senior columnist" Jake Novak has ground out a hideous screed, "Bernie Sanders Is Still All Talk." His premise is that "Bernie Sanders is wasting his political capital, hurting Democrats aims and his own legacy," and Novak seems determined, in a relatively brief space, to try to squeeze in every vacuous anti-Sanders trope and calumny of the Clinton cult, with little regard for how distant from both relevance and reality itself most of them fall.

It's as if Novak is working from a checklist.

His big theme is a very familiar--and very tired--one: Sanders is a do-nothing. More than a year after Sanders presidential bid, Novak asserts, "so far, he's still all talk." While boldly consigning most of Sanders' activities in the past year to a Memory Hole and downplaying the rest (back to that in a moment), Novak writes that "Democrats need Sanders to do more than rant." And, being a good Concern Troll, he adds, "And [Sanders] needs to more than that as well, if he wants a legitimate political future." Of Sanders' attacks on Republicans, "America is filled with people" who do that. Sanders has "an ability to attract previously apathetic or disillusioned Americans and encourage them to vote and even work for a campaign... yet he's been sitting on the sidelines since the 2016 election ended."

Sitting on the sidelines. Hold that thought.

Attentive readers will see this next one coming. Novak goes into full robot mode: "But Sanders doesn't seem the least bit interested in getting into actual governing. In fact, he still isn't even officially a member of the Democratic Party." And one must be a member of the Democratic party to have any serious interest in governing, right?

Robot mode: "Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised. Sanders has been in Congress since 1991, but has barely had a legislative impact in Washington during that 27 year period."

Robot mode: "Maybe he has renewed reasons not to get more involved like his advancing age; he is 76 after all."

Maybe, Robot Novak writes, Sanders do-nothing-ism is motivated by "a potential headache brewing at home" and he drops a reference to--you guessed it--the FBI investigation of Burlington College, which both Clinton cultists and the rightist Republicans who initiated it have long hoped will somehow ensnare Sanders' wife Jane. Novak devotes an entire paragraph to it.

Now here's a little reality check. Since he ended his presidential campaign, Mr. "Sitting On The Sidelines" Sanders has, in fact, been an indefatigable workhorse in advancing the progressive agenda. Some of the highlights: He and Amy Klobuchar offered an amendment that would have gotten the Senate to take up the question of legally allowing importation of much cheaper prescription drugs from abroad. Sanders managed to convince 13 Republicans to support the amendment, an extraordinary accomplishment, only to see his work torpedoed by Cory Booker's Dirty Dozen--"Democrats" financed by Big Pharma. Sanders has introduced legislation to strip pharmaceutical companies of their patents on medications developed on the public dime if said companies price-gouge the public, to make drug companies pay rebates to Medicaid when they increase the prices of generic drugs at a rate higher than inflation, to allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices. He's teamed with James Clyburn to introduce legislation to more than double federal funding to community health centers around the U.S.. He's crafted a bill aimed at cracking down on corporate tax-dodging, another at expanding Social Security benefits and extending the life of the program. He's introduced his latest plan for providing tuition-free higher education at public colleges and universities, advanced a bill that would raise the minimum wage to $15/hour, teamed with Jeff Merkley and Edward Markey to introduce legislation to "to build a 100 percent renewable energy economy by 2050," rolled out the latest iteration of Medicare-for-all healthcare reform and has so far gotten a third of the Democratic caucus in the Senate to sign on to it. He and Elizabeth Warren have introduced a $146 billion "Marshall Plan for Puerto Rico" aimed at rebuilding the destroyed island using, among other things, renewable energy sources. In all, Sanders has, in the past 12 months, sponsored 39 bills and co-sponsored 181 others.

In between all of this, Sanders, who is the head of Democratic outreach in the Senate,[1] has also spent the entire year touring on behalf of progressive causes--the "Unity" tour, a tour on behalf of healthcare, a "jobs, healthcare and the economy" tour, a tour in opposition to the recent Republican tax bill, as well as a plethora of other stops for other causes along the way (including endorsing a raft of Democratic candidates around the U.S.).[2] He’s been a strong voice for progressive opposition to Trumpism in four primetime CNN debates, seriously mopping the floor with his Republican opponents in three of them. While the Democratic National Committee is facing a fundraising crisis this past year as a consequence of blowback from its conspiring with the Clinton campaign to screw over Sanders in 2016, Sanders, who is Not Even A Democrat, donated $100,000 to the committee.
Given that Republicans presently control all branches of government and refuse to work with Democrats on much of anything or allow them any substantive role in governance, what does Novak think Sanders should be doing that Sanders isn't?

Well, Novak is one of those unthoughtful journalists who, seemingly oblivious to the present political reality established by the ruling party, evaluates a lefty politician's seriousness by how willing that pol is to entirely abandon his own principles up front in the name of "compromise." He writes that, "unlike the tax bill, the current budget and immigration issues will require at least some Democratic votes to resolve, handing [Democrats] a golden opportunity." And to tackle it, Novak thinks Bernie ought "to get involved and push for some real compromise." A real leader, as Novak sees it, isn't someone who fights for what he believes; instead, "real political leaders have to make compromises." Sanders recently wrote an editorial in which he insisted there be no end to DACA protections, better protection for Social Security and Medicare, etc.; instead of seeing these as baseline markers, Novak snips, "those are more like demands than opening offers..." He hits Sanders for being "a no-show at that big publicly televised meeting at the White House Tuesday on the budget and immigration issues," as if Sanders can simply invite himself to a tightly-controlled White House event with the "president."[3] Concern Troll thinks Sanders is about ego: "At some point, he may realize that making deals is the better choice if he wants to carve out a real legacy for himself."
It's pretty clear Sanders would think a much better legacy would be to see finally adopted the policies for which he has fought his entire life. Sanders has lain the groundwork for this but Novak is having none of it. In evaluating Sanders' extensive legislative agenda, Novak simply erases all but two items as if the rest never existed. Then, he dismisses both. And anything else Sanders might offer:
"Sanders did craft a bill calling for the federal government to negotiate prescription drug prices for the entire country like it currently does for Medicare. But the bill went nowhere and there's no evidence that Sanders made any effort to negotiate the plan with the White House.

"He has another bill to provide single-payer style health coverage for all Americans that has more than a dozen Democrat co-signers, but that bill isn't going anywhere.

"Proposing bills that have no chance of passing in a majority Republican Congress isn't the best way Bernie can use whatever political capital he earned from the election."
Most of Sanders' proposals can't, in fact, pass at present but with them, Sanders has endeavored to provide an ambitious, affirmative--and extremely popular--legislative agenda around which Democrats can rally, one that gives voters something to support, something more than, "hey, at least we're not the Republicans." This is exactly what Democrats will need to battle Republicans this year and in 2020. With Novak, though, this counts for nothing. A pointless waste of political capital--Bernie should, instead, be at the White House tv show with Trump selling out the "Dreamers" to Republicans (who won't give him anything in return).  Like a real leader.


Or maybe not.

--j.

---

[1] A fact that puts Novak's complaints about all Sanders' talking on rather shaky ground. Not that Novak ever acknowledges this. He is aware of Sanders' position though--he even mentions it.

[2] Our Revolution and Brand New Congress, founded by former members of Sanders' campaign, are working on behalf of an astonishing number of crowd-funded, Bernie-inspired progressive candidates who have sprang up all over the U.S..

[3] Or should even bother, even if asked. Trump's big televised "summit" was nothing more than a PR stunt intended to counter recent reports that questioned his mental health. Trump put on a show of being utterly reasonable, agreed with everything everyone suggested, even Democrats, then immediately after the meeting was over, started walking back his agreeable words toward Democrats, just as he always does in these circumstances. The White House even published a transcript of the event from which it omitted a key line in which Trump agreed there should be a clean DACA bill. Novak thinks a willingness to participate in such a farce makes a pol serious and a leader.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Corruption

Not long ago, I and some others started a new Facebook group, "Populist Revolt & Lounge." The idea was to create a hang-out where progressives, liberals, lefties (even radical lefties like yours truly) could go to hash out the issues of the day, exchange info on those issues and otherwise shoot the breeze about whatever else may be on their minds without a lot of heavy-handed interference from those who ran the place. Not long ago, Facebook introduced a system that allowed those in the group to add subject-tags to their posts and the group has taken advantage of this. With all of that as premise, here's something I wrote for the group this evening and decided to archive it here:

Since I began making use of Facebook's new tagging system, "corruption" has been the top topic here on Populist Revolt & Lounge. That isn't really surprising--corruption is, after all, the sort of thing that provokes populist revolts--but I've been conducing a little non-scientific experiment while perusing the latest news headlines: I put "corruption" into Google News. As of this writing, here, in order, are the top 10 headlines this returns:

"Cloud of corruption hangs over Bulgaria as it takes up EU presidency"

"Corruption Is Mexico's Original Sin"

"Two Saudi princes released from detention in anti-corruption probe"

"ED must walk the talk on corruption"

"Peru's president and rival face questions in corruption case"

"Romania's ruling party wants to soften corruption rules"

"How corruption brought Nigeria to her knees at Christmas"

"Vietnam party chief praises fight against corruption"

"Judge suspends 5 Honduran lawmakers accused of corruption"

"Howard Dean: Republicans will be 'nailed with corruption' for GOP tax bill"

Though government in the U.S. is demonstrably corrupt--almost impenetrable behind the piled up layers of money, bribery and graft at every level--you have to go all the way down to the 10th result to find a single example of the press using that word "corruption" in connection with anything in the United States. Even that 10th one is just a partisan charge of corruption leveled by a prominent Democrat as covered by Salon. The 11th returns to form with a headline regarding South Africa ("2017 an important year in the struggle against corruption"). Much of the corporate press is comfortable covering corruption in foreign lands and comfortable calling that corruption by its proper name but when it covers corruption in the U.S. government--which isn't very often--it rarely uses that word.

I've spent some time here promoting the recent work of David Sirota's team at the International Business Times regarding what became known as the "Corker Kickback." Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker was opposed to the Republican tax bill then ended up voting for it after a provision was inserted that financially benefited him. The only thing extraordinary about this was that significant elements of the corporate press picked up the story. The tax bill was little more than a pay-off to Republican donors but even after at least one prominent Repub legislators had all but admitted this in public, there's very little coverage of it and no sustained effort to scandalize the behavior. The "Corker Kickback" only ever made a dent because it could have affected the ultimate fate of the bill. Sirota recently wrote about how surprised the relevant legislators seemed when they were questioned about this.[1] Whereas in a functioning liberal democracy such questions would be a matter of daily routine, American legislators are utterly unaccustomed to any such questions. They let the lobbyists for this-or-that big contributor to their political campaigns write whatever legislation they intend to introduce next and no one ever seriously calls them on it.

None of this is exactly a revelation but it helps underscore the extent to which U.S. institutions normalize corruption and this is a particularly damning thing to say about news media, who are supposed to act as the watchdog against this sort of thing. It also points to one of the central failings of political progressives: they've utterly failed to make the case for the extent to which everything in American politics tracks back to this corruption. Polls show the public are with the progressives on the matter of money in politics--people correctly realize that politicians do the bidding of their donors and deplore it--but ask the public to rank what they see as the most important political issues and "money in politics" ends up in single-digit obscurity somewhere in the "other" category. Correcting that should be the major immediate focus of progressives.

Just some thoughts I had on a somewhat chilly evening.

--j.

---

[1] Sirota wrote this pair of tweets on Christmas:




Tuesday, November 28, 2017

One Poll Doesn’t Equal “Polls” & It Doesn’t Make This Clintonite’s Case Either [Updated Below]

Medium Dept. - "Dude Kembro," yet another crackpot Clinton cultist, has authored yet another rubbish article--"Why does media ignore polls showing Dem base still prefers Hillary not Bernie?"--that tries to craft a fantasy of how golly-gee great it would be if Hillary Clinton were to launch a 2020 bid for the presidency, a prospect that no one but Clinton, her diminishing cult and Donald Trump would find remotely appealing. I'm not going to deal with the bulk of his loony ravings but he makes some comments about polling, so I decided to tackle that narrow part of it.

Kembro describes the notion that Bernie Sanders is "the nation's ‘most popular senator'" as an "outdated fiction" based, in part,
"on pushing disgruntled ex-Clinton pollster Mark Penn's monthly Harvard-Harris poll, notoriously unreliable due to its online methodology."
Well, let's see...

--The very YouGov poll on which you're relying as an alternative to Harvard/Harris is also an online poll:



--You provide nothing to support your fanciful assertion that Harvard/Harris is "notoriously unreliable," because there is, in fact, nothing to support that claim.

--While your narrative suggests Mark Penn is some fellow with an axe to grind--some sort of motive for his faking a poll in an anti-Clinton direction, whatever would be gained by that--he is, in fact, a rightist Clintonite loyalist who has been with the Clintons for 23 years. When Democrats lost the 1994 congressional elections, he was the guy Bill hired to try to get things back on track. He worked for Bill right to the end of his administration, worked on the '96 reelection campaign, worked on both of Hillary's Senate races and worked on her 2008 presidential campaign. Only this Summer, he co-authored an op-ed in the New York Times and this was his advice to Democrats, re:the Sanders/Elizabeth Warren challenge from the left:

"The path back to power for the Democratic Party today, as it was in the 1990s, is unquestionably to move to the center and reject the siren calls of the left, whose policies and ideas have weakened the party."

That delusional piece was uniformly derided across progressive media. Penn is both stupid and his views delusional, but any motive he may have to fake a poll--an asinine suggestion anyway--is in the other direction, toward making Clinton look better and Sanders worse.

--The Harris poll isn't some wet-behind-the-ears upstart; it's one of the longest-running established pollsters in the U.S., founded over 50 years ago (when, I'll note in passing, Mark Penn was 9 years old). That doesn't mean it's right, of course. It does mean it isn't some amateur in the field.

--While Harvard/Harris is conducted every month, your YouGov poll is just that, a single poll, and could be utterly anomalous, which happens in polling all the time (H/H isn't immune to it either).

--In line with that last, there are some huge warning-signs within the YouGov results, principally the often-vast number of people who express no opinion. For example, 21% of independents report no opinion of Clinton while a staggering 34% report no opinion on Sanders. A huge warning that there's something very wrong with the data. And you make it even better. You cite the two politicians' relative standing among minorities in the poll and make a lot of fanciful assertions based on it:
"Hillary has a 78 percent favorable rating with Democrats, seven points higher than Bernie's 71 percent. Her 69 percent favorable rating with blacks remains a whopping sixteen points better than Sanders's 53 percent rating with that determinative demographic. Among Hispanics, Hillary's 42 percent rating comfortably bests Sanders's dismal 36 percent."
But the poll shows that nearly 1 in 4 black respondents offered no opinion of Sanders, whereas this was only the case with 8% when it came to Clinton. Clinton only leads in this demographic by 16% and three times as many black folks are reporting no opinion of Sanders as reported no opinion of Clinton. This same dynamic repeats itself among Hispanics. It's astonishing that 24% of Hispanic respondents offer no opinion of Clinton but utterly incredible that 36% offer no opinion of Sanders.

It's also worth noting that your assertion regarding Clinton's lead among Hispanics is comical. While you insist she "comfortably bests" him, Clinton's lead among Hispanics is only 6% in a poll with a reported margin of error of 4.1%, meaning less than 2% separates them, yet you call his standing "dismal."

--The overwhelming majority of "independents" always vote for their favored party and are just Republicans and Democrats by another name. Pollsters call independents who always vote for the same party "leaners," while those who vary their votes among the different parties are called "true independents." Whereas Harvard/Harris combines the leaners with the people who identify with the parties--a methodology that makes sense--the YouGov poll you cite divides these categories, which can seriously distort the data, as the leaners always make up a large share of the vote for each of the parties.

--The YouGov poll used only 1,000 respondents. That's not unusual for these sorts of routine polls where laserlike precision isn't essential. Some pollsters use even less. Harvard/Harris is a massive survey compared to these sorts of workaday polls. The just-released November H/H poll used 2,350 respondents.

--The YouGov poll appears absent context. Whereas H/H has been surveying on the same questions every month all year, YouGov hasn't, as far as I can tell, conducted a single poll on these particular matters for 9 or 10 months before the one you've cited. H/H monthly polls provide a context wherein one can see the various politicians' ratings changing over time. Sometimes--relatively rarely--there are anomalous jumps or dips but they usually seem to work themselves out in the next one. By lining up their polls, we can see that, for example, Sanders' popularity has been in slow decline throughout the year, a pattern veteran poll-watchers will find familiar. Earlier this year, when other pollsters were polling on Sanders' and Clinton's popularity, their results mirrored those of H/H. No other polls have mirrored this YouGov poll.

This is Sanders' current standing in the new Harvard/Harris survey:



And for comparison, this is Clinton's standing in the same poll, tied with Donald Trump's abysmal 38% overall favorable rating:


Sanders leads her by significant numbers in every category except among African Americans, where the two are statistically tied. He even leads her among people who voted for her last year.

Most of the rest of your piece is a Clinton-cult fever-swamp fantasy that has as little connection to reality as the Lord of the Rings. When one reads that kind of unhinged raving about a strange and mysterious place where the press isn't a virtual monolith of reflexive pro-Clinton sentiment, where Joe Biden is somehow unacceptable to Clinton's cult rather than one of the politicians to which elements of that cult are now turning to beat back any challenge from the left, where Clinton is some sort of counter-Establishment figure, where math is such that a single poll equals "polls" but multiple polls that disagree apparently don't and where Bernie Sanders, the lifelong civil rights activist and feminist, is somehow a racist and sexist, one may wonder what color the sky must be in that parallel universe but one isn't going to mistake it for anything resembling our own. To any informed, reasonably intelligent reader, your piece makes clear in virtually every line that nothing you say need be taken remotely seriously. As your nonsense regarding this poll is the only foundation upon which you've built the rest of your fantasy, I just decided I'd correct it.

--j.

---

UPDATE (Wed., 29 Nov., 2017) - Kembro had written that the Harvard/Harris poll was "notoriously unreliable due to its online methodology," but after I and others who commented on his article noted that the YouGov poll he, himself, was using was also an online poll, Kembro turned up and removed this wording from his article, replacing it with a description of H/H as "a survey given a poor C- in FiveThirtyEight's pollster ratings due to its unreliability." A little later, he added language that describes YouGov as "a pollster with a solid B rating from FiveThirtyEight." For whatever reason, he also changed his listed name from "Dude Kembro" to "DK Kembro." The current version of his article gives no indication that he's changed any wording.

The FiveThirtyEight pollster ratings chart on which he bases these newly-inserted assertions is long out-of-date--the page indicates it hasn't been updated since 5 August, 2016, nearly 16 months ago. While the chart rates Harris Interactive and that's the rating Kembro cites, the Harvard/Harris collaboration didn't exist until this year. The chart compares the outcome of elections to the final polls preceding them by various pollsters. Kembro apparently didn't read beyond the simple letter-ratings he cites. While he wants to make a case that YouGov is more accurate, YouGov's simple average error is 6.7%, compared to only 5.5% for Harris. YouGov's better letter rating is based on the fact that it accurately called the results of 93% of the races it covered. Harris, the pollster Kembro says is "unreliable," accurately called 86% of the races it covered--hardly a chasmic difference. Perhaps just as significantly, Harris is only ranked based on 135 polls; YouGov is ranked based on 707.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

No, the Fix WAS In... Against Bernie Sanders

From Medium: Back in July, I came across a piece by a Medium Clintonite named Hillary Schwartz, who, at the time, was angry that the top Democrat in the U.S. Senate was making a public show of taking responsibility for last year's electoral loss instead of going the usual "blame everyone but Clinton" route. I authored a rejoinder. Now, she back with another morally-confused mess of an article, "The Fix Is In… Against Hillary Voters." My response:

Well, you've made a real mess of just about everything here. I'm not going to go through all of it but some of it is just too much.

You say Donna Brazile and Elizabeth Warren "insinuate that the Democratic primary process was rigged" and "level… accusations" of same, so let's clear up something right up front: Hillary Clinton used the DNC's financial woes to leverage what amounted to a takeover of that org at a time when it was charged with overseeing a presidential primary/caucus process. This isn't some "insinuation." It isn't some "accusation." It is an on-the-record, nowhere-to-run-or-hide fact. It happened and it was completely inappropriate, which is why it was kept secret for all this time. The DNC worked on behalf of the Clinton campaign and against the Sanders campaign, all the while professing neutrality in that race--a neutrality that is written into the DNC bylaws themselves. Everyone assumed the DNC's appalling behavior--from the debate schedule fiasco to the constant efforts to smear Sanders and his supporters, the business about the data breach, the false accusation of a chair-throwing riot by Berniecrats in Nevada, the insistence Sanders didn't condemn "violence" and all the rest— was a consequence of the DNC, as an independent entity, improperly favoring Clinton over Sanders but it turns out it was even worse; the DNC was, through all of that, merely a bought-and-paid-for adjunct of the Clinton campaign and had been all along. Many have characterized this as "rigging" and others have insisted that isn't an appropriate word for it--you don't address these facts or even acknowledge their existence while trying to wave away the entire matter--but that's a largely meaningless argument over semantics; there's no question all of that bad behavior by the DNC had a major impact on the course of the entire Democratic process, was intended to have that effect and it was all Clinton. And the Clintonite reaction when that became known was the same as it always is: to lie, to lie again then to lie some more, to slander Brazile, to insist Sanders had exactly the same deal with the DNC, to say these extraordinary powers granted Clinton in her agreement with the DNC were only to affect the general election and a half-dozen others that have made the rounds.

Clinton and her inner circle--the people who behave in this manner--are very bad people. You wave Trump as a voodoo fetish but if you don't like it that Trump is using corrupt Democrats against the larger party, then stop supporting corrupt Democrats. If you back these animals, it doesn't make you "illegitimate"; it makes you really stupid.

More than that, the Clinton cult is just that, a personality cult, and when it comes to defending the Cult Queen, the cultists have shown themselves willing to abandon and travesty every progressive principle they profess. They react with great, self-righteous fury at Republican efforts to game the system for that party's advantage then write absolutely unconscionable rationalizations for Clinton and the DNC doing the same thing. Like this:
"The DNC did favor Clinton. But Sanders was running against the establishment, against the Democratic Party. And he got a lot of mileage out of that. How can you run against the Party and simultaneously cry victim when the Party is understandably wary of you? You can't have it both ways. In other words, the dislike between Sanders and the Democratic Party was not one-sided; it was mutual. And if the DNC did push Hillary, Russian propaganda boosted Sanders. So he had the much bigger advantage."
There's been no real evidence of this "Russian propaganda" business but in your hands, it not only becomes true but also something that had a major impact then something that had much more impact than the DNC/Clinton corruption, and you aren't even familiar with the allegations on which you're basing all of this--the alleged Russian activity was centered on the general election, not the primaries, and Sanders was already out of the race. You try to craft some fake impression of a double-standard to use as a cudgel against Sanders and it never, for so much as a moment, occurs to you as you're doing so that this behavior--the corrupt behavior you're trying to rationalize--proves Sanders was right about the party Establishment all along (in his criticism of it that you also try to dismiss). It's far worse than he'd suggested. And, of course, if, like most Democrats, you dislike Republican efforts to game the system to their advantage, you're the one employing the double-standard. You're already very down on Russian manipulation that is merely alleged but give Clinton's on-the-record manipulation a pass.

Following the cult's m.o., there next comes the personal smearing of Brazile:
"There are contradictions in Brazile's claims. In her book, she asserts that the DNC should not have preference for any candidate. She also claims that she thought of pushing Clinton out as the nominee in favor of Joe Biden. So the DNC should not favor a nominee, but she thinks she as interim DNC Chair can personally select one? This makes no sense."
Brazile's comments regarding replacing Clinton had to do with a period when all kinds of rumors were circulating about the candidate's alleged poor health, rumors that, by then, were being further stoked by Trump and then suddenly, Clinton collapsed at a public event. It turned out Clinton had pneumonia and had spent days lying in order to cover up that fact. In the midst of all this, Brazile, facing the prospect of a candidate who was lying and may not actually be able to continue on, says she considered replacing Clinton using a process written into the DNC's charter. She had no power to "personally" replace Clinton and never claimed to have--that's a smear put out by the Clinton camp. Brazile was dong her job.

This is particularly despicable:
"It seems like the Democratic Party leadership feels free to disrespect Hillary voters and the Democratic base because they know we will always be there. They can count on us too much, so what's the harm in throwing us under the bus to appease Bernie supporters, who they can't rely on? I wound up volunteering for the Virginia Governor's race, even though at times I was thinking, why bother? Why should I show up when the Democratic leadership hates me?"
Yes, the party abandoned its own rules to give your candidate every dirty advantage but it's you, the Clinton supporters--not the Sanders supporters who were cheated at every turn--who are so terribly persecuted and put upon.

Or maybe not.


--j.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Despite Clintonite Objections, Populism Works Just Fine

Alex Cyrus has produced an unfortunate article, "Democrats and Republicans are Different. That's Why Populism Doesn't Work on the Left."[1] It's written as a response to a recent op-ed by Bernie Sanders in which the Vermont senator wrote about reforming corrupt practices within the Democratic party. Cyrus didn't much care for that kind of talk, but he isn't really equipped to comment on it either. That doesn't stop him from doing so:
"To be honest, before the 2016 primary I had never voted in a primary, nor did I know, or care to know, anything about the process. I had never heard of a super-delegate."
Those are the key lines in your piece here, as they establish early on that you really have no idea what you're talking about, yet — like Trump — you don't, for so much as a moment, let that restrain you from loudly making all sorts of pronouncements on these things of which you have no real understanding.

You may, indeed "wonder what point there is to discussing the finer details of how one Democratic presidential candidate is chosen over another Democratic presidential candidate running on almost the exact same platform," but any reasonably informed observer recognizes your premise ("almost the exact same platform") as laughably false and understands very well why this is something that matters to any smart Democrat. The 2016 Democratic primary/caucus process was fundamentally corrupt and people were and are quite put off by that sort of thing. Among other things, it makes people stay home on election day or even vote for the other party. "I'm pretty sure," you write, that Sanders is "actually trying to hold up Donna Brazile's book as some sort of worthy endeavor of truth-telling, in much the same way as Fox News" but contrary to what the Clintonite smear-factory has been telling you for two weeks, Donna Brazile is not the issue; her revelations are, and they've been independently confirmed by the press. The real press, not Fox News. You don't know anything about this subject — you write "it's my understanding that the financial arrangement Brazile was criticizing had already been out in the media for over a year," which is entirely false but perhaps more importantly here, you concede you don't even know. The DNC bent over backward to try to tilt the primary/caucus process in Clinton's favor and while we already knew Clinton was using state parties as a front and laundering donations meant to aid them for use by her own campaign via the DNC, what Brazile just publicly revealed for the first time was that the DNC wasn't just aiding the Clinton campaign in utter violation of its own bylaws, it was the Clinton campaign. Clinton had used the DNC's debt at the beginning of the presidential season to leverage a secret takeover. This DNC that was so problematic had been the Clinton campaign all along.

Your ignorance is on display throughout your piece.[2] You write, "Even at Hillary's highest polling point, right after the Access Hollywood tape, I remember reading that no one thought the Dems would take back the House. That's chilling." But there's nothing chilling about that if you understand the means by which Republicans hold a majority in the House: through massive gerrymandering in various states. Like Clinton, they gamed the rules to put themselves on top. And no, you can't be upset about it when they do it but not when Clinton does it. On the question of Democrats' massive losses over the last decade, you write, "What does Sanders propose on this vital issue? Who knows." But you would know if you'd ever listened to Sanders; he says Democrats have to break with the bribery-and-donor-service that presently dominates politics and build, instead, a strong progressive movement that gives people a reason to vote for and be loyal to Democrats. He even outlines an ambitious legislative agenda that could be used to this end. By now, Sanders watchers can probably recite his standard stump-speeches on this by heart but you've never heard of it. "Who knows," indeed.

You try to transform Sanders' critique of the superdelegate system into some sort of attack on voters. Sanders has made crystal-clear his objections. "[I]t is absurd," he writes, "that the Democratic Party now gives over 700 superdelegates — almost one-third the number a presidential candidate needs to win the nomination — the power to control the nominating process and ignore the will of voters." Superdelegates aren't elected as delegates by anyone but have the same voting power as tens of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of actual voters. Like an utter political innocent, you ask, "But when have the super-delegates ever overturned the 'will of the voters?'" Here's how superdelegates worked last year: Sanders completely destroys Clinton in New Hampshire, winning by 23%, the largest margin in the history of that primary, but because the state's superdelegates support Clinton, Clinton is awarded a tie with Sanders in the state delegate count, the thing that vote was intended to settle. Sanders flattens Clinton in Wyoming, winning by more than 11% but Clinton is awarded 11 delegates to Sanders' 7. Unelected party insiders have been officially formed into a good ol' boys club that is being used to erase the will of actual voters, which is not only offensively anti-democratic in itself, it completely destroys confidence in the process. For anyone who pays attention. In criticizing the superdelegate system, Sanders is standing up for the voters, not, as you would have it, attacking them. He has plenty of support in this as well.

You offer no thoughts of your own when it comes to the superdelegate issue; you merely throw baseless attacks at Sanders for wanting to be rid of them, suggesting he's merely looking forward to some 2020 presidential bid.

Another of those items on which you're confused: "I'm also confused about the purpose served by opening up the party primaries to non-Democrats." Sanders made plain his own reason for advocating this:

"Our job must be to reach out to independents and to young people and bring them into the Democratic Party process. Independent voters are critical to general election victories. Locking them out of primaries is a pathway to failure."

You characterize opening the closed primaries as "muddying the will of the base" but at present, over 40% of Democrats — defined as those who always vote Democratic — are independents. The spectacular lack of wisdom inherent in locking out 4 of every 10 of your own party's base voters shouldn't have to be explained. Those people will be able to vote in the general. You offer the standard arguments against open primaries and it's a matter on which people can legitimately disagree but while you say you, personally would interfere in open Republican primaries if given the chance, you'd be sacrificing your right to chose your own party's candidate by doing so — you can't vote in both contests. That's why few will take that course. At present, 23 states employ some form of open primary and seem to do just fine with it.

To Sanders' call for greater transparency in party finances, you write, "“what finances? Isn't the party in debt without a sous to its name?" Again, Sanders is very clear on his objection. "Hundreds of millions of dollars flow in and out of the Democratic National Committee with little to no accountability," he writes. By the party bylaws, for example, the officers of the DNC are supposed to be able to see the DNC budget and get an evaluation of its performance. In practice, this has been entirely ignored and, instead, the chairman has been treated like a dictator, free to make whatever financial decisions he likes with no transparency and no oversight. That's how, among other things, Debbie Wasserman Schultz was able to sell the org to the Clinton campaign and it was over two years before that became public knowledge. You ask, "What further transparency do we need?" But there's no transparency now and hasn't been for years.


Again, you offer no real thoughts on this issue (another you don't even understand). You merely use this as an excuse to get in some further jabs at Sanders on some entirely irrelevant matters, writing that his suggestion for greater financial transparency in the DNC "is a strange request from someone who still won't release his own tax returns and whose own fundraising system is completely opaque." The release of tax returns is traditionally something done by presidential candidates and Sanders hasn't been one of those for over a year. Now, he's just a senator and senators, like congressmen, virtually never release their taxes. Sanders raises his money overwhelmingly from small donations from ordinary people. This is a thing to be praised and encouraged, not, as here, slighted in some cheap effort to defend corruption. For anyone curious about Sanders' personal finances, he issues a financial disclosure every year. They can be perused here.

You offer a Trump-style persecution fantasy in insisting "the media refuses to ever critique any of Bernie's statements on reforming the Democratic Party." In the real world, of course, the corporate press largely despises Sanders and rarely passes up an opportunity to attack and smear him. Most of the proposals he's made in that op-ed won't get that treatment precisely because they're so reasonable and sensible that few will find cause to take any serious issue with them. It's unfortunate that you've opted to take the side of the corruption Sanders is trying to combat. "I've been a Democrat my whole life," you write, "but I've never been worried about its future until now, and despite mostly ignoring it up until now, I find myself moved to try to defend and protect it." Throughout your article, you demonstrate how little attention you've paid, even while piling on the snark and repeatedly smearing a fellow merely for suggesting this mess needs to be reformed. The Democratic party doesn't need your kind of "help."

--j.

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[1] Cyrus uses this title but his article doesn't even address the matter.

[2] A line about how Americans are "uncertain if the Russians are ever going to let us pick the President again" is a deep dive into tin-foil-hat territory.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

This Clintonite Dares Say So; It’s Just That He’s Wrong

Clint Irwin has penned one of the most bizarre reactions to this week's elections in Virginia, "No One Dares Say So: The Bernie-or-else Myth Dies in Virginia":
"Sanders refused to endorse Northam for Virginia governor. Northam won big anyway. Not a peep from the media."
Virginia is an increasingly-blue state and an anti-Trump wave ran through these off-off-year elections. Sanders endorsed Tom Perriello, the much better candidate, in the Democratic primary; had Perriello been the Democratic candidate, he too would have won. The Northam win says nothing about Sanders at all.
"Not to mention: though few in the media dare depart from the false question of rigged-or-not primaries, he did lose to Hillary Clinton by four million actual, real votes from actual, real, living, non-conspiracy humans. No Sandernista has ever disputed this, only kept up a constant veil of distraction with claims and accusations that fall apart as soon as one points to, well, four million voters. (Obama beat her by a mere 200k. But Donna Brazille said the primary was rigged! No, she didn't. It was FOUR MILLION VOTERS that rigged the primary.)"
While it's amusing the Clintonites think they can refute the fact that the primary/caucus process was rigged by pointing to the results of that primary/caucus process, such an approach is hardly enlightening or anything that wouldn't be corrected by a basic lesson in logical fallacies. And, of course, the claim of 4 million votes is a fiction, as there is no meaningful "popular vote" count in a primary/caucus process. Brazile did, in fact, say the process was rigged. She later tried to walk it back but that descended into a pointless game of semantics.
Your analysis of Sanders' policy agenda is no better.

You hint at Hillary Clinton's after-the-fact lie that Sanders was copying her policy proposals; in the real world, it was Clinton copying Sanders throughout that process.

You insist Sanders is advocating "standard Democratic political positions" then lead with single payer healthcare, a proposal that, prior to this year, had no support in the Senate other than Sanders himself; when he'd introduced his most recent iteration in 2015, no one--not one other senator--stepped up to support it. Now--because of Sanders--a quarter of the Senate Democratic caucus has endorsed it. There has long been a significant pro-single-payer faction in the House, including Sanders during the whole of his time in that body, but there, too, most Democrats have refused to endorse it and as in the Senate, the House leadership is opposed to it. Earlier this year, in fact, Nancy Pelosi was circulating memos telling House Demos they shouldn't endorse the idea. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee under Pelosi actively works against single-payer advocates. No Democratic platform has ever endorsed single-payer either and, in fact, it was only a year ago that Clintonite rightists blocked an effort to write it into the platform. You make it sound as if Sanders merely "copied" Vermont's failed effort on this issue but Sanders has publicly advocated single-payer healthcare since at least the '80s, when he was mayor of Burlington and has introduced single-payer legislation over and over again during his time in congress.[*]

How much of a "standard Democratic political position" is "a livable minimum wage"? You point to an ABC News article that is mostly about states offering very modest minimum-wage increases (mostly not up to a livable level), and while you characterize them as "deep blue states," 9 of the 19 listed are, in fact, Republican states. Sanders supports a genuine livable minimum wage: $15/hour. That has only been passed in two states (neither of which have fully implemented it yet) and a handful of localities around the U.S.. Sanders introduced a $15 minimum wage bill in 2015 and only 5 other Senators supported it. This year, he reintroduced it and 22 Senators--nearly half the Democratic caucus--have endorsed it. As with single-payer, Sanders has been leading the way.

You don't like that idea of Sanders as an innovator. Regarding the awful Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, you offer this:
"Did he lead the fight against Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision that opened the floodgates of money into politics? No. In 2014, well before Bernie made it seem as if he had been the only one who thought of it, Senate Democrats, under the leadership of Tom Udall and Chuck Schumer, fought for an amendment to the Constitution that would reverse the decision."
Sanders has condemned the overwhelming influence of money in politics--which, in fact, long predates Citizens United--for literally the whole of his time in public life. It's been one of the primary themes of his entire career. Citizens United was issued in 2010. Sanders condemned it right from the beginning. In 2011--years before that 2014 Udall amendment you're citing--Sanders introduced an amendment to overturn the ruling, the first constitutional amendment he had ever introduced. At that time, only one other senator (Mark Begich of Arkansas) endorsed it. Sanders has gone on to reintroduce this amendment in every new congress since and made it a major issue in his presidential campaign. Sanders has also supported the Udall effort, though it's much more limited than his own (though you're unaware of it, Udall first introduced his proposal around the same time as Sanders).


This is amusing...
"Since the late 70s, the first test for any new administration is the Virginia gubernatorial race that follows the year after a presidential election. Virginia marks the first chance to say NO! to the new administration and with one exception since 1977, invariably does."
And with that--but seemingly without you, yourself, taking any notice--you refute your own central argument. Bizarrely, you write that "All of Bernie's threats and bullying and demands had not mattered," but you cite no threats, bullying or demands from Sanders in this matter, nor did Sanders offer any. After Perriello was defeated, Sanders didn't have a dog in the governor's fight. He didn't endorse anyone there or work for or against anyone and the election went exactly as, historically, it always does (and as noted, if Perriello had been the candidate, he would have won as well). You seem to be living in some parallel universe when you insist that this race reflects on Sanders then offer a Trump-style persecution fantasy about "yet not a peep from the media" about this supposed major blow to Sanders. "No one. The post-mortems were for the Republicans--but Bernie, once again, was spared." The corporate press, which largely despises Sanders, never passes up a chance to attack him. It's just that this particular race offered no chance to do so.

--j.

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[*] And Vermont's plan wasn't really a single-payer plan, which is part of what made it unworkable and killed it. It's an issue that can really only be effectively addressed at the federal level.

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Democratic Party As A Hate Group?

From Medium: Today, I opened my "Medium Daily Digest" email and found what turned out to be a rather curious recommendation; whoever is charged with assembling those digests thought I'd be interested in a piece called "The Democratic Party is America's Largest Hate Group." It's written by someone named Austin Frank and it was apparently published at the end of August. Frank is a rightist attempting to critique the Democratic party and, lost in that fever-swamp wherein dwells the worst elements of the Trumpanzee right, failing badly. Still, it was an interesting day to encounter his piece; the Values Voters Summit is kicking off today in the nation's capitol. It’s an event organized by four of the most prominent hate-groups in the U.S., a platform extended to GOP pols and commentators and this year, for the first time in history, a sitting U.S. President will be headlining there. Even as I read Frank trying to conjure his image of Democrats as some sort of hate-group, we're in for an endless parade of Republican reactionaries, racists, conspiracy kooks offering vile ravings against Muslims, brown people from foreign shores with funny accents, gay people, etc. that will go on for days and is now being given the imprimatur of the highest office in the land--an office not occupied by a Democrat.

Dismantling Frank's fantasy seems a waste of time--let's be, yes, frank, he isn't terribly interested in reality--but it would perhaps be unsporting to point out its fever-swamp quality without hacking through at least some of the weeds. So a few items:
"Democrats' abandonment of policy for a full-blown embrace of identity politics: the party seeks to divide the country into victims and oppressors, and claims its moral authority by purporting to be fighting for the victims. The party's message is no longer 'This is how we will make life better for you and your family,' it is, 'Let's take revenge on the white/male/heterosexual oppressors who are responsible for all the evil in the world today.'"
Hillary Clinton abandoned policy and used a weaponized faux-"identity politics" to attack Bernie Sanders last year. A loud but small handful of her cult is still beating that drum today but the progressives, who have always insisted that politics is about policy, are the dominant faction in the party (even though they don't fill many of its leadership roles yet). Clinton isn't "the left"--she's an opportunist who, politically, is basically a rightist who, because she was hopelessly outgunned on substantive matters (and in the wrong party for someone with her views), tried to use that phony ID politics as a cudgel in a campaign. Your own caricature of "identity politics" is unhelpful and tries to wipe away the reality of baked-in problems re:these matters that need to be addressed. "Vote for me because I'm a woman" is a self-evidently stupid non-starter; desperately-needed law enforcement reform is not. Addressing those problems isn't "punishing" anyone; it's correcting injustice. Attempting to prevent those problems from being addressed--by, for example, presenting efforts to address them as aimed at punishing straight white males--does no service; it perpetuates them. And sides with keeping them.
"Think of the 2016 election: as far as a political agenda went, Hillary’s was forgettable. It was basically 'Uh, What Bernie Said' + 'Let's Break the Glass Ceiling!' The signature moment of her campaign was when she denounced half the country as irredeemable bigots in her 'Deplorables' diatribe. But that's Democratic politics today."
You start, here, by getting very close to the truth then you have to ruin it with more nonsense. Clinton was, in fact, constantly offering watered-down versions of Sanders' proposals then denouncing Sanders' own as unrealistic, undoable, ill-advised (she now tries to rewrite this history and insist Sanders was aping her policy proposals). Clinton's campaign was never about policy. She was politically incompetent and a terrible candidate but she never "denounced half the country as irredeemable bigots"; she said half of Trump's supporters were "racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic--you name it"--things she (correctly) called deplorable. This was off-the-cuff and although polling data supported her contention, arguably quite politically stupid. That's not any sort of indicator of "Democratic politics today"; it's just something stupid said by one very bad candidate who lost and who never should have been that party's presidential nominee.
"...in reality, the Tea Party was a legitimate grassroots movement with a coherent and appealing political agenda that wound up sweeping the GOP to power in the 2010 midterms. The Tea Party was clearly a success from the standpoint of channeling conservative frustrations and and concerns into a winning political strategy. The Tea Party infrastructure and ethos drove Republican gains in the 2014 midterms and largely carried Donald Trump to the Presidency in 2016."
The Tea Party wasn't a "grassroots" anything; it wasn't even a movement. After all this time, it shouldn't be necessary to continue to have to point out its actual origins in the machinations of well-funded professional astroturfers who, in cooperation with right-wing media, used it to rebrand disaffected reactionaries at a time when the Repub party was very unpopular. That story has been told, re-told and re-re-told--documented all to Hell and back. The "Tea Party" didn't lead to Republican victories in 2010 or any other year. Its fruit-loopy candidates, in fact, cost Republicans Senate seats that year.[1] Democrats have been losing for years in part because the party in the White House always loses in mid-term elections, both in congress and at the state and local level.[2] Repubs will lose seats next year too (although they won't lose the U.S. House, as they hold that by virtue of extensive gerrymandering in various states). The "Tea Party" didn't have a political platform--its creators made a big deal out of not giving it one. It didn't take Trump to the presidency, although many of the disaffected reactionaries who, back then, associated with it certainly became Trumpanzees. It doesn't really exist and, in effect, never really existed.
"Nancy Pelosi is one of the few Democrats with any political sense, seeing as she just the other day unequivocally condemned and disavowed Antifa."
Antifa activists aren't "Democratic" anything and they haven't, as you would have it, "emerged for Democrats post-2016." They've been around since the 1980s, many decades longer in other countries, and are radical leftists, primarily anarchists, who don’t believe in liberal democracy and have no significant sympathizers among the regular liberals/progressives who make up much of the Democratic party. Contrary to your caricature, prominent progressive/Democratic commentators and pols have offered them nothing but scorn.

And Nancy Pelosi, whose reaction to the sweeping 2016 loses in her own party was to go on television and insist voters didn't want Democrats to change, is not a good example of a pol with "political sense."


"Which Democrat politicians have emerged from the wreckage to lead the party forward? 79-year-old Maxine Waters, a rabid, corrupt Trump-hater who calls for impeachment anytime she's near a microphone. Tom Perez, the foul-mouthed DNC chairman who seems to offer nothing but vulgarity and anger. And Hillary Clinton still pops up here and there to blame somebody for her loss last November, or to painfully try to be hip, even though her party wishes she'd just go away."
Smarter Democrats do wish Clinton would just go away. She isn't going to "lead the party forward." But no one ever said she was. Maxine Waters is outspoken (and black) but your singling out of her is otherwise random. Tom Perez was installed as DNC chief when the conservative Establishment wing of the party came to be horrified that Keith Ellison, the favorite of the surging progressives, was about to become chairman. It recruited Perez to prevent that and installed him using some very dirty tactics. As a consequence, Perez is widely despised and at the Democratic "Unity" events earlier this year, was booed by audiences everywhere he went.

Those same audiences were, however, cheering for Bernie Sanders, and it's rather curious that you exclude him from your list. Sanders isn't just the most popular active politician among Democrats, he's the most popular in the U.S. Even Establishment Democrats are trying (though often fairly cluelessly) to ape his populist appeal and he has inspired a whole new generation of progressive candidates who have been throwing their hats into the ring in various races around the U.S.. It’s a mistake to look for some big, prominent leader to show up and make things right with the world--that isn't how political parties should function--but Sanders is the closest Democrats have to such a thing now.
"How can a movement animated by anything other than hatred and disdain produce political cartoons such as this one?"
Politics are primary grist for the mills of comedians and comics and if you're going to write about 'em, it's very ill-advised to be this thin-skinned. Good comedians and cartoonists hold a mirror up to a people and when this works--and Matt Wuerker, the cartoonist here, is often very good--it's because it gets at a truth. Texas is full of rightists who proudly and loudly burnish their conservatism while safely tucked beneath the wing of the nanny state. A slew of right-wing Texas politicians, who spew that same poison and actually voted against relief for victims of Hurricane Sandy then turned up with their hands out to the feds when Harvey plowed through their state. That cartoon isn't born of "hatred and disdain" and it doesn't bother you because of you think it was; its target is hypocrisy and people who are full of shit, and it bothers you because it's true.

You insist "the number of actual 'Nazis' in this country is a rounding error" but you wrote this article at the end of August, in the aftermath of the nightmarish events in Charlottesville, Virginia. There, white supremacists/Nazis/fascists, gathered to show their support of Donald Trump and Robert E. Lee, violently attacked counter-demonstrators. In the end, one of them drove his car into a crowd of those counter-demonstrators and murdered a woman. If he'd had his way, he would have murdered many more. These hate-movements have been surging for years--they didn't like that whole black president thing--and they've been particularly emboldened by Trump, who speaks their lingo and has courted them in ways that would have been political suicide for any other national politician. His immediate reaction to that VA horror was to blame both sides, as if there were two sides in the matter. It took him two further days to finally condemn the animals who actually were responsible and he'd walked back those remarks by the next afternoon, insisting there were "very fine people" marching with the Nazis and condemning the "alt-left." You watched all of this unfold and your reaction wasn't to condemn those white supremacists/Nazis/fascists or to condemn Trump for his own unconscionable behavior but to write this article in which you crafted a fantasy of the Democratic party as a big hate-group.

That speaks for itself.

--j.

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[1] That year, Republicans had potential Senate victories in Colorado, Nevada, California, Delaware and Alaska but lost all of them because of nutty "Tea Party" candidates.

[2] That isn't, by any means, to say this is the Democratic party’s only problem but it's the place to start when it comes to evaluating those losses.