Sunday, December 15, 2019

Careerism Vs Courage-- How Will They Play Out In The Impeachment Vote?


Saturday morning, I pointed out on Twitter that though Pelosi managed to hold the entire Democratic caucus together to pass H.R.-3, her rather weak drug price reduction bill, just before the vote, the Republicans offered a way to kill the legislation via a Motion to Recommit. That failed but 3 super-conservative fake-Democrats voted with all the Republicans for it-- Blue Dogs Josh Gottheimer (NJ), Mikie Sherrill (NJ) and Ben McAdams (UT). Another Twitter user, Maria, offered up a typical excuse for this kind of bad vote: "NJ is big Pharma territory."

What she meant is that several drug companies are based in New Jersey. The Big PhRMA companies-- Pfizer, Amgen-- Eli Lilly, AbbVie, Merck, AstraZeneca, Abbott Labs, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline, Milan, Bayer, etc-- give millions of dollars in bribes to many members of Congress annually. Last cycle, New Jersey's delegation did pretty well. Among the current House members, the biggest amounts went to:
Frank Pallone (D)- $117,200
Bonnie Watson Coleman (D)- $59,812
Josh Gottheimer (Blue Dog)- $49,280
Bill Pascrell (D)- $45,500
Don Norcross (New Dem)- $38,900
candidate Mikie Sherrill (Blue Dog)- $35,311
candidate Tom Malinowski (New Dem)- $24,097
Donald Payne (D)- $20,800
candidate Andy Kim (D)- $19,018
Chris Smith (R)- $12,250
candidate Jeff Van Drew (Blue Dog)- $7,228
But the impetus for bribery from these savvy companies--and from their lobbyists-- follows power, not geography. Pallone didn't get a lion's share of loot ($694,170 since he was elected) because he represents Middlesex and Monmouth counties, but because he is chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and can-- and does-- protect the drug companies from progressive legislation like Medicare-for-All. The 5 current House members who have taken the most in bribes from PhRMA are those who serve their masters best, not those who live in their districts:
Fred Upton (R-MI)- former chair of Energy and Commerce- $943,531
Anna Eshoo (D-CA), chair, Energy and Commerce's Heath Subcommittee- $891,815
Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)- corrupt minority leader- $849,550
Steny Hoyer (D-MD)- corrupt majority leader- $719,572
Frank Pallone (D-NJ)- chair of Energy and Commerce- $694,170
A warning from progressive California congressional candidate Cenk Uygur: "Drug companies don't give politicians money for charity, they do it to buy them. And unfortunately it works. Everyone knows these are bribes. The only people who won't acknowledge it are corporate politicians on both sides and the corporate media. This is a sick system that lets people die for profit. Any politician that takes money from the drug companies is selling out their voters on behalf of their donors."

On Friday evenings, Chris Hayes has taken to doings his MSNBC shows in front of a live audience. This week one of his guests was Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown (D). In his last couple of seconds on the air, Brown managed to blurt out one of the most crucial things he has ever said about electoral politics and how it impacts American politics. Unfortunately an ad was calling and it never got discussed on the show: "If politicians are willing to lose an election, they're always better at their job." That idea goes beyond geography, beyond sources of campaign funds, beyond ideology, even beyond partisan affiliation. It goes to character-- integrity, honesty, sense of honor... courageousness. Nothing else much matters in politics without it.

It's the opposite of political careerism. And it speaks to the real reason why craven and cowardly political hacks like Gottheimer, Sherrill and McAdams were willing to cross the aisle and vote with the GOP to kill a bill that would reduce the cost of medicine for their constituents in Bergen County, in Morris County and in Salt Lake County.

In the next few days, Pelosi will tell Hoyer to call an impeachment vote. Several Democrats in difficult districts have already announced they intend to vote to hold Trump accountable for his on-going criminal behavior. One, putrid New Jersey Blue Dog Jefferson Van Drew (widely expected to bolt the party and seek reelection as a Republican) has said he is absolutely voting against impeachment. He's not even in a prohibitively red district. Obama won the NJ-02 district comfortably both times he ran. Trump won in 2016-- 50.6% to 46.0%-- not because the district had suddenly turned red, but because Hillary was such a lousy candidate for the working class voters who dominate the district. The PVI is just R+1, not that much of a stretch for a Democrat.

There are no normal Democrats talking about voting against impeachment, but there are around a dozen from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party who are... all Blue Dogs and New Dems, of course. These are the other Democrats besides Van Drew who are most likely to vote against impeachment... along with their districts' PVIs. (Notice that 3 are in blue districts.)
Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN)- R+12
Anthony Brindisi (Blue Dog-NY)- R+6
Ben McAdams (Blue Dog-UT)- R+13
Kendra Horn (Blue Dog-OK)- R+10
Chrissy Houlahan (New Dem-PA)- D+2
Mikie Sherrill (Blue Dog-NJ)- R+3
Angie Craig (New Dem-MN)- R+2
Dan Lipinski (Blue Dog-IL)- D+6
Elissa Slotkin (New Dem-MI)- R+4
Xochitl Torres Small (Blue Dog-NM)- R+6
Ed Case (Blue Dog-HI)- D+17
Some of the least courageous of the usual wafflers have aleady come out to say they are voting to impeach the bastard, including Elaine Luria (VA), Max Rose (NY), Conor Lamb (PA), Colin Allred (TX), Susan Wild (PA), Susie Lee (NV) and Tom O’Halleran (AZ). O'Halleran, a former Republican legislator currently pretending to be a Democrat, is now a Blue Dog. He has a very intense primary from progressive activist Eva Putzova and that has, of late, moved him towards the mainstream on issues-- like this-- where he would be more comfortable voting with the Republicans. In his announcement Friday, he said that "Trump abused the power of the presidency and broke his oath of office when he bribed the nation of Ukraine by withholding military aid they had already been promised in exchange for help investigating a political opponent. I will vote to impeach the President because this bribery and abuse of power violated the constitution and put our national security and our international relationships at risk." It's lucky we have Putzova pushing him so hard.

Last summer progressive Democrat Teresa Tomlinson called for impeaching Trump. She's running for a Senate seat held by an extreme Trump partisan, David Perdue. At the time, Tomlinson wrote that "It’s fear that cripples the Democratic Party. Fear of our policies, fear of who we are, and fear of the Republicans. Yes, fear is what has politically cost us in the last many election cycles. One cannot lead if one is afraid. The thing about leadership is that people want their leaders to be brave. They care less about what you think on the issues than whether you have the moxie to fight for them and the strength of conviction to tell them what you really think... That’s what the Right can’t stand about The Squad. Those women are fearless about their beliefs. They refuse to be bullied, and that is dangerous to the Republican playbook of shaming scared Democrats into milk toast, mealy-mouthed, baby-splitting positions that are equivocal and stand for nothing. American voters revile those who won’t tell the people what they think. Even if you don’t support the policies-- or certainly some of the statements-- of The Squad, you can’t deny that you appreciate that they unabashedly tell the world what they think." She continued with a statement all Democrats wavering and quivering in fear-- especially an arch-coward like Brindisi-- should study:
Impeachment is not about undoing the last election or impacting the next. It certainly is not about the polls as the Founding Framers made perfectly clear in Federalist Paper, No. 66. It is about stopping a president who would abuse and misuse the power of the presidency so that not another day passes-- not another circumstance presents itself-- where a president, unfit for duty because of the commission of High Crimes or Misdemeanors (defined as misdeeds) can inflict his/her poor judgment on the office, the country, or the people. Oh, if only impeachment proceedings had been instituted sooner, the damage that might have been averted.

Instead, Democrats are afraid of what the Republicans will say about it-- what the bullies will do to us on the way home. So, we cut through the alley to avoid the fight and controversy. We detour our duty of leadership and good government. Commencing impeachment proceedings is about employing the constitutional duty that our elected leaders were sworn to do-- not about mitigating to the finish line and hoping no one notices that we wouldn’t use the tools entrusted to us to keep the American system on the rails. All Democrats, and many Independents and Republicans, understand that Donald Trump has committed High Crimes or Misdemeanors, so if this conduct doesn’t warrant the commencement of impeachment proceedings, then what would? We must seriously consider the example of tolerance for harmful conduct at the highest levels of our government we are creating.

The key to winning is that you don’t aim to win, you aim to lead. If you lead, the winning takes care of itself-- or at least you move the needle so profoundly you set up the next winner, as did Stacey Abrams in Georgia with her heroic non-loss in Georgia. She was who she was and voters responded to that.

That’s not fear, that’s winning.

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

Sunday Thoughts:

I don't know what this is but I know what it looks like and it makes me extra glad that my parents never sent me to one of those religious camps for the summer. I wonder if the Alabama pastor I wrote about in last Sunday's meme had anything to do with this, or maybe my local Catholic diocese.

Damn, and I always felt that just looking at a picture of Rev. Mike Huckabee gave me the creeps!

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Saturday, December 14, 2019

Another Point Of View: Lessons for Bernie from Britain 2019


-by Tim Russo
Yesterday, the Republican wing of the Democratic Party couldn't wait to declare that Corbyn's loss in the U.K. meant that only a right-wing Democrat could beat Trump here. Bloomberg-- an actual Republican calling himself a Democrat and trying to buy the Democratic nomination-- called the election results in the U.K. a "catastrophic warning" to Americans. In a swipe at Bernie, he asserted that "Americans want change but I don’t think they want revolutionary change." Status Quo Joe also tried pinning Labor's loss on Bernie and Elizabeth, arguing that Boris Johnson’s resounding victory should warn Democrats against veering too far left in their fight to defeat Trump. Biden, at a fat cat fundraiser in San Francisco, gloated "Boris Johnson is winning in a walk... Look what happens when the Labour Party moves so, so far to the left. It comes up with ideas that are not able to be contained within a rational basis quickly." So let's turn to our old friend Tim Russo to get a broader understanding of this than Status Quo Joe or Little Michael will ever have. Tim worked for both the successful Bill Clinton campaigns and in the U.K. for Tony Blair's 1997, 2001 and 2005 campaigns. He knows something about U.K. electoral politics.
Trying to reverse an election result is suicidal. The good news from yesterday’s election is we will never again hear anyone claim #RussiaDidBrexit. British voters wanted Brexit in 2016, and they will damn well have it, even if they have to get it by giving a landslide to Boris bloody Johnson, mate. In the US, voters wanted Trump, and no amount of “impeachment” performance art smearing of Laurie Anderson’s shit into her own hair (Hillz) while Yoko Ono screeches in the corner scratching at the strings of a cello with her teeth (Pelosi) will reverse that. The opportunity for Bernie Sanders here is abundantly clear-- he should oppose impeachment. Should have done so some time ago, but there’s still plenty of time to step away from the cliff Labour has spent 3 years hurtling itself over.

It’s suicidal to compromise with centrists, which is why centrists propose it. Since becoming leader in 2015, and accelerating since the 2017 election which saw Labour nearly win, Corbyn bent over backwards to reach out to the Blairite rump of centrist New Labour dead enders, who refused the Brexit result, demanding another referendum. It was folly. On Brexit, Corbyn thus contorted himself and Labour into a caricature. Everyone knows Corbyn’s been at best an EU skeptic his entire life. Corbyn’s (and historically, Labour’s) natural position is to argue Lexit-- a left Brexit-- that the EU is a capitalist vampire squid feeding upon us (conveniently, also true). But by this 2019 election, Remoaners hell bent on a second EU referendum had forced Corbyn to not just put a second referendum into the Labour manifesto by last September’s party conference, reversing the 2017 promise to respect the 2016 Brexit result. They even forced Corbyn, on national television no less, to the point of promising himself in a debate last month to not even take a position in that promised second EU referendum, a plainly seen cowardice Corbyn claimed as some sort of “leadership”. Idiocy.

Goal ThermometerWinning the nomination is only the opening bell. It’s a common Yankee mistake to assume the smear that Labour under Corbyn became a Nazi antisemitism hive comes from the Tories. Third Way Blairite dead enders launched that smear in spring 2015 before Corbyn even became leader, and have only accelerated it. Not a day has passed since Corbyn became Labour leader in 2015 without knives of this nature plunged into his back, deeper every single day, by his own party. Centrist petty bourgeoisie will not just go away-- they are in an existential fight for their existence as capitalism slowly collapses around them, thus will only get more desperate, foul, and dangerous.

Go for broke. When Corbyn became leader, my only policy concern stateside was whether or not Labour under Corbyn would promise in an election manifesto, as it had before World War II, to abolish the medieval relic of the City of London Corporation, the world’s largest tax haven black hole. Never happened, in both Corbyn manifestos. Since the City is a thousand years old, has no constitution, and is nothing but a set of fangs sucking on the world, if history remembers Corbyn for anything for very long, that failure will be what sticks. Corbyn regularly pre-compromised in this manner, for example, promising that re-nationalization of British rail would be somehow “funded”, as if “shareholders” needed “compensation” for their trouble. Why? That’s like having to pay someone who stole your house then destroyed it to get your house back. Complete madness.

A movement must become a machine. Corbyn’s Obama like tendency to pre-compromise reached full flower in the 2018 conference fight over whether or not to subject Labour MPs to mandatory re-selection every election (like a US primary), rather than as now, automatically. This was how the movement within Labour wanted to get rid of the recalcitrant coup plotters-- just toss em out. Alas, Corbyn again compromised with the snakes whose sole purpose was to poison him, creating a strange “trigger process” requiring massive organization merely to put selection on the agenda of a local constituency Labour Party. Unless institutionalized, movements fizzle into moments, which is what happened to Corbyn’s moment. Like Occupy and the Arab Spring before it, or Bernie Sanders 2016 after it, when a movement is slowed to a stop, it scatters to the four winds in a thousand directions, becoming disillusioned and despaired, incapable of being reborn. Movements are not bottomless wells of energy to be tapped on demand. They must be capitalized on, immediately, to become machines which operate independently of any leader, or moment, or idea. A movement must become power, or it is wasted and lost.

There’s always a bright side. There is simply no point in taking seriously any of the people who wish to destroy you. You must defeat them, then build power on top of their dead carcass. The forces of capital know this very well-- they don’t need to rely on the ephemeral moments movements create; they already have power, bottomless billions of it, and will never stop using it. Likely proving this deliciously will be McKinsey Pete Buttigieg in the next 2020 debate. Even Liz Warren, capitalist who loves markets to her bones, will preach at us to #BeCareful! about moving too leftward! To a fundraiser of ghoulish rich rattling their jewelry at him, of course, the slowly bleeding out Joe Biden gasped for breath with this same ‘warning’ as if Brexit never occurred, as if he hadn’t crafted capital’s incarceration police state end stage with his own hands still dripping with the oil blood of Iraq, whose greenhouse gases burn the planet to a cinder for profit as Joe sucks on his wife’s fingers. No wonder Uncle Joe has trouble breathing-- he’s choking on what he himself has wrought. I had hoped a Labour victory this month would show the world a socialist party could win in half of the transatlantic “special relationship” that is the foundation of neoliberal capitalism. I guess we’ll have to settle for a few hard lessons that really need to be internalized before the Iowa caucuses on February 3, 2020, to show a socialist can win in the more important half of that transatlantic relationship. Timing is everything, as the saying goes.

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Good Riddance, Jeff Van Drew, Who Has Always Belonged In The GOP


If you're a regular DWT reader, the Washington Post and NY Times pieces from earlier today should come as no surprise: Blue Dog and fake-Democrat Jefferson Van Drew is jumping the fence and becoming a Republican instead of just voting like one. Mike DeBonis, Rachel Bade and Josh Hawsey wrote it up. And Jonathan Martin did the honors for the Times. The Post crew said his switch to the GOP-- after a meeting with Señor Trumpanzee on Friday-- would be a "political jolt to Democrats ahead of next week’s expected vote to impeach the president." Why? Have they not be noticing how he votes? Progressive Punch doesn't just rate his voting record an "F." They show he has the most anti-progressive record of any Democrat (19.23)-- and more conservative than independent former Republican Justin Amash (32.93) and 3 Republicans, Brian Fitzpatrick (28.57), Thomas Massie (28.33) and John Katko (21.20). Van Drew's voting record is closer to conservative Republican Elise Stefanik's (16.10) than it is to the next worst Democrat, Anthony Brindisi (23.08). The New Jersey Democratic Party has already been warning that they would not back him in a primary fight, although, of course, DCCC Chair Cheri Bustos has been firmly on his side and has offered to spend whatever he needed for reelection.
Two Democratic officials familiar with Van Drew’s discussions in recent days said they believe he has decided to switch parties. The White House meeting was confirmed by a Trump administration official and one of the Democratic officials.

Van Drew and Rep. Collin C. Peterson, a veteran Minnesota Democrat who represents a much more conservative district than Van Drew’s, were the only two Democrats to vote against a House resolution in October formalizing the impeachment inquiry.

Van Drew’s decision to oppose impeachment badly alienated Democratic voters in his district, sparking a primary challenge that threatened his prospects for reelection.

A polling memo obtained by the Washington Post, citing results of a Dec. 7-10 survey of likely Democratic voters commissioned by Van Drew’s campaign, found that only 24 percent believed that he should be reelected, with 58 percent wanting another Democrat nominated for the seat.

Speculation about a potential party switch has swirled for days on Capitol Hill and inside New Jersey political circles. Van Drew on Tuesday denied that he was switching parties, as he maintained that he would vote against impeachment.

“I’m not changing anything-- just doing my job,” he said in a brief interview. “I’m still a Democrat, right here.”

Asked if Republicans had approached him about a party switch, he said, “I’m not talking about other people and what they’re doing.”
A few weeks ago, Van Drew's handpicked candidate to replace him in the state Senate, another GOP-lite conservative pretending to be a Democrat,, was defeated. Bob Andrzejczak is a Van Drew clone and he lost to Republican Mike Testa in a district that includes much of Van Drew's-- 27,163 (53.5%) to 23,636 (46.5%.

Van Drew is hardly the first Blue Dog to jump the fence. The name "Blue Dog" came from Fort Worth conservative Democrat Pete Geren who switched to the GOP and got a job from George W. Bush. Three other Blue Dog founders, Billy Tauzin (LA), Gene Taylor (MS), Nathan Deal (GA), Jimmy Hayes (LA), Ralph Hall (TX), also became Republicans. Since the desertion of the founders many more Blue Dogs have jumped ship, especially Blue Dogs from the old slave holding states, such as Parker Griffith (AL), Charles Canady (FL), Artur Davis (AL), and Virgil Goode (VA).

I guess he won't be part of this one-- but he has already collected $1,276,316 this year as a Democratic candidate, including large amounts from unions and from Democratic leadership PACs (about a hundred thousand dollars), including Steny Hoyer's PAC. Before Trump bribed him on Friday, Van Drew had very publicly promised he would stay a Democrat, so he really should give all that money back that he took under false pretenses.

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Would You Work For The Bloomberg Campaign?


Politico noted yesterday that the Bloomberg campaign is on a hiring spree. What reporter Sally Goldenberg didn't mention, however, is that there is no one out there left to hire but the dregs. All the vaguely competent political operatives-- plus scores of second, third and fourth tier operatives-- have already signed on to other campaigns-- presidential, senatorial, congressional, gubernatorial, etc. There's pretty much nothing left but the garbage. (By all means, do see the spoofy video-- that caused Bloomberg to fire the creator-- below.) As for the dregs Bloomberg is hiring...

Goldenberg wrote that Bloomberg is deploying his unlimited-budget-to-buy-the-election to go on a hiring spree and that he's hired more than 300 people so far to work on his campaign. If they're anything like Kyle Layman, Bloomberg's campaign is DOA. After all, there was a reason no one had scooped Layman and other available operatives up-- and it is primarily only the most mercenary and desperate operatives who would even work for Bloomberg. He's been hiring many people from failed campaigns. And another option Bloomberg has taken has been to hire people who know nothing about electoral politics.

His headquarters on Manhattan’s tony Upper East Side employs more than 200 people, including familiar faces from his days in City Hall. Former deputy mayors Kevin Sheekey and Patti Harris are his campaign manager and chair, respectively.

Among his recent hires is Jeff Glueck, CEO of Foursquare, a mobile app that allows users to virtually check into bars and restaurants. Glueck, who cut his teeth in Silicon Valley, will work as director of digital research & engagement, according to a release from Bloomberg’s team. Last week he announced his departure from the company on Twitter, teasing his next role as being “at the intersection of my passions for tech and politics.”

He will work alongside Gary Briggs, the Facebook executive who was named Bloomberg’s chief marketing officer.

The former mayor, who has a long record of funding Republicans as well as Democrats, has already spent more than $100 million on ads for his campaign.

And he’s got the cash to outspend his opponents many times over. When he entered the race on Nov. 24, Forbes calculated his wealth to be $54.1 billion. As of Thursday evening it had climbed to a cool $55.6 billion.

Team Bloomberg is also picking off the carcasses of fallen Democratic candidates as he bulks up his team.

He is naming Cassandra Henry, who worked as chief of staff to the deputy campaign manager of Beto O’Rourke’s failed presidential campaign, as his deputy states director.

And days before Sen. Kamala Harris dropped out of the race, Bloomberg picked up her staffer Kelly Mehlenbacher, who handled operations for Harris' embattled bid. Mehlenbacher worked on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign and is Bloomberg’s deputy chief operating officer.

Other new hires include former aides to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 race -- Brynne Craig will be senior adviser, Carlos Sanchez is national political director and Jason Rodriguez was named deputy political director.
One top operative told me that people in her field don't have to believe in the candidate they work for but that it helps. "Bloomberg," she said, "is just a step too far. Look at what happened to Symone Sanders' credibility when she went from working for Bernie Sanders to working for... what do you call him? Status Quo Joe Biden? She's become a joke in the industry... Who wants to get tarred with the Bloomberg stench? No one with a proven track record who wants a long-term career... But who knows? Look at all those endorsements he's buying from mayors he's buying with his open checkbook." 

Another highly successful campaign operative added that "Not only is 'Little Michael' hiring laid off staff and bottom of the barrel scum... he’s hiring folks who have recently been fired by B list 2020 campaigns. For example, he’s hired a California communications director (former DCCC stooge) who was recently fired from a congressional campaign in Texas. Operatives in Texas tell me this was due to his astounding incompetence, horrible work ethic, and insensitivity to the local community (something the DCCC prides itself on). I’m sure that will go quite well when this individual needs to help Mayor Michael secure support in culturally prideful areas (chock full of votes) such as East L.A., San Bernardino, and Riverside. Michael will learn not all endorsements from local elected officials have a dollar price tag..."

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While Trump Fiddles, Our Crucial Task Is Saving Mankind-- And Planet Earth-- Before It's Too Late


What's the absolutely single most important thing Bernie can achieve if he's elected president in 2020? Yeah, I know they're all import but pick just one.

Create a Medicare for All, single-payer, national health insurance program to provide everyone in America with comprehensive health care coverage, free at the point of service.
No networks, no premiums, no deductibles, no copays, no surprise bills.
Medicare coverage will be expanded and improved to include: include dental, hearing, vision, and home- and community-based long-term care, in-patient and out-patient services, mental health and substance abuse treatment, reproductive and maternity care, prescription drugs, and more.
Stop the pharmaceutical industry from ripping off the American people by making sure that no one in America pays over $200 a year for the medicine they need by capping what Americans pay for prescription drugs under Medicare for All.
Revitalize democracy itself?
Restore the Voting Rights Act and overturn Citizens United.
End racist voter suppression and partisan gerrymandering.
Make Election Day a national holiday, secure automatic voter registration, and guarantee the right to vote for every American over 18, including those Americans currently incarcerated and those disenfranchised by a felony conviction.
Abolish super PACs and replace corporate funding with publicly funded elections that amplify small-doner donations.
Statehood for Washington, DC and for Puerto Rico?

College For All?
Guarantee tuition and debt-free public colleges, universities, HBCUs, Minority Serving Institutions and trade-schools to all.
Cancel all student loan debt for the some 45 million Americans who owe about $1.6 trillion and place a cap on student loan interest rates going forward at 1.88 percent.
Invest $1.3 billion every year in private, non-profit historically black colleges and universities and minority-serving institutions
End equity gaps in higher education attainment. And ensure students are able to cover non-tuition costs of attending school by: expanding Pell Grants to cover non-tuition and fee costs, tripling funding for the Work-Study Program, and more.
Fair taxation?
Establish an annual tax on the extreme wealth of the top 0.1 percent of U.S. households.
Only apply to net worth of over $32 million and anyone who has a net worth of less than $32 million, would not see their taxes go up at all under this plan.
Will raise an estimated $4.35 trillion over the next decade and cut the wealth of billionaires in half over 15 years, which would substantially break up the concentration of wealth and power of this small privileged class.
Ensure that the wealthy are not able to evade the tax by implementing strong enforcement policies.
Racial Justice?
In order to transform this country into a nation that affirms the value of its people of color, we will address the five central types of violence waged against black, brown and indigenous Americans: physical, political, legal, economic and environmental.
Whether it is a broken criminal justice system, or massive disparities in the availability of financial services, or health disparities, or environmental disparities, or educational disparities, our job is to-- and we will-- create a nation in which all people are treated equally. That is what we must do, and that is what we will do.
Jobs Guarantee?
Enact a federal jobs guarantee, to ensure that everyone is guaranteed a stable job that pays a living wage.
Create 20 million jobs as part of the Green New Deal, rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and creating a 100% sustainable energy system.
Create millions of healthcare jobs to support our seniors and people with disabilities in their homes and communities.
Create new jobs in early childhood education.

All those things and the rest of Bernie's platform are absolutely crucial. But saving the planet may be the most important of all. And Bernie is a major backer of a Green New Deal. In short:
Transform our energy system to 100 percent renewable energy and create 20 million jobs needed to solve the climate crisis.
Ensure a just transition for communities and workers, including fossil fuel workers.
Ensure justice for frontline communities, especially under-resourced groups, communities of color, Native Americans, people with disabilities, children and the elderly.
Save American families money with investments in weatherization, public transportation, modern infrastructure and high-speed broadband.
Commit to reducing emissions throughout the world, including providing $200 billion to the Green Climate Fund, rejoining the Paris Agreement, and reasserting the United States’ leadership in the global fight against climate change.
Invest in conservation and public lands to heal our soils, forests, and prairie lands.
End the greed of the fossil fuel industry and hold them accountable.
A bit more detail from the platform:
Climate change is a global emergency. The Amazon rainforest is burning, Greenland’s ice shelf is melting, and the Arctic is on fire. People across the country and the world are already experiencing the deadly consequences of our climate crisis, as extreme weather events like heat waves, wildfires, droughts, floods, and hurricanes upend entire communities, ecosystems, economies, and ways of life, as well as endanger millions of lives. Communities of color, working class people, and the global poor have borne and will bear this burden disproportionately.

The scientific community is telling us in no uncertain terms that we have less than 11 years left to transform our energy system away from fossil fuels to energy efficiency and sustainable energy, if we are going to leave this planet healthy and habitable for ourselves, our children, grandchildren, and future generations. As rising temperatures and extreme weather create health emergencies, drive land loss and displacement, destroy jobs, and threaten livelihoods, we must guarantee health care, housing, and a good-paying job to every American, especially to those who have been historically excluded from economic prosperity.

The scope of the challenge ahead of us shares similarities with the crisis faced by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1940s. Battling a world war on two fronts-- both in the East and the West-- the United States came together, and within three short years restructured the entire economy in order to win the war and defeat fascism. As president, Bernie Sanders will boldly embrace the moral imperative of addressing the climate crisis and act immediately to mobilize millions of people across the country in support of the Green New Deal. From the Oval Office to the streets, Bernie will generate the political will necessary for a wholesale transformation of our society, with support for frontline and vulnerable communities and massive investments in sustainable energy, energy efficiency, and a transformation of our transportation system.

We need a president who has the courage, the vision, and the record to face down the greed of fossil fuel executives and the billionaire class who stand in the way of climate action. We need a president who welcomes their hatred. Bernie will lead our country to enact the Green New Deal and bring the world together to defeat the existential threat of climate change.
Bernie knows he doesn't have the support in the House-- let alone in the Senate-- to pass all of his proposals. He's counting on long-term citizen mobilization. In the Climate Crisis world he already has the Sunrise Movement. And today the Sunrise Movement added four more congressional candidates to its list of nominees. Remember, the first was Audrey Denney (CA). Then came Jessica Cisneros (TX). And now... these four:

Goal ThermometerYou know what the four have in common, aside from the reasons Sunrise has endorsed them? Well, yes they are all Blue America candidates-- and you can contribute to their campaigns by clicking on the ActBlue thermometer on the right. But they are also all candidates the DCCC is furiously working to sabotage. The endorsements this week were for people in the early March primaries (Illinois, Texas and Ohio). "The endorsements,' they wrote, "span a range of political newcomers running on the Green New Deal, including Robert Emmons Jr. (IL-01) and Marie Newman (IL-03) of Chicago, IL, Morgan Harper (OH-03) of Columbus, OH, and Mike Siegel (TX-10), whose district spans between Austin and Houston, TX. With the exception of Siegel-- who is running to oust a Republican representative in a purple district-- the candidates plan to unseat Democratic incumbents in blue districts. Though this announcement signifies the first bracket of Congressional endorsements, it comes after the separate endorsements of primary challenger, Democrat Jessica Cisneros of Texas’ 28th district, and Republican challenger, Democrat Audrey Denney of California’s 1st district."
“The scientists are telling us that 2020 is our last opportunity to elect climate leaders that can immediately enact bold, transformational action over the course of the next decade to save our planet. Meanwhile, establishment politicians of both parties are complacent. So I think that’s why we’re seeing this wave of candidates joining the urgent calls from young people in launching campaigns across the country boldly championing the Green New Deal. These candidates, such as the four we’re endorsing today, come from communities tired of political corruption and neglect, and vigilantly attuned to the linked climate and economic crises we are facing as a nation,” remarked Evan Weber, Political Director of Sunrise Movement. “These insurgent campaigns are a clear indicator of the appetite for an entire new way of doing things, and a restructuring of our society under a populist agenda that guarantees things like living wage jobs, affordable and safe housing, universal clean air and water, and Medicare for All-- all policies which we see bundled into the Green New Deal framework.”

Siegel, a civil rights lawyer and former public school teacher, and Newman, business leader and progressive advocate, enter the race with some campaign experience, having run competitive races in 2018 against Democrat Dan Lipinkski and Republican Mike McCaul. The two now see the 2020 elections as a critical political moment to break through the field by championing popular platforms like the Green New Deal.

“In 2018, we built a broad coalition of unions, environmentalists, and progressives across urban and rural communities, in a district that has been red for a long time,” Mike Siegel, TX-10 explained. “We nearly beat McCaul. In 2020, energy from groups like Sunrise Movement and inspiring agendas like the Green New Deal are going to take us over the finish line.”

“I am proud to have the support of the Sunrise Movement and I am dedicated to joining them in the mission of advocating for and innovating and organizing toward 100% clean and renewable energy by 2030. Solving the climate crisis and expanding our economy are not mutually exclusive pursuits,” Marie Newman, IL-03 remarked. “We have the opportunity, particularly in districts like mine that are major transportation hubs, but across the entire country, to embrace new and innovative technologies, to build a green economy, to create good paying union jobs, and to save our planet from a climate crisis. Lipinski and his dwindling circle of fossil-fuel funded Democrats are a threat to the Democratic Party truly being a party of the people.”

Harper, a 36 community advocate and former staffer at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and Emmons Jr., a 27 year old community organizer, launched into politics after coming of age amidst the rise of the climate crisis, polarized racial tensions, and economic inequality. They began to realize their own political potential after witnessing the uprising of political newcomers, such as Green New Deal champion Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The two are running against establishment Democrats Joyce Beatty, 69 and Bobby Rush, 73 who both oppose the Green New Deal and have received hundreds of thousands of dollars from utilities and fossil fuel interests.

“The Green New Deal is the solution that the 1st District of Illinois needs to combat the climate crisis, reinvigorate our local economy, and curb the cycle of violence that plagues our communities,” Robert Emmons Jr., IL-01 said. “The Sunrise Movement understands that jobs, healthcare, clean water, clean air, and clean soil are essential to gun violence prevention and I am beyond grateful for their support.”

“Every day that Congress fails to address climate change with the same magnitude and urgency as the climate crisis we face, is a failure of leadership. Plain and simple,” said Morgan Harper, OH-03. “The Sunrise Movement has led with the forcefulness to deal with our climate crisis and it’s an honor to have their endorsement. We believe that our future exists without fossil fuels and with a green new deal to transform our economy for a more sustainable future.”
And what about Bernie? They haven't endorsed in the presidential race yet, but they did rate the candidates on a 200 point scale:

183 points

165 points

75 points

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I Was Lucky To Have Gone To Afghanistan; The U.S. Wasn't


Yours truly, in Morocco, 1969, just before setting out for Afghanistan (so sanpaku)

In 1969, the Hippie Trail from Europe to India went right through Afghanistan. I spent 2 years driving a VW van from London to India and back. I left Mashad in Iran, drove along a bumpy, unpaved truck road to the border crossing at Islam Q'ala and suddenly was in another century: Afghanistan. Herat was the first stop before Kandahar, Ghazni and then Kabul. I fell in love with the country and spent a lot of time there, both on the way to India and on the way back. I went off the beaten path and went by horseback to parts of the country that were otherwise inaccessible. I spent a winter in a tiny "village" (two family compounds) in the Hindu Kush where people barely had a concept of Afghanistan as a country and where no one had ever heard of the U.S. or, for that matter, an airplane. No one had ever experienced electricity and there wasn't a pen or pencil in the village. It was amazing for a twenty year old from Brooklyn.

When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan 32 years later, I told everyone I knew-- including members of Congress-- that this was going to be a catastrophe. "Afghanistan isn't Iowa," I used to say. "Afghanis aren't Iowans. Americans soldiers will never understand them or their culture and this is going to end really badly for everyone. As we saw on Tuesday all my worries have proven themselves over and over for the better part of the past two decades. And there is still no end in sight. Afghanistan is a shambles and the trillions of dollars flushed down that rat hole would have paid for basically everything Bernie is advocating for American working families that conservatives keep saying we can't afford.

American soldiers' boots should never have stepped foot on that country's soil. But yesterday Jim Mattis was still defending the catastrophic endeavor. Dan Lamothe, reporting for the Washington Post, wrote that the former Trumpist Defense Secretary said "we had to try to do something in nation-building, as much as some people condemn it, and we probably weren’t that good at it." Yeah... that's an understatement, especially considering that no one from Alexander the Great on has ever been good at changing the Afs, a diverse group of ethnic groups and tribes who barely-- if at all-- recognize a central authority in Kabul as their government.
Mattis described the progress that has been made in Afghanistan since the U.S. military invaded after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Speaking to journalists at the Washington Post, he cited an increase in the number of Afghan women who are educated, the development of Afghan diplomats and the inoculation of civilians against disease.

Mattis, who oversaw the war as the four-star commander of U.S. Central Command from 2010 to 2013, said that violence in Afghanistan is “so heartbreaking that it can blind you to the progress,” and he acknowledged that the United States made a strategic mistake by not paying enough attention to the country as the administration of George W. Bush launched the war in Iraq in 2003.

“That we didn’t do things right, I mean, I’m an example of it,” Mattis said, recalling that as a one-star general, he was pulled out of Afghanistan in the spring of 2002, promoted and told to prepare for war in Iraq.

“I was dumbfounded,” he said. “But we took our eye off of there.”

The comments came in response to questions about investigative reporting by The Post that outlines mistakes made in the war. The series, called “The Afghanistan Papers,” includes previously unpublished interviews and memos in which senior officials privately expressed misgivings about the campaign, even as they publicly touted its progress.

As a general, Mattis was among those who frequently spoke about the progress he saw in Afghanistan.

In 2010, Mattis testified before Congress that the military component of the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan was sound, and that by “steadfastly executing our strategy we will win in Afghanistan.”

In March 2013, he testified that it was “obviously a combination of progress and violence” on the ground, but that the Afghan forces were “proving themselves capable.”

“I think we may have to look at how we’re measuring them since they’re measuring themselves against the enemy and they’re proving themselves there,” Mattis said.

By 2015, the United States was dispatching its own Special Operations troops to stave off security disasters in the south and had stopped a planned withdrawal as scores of Afghan soldiers were killed each month.

Mattis said the reports in The Post have prompted the families of fallen service members and some veterans to reach out to him.

“You can imagine what it’s like for the families, and I have heard from them,” he said. “The emails are coming in.”

Mattis said he assured them that U.S. officials, including former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Ryan Crocker, a former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, “were not papering over any of this.”

“That it was hard, harder than hell, and that it was understood by all of us,” he said. “It is hard to explain that you can build on nothing. You had to literally build the ground, and that takes years to kind of build people who can be diplomats in a country that had known nothing.”

“I salute” the investigative reporting, he said, but that it is “not really news” because mistakes made in the Afghanistan war have been reported on by journalists for years.

“I don’t know why it’s such a revelation,” he said.

The new reports by The Post draw on interviews with scores of senior U.S. officials. They were carried out by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction and withheld from the public until The Post won a three-year court battle through the Freedom of Information Act.

Mattis said there are “lots of lessons to be learned, and that’s why those documents were pulled together.” But he espoused misgivings that they were publicized in the media, saying the comments will “be used now as a club.”

“Don’t get me wrong,” Mattis said. “I know why you did it, and I salute why you did it. But one of the unfortunate aspects is it could be a governor on those who want to go forward and collect self-critical information. Because that’s what it was, by an IG.”

At a Washington Post live event later in the day, Mattis said the difficulties in Afghanistan were well-known before the series was published.

“I have walked the ground in Afghanistan with your reporters beside me, who were embedded in the units, who were watching this close-up,” he said. “The reporting, I thought, was pretty accurate. The idea that there was any kind of an effort to hide this perplexes me.”

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

When artist Maurizio Cattelan sold a banana duct taped to a Miami gallery wall for $120,000 last week, it not only made a lot of news, it has apparently inspired a lot of similar ideas. Hers's mine. Duct tape has many useful purposes!

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Friday, December 13, 2019

Is There Anything To Learn From The U.K. Elections? Part I


"Massive" 43.6% win

Before people kill themselves over the terrible results in Britain yesterday, remember, more people voted against Boris Johnson and the Conservatives than voted for them. His party only took 43% of the votes. The British version of gerrymandering gives him a commanding control of Parliament, not the will of the people, despite all the crowing from the corporate media and rightist politicians from Trump to Biden. This is what actually happened:
Conservative Party- 13,966,565 (43.6%)-- 365 seats (+48)
Labour Party- 10,295,607 (32.2%)-- 203 seats (-59)
Liberal Democrats- 3,696,423 (11.6%)-- 11 seats (-1)
Scottish Nationalists (Scotland)- 1,242,372 (3.9%)-- 48 seats (+13)
Green Party- 835,579 (2.7%)-- 1 seat
Brexit Party- 642,303 (2.0%)-- no seats
Democratic Unionist Party- (Northern Ireland) 244,128 (0.8%)- 8 seats (-2)
Sinn Féin (Northern Ireland)- 181,853 (0.6%)- 7 seats
Plaid Cymru (Wales)- 153,265 (0.5%)-- 4 seats
Alliance Party (Northern Ireland)- 134,115 (0.4%)-- 1 seat
ocial Democratic and Labour Party (Northern Ireland)- 118,737 (0.4)-- 2 seats (+2)
Cas Mudde is an international affairs professor at the University of Georgia who writes for The Guardian. He's not buying all the Biden-Bloomberg and corporate media crap that Labour's loss in the U.K. means the Democrats have to move right. "In many ways," wrote Budde, "the results were in line with broader trends in Europe, notably that (radicalized) mainstream rightwing parties are quite successful, as, for instance, in Austria and the Netherlands, while social democratic parties are getting hammered virtually everywhere, irrespective of whether they are 'moderate' or 'radical.' The idea that British elections are most similar to U.S. elections is based on a simplistic understanding of the two political systems. It is true that both share a first-past-the-post system, with single-member districts, leading to a two-party system, but that is about it. The UK has a parliamentary system and the US a presidential one, which puts much more emphasis on one person and makes the undemocratic electoral college the key decider."
But most importantly, all elections are still primarily national rather than global. The British election had its own, partly unique, issues and candidates. First and foremost, the election was about Brexit, an issue irrelevant to the U.S. electorate. Also, Corbyn was an extremely controversial candidate. While very popular within the (new) party base, and among millennials, 61% of Brits had a negative opinion of Corbyn, which included particularly older white men, who vote in large numbers. This unpopularity was only partly related to his “hard left” platform; issues such as his weak stance against antisemitism and his non-position on Brexit didn’t help either. To be fair, Johnson isn’t popular either, but he is much less unpopular than Corbyn.

So, which lessons can we draw for next year’s presidential elections? Many, although most are general lessons, not specific to this result.

First, unpopular candidates can win elections-- a lesson we should already have drawn in 2016. It doesn’t matter whether a majority of the population dislikes you, but that a majority of the voters likes you. Trump’s base might be small, but it is mobilized and united.

Second, internal divisions, over candidates and policies, will harm both support and turnout. While Corbyn has a pretty strong grip on the party membership, which is why he can probably stay on to oversee his own succession, he has been involved in an ongoing and public conflict with much of his parliamentary party. Moreover, the party was internally divided over key issues, most notably Brexit. This all meant that the Labour party contested the elections with an unclear profile. Given the divisions within the Democratic party, and the open animosity between donors and supporters of both “moderate” and “radical” candidates, there is a serious risk that this could harm the Democrats in 2020, too.

Third, the electoral system is key to any successful electoral campaign. Plurality systems are extremely disproportional. In Thursday’s election the Tories got one seat for every 38,304 votes, while Labour needed 50,649 votes for each seat-- the numbers for the Liberal Democrats and Greens were 331,226 and 857,513, respectively. Moreover, Corbyn’s “dramatic” result last night was only 3% lower than the 35.2% that won Tony Blair his third election in 2005. The U.S. system is even less democratic, given that the electoral college trumps the popular vote.

Fourth, and most importantly, campaigns matter. Yes, Labour had fantastic short videos, and an incredibly detailed and elaborate election manifesto, but its campaign missed a clear focus and target-- obviously, in large part because Corbyn was unwilling to take a clear position on the key issue of the election. In sharp contrast, the Tories had a clear message (“Vote to deliver Brexit; vote to respect the referendum”), however problematic in reality, and spent much of their money on Facebook in the last week of the campaign, when many voters decide whether and who to vote. The Trump campaign has been spending millions of dollars on Facebook for the last year, pushing a very similar message-- in the language of its leader, “DEMOCRATS WANT TO STEAL THE ELECTION.”

What this all means is that Democrats should put much less trust in general polls, as in a highly polarized country like the US average levels of public support do not necessarily tell us much about who will win the presidency. What matters is who shows up. Republican voters know who and what they will show up for. Do Democratic voters?
Part II will be tomorrow in this same time slot.

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Is Republican-Lite Better Than Republican?


Two ass-sucking Blue Dogs, Collin Peterson (MN) and Jeff Van Drew (NJ)-- who is expected to quit the Democratic Party and join the GOP-- have already announced they're voting against impeaching Trump. Next week we'll find how many fellow Blue Dogs they're dragging along with them. The Washington Post's Rachel Bade and Mike DeBonis reported that the Democrats are expecting to lose as many as 6 of their members. "Predictions about some defections comes as a core group of centrists from districts Trump won in 2016 are having second thoughts. While many knew impeachment would never be popular in their GOP-leaning districts, some have been surprised that support hasn’t increased despite negative testimony about Trump from a series of blockbuster hearings last month."

On Wednesday, New York Magazine published an essay by Eric Levitz, The Democrats’ Love of Bipartisanship Is Dangerous... and is he ever right! "House Democrats," he began, "announced Tuesday that Donald Trump has become such a menace to American democracy, Congress has a constitutional obligation to remove him from office.

One hour later, Nancy Pelosi’s caucus returned to the podium to announce that they would help the tyrannical president pass his top legislative priority. To Nancy Pelosi’s champions, this one-two punch was a savvy demonstration of her party’s capacity to 'walk and chew gum.' Republican ad-makers had been savaging vulnerable House Democrats for putting their 'partisan witch hunt' above bipartisan legislation. Now, that line of attack is null and void. Pelosi has proven that her caucus isn’t out to destroy the president by any means necessary. When Trump backs policy changes that represent an improvement on the status quo, Democrats are willing to support it-- even if doing so means handing the president a “win” on a key campaign issue. Far from undermining the party’s message on impeachment then, rallying behind the USMCA strengthens that message by affirming its sincerity: Democrats aren’t impeaching the president because they’ll do anything in their power to weaken him, but because his high crimes and misdemeanors left them with no other choice."
Pelosi’s liberal skeptics take a different view. If Democrats truly consider Trump a threat to America’s constitutional order, affording him a bipartisan victory on one of his defining causes-- and thus, increasing his prospects for reelection-- is unconscionable. Even if Trump’s new agreement is an improvement on NAFTA, its changes are quite modest in the grand scheme of things. And there is no reason why a Democratic president couldn’t broker an even more progressive rewriting of North America’s trade rules in 2021. If House Democrats believe what they’ve written into their articles of impeachment, then they have a civic duty to prioritize Trump’s removal from office-- and the disempowerment of the increasingly illiberal party he leads-- above all else. The fact that they refuse to honor that duty indicates that the Democratic Party is unfit to serve as a bulwark against authoritarian reaction.

In my view, the substantive benefits of the USMCA appear to outweigh its political costs. Although it is plausible that fulfilling his promise to renegotiate NAFTA will endear Trump to Rust Belt swing voters, it is also possible that a bipartisan policy enacted 11 months before an election will have little influence on its outcome. The real problem with the Democrats’ support for the USMCA, however, can’t be seen when the trade deal is viewed in isolation. If the party had otherwise given every indication that it recognized the severity of America’s democratic crisis-- and was willing to buck bipartisan comity and institutional tradition to resolve that crisis-- then its position on Trump’s trade deal would be unconcerning. But it has indicated the very opposite.

Before saying more about the Democratic Party’s failure to meet the demands of our democratic crisis, it is worth outlining its contours. The crisis that I reference extends beyond Donald Trump’s lawlessness and the GOP’s apologetics for his abuses. Rather, it consists of (at least) three overlapping and mutually exacerbating trends: the conservative movement’s increasing hostility to liberal democracy, the Senate’s growing overrepresentation of white rural voters, and runaway inequality in the distribution of wealth and income. Taken together, these developments pose an imminent threat of awarding an illiberal GOP a hammerlock on the Senate and judiciary for a generation — and a tail-risk of enabling conservatives to entrench minoritarian rule over the entire federal government.

...In the immediate term, the combination of the GOP’s extremity and the biases of America’s governing institutions threaten to make it impossible for Democrats to govern at the federal level. In the longer term, they threaten something much worse.

Thus, to mount any serious response to climate change, and forestall the worst-case scenarios for our republic, Democrats must do everything they can to make our government more democratic, and to minimize the GOP’s power (as nothing short of electoral devastation can plausibly shake the conservative movement’s grip over that party). In practice, this means that in the unlikely scenario that Democrats win control of the Senate, House, and Oval Office next year, they will need to (at a minimum) abolish the legislative filibuster and add several new states to the union.

Given the trends cited above, there is good reason to think 2021 will be the Democrats’ last shot at reforming the Senate. If urban-rural polarization continues to deepen, while ticket-splitting continues to decline, the party won’t have senators from West Virginia and Montana much longer. If the party is fortunate enough to win 50 seats in the upper chamber next year, they need to use that opportunity to rebalance the Senate before it is too late. A Democratic trifecta wouldn’t have the power to amend the Constitution. But it could add new states. Although this wouldn’t solve the Senate malapportionment problem at its root, it would mitigate its racial component. According to the progressive think tank Data for Progress, the voting-eligible population (VEP) of the U.S. is 29 percent nonwhite, while the VEP of the median state is just 23 percent. Fully enfranchising Washington, D.C.’s 633,000 Americans by awarding that city statehood is a worthwhile expansion of democracy in and of itself. But doing so would also have the effect of rendering the Senate a bit less biased toward white people, and thus, the Republican Party as currently constituted. And the same can be said for offering statehood as an option to the people of Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, and other U.S. territories that are currently subject to our nation’s quasi-colonial rule. Such moves would not guarantee Democratic or liberal control over the federal government. They would merely make it a bit harder for a white conservative minority to entrench control of the upper chamber.

But there is zero sign that Democrats would be willing to put fortifying democracy above performing bipartisan moderation in this manner. Forget adding new states to democratize the Senate; Democrats aren’t even willing to allow the existing Senate to operate on democratic principles. Only a tiny minority of Chuck Schumer’s caucus has evinced support for abolishing the legislative filibuster, which has established an automatic, anti-constitutional 60-vote threshold for all major bills. In fact, more Democratic senators have vowed to reimpose the judicial filibuster on their own caucus-- thereby ensuring that Republican senators have a veto over the next Democratic president’s judicial appointments, even as Mitch McConnell has denied Democrats any such input on Trump’s. As for D.C. and Puerto Rico statehood, Sheldon Whitehouse-- one of the Senate’s most liberal Democrats-- has rejected the former outright, while saying of the latter, “The problem of Puerto Rico is it does throw off the [partisan] balance so you get concerns like, who do [Republicans] find, where they can get an offsetting addition to the states.”

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party’s presidential front-runner has been actively encouraging soft Republicans who feel alienated by Trump to continue voting for the GOP in down-ballot races. “If you hear people on the rope line saying, ‘I’m a Republican,’ I say, ‘Stay a Republican,’” Biden recently told BuzzFeed News. “Vote for me but stay a Republican, because we need a Republican Party.”

In this context, it is reasonable for liberals to read House Democrats’ decision to award Trump a legislative triumph, on the same day that they hit him with articles of impeachment, as yet another confirmation that the party’s leadership is too comfortable and complacent to lead a genuine resistance movement. Whatever else the USMCA deal is, it is also a testament to the Democrats’ preference for projecting moderation over waging partisan warfare. In a healthy republic, that priority may have its virtues. But we aren’t living in one; and if Democrats continue guarding their bipartisan bonafides more zealously than our democracy, we may never.
Meanwhile (again), Norman Solomon asked a very salient question: Will the Democratic presidential election be bought by the oligarchs. And, don't forget, the oligarchs are spreading their money around; it isn't just Bloomberg and Steyer we're talking about, neither of whom is going to be the nominee. Solomon notes there are three different vectors showing the oligarchs on the march: one is Bloomberg spreading around his cash in a sick and decrepitly corrupt party, of course, but the other two are Mayo Pete's climb and Biden's last hurrah. "Those three men," wrote Solomon, "are a team of rivals-- each fiercely competitive for an individual triumph, yet arrayed against common ideological foes named Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. The obvious differences between Buttigieg, Biden and Bloomberg are apt to distract from their underlying political similarities. Fundamentally, they’re all aligned with the nation’s economic power structure-- two as corporate servants, one as a corporate master." Let's watch this Robert Reich video again:

For Buttigieg, the gaps between current rhetoric and career realities are now gaping. On Tuesday, hours after the collapse of the “nondisclosure agreement” that had concealed key information about his work for McKinsey & Company, the New York Times concluded that “the most politically troubling element of his client list” might be what he did a dozen years ago for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan-- “a health care firm that at the time was in the process of reducing its work force.”

The newspaper reported that “his work appeared to come at about the same time the insurer announced that it would cut up to 1,000 jobs-- or nearly 10 percent of its work force-- and request rate increases.”

This year, Buttigieg’s vaguely progressive rhetoric has become more and more unreliable, most notably with his U-turn away from supporting Medicare for All. Meanwhile, wealthy donors have flocked to him. Forbes reports that 39 billionaires have donated to the Buttigieg campaign, thus providing ultra-elite seals of approval. (Meanwhile, Biden has 44 billionaire donors and Warren has six. Forbes couldn’t find any billionaires who’ve donated to Sanders; he did receive one contribution from a billionaire’s spouse-- though that donation was later returned.)

Not surprisingly, the political orientations of the leading candidates match up with the spread of average donations. The latest figures reflect candidates’ proximity to the class interests of donors, with wealthier ones naturally tending to give more sizable amounts. Nearly two-thirds (64.9 percent) of Biden’s donations were upwards of $200 each, while such donations accounted for a bit more than half (52.5 percent) of the contributions to Buttigieg. Compare those numbers to 29.6 percent for Elizabeth Warren and 24.9 percent for Bernie Sanders.

The B Team-- the worst the Democrats have to offer

Buttigieg’s affinity for corporate Democrats—and how it tracks with his donor base—should get a lot more critical scrutiny. For example, Washington Post reporter David Weigel tweeted in early November: “Asked Buttigieg if he agreed w Pelosi that PAYGO should stay in place if a Dem wins. ‘We might want to look at a modification to the rules, but the philosophical premise, I think, does need to be there... we've got to be able to balance the revenue of what we're proposing.’”

But the entire “philosophical premise” of PAYGO amounts to a straightjacket for constraining progressive options. To support it is to endorse the ongoing grip of corporate power on the Democratic Party. As Buttigieg surely knows, PAYGO-- requiring budget cuts to offset any spending increases-- is a beloved cause for the farthest-right congressional Democrats. The 26 House members of the corporatist Blue Dog Coalition continue to be enthralled with PAYGO.

As for Joe Biden, since the launch of his campaign almost eight months ago, progressives have increasingly learned that his five-decade political record is filled with one repugnant aspect after another after another after another. Any support for him from progressives in the primaries and caucuses next year will likely come from low-information voters.

In sharp contrast to Sanders and Warren, who refuse to do high-dollar fundraising events, Biden routinely speaks at private gatherings where wealthy admirers donate large sums. His campaign outreach consists largely of making beelines to audiences of extraordinarily rich people around the country-- as if to underscore his declaration in May 2018 that “I don’t think 500 billionaires are the reason why we're in trouble... The folks at the top aren’t bad guys.”

One of those folks who presumably isn’t a “bad guy” is Bloomberg, who-- with an estimated net worth of $54 billion-- has chosen to pursue a presidential quest by spending an astronomical amount of money on advertisements. Writing for The Nation magazine this week, Jeet Heer aptly noted that Bloomberg “is utterly devoid of charisma, has no real organic base in the Democratic Party, and is a viable candidate only because he’s filthy rich and is willing to inundate the race by opening up his nearly limitless money pit.”

More powerfully than any words, Bloomberg’s brandishing of vast amounts of ad dollars is conveying his belief that enormous wealth is an entitlement to rule. The former New York mayor’s campaign is now an extreme effort to buy the presidency. Yet what he’s doing tracks with more standard assumptions about the legitimacy of allowing very rich people to dominate the political process.

Earlier this week, Bernie Sanders’ campaign manager Faiz Shakir summed up the BBB approach this way: “Today, Joe Biden’s super PAC went on the air with a massive television ad buy. Mike Bloomberg is blanketing the airwaves almost everywhere with the largest ad buy in primary history. And Pete Buttigieg is taking time off the trail for a trio of private, high-dollar fundraisers in New York City.”

Thanks to grassroots low-dollar donations, Warren and Sanders (whom I support) have been able to shatter the corrupt paradigm that gave presidential campaign dominance to candidates bankrolled by the rich. That’s why Bloomberg has stepped in to save oligarchy from democracy.

As Frederick Douglass said with timeless truth, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” Continual denunciations of anti-democratic power are necessary and insufficient. It’s far from enough to assert endlessly that the system is rigged and always will be.

Power concedes nothing. Fatalism is a poison that gets us nowhere. Constant organizing-- outside and inside the electoral arena-- is the antidote to powerlessness.

With the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination up for grabs, this chance will not come again.

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