Friday, July 15, 2016

No Apologies for Standing With Bernie and Hillary Too

I'm with Bernie--and Hillary now.
Well the dust has mostly settled since Bernie Sanders sent shockwaves though his loyal supporters and waves of relief through Hillary Clinton fans and the Democratic Party establishment.  Of course it doesn’t take much more than a frustrated kick in the dirt to raise a small cloud around the knees.  Wild rumors and calculated disinformation keep folks jumpy as pundits scan the horizon for the dust wall that will bury the farm like an Okie’s nightmare.  That disaster, although it would make an exciting apocalyptic movie is unlikely to happen.
Sanders said in his statement the other day in New Hampshire:
…Our campaign won the primaries and caucuses in 22 states, and when the roll call at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia is announced it will show that we won almost 1,900 delegates.
That is a lot of delegates, far more than almost anyone thought we could win. But it is not enough to win the nomination. Secretary Clinton goes into the convention with 389 more pledged delegates than we have and a lot more super delegates.
Secretary Clinton has won the Democratic nominating process, and I congratulate her for that. She will be the Democratic nominee for president and I intend to do everything I can to make certain she will be the next president of the United States.
During the last year I had the extraordinary opportunity to speak to more than 1.4 million Americans at rallies in almost every state in this country. I was also able to meet with many thousands of other people at smaller gatherings. And the profound lesson that I have learned from all of that is that this campaign is not really about Hillary Clinton, or Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders, or any other candidate who sought the presidency. This campaign is about the needs of the American people and addressing the very serious crises that we face. And there is no doubt in my mind that, as we head into November, Hillary Clinton is far and away the best candidate to do that….
…It is no secret that Hillary Clinton and I disagree on a number of issues. That’s what this campaign has been about. That’s what democracy is about. But I am happy to tell you that at the Democratic Platform Committee which ended Sunday night in Orlando, there was a significant coming together between the two campaigns and we produced, by far, the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party.
Our job now is to see that platform implemented by a Democratic Senate, a Democratic House and a Hillary Clinton president—and I am going to be in every corner of this country to make sure that happens.
I have known Hillary Clinton for 25 years. We were a bit younger then. I remember her as a great first lady who broke precedent in terms of the role that a first lady was supposed to play as she helped lead the fight for universal health care. I served with her in the United States Senate and know her as a fierce advocate for the rights of children.
Hillary Clinton will make an outstanding president and I am proud to stand with her here today. Thank you all, very much.
I am taking the blog space to quote Bernie at length because it is apparent that some of his supporters either never read it or were incapable of listening to it after freaking out about some kind of alleged betrayal of their trust.  They found the feet of clay of the idol of their own construction.  It was, after all, not a real live human candidate that they were supporting or even the moderate socialist program he advanced, but their projection of a perfect and absolutely pure hero who valiantly slew all of the right dragons.  Until, at the last minute, he didn’t—he lay down at the greatest dragon’s feet. 
The real Bernie, however idealistic, always operated in the real world as evidenced by his long successful political career.  He could stand forthrightly for clearly articulated principles but also always had to master strategic accommodation and compromise.  Of course to the zealot there is no dirtier word than compromise and no virtue higher than absolute purity. 
I also cite the original statement for a passage that they never heard in their rage over the embrace of Hillary. Of course had they noticed it, it would have made them even more unhappy—“Our job now is to see that platform implemented by a Democratic Senate, a Democratic House and a Hillary Clinton president.”  That was a commitment not only to Clinton, but to the entire Democratic Party, the Party he has always deigned to actually join.  It was a recognition that beyond stopping Donald Trump there is no way forward to a more just and equitable society without dislodging reactionary Republicans, Tea Party zealots, Bible bigots, Ayn Rand sociopaths, and old fashion flat out racists from the seats of power.  Even if that means embracing an admittedly flawed Democratic Party.
The Sanders Political Revolution was authentic, powerful, and realigned the Democratic Party significantly to the left.
The good news is that the political revolution then Bernie Sanders stood for and embodied has already changed the Democratic Party and shaken its corporate accommodationist wing to the core.  The revolution has shifted the center of gravity significantly to the left for the first time in decades.  The push to the left has affected Clinton, a cautious politician with a keen sense of what is possible.  Suddenly a lot of progressive options seem achievable that only lately seemed pipe dreams.  Not only is this reflected in the proposed Party Platform, it is reinforced by hundreds of progressive candidates shaking things up in Congressional races and at the state and local levels as well.  Given the political climate this year, many of those progressives will be elected.
None of this means that the Democratic Party is about to become a socialist party or even a social democratic party in the European mold.  At best it means it has shifted from a center-right party in an environment where there has been no effective electoral left at all to a center-left party.  That’s far from what many yearn for, but a significant improvement.
I have preached the sermon before, but it bears repeating again.  Electoral politics are defensive.  The victory of Hillary Clinton and the Democrats in November will not usher in some sort of golden progressive era.  It will erect a firewall to further right wing depredations and be able to enact modest but not fundamental or systematic economic reforms and actually advance to some degree the social justice claims of minorities, women, immigrants, and the LBGT community.
The future of more fundamental change lies in the creation of organic popular movements willing and able to creatively take to the streets, shop floors, and institutions with militant direct action.  History has shown us the effectiveness of this from the movements of labor, and for women’s suffrage in the past to the more recent examples of the Occupy Movement, Immigrant Rights movement, LBGT and marriage equality movements, Black Lives Matter, and Moral Monday movements.  That creative energy and turmoil is what shifts societal paradigm and opens the door suddenly to sweeping societal change.
Bernie Sanders has shown that he understands this.  The question now is, do his supporters?
If you paid attention to social media you might think there was a wholesale stampede for the exits after the Sanders endorsement.  There were lots of individual wails of betrayal of defiant declarations that they would never vote for Clinton no matter the consequences and blaming a potential Trump victory on the Democrats for choosing her—there we even a few posts claiming that Trump would be the lesser of two evils for one reason or another.  Within a couple of days fanciful pieces were being posted and forwarded like mad.  Some claimed that Sanders had not really conceded and endorsed at all.  Others still claimed that Clinton would be indicted and the Convention would turn to Sanders, all evidence to the contrary.  And one headline screamed “91 Percent of Sanders Supporters Will Never Vote for Clinton” which, of course, was absolute bullshit.  Yet some swore it was gospel

Now a truer picture is emerging.
More reliable polling is now available and although there are variations between the surveys and one widely variant outlier. Pew, perhaps the most highly regarded poll, reported that despite all of the noise, 85% of Sanders supporters will vote for Clinton in November.  Significantly that is higher than the percentage of Clinton who would support Barack Obama after their long, bitter primary battles at a comparable point in 2008. 
You may recall there was significant hand wringing at the time about the hold outs costing Obama the election.  It turned out that a lot of the most shrill and public voices were Republican plants and trolls.  By Election Day, virtually all of the holdouts cast votes for Obama.  That may have been because there was no serious alternative to the Democrats in that election. Ralph Nader, running again as an Independent was highly reviled for possibly draining enough votes from Al Gore to tip Florida and the 2000 election to George W. Bush.  He earned only about 750,000 votes nationwide.  The Green Party, which fielded former Representative Cynthia McKenna was not a credible alternative.  McKenna finished dead last behind all of the other minor candidates with only 12% of the total vote.
Sanders will probably have a tougher time, however, earning the most hard core Bernie or Bust votes.  The Hill, a newspaper  for Washington political insiders ran a story citing data and local discussion on Yik Yak, a location-based social network which claimed that 48% of Sanders’s millennials would support a third party and 13% of them even said they would vote for Trump.   
The Green Party's Jill Stein has been actively courting disappointed Sanders people.

The Green Party and its standard bearer Dr. Jill Stein represent a much stronger alternative than it did eight years ago.  Stein has been aggressively angling for Sanders diehards for weeks and the Party has adopted for the first time an explicitly socialist agenda heavy on the economic justice issues dear to Sanders voters.  Her allure was demonstrated when in the first twenty-four hours after the endorsement speech her fundraising jumped a reported 1000%, an accomplishment that was impressive and highly touted.  But it is important to remember that it was 1000% jump from a very low level.  Steins campaign reported taking in $80,000 in that day, still a pittance compared to the fundraising juggernaught of the Clinton campaign or even the comparatively struggling efforts by Donald Trump. 
Stein also picked up her first big name former Sanders supporter, Black scholar and public intellectual Cornel West who was the key Sanders representative on the Platform Committee.  She has not, however as yet gotten any defectors with high level elected positions or even the entertainment celebrities that grab attention.
The Green candidate will probably do well with the hard core Sanders cohort this fall who seem in no mood to even consider Clinton who they paint in nearly apocalyptic terms as a liar, criminal, and monster.  But a good chunk of the Bernier or Busters having had their fingers burned by politics may crawl back into the hole of electoral non-involvement from which they were briefly lured.
Clinton’s biggest problem might not be the Sanders people AWOL from the Democrats this fall.  Although she has a devoted base, especially among women and minority voters as well as with long time registered Democrats, Clinton is only getting reluctant and unenthusiastic from many Sanders people.  The same Pew poll that showed he getting most of their votes also showed dissatisfaction among them on her perceived honesty, ability to change Washington, and independence from special interests.  A popular social media meme showing a car with a Sanders bumper sticker and one that reads “Oh, fine, Hillary I guess” summed up the sentiment.

Among critical undecided voters, larger in numbers now than at the same point in 2008, Clinton rivals Trump in unpopularity, largely due to months of relentless smears and lies, old doubts about her honesty, and quite frankly a distaste for a pushy woman.  In that respect despite the Sanders endorsement, it was a tough week for Hillary.  Although the FBI issued a report saying they would not recommend indicting her in the e-mail server scandal, the official making the announcement went out of his way to denounce her for trimming close to the line, and for misrepresentations and lies.  In particular he accused her of sending or receiving classified secrets on her unsecured servers.  That made for spectacular headlines causing her real damage even though the Bureau had to walk that back that none of the e-mails were classified at the time they were sent.  
The most recent polls show that Clinton’s several point lead over Trump has melted away.  Polls show her lead down to one to four points in most cases with the widely divergent Rasmussen Poll putting her behind by 7 points.  Aggregating the polls, her lead has shrunk to 43.1% to 41.1% with 11% undecided and 5.9% other.  More alarming one poll showed Trump taking a lead for the first time in critical swing states including Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
There are nearly gleeful reports of panic in Democratic Party circles.  I strongly doubt it.  There is ample time for recovery, Trump has not run out of ways to shock and offend, and Clinton will have a well financed and well oiled campaign organization that will run rings around Trump’s ego driven, slapdash, chaotic campaign.

Trumps Republican Convention promises to be a circus and fiasco.

The Republican National Convention in Columbus next week will be a literal circus with boundless opportunities for candidate to shoot himself in the foot with his Magnum .44 mouth and for his collection of barely hinged surrogates to lob grenades in all directions.  Trump will waste no opportunity to demean, disparage, and attempt to destroy party regulars who won’t endorse him or who are tepid at best.  Far from unifying the party even a successful—from Trump’s point of view—Convention has the potential to shatter the party.  Don’t expect the usual post convention bounce for Trump
By contrast, Clinton’s Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia will be able to stay pretty clearly on message.  It will not be totally without drama.  There will still be nominations and roll call vote.  Sanders has promised no floor fights over the Platform, but he has less control over his own delegates than any candidate in recent history so some floor pyrotechnics is possible.  But parades of speakers, including Sanders, and the very popular sitting President will paint Clinton in glowing terms.  She will deliver a carefully planned acceptance speech that will hit all of the right notes.  Troops will be rallied rather than alienated and the television audience will surprise themselves by warming to her.  Clinton should be able to sail into August with her lead restored and strengthened.
She will be aided because Trump has his own major minor party threat.  The Libertarian Party is now well established and has been the leading minor party in recent elections.  It strongly appeals to the Randist laissez-faire wing of the party and those uncomfortable with Christian jihadism.  A number of high-powered Republican office holders and media figures have signaled that they intend to vote for Libertarian Gary Johnson.  On the other hand, more anti-Trump Republicans seem ready to swallow hard and vote for Clinton than ex-Sanderistas will vote for Mussolini lite.  Which minority party might do the most damage to which major party will vary from state to state.  Theoretically either could put a close state or two into play, my guess being that the Libertarians might do the most damage.
That’s my two cents as pundit. 
As for me, the stakes have never been higher.   Regardless of the jeers of old friends I stand with Bernie Sanders this year in full and enthusiastic support of Hillary Clinton and progressive Democratic candidates from the top to the bottom of the ticket.
The coveted Heretic, Rebel, a Thing to Flout official endorsement goes to Hillary.
The propriety awaits his appointment as an ambassador to a small but pleasant country…

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