Friday, January 15, 2016

Can Bernie And Jeremy Drag Their Respective Parties Into The New Century?


Two weeks out from the February 1 Iowa caucuses, there is a dead-heat between Bernie and Hillary. The Nation, as you've probably heard by now has made a very persuasive case about why Bernie Sanders would be a better president than any of the other candidates. I scratch my head when I see Democrats passionately backing Hillary Clinton; it just makes no sense to me. Why pick someone who's "not that bad" when you can pick someone who's actually great. The editors of The Nation point out that "Sanders’s clarion call for fundamental reform-- single-payer healthcare, tuition-free college, a $15-an-hour minimum wage, the breaking up of the big banks, ensuring that the rich pay their fair share of taxes-- have inspired working people across the country. His bold response to the climate crisis has attracted legions of young voters, and his foreign policy, which emphasizes diplomacy over regime change, speaks powerfully to war-weary citizens. Most important, Sanders has used his insurgent campaign to tell Americans the truth about the challenges that confront us. He has summoned the people to a 'political revolution,' arguing that the changes our country so desperately needs can only happen when we wrest our democracy from the corrupt grip of Wall Street bankers and billionaires."
Voters can trust Sanders because he doesn’t owe his political career to the financial overlords of the status quo. Freed from these chains of special interest, he can take the bold measures that the country needs. Sanders alone proposes to break up the too-big-to-fail banks; to invest in public education, from universal pre-K to tuition-free public college; to break the power of the insurance and pharmaceutical cartels with Medicare for All reforms. He alone proposes to empower workers with a living wage. He alone stands ready to put Americans to work rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, and to confront climate change by making the United States a leader in renewable energy. His audacious agenda proves that money in politics doesn’t widen debate; rather, it narrows the range of possibility. While Sanders understands this, we fear that his chief rival for the Democratic nomination does not.

...[T]he limits of a Clinton presidency are clear. Her talk of seeking common ground with Republicans and making deals to “get things done” in Washington will not bring the change that is so desperately needed. Clinton is open to raising the Social Security retirement age, instead of increasing the woefully inadequate benefits. She rejects single-payer healthcare and refuses to consider breaking up the big banks. We also fear that she might accept a budgetary “grand bargain” with the Republicans that would lock in austerity for decades to come.

...Critics of Bernie Sanders dismiss him as an idealist (he is!) on a quixotic crusade. Meanwhile, the corporate media has paid shamefully little attention to his campaign’s achievements, instead lavishing attention on the latest outrageous pronouncements by Donald Trump and the Republican candidates struggling to compete with him. Nonetheless, polls show that Sanders-- even as he still introduces himself to many voters-- is well poised to take on the eventual GOP nominee, frequently doing better than Clinton in these matchups. Moreover, in contrast to the modest audiences at Clinton’s campaign stops, the huge crowds at Sanders’s grassroots rallies indicate that he’ll be able to boost turnout in November.

Whether his candidacy, and the inspired campaign it fuels, will spark a “political revolution” sufficient to win the Democratic nomination and the White House this year remains to be seen. We do know that his run has already created the space for a more powerful progressive movement and demonstrated that a different kind of politics is possible. This is a revolution that should live on, no matter who wins the nomination.

Bernie Sanders and his supporters are bending the arc of history toward justice. Theirs is an insurgency, a possibility, and a dream that we proudly endorse.

In yesterday's Guardian Ewen MacAskill did an insightful piece on how Jeremy Corbyn is successfully reshaping the Labour Party. It's the kind of reshaping the Democratic Party is desperately in need of-- and the kind of reshaping the Democratic Party establishment will resist with all its collective might. If the party doesn't change-- if it is led by more and even worse versions of Wasserman Schultz, Steve Israel, Chuck Schumer, Steny Hoyer, Rahm Emanuel, Harold Ford, Joe Lieberman, the party will be doomed to whither away-- a tragic betrayal of the legacy of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Corbin's people-powered revolution faced the same adamant, vicious, dug-in opposition from the Labour Establishment. According to a detailed survey by The Guardian, he seems to be prevailing so far.
The Guardian has interviewed Labour secretaries, chairs, other office holders and members from more than 100 of the 632 constituencies in England, Scotland and Wales. Almost every constituency party across the country we contacted reported doubling, trebling, quadrupling or even quintupling membership, and a revival of branches that had been moribund for years and close to folding.

...The survey findings are borne out by Labour’s national figures, released to the Guardian in a break with party tradition of keeping them secret. Membership jumped from 201,293 on 6 May last year, the day before the general election, to 388,407 on 10 January.

Party membership figures are a controversial issue, with the former cabinet minister Peter Mandelson, who is opposed to Corbyn, telling a Labour meeting in the Lords last month that “30,000 long-term members have left the party, real members, tens of thousands.”

But the newly released figures undermine his claim, showing a total of 13,860 have left since the general election, some of them having resigned while others have gone as part of natural churn. The increase in membership is continuing, with just under 1,000 having joined since Christmas Eve.

The Guardian survey, coming after months of infighting within the Parliamentary Labour party (PLP) following Corbyn’s leadership victory, provides an opportunity for the voices of the party grassroots to be heard.

The survey found:
The rise in membership has been uneven across the country. In contrast with steep rises in London and elsewhere in England and Wales, the rises in Scotland have been relatively modest, ominous for the party’s hopes in May’s Scottish parliamentary election.

Members, in spite of unhappiness with public splits within the PLP, say there is no appetite for deselection of MPs. But some acknowledge that proposed boundary changes in 2018 could result in de-facto deselection.

Returning members, who had left Labour mainly in protest over the 2003 Iraq invasion, are making an immediate impact, partly because they are familiar with the rules.

Both returning members and new ones tend to be mainly leftwing. There are few reports of attempted infiltration from hard-left groups.
...The constituencies attributed this mainly to the Corbyn effect. Garry Parvin, High Peak constituency secretary, reported an increase in membership from 100 to 463-- with 259 joining after the May election before and 30 September. “In the main, yes, they are Corbyn supporters,” he said.

Asked whether remaking the party to reflect leftwing values was more important to them than winning the 2020 general election, Parvin said: “Frankly, yes. There are a lot of ideologically driven people who feel that we’re going to lose anyway so we may as well lose on principle.”

Breaking this down, Joanne Hepworth, constituency secretary for Pontefract and Castleford, West Yorkshire, said: “We’ve had 360 new members since the election. We have 610 now. Between 7 May and 12 August, we had 144 new members. The rest have joined since then, mostly during the leadership race.”

That view is not universal. Brynmor Hollywell, constituency party secretary for Caerphilly, south Wales, said: “A lot of us are disturbed about Corbyn. He’s a wonderful individual but not a potential prime minister.”

Overall, though, support for Corbyn at grassroots level suggests he will eventually prevail in his battle with the PLP [the Parliamentary Labour Party] or if there was to be an attempted coup.

Some constituencies do complain that none of the young members have turned up yet for meetings or turned up only once, but others say young members are already actively engaged, with some constituencies reporting potential rifts between long-term members used to rule-bound discussions and the younger ones seeking more zest and passion in their politics.
The Rahm-Van Hollen-Israel will never, regardless of who the GOP nominates for president, win back the House. It should be a priority to blow that edifice up and rebuild it from scratch. The DC Dems are about to go into a dark period with Wall Street's own senator, Chuck Schumer, as head of the Senate Democrats. Unless this is somehow balanced, the party will be useless as an engine for progressive values and for the aspirations of working families.

If you'd like to help this political revolution succeed, at least on this side of the Atlantic, please consider contributing to Bernie and to the candidates who have endorsed him, here on our Blue America ActBlue page.

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At 7:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"In contrast with steep rises in London and elsewhere in England and Wales, the rises in Scotland have been relatively modest, ominous for the party’s hopes in May’s Scottish parliamentary election."

Yeah, I have been worried that Labour stuck to Blairism so long that they would lose Scotland. There is no particular reason that nationalism that is left today will be left tomorrow, and without Scotland, Labour can't win outright.


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