Thursday, June 9, 2016

What’s Next When It’s All Over Baby Blue

Better days for Bernie Sanders.

Listen.  With all due apologies to plus size women and forswearing, forever fat shaming, that sound you hear is the fat lady singing.  Bernie Sanders’s last legitimate hope of wresting the Democratic Presidential nomination from Hillary Clinton lay with a big win in California and hopefully New Jersey to demonstrate to the party regulars who are super delegates, that Clinton was damaged beyond repair and that he was the only real hope to stop Trump.  But not only did he not surprisingly fail to win the Garden State, he lost the big prize but did so by a wider margin than the last minute surge his supporters counted on. 
Although the AP and other news outlets were premature in declaring Clinton the presumptive candidate on the eve of Tuesday’s primaries, it is impossible to deny reality any longer.  Of course many Sanders diehards blame the early call as a media conspiracy to suppress the vote, there is no turn out evidence that it actually did so.  Did some voters decide at the last moment to hop on the presumptive band wagon?  Inevitably some, but partisans on both sides were so entrenched for their candidate that the pool of last minute undecideds and wishy-washy leaners was surprisingly small. 
Predictably Bernie-or-Busters are also crying foul and alleging election fraud and voter suppression over irregularities in Tuesday’s vote in the Golden State, mostly late opening polling places and provisional ballots issued to late registers who were missing from some voter rolls.  No question that in California and in many states election reform is an on-going issue that critically needs to be addressed, but again there is no evidence that there was any conspiratorial manipulation, but plenty for the chaos of a big election in a populous state.  And less evidence that the chaos significantly affected the outcome.
Now the shake-out begins.  Tremblers within the Party registered 5.5 on the totally unscientific Murfin Scale—a lot of potential damage but far short of the Big One which would level civilization and hand the smoking ruins over to the Trumpistas.
Naturally, Clinton partisans and the Democratic establishment have stepped up calls for Sanders to withdraw from the race and endorse Hillary or at least concede defeat and not put up a senseless battle at the Democratic National Convention next month in Philadelphia.  They argue that Clinton won three million more votes through the primaries as well as a majority of elected delegates not counting those controversial Super Delegates.  In normal circumstances it would be clear that she was the choice of a majority of Democrats.
Clinton herself has been more circumspect, as well she need be.  In 2008 she famously vowed to take her fight “all the way to the Convention after it became clear that Barack Obama had secured the nomination.  Just as now, there were plenty of calls for her to drop out and unite the party.  Now she says that she “understands how it feels to lose” and says she doesn’t expect Sanders to call it quits before the convention.  A smart move to avoid charges of hypocrisy, and maybe smarter politics for a stab at eventually winning over Sanders’s hyper-loyal followers.

Clinton Revels in clinching the nomination.

On the other side the Bernie-or-Busters are louder than ever and striking out viciously at anyone tempted to fold their tents or join in party unity behind Clinton.  Their list of traitors, turncoats, shills for the oligarchy, toadies, and general lickspittle grows daily and includes any number of yesterday’s progressive heroes, allies, and activists with solid credentials going back decades.  Some are hearing the siren song of Jill Stein and the Greens who has dramatically stepped up her wooing of the disenchanted.  Others say they will write in Sanders or boycott the election entirely, damn the consequences.  Should Trump win because of it, they say blame will be on Hillary, not them and it will serve the Party and country right for their rejection of Bernie’s political revolution.
The question is how many of this loud chorus are serious and how many are Trump and GOP trolls making mischief?  Back in ’08 there was a lot of noise about women sitting out the election out of anger at Obama’s supposedly sexist campaign.  A lot of that did turn out to be Republican mischief and most legitimately disappointed Clintonistas has thought better about it by the election and joined in making the Obama landslide.  Will the current split work out that way?  I suspect generally so.  But I never underestimate the suicidal tendencies of some members of the doctrinaire and purer-than-thou left.

Anti-Hillary memes like this flooded Facebook--Right wing, Bernie or Bust, or one-size-fits all--who could tell?
Sanders himself seems to be of two minds.  Rationally, he realizes he has lost.  He is immediately downsizing his national campaign staff by half and seems to be curtailing some of his famous nickels-and-dimes-of-ordinary American fundraising that has here to fore  been fabulously successful.  Or at least he recognizes that it will dry up on its own.  He meets with President Obama today in the White House where he knows he will hear an appeal for unity.  Will the president also try to broker a deal?  Probably not crassly but he may pass on Clinton overtures which might include DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s—Sanders loyalists’ chief boogie woman—head on a platter, platform concessions, possible future rule changes on Super Delegates, and a progressive vice-presidential choice.  
On the other hand Politico has painted Sanders as personally bitter in defeat and in no mood to roll over.  His staff is painted as divided and supposedly leaked embarrassing details about the controversial Nevada Caucuses.  In his California speech after losing the primary he acknowledged that “the math is against me,” but vowed to stay in the race to the Convention.  In fact he probably owes his supporters the spectacle of having his name put in nomination, fiery seconding speeches, and a noisy, enthusiastic floor demonstration.  It may prevent the Convention from becoming a seamless Clinton coronation, but it would not be historically out of line for Democrats. 
But after that Sanders must call on his supporters to unite behind Clinton, with whom he once shared an almost identical Senate voting record. 
Faithful readers of this electronic rag know that I was an early and enthusiastic Sanders supporter.  I was proud to support a democratic socialist who mirrored my own values and positions so well.  I was thrilled as the campaign, against all odds, took off and proved that millions of Americans shared those values and were ready to make a public commitment to them.

The Proprietor at a Labor Day Rally in Woodstock, Illinois put on by local Sanders supporters.   Proof that I was not always an apostate.

You may also recall that I have spoken out against the behavior of some Sanders supporters—or alleged Sanders supporters because I suspect some of them were agent provocateurs—whose attacks on Clinton and her supporters were nakedly sexist and often misogynist; aped, mirrored, and amplified decades of right wing smears; and were vicious in attacks on and harassment of anyone who dared depart a degree from their narrow ideology.  Those voices never represented the vast majority of Sanders supporters, volunteers, and donors, but their noisy clamor drove away many—especially women—who might have otherwise supported the campaign and gave the Clinton campaign fat targets on which to turn their guns.
Which the Clinton camp was more than eager to do.  They were not blameless or bereft of their own shrill voices.  Bernie’s Boys became a slur to categorize the whole campaign as the creature of spoiled, entitled frat boys when in fact Sanders’s appeal was always deeper and broader than that convenient stereotype.  Too often any criticism of Clinton, even on substantial issues not innuendo was met by blanked accusations of sexism.  Women in support of Sanders were denounced as traitors to their sex and to feminism just as Blacks and Latinos were scolded as tools of white privilege.
In point of fact divisions among women and minorities between the two camps were shown to be more generational than anything else with younger feminists and minority activists tending toward Sanders.  The rifts exposed within the feminist movement and between an older generation of civil rights leaders and those who grew up in the Black Lives Matter and Moral Mondays movements seriously need to be worked on in those communities.
So after all of this, the questions are what am I going to do and what are you going to do now that our candidate will surely not be the nominee.
When yesterday's Sanders hero Robert Reich called for support of Hillary Clinton when she gets the nomination on his daily video blog, the comments were flooded with vituperation and deathless pledges never to vote for Clinton no matter what. The same fate befalls anyone else who does not fall in line.  A lesson in how to become an instant pariah to people with the common sense of a gnat.

I am going to support Hillary Clinton.  I am not waiting until the Convention to say so although I respect Bernie’s right to have his name put in nomination.  And I am not doing so reluctantly or half heartedly.  I said even in my original endorsement post long ago that Democrats were fortunate to have such strong and attractive candidates.  I meant it then.  I mean it now.  I endorse her enthusiastically and will work toward her election. 
Clinton is, as advertised, the most experienced and seasoned Presidential candidate in living memory.  Although some hold her long resume against her, it is a distinguished record of public service to be proud of.  I never bought the many smears, innuendos, and accusations against her, most of which originated with that vast right wing conspiracy which she was once mocked for naming.  She has been, on the whole, an honest public servant and a generally liberal and progressive one.  Remember that in 2008—an election in which I was an early Obama supporter—Clinton was promoted by many as more authentically liberal than the Illinois Senator who was portrayed as a trimmer and compromiser by contrast.  She has always been forthright in explaining her positions, although those positions have changed and evolved over time—a sign of growth for the most part, not, as usually charged sheer opportunism or lack of firm principles.
Clinton has always, instinctively been a gradualist rather than a revolutionary as exemplified by her jury-rigged health care plan in her husband’s administration was a prime example—she thought a single payer scheme would have been killed outright as socialist.  But the very good news is thanks to the success of the Obama administration and Sanders campaign, the center of American politics has shifted to the left for the first time in history.  The rise of Trumpism is actually a sign of the success of that shift.  That means that the scope of what is achievable for a gradualist like Clinton is far broader than it was even eight years ago.  She has already moved left on environmental issues including fracking.  She is moving away from her husband’s disastrous tough-on-crime sentencing guidelines that have resulted in the Black gulag.  She is modifying her positions on banking regulation and undoubtedly recognizes that Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have successfully established a strong Democratic constituency consensus on this issue.  With the likelihood of a solid majority in the Senate and at least a less overwhelmingly Republican House she may have more room to maneuver and advance these causes.
Clinton already has a strong record on reproductive rights and other feminist issues as well as positions on gun control that are more in line with general Democratic sentiments than Sanders.
This does not mean that I agree with Clinton on everything.  There is no evidence that she is yet willing to surrender her neo-liberal orthodoxy on Free Trade.  Like Obama, she will continue to support international trade agreements that have been disastrous for American workers while creating slave-like dystopias in China, India, and third world countries.  Even worse is her instinctive hawk-like foreign policy which tends to look at Obama’s do nothing stupid rule as weak and her slavish devotion to Israel come hell or high water will empower the draconian occupation policies of the current government and possibly even abet an Israeli attack on Iran just when Obama’s policies are leading to a general relaxation of tensions.
I expect to be a vocal critic of these positions, just as I have been a critic of Obama’s failed drone wars.  I am not writing any candidate or President a blank check of approval.  But I do note that even at her worst in this area, Clinton does not compare to the wild danger of hair-trigger playground bully like Donald Trump backed by the imperialist dreams of the until now discredited neo-conservatives of the Dick Cheney ilk.
Which brings us to the Trump threat, which is real even though he represents a violent and resentful minority of the American population.  Under the right circumstances he could stumble into the Presidency and usher in America’s Dark Age.  And high among the circumstances that could make that possible is a disunited Democratic Party, a liberal/left at war with itself, or a smug boycott of the election by the Holier-than-Thou purists.

I remind you of the alternative.

But I also want to make clear that this is not just a choice between two evils.  Donald Trump and the Republican Party are evil.  Hillary Clinton is not evil.  Let me repeat that.  Hillary Clinton is not evil.  She may be in some ways a flawed candidate and she may have positions and do things which I do not approve off.  But on the whole she is liberal and progressive enough to make her a positive choice.
Those are the reasons that I am, as of this day, a Hillary Clinton supporter.  If that makes me a traitor—I have already heard the charge—so be it.  By throwing the massive influence of my blog, which is at least clicked on a few hundred times a day, I guess I am enlisting in Shills for the Oligarchy.  Fat cat bankers who would like to make my corruption complete can contact me for information on where to send the check.
What should you do?  Well, I am pretty much a let-your-conscience-be-your-guide kind of guy unless your conscience tells you your hurt feelings are worth a Trump Reich.  If that’s the case, I have no problem calling you an ass wipe to your face.
If you cannot be one hundred percent enthusiastic for Clinton, you still owe her and the country your begrudging vote.  If you don’t want to campaign for her, it’s up to you.  But there are ways that you can effectively continue the political revolution Sanders started.  A lot of folks figure that you will walk away from politics now that you have lost.  But there are signs that a lot of folks are willing to go deeper—to extend the revolution to other Federal, state, and local races putting progressives and democratic socialists in office at every level.  Here in McHenry County several leading Sanders volunteers have become candidates in races like county board seats and state legislative seats.  Many are supporting progressive Congressional candidates like Jim Walz in the 14th District and Amanda Holland in the 6th.  We can actually learn something from how the Tea Party reshaped the Republicans from the ground up.

In McHenry County Sanders supporters have pitched in to support the campaign of Jim Walz (center) for Congress and other local progressive candidates.  A good way to keep the Sanders political revolution going.

It has long been my contention that electoral politics, especially on the Presidential and national level, are largely defensive.  At least in recent years we have been voting for Democrats as a sea wall to keep us from being flooded by bigotry and yoked into further serfdom.  For positive, progressive change to come, it requires a popular movement in the streets and direct action.  That is the lesson of the Occupy Movement, the press for marriage equality and immigration reform, Moral Mondays, Black Lives Matter, and the push to a $15 national minimum wage.  Direct Action has moved the needle on these issues and force politicians, sometimes kicking and screaming, to confront them.  To make your political revolution, you actually have to make a revolution.
The ball is in your court.

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