Tuesday, November 07, 2017

What Do You Think-- Should We Make The Democratic Party More Democratic?


I just got off the phone being interviewed by a journalist for GQ about how punk bands fought off Nazi sympathizers from the suburbs who couldn't understand the concept of irony and got uncomfortably serious about fascism. The Dead Kennedys, The Clash, Black Flag are the best known among them early on and soon after, Green Day embraced the mantle. We ended the conversation by me introducing him to Green Day fan and anti-fascism warrior Randy Bryce, you know, to kind of push the discussion into a related, if not obvious, direction.

Bernie wrote a long essay for his followers this week and I'm going to share it in moment but I want to set it up first by urging you to read a Matt Taibbi piece in Rolling Stone first, Why Donna Brazile's Story Matters-- But Not for the Reason You Might Think. His subtitle: "Everyone knew the primary was rigged. The real question is: Why did they bother, when they would have won anyway?" He's not happy about the virtual lynching of Brazile by the online Clinton dead enders who refuse to ever go away and live to destroy the Democratic Party.
The story among other things described how the national Clinton campaign used funds that by rule should have redounded to state Democratic Party offices.

Politico described this situation back then as "essentially… money laundering."

...[T]he idea that Brazile's book amounted to a smoking gun that the primary was "rigged" against Sanders is "problematic" in its own right, for two reasons:
1) That the DNC had things stacked against Sanders from the start wasn't secret. After all, the DNC wouldn't even let Sanders use their headquarters as a venue to announce his candidacy, way back in April of 2015. As the book Shattered explains it, DNC officials felt it was inappropriate to "give Sanders the imprimatur of the party." He made his announcement on a strip of grass outside the Capitol. He was never treated by the DNC as a real candidate, not from the first minute of his campaign.

2) But it didn't matter! Clinton would almost certainly have won the nomination anyway. As her proponents have repeatedly pointed out, the race wasn't that close. Even as a Sanders supporter, I concede this.
But that is what's so weird. Why bother monkeying around with rules, when you're going to win anyway?

Why not welcome Sanders and the energy he undoubtedly would (and did) bring into the party, rather than scheme to lock him and others out?

There are a lot of people who are going to wonder why so much time is being spent re-litigating the 2016 campaign. It sucked, it's over: Who cares?

It does matter. That race is when many of the seeds of what will be the defining problems of our age first began to be sown.

The rise of Trump and the crypto-fascist movement that crushed establishment Republicans is half of the story. The sharp move among many white middle American voters away from Beltway Republicanism toward something far darker and more dangerous crystalized in 2015-16. So it has to be studied over and over.

But there is an ugly thing on the other side that also began at that time.

This is when establishment Democrats began to openly lose faith in democracy and civil liberties and began to promote a "results over process" mode of political thinking. It's when we started hearing serious people in Washington talk about the dangers of "too much democracy."

This isn't about Hillary Clinton. It's about a broader movement that took place within the Democratic establishment, and spread rapidly to blue-friendly media and academia.

It's a kind of repeat of post-9/11 thinking, when suddenly huge pluralities of Americans decided the stakes were now too high to continue being queasy about things like torture, extralegal assassination, and habeas corpus.

In the age of Trump, we're now throwing all sorts of once-treasured principles-- press ethics, free speech, freedom from illegal surveillance-- overboard, because the political stakes are now deemed too high to cede ground to Trump over principles.

But this distrust of democracy began before Trump was even a nominee. As Brazile notes, it started within the ranks of the Democratic Party near the outset of the campaign.

It would have been a huge boon to Clinton's run if the DNC had welcomed not only Sanders but other serious candidates into the race, in the true spirit of what the primary process is supposed to represent-- the winnowing of many diverse views into one unified message.

But the attitude in Washington is now the opposite. Primary challengers are increasingly seen as reprobates who exist only to bloody the "real" candidate. So they should be kept down and discouraged whenever possible.

As the campaign continued, and we saw both Trump's rise and results like Brexit, the "too much democracy" argument began to emerge even more, along with the embrace of techniques that would have horrified true liberals a generation ago.

In the last year, we've seen the blue-state establishment celebrate the use of the infamous FISA statute against American citizens, and the use of warrantless electronic surveillance against the same.

We've seen the ACLU denounced for defending free speech and we've seen sites like Buzzfeed celebrated for publishing unverified and/or slanderous material, usually because the targets are politically unpopular.

Liberals used not to believe in doing these things not only because they understood that they would likely be the first victims in a society stripped of civil protections (a school district forcing the removal of Black Lives Matter stickers is a classic example of a more probable future in a world without civil liberties).

No, they eschewed these tactics because they genuinely believed that debate, discussion, inclusion and democracy brought out the best in us.

The point of the Brazile story isn't that the people who "rigged" the primary were afraid of losing an election. It's that they weren't afraid of betraying democratic principles, probably because they didn't believe in them anymore.

If you're not frightened by the growing appeal of that line of thinking, you should be. There is a history of this sort of thing. And it never ends well.

That's where Taibbi ends and Bernie begins. "People are hurting in this country," he wrote, "and our job is not to be distracted by political gossip and Donald Trump's tweets. Our job is to revitalize American democracy and bring millions of people into the political process who today do not vote and who do not believe that government is relevant to their lives. Our job is to create an economy and government that works for all of us, not just the 1 percent and wealthy campaign contributors." He was just getting warmed up, believe me...
Here's the problem: the strategy the Democratic Party has been pursuing in recent years has failed. Since 2009, Democrats have lost more than 1,000 seats in state legislatures across the country. Republicans now control the White House, 34 out of 50 governorships as well as the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. In dozens of states, the Democratic Party is virtually non-existent. Too much is at stake for our country and our people for us not to learn from our past failures and move forward in a way that makes the Democratic Party stronger so we can take on and beat Trump and the right-wing Republican agenda.

What the recently released book excerpt from former interim DNC Chair Donna Brazile made clear is that unless we get our act together, we are not going to be effective in either taking on Donald Trump or in stopping the extremist right-wing Republican agenda. We have to re-establish faith with the American people that in fact we can make positive changes in this country through a fair and transparent political process that reflects the will of voters across this country.

In order to do that, we need to rethink and rebuild the Democratic Party. We need a Democratic Party that opens its doors to new people, new energy and new ideas. We need a Democratic Party that is truly a grassroots party, where decisions are made from the bottom up, not from the top down. We need a Democratic Party which becomes the political home of the working people and young people of this country, black and white, Latino and Asian and Native American ... all Americans.

And we need to make it abundantly clear that the Democratic Party is prepared to take on the ideology of the Koch brothers and the billionaire class-- a small group of people who are undermining American democracy and moving this country into an oligarchic form of society. YES. We will take on the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior of Wall Street, corporate America, the insurance industry, the drug companies, and the fossil fuel industry.

Now, what the Establishment (political, economic and media) wants us to believe is that real and fundamental changes in our society are impossible.

No. We cannot guarantee health care to all as a right. No. We cannot revitalize the trade union movement, raise the minimum wage to a living wage of $15 an hour and provide pay equity for women. No. We cannot effectively compete in the global economy by making public colleges and universities tuition-free. No. We cannot lead the world in combatting climate change and transforming our energy system away from fossil fuels. No. We cannot reform our broken criminal justice system or finally achieve comprehensive immigration reform.

They want us to think that in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, a nation which has more income and wealth inequality than almost any nation on earth, the best that we can do is to accept tiny, incremental change.

I could not disagree more.

Right now, a Democratic National Committee Unity Reform Commission, comprised of people who supported our campaign, people who supported Secretary Clinton's campaign, and people appointed by DNC Chair Tom Perez are working on a set of policies that will determine the future direction of the Democratic Party. In many ways, this Unity Commission will determine whether the Party goes forward in a dynamic and inclusive way, or whether it retains the failed status quo approach of recent years. It will determine whether the Party will have the grassroots energy to effectively take on Donald Trump, the Republican Party and their reactionary agenda or whether we remain in the minority.

In my view, this Commission must:
Make the Democratic Party more democratic and the presidential contests more fair by dramatically reducing the number of superdelegates who participate in the nominating process. It is absurd that in the last presidential primary over 700 superdelegates (almost one-third of the delegates a candidate needed to win the nomination) had the power to ignore the will of the people who voted in the state primaries and caucuses.

Make primaries more open by ending the absurdity of closed primary systems with antiquated, arbitrary and discriminatory voter registration laws. Republicans are the ones who make it harder for people to vote, not Democrats. At a time when more and more people consider themselves to be Independents our job is to bring people into the Democratic Party process, not exclude them. It is incredibly undemocratic that in some states voters must declare their party affiliation up to six months before the primary election.

Make it easier for working people and students to participate in state caucuses. While there is much to be said for bringing people together face-to-face in a caucus to discuss why they support the candidate of their choice, not everybody is able to attend those caucuses at the time they are held. A process must be developed that gives everyone the right to cast a vote even if they are not physically able to attend a state caucus.

Make the DNC's budget and decision-making processes more open and transparent. If we are going to build a Party that relies on working people who are willing to give $5, $10 and $27 donations, they deserve to know where that money is going and how those decisions are made.
I look forward to following the progress of the Unity Reform Commission, and I urge Chairman Tom Perez and the entire Democratic National Committee to develop policies which move the Democratic Party forward in a very different direction-- a direction that will lead us to national and statewide victories. It's important that you do the same:

Please sign the petition calling on the Democratic National Committee and Chairman Tom Perez to accept, support and implement policies which make the Democratic Party more inclusive, more democratic and more transparent.

Right now, our job is to come together, and not be distracted by the political gossip and drama of the moment. We must fight President Trump's destructive efforts to divide us up by the color of our skin, our gender, our religion, our sexual orientation or our country of origin. We must rally the American people to oppose Trump's proposal to provide massive tax giveaways to billionaires while taking away the health care that millions now have.

But we must also make it clear-- if we are going to elect Democrats who will move us forward as a country-- that we must institute long-needed reforms in the Democratic Party. When we do that, we will not only create a dynamic and progressive party, we will be able to transform our nation and create a government that represents all of us, not just the people on top.

In solidarity,

Bernie Sanders

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At 2:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that Hillary and her people felt sure they would win the primary. After all, an obscure part-term African-American Senator had beaten her in 2008 by, apparently, running to her left. There is lots of evidence (biographical approach, lots of former Obama staffers etc.) that she was re-fighting 2008.

At 3:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obama DID not run to Hillary Clinton's left. On pretty much every economic proposal, Hillary & Obama were the same or Hillary was the more leftwing candidate in terms of campaign platforms AND in terms of senate voting records. The big difference between Hillary & Obama was foreign policy where was (and continues to be) less hawkish than her.

I voted for Hillary rather than Obama for domestic policy reasons (though I was really, really torn)& I voted for Sanders over Hillary because Sanders was clearly the superior choice

Also worth noting that Sanders does not advocating eliminating caucuses.

Do people have strong opinions about that? Caucuses are horrifically undemocratic it seems because time constraints can preventing working people & full time parents from participating & make immigrant citizens & people who want to vote against the way their family votes uncomfortable.

BUT Sanders did MUCH, MUCH better in caucuses with lower turnout rather than primaries with higher turnout. There are exceptions of course e.g. Michigan, but for the most part higher turnout helped Hillary & hurt Sanders.

One of the most interesting cases to be are Nebraska & Washington. These two states have both a caucus and, a later date, a primary, but both states award delegates only via the caucus--the primary doesn't count.

In 2008 Obama won both the low-turnout caucus and the high turnout primary in both states but in 2016 Sanders won the low turnout caucus in both states while Hillary won the high turnout primary in both states.

Change all the caucuses to primaries so that the Democratic Party becomes more small 'd' Democratic & that doesn't mean that progressive candidates will necessarily do better.

Of course all of the policies Sanders mentioned as well as eliminating caucuses altogether are the right thing to do full-time.

At 5:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why be surprised that the Democrats are again following the Republicans to the edge of the cliff? It's what they have done since Jimmy Carter was elected in 1976. Carter (as good an ex-president as any this nation ever had) did not represent the Democratic Party mainstream of just a few years before. That mainstream went into shocked silence when they realized that they were able to push Nixon into a box by revealing his transgressions against the nation until even Republicans could see he had to go. The realization that they actually had power must have frightened them rather than empower them to restore and improve the New Deal.

But they had no script. The Republicans did. The Powell Memo was followed well by the GOP until they cornered the entire nation under their control. Despite the Memo being easily located, the Democratic Party completely ignored it, doing nothing to counter the growing control of the GOP over the nation. It didn't help that Carter was such a poor president, driving many life-long Democratic voters into the ranks of the GOP because the Party pushed forward an actor accustomed to reading scripts and who looked as if he was far more capable of governing that did Carter. And the Democrats only had Teddy Kennedy as an alternative, unable to do anything lest Mary Jo Kopechne be invoked.

Heck of a job, Teddy!

Once Reagan took over, the Democrats became wannabees, and decided that they would attempt to follow the script as they understood it from watching what the Republicans did instead of learning to counter them. The fact that they accepted money to change their ways more acceptable to the dominant Republicans sealed their fate as total losers. And that is where they remain to this day.

There now is no Democratic Party to make more democratic. They still cling to Republicans values just like Remora cling to Great White Sharks. It's past time for the voters to treat them like the 21st Century Whigs like they are and form a new organization. It's what the Republicans did, and it only took two elections for them to take over. Bernie showed that it's possible. The Party ensured that it didn't happen. The voters need to leave them behind and go forward without them.

At 5:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

5:14, your analogy is perfect -- the remora clinging onto the GW shark, just behind the teeth.

3:04, the caucus comment isn't all correct. WA state had a binding caucus that $hillbillary bought. Their nonbinding primary had Bernie winning yoooooooge!
And I point you to the NV caucuses that the party caused to bend to $hillbillary by changing venues and/or times and not telling the Bernie people. $hillbillary's paid shills were there and she won. Caucuses are, by their nature, not democratic. Nobody with a job or a family can participate unless the candidate pays them. But money **IS** speech, right???

If all 50 states' primaries were done fairly, I believe Bernie would have won in spite of the colossally foolish blacks who backed the bank whore irrationally. He certainly would have raised the turnout on the left far more than the bank whore suppressed it. The $hillbillary campaign certainly acted like they feared the true left, even though they had no clue what to do about it. Perhaps they knew that her pretense of veering left to assimilate Bernie's people would be correctly viewed as insincere.. so $he didn't bother. Or perhaps they knew $he simply couldn't put on a believable act.

It is impossible, delusional to believe that even a majority of lefty voters can remake the party back into the party FDR left us with in '44. Individual contributions can never add up to the BILLIONS that the elite can and do spend on keeping the democraps corrupt. And when Pelosi and scummer retain their positions in their respective chambers, it guarantees that corruption will continue to be the rule of law among democraps... no matter how many Randy Brices voters elect to junior positions.

The only solution is for voters to permanently refuse to vote for ANY democrap, even the 'better' ones. Once being a member of that horrible corrupt cabal spells doom for any candidate, the good ones will have to claim some other. As that 'other' gets more and more... the left can coalesce around and rebuild THAT into the party we all need.

Bernie could have been the catalyst.. but he lacked the vision, courage and ambition to do that. He remains part of the problem.

I'm never voting for another democrap... I don't care if FDR rises from the dead... I'm never going there again. period.

At 7:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hillary won ALL three minority groups--3/4 blacks, 2/3 Latinos, & 2/3 Asian Americans went for Hillary--& Sanders won whites over all by about 51%. Sanders did better with millenials of color to be sure.

And Sanders WON the BINDING low-turnout caucuses in Nebraska & Washington while Hillary won the high-turnout primaries:

At 6:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I stand corrected. thank you.

Caucuses are still antidemocratic and should be eliminated.

At 8:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad to be helpful! And I agree. Caucuses are undemocratic & should be eliminated.

But, again worth noting that doesn't mean that progressive candidates will do better. If only blacks had voted in the 2016 Democratic primary Sanders would have lost in a landslide. If only Latinos had voted in the 2016 Democratic primary Sanders would have lost in a landslide. If only Asian Americans had voted in the 2016 Democratic primary Sanders would have lost in a landslide. If only whites had voted in the 2016 Democratic primary Sanders would have narrowly beaten Hillary.


I don't think we have to agree with most people of color's decisions to support Hillary over Sanders to understand it, but I do think we need to understand it (I don't know if you're white or not, but I'm white & voted for Sanders) because there's no future for progressive politics in America without people of color being involved--I therefore think it is important for white progressives to understand why people of color wanted Hillary over Sanders & why even among the youngest voters the race between Hillary & Sanders was much closer than it was between Hillary & Sanders with white voters.

At 6:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

8:34, I too am flummoxed at the nonwhite demo's clinging religiously to the corrupt Clintonist side of the party. I do acknowledge that the black demo clutches their anti-Semitism, even though all during the civil rights era, the Jewish demo was their sole ally. I guess everyone will always hate jews? Are humans really that stupid? It seems so.

I haven't seen polling on the latino demo's proclivities for xenophobia. Maybe they are also reflexively anti-Semitic. Bernie is certainly no whiter than $hillbillary. And after obamanation's admins deported record numbers of their own... I guess they failed to realize that the Clinton and obamanation wing of the party is one and the same. Again, are humans really that stupid?

Asians. I'm baffled. My graduating class in physics was me and a dozen or so Asian males. During my professional life, I was surrounded by Asians because americans couldn't/wouldn't do it. Can they still generally be that stupid?

Maybe there's lead in all the water. Smart people move to America and become morons?

Time after time, the answer continues to be ... yeah, humans really are that stupid.

At 9:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think blacks, Latinos, & Asians were anti-semitic or stupid to prefer Hillary to Sanders. I think they were WRONG, but they weren't stupid. Plenty of Jews in Congress are in Congress only because non-white voters have voted for them overwhelmingly like Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii (Asian voters) or Representative John Yarmouth of Kentucky (black voters).

Politics isn't just about having good policy (Sanders is way, way better than Hillary/Obama/Bill on policy) it's also about feelings--do you trust this person? do you feel affection for this person? do you identify with this person?

Sanders always won white millenials right from the start but went from LOSING black & Latino voters under 30 to winning both groups by the end of the primary though never had as commanding a victory with them as he did with white millenials.

Sanders made more & more inroads with white gen x & white baby boomers as the primary went a long, but he made very little progress with black, latino, & Asian American gen x and baby boomers.

I don't think above 30 non-whites were without reason to trust, like, & identify with Hillary rather than Sanders. I don't think they were stupid (though again I disagree with them).

Why was Hillary so much more popular among non-whites?

1) Symbolism from Bill & Obama's presidency that rubs off onto Hillary

2) real world good effects of policy during Bill's presidency & Obama's presidency

3) Hillary from the very beginning campaigned hard & consistently for minority voters

4) whites & non-whites view the Obama era differently

1) Bill Clinton appointed more minorities to his cabinet than any previous president by a mile--only Obama beats him. Bill also appointed more minorities to the federal judiciary than all previous presidents combined--only Obama beats him.

2) Bill's presidency was a time of immense prosperity for African Americans & Latinos, median income for minorities grew, home ownership increased, poverty went down https://www.evernote.com/shard/s4/sh/bebe9dc8-0d1f-4e60-880e-c965fc3f0bff/c79e87e906239d372dc3e7a9ef680b41

Obamacare has been a policy that has helped millions, but disproportionately it has helped previously uninsured African Americans & Hispanic Americans:

At 9:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

3) Hillary's first major policy speech after declaring her candidacy in April 2015 was about the need for criminal justice reform where she embraced a lot of concerns that Black Lives Matter Activists have raised about policing in America http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2015/04/hillary_clinton_s_impressive_criminal_justice_speech_the_democratic_front.html

She followed this up a few weeks later in early May where she have a speech on immigration reform where she committed herself to a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented & promised to defended Obama's 2012 & 2014 executive actions putting a halt to deportations & to go even further under the law. After the speech she had a
round table discussion with undocumented teenagers where they voiced their concerns to her: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/5/5/1382742/-Hillary-Clinton-sets-gold-standard-on-immigration-in-2016

Hillary then hired one of the most prominent immigration activists in the country on her team: http://www.vox.com/2015/5/20/8629639/lorella-praeli-clinton

Immigration reform is something that matters intensely to both Hispanics and Asian Americans.

From the very beginning of her campaign Hillary's senior campaign & policy staff was filled with people of color many of whom had been advocates or policy experts on issues affecting people of color. Sanders' campaign & policy staff in contrast was almost entirely white. Compare Hillary & Sanders in July of 2015:

Sanders eventually addressed all of this as well. He hired smart people of color and he went to Hillary's left on both criminal justice reform & immigration, but this was months AFTER Hillary initially did so.

As has widely been noted, Sanders' record on gun control in the 1990s & early 2000s as a member of the House was not very good. Now as a Senator & a presidential candidate he has corrected himself, but this is one area where Hillary can legitimately say that she was always & continues to be to the left of Sanders.

Why mention gun control? Because Asian Americans, black Americans, & Latino Americans are FAR, FAR more in favor of gun control than white Americans are. http://www.people-press.org/2015/08/13/continued-bipartisan-support-for-expanded-background-checks-on-gun-sales/8-12-2015-3-59-05-pm/

At 9:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

4) multiple surveys over the course of the Obama presidency revealed that all three non-white groups were increasingly optimistic about the future while whites--particularly non-millennial whites--are increasingly pessimistic.

There's very much a way in which this makes sense. While economic security & the possibility of economic advancement has been on the decline since the evil president Reagan set the country on it's drift towards more & more brutal capitalism, the country has simultaneously been becoming less racist & non-whites have begun to achieve more positions of power in the economy & the Democratic Party (though not the GOP--the mere tokenism of Tim Scott & Marco Rubio does not count) as well as representation in films & tv shows. There are fewer doors open for advancement, but increasingly the doors that remain are open to all races & ethnic groups & religions.

For white people, starting with Reagan & continuing with Bush I, Bush II, & Obama (though NOT Bill) the story is one of economic decline (unless you're a white LGBT person in which case things have gotten better economically).

For non-white people the story is much more complex--it's a story of both moving forward & moving back.

For whites, Sanders' call to revolution makes sense--Reagan screwed us & no president has fundamentally course corrected since because other than Bill's presidency things have just gotten worse & worse.

For people of color, however, it is easy to look at Hillary & say 'Hillary was the husband of the president & secretary of state to the other president under which we've had the greatest opportunities & advancements in generations & she's continually speaking directly to our concerns & promising to continue to the Obama-era. The old white guy sounds pretty cool, but why should we risk rocking the boat?' Polling in 2016 & 2017 reveal that non-white voters do like Sanders, it's just that they liked Hillary MORE.

Now the above I think fully captures non-white baby boomers & non-white generation x, but since millenial non-whites have had different experiences they were more receptive to Sanders & why he was eventually able to win them over despite initially losing them.


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