A New National Progressive Movement Is Emerging in the Shadows of the Sanders Campaign

As Sanders fights for a California primary season finale, activists look ahead.

Source: Alternet

Author:Steven Rosenfeld

Emphasis Mine

The sun was hot. The shade was sparse. Yet they kept coming. For three-plus hours on Wednesday morning, several thousand Bernie Sanders believers of every stripe—college students cutting class, older retirees and labor activists, parents with teenage kids—wearing every imaginable Bernie pin, tee-shirt and baseball cap packed the dusty field at the Santa Clara fairground near San Jose, California. They more than eagerly awaited his arrival.

“He’s the best candidate ever,” one man blurted out. “Feel the Bern! Feel the Bern!” people spontaneously chanted. The sound system played Bob Marley, Neil Young, John Lennon and Steve Earle, who growled “The revolution starts now…” As they waited 1960s folk superstar Joan Baez took the stage and sang, “The opposition candidate is stirring up a fuss. She’s got the billionaires, he’s got us…”

Behind the bleachers stood a young man from nearby Santa Cruz, Jonathon Lachlan-Hache, handing out postcard-size flyers. “This is a new tool for local organizing,” he said repeatedly, giving out cards that urged people to use a website he created. Bernforce.com lets activists put in locations and find and post campaign-related events, discussions, organizing—including for other progressive candidates. “I am absolutely determined” to keep the campaign’s energy going, he said. “The nomination happens at the convention. This is a close race still.”

Lachlan-Hache handed out 1,200 postcards. As he pulled out his smartphone to show some Sanders volunteers how to use his website, the campaign’s advance men were handing out orange wristbands to the most exuberant supporters so they could fill the bleachers behind the podium. Nobody associated with the campaign wanted to talk about anything other than the necessary steps to win big in California on June 7, where 475 delegates are at stake.

But at every Sanders event large and small—such as voter registration drives on university campuses—there are a range of people who are looking past the 2016 primaries and focusing on building a progressive movement. In some ways it’s an awkward moment for them, because Sanders and his very disciplined team is telling his supporters that they can win—even if media, academics, Democratic loyalists and others all say the odds are not there. He told the San Jose crowd that he’s beaten expectations all along, that he’s the best candidate to take on Trump, and he can take California, “the most important primary in the whole nominating process.”

But that hasn’t stopped many people from not just asking the obvious question, “Where does the progressive movement go from here?” but from taking new steps and actions even while the presidential drama unfolds. At every California Sanders event attended by AlterNet, there have been individuals like Lachlan-Hache who are doing what they believe is needed to build a new and sustainable movement—as they support the ongoing Sanders campaign.

Some are acting on their own. Some are part of online networks with dozens of volunteers and thousands of followers. Some are recently laid off Sanders campaign staffers who are creating what they hope will be national stages and tools for progressives to take back Congress. Some are planting the seeds for what they hope will be a new political party that will quickly become bigger than the Green Party. These are not the well-known public intellectuals of the progressive firmament who also are convening a People’s Summit in mid-June to discuss what’s next.

“We’re basically proposing a way to fix Congress in one fell swoop,” said Saikat Chakrabarti, a former Sanders’ staffer and Brand New Congress co-founder. “A big reason people don’t vote in midterms is that it currently feels very futile—at best, you get one or two progressive candidates to win, but those people won’t be able to do much in a Congress that is largely run by the current establishment. We are instead presenting a plan to put in a whole slate of progressive candidates at once, so voters will have a real option for big change.”

“We think for the first time in 100 years, and not because we’re special or smarter, but because of the situation with the Bernie movement, the United Progressive Party could be the first third party going from minor party status to major party status,” said UPP founder Justin Renquist. “We could see 30 to 50 percent of the Democratic Party, progressives, be so disgusted with this whole process and just leave… We are a populist leftist reformist movement that needs to come together. Let’s be the big tent party that the Democrats said they were, but are not.”

From the Bottom Up

Sanders and his most ardent followers have repeatedly said that change only comes when the people demand it. Ironically, the campaign itself is a very traditional top-down institution, where the messaging is tightly scripted and the millions raised equally tightly held. The campaign has not endorsed many candidates running for federal office and has mostly told volunteers to cover the costs of creating their campaign materials. On one hand, they are very disciplined—almost no one affiliated with the campaign or volunteering says they are free to talk to reporters. But their fiscal stinginess has also unleashed a remarkable army of self-starters whose efforts are creating a new foundation for an emerging and growing progressive movement.

The campaign, of course, believes that anyone under age 30 who they register to vote will likely support them. So late last week, they set up a San Francisco Bay Area voter registration tour of surrogate speakers—led by young hip Hollywood actors—that stopped at the major campuses. Like many campaign events, the first to appear were not these insiders, but the outside activists. That was the case at Stanford University, where Jay Blas Jacob Cabrera, who is also running for state Assembly, appeared with a variety of handouts: cards telling people how to register, voting options, and endorsements of other local progressive candidates.

“I am working every day to build the movement,” he said. “It is a movement. It is a thing in and of itself. If you listen to the people and listen to Bernie, it is getting government back to the people. The Bernie campaign is a subset of the people’s movement. It has been going on for decades. It is Occupy. It is Black Lives Matter. It is getting greedy corporations and oppressive systems out of people’s lives… We’re calling it the Bernie Movement and trying to build a Bernie Party.” Cabrera is energetic, deeply committed and typical of the people often drawn to campaigns—very one-minded. But the resources he has marshaled are remarkable. He described himself as a builder of networks. Beyond the website he created calling for a new political party in Sanders’ name,BernieParty.net, or being endorsed in his long-shot legislative race by other like-minded groups not officially affiliated with the campaign, he has assembled online lists of progressives running for office across the country that rivals what’s on established websites like Democracy for America or Bold Progressives—nationally known campaign organizations.

It can be dizzying to hear him reel off websites, Facebook pages and other resources that he is working with and tapping to nurture a larger network. There are BernieThinkers, Berniecrats, SandersDemocrats, Expats for Bernie,SandersForPresident on Reddit (which Lachlan-Hache is part of), an offshoot called Grassroots Select that’s trying to help 2016 candidates, and more. To be sure, these groups and others are all doing what they think is needed to create a lasting movement, even if their efforts can be similar, overlap or exist in small bubbles.

Cabrera’s optimism is punctuated by fears that people might give up if Sanders doesn’t get the nomination. He’s discovered it can be lonely on the campaign trail as he runs for the Assembly. And he is a bit frustrated that the movement and networks he deeply wants to see emerge are sidelined as Sanders keeps pushing for a big California win on June 7. “The only reason I am involved in this is [because] Bernie talked about a movement. No other mainstream candidate has said that,” he said, saying that he ran as an Occupy candidate for Congress in 2014. “But now he is not supporting a movement. He is supporting his campaign.”

Bigger Circles

But unlike past presidential years, social media and the internet have drawn people like Cabrera into larger virtual communities. One such effort is called Grassroots Select and began through Reddit. Ian Boyd, its executive director, who lives in Kansas City, said that his group has 21,000 followers and a core of several dozen-to-100 active volunteers. The niche they wanted to fill was helping down-ballot candidates. Others groups, such as SandersDemocrats.org, asked for help in their grading and assessing progressive candidates, he said, to ensure they were adhering to Sanders’ agenda and values and not inauthentically riding on his coattails. “That is why we like them a lot,” Boyd said. That led to creating teams for research, writing, outreach and more. Where they are now is focusing on a handful of ongoing 2016 congressional primaries.

“There are these wonderful candidates that still need all this help,” he said, pointing to Alex Law, a 25-year-old running for New Jersey’s first House district with a June 7 primary, and Tim Canova, running against Democratic National Committee chairwoman and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz in Florida’s August primary. “Alex, who is 25 years old, is running an amazing campaign,” he said. “We’re trying to get donations, awareness, volunteers. We are trying to use Alex Law as this pure grassroots candidate that can stop corruption… There also is so much excitement about getting Debbie Wasserman Schultz out.”

Boyd said the progressive movement-building front is a bit splintered right now. He cited his co-director who was running VoteforBernie.org and was “very busy” with Oregon and California. The movement-building role of the online community “has been filling out the narrative of what the Bernie campaign is,” he said, but added that many activists were waiting to see what unfolds with the nomination. “A lot of groups are trying to plan based on the results that happen. That narrative will change based on what will happen in Philadelphia.”

Grassroots Select didn’t want to do that, Boyd said. “We didn’t attach ourselves to Bernie’s campaign because we didn’t want to get hung up by the waiting that a lot of people are doing. We recognize Bernie’s accomplishments. We are not officially a Bernie group, but all of us are huge Bernie supporters.”

Brand New Congress?

Many of the activists now shifting their focus to building an enduring progressive movement were buried in the day-to-day, week-to-week, state-to-state Bernie campaign. That changed abruptly in late April when, after losing the New York primary, the campaign laid off scores of paid staffers who, in turn, then had to decide what they could do to keep working on a cause they so deeply believe in. One of the first and most impressive efforts to arise is called Brand New Congress, which is a new federal political action committee created just weeks ago that raised more than $40,000 from nearly 3,500 donors. Their goal is to garner support for hundeds of progressives running for the U.S. House and Senate in 2018 in a campaign that feels like Sanders’ campaign, co-founder Saikat Chakrabarti said.

“Our plan is to actually recruit these candidates (who will largely not already be politicians) and have them run under one plan and as a single unified campaign that looks a lot like a presidential campaign,” he explained by email. “So we’re talking here about recruiting and running over 400 candidates, creating a campaign infrastructure of probably at least a thousand volunteers and staff, building out a platform, creating grassroots offices in every congressional district, and creating a massive voter contact program (much like the one we saw on Bernie’s campaign) to try to contact every voter in every district that we are primarying.”

“It’s a fairly large undertaking,” Chakrabarti said. “It’s too late to do something this big for 2016 (many of the primaries for 2016 are already done and we don’t have enough time to build up such a large organization). In fact, we are already working quite a bit to get things set up for 2018 and recruit our candidates by early 2017. However, a lot of us will be working with existing groups focused on 2016 and we totally support efforts to back progressive candidates running this year.”

In an approach that’s not that dissimilar from Grassroots Select, he said the project will not just rely on small donors, but that they hope to provide campaign infrastructure elements so “our candidates will actually be able to spend all their time on the campaign talking to people and about the issues. Also, once elected, they won’t have to spend half their time fundraising like Congresspeople do currently since they will have been funded entirely by small dollar contributions on the web, just like Bernie Sanders.”

United Progressive Party

All of these movement-focused activists that AlterNet met, spoke to, or emailed with in the past week after attending several of Sanders’ events were in their 20s or 30s. It is truly remarkable that the Sanders campaign has become an epicenter for so many people who are dedicated to recasting the structures that underlie the political system. It very well may be that Sanders will win California on the same day that Hillary Clinton wins in New Jersey and declares herself the nominee. But even if that happens, Sanders will head to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia with many more delegates than any Democratic challenger in a generation—far more than Jerry Brown in 1992 and Jesse Jackson in 1986.

In contrast to these youthful enterprises on the campaign trail, the steering committee of the United Progressive Party and their 12,000 members nationwide have been working for years on various progressive campaigns. They say they are quietly laying the legal and organizational foundation to launch a new national party that can be a non-dogmatic “big tent” that quickly can emerge after Philadelphia. Founder Justin Renquist, 50, said that it appears that Sanders’ bid to reshape the Democratic Party from the inside doesn’t look like it is going to work—as evidenced by the growing demands from party stalwarts backing Hillary Clinton to stop campaigning now.

Renquist said that UPP has to respect the voters who haven’t cast ballots in primaries yet and the Sanders campaign’s effort to finish the nominating season, which means waiting until after Philadelphia to step forward. He said they have hundreds and hundreds of volunteers ready to create chapters in many states. But beyond those nuts and bolts, he paints an intriguing picture of the need for a broad and inclusive new progressive party to emerge. In sum, he believes the Democrats would never let Sanders and his wing take over the party.

That tension was beneath the brusque treatment of Sanders delegates in Nevada’s ongoing nominating process last weekend. Even Sanders, in his speech in San Jose on Wednesday, when listing the establishment structures that his campaign had taken on, said, “In every state that we have run in, we have taken on the Democratic establishment. And in state after state, the people have stayed up and helped defeat the establishment.”

So where will Sanders’ voters go? In 2014, Renquist said the nation had 190 million registered voters: roughly 47 percent were independents, 30 percent Democrats, 23 percent Republicans. He said that the leading progressive alternative to the Democrats, the Green Party, was far too uncompromising, while other third parties like the Justice Party were too narrowly focused.

The idea is to get the fractured left onto one big umbrella and get people to set aside arguments that you are not purist enough,” he said. And depending on whether Clinton faces federal charges for using a private email server while Secretary of State, and how Sanders and his delegates are treated in Philadelphia, a great many voters could leave the party, Renquist said. “That independent portion of the 190 million could become larger than the Republican and Democratic voters put together. That creates a compelling case for a viable third party.”

A Growing Progressive Movement

Renquist’s reading of Sanders’ achievements, a shifting electorate, the Democratic Party’s internal dynamics and shortcomings of other third-party efforts could prove to be true—no matter which progressive organization grabs the mantle of creating a new party. Even the Green Party this week sent out a release saying that they would welcome Sanders’ supporters.

But back on the ground at Sanders events, it seems that the people who had the clearest view of the future of building a sustainable progressive movement were the young and accomplished activists who have been deeply involved in the campaign for the past year. They weren’t held up by or following the older templates and models for running campaigns—waiting for permission, endorsements and directions. They were creating new tools, new networks, new fundraising models and forging ahead fortified by their experience and knowledge from the campaign.

As Bernforce.com creator Jonathon Lachlan-Hache said while handing out his flyers, the quick launch of Brand New Congress was “really impressive.” He especially liked their “one campaign, one plan, 535 candidates” focus. “The simplicity of their message is fabulous,” he said. “They have done a really good job of doing that, running a whole collection of local campaigns but having a presidential feel to it. And that’s how they explained it to me.”

His determination, like the passion of many others—individual networkers like Jay Cabrera, new group leaders like Grassroots Select’s Ian Boyd and Brand New Congress’ Saikat Chakrabarti, or world-be political party founders like Justin Renquist—all suggest a historic new progressive movement is emerging. “Waiting to be born—that’s a very good way to put it,” said Renquist.

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”


Why Do Voters Say Hillary Clinton Is Untrustworthy?

Even using objective measures of trustworthiness, like Politifact’s Truth-O-Meter scale, she rates as the most honest compared to every other candidate in the 2016 race.

Photo: Hillary Clinton: Whoever you want her to be? REUTERS/Mike Stone
Photo: Hillary Clinton: Whoever you want her to be? REUTERS/Mike Stone

Source: National Memo

Author: Stephanie Schwartz

Emphasis Mine

Hillary Clinton is not trustworthy.

That’s the belief of many, many Americans – and in this case, let’s exclude the right-wing orthodoxy, who have hated Hillary since she first said she’d rather not stay home baking chocolate-chip cookies in 1992.

Forty percent of Democratic primary voters, according to March CBS/New York Times poll, believe that Mrs. Clinton is politically calculating; somone they don’t trust with the presidency. She’s been asked about it in debates and on the stump, and there’s a whole genre of literature devoted to her “fabrications.”

But even journalists like Jill Abramson, who has covered Clinton for decades as the the New York Times’ Washington bureau chief, managing editor and executive editor, have defended Clinton against mostly-baseless accusations that she is “dishonest.”

Abramson, in an op-ed in The Guardian, writes that while Hillary has shown bad judgment before – she specifically refers to her use of a private email server while Secretary of State, over which Clinton will be speaking to the FBI, and her taking Wall Street money for speeches she’s given – she suffers from a level of scrutiny not given to male candidates, and her long record in politics gives her opponents ample fodder.

This type of criticism, which many use as a feminist defense, might fall on hostile ears. But as Chaz Pazienza argues in The Daily Banter, it’s Clinton’s reputation, for good or for ill, that makes it so impossible for many voters to look at her objectively: The “personality” that’s been sold to the American electorate is largely manufactured, and not by Clinton herself (another facet of the smear: that she’s a phony). The reality is that Clinton was one of the most liberal members of the Senate during her time there, ranking within ten points of progressive messiah Bernie Sanders and her history as a crusader for progressive causes is precisely what so motivated the GOP to destroy her in the first place. As far as the right was concerned, Clinton stepped far over the line when she pushed for healthcare reform way back in 1993 and her activist past informed a future as a “difficult woman.” Even using objective measures of trustworthiness, like Politifact’s Truth-O-Meter scale, she rates as the most honest compared to every other candidate in the 2016 race. (Let’s not even go into the GOP frontrunner, who’s entire candidacy is based upon saying the most outrageous lie he can think of in any given moment.)

But unlike other politicians, the supposed scandals stick. You might be sick of hearing about Hillary’s damn emails, but they’re still getting coverage.

Hillary has learned to become guarded through her decades in public life. When the most intimate details of your life are splayed across front pages for everyone to see – and judge and scold and criticize – it’s natural that she would carefully take pains to draw her private life around her as much as possible. And that’s made blunders about her lack of transparency – like not releasing transcripts of her private speeches to Wall Street – make her look like she’s hiding something, even if it’s just embarrassment or hypocrisy.

As Abramson points out, this doesn’t mean that Hillary is above scrutiny, and she’s not excusing her record. But Abramson isn’t alone in finding Clinton’s “liar” reputation extremely dubious.

After all, America has elected prevaricating politicians before.


As Bernie Sanders Is Showing, This Country Is Much More Progressive Than You Think

It’s true. Even as we descend into an election year defined by right-wing extremism, the numbers simply don’t lie.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Eliza A. Webb

Emphasis Mine

With the races for the presidential nominations heating up, and Iowa and New Hampshire just a stone’s throw away, it is time for Americans to come to terms with the undeniable truth: We are a country of equality-loving, regulation-supporting, bleeding-blue liberals.

Despite the political division in Washington, the far-right rancor being spewed by G.O.P. candidates, and the contention in the Democratic race over Wall Street, campaign finance reform, universal health care, and how to handle ISIS, poll after poll shows that the people of this country strongly support progressive, liberal and democratic socialist ideas.

We just don’t like the linguistic packaging.

On wealth inequality, polls find that “a strong majority” of U.S. citizens believe the current situation is an urgent problem (including one-half of Republicans and two-thirds of independents), and think the current income and wealth distribution is unfair.

Despite Republican fear-mongering about big governmentAmericans “favor taxing the wealthy to expand aid to the poor,” and want Congress to rectify this inequality by levying “heavy taxes on [the] rich” and increasing rates on people making over $1 million a year.

Americans also support steep progressive reform on Wall Street, with 50% to 58% of likely voters in favor of breaking up the big financial institutions.

Concerning the infusion of money in politics, Americans want campaign finance reform “with near unanimity,” and half would personally vote for a law establishing the government funding of federal campaigns. The support for reform is strong across party lines, with a prodigious 80% of Republicans, 84% of independents, and 90% of Democrats believing money plays too large a role in the political process. Other polls show three in four Americans think there is too much money in politics and disagree with the concept of unregulated campaign finance.

Americans also support a substantial raise for low-wage workers, with 63% in favor of a $15 minimum wage by 2020, and 75% in favor of $12.50 by the same yearOther polls show that a majority of swing-state Republican voters support an increase, and 69% of working people favor an increase to $15. Concerning workers’ rights, a majority also want to improve scheduling for chain-store and fast-food restaurant employees.

On the power of money and big business in general, 75% of Americans think large corporations have too much influence in the country. With top CEOs making 373 times what their workers do, Americans think the government should take action to narrow the gap: one-third of Republicans want to cap the income of corporate executives, and 59% of Americans support government restriction of CEO pay.

Likewise, there is very strong support for universal health care. Just over 50% of Americans support a single-payer system, and 65% of voters think every American should have access to quality healthcare. Most Americans would be willing to pay higher taxes so everyone could have care, and put more faith in the government’s ability to hold down health-care costs than the private sector’s. 58% of Americans support a Medicare-for-all system, and a majority of Americans think the government should ensure coverage. A majority of voters in Republican states support Medicaid expansion as well, as do 56% of Virginians, including 55% of Republicans. A majority of Americans also support Social Security, with 65% of Americans in favor of its expansion.

On paid family and sick leave, four in five Americans support legislation requiring employers to offer paid parental leave (and even more support paid sick leave). Other polls have similar findings: 70% support paid sick leave, 67% support paid maternal leave, and 55% support paid paternity leave.

On ISIS, Americans oppose military action, with 65% of Americans against sending special forces to the Middle East, and 76% against sending conventional ground troops.Other polls show that a majority of Americans support the regulation of CO2 as a pollutant, with over half of all parties — Democrats (80%), Republicans (54%), Independents (60%) — in agreement.

U.S. citizens also want better trade policies, with almost two-thirds favoring some form of trade restriction.

And on police reform, 86% of Americans think police should be required to use body cameras, and 87% are in favor of independent, outside investigations when police kill unarmed civilians.

Americans are hemorrhaging democratic socialism!

We are a people who idolize Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Jesus Christ, Mother Teresa — individuals who represent solidarity, kinship and empathy. We respect and agree with the teachings that call us to revolution; to fight for all our fellow human beings; to deeply, truly transform the injustice and corruption long imbedded in human society; to eliminate such a tragic non-necessity as poverty with the institution of fair pay, health care, equal education, decent working conditions and financial reform.

We are a people who lionize the 1776 revolution, who look up to and admire those who stood strong against inequality.

We support Robin Hood-like taxes for the rich and the de-infestation of money from politics. We want a hike in pay for working-class people and health care for all humans sick and injured. We are in favor of destroying the vise-like grip corporations and their owners wield over our economy, regulations on the ghastly melting fumes we are spraying on the protector-bubble surrounding our planet, and heavy oversight of the people bestowed with murderous power and the grave duty of protecting others.

This slew of ideas have come to be known as liberal, as progressive, as democratic socialist, when, in reality, they are simply what we teach our children: don’t be greedy, treat others as you want to be treated, and speak up when you see injustice.

Who cares what they’re called?

As poll after poll shows, we like them.

Americans concur: a compassionate, fair land where babies grow up in equality and human beings are treated with respect and dignity is the country for us.

To make our values fit our reality, all we have to do is vote.Because, after all, as studies show, when people vote, liberals win.

See: http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/bernie-sanders-showing-country-much-more-progressive-you-think?akid=13893.123424.0yRbD9&rd=1&src=newsletter1049167&t=8

The Bernie Effect Puts Corporate Greed Center Stage at Dem Debate, and Hillary Holds Her Own

Source: AlterNet

Author: Steve Rosenfelt

Emphasis Mine

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).


see: http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/bernie-effect-puts-corporate-greed-center-stage-dem-debate-and-hillary-holds-her-own?akid=13573.123424.VMHO9O&rd=1&src=newsletter1044031&t=2

New ideas are dangerous?

Some say that progressives ‘hate’ Mr. Limbaugh – aka limp bough.  I don’t hate any life forms, but I can and do at times hate what some may say or do.  I find the limp one offensive, dangerous, and a non-contributor to the progress of our species.

Joe Conason writes in TruthDig: “Once upon a time, conservatives liked to say that “ideas matter.” They attributed this pithy slogan to Ayn Rand, venerated author of “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Virtue of Selfishness,” and tried to live by it, generating books, papers and legislative proposals by the dozen. Although many of their theories later proved flimsy, they at least attempted to address real problems with fresh thinking.

But ideas no longer matter—and in fact they’re dangerous, according to the maximum leader of the right.

At the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington last week, Rush Limbaugh declared that new ideas ought to be shunned by every right-thinking American. The radio kingpin savaged those in his movement who have dared to suggest that the right needs policy alternatives to compete with Democratic plans for economic revival, universal health care, environmental stewardship and educational improvement. Ranting on for more than an hour, he warned against any reconsideration of the sacred platitudes of Reaganism.”

He continues: “The image of a radio demagogue, dressed entirely in black, roaring against dissenters from the official line, provoked comparison with Fidel Castro or Mao Zedong. Here was the harbinger of an ideology in decline, exhibiting pathological aversion to intellectual activity and unfettered debate, an aversion that is always the surest evidence of political decay.

The irony, of course, is that Reaganism was, at its zenith, a vehicle for policy ideas as well as a personality cult. What began with the founding of National Review and the Barry Goldwater campaign as a rump protest against stale Republican moderation became the dominant current—with a vision of its own and a series of policy schemes, from supply-side economics to workfare, faith-based social spending, school vouchers and Social Security privatization. But although the world has changed radically since those ideas entered the political mainstream a quarter-century ago, Limbaugh and his millions of followers evidently feel that any attempt to cope with change is heretical.

Some Republicans clearly understand that their party and their ideology are exhausted, even if they still can’t come up with anything more creative than capital gains tax cuts. (That means you, Newt Gingrich.) They also know that as a public spokesman and symbol, Limbaugh, whose utterances over the years have been larded with obnoxious racism and sexism, leaves much to be desired… For Democrats, these clown shows are amusing and encouraging. As long as the Republicans kowtow to Limbaugh, they won’t be able to muster substantive opposition to President Obama and the congressional majority. That may be just as well for now. But every nation needs a competitive marketplace of ideas—and conservatism today offers only retreads. ”

Mr. Conason does well here, and, if one asks if I tire of the limp bough controversy, I recall that at the time of the Abu Grahib prison revelations, a conservative colleague said: “I wish they would stop talking about it.” I’m sure she did, and I am happy to see the Mindless One as the Icon of the GOP.


see: http://www.truthdig.com/report/print/20090304_rushing_toward_irrelevance/

N.B.: Speaking of Ayn Rand, it might be noted that genes have been discovered which favor intra species cooperation…