Monday, October 05, 2015

Electing An Actual Progressive Isn't The Same As Electing A Corporate Democrat Who's Just A Bit Better Than A Republican

Over the weekend, one of the most talked-about pieces from the mainstream press was Patrick Healy's NY Times report on dissatisfaction with the Democratic Party establishment, "Democrats Find That Anti-Establishment Isn’t Just a G.O.P. Theme." "Anger at the political establishment," Healy wrote,
has overtaken the Republican presidential race, embodied in the candidacy of Donald J. Trump. But it is also coursing through the Democratic electorate, fueling the popularity of Bernie Sanders, inspiring liberal challenges to party-backed congressional candidates and spurring activism on causes from the minimum wage to the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
In the Pew Research survey released last week there was a distinct split on issues between progressive Democrats and conservaDems. 60% of progressives, for example, say they are more likely to vote for a candidate who favors cutting the size of the megabanks, while only 38% of the right-of-center Democrats have the same feeling. 53% of progressives say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who backs the Iran nuclear agreement, while among the right-of-center Democrats that number (31%) is actually less than the percentage of the cohort who would be less likely to support a candidate who backed the Iran agreement!
Overall, 59% of Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters say the candidates running for the Republican nomination are excellent or good. This compares to 51% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters who say the same about the Democratic candidates.

In particular, conservative and moderate Democrats are expressing less satisfaction about the field of Democratic candidates than they have in the past. Currently, 45% of conservative and moderate Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters view the Democratic candidates running for the nomination as either excellent or good. At this point in the campaign in 2007, fully 62% of conservative and moderate Democratic registered voters had positive assessments of the Democratic field.

Liberal Democrats have typically been more likely than their conservative and moderate counterparts to say that the field of candidates running for their party’s nomination is excellent or good. However, the 26-percentage point gap between the positive assessments of liberal Democratic registered voters (71%) and conservative and moderate Democratic registered voters (45%) is the widest it has been in recent election cycles.
A Sunday Times editorial looked at why progressives are sick of Clinton and the rest of the party establishment.
Sanders has made a campaign theme of skewering the big-dollar, "super PAC" machinery of modern politics, and his donors clearly are responding. He reported 1.3 million online contributions from 650,000 different donors, running ahead of the Obama campaign’s 2008 record for small-dollar gifts. Mrs. Clinton’s campaign reported 250,000 donors three months ago but no new total for the latest quarter...

The small-donor activity may reflect growing public concern that democracy is under assault from politicians’ increasing reliance on millionaire supporters. An opinion poll this month by Bloomberg Politics shows that a stunning 78 percent of the public favors overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which has unleashed unlimited amounts of cash on political races, much of it coming from undisclosed sources.
Now, back to Healy's Times story. In his interviews with a few dozen Democrats in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, he discovered "a sense of hopelessness that their leaders had answers to problems like income inequality and gun violence." These are things that have fueled Bernie's political life and that the Clinton machine is tuned in enough to the zeitgeist to be reacting to.
Mrs. Clinton has tried to lift her declining poll numbers by highlighting endorsements from governors and lawmakers-- but such establishment backing has yet to do much good. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. could face the same anti-establishment headwinds if he enters the race, given his four decades in Washington, although allies believe he has the personal touch to win over angry Democrats. Mr. Sanders castigates “the entire political and economic establishment” regularly, by contrast, a message that has drawn 650,000 donors and huge crowds of fervent supporters, like the 20,000 people at his Boston rally on Saturday evening.

“I volunteered for Hillary when she ran for president in 2008, but her time is past, I think,” said Nikky Raney, 25, a Democrat from Dover, N.H. “And it’s Bernie who seems most genuine about universal health care and getting big money out of politics.”

Though Mrs. Clinton remains popular in the party, especially among those who want to see a first female president, Mr. Sanders’s call for a “political revolution” and his consistently left-wing policy ideas are inspiring to younger voters, seniors and liberals who would prefer to see a true believer overcome an establishment goliath.

... The disaffection among Democrats flows mainly from three sources, according to interviews with voters and strategists. Disappointment lingers with President Obama over the failure to break up big banks after the Great Recession and fight for single-payer health insurance, among other liberal causes. Fatigue with Mrs. Clinton’s controversies endures, as does distaste with her connections to the rich. And anger abounds at party leaders for not pursuing an ideologically pure, economically populist agenda.

“Establishment Democrats like Hillary could end up heavily outspending people like Sanders, but it may not matter as much as usual because voters are searching for someone off the beaten path,” said Paul Maslin, who was the pollster for Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential race.

Tom Henderson, the Democratic chairman in Polk County, Iowa, which includes Des Moines, said the most widely shared frustration among Democrats there was “the manner in which the economy has bounced back” under Mr. Obama: Wall Street returns look strong and unemployment has declined, but wages and benefits are largely unchanged.

“I think Sanders is pulling in voters who aren’t typical rank-and-file Democrats, but rather folks who have become energized over the last few years to change the country’s direction,” said Mr. Henderson, who is currently neutral in the race. “The question for Sanders is whether he can get those people to show up and vote in February.”

... “There’s just so much hopelessness about people having any real opportunity to just make a living, take care of their families, support themselves,” said Karen Bryant, a physician from New Boston, N.H. “Mrs. Clinton is floundering and Republicans like Jeb Bush are floundering because people see them as politicians whose messages change depending on who they are talking to or how much money they need to raise. If you live year after year not seeing politicians keep their promises, it leads you to support someone like Bernie Sanders.”

... Impatience with politics-as-usual has also led liberals to enter Democratic Senate primaries and mount more aggressive and well-financed challenges than in years past to candidates backed by the national party establishment.

In Florida, Representative Alan Grayson, a self-styled “progressive champion,” is portraying Representative Patrick Murphy, the Democratic Party’s preferred candidate for the seat being vacated by Senator Marco Rubio, as a “lightweight, empty-suit errand boy for Wall Street.” A former president of the Chicago Urban League, Andrea Zopp, is running in Illinois against the party-backed Representative Tammy Duckworth. And former Representative Joe Sestak is running as a liberal anti-establishment candidate in Pennsylvania... The contested primaries extend to House races. In New Jersey, a 24-year-old Sanders supporter, Alex Law, is challenging Representative Donald Norcross, portraying him as a machine politician.
This is hardly a brand-new phenomenon. Last year Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu challenged corrupt conservatives Andrew Cuomo and Kathy Hochul in New York, and won 30 of New York's 62 counties-- some, like Ulster, Columbia, Schoharie, Otsego and Tompkins, with over 70% of the votes! Sure, lo-info voters in machine-controlled counties renominated Cuomo, but he was forced to spend $60.62 per vote-- over 40 times more than what Teachout spent! 

Now CEO and board chair for the anti-corruption nonprofit Mayday PAC, Teachout told us today that when she ran, she--
sensed a real openness to genuine challenge-- honestly, what surprised me the most is that it came from all quarters, upstate middle class Democrats no longer trusting corporate Democrats to be working for them. There has always been a left flank-- that's not new-- but what I think you see in the last few years is the middle flank, traditional Democrats with traditional values, waking up and realizing that many of the leaders are more corporate and trickle down than FDR, far, far to the right of the traditional Democratic party. You also see a healthy mistrust of cheap sloganeering in favor of more substantive leaders.

All of this gives me a lot of hope, and I hope to see much more in coming years. Labor and the Internet activists will be critical. I see this all as part of post-2008, post-crash politics. The demo with energy, the new insurgents, tend to be talking about taking on the new monopolists-- too big to fail banks, Comcast, etc.-- and talking about power.
Healy in his article very gingerly makes reference to Alan Grayson's run for the open Florida Senate seat against Wall Street patsy Patrick Murphy, who was recruited by the most corrupt and vile creature in the Beltway Democratic establishment, Wall Street's own Chuck Schumer. Murphy is the very worst of what the Democratic establishment has to offer. He has been the quintessential shill for predatory Wall Street banksters on the House Financial Services Committee. and on crucial issues-- so, not naming post offices-- he's voted far more with the GOP than with progressives. Steeped in family corruption, he was one of only seven Democrats to back the Republican bid to establish a Benghazi committee as part of a trumped-up witch hunt against Hillary Clinton, claiming, incongruously, that he was "100% confident it would vindicate" her.

In 2008, when Grayson first ran for his Orlando-area House seat, the Democratic establishment backed dull Chamber of Commerce Republican-lite good ole boy Charlie Stuart. Grayson beat him by over 20 points and then went on to beat the Republican incumbent, in a red district. In 2010 Grayson expected help from the DCCC, but didn't get any... and lost. In 2012 he won his seat back, again with no help from the establishment.

Last night he was succinct and to the point on the role of the party establishment in elections: "The talentless bureaucrats and drones who have misappropriated the party machinery excel at only one thing, and that is losing."

Alex Law is the insurgent progressive-- the first congressional candidate to endorse Bernie-- running against the incredibly corrupt Norcross machine in South Jersey. Norcross' first vote after being installed in Congress mid-session was to vote with the Republicans for the Keystone XL Pipeline. And he hasn't gotten much better since then. This morning we asked Alex why he's the only Democrat running for Congress in New Jersey to have endorsed Bernie. Here's what he told us:
To me, this starts at campaign finance reform. Campaign finance reform could be the most significant issue in our country right now because until it is fixed, our democracy will continue to be bought and sold by big companies and the mega-wealthy. Unlike Hilary who has talked about reform but flagrantly used loop holes to raise incredible sums of money through her Super-PAC, Bernie talks about campaign finance reform and then lives by his principles and does not have a Super-PAC. His campaign is funded by people for people, and to me, that is inspiring. A friend remarked to me last week that every time Bernie says “enough is enough” another working-class person says “ you got that right” reaches for their wallet.

Bernie is also committed to fighting inequality in America, which, along with campaign finance reform, is the root of the problems in our society. Income inequality, health-care inequality, race inequality, marriage inequality, gender inequality-- these are the defining issues of our time, and Bernie has taken a hard stance that he refuses to ignore them.

This is also the crux of many people’s misconception about his self-proclaimed status as a socialist. He is a democratic socialist, which means he doesn’t want to force everyone into fake inequality like some Marxist dream, but rather he wants everyone to exist with equal rules and have an equal chance at success.

• The mega-wealthy and corporations play by a different set of tax rules than we do.

• If you have health care in America, you don’t think about it, but if you don’t or you have bad coverage, your life is a ticking time bomb that can be undone by one broken bone or one family member’s unfortunate illness.

• If you are a minority in this country, the inequalities are too numerous to list, but include things like education, opportunity, and common decency.

• If you are gay, you may be able to be married now, but there is still tremendous progress that needs to happen in the workplace and with hate crime protection.

• If you are a woman, you still don’t have equal pay for equal work.

• If you are trans, every day you face unspeakable difficulty.

I believe a Bernie Sanders presidency will be the only one to wholeheartedly fight all of these inequalities and fight to get untraceable dark money out of politics. That is why I endorse Bernie Sanders, and it is why so many others across the country are joining this progressive movement.

As Bernie’s campaign grows, people are getting inspired to run their own races and do something about these issues. One of my favorite quotes is by Teddy Roosevelt, where he said, “In a Democracy, we have the responsibility of sovereigns, not subjects.” Bernie is inspiring this in people, inspiring people to take back our government from the special interests and make it work for the people again. I am so excited about the amazing crop of progressives that are running this election cycle. People like Rep. Alan Grayson and P.G. Sittenfeld running for Senate are inspirations to me every day.

Like them, I am running against a conservative Democrat in a primary. Like them, I am an underdog. But like them and like Bernie, our brand of honest, creative, and passionate politics is resonating with actual people. I’ve knocked on 17,000 doors in the last 10 weeks. I am talking to real people to carry the Bernie movement into New Jersey. My opponent, Donald Norcross, is the epitome of what is wrong with the Democratic primary. He is entirely funded by his machine-boss brother, and made his political career by legislating bills that have been responsible for some of the largest graft and worst cronyism anywhere in the country. He has voted with the Republicans on every single controversial vote since he got to Congress in 2014.

Here in South Jersey, my campaign is giving people a real choice between a conservative, corporatist, machine candidate and a young, passionate progressive. I hope in reading this, you will be inspired to act too, whether donating, volunteering, sharing, or even running your own campaign. We are all supporting each other, and together we are going to change America for the better.
Healy didn't mention the Democratic primary in Ohio, which pits a tired old Republican-lite establishment shill, Ted Strickland, against a fresh, progressive Cincinnati city councilman, P.G. Sittenfeld. The DSCC and a decrepitly old-guard Ohio Democratic Party are trying to ignore Sittenfeld. But he's the candidate that can provide a contrast to Republican incumbent Rob Portman. "I'm running for Senate because I believe Ohio Democrats deserve a voice and a choice," he told us this morning.

Voters are looking for change, and Ted Strickland doesn't represent the future when it comes to guns, the XL pipeline, paid sick days, or increasing Social Security benefits.I'm the candidate in this race who is unafraid to be truly progressive-- and in my opinion, only a true progressive who isn't afraid to stand up and be counted on controversial issues can beat Rob Portman. Portman and his allies want to make this race about right versus left. I want to make it about right versus wrong-- because I know that is a fight we Democrats can wage and win.
Tim Canova, a professor of law and public finance at Nova Southeastern University, has been mentioned as a possible primary candidate who would pose a progressive/populist challenge to Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a corrupt congresswoman who drew her own district boundaries when she was in the state legislature and who has never had a primary fight before. A Sanders supporter, Canova has been critical of Wasserman Schultz's performance as chair of the Democratic National Committee, including her role in limiting the presidential debates. "It’s bad for Democrats and bad for the country, but she’s apparently decided that it’s good for her own career to hitch her wagon to Hillary Clinton-- but it’s a wagon filled with a lot baggage and broken promises to American workers. People are just tired of being sold out by calculating and triangulating politicians. Wasserman Schultz has become the ultimate machine politician. While she stakes out liberal positions on culture war issues, when it comes to economic and social issues, she’s too often with the corporate elites. On too many crucial issues-- from fast-tracking the Trans-Pacific Partnership to the war on drugs and medical marijuana and mass incarceration, to her support for budget sequestrations and austerity-- Wasserman Schultz votes down the line with big corporate interests and cartels: Wall Street banks and hedge funds, Big Pharma, the private health insurers, private prisons, Monsanto, it goes on and on. It’s easy to say you’re for doing something about climate change and the environment, for pay equity, raising the minimum wage, or getting money out of politics, but it’s mostly just talk when you’re taking so much corporate money at the same time. That’s why the TPP is so insidious. It will shift the costs of environmental protection, health and safety and labor standards from corporate wrongdoers and wealthy investors to the taxpayers who have been taking it on the chin for so long. In many ways, Wasserman Schultz no longer has a choice. She’s become an establishment machine politician who has to turn her back on taxpayers, working folks, students and the elderly poor, unfortunately it’s all to line the pockets of the same corporate interests that are funding her campaigns. In today’s politics, the worst have no convictions, which may explain all their flip-flops on big issues, from Hillary Clinton on Keystone Pipeline to Wasserman Schultz’s indecision on the agreement with Iran. After playing Hamlet for weeks and blocking a DNC resolution, she finally came around to support the Iran agreement, but only when it became pretty clear she would have lost her post as DNC chair, a message apparently delivered in person by vice president Biden. It must be exhausting to have to constantly answer to wealthy campaign donors and corporate lobbyists when making these decisions."

Several years ago Blue America helped insurgent progressive Matt Cartwright go up against a horrible corrupt Republican-lite Blue Dog, Tim Holden, who had gigantic backing from the state and national Democratic establishment. Steny Hoyer and a squad of lobbyists were wandering the northeast Pennsylvania district meeting with party functionaries and imploring them to (somehow) help Holden. But Holden had been voting like a Republican for too many years, and Cartwright made sure the district's voters knew his record. Earlier today he told us that he doesn't think the endorsements of elected officials matter at all.
What matters is your message, and making sure you have the means to get it out there. Those kinds of endorsements worked 40 or 50 or 100 years ago; I think we are at a point now where a candidate's collecting endorsements of other politicians at best is a waste of time, and at worst is actually counterproductive. It's definitely a waste of time, because nowadays in high-profile races information on candidates is so readily and directly available that voters don't depend on party bosses and ward-heelers to tell them who to vote for. It can even be counterproductive, because the politicians bestowing their endorsements may in fact be individually or collectively despised.

In my own experience with a hotly contested primary contest, I was a complete political neophyte in my first election; my opponent was a 20-year incumbent congressman. You could count my endorsements from elected officials and local party committees on one hand; my opponent's list of endorsements was gargantuan. I just focused on raising enough money to get my message out. Since I was able to do that, I did get my message out. Since the voters liked my message more than the other guy's, nobody paid any attention to all those other politicians' endorsements, and I won... by a lot.
Perhaps you want to contribute to one or more of the candidates in this report. Here's how:
Bernie Sanders
Alan Grayson
Alex Law
P.G. Sittenfeld
Matt Cartwright

1 comment:

  1. Obama followed the Bill Clinton blueprint right out of the gate. And he fucked the Democratic party, big time.

    Now Hillary is on for a third helping of "Haha, chumps, I'm the lesser evil by as little as I can get away with. I own your votes."

    To hell with that. Bernie Sanders, then Jill Stein if I have to.