The Worst False Equivalencies of 2016

Attempts to find “balance” between Trumpism and wholly unrelated phenomena to its left were tone deaf.

Source: AlterNet

Author:Adam Johnson / FAIR


The Progressive Platform Gains Are Significant – But The Political Revolution Isn’t Stopping There

Now that Sanders has declared his support for Clinton, a senior Sanders campaign advisor maps the road ahead. The platform is likely the most progressive ever. The future of the political revolution, however, goes far beyond the platform, rules, convention or even the 2016 election. In the next two weeks, Bernie Sanders will begin to describe how his massive organization of millions can function beyond this moment and help build a movement for social and economic change.

Source:In these Times via Portside

Author:Larry Cohen

Emphasis Mine

A few hours ago, Bernie Sanders announced his support for Hillary Clinton for Democratic presidential nominee. It’s a moment both to take stock of our gains and to think ahead. Sanders’ insurgent campaign has made a remarkable impact, but the political revolution it started is far from over.

This weekend, the 187-member Democratic Platform Committee cleaned up some sections of the draft platform, but there is no mistaking the results for the political revolution.

The clean-up was significant, improving language on climate change, trade policy and healthcare reform. Most significantly, the demands now include Sanders’ calls for a public option, a $15 minimum wage, and free tuition at public universities for families with incomes under $125,000 a year.

Not that the initial version, produced by the 15-member Platform Drafting Committee on June 25, lacked good points. It included planks on ensuring voting rights and getting money out of politics, expanding the post office to check cashing and other financial services, and passing a modern Glass-Steagall Act to separate investment and commercial banking. The drafters also called for significant investment in infrastructure and renewable energy, the abolition of the death penalty, and expanding rather than cutting Social Security benefits (though they were vague on how to pay for that).

After a year on the road with Bernie’s campaign, I am proud of all of this, but yearn for what may have been: not just a better platform but the political revolution writ large as Sanders vs. Trump, a working-class candidate versus a billionaire.

While the platform is likely the most progressive ever, with enormous thanks to Bernie and his supporters, it will likely stop short of satisfying the tens of thousands who campaigned for him and the 12 million who voted for him.  There is no proposal to end fracking; Medicare for all was voted down; and the platform does not support an end to new Israeli settlements in Gaza or the West Bank. 

The section on trade is in many ways the most disappointing. Unlike the other platform goals, which require a progressive Congress—at best years away—trade is initiated by the president. Right now, that president is a Democrat who is counting on the Republicans to provide most of the votes for his Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, which will cost millions of American jobs and accelerate the global race to the bottom.

Increasingly it seems that President Obama, determined to pass TPP as part of his legacy despite overwhelming opposition from Democrats and skepticism from the American public, sees the post-election lame duck session of Congress as his best chance. Fast-track for the TPP, passed a year ago by the Republican Congress, allows President Obama discretion to send it to Congress and then requires an up or down vote in the Senate and the House within 90 days. That gives Obama two options: If he sends the TPP to Congress in early September, Congress will be required to vote before adjournment at the end of the year. If he waits until November, it will be up to the Republican leaders to bring it to a vote in lame duck or let the clock run out.

At this critical time, Bernie Sanders and his platform committee appointees, were determined that the Democratic Party platform explicitly express opposition to the TPP. As it turned out, the Clinton campaign honored the demands of the White House and vigorously pressured its platform committee appointees to support the president and avoid outright opposition to the TPP.  Public employee union leaders led that effort despite universal labor opposition to the TPP including that of their own unions.

While the trade language adopted on Saturday is far better than that in the initial platform draft, including general opposition to corporate-oriented trade, the failure to explicitly oppose the TPP means the president will be able to lobby Democrats to vote for the TPP without violating his own party’s platform. Since some Republicans oppose the TPP, those Democratic votes could be decisive in securing lame duck passage. Meanwhile Donald Trump can claim that his opposition to the TPP is clear and that Hillary Clinton is only talking about opposing the deal and not acting when it counts.

The Sanders delegation will now pivot from the platform to the Democratic Party rules—issues like eliminating the nominating power of “super” delegates.  The Rules Committee meets next week, and once again the debate will be about change vs. continuity and the populist moment vs. the party establishment.

The future of the political revolution, however, goes far beyond the platform, rules, convention or even the 2016 election.  In the next two weeks, Bernie Sanders will begin to describe how his massive organization of millions can function beyond this moment and help build a movement for social and economic change.  Bernie’s revolution has brought us much further than anyone expected. Who would have ever believed the stated objectives of the Democratic Party would include a public option or free tuition? The question for millions of Bernie supporters is how to keep this going both inside and outside of the party, in the Congress and state legislatures, but also in the streets.  

[Larry Cohen is the past president of the Communications Workers of America and a senior adviser to the Sanders campaign.]

Reprinted with permission from In These Times. All rights reserved.  Portside is proud to feature content from In These Times, a publication dedicated to covering progressive politics, labor and activism. To get more news and provocative analysis from In These Times, sign up  for a free weekly e-newsletter or subscribe to the magazine at a special low rate.


Trump is a blessing. Together we should trample his candidacy and rebuild the Democratic Party

“He’s not moving a party to the left,” Volpe said, he’s “moving a generation to the left.”

We The people
We The people

Source: Daily Kos

Author: Meteor Blades

Emphasis Mine

I voted for Bernie Sanders this morning in the California primary. Come November I will vote for Hillary Clinton in the general election. That doesn’t mean I’m giving up on the “political revolution.” On the contrary.

That revolution is not the blood-in-the-streets kind that some stubborn anti-Sanders critics claim is the only kind there is, but rather a non-violent upheaval, a transformation that frees our system of billionaire, white-supremacist governance from the bottom up. Non-violent but never passive. Peaceful but not non-confrontational.

Bernie Sanders will presumably continue to be an important part of that transformation. Nobody, not even Sanders, expected he would succeed as amazingly as he has. Yet he will arrive in Philadelphia with more delegates than any insurgent campaign in a very long time. His campaign’s list of backers contains the names of 2.4 million people who have contributed more than $200 million to his campaign. On social media, he has some 9 million supporters. That’s a potentially powerful base, especially if those on it who were not already politically engaged before the campaign can be persuaded to stay engaged.

But Sanders didn’t initiate the transformation. And it certainly will not end when his candidacy ends, either tonight or next Tuesday in D.C. or in Philadelphia after the formal vote on the nominee is taken at the Democratic Convention.

Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ activists,, the Fight for 15, nurses and teachers organizing, the Moral Monday Movement, and arejust a few of the many movement elements of that transformation—some successful, some not, all of them feeling their way along, smeared by media narratives, hindered by internal divisions, and tactically flawed—though their various critics, left and right, have different views on what the specific flaws actually are.

These movement organizations are a big part of transforming both attitudes and policies and thereby the breadth of the national conversation. Without them, Sanders’ candidacy would not have been possible. The campaign built on their hard work, drawing volunteers and staffers from their ranks.

Since the issues that brought forth those movement organizations have not been resolved, they and other newly formed organizations will continue to mobilize people to fight for systemic change. Because the Democratic Party has for so long been moving in a bad direction in several matters, the fight to transform it will continue as well.

But for the next five months, we Sanders, Clinton, O’Malley and none-of-the-above activists have a golden opportunity. Because Donald Trump’s sketchy candidacy can turbocharge our efforts to knock Republicans out of office and reform our own party. However, we’ll have to suppress some of our differences, chill our internecine partisanship, and bite our tongues temporarily to make it happen.

After 50 years of moving the Republican Party ever more rightward, ever more whiteward, the logical extreme has been reached. Donald Trump, carnival barker and snake oil salesman, the first major party candidate about which The New York Times felt the need to discuss the “f” word—fascism—will be the GOP nominee unless he decides he’s tired of the act he’s been performing for the past year and abandons the party at the convention door.

Fascism is not a word to be used lightly. In the 1960s, some on the left practically made a joke of the label, promiscuously attaching it to anybody or any policy they disagreed with. So I’ve always applied it with extreme caution. Nonetheless, while Trump may not mesh perfectly with definitions of fascism, there’s more than a whiff of the brownshirt in his public pronouncements. Those along with his relentless lying, misogyny, racism, anti-Semitism, and general know-nothingism make him a rich target for the kind of devastation Clinton and Elizabeth Warren have dished out recently. A full-bore crushing of his candidacy could inflict collateral damage on the GOP all the way down the ballot.

With wealthy donors saying they won’t support Trump, leading Republicans saying they won’t vote for him, and the candidate’s continual dissing of groups of people from which he might otherwise get at least a few votes, Trump faces an uphill battle against Clinton despite the high percentage of Americans who view her unfavorably.

With that in mind, supporters of Clinton and Sanders and O’Malley should join not merely in defeating but in demolishing Donald Trump’s candidacy and, in the process, damaging the Republican Party in Congress and the state legislatures by hanging the man’s contradictory statements around the necks of every candidate who says they support him. Defeating Republicans who might not otherwise be vulnerable this year can open doors for those desperately needed Democratic Party changes.

Bernie and those of us who support him can do a lot to help deliver this victory.

The senator should spend the months after the convention barnstorming in support of the best candidates, including the dozens that has identified as being transformationally minded.

Each Sanders supporter should “adopt” a down-ballot candidate, a transformative person running for, say, a state legislative seat. We need to build that deep bench of experience in governing at the local and state levels anyway, and a presidential year like this one could mean significant gains in those arenas. These candidates should get our time, our money, or whatever support we can provide.

Sanders should continue to deliver his galvanizing, vital, and yes, angry message about the perniciousness of concentrated economic power. While Bernie has supporters in all age groups, the most avid are young people, including women and young people of color. If anyone can, he can persuade them not to make the mistake of staying home on election day even if that means many of them feel they must vote with a clothespin firmly in place.

All that, plus Sanders’ effort to get platform concessions passed or promised at the convention, is the inside strategy.

But as reformers have known from the time the Quakers went to Congress in 1790 seeking to end slavery, transformational change requires both an inside and an outside strategy.

Despite the “democratic socialist” label and an endorsement from the Democratic Socialists of America—an organization (full disclosure) of which I have been a member since 1982—Sanders himself is not a socialist, as many observers here and elsewhere have noted for the past year. He is  a social democrat and not even a radical one. The ideas he has pressed forward, like universal health care, paid leave, free college tuition, and a more substantive social welfare system are only radical in the United States.

Those ideas and others have resonated particularly with young people. A Harvard Poll taken in April concluded that political attitudes of American youth have changed in just the past year. John Della Volpe, the polling director, says Sanders is a big reason. “He’s not moving a party to the left,” Volpe said, he’s “moving a generation to the left.”

Several organizations hope to capitalize on that leftward movement and do some moving of their own. Included among them are the Occupy Democrats, the Brand New Congress, the Working Families Party and the People’s Summit, an alliance of National Nurses United and People for Bernie,  which will gather in Chicago June 17 to 19.

On July 23, the day before the Democratic Convention begins, the People’s Convention will get underway in Philadelphia. The organization is developing and ratifying a People’s Platform that Sanders’ delegates will present to the Democratic National Convention. On the group’s website is laid out the intent:

The People’s Convention in Philadelphia [is] a grassroots attempt to reclaim our democracy by uniting behind a common policy framework, rather than a personality or party. Leading up to our first People’s Convention this summer, grassroots organizers from around the country will work together to formulate a People’s Platform: a unifying set of ideas, beliefs, and values that will help define the movement.

This platform will also serve as a critical mechanism to hold elected officials accountable; public representatives who pledge to uphold this platform, but fail to do so through their votes and other public behaviors, will no longer be eligible to seek endorsement or support from The People’s Revolution.

D.D. Guttenplan at The Nation wrote about the Brand New Congress:

Brand New Congress aims to give people a choice—in every district in the country. “Let’s run one campaign to replace Congress all at once (except those already on board) that whips up the same enthusiasm, volunteerism and money as Bernie’s presidential campaign,” says the group’s website. Zack Exley, who was the Wikimedia Foundation’s chief revenue officer before he started traveling the country to lead “Bernie Barnstorms” that trained thousands of volunteers for the Sanders campaign, is one of the group’s founders. They’re targeting the 2018 midterms because, Exley told me, “it takes a while to build the infrastructure to win elections—especially against entrenched incumbents.” The plan is to “recruit a full slate of candidates from people who are not politicians. People who never considered running for office. The majority will be women. A disproportionate number will be people of color. These will be people who are really good at what they do—nurses, engineers, teachers. People who have chances to sell out—but didn’t.”

That prompts lots of questions, beginning with how Brand New Congress can possibly win with progressive candidates in deep-red districts. Exley says the strategy is still up for discussion. And while the group may have set a hugely ambitious goal, I’ve met too many accomplished Sanders organizers in too many states who told me their only contact with campaign headquarters was “a visit from this guy Zack Exley” to dismiss the effort out of hand.

Ramon Ryan, a former organizer for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees who’s been working for Sanders in Nashville, said the campaign taught him “how effective we can be organizing ourselves in our own communities.” Tennessee was another tough environment for Sanders supporters, and after the primary “a lot of us have been struggling to figure out where we fit in,” Ryan says. For him, Brand New Congress—which aims to build on the Sanders network, letting local campaigns run their own show while giving them access to a unified national campaign and national online fund-raising—offers an alternative to surrender or a return to marginality. “We’ve seen how the nature of presidential campaigns has changed from Dean to Obama to Sanders,” Ryan tells me. “We want to take this model and apply it to Congress. I love the simplicity of being able to use one campaign to effect so much change.”

One big argument among left-of-center activists for what seems like millennia has been whether inside or outside strategy is the better approach. To reiterate, they both are essential. Both working in tandem has been the way almost all transformational reforms have been achieved.

Working together now to trample Trump’s campaign and spread the pain to down-ballot Republicans doesn’t mean the struggle to bend the Democratic Party in a better direction is over. That fight is existential, so it will continue.

But calling a truce while we pulverize the Trump candidacy benefits all of us. A Trump victory will harm us all. And not just a little bit. We should deploy this gift Republicans have given us like the wrecking ball it is.



Robert Reich: Hillary Needs to Win Over Bernie’s Voters Because Trump Is a ‘Menace to Society’

“It’s hard for me to imagine what appeal Donald Trump has for anybody, quite frankly.”

Source: AlterNet

Author: Tom Boggloni/raw story

emphasis mine

Appearing on MSNBC, former Clinton-era Labor Secretary Robert Reich cautioned that Hillary Clinton is going to need to do something to attract Bernie Sanders’ voters if she has any chance to beat Donald Trump, whom he called the “most dangerous presidential candidate we’ve had.”

“At the end of the day, there has got to be a unified Democratic Party, ” Reich told host Steve Kornacki. “But there is still a way to go to the convention, and even if Hillary Clinton is assumed or presumed candidate, if her polls keep falling, if her polls show Bernie Sanders is much stronger against Donald Trump, well, we don’t know. There are so many Bernie Sanders supporters who tell me, who’ve been trying to tell them [the superdelegates] to support the nominee, whoever the nominee is, that they’re not going to vote for Hillary Clinton, then Hillary Clinton is going to definitely do something to get the Bernie Sanders voters.”

Asked if Sanders voters would “see any appeal” in voting for Trump instead, Reich dismissed the idea but added that they might avoid Clinton too.

“It’s hard for me to imagine what appeal Donald Trump has for anybody, quite frankly,” Reich replied. “I think he is a menace to society. I think he’s the most dangerous presidential candidate we’ve had proposed by any major political party in American history. And yet, I’m reading these emails, I get a huge number of emails and Facebook mentions of notices of people, and a lot of Bernie supporters tell me they will not, under any circumstances, vote for Hillary Clinton.”

“I think they’re wrong,” he continued. “But I think, to me, that is just evidence that Hillary Clinton is going to have to work very, very hard to get Bernie supporters behind her. And she’s got to get Bernie supporters behind her if she’s going to win this thing.”



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. 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,, 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, 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 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 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”


Fears of a Riotous Democratic Convention Are Overblown: There Is Plenty of Time to Unify the Party

It’s understandable Dems are nervous about the convention, but treating Bernie with respect will quell tension.

Source: AlterNet

Author:Sean Illing/Salon

Emphasis Mine

Bernie Sanders’ aggressiveness in recent days is fueling concerns about a riotous convention in July. “A growing number of Democrats,” a Wall Street Journal reportsays, “are bracing for a divisive and disorderly July presidential convention in Philadelphia that could damage the party and expected nominee Hillary Clinton.” The panic springs, in part, from the news that various pro-Sanders groups are preparing protest events at the convention, which could certainly make things awkward.

Doug Schoen, a Democratic pollster, told the WSJ that divides within the party “appear to be widening, not narrowing, in ways that could be calamitous, particularly if there is ongoing chaos at the Democratic convention.” The unruliness in Nevada last week has surely added to fears of this sort.

As the Democrats muddle through their contested primary, the Republicans are obediently falling in line. The #NeverTrump movement died a quick death and was succeeded by a parade of once-principled Republicans pretending they didn’t spend the last several months arguing that Trump was dangerously unfit for office. “Now that he’s the nominee,” said one Republican donor, “there’s a gradual recognition and understanding that we’re going to be helpful to him.” Such is the posture taken by more and more Republicans these days. It seems a Clinton administration is more perilous than electing a hate-baiting reality TV man with zero political experience and even less composure.

But I digress.

Against the backdrop of a unified Republican front, it’s not surprising that Democrats are nervous about the convention. “It is time for the rhetoric to start to come together around helping our team win,” said Sen. Tim Kaine, “I think it was very plain after the results of this week that Hillary will pass the threshold, and likely by a lot.”

Much of the convention-related worries are misplaced, however. Intraparty squabbles are banal and part of the process. It’s possible that enough Sanders supporters could stay home in November to make things interesting (that’s a legitimate concern), but this notion that the convention will descend into chaos is silly. There will be protests outside and undoubtedly some disagreements about the platform. However, this is healthy and hardly a reason to panic.

As for Sanders himself, a report at BloomberPolitics suggests he’ll do what he said he’d do all along: support the party’s nominee and work to defeat Donald Trump. Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, admitted to receiving a call from Sanders this week, during which Sanders eased tensions about a possible revolt. “We talked about the demonstrations and such,” Durbin said. “I am convinced, as Bernie has said repeatedly, he is going to be on the team to defeat Donald Trump. I don’t have any questions in my mind.” After yesterday’s news that Sanders’s is increasingly frustrated over the DNC’s support of Clinton, this is a welcomed development.

According to The Washington Post, moreover, the Democratic National Committee is already planning to offer concessions to Sanders at the convention – seats on platform committees, for example. More will have to be done, but this is an important first step and an indication that the party understands the landscape.

There’s no question Sanders needs to pivot at some point. If he refuses to accept that he’s lost or decides to burn the party down on his way out, the Democrats will have a problem in the general election. But there’s plenty of time for reconciliation. And if the DNC treats Sanders with the respect he’s earned, as the above report suggests, the convention will be catastrophe-free.



The Conservative Crackup: How Progressives Can Exploit the GOP’s Implosion and Attain an ‘Earthquake Election’

Could Trump be a godsend for the Democrats?

Source: AlterNet

Author: Heather Digby parton/Salon

Emphasis Mine

It’s fair to say that most Democrats and a good many Republicans are still in a state of shock over the fact that a narcissistic, know-nothing, billionaire demagogue is actually going to be on the ballot this November as the GOP nominee for president. Democrats are nervous that this outrageous character is going to be normalized over the next few months and there are signs that the media is on board with that project. Many Republicans worry that he spells the end of their party altogether. And everyone aside from his fanatical following is desperately worried about what could happen if he actually manages to win the most powerful office on earth.

Take, for example, the comments by GOP strategist Mike Murphy on MSNBC earlier this week:

I think he is a stunning ignoramus on foreign policy issues and national security, which are the issues I care most about. And he’s said one stupid, reckless thing after another, and he’s shown absolutely no temperament to try to learn the things that he doesn’t know, and he doesn’t know just about everything. …The guy has a chimpanzee-level understanding of national security policy.

When he’s right he’s right. And it’s not just foreign policy where Trump shows a pan troglodyte level of understanding. Just Thursday night Trump appeared at a Chris Christie fundraiser and said to the audience of big donors, “Look, a lot of you don’t know the world of economics and you shouldn’t even bother. Just do me a favor, leave it to me.” He talked up his proposal for a 35 percent tariff on imports if an American company moves its manufacturing out of the country without clearing it with him first:

“At least the United States is going to make a hell of a lot of money. And these dummies say, ‘Oh well that’s a trade war.’”

“Trade war? We’re losing $500 billion in trade with China. Who the hell cares if there’s a trade war?”

Apparently the Donald is unaware that trade wars have been known to lead to shooting wars. Or, at the very least, they tend to result in some very unpleasant economic fallout.  But then, knowing his history, these would be features, not bugs. Is it any wonder there’s a growing sense of panic among sane members of both parties?

Right now polls are showing that Republicans are consolidating around him and it looks like a cage match in the works with Trump and the likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in a close fought cage match. However, Trump is probably getting a post clinch bump while the two Democrats are still involved in an intense contest with their partisans still in their corners so these numbers aren’t actually all that meaningful.

In fact, , looked beyond that superficial snapshot to the underlying structure of the electorate in the wake of Trump. In a memo he titles “The GOP Crash and the Historic Moment for Progressives” Greenberg writes:

We are witnessing the crash of the Republican Party as we know it, and progressives should dramatically change their strategy to maximize conservative losses and move the stalled progressive reform agenda in the election’s aftermath.

Rightfully shaken by off-year losses, low base turnout and Trump’s appeal to some union members, progressive strategy has been cramped by worst-case assumptions and by the goal of stopping the GOP from expanding their Electoral College map. That caution risks missing the opportunity to magnify GOP losses, expand the Democratic map and targets, shift control of states and legislatures, break the gridlock and create momentum for reform.

Greenberg narrows the Conservative Crackup down to what he calls a three-front civil war. The first front is between Trump and his Tea party followers against the Republican establishment. He characterizes their agenda as a “nationalist economic appeal” that attacks immigrants, trade deals and “disloyal” American corporations. Trump’s basically appealing to a large faction that is upset with diversity and “political correctness”. (I would just add that Trump’s status as the King of the birthers made him a true hero to this crowd.)

The second front in the civil war is between the religious conservatives who are angry that the establishment failed to stop social progress under the Obama administration.  Their sense of betrayal over the failure to stop marriage equality is profound. This group is the reason why Ted Cruz came in second.

Both of those fronts in the GOP civil war are well-known by now. Plenty of pundits and analysts have looked at these splits to determine if they are fatal to the GOP’s hope for any kind of national electoral success going forward. They do portend some major problems for the party but it’s hard to see how it benefits the Democrats unless these folks just stay home or run third party candidates. It’s the third front where Greenberg sees that opportunity and it’s one to which nobody is paying much attention:

Third and just as important, moderate Republicans are deeply alienated from a GOP establishment that views them as illegitimate. This third front in the civil war has not been covered by the media, in part because no GOP candidate has been willing to seek their votes on the issues that matter to them.

None of the pundits have speculated that the silence on their agenda has anything to do with the primary or what will happen in the election ahead. The moderates are a stunning 31 percent of the party base, and they are heavily college-educated and socially liberal. They are conservatives on immigration, regulation, taxes and national security, but as a college educated majority, they accept the science and urgency of addressing climate change. And most importantly, they are the one bloc that accepts the sexual revolution. That changes everything.

I find that number of 31% very surprising. From what we see and hear in the media, the moderate Republican is as extinct as the dodo. I know a few who live in California, people I think of as “Disco-Republicans”, who are essentially ideologically center-left but can’t stand being associated with liberals for social/tribal reasons.  They refused to vote for Jeb and Rubio because they felt they were pandering too much to the conservatives! Greenberg thinks these people are getable for the Democrats; his polling shows that 10% are willing to vote for Clinton over Trump.

The question is what it will take to get them to vote for Democrats in this election, and perhaps, more importantly, to demonstrate to the Republicans that it’s in their best interest to cooperate after the election on certain issues. They are already socially liberal so there no need to try to appease anyone on those important issues. Where Greenberg sees an opening is in national investment, bank regulation and corporate governance which dovetails nicely with the populist agenda coming from the left wing of the party as well.

But Greenberg believes that to maximize progressive gains, the party also needs to intensely focus on turning out certain voters “who now know the stakes.” That would be the “Rising American Electorate” we’ve all heard so much about:

Our new poll on behalf of WVWVAF shows a 10-point surge in the highest measure of voter interest among Democrats, key parts of the Rising American Electorate (specifically, the unmarried women and minorities), and college-educated women, a key part of the Democratic coalition. Our focus groups for the Roosevelt Institute and WVWVAF showed us that millennials and unmarried women are closely following the GOP primary battles, the GOP’s hatred of Obama and Donald Trump’s xenophobia and sexism. They now understand the stakes like no time before.

He says that African Americans and Hispanics see their communities as being under attack and despite their suspicion of Clinton, millennials understand their values are at stake as well.

Finally, there’s the working class vote. Their polling shows that working class voters respond well to demands to “level the playing field.”  Obviously, much of the working class are people of color and are already among the most loyal members of the Democratic Party. But Greenberg’s polling shows that the right messaging can attract certain members of the white working class as well, particularly millennials and financially pressed unmarried women, both groups of which have already been successfully courted by Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Greenberg concludes:

Trump’s chauvinism and hostility to America’s diversity has cost him electorally and led to the early consolidation of the Rising American Electorate. But the primaries also show we have a new opportunity to achieve an earthquake election and win strongly among both the RAE, and the working class (where Democrats have lagged) if they strategize to win the big economic argument.

It’s hard to see a bizarre election such as this one as an opportunity to do anything but survive it. Trump is a wild card and the Republicans are like cornered animals right now, unpredictable and dangerous. But these situations do present opportunities as well and if Greenberg is right and the Democrats pay attention and all the stars align, we could come out of this with a big progressive win, setting the stage for a fertile time of renewal and progress. Maybe Trump’s crazy campaign will end up having been a positive influence on America after all.


Heather Digby Parton, also known as “Digby,” is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.


How Trump Brought the Republican Establishment to Its Knees

As Trump nears the nomination, GOP leaders are running out of ways to stop or control him.


Author:Robert Kuttner/American Prospect

Emphasis Mine

We keep hearing that the Republican Party is on track to suffer an epic split over the presumed nomination of Donald Trump. But what exactly does this mean? What happens once the 2016 election is over?

On one side are traditional business conservatives, devoted to government-bashing, low taxes, and pro-corporate globalization—coupled with dog-whistle appeals to racism. This establishment has delivered all recent GOP nominees, despite the Tea Party takeover of much of the congressional Republican Party—until this year when the party elite was upended.

Since Reagan, the business right has papered over the cracks in a coalition that used social conservatism to win votes of a suffering working class. Now, Trump has demolished that phony alliance. Over the weekend, Trump made it clear that he was not interested in any deal with House Speaker Paul Ryan and suggested that he might challenge his roles as convention chairman—and Ryan said Monday that he’d respect Trump’s wishes.

Trump’s brand of right-wing populism is anti-tax but not anti-government, and is occasionally anti-business. In place of government-bashing, Trump substitutes a crude form of political and economic nationalism. He has turned voter wrath against the financial elites in the GOP who have been calling the shots.

But what recourse do traditional conservatives have if they want to trump Trump? For starters, they could just withhold their support, as the Bush family is doing. Or they could withhold money.

The trouble, however, is that this is the year when the usual suspects have been revealed as politically impotent. The Bushes are history. It doesn’t matter to most conservative voters that the Bushes aren’t backing Trump. If it did matter, Jeb Bush would not have performed so pitifully.

As for the billionaires, some, like Sheldon Adelson, are already sucking up to Trump. There are so many very rich people involved in politics today that Trump is likely to get all the money he needs, even if he’s too cheap to dig into his own (somewhat exaggerated) fortune.

Some Republican leaders will even go so far as to vote for Hillary Clinton. And there is also talk of some kind independent conservative Republican insurgency, as a kind of ad hoc third party to divert votes from Trump.

Technically, an independent could still qualify for ballot listing in all states, according to Richard Winger of Ballot Access News. The deadlines are as early as June in some states and as late as September in others. But all require petitions with thousands of signatures, and a campaign would need to get its act together soon.

A traditional conservative might also try to run with the Libertarian Party, as a way of getting on the ballot. However, former New Mexico Republican governor Gary Johnson—a genuine libertarian—already has that ballot spot and would be difficult if not impossible to dislodge in favor of an orthodox conservative.

The Libertarian Party convention meets in just three weeks, over Memorial Day weekend. Its delegates tend to be purists; they are libertarians because they reject the traditional GOP. They are not about to help the Republican elite out of a jam.

As part of his libertarian creed, Johnson not only supports legalization of marijuana—he’s a pot entrepreneur and former CEO of a startup called Cannabis Sativa. Smoke that, Karl Rove!

This leaves the rather pathetic alternative of a write-in campaign. That would divert a few votes from Trump—maybe a few million votes—and increase the likelihood of a Clinton win.

But this may be just what lot of Republican leaders want. A write-in effort will allow them to help Hillary without having to endorse her. Then, when Trump goes down in flames, they (and not he) can pick up the pieces of their party.

Just as the GOP in Congress relentlessly blocked Obama at every turn, they will try to make Clinton look like a failed president. And just as the Republicans gained large numbers of seats in both houses two years into Obama’s first term in 2010, the Republicans can hope for big pickups in 2018, setting them up to take back the White House in 2020.

Unfortunately for the Democrats, fully 22 Democratic Senate seats are in play in 2018, many of them in usually red states, such as Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, and West Virginia. So even if Democrats take back the Senate in 2016, they could well lose it two years later.

So my bet is that there will be no coming together between the Republican establishment and Trump, and that efforts by Republican leaders to block Trump’s election to the presidency will only intensify.

However, the story does not end there. Even if Hillary Clinton is the next president, the emergence of Trump (and Sanders) in 2016 reflects vast unease and legitimate pocketbook grievances in America. There is no sign of that abating.

The scale of change it will take to restore the economic prospects of the young and the working class makes Bernie Sanders’s proposals look puny. If Clinton fails to make real progresswhether due to Republican blockage or the limits of her own imagination—the anger will only fester and grow.

Trump may well be blocked in 2016, but we haven’t seen the last of Trumpism.

Robert Kuttner is co-editor of The American Prospect and a visiting professor at Brandeis University’s Heller School. His latest book is Debtors’ Prison: The Politics of Austerity Versus Possibility.



Obama to Bernie supporters: Don’t let disillusionment set in


Author: Greg Sargent

Emphasis Mine

Any day now, some very prominent Democrats will get down to the business of helping to unite the party behind likely nominee Hillary Clinton. One of them will be President Barack Obama, who is popular among young Democrats and thus well positioned to argue to Bernie Sanders supporters that it in their interests — and the interests of the larger Sanders movement — to support Clinton.

The President is set to give a speech at Rutgers University next week, at which (given the audience) he might begin to lay out this case. And in an interview with The Daily Targum, a student paper at Rutgers, he offered a long monologue that is perhaps a preview of the bigger argument he’ll make.

Notably, Obama called on people not to “oversimplify” how change is achieved, and argued that “incremental changes” via “consensus building” can add up to meaningful progress. Asked about the fact that many Americans who are worried about stagnant wages, the shrinking middle class, and rising inequality are turning to Bernie Sanders, the President answered:

“It is absolutely true that there are a lot of folks who still are struggling out there, and we can’t minimize that. There (are) trends that have been taking place over the last 20 (or) 30 years that have dampened wage growth, that have made it tougher for folks to save for retirement or for their kids’ college education…

“More needs to be done there. And some of the steps that we’ve taken are going to pay off over the course of the next 20 years. There are things like raising the federal minimum wage or rebuilding our infrastructure — that would put people back to work right away and that would accelerate growth….

“If we are changing just a few laws that make it easier, for example, for workers to organize, that close corporate tax loopholes or tax loopholes used by wealthy individuals so that they’re not paying their fair share — if we take that money and make sure that we’re investing in the kinds of things that make an economy grow, if we ensure that we’ve got a healthcare system that is affordable and accessible for all people, then I’m confident that America’s best days are still ahead….

“We have to make sure we also recognize this is a big country, and there’s very rarely a single set of silver bullets out there that would immediately solve all of these problems. We’re part of an interconnected global economy now, and there’s no going back from that. It’s important for us to not oversimplify how we’re going to bring about the kind of change we need.

“We’ve got to also recognize that, in a democracy like this, it’s not going to happen overnight. We have to make incremental changes where we can, and everyone once in a while you’ll get a breakthrough and make the kind of big changes that are necessary. That consensus building is important because that’s historically how change has happened in America. Those are the kinds of things that I’ll be talking about at the commencement.”

This is both a subtle rebuke to Sanders’s call for a revolution and a preview of the argument he’ll likely make in urging his supporters to get behind Clinton. Obama’s warning against oversimplification is an implicit criticism of Sanders’s suggestion that liberating lawmakers from the grip of plutocratic money and rallying millions to storm the ramparts of Congress would compel the sort of far reaching, transformative social democratic reforms that Sanders envisions — single payer, free public college, enormously ambitious action on to combat climate change.  

More to the point, though, Obama is previewing an argument he’ll likely make against allowing unrealistic assessments of what is possible to morph into political disillusionment. Here Obama makes the case that change has historically been won in a long, hard, incremental slog, and that the big breakthroughs are historically very rare. There is a lot to this: throughout the progressive era, gains in the areas of economic regulation, the minimum wage, and the graduated income tax proceeded fitfully and with great difficulty, suffering big setbacks in the courts. It took decades until a horrific depression and landslide electoral wins for Democrats helped lead to the big New Deal sea changes, which included the Supreme Court upholding (among other things) wage floors, unemployment insurance and social insurance for the elderly. Yet even Social Security had to be subsequently expanded many years later to cover millions who’d been excluded from it.

Likewise, Medicare was only achieved more than 15 years after President Harry Truman called for universal health care in 1949, and its core guarantee of government health care for the elderly actually represented a scaling back of reformers’ goals, disappointing many liberals who lamented that it only reached a segment of the population.

As the above remarks indicate, Obama will likely make the case against being dismissive of the incremental changes that Hillary Clinton has promised to pursue. He’ll argue for the value in achieving a $12 minimum wage (and $15 in certain localities); continuing to build on Obamacare (though Clinton should be pressed on how she’d do this); investing more in infrastructure (even if it isn’t as much as Sanders would invest); and tax reform that makes the system marginally more progressive. Also, Clinton would seek to implement the Paris climate deal, while a Republican president would pull the U.S. out of it.

To be clear, none of this is to denigrate Bernie Sanders’s ambitions. Indeed, I hope that Obama will make a genuine effort to acknowledge the force of Sanders’s big argument — his insistence that the constraints of our political system, however real the obstacles they pose, ultimately should not cause us to scale back our idealized vision of a far more fair economy and just society. I also hope he’ll make the case to Sanders’s supporters that they have an important role to play in trying to pull Clinton and the Democratic Party towards them on their issues and in trying to erect a bulwark in Congress against any caves to regressive centrist deal-making. If the goal is to prevent disillusionment from setting in, those might serve as two key pieces of the argument.


How Bernie Sanders Can Squander—or Expand—His Victory

Sanders has accomplished much more than what America expected, but he now stands at a precipice.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Joe Conason

Emphasis Mine

The time is coming when Bernie Sanders should declare victory—not because he is going to be the Democratic presidential nominee, but because he has already won so much.

Of course, Sanders knows very well that he cannot wrest the nomination from Hillary Clinton. He lags well behind her in pledged delegates, superdelegates and the popular vote, where he trails by well over three million.

Nobody should be surprised that he couldn’t beat Clinton, whose political durability is routinely underestimated by hostile media coverage. What did seem surprising, however briefly, was the mere possibility that a self-described Democratic socialist from a tiny New England state could win the nomination of a party he had never condescended to join.

Even more astonishing is how much this rumpled, sometimes cranky and formerly obscure politician has achieved during his meteoric flight to fame. Sanders has proved a concept many on the left have always cherished: Social democratic ideas, given a fair hearing, can appeal to a much broader segment of the American public than most political scientists ever imagined. No doubt most voters would still shun “socialism,” but millions this year have embraced social democracy, European style, with its emphasis on economic security, worker rights, environmental quality and gender equality.

He has pushed both Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, and her party well to the left of where they were when he entered the race. Although she can point to much evidence of her own progressive inclinations, his challenge has provoked her to speak up forcefully on income inequality, paid family leave, infrastructure spending and financial reform. Substantive differences remain between them, but their disagreements are narrow compared with the gulf between the two parties—or between them and the likely Republican nominee.

And he has led a remarkable mobilization of young activists, from every background, now widely seen as representing the future of the Democratic Party. If they remain active, there will be senators, representatives and perhaps even a president who remember Bernie as their inspiration.

For now, as an “independent” sitting in the Senate Democratic caucus, Sanders can still look ahead to a very productive future. But he must choose a way forward that advances rather than squanders this year’s achievements. Already he has taken several steps in the wrong direction.

The relentless personal assault he mounted against Clinton has contradicted his proud assertion that “I’ve never run a negative ad in my life.” Over the past few months he has spent millions of dollars on harshly negative advertising, which has caused real damage to her.

Now he seems to be contemplating a strategy that blatantly violates his own democratic instincts, by persuading superdelegates to switch their allegiance to him. This doomsday scheme would be troubling even if Sanders’ supporters hadn’t gathered nearly half a million petition signatures already, demanding that the superdelegates support the candidate with the most pledged delegates and highest vote total. To pursue it would deepen party divisions and forfeit any claim to the moral high ground.

That doesn’t mean Sanders ought to quit, not until he has seized every last opportunity to deliver his message. As he continues, however, he must consider carefully what path best serves him, his movement and his country.

More than a few of his angry supporters sound as if they intend to punish Hillary Clinton by refusing to vote for her in November, even against Donald Trump. They seem to hope that Sanders will withhold his full support from her, too. They evidently don’t realize that Clinton herself will be fine either way.

But a Democratic defeat would badly injure millions of other Americans—and losing to the Republicans would permanently diminish Sanders.

If the Democrats can mobilize enough voters for a big victory, their party may well regain control of the Senate. That shift would give Sanders the chairmanship of the Senate Budget Committee, with substantial influence over taxes, spending and the fiscal priorities of the next White House. His new position would amplify that now familiar voice, speaking up on the issues that matter most to him. And as the new administration begins, he would have in hand the necessary tools to hold Clinton to her progressive campaign promises.

Yet if the Democrats lose because the Vermont senator and his supporters refuse to unite with Clinton, he will remain muted in the minority and his uplifting campaign will be seen as the prelude to a national disaster.

This is not a hard choice.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Joe Conason is the editor of the National Memo and writes a column for