Having fun yet? Getting used to the idea of a President Trump? Or too busy tweeting #ImWithHer ?
As the 2016 presidential campaign rolls up on the critical period of the March primaries, millions of voters are being held hostage by each party's respective front runner.
On the GOP side, Trump is saying I'm either your nominee or I leave the party with my followers and break you in two.
On the Democratic side, voters are told you might not like Hillary but it's either her or the deluge and the onset of the Fourth Reich. So they are now repeating that repugnant line from they days of Maggie Thatcher: There is No Alternative(TINA).
First, the Democrats.
Clinton's massive victory in South Carolina punctuates the reality that Bernie sanders has a slim to zero change of winning the Democratic nomination. Nate Silver's fivethirtyeight.com lays out the stark numbers: Clinton is a 99% favorite to win the nomination.
This is no reason for Sanders supporters to throw in the towel or stack up their arms. Indeed, nominating Sanders has always been an equally great idea and a monumental against-the-odds task. But there are very important reasons for him to stay in the raceand for his supporters to double down on their passion.
When Sander's talks of a "political revolution" necessary to implement his program, he's talking the truth. Ain't nothing of consequence gonna happen unless Americans themselves take it in their hands to actively organize for, demand and if possible elect candidates to make that change. Bernie has been saying all along, look, if enough people come together to support me, it means de facto the country has a new political majority.
That is indeed what we need. But a candidate can only do so much by him or herself. There can be leadership and inspiration but in the end you need active ground divisions from the citizenry. And that's what we have to build, what we have to aim for, in the remaining months of the campaign.
The Sanders campaign, to use an old Marxist concept, is an "area of struggle." You participate in it, you build it with an eye on much more long-term and profound goals than trying to elect one guy who had NO chance at the onset and so far has done a lot better than ever expected but is bound to fall short.
The Sanders campaign, even a Sanders administration (!) would be impotent in effecting deep change unless it was backed up by a vibrant and truly mass movement that would have to transcend narrow partisan lines. What must be built now is the foundation for such a movement that can grow and sustain itself for a decade or decades to serve as an exit route from the mutual blackmail game known as the Two-Party System.
I was happy to see both Robert Reich and DNC vice-chair Tulsi Gabbard endorse Sanders after his crushing defeat in S. Carolina. It deepens the bench and tells us that there are serious folks looking at the long term and not just November.
If you are a Sanders supporter, as I am, and you are tired of every four years being blackmailed by a Democrat who does not represent you or your aspirations, you will never break out of this cycle unless there is stand-alone movement of reformers and activists that become a key electoral constituency. That implies a whole lot of hard work as there are no magical solutions or quick fixes to such an entrenched, greedy and tenacious system. You really have to wallop it. Sanders has served to do some early sparring. But this should be just beginning as a movement -- not ending.
War or Peace?
That is the fundamental question. Nothing has destabilized, bankrupted and escalated global dangers than our policies of rampant interventionism over the last 20 years. This is one reason why I was so happy to see Hawaii military vet Rep. Tulsi Gabbard come on to the Sanders campaign. Said Gabbard:
“There is a clear contrast between our two candidates with regard to my strong belief that we must end the interventionist, regime change policies that have cost us so much. This is not just another ‘issue.’ This is THE issue, and it’s deeply personal to me. This is why I’ve decided to resign as Vice Chair of the DNC so that I can support Bernie Sanders in his efforts to earn the Democratic nomination in the 2016 presidential race.”
Herein lies my own greatest frustration with the Sanders campaign. I've known Bernie for 30 years and while he was always considered a radical democrat on economic issues, his highest profile was that of a beacon against unnecessary war. Bernie was the Peace Guy. Somehow that got lost in the mix.
And, by the way, it's the primary reason I support him. Anybody with a brain SHOULD know that until or unless the composition of Congress changes—a lot—there is no chance of either Sanders' or Clinton's liberal
policies to be enacted—regardless of the differences between them. It's all imaginary. What a next president can do, however, is exercise executive power. And it's highest expression is as Commander-in-Chief.
I apologize to my friends who are Clinton supporters, it's not just about her horrific vote for the war in Iraq in 2002. Clinton remains a foreign policy neocon. When you elect her president, you might as well be electing Paul Wolfowitz when it comes to the use of American military power. Yet, one more reason why the Sanders forces must build capacity and be ready to stand as powerful opposition to what will be Clinton's worst proposals and moves. We must continue building the opposition to Clinton now and not slacken. By the way, I fully understand the lesser of two evils argument. But what a lot of its proponents do not understand is that the act of voting itself, should only be a miniscule part of your political life.
Do I think a Clinton admin would be a lesser evil than Trump? Probably, marginally. I live in California so it does not matter much. But if I lived in, say, Ohio or Florida, come election day, I would probably pull the lever for Clinton against Trump. But all the rest of my political energy, before and after the election would be invested in working hard to dislodge the Clinton crew from its hold on national politics. There is no contradiction in actively opposing Clinton and then taking a minute out of your life to vote for her—purely out of obligation—before resuming opposition.
I point you to an interesting piece in the deceptively titled The American Conservative magazine (again I remind you that TAC is NOT conservative in the way the word is currently trafficked by political hucksters). After reviewing all of the candidates on all sides and compiling a report card, Bernie Sanders comes out on top for his marks on "realism and restraint." He gets a B. Clinton a D. That's the key difference for me. And I am absolutely sure that under a Clinton admin, we will still be further embroiled in policing the world. Get Ready for Hillary!
The Post-Hope Democrats
"We are the change we have been waiting for!" I have to admit, when I first heard Obama say those words during the 08 campaign I was taken. I thought it was the most intelligent and moving political slogan ever cooked up. I am not equipped to know if Obama was just bullshitting or if he meant it and then got stymied by the system—probably both.
But it remains one helluva slogan. A pity that Democrats have trashed it and now use Thatcher's plea for surrender, There Is NO Hope. There Is No Alternative. I don't know about you, but when I am lectured like that it only stiffens my resolve. Nobody owns my vote. It has to be earned. Or it has to be reluctantly surrendered and not disguised as anything more palatable.
I strongly suggest you read Doug Henwood's piece on The Post-Hope Democratsappearing in Jacobin. It's a good one, suggesting that Democrats are not only anti-hope, they are currently waging a war on it. That leads to a bit more esoteric but relevant reading I did this week. I re-read Jean Paul Sartre's play No Exit
Sartre and Clinton: Being and Nothingness
For decades, many critics have argued that the point of the play is that "hell is other people." Wrong. Sartre was demonstrating that people construct their own hell. That by refusing to accept the responsibilities and risks of freedom, they prefer to linger in purgatory.
If you think I am about to trash the electorate... well... you are sorta right. Not gonna trash them. Just gonna make some observations. If every Democrat who said I like what Bernie says but he can't be elected actually voted for him, he would be elected!
Or, even if you don't like Bernie Sanders, but you dislike being governed by a corrupt, wealthy elite indebted to even wealthier interests, it really doesn't matter jack shit if you don't DO anything about it (and hashtags don't count unless they are part of something bigger).
Here's where Sanders is wrong. At this point, a critical mass of Americans do not want a peaceful, democratic and political revolution. They do not want to accept the responsibility of the freedom to fight for and enact change. Yes, they want to complain. As writer Lewis Lapham, the former editor of Harper's, said about 20 years ago or so, Americans look at politics like room service in a hotel. You look at the menu and you order what you want and hope the hotel serves you right. Your responsibility ends there.
It's not just that the media is retrograde, or that Hillary has big-spending PAC's (though Bernie has more money). or that Clinton likes to hit below the belt in tarring Sanders as an NRA-funded opponent of liberalized immigration. Nope, it's also that way too many rank and file Democrats could not be bothered with working for anything substantial in terms of change -- even when faced with cutbacks in their own standard of living. Whatever it is that brings the French, the Greeks, the Brazilians, the Spaniards, the Italians, and --yes-- sometimes even the British into the streets to pressure for change or at least to resist austerity, we ain't got here. That's the real challenge we face
Il Douche IS Winning
Fair it is to concede that Republicans are a tad more energized and less fearful to act independently than Democrats this year. Even if it is in support of a raging orangutan.
I am a little bit in shock that so many of my liberal friends are still in denial about Trump and are still beating the drum that the imaginary "Republican Establishment" will reign in Trump. (Folks, read up on poor Count Von Papen.)Donald Trump has about an 80% chance of being the nominee this Sunday morning. By Tuesday night that will rise to well over 90%. Or put simply, Trump will be the Republican nominee. We've seen the first capitulation by the soon-to-be-unemployed Chris Christie, now gunning for a cabinet position in a Trump admin. There is no deux ex machina in place to swoop down and excise Trump. He can only be beaten by a candidate who beats him and I do not see one. The Republican Party will embrace him Take it to the bank.
He might get to the convention with just a plurality—not a majority—of delegates, opening up the possibility of nominating somebody else from the floor. I've changed my mind and decided that ain't gonna happen either. If the GOP denied the nomination to Trump even if he had the most delegates, he would pack up with his followers and form a third party or launch a well-funded write-in campaign and the GOP would cease to exist (as an electoral force).
Watching that food-fight of a Republican debate the other night was as fun as it was revealing. Neither Rubio nor Cruz demonstrated an ounce of understanding of what Trump's support is about. They relentlessly attacked him from the Right, accusing him of inconsistency, liberal views on health care, pandering to entitlements and being a patsy for Planned Parenthood.
I guess they forgot that Mussolini was once a militant socialist and that prior to 1934, the Nazis had an entire "leftist" or socialist wing (See Gregor Strasser). That didn't seem to hurt those guys.
Trump is not drawing the bulk of his support from the just the right wing fringe in and around the GOP. HIs appeal is wide across all Republican strains. His allure comes not from the scant policy details he offers up, but rather his persona. He is Il Douche! Not hard to get Trump. He is the American embodiment of the French and now British National Front. An ultra nationalist soothing the authoritarian and strong man fantasies of his tortured base.
Trump's political stool is built on some pretty simple and sturdy legs. He has taken all of the real economic anxiety produced by the 2008 crash and the current low wage economy and combined it with good old American Xenophobia (that cuts across class lines) and fears and resentment of all OUTSIDERS, including that Negro squatter in the White House. His support has very very little to do with the usual Republican mantra of cutting taxes and government and bombing a few places.
For 35 years, Republican politicians have used hollow promises to the masses to keep the elite empowered. After failing to deliver any of those promises, the Republican base is deserting the party. Their exodus to Trump is also a partial indictment of Democrats who don't have the first clue on how to appeal to the white working class.
What I found most spooky about that Texas debate is that, watching closely, I would trust Trump over Cruz or Rubio in being commander-in-chief! And I think Trump is a fucking nut! What does that tell you?
My liberal friends tell me they are sure Clinton will beat Trump. After all, they say, Trump is the most disliked political figure in America. True enough. But Hillary Clinton is the second-most disliked politician in America. And you tell me: Between Madame Secretary and Il Douche, who do you think is likely to motivate more first time voters?
That's enough for now. I have to go out and buy the Oscar spread for my family. We all want to see those touching emotional moments when the nominees, who make $10-$50 million per movie, get their complimentary $230,000 swag bags!
We ARE an exceptional country! Enjoy it!