The Democratic Party Establishment Desperately Needs Reform-- Instead It Got More Schumer, Pelosi And Hoyer
Friday night Bernie was at Dominican University in Marin County, ostensibly to promote his new book, Our Revolution: A Future To Believe In. In launched right into an attack against the Democratic Party establishment, blaming party elites for creating the environment in which Trumpism could thrive. His point,
Bernie told the crowd that he looks "at this election not as a victory for Mr. Trump, who wins the election as the most unpopular candidate in perhaps the history of our country but as a loss for the Democratic Party." To Bernie, as it has always been, the defeat of the Democratic Party was all about their unwillingness and inability to address gross economic inequality. He had no interest in the critique of Trumpism that blames the phenomenon on racism, sexism or the rise of the alt-right. "I don’t believe that at all,” he told the overflowing crowd. "I think a lot of people ended up holding their noses and voting for Trump because they are in pain... There are a lot of people in our country who are hurting and they are hurting very, very badly. The political establishment is not hearing their pain; the financial and economic establishment could care less about their lives; and the media establishment is not dealing with the reality of their lives... and along comes Mr. Trump."
He attacked Obamacare from the left-- for leaving out millions of people, for overly expensive prescription drugs and for prohibitive deductibles that puts insurance out of reach for many struggling families. He talked about an increase in drug addiction and stagnating life expectancy for the poor and that, in the end Trump would disappoint the people who turned to him to solve these problems. Trump's own tendency towards oligarchy will make things worse for working people-- much worse.
What does he want to do? Easy: "transform the Democratic Party from a party led by a liberal elite to a party led by working people and young people and people who really want to transform society." He is trying to rally Americans not beholden to Wall Street.
Shaun King is a Bernie-oriented reporter for the New York Daily News. Last Wednesday he wrote a scathing piece on the Democratic Party leadership that I've been trying to work into a DWT post. It doesn't go after the party elites from the same direction Bernie prefers (economically) but King's analysis is no less crucial. A Senate staffer clued him into the soft bigotry of Senate leaders. Here we've talked a lot about the not so soft bigotry within the ranks of the House Democratic leadership, particularly Steve Israel who has enforced his ugly racist diktat as head of the DCCC, namely that African-Americans should not be candidates for Congress except in black-majority districts. But King didn't have obscure grubby little hacks like Israel in his sights, but Democratic Senate leaders.
“They are all so phony,” the staffer told me. “Every time I hear any of the Democratic senators, including my own boss, talk about diversity, I cringe, because it’s all one big lie. That they’ve been allowed to enjoy this reputation as a party that values diversity, while doing next to nothing of substance to align their actions with their words, is expert-level deception.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
The staffer went on to detail a private network of conversations being held by staff members of color in the U.S. Senate which they half-jokingly call the “Underground Railroad.”
“Democrats in the Senate use demographics as their excuse for the fact that they only have one African-American member in their ranks. They’ll tell anyone who listens that they wish this wasn’t the case and to the untrained ear, it sounds true. It isn’t. The Senate looks just the way want it,” the staffer told me.
I must admit that I had also bought the lie-- hook, line, and sinker-- that only two current U.S. Senators out of 100, Cory Booker, a Democrat, and Tim Scott, a Republican, were black because state by state demographics just made it too hard for African-Americans to win statewide elections.
“No, that’s not it. Of course demographics are a factor in every election, but the Senate looks the way Senators want it to look. Let me prove it to you.”
What I learned next made my jaw drop.
“Do you know how many black Chiefs of Staff exist in the Senate? The whole Senate? One. Out of one hundred chances they had to hire a black chiefs of staff, they hired just one African-American,” the staffer said in disgust.
“But hold up, hold up,” the staffer continued. “I haven’t even given you the punchline yet. Guess who the one black Chief of Staff works for?”
“Who?” I asked-- having no idea what the answer was.
“Tim Scott,” the staffer replied. “The lone black chief of staff in the entire United States Senate works for South Carolina Republican, Tim Scott. His office may be the most diverse in the entire Senate.”
It was like a punch to the gut. It’s one thing for the elected officials in one of the most important halls of government in our nation to be just 2% black-- that could be blamed on voters or demographics or fundraising, but the fact that only one U.S. Senator has hired a black chief of staff, and that senator is a Republican, is an indefensible choice.
It doesn’t stop there.
According to a recent study from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, of the 336 senior staff positions in the U.S. Senate, 0.9% of them are held by African-Americans. That’s three people.
This is inexcusable and it has a devastating impact on the positions and priorities taken by senators themselves.
“When Philando Castile and Alton Sterling were shot and killed by police in Minnesota and Louisiana, I practically begged my boss to issue a statement. My request fell on deaf ears,” the staffer said.
It’s no wonder the Senate has done so little of substance on issues that truly matter to black folk.
The lack of diversity in the U.S. Senate is so severe that it was called “one of the world’s whitest workplaces” in a scathing critique authored by The Atlantic’s Russell Berman. Berman also highlighted how the online magazine, Diversity Inc., “the nation’s worst employer for diversity.”
“We’re pissed,” the staffer said referring to the small but close-knit community that has formed among staffers of color. “Many of the interns and junior staffers of color come from a generation where we really don’t suffer in silence. We’re here to make a difference and this type of soft bigotry from the Democratic Party needs to be exposed.”
...Yeah, Donald Trump’s a bigot, but Senate Democrats aren’t far behind.
This morning, Glenn Greenwald wrote at The Intercept that "ever since he announced his candidacy to lead the Democratic National Committee, Keith Ellison, the first American Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress, has been the target of a defamation campaign that is deceitful, repugnant, and yet quite predictable. At first expressed in whispers, but now being yelled from the rooftops by some of the party’s most influential figures, Ellison is being smeared as both an anti-Semite and enemy of Israel" And that smear, Greenwald writes reveals much about Washington. "Ellison is a mainstream liberal Democrat... What makes him such an easy and vulnerable target for smear campaigns such as the one Saban and the ADL are pursuing is that he is Muslim-- a black Muslim to boot... If you’re a Democrat, it’s easy to embrace the language of anti-Islamophobia when it comes to condemning Donald Trump and other Republicans. It’s more difficult, but more important, to do so when that poison is coming from within the Democratic Party itself. One of the few silver linings of the ugly Trump rhetoric on Muslims can and should be (and has been) a unified rejection of this sort of toxicity, regardless of where it comes from. Democrats who are sincere about wanting to oppose anti-Muslim bigotry can do so by defending Keith Ellison from these incredibly ugly, baseless and defamatory attacks."