As I have traveled around the world in recent weeks, I am repeatedly asked two questions: Is it conceivable that Donald Trump could win the US presidency? And how did his candidacy get this far in the first place?
As for the first question, though political forecasting is even more difficult than economic forecasting, the odds are strongly in favor of Hillary Clinton. Still, the closeness of the race (at least until very recently) has been a mystery: Clinton is one of the most qualified and well prepared presidential candidates that the United States has had, while Trump is one of the least qualified and worst prepared. Moreover, Trump’s campaign has survived behavior by him that would have ended a candidate’s chances in the past.
So why would Americans be playing Russian roulette (for that is what even a one-in-six chance of a Trump victory means)? Those outside the US want to know the answer, because the outcome affects them, too, though they have no influence over it.
And that brings us to the second question: why did the US Republican Party nominate a candidate that even its leaders rejected?
Obviously, many factors helped Trump beat 16 Republican primary challengers to get this far. Personalities matter, and some people do seem to warm to Trump’s reality-TV persona.
But several underlying factors also appear to have contributed to the closeness of the race. For starters, many Americans are economically worse off than they were a quarter-century ago. The median income of full-time male employees is lower than it was 42 years ago, and it is increasingly difficult for those with limited education to get a full-time job that pays decent wages.
Indeed, real (inflation-adjusted) wages at the bottom of the income distribution are roughly where they were 60 years ago. So it is no surprise that Trump finds a large, receptive audience when he says the state of the economy is rotten. But Trump is wrong both about the diagnosis and the prescription. The US economy as a whole has done well for the last six decades: GDP has increased nearly six-fold. But the fruitsof that growth have gone to a relatively few at the top – people like Trump, owing partly to massive tax cuts that he would extend and deepen.
At the same time, reforms that political leaders promised would ensure prosperity for all – such as trade and financial liberalization – have not delivered. Far from it. And those whose standard of living has stagnated or declined have reached a simple conclusion: America’s political leaders either didn’t know what they were talking about or were lying (or both).
Trump wants to blame all of America’s problems on trade and immigration. He’s wrong. The US would have faced deindustrialization even without freer trade: global employment in manufacturing has been declining, with productivity gains exceeding demand growth.
Where the trade agreements failed, it was not because the US was outsmarted by its trading partners; it was because the US trade agenda was shaped by corporate interests. America’s companies have done well, and it is the Republicans who have blocked efforts to ensure that Americans made worse off by trade agreements would share the benefits.
Thus, many Americans feel buffeted by forces outside their control, leading to outcomes that are distinctly unfair. Long-standing assumptions – that America is a land of opportunity and that each generation will be better off than the last – have been called into question. The global financial crisis may have represented a turning point for many voters: their government saved the rich bankers who had brought the US to the brink of ruin, while seemingly doing almost nothing for the millions of ordinary Americans who lost their jobs and homes. The system not only produced unfair results, but seemed rigged to do so.
Support for Trump is based, at least partly, on the widespread anger stemming from that loss of trust in government. But Trump’s proposed policies would make a bad situation much worse. Surely, another dose of trickle-down economics of the kind he promises, with tax cuts aimed almost entirely at rich Americans and corporations, would produce results no better than the last time they were tried.
In fact, launching a trade war with China, Mexico, and other US trading partners, as Trump promises, would make all Americans poorer and create new impediments to the global cooperation needed to address critical global problems like the Islamic State, global terrorism, and climate change. Using money that could be invested in technology, education, or infrastructure to build a wall between the US and Mexico is a twofer in terms of wasting resources.
There are two messages US political elites should be hearing. The simplistic neo-liberal market-fundamentalist theories that have shaped so much economic policy during the last four decades are badly misleading, with GDP growth coming at the price of soaring inequality.Trickle-down economics hasn’t and won’t work. Markets don’t exist in a vacuum. The Thatcher-Reagan “revolution,” which rewrote the rules and restructured markets for the benefit of those at the top, succeeded all too well in increasing inequality, but utterly failed in its mission to increase growth.
This leads to the second message: we need to rewrite the rules of the economy once again, this time to ensure that ordinary citizens benefit. Politicians in the US and elsewhere who ignore this lesson will be held accountable. Change entails risk. But the Trump phenomenon – and more than a few similar political developments in Europe – has revealed the far greater risks entailed by failing to heed this message: societies divided, democracies undermined, and economies weakened.
Donald Trump, as he has repeatedly over the course of his 14-month presidential campaign, said several things over the past week that could have caused lasting damage to any ordinary candidate.
The Republican nominee invited the Russian government to uncover and release Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton’s private emails. He showed himself to be at best confused and at worst ignorant about the turmoil in Ukraine. He maligned a four-star general as a failure.
All were shocking in their way, although none is likely to register in a broad or lasting way among voters.
Trump’s belittling of the Muslim American parents of a dead U.S. soldier may be different, according to political strategists in both parties, who say the ongoing episode could challenge the notion of Trump as a Teflon candidate.
So far, they say, Trump’s repeated offenses haven’t doomed his candidacy because many voters see each Trump insult as a dagger at political correctness, every blemish a welcome reminder that the celebrity-mogul candidate is willing to take on the established order.
But in the case of Khizr and Ghazala Khan — whose son Humayun Khan, an Army captain, was killed in Iraq in 2004 by a suicide bomb — Trump is taking on grieving parents, not elites or the status quo.
“Nobody minds when he attacks other politicians; in fact, they like it. He’s instilling an accountability that doesn’t exist. But they don’t like it when he goes after real people, and they wish he would stop,” said GOP pollster Frank Luntz, who conducted a focus group about Trump with voters Friday in Columbus, Ohio.
David Axelrod, a former strategist for President Obama, agreed. “I think people appreciate and even enjoy when he kicks the high and mighty in the butt, but I think they recoil when he is unkind to people who are vulnerable or when he is nasty to people who are thoroughly honorable,” he said.
Axelrod added, “I just think people have a fundamental sense of decency, and they want their president to have a fundamental sense of decency, even if they’re tough and willing to take on so-called political correctness.”
Trump lashed out at the Charlottesville family after Khizr Khan admonished Trump at last week’s Democratic National Convention. Trump responded by questioning why Ghazala Khan stood by her husband silently and suggesting that she “wasn’t allowed to have anything to say.” She has saidshe was too overcome with grief to speak on stage. Trump also equated his work as a real estate developer to the sacrifice the Khans made when they lost their son in war.
Trump’s response to the Khans was in keeping with his impulse to attack mercilessly whenever he is slighted, a trait that he, his advisers and others believe has generally worked in his favor.
“There are millions of voters who are willing to ignore their discomfort because he is the candidate of change,” Luntz said. “He does go too far and voters don’t like it, but it proves that he is different and it proves that he is absolutely, positively willing to take on the status quo.”
Critics believe that in the case of the Khans, Trump has gone way too far,comparing it to a famed turning point for McCarthyism in the 1950s. Grilled by then-Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy at a congressional hearing as part of the Wisconsin Republican’s crusade to root out communist sympathizers, then-Army counsel Joseph N. Welch asked, “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”
Initial reports suggest the Khan episode has hurt Trump, at least for now. A pair of national polls taken over the weekend and released Monday showed a sizable bump for Clinton, suggesting the Khan affair, coupled with a successful Democratic convention, was working to her advantage. Clinton led 52 percent to 43 percent in a CNN-ORC survey and 47 percent to 41 percent in a CBS News survey. Polls consistently show that Trump’s biggest vulnerabilities are on questions of character and temperament. Three-quarters of Americans said Trump does not show enough respect for people he disagrees with, and 55 percent said this was a “major problem,” according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll in May.
Still, Trump’s race with Clinton has remained relatively close through the summer, in part because Clinton is weighted down by her own troubles, chiefly doubts about her trustworthiness.
The latest example came Sunday, when Clinton claimed in a Fox News interview that FBI Director James B. Comey said her past public statements about her use of private email as secretary of state were “truthful.” In fact, Comey has not said whether her public statements were truthful, and he has said some of her emails contained classified information.
Axelrod and other strategists drew parallels between the Khan clash and an earlier episode that similarly touched a nerve: Trump’s mocking at a rally in November of disabled New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski.
Priorities USA, the leading pro-Clinton super PAC, has conducted extensive research to determine the most effective ways to attack Trump and found that video footage of Trump making wild arm and hand gestures to impersonate Kovaleski registers in focus groups as among the most damning. The footage has been featured in numerous anti-Trump ads.
“Voters were willing to overlook comments about Ted Cruz’s family because Ted Cruz is a politician,” said Guy Cecil, the super PAC’s chief strategist. “They may have even been willing to overlook his disgusting comments about John McCain because John McCain is a politician. . . . This is something much meaner. This is something that is completely out of bounds.”
Cecil was referring to Trump’s provocative and unsubstantiated suggestion that Rafael Cruz, the father of the senator from Texas, may have been implicated in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, as well as Trump’s belittling of the Vietnam War service of McCain, a senator from Arizona. Democratic strategist Stephanie Cutter, a former adviser to Obama, said Trump’s comments about the Khans are breaking through to voters because they violate people’s expectations of decency and empathy.
“They worry about what kind of role model this sets for their kids,” Cutter said. “They don’t want a president who is insulting people based on their disability or religion or gender or threatening to knock somebody in the head.”
During the Republican primaries, rival campaigns found that political fallout for Trump tended to be limited to the group he was offending. For instance, his incendiary rhetoric about Mexican Americans and illegal immigration hurt him with Latino voters, and his misogynistic commentary hurt him with women.
But research showed that Trump’s mocking of Kovaleski crossed demographic boundaries, said Tim Miller, a top staffer first on former Florida governor Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign and later at an anti-Trump super PAC.
“People found that to just be so vulgar and indecent that they just couldn’t help but be turned off by it, even those that wanted to excuse Trump at every step along the way,” Miller said.
He added, “The big question here with the Khan situation is, will that transcend just the Muslim community or just the community of veterans and be something that is universally regarded as inhuman and indecent?”
Last fall, when presidential wannabe Donald Trump famously boasted on CNN that he would “be the best thing that ever happened to women,” some may have fallen for it. Millions of women, however, reacted with laughter, irritation, disgust, and no little nausea. For while the media generate a daily fog of Trumpisms, speculating upon the meaning and implications of the man’s every incoherent utterance, a great many women, schooled by experience, can see right through the petty tyrant and his nasty bag of tricks.
By March, the often hard-earned wisdom of such women was reflected in a raft of public opinion polls in which an extraordinary number of female voters registered an “unfavorable” or “negative” impression of the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee. Reporting on Trump’s “rock-bottom ratings” with prospective women voters, Politicotermed the unfavorable poll numbers—67% (Fox News), 67% (Quinnipiac University), 70% (NBC/Wall Street Journal), 73% (ABC/Washington Post)—“staggering.” In April, the Daily Wirelabeled similar results in a Bloombergpoll of married women likely to vote in the general election “amazing.” Seventy percent of them stated that they would not vote for Trump.
His campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, seemed untroubled by such polls, claiming that “women don’t vote based on gender” but on “competency,”apparently convinced that it was only a matter of time before female voters awoke to the dazzling competency of his candidate.
Think again, Mr. Lewandowski. Since at least the 1970s, women have been voting on the basis of gender—not that of the presidential candidates (all men), but their own. Historically, women and children have been more likely than men to benefit from the sorts of social welfare programs generally backed by Democrats,including Aid to Families with Dependent Children. Even after, in the 1990s, both parties connived to scale back or shut down such programs, a majority of women stayed with Democrats who advocated positions like equal pay for equal work, reproductive rights, improved early childhood education, affordable health care, universal child care, and paid parental leave—programs of special interest to families of all ethnic groups and, with rare exceptions, opposed by Republicans.
A majority of women have remained quite consistent since the 1970s in the policies (and party) they support. (Among women, loyalty to the Republican Party seems to have fallen chiefly to white Christian evangelicals.) It’s men who have generally been the fickle flip-floppers, switching parties, often well behind the economic curve, to repeatedly vote for “change” unlike the change they voted for last time. The result is a gender gap that widens with each presidential election.
Still, the 2016 version of that gap is a doozy, wider than it’s ever been and growing. Add in another factor: huge numbers of women with “negative” opinions of Donald Trump don’t simply dislike him, but loathe him in visceral ways. In other words, something unusual is going on here beyond party or policy or even politics — something so obvious that most pundits, busy fielding Trump’s calls and reporting his bluster on a daily basis, haven’t stepped back and taken it in.
Even Hillary Clinton, when she comes out swinging, politely refrains from spelling it out. In her recent speech on foreign policy, she declared Trump temperamentally unfit to be president: too thin-skinned, too angry, too quick to employ such “tools” as “bragging, mocking, and sending nasty tweets.” Admittedly, she did conjure up a scary, futuristic image of an erratic bully with a thumb on the nuclear button, describing as well his apparent fascination with and attraction to autocrats like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un. But she stopped short of connecting the Trumpian dots when she concluded: “I will leave it to the psychiatrists to explain his affection for tyrants.”
In truth, most women don’t need psychiatrists to explain the peculiar admiration of an aspiring autocrat for his role models. Every woman who has ever had to deal with a Trump-style-tyrant in her own home or at her job already has Trump’s number. We recognize him as a bloated specimen of the common garden variety Controlling Man, a familiar type of Household Hitler.
In fact, Donald J. Trump perfectly fits the profile of an ordinary wife abuser—with one additional twist. Expansive fellow that he is, Trump has not confined his controlling tactics to his own home(s). For seven years, he practiced them openly for all the world to see on The Apprentice, his very own reality show, and now applies them on a national stage, commanding constant attention while alternately insulting, cajoling, demeaning, embracing, patronizing, and verbally beating up anyone (including a“Mexican” judge) who stands in the way of his coronation.
Let me be clear. I’m not suggesting that Donald Trump beats his wife (or wives). I’m only observing that this year the enormous gender gap among voters can be partially explained by the fact that, thanks to their own personal experience, millions of American women know a tyrant when they see one.
The tactics of such controlling men, used not on women but on other men, were first studied intensively decades ago. In the wake of the Korean War, sociologist Albert Biderman, working for the U.S. Air Force, explored the practices used by Chinese communist thought-reformers to try to break (“brainwash”) American prisoners of war. (Think The Manchurian Candidate.)
He reported his findings in “Communist Attempts to Elicit False Confessions From Air Force Prisoners of War,” a 1957 article that caused the Air Force to change its training tactics. Following Biderman’s report, that service chose to give its high-risk personnel a taste of those tactics and thereby steel them against the pressure, if captured, of “confessing” to whatever their interrogators wanted. The Air Force program, known as SERE(for survival, evasion, resistance, escape), was extended during the war in Vietnam to special forces in the other U.S. military services.
In 1973, Amnesty International used Biderman’s article, augmented by strikingly similar accounts from political prisoners, hostages, and concentration camp survivors, to codify a “chart of coercion.” Organizers in the battered women’s movement immediately recognized the tactics described and applied them to their work with women effectively held hostage in their own homes by abusive husbands or boyfriends.They handed that chart out in support groups at women’s shelters, and battered women soon came up with countless homespun examples of those same methods of coercion in use behind closed doors right here in the U.S.A.
The great feminist organizer Ellen Pence and the staff of the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project (DAIP) in Duluth, Minnesota, worked with battered women to refine and summarize those coercive tactics on a handy circular chart they named the Power and Control Wheel. Since its creation in 1984, that chart has been translated into at least 40 languages, and DAIP has become the international model for community-based work against domestic violence.
It’s probably fair to say that sometime in the last 30 years just about every survivor of domestic violence in the United States — about one of every three American women — has come across that “wheel.”That works out to more than 65 million women, 21 or older (a figure that doesn’t include millions of young adults who also have been targeted by controlling partners, pimps, traffickers, and the like).
Such survivors of violence against women have taught us a lot more about coercive techniques and their insidious use in what appears to be “normal” life. We know, for one thing, that a controlling man almost always has a charming, seductive side, which he uses to entice his targeted victims and later displays from time to time, between abusive episodes, to keep them in thrall.
More important, we know that when such controlling tactics are skillfully applied to targeted victims, no violent physical coercion is necessary. None. The mind can be bent without battering the body. Hence the term “brainwashing.” When a controlling man inflicts physical force or sexual violence on his victim, the act is a demonstration of the control he has already gained through less visible, more insidious tactics of coercion.
Knowing that, it seems reasonable to assume that plenty of men also recoil from Trump’s tactics for the very reasons women do. After all, such tactics have also been systematically used by men to control men and when applied to an intimate relationship they may have the same destructive impact on men that battered women report. Men, too, get charmed, coerced, beaten, and raped. In this country, one man out of every seven has been a victim of sexual or physical assault by an intimate partner. But this is no battle of the sexes. Whether the victim is female or male, the controlling assailant is almost always a man.
The Tyrant’s Toolkit
So how does a Controlling Man operate? First, according to Amnesty International’s chart on the “methods of coercion,” he isolates the victim. That’s easy enough to do if the victim is a prisoner or wife. You’d think it would be harder if the controlling figure is running for president and targeting millions of voters, but television reaches into homes, in effect isolating individuals. Each of them voluntarily attends to the words and antics of the clownish performer who, with his orangey bouffant do and dangling red tie, stands out so flamboyantly from all the bland suits. Those prospective voters may have tuned in seeking information about the candidates (or even for entertainment), but what they let themselves in for is a blast of head-on Trumpian coercion.
Second, the controller“monopolizes the perception” of the targeted victims; that is, he draws all attention to himself. He strives to eliminate any distractions competing for the viewers’/victims’ attention (think: Jeb, John, Chris, Ted, Carly, and crew), and he behaves with enough inconsistency to keep his potential victims off-balance, focused on him alone, and — whether they know it or not — seeking to comply.
Trump has used such tactics gleefully. The TV networks, like the media generally, and the Republican establishment thought his candidacy was a joke, yet in the process of publicizing that joke, they gave him an estimated $2 billion in free air time. Often in those months, as in his post-primary “press conferences,” he was not challenged but awarded endless time to rant and ramble on, monopolizing the perceptions of viewers and networks alike. To justify their focus on him and their relative neglect of all other candidates, the networks cited the bottom line. Trump, they said, made them a lot of money. And they made him a daily inescapable presence in our lives.
All of this Trumpianism can be electrifying, exhausting, and undoubtedlymentally debilitating, which not so coincidentally is the third coercive tactic on Amnesty International’s list. The relentlessness and incoherence of the controller’s harangues tend to weaken a victim’s (or viewer’s) will to resist, and thanks to the media, Trump is everywhere—the big man at the podium always talking at us, always looking at us, always watching us. After that, the rest is easy. Amnesty International lists the tools: threats, degradation, trivial demands, occasional indulgences (a flash of charm, for example, or a bit of the feigned reasonableness that keeps Republican bigwigs imagining that Trump’s demeanor will turn “presidential”). The Power and Control Wheel identifies similar tactics with specific examples of each: using threats, intimidation, emotional abuse, especially put-downs and humiliation (think: low-energy Jeb, little Marco, lyin’ Ted, crooked Hillary), minimizing, denying, and blaming (“I never said that!”), and using male privilege; that is, acting like the master of the castle, and being the one to define men’s and women’s roles—as in “Hillary doesn’t look presidential.”
The battered women who have faced such tactics and survived to tell the tale have taught us this: the controlling man knows exactly what he is doing—even when, or especially when, he appears to be out of control or “unpredictable.”Think of the good cop/bad cop routines you see in any police procedural. The skilled controller plays both parts. One moment he’s Mister Nice Guy: generous, charming, ebullient, entertaining. The next, he’s blowing his stack, and then denying what’s just happened, or claiming he’s been “misconstrued,” and making nice again. (Think: the saga of “bimbo” Megyn Kelly.)
That seemingly unpredictable behavior is toxic because once you’ve felt an incendiary blast of wrath and scorn, you’re likely to do almost anything to avoid “setting him off” again. But it wasn’t you who triggered him. In fact, the controller sets himself off when it serves his purposes, not yours, and he leaves you scrambling to figure out how to deal with him without setting him off again. (Think of Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Jeb Bush rolling out new approaches at every debate only to be clobbered and humiliated yet again.)
We’ve witnessed so much of this, seen so many coercive tools flung about and so many competitors slinking away that such conduct now passes for normal “political” exchange. In the current extraordinary electoral process, we have been spectators at the performances of a man skilled in the sort of coercive tactics designed to control prisoners and hostages, and ruthlessly applied to the criminal abuse of women. We have watched that man put those tactics to use in plain sight to vanquish his opponents and force to his side the battered remnants of a major political party and a significant part of the electorate.
Trump has been at it for months on national television — and no journalist, no politician, no Republican Party leader, no contender has named his behavior for what it is. Nobody has called him out—except in the public opinion polls where women voters, millions of whom know the tyrant’s playbook by heart, have spoken. And they said: no.
Hillary Clinton wants incremental improvement in Obamacare to fix its imperfect and increasingly costly collaboration between the federal government and insurance companies. Bernie Sanders wants Medicare for all—Berniecare—with Americans given full medical benefits financed by a moderate tax increase for most people and heavier taxes for the rich.
Clinton would take a baby step, Sanders a leap into a brighter future—risky as all leaps are, but worth it if it succeeds.
As professor Gerald Friedman of the University of Massachusetts Amherst—an architect of the Sanders plan—said in a 2013 speech, “You don’t get change incrementally. … We … can’t cross the chasm in two steps. To make the change, we need the big leap, and these big leaps happen only occasionally [in the] few times in history we have had the type of movement that forces the powers that be to make a giant change.”
While nothing can make being sick pleasant, the Sanders plan, as outlined in the presidential candidate’s website, would make the ordeal considerably less stressful.
Berniecare would cover hospital treatment, outpatient treatment, visits to primary physicians and specialists and long-term and palliative care. Such care would provide patients with relief for the symptoms and pain—mental and physical—of a serious illness.
It would provide for vision, hearing and oral care, as well as treatment for mental illness and substance abuse. It would pay for prescription drugs and medical equipment. Gone would be worries about finding a physician within your insurance company’s network. Patients wouldn’t be billed for copays or for deductibles—the amount you now pay before health insurance kicks in.
Sanders estimates this would cost $138 trillion a year. Financing would consist of:
● A tax of 2 percent per household on employee income. This too would be less than what families now pay, according to Sanders’ website. The Kaiser/HRET survey found that workers paid an average of $4,955 a year in premiums for workplace health insurance plans in 2015, compared with $2,713 in 2005. So this would be a plus for the middle class.
● Taxes on the affluent would rise substantially. Those earning between $250,000 and $500,000 would pay a 37 percent income tax, compared with the present 33 to 39.6 percent. Income taxes would be 43 percent for those earning up to $2 million, 48 percent for those earning up to $10 million and 52 percent for high earners above that—big boosts from the current top rate of 39.6 percent.
Capital gains would be taxed, along with dividends. Various tax breaks for the wealthy would be eliminated.
Hillary Clinton disputes these figures. At the Clinton-Sanders debate Thursday night, she said, “If you’re having Medicare for all, single-payer, you need to level with people about what they will have at the end of the process you are proposing. And based on every analysis that I can find by people who are sympathetic to the goal, the numbers don’t add up, and many people will actually be worse off than they are right now.”
“That is absolutely inaccurate,” replied Sanders. “Please do not tell me that in this country, if—and here’s the if—we have the courage to take on the drug companies and the medical equipment suppliers, if we do that, yes, we can guarantee health care to all people in a much more cost-effective way.”
While the Affordable Care Act—Obamacare—has been Barack Obama’s most significant domestic achievement, it is riddled by flaws the president accepted in order to win the support of insurance companies and other medical industry titans. So far, it has covered 12,654,178 people, according to ACA Signups.net, which estimates that enrollments are climbing toward the 13 million mark. These people could very well lose their insurance coverage if the Republicans win the presidency, retain control of the Senate and House and keep their promise to dismantle Obamacare.
That won’t happen if either Clinton or Sanders wins. A Sanders victory will mean much more if he persuades Congress to go along. That’s a big if. But the plan’s range of care and the ease of obtaining care would mean better lives for millions. Physicians would be available to all. The mentally ill and addicts would be treated instead of jailed. Dental care would be covered. Drug prices would be limited. The misery of deductibles and copays would disappear.
None of this is unusual in other major industrial nations.
There will be many complex arguments about financing such a plan, just as there were over the Affordable Care Act. Having followed the conception, painful birth and near death of Obamacare, I know that enacting Medicare for all would be much more difficult. The medical industry, including the insurance companies, would fight it every inch of the way. Helping them would be Wall Street, whose institutions engineered the mergers of insurance companies, medical device
makers and hospitals that are creating price-fixing monopolies. Their lobbyists and political consultants would hammer away at the tax increases needed to finance the Sanders plan, their path to congressional offices greased by big campaign contributions. What they wouldn’t mention is the savings in administrative costs and insurance payments that would benefit consumers.
Success of “Berniecare” may seem as unlikely as Sanders winning the presidency. But a year ago, the idea of Sanders in the White House was considered not only unlikely but laughable. And look at him now.
Bill Boyarsky, political correspondent for Truthdig, is a lecturer in journalism at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication
It is said one must judge a man by how he treats his rivals, not his friends, and in this department Senator Bernie Sanders is once again setting the gold standard with his compassion and his civility, a rare sight in the cut-throat and low-brow political elections our nation sees these days.
Donald Trump recently used a rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to have a misogynistic spasm where he insulted former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for having normal biological functions and then using a gratuitous and wholly inappropriate term to describe her defeat to President Barack Obama in 2008. It showed for all the world to see , once again, what a crude and boorish buffoon he really is, and brought American politics to a low point from which we may never recover.
But Senator Sanders ignored the bad blood that the media has been trying to stir up over the past week’s brouhaha over voting data and stood up for Clinton during a speech in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Trump “has discovered that women go to the bathroom and it’s very upsetting for him!” mocked Sanders to a crowd of roaring college students. “He must have a very unusual relationship with women. I also went to the bathroom,” he said. “I’ve got to admit it.”
This is, of course, not the first time Trump has said reprehensibly offensive things to women; FOX anchor Megyn Kelly opened the first debate by asking him about the time he called women “fat pigs,” prompting a feud that would get ugly very quickly when Trump began insinuating that she was asking him tough questions because she was menstruating.
But with that said, Bernie returned to sharing the central message of his campaign that he has stuck with for the past thirty years – the need to rein in the disgusting level of income inequality and the power of multinational corporations who are slowly killing our middle class and making life harder for everyday Americans. It’s nice to know there’s still a gentlemen in this race.
(N.B.:Rather than blame minorities for their problems those who feel left out should blame the actual culprit: capitalism, and join Unions and support Bernie).
As the Donald Trump campaign turns from farce to tribulation, it’s worth noting that millions more Americans support Bernie Sanders than the Republican frontrunner.
Trump’s level of national support is 30.4 percent of GOP primary voters, according to the average calculated by Real Clear Politics, while Sanders remains in second place among Democratic primary voters with a 30.8 percent average level of support.
However, as the Philadelphia Daily News‘ Will Bunch points out — there are considerably more Democrats than Republicans.
The most recent Pew poll shows 32 percent of Americans identify themselves as Democrats, compared to 23 percent who describe themselves as Republicans — so that suggests far more people support Sanders than Trump, based on party identity and both candidates’ levels of national support.
Polling guru Nate Silver, who operates the 538.com website, cautioned that all the candidates’ poll numbers are misleading at this stage in the election cycle because most voters still aren’t paying attention.
Trump, the real estate tycoon and reality TV star, entered the race as a celebrity and has gobbled up a disproportionate share of media coverage that has, in turn, helped him maintain a healthy lead over his GOP rivals.
The Tyndall Report, which tracks coverage on nightly network newscasts, found that Trump has hogged more than a quarter of all presidential race coverage — and more than the entire Democratic field combined.
Hillary Clinton — who enjoys the most voter support, by far, of any candidate in either party — had received the second-most network news coverage.
Sanders, who is supported by more voters than Trump, has received just 10 minutes of network airtime throughout the entire campaign — which translates to 1/23 of Trump’s campaign coverage.
That has distorted perceptions about Trump’s true level of support, which Silver has estimated as 6 percent to 8 percent of the electorate — or roughly “the same share of people who think the Apollo moon landings were faked,” the pollster said.
Trump’s continued success remains mystifying to many observers, and his anti-Muslim proposals are so alarming that his rivals and mainstream media organizations are openly comparing him to Nazi leader Adolph Hitler.
But some of those horrified observers might take comfort in realizing that Sanders, the democratic socialist, has earned more voter support than Trump — the fascist fabulist.
The Democratic Party’s first presidential debate of its 2016 candidates showed the country that the party has stronger candidates and a clearer common agenda than many people may have expected after a summer dominated by the antics of angry Republicans.
Despite what individual candidates may claim, there was not a clear winner. Bernie Sanders, after a nervous start in his first nationally televised debate, found his footing and demonstrated how he fundamentally has reshaped the Democratic Party, pushing all the candidates to embrace his strong views about income inequality and the need for dramatic responses to capitalistic excess. There has not been a presidential debate in recent memory with such a detailed economic discussion and the need for remedies that would boost wages, workplace benefits, healthcare and other pocketbook concerns. All the candidates supported a federal family leave law for mothers of newborns, for example. And all agreed that wealthy Americans should foot the bill.
Hillary Clinton also demonstrated why she is the front-runner and likely to remain so. Where Sanders was passionate and emphatic, she was poised and forcefully pushed policy specifics that she said could be enacted and make a difference. She firmly rejected the moderator’s characterizations that she took politically expedient positions and said she was proud to be a “progressive” who “wants to get things done.” On a string of issues, she was not a centrist Democrat in the mold of her husband, former President Bill Clinton, saying, for example that she supported stronger gun controls, criminal justice reform, comprehensive immigration reform, medical marijuana and opposed the latest international trade agreement.
The other three candidates were largely asterisks to the Sanders-Clinton interchange. Ex-Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chaffee, ex-Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, and ex-Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley sought to distinguish their records and values—with O’Malley giving the most detailed prescriptions. But in most instances their comments lingered in the debate’s shadows, with the exception of O’Malley’s closing remarks where he said that unlike the two previous Republican presidential debates, no candidate denigrated women, made racist statements about immigrants or spoke ill of the other candidates.
There were important differences, however, between the positions taken by Sanders and Clinton on a half-dozen issues, which illustrates both how much Sanders has pushed the Democratic Party to the left—and how Clinton has staked out saavy positions that may sound more progressive to Sanders backers than would prove to be the case if elected. Without Sanders’ presence in the race, it is doubtful that Wall Street’s excesses, which is shorthand for where and how wealth is accumulated but not shared, would be targeted for reforms by all the candidates.
For example, Sanders wanted to increase Social Security retirement benefits and would pay for that by removing a cap that only taxes the first $118,000 of income. Clinton said that she would raise payments for impoverished seniors, especially women. Sanders said he favored a Nevada ballot measure legalizing recreational marijuana, while Clinton said she only favored legalizing medical marijuana. Sanders wants tuition at public colleges and universities to be free, saying he would pay for that with a Wall Street financial transaction tax. Clinton said that she would like free tuition too, but would include a weekly 10-hour work requirement. Only on gun control was Clinton to the left of Sanders, who did a poor job of responding to her attack on his stance—where he has opposed militarized weapons but supported hunters’ rights.
On the crucial issue of reigning in Wall Street’s excessive greed, Sanders said that he would break up the biggest banks and restore the Depression Era Glass-Steagall Act, which barred commercial banks from investing in speculative financial deals. Clinton said that she would not restore Glass-Steagall but instead spoke of regulating speculators and risky investments, jailing executives who break the law, and looking for the emerging threats posed by non-traditional firms. Sanders replied that she was “niave” if she thought Wall Street would do the right thing because a president was pressuring them.
Nonetheless, these stances by Clinton are shrewd, in so far as they show that she agrees with most of what Sanders is saying is the problem, but her solutions—while clearly left of center—aren’t as threatening to their targets and sound more moderate. While Democrats may be wringing their hands over these differences, saying that they represent a gulf between systemic and incremental reform, it’s noteworthy that there’s almost no crossover or common ground with the Republican candidates, with the exception of saying criminal justice reform for non-violent crimes was needed.
On matters of war and peace, while the candidates had some differences—all were opposed to the kind of adventuristic foreign policy of the Bush Administration, which launched a war of choice in Iraq and ignited chaos in the region that continues. They did not want to send ground troops into Syria, nor did any of them believe that Russia’s Putin was trustworthy. They praised President Obama’s restraint for what Sanders termed a “quagmire within a quagmire.”
The candidates, especially Sanders and Webb, said that none of their progressive agenda items would become a reality unless there were changes to the current campaign finance system, where several hundred of the wealthiest Americans are bankrolling most of the presidential campaigns and congressional contests. While Webb pointedly told Sanders that his grassroots “revolution” was not going to happen, Sanders repeatedly said that a record high voter turnout and public protests would force Congress to respond.
Stepping back from the debate stage, it was a good night for all the Democrats. Nobody made any mistakes. All the candidates gave strong presentations of their positions, even if Sanders got off to a somewhat tense start and Clinton showed right off the bat that she was comfortable on the stage. There were even moments of levity, such as when Sanders told the audience and country that everyone was tired of hearing about Clinton’s private e-mail server when she was the Secretary of State—for which she thanked him. And Sanders, unlike any of the other candidates, mentioned the name of African-Americans killed by police in an answer that strongly supported the Black Lives Matter movement.
Another big takeaway is that this debate will probably prompt Vice President Joe Biden to recconsider his presidential ambitions. With Sanders setting the domestic agenda and Clinton embracing much of what he says, but presenting it in a smoother way that likely to have greater appeal across the country—outside its liberal epicenters—there seems to be no void that a Biden candidacy could fill. if anything, Clinton is running to defend Obama’s record and legacy, while Sanders is running to take it to a new orbit, where federal safety net programs would be expanded to assist working- and middle-class Americans.
As the candidates continue to campaign in coming weeks, it clearly helps Clinton that Sanders is a strong campaigner and revving up the Democratic base. If she continues to be the front runner, she will have to find ways to bring Bernie’s base into her fold. That will be worth watching. In the meantime, Sanders has made a career of confounding expectations and has the stamina of a long-distance runner. The contest for the 2016 Democratic nomination isn’t over by any means, but it’s getting more compelling.
Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America’s retirement crisis, democracy and voting rights, and campaigns and elections. He is the author of “Count My Vote: A Citizen’s Guide to Voting” (AlterNet Books, 2008).