Monday, July 24, 2017

A More Thoughtful Letter to an Angry Clintonite

Some recent comments by the Senate Democratic Leader has prompted Clintonite Hillary Schwartz to write "An Angry Letter To Chuck Schumer," in which she asserts that the New York Senator has thrown Hillary Clinton under the bus. Her subject line: "When You Throw Hillary Clinton Under the Bus, You Throw Millions of Her Supporters Under It Too, Especially Women." A brief response:

Get over yourself. When you assert, "I speak for millions of women," you’re not going to get--or earn--anything but ridicule from anyone worthy of being taken seriously. To clear the air on the subject under discussion, this is the allegedly terrible thing Chuck Schumer said:

"'When you lose to somebody who has 40 percent popularity, you don’t blame other things — Comey, Russia--you blame yourself,' Schumer (D-N.Y.) told The Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe and David Weigel. 'So what did we do wrong? People didn't know what we stood for, just that we were against Trump. And still believe that.'"

That’s not riding some wave of "Hillary hate"; it’s what's known as taking responsibility. For Clintonites who have never learned about that, it's what adults do when they screw up, as Democrats have so royally screwed up in recent years.

Now, if it's any consolation, Schumer is probably just putting on a show when it comes to reform. For the moment, he can tell which way the wind's blowing but if he were serious, he would have offered a much more forthright acknowledgement of the colossal mistake that was Clinton and, more broadly, Clintonism, as embraced by Obama.

You write:
"Unfortunately, you are following the lead of Bernie Sanders whose outreach on behalf of the Party is 'Democrats suck.' That is not a winning pitch, other than for him."
Unfortunately for you, we have numbers on this and they tell a very different story. From the big Harvard/Harris survey:

This is a couple months out of date at this point but I have the graphic handy and the numbers haven't changed that much since. On the other hand, the numbers have changed a great deal since your talking-points were minted around 2 years ago. Bernie Sanders enjoys massive support among Democrats. You play the usual game of pretending as if Sanders was just the candidate of middle-class white guys; these numbers correct that. In the same poll, he's not only more popular with women than with men, he's significantly more popular with women than Hillary Clinton (Sanders has 58% support among women, Clinton only 45%). He's even more popular among those who voted for Clinton than Clinton herself (81% of Clinton voters say they have a favorable view of Sanders vs. 76% with a similar view of Clinton). So you're not actually speaking for anyone when it comes to this pointless hypersensitivity about Democrats taking any responsibility for their mistakes. You talk about having been "thrilled to vote for HRC" but HRC was hated by most people--on election week, she was polling at 55% unfavorable. You're complaining about Schumer allegedly rolling over the Democratic base but this is the Democratic base, and you’re not representative of it.

Democrats have been brought to one of their lowest levels in the very long history of the party. Doing nothing isn't an option. Sanders' message isn't "Democrats suck." It's that Democrats need to proactively embrace a progressive agenda. That's not only entirely sensible, it's essential for Democrats if they ever want to dig themselves out of the very deep hole in which they find themselves at the moment.[1]

Like so many Clintonites, you freely assign nefarious motives to Sanders with absolutely nothing to support your claims--the ludicrous notion that he's "not interested" in helping the party and is merely "playing both sides of the fence… to boost himself." Sanders has a progressive agenda he's pursued significantly longer than most people reading these words today have even lived. If, after all that time, he hasn't proven that agenda is the thing to which he’s committed, no one has ever proven such a thing of themselves. Sanders wants the Democratic party to reform so it can win and enact that agenda. Said agenda is incredibly popular, enjoying not only overwhelming support within the Democratic party but widespread support from the general public. Some good news for those who want it: Sanders is also the most popular politician in the U.S. at the moment. No positive purpose is served in smearing him with this garbage and no end is served except to harm the progress of that agenda. Donald Trump and his Trumpanzees will certainly appreciate that. No one of good conscience should offer it a moment's kind thought.

Here are the facts of life: Clinton was not only a bad candidate, she was an historically bad one who launched her campaign when polls were already showing more people disliked than liked her, ran one of the all-time awful campaigns and lost to the most unpopular major-party presidential candidate in the history of polling. She and those who supported her--and Schumer himself was a key member of Team Clinton--have saddled us with Trump. Democrats are now looking to pick up the pieces and try to rebuild. You can be a part of that process or write things like your "open letter," which is basically a declaration that you're part of the problem instead. Choose wisely. This time.

--j.

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[1] You write:
"I understand the urgency of having a more cohesive and strong economic message, as well as boosting support, but how about surrounding it with an overall positive message by going straight to the plans that the Democrats have and what the Democrats have and are fighting for? Must you do an anti-sell with the sell?"
Despite your implication, Schumer and the congressional Democrats are already rolling out the broad outlines of that positivist economic message. It's still early days, so somewhat sketchy and experience has dictated one should be fairly cynical about the commitment of these Democratic leaders to any genuine reform but at least on paper, they’re making steps in the right direction. Your suggestion that they simply not address what got them to their present sorry state is a non-starter.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Exposing Faux-Progressive Clintonite’s Latest Anti-Sanders Scam

Another piece from Medium: In my last few months on Medium, I've frequently challenged the claims of a clique of hardcore Clintonites who seem to be fairly concentrated here. Essentially a cult of personality built around Clinton herself, the writers of this clique are intent on perpetually scourging both Bernie Sanders and progressives in the name of Hillary Clinton. Because Clinton herself sometimes posed as a progressive, this scourging is, perversely, often even done in the name of progressivism.

In the latter category falls "Progressivism: Bernie's Doing It Wrong," the latest screed by Val Perry (previously, Val Perry Rendel). Perry is an obsessed Clintonite crackpot, if not the worst on Medium certainly the most unhinged. Her view of Clinton: "We love her... she's goddamn brilliant and fearless and formidable and terrifying." I first came across Perry in April, in an ugly rant entitled "Fuck Bernie Fucking Sanders" in which she expressed her venomous, completely irrational hatred of Sanders and his supporters and declared her intention to make ceaseless war on both until they go away. She ended with a statement of the principle that would guide her in the conduct of this war: "See you on the low road." I dismantled that article and some others that followed. Those debunkings have mostly occurred secondhand, as Perry blocked me pretty quickly, something she seems to do to any more-than-semi-articulate critic.


Perry is a loon, a demagogue and as congenital a liar as the "President" she claims to despise,[1] all traits on display to various degrees in her new piece, which sees her spinning up a new variation on a tactic Clinton used during the Democratic primary campaign. Boring background stuff: The appropriations bills that fund the federal government are massive and contain thousands of items. When congress considers them, amendments are added and taken away, deals are cut, compromises are made, items both good and bad end up attached to them and at the end, congressmen and senators must vote yea or nay on the entire package, each member having to decide whether the good in them outweighs the bad. Hillary Clinton was a senator--she knows how this works. Despite that, she would, in commenting on Bernie Sanders' congressional record, dig through those massive appropriations bills, pull out one item and insist Sanders had voted for or against that item based on his vote on the entire package of which it was a part. Even as sycophantish a pro-Clinton outlet as the Washington Post condemned Clinton for this practice.

By this method, Perry, in her latest trip down the low road, sets out to prove Sanders isn't really a progressive, a theme she's hit in the past.[2] She provides a list of all the alleged anti-progressive things Sanders has done while in congress. Relevant here is the fact that Perry aggressively blocks articulate critics of her material; while she provides links for each item on her list, she relies on her adoring readers not to check them. If one looks into them, one finds that same Clinton-style scam from last year. Perry's assertion that Sanders "opposed legislation banning imports from forced child labor," for example, leads one to an appropriations bill from 1998 that funded the entire Treasury Department. The claim that Sanders "opposed allowing breastfeeding on federal grounds" leads to the Treasury Department appropriation for 2000. Perry Reader Daniel Sullivan pointed out that, in reality, Sanders stands up for women who breastfeed in public. Sanders has championed banning the importation of products from forced child labor for years.

Anyone who goes looking for anti-progressive votes by Sanders isn't going to come up with much and in silent recognition of this, Perry carries Clinton's tactic further and pads her own list with the same item repeatedly. Follow this: Perry's claim that Sanders "opposed federal funding to help the homeless," that he "opposed additional funding for rural housing and development," that he "opposed funding for assisting prospective homeowners with AIDS," that he "opposed legislation requiring federal agencies to create and enforce anti-sex discrimination politics," that he "opposed funding going towards investigations of unfair trade practices," that he "opposed increased education funding," that he opposed "increased funding for poor students," that he "opposed legislation increasing financial aid," that he "opposed increased agricultural funding,” that he "opposed increased funding for prominent farming communities," that he "opposed funding for drought assistance" and that he "opposed increased food safety and inspection"--all of these claims--are all based on a single Sanders vote against a single appropriations bill from 2003. There are 29 items on Perry's list and that one vote accounts for 12 of them. The claims that Sanders "opposed increased funding for nutritional programs for women, infants and children" and "opposed legislation marketing overseas agricultural practices" (how's that for a big progressive issue, eh?) are, likewise, based on a single vote on a single Agriculture Department funding bill from 1995.

Perry also includes Sanders' proposal that the U.S. withdraw from the World Trade Organization. The WTO is, of course, another of those grant-superpowers-to-multinationals orgs--Sanders proposal there was a progressive one. It's noteworthy that this is the sole item on the list wherein Perry deals with something Sanders has proposed; everything else is just assertions about things he allegedly opposed, which seems a rather curious way to judge the credentials of a progressive.

I’ve referred to this as Perry's list but while publishing it under her name, she doesn't actually take responsibility for it. Instead, she asserts "someone has compiled his [Sanders'] list of greatest hits, reproduced here for your edification." The "someone" is unnamed. Looking over what I've just covered here, readers can make of that what they will.

Perry's central thesis in this piece, that Sanders isn't a progressive, is, of course, ludicrous. A short trip over to Vote Smart will reveal to the uninitiated that Sanders has sterling ratings from liberal interest groups and exceptionally poor ones from their conservative counterparts.[3] Among other things, Sanders has gotten a 95%-100% liberal rating--usually 100%--from Americans For Democratic Action every year since 1996, with the exception of 2011 (when he was at 80%). At the same time, he holds a whopping 6% career score from ADA's rightist counterpart, the American Conservative Union. Zipping over to Progressive Punch, one finds Sanders has a 96.96% progressive rating.[4] By any serious estimation, he's one of the most progressive members of either house of congress and has been for the entirety of his stay there and Perry's assertion to the contrary is sheer crackpotism.

--j.

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[1] While I deal with a few specifics here and in my other rebuttals aimed at her, one must, to get the full flavor of her mania, read her.

[2] And she goes about it in pretty much the same way she has in the past, accusing Sanders, in her opening, of "telling black folks they don't know what's best for 'em," of "dismissing racial justice as 'identity politics'" and of "throwing abortion rights down the toilet." And, of course, Sanders has done none of those things. Sanders was dismissive of Southern states during the primary/caucus campaign--the basis for Perry's claim regarding "black folks"--because those states are overly conservative and don't contribute anything toward a general-election win. Sanders has stood for racial justice all of his life. On abortion, Sanders holds a 100% lifetime record from both Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Rights Action League.

[3] The usual caveat about interest-group ratings: they're always framed to make their own players look better. "Better" is relative though, whereas Sanders' ratings are impeccable.

[4] I'm not a fan of Progressive Punch's system, which is convoluted and built on very questionable premises.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Hating On Hillary's Detractors: What the Left Really Doesn't Need

Susan Brassfield Cogan has written a brief piece, "Hating On Hillary: What the Left Really Wants." It is, at heart, a plea for an affirmative agenda by progressives, a good idea indeed if progressives want to win, but Cogan weakens her argument with some very wrongheaded premises. Having a little time on my hands this afternoon, I thought I'd address them.

Cogan begins with an unsupportable premise, that, if you're a progressive, Hillary Clinton is 90% your friend and ally. She isn't with you on everything, but she is on most things. It is, of course, impossible to actually quantify something that abstract with a number--that 90% is just an emotional impression, a ballpark estimation. Tasked with coming up with a similar number, a lot of progressives--specifically, those at whom Cogan is aiming her comments--would say Clinton was more like a 20% friend and a very unreliable 20% at that. Just as unquantifiable but their own emotional impressions would be much closer to the truth.

During the 2016 election cycle, it was a common failing in Clintonite commentators to make assessments of Clinton's politics based on policy positions officially advocated by the Clinton campaign and Cogan's own ballpark figure seems to reflect this. If one reduces the official platforms of Clinton and her 2016 primary opponent Bernie Sanders down to a series of simplistic bullet-points, the two would look remarkably similar but such a process conceals far more than it reveals and ultimately produces a gross misimpression. Not all policies are equal; candidates may agree on 9 policies of little consequence but have a fundamental disagreement with one very big, critical issue and on paper, it's still 90% agreement between them.[1] And, of course, one can't take some politicians at their word and Hillary Clinton is one of the best--worst--examples of that. For the whole of her time in the national spotlight, she's been an unprincipled triangulator whose instincts, in a liberal party, are conservative. Her politicking is straight '90s "New Democrat" Dick Morris stuff--throw your own base under the bus in order to portray both left and right as extremes and to position yourself as the sensible center. She looks out for herself before all other things and has never once taken point on any controversial issue, always opting to follow the trends and play it safe. She didn't have some sort of sudden epiphany on gay marriage in 2012 when she flip-flopped on her previous opposition and came out in favor of it; the only thing that had changed was that a majority of Americans had started telling pollsters they supported rather than opposed it. That tide of public opinion changed in 2010; Clinton waited two more years to make sure it was a "safe" position to take. That's how she's always operated. Whenever an election looms, she'll take any position she thinks she must to win. On most of the important ones, she plays the liberal then scurries right back to the right as soon as the election is over. Sometimes, her complete lack of principles is transparent. Clinton joined Sanders, for example, in decrying the corrupting influence of money in politics and endorsing campaign finance reform--for progressives, the single-most important issue in politics and the one around which every other issue turns. Then, out of the other side of her mouth, she angrily rejected the notion that politicians accepted campaign contributions for votes, thus forcefully rejecting the entire premise of reform. So the apparent similarities between Clinton and Sanders in a simplistic paper analysis is very misleading.


Cogan opts to follow the hardest-core (and least thoughtful) Clintonite writers in insisting progressive opposition to Clinton was rooted merely in unreasonable "ideological purity" demands and that's simply not a supportable position. The divisions between Clinton and Sanders were real and substantial.

Cogan's only case for her own assessment that Clinton is a 90% friend is to note several bad things Donald Trump has done since assuming office and to assert that Clinton wouldn't have done those things, a fairly bizarre argument given the context of her own article. Clinton probably wouldn't have done most of the things Cogan lists (though Cogan overstates her case) but Cogan's article addresses a dispute within the Democratic party, a milieu wherein few indeed would ever suggest a Clinton presidency would be worse than Trump. Saying someone is a friend because they'd be better than Trump is setting the bar about as low as it can go, and trying to make an affirmative case for a pol merely because said pol will defend past successes is a reactionary argument. In an article that's supposed to be making a plea for an affirmatively progressive agenda, what's up with that?

Finally, Cogan's fundamentally misguided focus on Clinton critics is worth a few words. It's over a year since the Democratic primary contest ended, yet everywhere Democratic politics are discussed on the internet, people are still getting into vitriolic wars over it. Cogan's own article is a response to this development but for someone with her goal, she's points her finger in a very wrong direction. These fights continue because a mouthy faction of Clinton's die-hards, aware that Clinton's loss indicts them, have decided to make war on progressives, whom they ludicrously blame for Clinton's loss. They're unrepentant, relentlessly hostile to Sanders and his supporters and intent on refighting the 2016 primaries over and over again.[1] Any time Sanders' name is even mentioned in mixed company, they boil out of the woodwork, spewing lies, slanders and nonsense left over from the campaign,[2] damning progressives to hell and making any sort of reasoned discussion impossible. For all their noise, the polling makes clear they're relatively few in number. The monthly Harvard-Harris poll shows Democrats have largely moved on from 2016;[3] while Clinton is less popular than even Trump, Bernie Sanders is now the most popular politician in the U.S. and is, in fact, consistently more popular with people who voted for Clinton than is Clinton herself. Clinton is the political equivalent of a dead woman--she'll never run for office again--but Sanders is not only still a Senator, he's the most prominent exponent of progressive policies in American politics. That's good news for progressive policies--there's no downside to having the most beloved politician working for your cause--but demented Clintonites will have none of that. To the extent that their constant scurrilous attacks on Sanders have any significant impact, they're really just hurting the progressive cause, which no doubt fills them with glee but it should be a matter of concern for a professed progressive like Cogan. For the moment, the overwhelming majority of Democrats are pretty much united. Cogan lists some things she thinks should comprise an affirmative agenda for the political left and they're all things progressives support (though not all things Clinton supported). If, as she says, she wants progressives to stand together and behind them, it would seem a good idea to direct her scolding toward the faction that, over eight months after the election, is still actively--and pointlessly--sewing discord in the ranks.

--j.

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[1] A much-circulated talking-point during the campaign was that in the years Clinton and Sanders’ respective Senate tenures overlapped, the two voted the same 93% of the time. In reality, the overwhelming majority of those votes--and this is always the case when one goes bulk-rate on the congressional record--are on entirely inconsequential matters. So, again, a misrepresentation.

[1] Clinton spurs them on by turning up in public and, as is her habit over the last few decades, casting blame for her loss in every direction while, herself, accepting no more than superficial responsibility.

[2] Lies, slanders and nonsense I've been addressing in some detail in a string of articles over the last few months.

[3] Some have moved on a bit too quickly. Clinton ran an historically bad presidential campaign and lost to a joke, a protofascist clown, the most unpopular major-party presidential candidate in the history of polling. In the process, she dragged to oblivion Democratic candidates across the U.S., leading to a string of disastrous losses that have left the party at one of its weakest points in its long history. Democrats made some very bad decisions in 2016 and those were just the latest in a long string of very bad decisions in recent years. An autopsy is not only appropriate, it's essential if the party is to learn anything from these mistakes. Unfortunately, those in positions of power within it are largely the same people who have dragged it to ruin; they made sure to keep their own cushy jobs in the important leadership roles and they're not going to be sanctioning any soul-searching that may shine a light on themselves any time soon. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi spoke for the lot of them when, sitting in the smoking ruins of the party left in the aftermath of the general election last year, she declared that she didn't think people wanted the Democratic party to change. Like Clinton herself, they'd rather just blame Russians, FBI director James Comey or anyone else.