Posts tagged ‘Bernie’

Capitalism is the Problem

If I look at our greatest problems, economic inequality, global warming, and President DFF, they all have one root cause, capitalism. Now I am sure you are going to say what about equal pay for equal work, or systemic racism, or rust belt myopia, or immigration, or failing infrastructure. I would say these are all symptoms of economic inequality, as well as global warming and President DFF. And the root cause of all of this is unbridled capitalism. I would also argue that capitalism has brought us many things and improved the living conditions of many in the world, but then the problems start to show up.

I am not the only one. Remember Bernie. Remember the howling from even Hillary on this was not possible. All Bernie was trying to do was level the playing field. But in an interesting op-ed this morning by Elizabeth Bruenig, she made some points we seem to want to ignore. She started by pointing out that Liberals are in a funk:

This assumption is reflected in the blindsided, startled unease of liberals in the era of President Trump: “There are moments when everything I have come to believe in — reasoned deliberation, mutual toleration, liberal democracy, free speech, honesty, decency, and moderation — seem as if they are in eclipse,” Andrew Sullivan recently lamented in New York magazine. “For the foreseeable future, nationalism is likely to remain a defining political force,” Yascha Mounk fretted this weekend in the New York Times; “liberals should strive to make nationalism as inclusive as possible,” he warned.

Ha! Liberalism incorporating nationalism is what Democrats have done over and over to their failure, incorporating failed ideas to try to out Republican Republicans, Republicans with a softer edge. It’s a journey to nowhere. Ms. Bruenig’s description of capitalism is in fact its problem for those of us who want a level playing field and social justice. She has what I call the “Bernie moment” when she realizes that moving the chairs around on the Titanic as most “liberals” do is a waste of time:

I don’t think business-as-usual but better is enough to fix what’s broken here. I think the problem lies at the root of the thing, with capitalism itself…Americans appear to be isolated, viciously competitive, suspicious of one another and spiritually shallow; and that we are anxiously looking for some kind of attachment to something real and profound in an age of decreasing trust and regard — seem to be emblematic of capitalism, which encourages and requires fierce individualism, self-interested disregard for the other, and resentment of arrangements into which one deposits more than he or she withdraws. (As a business-savvy friend once remarked: Nobody gets rich off of bilateral transactions where everybody knows what they’re doing.) Capitalism is an ideology that is far more encompassing than it admits, and one that turns every relationship into a calculable exchange. Bodies, time, energy, creativity, love — all become commodities to be priced and sold. Alienation reigns. There is no room for sustained contemplation and little interest in public morality; everything collapses down to the level of the atomized individual.

That capitalism is inimical to the best of liberalism isn’t a new concern: It’s a long-standing critique, present in early socialist thought. That both capitalism and liberal governance have changed since those days without displacing the criticism suggests that it’s true in a foundational way.

Not to be confused for a totalitarian nostalgist, I would support a kind of socialism that would be democratic and aimed primarily at decommodifying labor, reducing the vast inequality brought about by capitalism, and breaking capital’s stranglehold over politics and culture.

Welcome to the Progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Well, I hate to say the Democratic Party because the establishment still does not get it and even rejected a Progressive in the Houston primary as, well, too progressive. But they are asleep to what happened in the last election when Americans rejected status quo. Hillary got the nomination because the establishment wanted her and shunned Bernie. Republicans got their radical and he won. The urge for change is stronger than ever and the Democratic Party is trying to calibrate between moderate Republicans and moderate Democrats (read moderate Republicans in 1980) and it is a failed policy. Maybe not at an intellectual level yet, but at a gut one, most of us feel capitalism is failing us. And the reality as Thomas Piketty (Capital in the Twenty First Century) showed us, unrestrained capitalism gives us growing economic inequality.

I do have to laugh though. Ms. Bruenig in her last quote above is pining for “kind of socialism that would be democratic and aimed primarily at decommodifying labor, reducing the vast inequality brought about by capitalism, and breaking capital’s stranglehold over politics and culture.” Would that not be European social democracy as they have in say Finland or Norway or Sweden. Oh, and it works.

We have grown a culture and attitude about policy that reinforces unrestrained capitalism. We learned to hate taxes, regulations, and big government. It has been beaten into our heads by Republicans, But it isn’t working. I see massive deterioration of our infrastructure which is key to our future, and our hate for taxes keeps us from doing anything. Global Warming is already impacting us and yet we turn a blind eye to it because that would be big government and regulations. Oh, and it would upset the apple carts of who benefits by ignoring it.  Economic inequality grows by leaps and bounds and so does the concentration of political power and again we can do nothing because that would require rewriting the rules, regulation, and taxation. And yet the majority of us know it is not working. We got President DFF because Americans rejected the status quo, but he is a mindless moron who is still a creature of the 1980s.

As Ms. Bruenig points out, it is time for a different approach. I hate to keep repeating this, but Republicans, all of them have to go. So do most moderate Democrats who have the same conservative ideas only kinder and gentler. Conservatism has run its course and has proved defunct. If we want change, if we want to do something about economic inequality that touches all inequality, if we want to attack our problems with solutions that work, it is time to throw off the old mantle of unrestrained capitalism. This won’t happen with Republicans because they have become radicals of the me, me, me, and captured creatures of the monied. It is time for a new approach, and the only ones who are going to get us there are today’s new progressives.

Why Trump Won

Fareed Zakaria, who I think is one of the best journalist out there, and there are a lot of good ones, reporting on CNN in a special, Why Trump Won, I think nailed it. This is not a new show and I think it aired back in August, but I finally saw it last night. So I will cut to the chase on this one. As Fareed pointed out Donald Trump was the perfect storm when the circumstances were perfect for the perfect storm.

And for you Hillary fans, an interview with Nate Silvers basically pointed out that Comey cost her the election. Her lead was 6 points and then a week before the election he comes out with his letter, and her lead was cut to 3 points, then in the margin of allowing the electoral college to elected the one with a smaller vote count. So it certainly cost her the election. But, and here is the thing, it should have never been that close. As we entered the 2016 election, Hillary was not a good choice and Fareed makes that point by showing how Democrats had lost the working middle class as they had become the party that represented the professional class. Hillary was also the perfect storm in that she epitomized the Democrats aloof view of the working class.

The head of the Democratic Party in Ohio was sending memos to the Hillary campaign about the pain and anger out there in Ohio and they were being ignored. Meanwhile Trump was filling that vacuum with vague promises of bringing their jobs back and representing them as an outsider and it was selling like hotcakes. All lies of course, but that seem to have made little difference. In middle America’s state of anger and frustration. Race and blaming was working well and Trump was the master salesman as Hillary made his point of the out of touch aloof politician. Fareed even made the point that Hillary actually had policies that would help them, but they were throwing over establishment Washington, clearly a Washington they no longer trusted.

That should have been the message loud and clear when Bernie came so close. Many said it was not rigged (this is me not Fareed), but of course it was. They had already anointed Hillary and the Democratic Party was lined up against that upstart Bernie when he was actually the only one with a message that resonated. It was noted that many discouraged Democrats turned to Trump after Bernie was finally beaten. There is another statistic that Fareed pointed out that should have told Democrats they were in big trouble. In a usual election the undecided voters are around 6%. In 2016 it was double that. Again, looking at who Donald Trump was, it should not have been close and that tells you that Democrats had lost their message and their messenger was the wrong person.

Now no one (who is rational) will argue that Hillary would not have made an excellent President, but in a way her defeat, while devastating to the short-term interests of the country, was probably inevitable as the Democrats had lost touch with the people it most needs to help. Even with good intentions, we would have seen more gridlock and both sides do it instead of a clear distinction between the two parties we are getting now (although establishment Democrats still seem to have not got the message). Sooner or later Democrats were going to have this “come to Jesus” moment and maybe sooner is better. It would appear at the grass-roots at least they are regrouping and refocusing.

So in a nutshell, Trump was the perfect lynch mob leader as establishment politics have failed middle America, but have worked fine for those of us in the professional class, and the banking class, the professional class represented by establishment Democrats, the banking class represented by establishment Republicans. Trump came along and lied through his teeth that he was an outsider who represented them when in fact, if they ever figure it out, he was all in with Wall Street. Hillary sadly, came across as just what the working middle class was mutinying against, establishment elitism, or “let me explain it to you Alice” (Jacky Gleason from the Honeymooners). The fact that she actually had policies to help them was irrelevant.

My own personal observation at Trump rallies was an America I found despicable. Hillary’s deplorables, which of course they were. They had thrown out their brains and the level of anger and hate was palpable. As Fareed pointed out they were the part of America most disenfranchised by the world economy and their reaction was anger, blame, racism, and hate. And Trump was the master at stoking that. It is no coincidence that this was dominate by those without a college education. They were the losers in the economy we have built. Sadly when the elected Trump, they doubled down on their losing. In case they haven’t noticed, there are no jobs, and Wall Street is back big time.

Having said that, we do have to pull them up, not by false lies Donald Trump pumped out there, but with a real plan to get them back into the economy and give them jobs and a future. Unless you haven’t figured that out, it is not by giving more tax cuts to the wealthy, or quite frankly to most of us. It will be by creating jobs by investing in infrastructure, alternate energy, helping middle America get off their addiction to opioids, making college affordable, and making fundamental changes to the economy that let’s them share in the bounty. Oh, and give them a safety net they can depend on until we can restore the middle class. FDR did it, and now we have to, because middle America really is in a depression that led to the rise of a moron like Donald Trump.

Fareed ended his program by saying we are waiting for a leader that can cross the divide between the two tribes. But Fareed is one of those too invested in the way the economy works today, instead of the reality that capitalism has to be brought to heel for all of us to share. To my ear, Bernie got closest to that ideal. Let’s not lose that momentum. Progressivism is the only way forward and only government working with industry is going to solve the problem of the declining middle class. It is time to bring back ideas again instead of blame and hate. It has not worked out well so far and maybe middle America is starting to figure that out. Now we need to get out there with a plan that gives them hope, not the same old, same old or from Stephen King’s Dreamcatcher, SSDD, Same Shit, Different Day. That is how middle America saw the establishment in 2016. The Democrats failed to head the message and ran an establishment candidate, and all the rest is history.

Missing the Whole F*cking Point

Part of our problem today is labels. We label something and there are all these connotations of meaning, many may have nothing to do with reality, but they drive our feelings about them. I have two major bones to pick with most journalists, focusing on political intrigue and maneuvering instead of the issues, and labeling as though that explains the underlying issues. We end up discussing all the wrong things and nothing gets done.  Nancy and Chuck announced a “deal” with the VIC on border security and DACA and the Republicans go crazy claiming amnesty.  Can’t have that can we?  Yet we can have amnesty for corporations who shield their income overseas because they don’t want to pay taxes.  Can you think of anyone better who should have a path to citizenship than these model citizens?  But amnesty the word sets them off instead of a real look at an effective policy.

My ire this morning is pointed at Dana Milbank who wrote a column entitled, The Democrats have Become Socialists. He is talking about Bernie and the 16 senators who have signed on to sponsor Medicare for Everyone:

When Bernie Sanders launched his bid for the Democratic nomination, he was often asked whether he, a democratic socialist, would actually become a Democrat. Now, more than a year after he ignited a movement with his unsuccessful bid, that question is moot. The Democrats have become socialists.

This became official, more or less, Wednesday afternoon, when Sanders rolled out his socialized health-care plan, Medicare for All, and he was supported by 16 of his Senate Democratic colleagues who signed on as co-sponsors, including the party’s rising stars and potential presidential candidates in 2020: Elizabeth Warren. Cory Booker. Kamala Harris. Kirsten Gillibrand.

…This embrace of an unabashedly socialist position by the Democrats delights nobody more than the original socialists, the Democratic Socialists of America. David Duhalde, the group’s deputy director, was one of the first in line for the event, carrying a Medicare-for-All sign.

…In the short term, I’ve argued, this development is a bad thing for Democrats. The nation’s focus has been on divisions among Republicans and their inability to enact any sort of agenda under President Trump. The single-payer issue highlights Democratic divisions and united Republicans.

You get the drift. It is bad strategy because as Dana did, Republicans can label them socialist and that is the end of the discussion. But what is really going on is not an ideology binge, but a real attempt to solve one of our biggest problems, the cost and limit of healthcare. That’s the issue. What is the most effective way to deliver affordable healthcare to the whole nation. Once you remove labels and ideology from the equation you are left with some fairly simple facts, yes facts. Universal care is provided by most of the rest of the world at half the cost of ours and better outcomes. How do they do that?

Well they do not have an unregulated or poorly regulated marketplace. The approaches have one thing in common, they offer universal coverage, some (England) with government owned delivery systems, some (Canada) with a single payer where the government is the insurer, but doctors and hospitals still compete to provide service (also our Medicare), and some actually do it through the market place (Switzerland), albeit a heavily regulated market place limiting profit making.

So what Bernie and other Democrats are doing is offering an alternative to our failing system unless of course you like to pay double what other countries pay for worse care.  In fact what they are doing is getting the idea out there so we can debate it and get comfortable with it.  It is how change happens.  It won’t work this time, but it will start people thinking.  But we have the press, this time Dana Milbank, only thinking about Washington politics not the issue itself or what would be most efficacious for the people. So he labels it socialism, be afraid, and playing into Republican hands.  I don’t think so.

If you think like Dana Milbank, we should all move to the middle and hold hands.  Nothing changes and Democrats become irrelevant.  Oh wait, they already have.  I think he and other politicos badly read the people of this country and we should be looking for optimal solutions to our problems and quite labeling them or being against them based on ideology.  Instead we get suboptimal solutions and people lose faith and don’t vote, e.g., the last election.  Democrats are starting to lead again and shake up the system, ideology be damn.  Well it is about time.  Ask yourself this.  Is the point to do things that politicos think are politically smart like tinker with Obamacare and kick the can down the road, or is the point to come up with policies to fix problems?  I thought the latter, but what the fuck do I know.

Another Say What Moment or WTF

There was an op-ed piece in the NYT from a Republican now repenting his vote for Trump (I Voted For Trump and I Sorely Regret It). It is interesting reading because the reality of Trump has a least dawned on one diehard, but the question in my mind and apparently in many readers mind is that you did not see who he was in the campaign, which the writer, Julius Krein, seemed to gloss over:

Julius Krein writes like a well educated thoughtful person who appears to have been very much involved in analyzing Trump’s long campaign for the Presidency. As such it is hard to believe that he is only now coming to the conclusion that Trump is unqualified and too irresponsible to serve as President. Trumps repeated pandering to a Republican racist base during the campaign can hardly be viewed as “merely Bidenesque gaffes” (in my opinion) by anyone paying attention and willing to do a little research in to Trump’s past. How can anyone of sound mind attribute 45’s eight year long obsession with the birther movement as “merely a “Bidenesque” gaffe. Trump is and always has been a racist. Many who voted for him understood that.

It is interesting to read this to see how the disenfranchised Right thinks and what they were hoping for from Trump. But here is the line that gives me the most pause:

Far from making America great again, Mr. Trump has betrayed the foundations of our common citizenship. And his actions are jeopardizing any prospect of enacting an agenda that might restore the promise of American life.

And exactly what do Republicans have to offer to “restore the promise of American life”? I haven’t a clue. The one candidate that got this was Bernie Sanders who identified economic inequality as the root of all our problems (and the systems and laws that acerbates it). Mr. Krein tells us:

…Mr. Trump eschewed strict ideologies and directly addressed themes that the more conventional candidates of both parties preferred to ignore. Rather than recite paeans to American enterprise, he acknowledged that our “information economy” has delivered little wage or productivity growth. He was willing to criticize the bipartisan consensus on trade and pointed out the devastating effects of deindustrialization felt in many communities. He forthrightly addressed the foreign policy failures of both parties, such as the debacles in Iraq and Libya, and rejected the utopian rhetoric of “democracy promotion.” He talked about the issue of widening income inequality — almost unheard of for a Republican candidate — and didn’t pretend that simply cutting taxes or shrinking government would solve the problem.

Okay, but what policies did he propose? None (well not quite true, build a wall, hate immigrants, hate Muslims, trash everything, and be nasty) and Mr. Krein tells us that most politicians are vague about their exact policies. Hillary wasn’t. But there is a more fundamental problem. Smaller government, less regulation on business, unfettered market place, how do any of these do anything but accelerate economic inequality?

Then, after the election, I founded a quarterly journal, American Affairs, largely to question elements of what is often called the neoliberal policy consensus — totally open borders for capital and labor; transferring power from national governments to transnational technocracies; unfettered markets; and democracy promotion as the sole premise of foreign policy. In other words, the disappointing legacy we inherited from the Bushes and the Clintons that helped pave the way to Mr. Trump’s election.

Now I can agree with some of his points, but anything Republican, given their ideology, is not going to get you there and Trump was obviously pandering to Krein’s wishes with no game plan on how to get there. And of course he was a moral degenerate who demonstrated his failure to grasp the fundamental ideology of our democracy. Like the rubes in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, they got that something was fundamental wrong with establishment politics, but they failed to grasp the moral depravity of the man they elected. Hard to figure that out when he was lying non-stop, inciting violence, saying racist things, and trying to tear at the fundamentals of our democracy, three branches of government and the free press all during the campaign

Here is the thing Democrats need to take away here. The Establishment is fundamentally flawed and there is a yearning in the country for fundamental changes to our economic system that hands out power to the wealthy and elects people who support the status quo. Bernie was that candidate. The Democratic establishment did him in, and we are where we are because of it. But again here are Mr. Krein’s words that tells about the mistake we make on both sides:

But many of us thought even this might be a positive if it forced him to focus on “making deals” rather than on Washington’s usual ideological posturing.

Deal making is not going to hack it. If Mr. Krein understood the Republicans he would have known they will never compromise their ideology that is what is accelerating economic inequality. See what happened on healthcare. Their ideology prevents solutions. Hillary made the same mistake believing that nonsense that voters just want us to get along. That is not they way they vote. She was going to be a deal maker. Did we learn nothing from Barack’s failure to make deals as the Right ate his lunch? What is required is a new way, from ground up, and government is the only entity that can make these changes. So we have to change government.

Probably what was so amazing is how bad the country wants this vision of the future that as Mr. Krein could do, overlook reality and only see the goals Trump touted, and not the nonsense that made up the path. Nothing is going to change and Democrats are never going to be successful until they finally get what Bernie was selling, that the rules we have set up for trade,

Wall Street, taxes, intellectual property, are flawed and need to be fixed. People want a secure future in an evolving economy. That demands investment in our country and our people, while developing a strong safety net. That is the way forward, not electing someone who can make deals, The deals are only to made with the devils that got us here. They will take us no where.

So if Democrats/Progressives read Mr. Krein’s piece, they should not wallow in I told you so. They need to recognize that Mr. Krein recognized the dysfunction of our present economic system as many Americans did, and foolishly voted for Mr. Trump as their only choice. Hillary would have maintain the status quo and we would not see the damage today, but 2020 without real change would have been another moment for another Trump. It is time for a whole new vision, and Bernie already gave it to us. If we see more establishment Democrats too closely tied to the power structure and Wall Street, it will be the demise of the party, and maybe the country. The writing is on the wall and the lettering is large and bold.

Another One of Those Flashing Lights We Are Ignoring

From the Atlantic Daily email:

The French Election: Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and her independent centrist counterpart Emmanuel Macron advanced to the second round of the French presidential election yesterday. As neither Macron nor Le Pen is from a major party, the vote looks like a clear rejection of the political establishment; it also marks the decline of the French Socialist Party, whose candidate trailed far behind the winners. As the country prepares for the next round, Macron is expected to win by far—yet in expanding her populist party’s influence, Le Pen has already succeeded.

Let’s see, the establishment was rejected in Britain in the Brexit vote, the establishment (both Republicans and Democrats) was rejected in selecting that nitwit Cheeto-Head in the United States, and now the French have rejected their political establishment in both their runoff candidates.  There is something going on here and it is not what you think. It is economic malaise across the board.  The sad thing is that Brexit and Cheeto-Head were elected to attack the wrong targets, change and immigrants.  That is what Marine Le Pen is also running on, but the French may be way smarter than we are.  We will see in a couple of weeks.

Here is what I think, no, know what is going on.  Our economic system does not work for most of us anymore.  It has nothing to do with immigrants, or rapid change, sending jobs overseas.  Okay, they do cause problems, but easily fixable, and yet not much will change.  As long as the wealthy keep sucking up all the air in the room, nothing is going to get better.  That is what establishment politics has missed.

There is a reason for that. I will borrow here from Upton Sinclair via Paul Krugman, “It’s difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” They are all part of the system that profits from wealth accumulation.  So they can’t imagine that our economic system throughout the world today is the problem.  They just want to tweak the system, which is why establishment politicians are being roundly rejected.  Nothing changes.

Anybody remember French economist Thomas Piketty?  Back in 2014 he was all the rage when he pointed out that our economics of wealth accumulation is maybe a natural outcome of capitalism and it usually leads to the decline and fall of empires.  He was attacked from all sides.  See Upton Sinclair’s wisdom above.  But Piketty’s data holds and we continue to concentrate wealth.  The chasm between the super rich and the working class is obscene.  There is no coincidence that the two most pressing threats to our survivability, global warming (because it is changing the climate and upsetting economies everywhere) and increasing economic inequality are both disparaged by Republicans.  They got theirs.

Yesterday, or was it Sunday, anyway I blog about what the Democratic Party needed to resolve, what are they really about.  Well the warning lights are on and flashing.  People are turning away from political establishments for new solutions to their problems because nothing ever changed.  The stage was set for the hucksters, Nigel Farage, Donald Trump, and Marine Le Pine, selling their fear, hate, and isolationism.  But they are not looking at the real issue, reinventing our capitalist system to more fairly distribute the bounty.  And that has to be the core of the Democratic platform.

That will be a tough message because the moderates do not want to hear it.  That is the Howard Dean crowd, and actually most of the establishment Democratic Party.  Hillary was the classic example. Even President Obama was an establishment Democrat when it came to economics.  None of them really wanted to take on a runaway economic system.  Bernie did and then he got slammed by Black Lives Matter about not considering their interests.  His first reaction was the same as mine, that economic inequality and making the system fairer includes blacks, women, gays, you name it.  But he was a savvy enough politician to try to bring them in.  But it is interest group pandering that gets us nowhere and generally doesn’t really change anything.

The theme that will create a new Democratic party is to recognize that economic inequality is the mother of all the other inequalities.  To start to share the wealth of our economy with all those that participate creates spending.  To do this means taking on the whole establishment.  But if you are seeing all the flashing lights, the establishment is being resoundly rejected.  We don’t need a more tweaked and refined establishment with better tactics and talking points.  They need to recognize that there is a new message altogether and start reforming capitalism.  If they don’t, it will not be pretty.  Brexit and Cheeto-Head were just the beginning.

TPP and Why It is Not So Simple

If you watched the Democratic Convention you say the Bernie fans hold put their TPP signs.  Hillary was for it and is now, a qualified against it.  Bernie is against it and it has become the poster child for shipping jobs overseas and economic inequality.  But it not quite that simple and here is why:  The TPP isn’t just a trade agreement, it is also foreign policy.  

Let’s look at the trade side first.  Clearly we want to increase trade.  The tradeoff has always been we will loose some jobs, but we get cheaper products, and our access to their markets increases our income and jobs here.  Except it hasn’t worked that way.  For sure we get cheaper products, but the gains have gone to wealthy and the jobs created don’t pay as well.  On the other hand, agreements can increase our business opportunities, protect the environment, protect workers, protect intellectual rights, and open markets.  

So on the trade side you have to evaluate whether the losses offset the gains.  The problem has always been that for corporate America it is a big win, but for woking people it has been a net loss.  Intellectual property protection can stifle innovation and new businesses.  Big Pharma can force the high prices in America to be paid elsewhere and protect their high prices from foreign competition.  So you have to do a complex trade off analysis.  My yardstick here is what is the net impact on economic inequality. It must decrease economic inequality.

Then there is the other part of this agreement which is a foreign policy.  The TPP establishes a strong road block on China taking away both our markets, and reducing our influence on our partners in the future.  In essence it solidifies connects with the many economies of our Asian partners and balances China’s influence and incursions.  Is it worth the downside? That’s why it is not so simple.  Some of the agreements are long sought after agreements that greatly benefit us.  Some parts increase economic inequality and makes corporations king.  Rejecting it could open the door for China to have more influence with our allies in the region.

The real problem is we need to look at it, debate it, and adjust it as necessary.  But we don’t have that opportunity after Congress gave the President Fast Track Approval, basically an up or down vote.  So in many ways, that approach kind of turned a complex review into an up or down vote.  If you don’t like to roll dice and see if you get screwed, you can only vote no.

Day 1 and Lunacy

Probably the most important thing to take away from last night is that you never ever want to follow Michelle Obama on a speaking tour.  Wow.  She could not make you more proud to be an American, unless of course you are a whack job in the Republican Party.  The Obama’s make wonderful role models for all of us.

Then there was the tension over what Bernie supporters would do especially from earlier in the day, when Bernie spoke to them and they booed him when he told them the obvious, support Hillary.  But it turns out Democratic strategists are way smarter than Republican ones.  They started the convention with Cory Brooker giving a rousing speech about why we should be proud Americans and reminding us of our basic values.  Then in a stroke of genius they had Al Franken and Sarah Silverman lighten it up.  And Silverman, a real Bernie fan, delivered a message to Bernie supporters no politician could:  Stop being ridiculous.  But the logical connection through out the night was that Trump is a disaster and they all nailed it.

Then Elizabeth Warren came out to put the nail in the Trump coffin and set Bernie up.  And nailed him she did.  Fact checkers did not have much to do last night as Democrats basically exposed the Donald’s sordid record which has been out there but not condensed for the whole world to see.

Then comes Bernie and we are all holding our breath, but Bernie delivers for Hilary and although you can hear boos in the crowd, he made a strong case for what they had accomplished, how far they had moved the party, that Hillary is their way forward, and maybe the part of the speech most did not hear, they would keep Hillary in line if she strays.  It was a very cleverly crafted speech that hidden within Bernie’s indictment of where we have faltered was the promise to not allow any backsliding.  If Bernie supporters were listening, his message was take back the Senate and we will make sure our agenda is enacted.

You could say the Democrats nailed it on Day 1.  While pundits were looking for conflict and trouble under every chair, the Democrats set a positive theme, emphasized the real America, not the war zone Trump created, and exposed the Donald for the creep he is.  And they did a good job of defusing the Bernie supporters by meeting them more than halfway on platform and policies.  And Bernie did his part masterfully, letting everyone know he is still a player.  Now some will say, well there will be no unanimous consent today when they vote and see that as a problem, I think that is part of letting his supporters still have a victory of sorts, and keeping Hillary’s feet to the fire to stay left.  Anything else would have been seen as a capitulation and a betrayal by Bernie supporters and caused more dissention.

After the convention, MSNBC was down on the floor interviewing disgruntled Bernie supporters (because they make good news/entertainment. Now understand that 85% of Bernie supporters have already said they were going to vote for Hillary so they found three woman, two of which might vote Green Party.  You kind of have to wonder why it wasn’t two fo and one against to be representative, but where is the conflict in that?

When asked why they said they trusted Bernie, but not Hillary, and were challenged on the fact that if they trusted Bernie and he told them to vote for Hillary, why didn’t they really trust Bernie, their answers were incoherent.  One was all wrapped up with the TPP and misstated Hillary’s position on it.  The other was just totally illogical.  The third one totally got it, and was moving to push Bernie fans to support Hillary.

I think I have an insight into the intransigent two.  From a rational point of view, Hillary is the only way forward.  Any other option is self-defeating.  So why the incoherence?  In the primary, Hillary became the enemy.  She was the problem.  They no longer saw the person or the policies, just the evil person who made all good things go bad for Democrats.  They weren’t focused on Republicans, but the war in the Democratic Party.

Now they can’t overcome those feelings they created within themselves about Hillary.  Their brains are not disengaged from their emotions yet.  And maybe in that is the way forward for Hillary.  She needs to become a person for them instead of the caricature they have created in their mind and feed by Republican and primary propaganda.  Bernie is doing his part and Hillary is going to have to do hers.  We know that she is not great at communicating the real person, but that she must.

So all and all, the Democratic Convention was like a breath of fresh air after the smoke, fire, and brimstone of the Republican hell and damnation convention.  Oh dare I say it, Morning in America?

Maybe Getting the Message

There was a story in the NYT this morning (‘Brexit’ Revolt Cast a Shadow Over Hillary Clinton’s Cautious Path) about how the Hillary campaign might be seeing the real problem in the Brexit vote that I have been raving about for months in this blog:

Mrs. Clinton shares more with the defeated “Remain” [Brexit] campaign than just their common slogan, “Stronger Together.” Her fundamental argument, much akin to Prime Minister David Cameron’s against British withdrawal from the European Union, is that Americans should value stability and incremental change over the risks entailed in radical change and the possibility of chaos if Donald J. Trump wins the presidency… But prudence is cold comfort to people fed up with more-of-the-same.

According to their friends and advisers, Mrs. Clinton and former President Bill Clinton have worried for months that she was out of sync with the mood of the electorate, and that her politically safe messages — like “I’m a progressive who gets results” — were far less compelling to frustrated voters than the “political revolution” of Senator Bernie Sanders or Mr. Trump’s grievance-driven promise to “Make America Great Again.”

And while many of Mr. Sanders’s supporters are expected to support her in November, she has not recalibrated her message to try to tap into the anger that he and Mr. Trump channeled.

It is a recognition of what Bernie is campaigning on, sans the xenophobia, racism, and nativism; money in politics and economic inequality makes the system only represent the rich. And that anger is not irrational, but quite rational. The system and incrementalism are not working to deal with this problem.  The lesson of the Brexit is two fold:  First, people are truly angry with the existing system, and second that the supposed cure (the Donald anyway) may be worse than the disease, but people don’t care.  The fact that the anger may not be rational is beside the point.

While Mrs. Clinton is counting on Mr. Trump’s history of racist and sexist remarks to doom his candidacy, Thursday’s Brexit referendum was an unnerving reminder that voter anger is deeper and broader than many elite politicians and veteran pollsters realize. In swing states like Ohio, many Democrats and Republicans yearn for an economic comeback and are not confident that Mrs. Clinton understands their frustrations or has the ideas and wherewithal to deliver the sort of change that could satisfy them.

The article also sees the establishment Democratic Party at work, underestimating both the anger and the malaise in the country that experienced leadership won’t sooth.

Several Democrats cautioned against drawing too many lessons from the Brexit vote, saying mass immigration and economic malaise were bigger problems in Britain and the European Union than in the United States. They also said many British voters were revolting against a bureaucracy in Brussels that they regarded as bloated, overpaid and prone to interfering in the affairs of sovereign countries.

First, there was no “mass immigration” into Britain, just a trumped (pun intended) up immigration, the same as in the United States.  On the bureaucracy in Brussels, you don’t think Trump supporters, Libertarians, and many Independents (See George Will, newly independent) who are reacting to “stupid” government don’t think Washington is “bloated, overpaid and prone to interfering in the affairs of sovereign countries (read states)?”

It is exactly the same phenomenon and we have been fed an endless stream of this nonsense for years by the Republican noise machine, unchecked by our media in a he said/she said failure of journalism.  Establishment Democrats think this is just a temper tantrum and we can go back to business as usual and the clear message is that will not suffice.  Here is what scares me:

But she was not surprised that the “Leave” campaign won, her advisers said Friday, because she understands the extent of voter anger. Her advisers said they were confident the referendum in Britain did not mirror the presidential election in the United States.

Yes they do exactly.  Sadly in both Britain and the United States, the voters have been fed noxious lies by politicians and the media who loves to repeat them without fact checking.  Now they are demanding change and sadly reason has little impact on them.  The strength of Bernie’s campaign was that he recognized that anger (and his own) and provided a rational way forward.  Hillary has never recognized the real anger which is why she has proposed incrementalism and Bill in charge of the economy.

If Hillary wants to win this campaign, and really change the way things work (and she may not (establishment)), recognizing “political realities” and working within them is the wrong message (incrementalism).  The message from the Trump nomination and Brexit is the rejection of political realities.  They are sick of them.

She wants Bernie to endorse her, but that is not going to happen until she recognizes what Bernie was fighting for.  She has to co-opt his message of economic inequality and a rigged system, and we are not going to take it anymore.  Take a lesson from House Democrats who did that (rigged House) on the House floor.  It is what the country is yearning for.  Bring back intellectualism, rational thought, and data driven solutions, and of course tolerance, with a message of real change.*

Oh, and to Hillary supporters who argue that is what she is doing, you are blinded by the light.

*Update-The voters are angry and their real problem is the austerity forced on them by Republican politics, and economic inequality.  Xenophobia, racism, nativism, and discrimination are just scapegoats used on the conservative side to off load the blame.  But thinking rational arguments will win the day is this environment is foolish.  But instead of the xenophobia, racism, nativism, and discrimination used by the other side, get angry about the economic inequality.  That is what Bernie did.  Pundits like to say his solutions were impractical in this political world.  Angry voters don’t care, they want to know you are fighting their fight.  So get angry Hillary about economic inequality and show you mean it.  Then Bernie will be trotting right behind you.  

Brexit – Two More Lessons for America

It was interesting to note that some Brits were having buyers remorse this morning about their vote for leaving the EU.  They are the “protest votes”.  There is a lesson here for Americans besides getting out the vote that I noted in my last blog, and especially for the Bernie voters who might vote 3rd Party or not at all in protest.  Unless a 3rd Party has more than a third of the polls, you are making a selection between the two likely candidates, albeit implicitly, in this case for Hillary or the Donald.  We only have two choices here and that is what the system that we all believe in delivered.  So make it.  But to throw away your vote, if it is a protest vote, on a 3rd party is, well, stupid, and you will, like the Nader voters, quite possibly elect the worst choice. See Third Parties.

The other critical lesson has to do with Bernie Sanders staying in the race.  What we are seeing in Britain I think is anger at the EU not being responsible and flexible to change.  The result is that the economy in Britain is lagging (mostly due to austerity economics).  This is partly the fault of the EU and their ham handed policies, but also demagoguing by the right-wing to be afraid of immigrants who will take your job.

Sound familiar?  There has been a revolt on both the Republican and Democratic side with establishment politics.  The Republicans went the way of Brexit and right-wing politics.  The Democrats got Bernie and more explicit social democracy (we already live in a social democracy (Medicare, Social Security, aid to education, Medicaid, etc.) which the Republicans want to kill).

The point here is that there is also unrest in our own country about the lagging economy whether you blame it on banks, economic inequality, or immigrants.  Hillary has won the Democratic nomination and the fear among many Democrats is that Bernie and his followers could just be that bump in the road that gets Donald Trump over the hump to the presidency.  So they want him to withdraw, endorse Hillary, and become fawning to persuade his followers to get behind her.  Here is an example this morning from Andrew Rosenthal in the NYT:

But it’s really past time for Sanders to put an end to his candidacy. In Santa Monica, he said, “the American people, in my view, will never support a candidate whose major theme is bigotry.”

One way for him to help make sure that doesn’t happen is to put his abundant skills as a candidate behind a presumptive Democratic nominee who is less adept at campaigning.

It’s not enough for Sanders to point out that voting for Trump is voting for bigotry. He needs to make it clear to his voters that they need to show up on Election Day, because staying home is like voting for Trump

That would be a tragic mistake because it ignores what voters in both parties are telling elected establishment officials.  You are failing us.  If he were to do that, it says Bernie caved and now it is back to establishment Democratic leadership* that they were revolting from.  Bernie’s slow move to Hillary is calculated to make Hillary slowly move to Bernie so that his voters still have something to believe in and move Hillary off of establishment economics and understand the real battle is economic inequality that can only be addressed by reinventing our economic system. Bernie put it this way:

“It doesn’t appear that I’m going to be the nominee, so I’m not going to be determining the scope of the convention,” Mr. Sanders said, adding that he has reached no agreement to endorse Mrs. Clinton but has been negotiating with her campaign. “What our job is now is to have her listen to what millions of people in this country who supported me want to see happen. We’ll see how that evolves.

She has clearly had to fight her way through a lot of sexism and unfair attacks over the years,” he said. “But there are areas where we have strong disagreements. She is more or less an establishment Democrat. It’s kind of hard to deny that. And I think we’ve got to move beyond that.”

There is no question she is a great candidate and is highly qualified to do the job, and leans to Progressive ideas.  There is no question that Bernie supports her as he said he would vote for her. But that is not enough any more and that is what Brexit, Bernie, and the Donald should be telling establishment politicians.  Government as we have it does not work for the Middle Class.  Hillary is going to have to show she understands this before Bernie can stand with her and raise her hand.  Otherwise it just looks like another cave in and many will just despair of the whole system.  That is why the Bernie loves Hillary nonsense from Hillary supporters and  those terrified of Trump is, well, nonsense.  There has to be some there, there.  Young people loved Bernie because he was authentic.  You really think they are going to go dashing after Hillary if they sense a total capitulation?


Bernie Still In It

That is what the press is reporting this morning and all I could think of was, no duh.  Did they think a movement, a damn important movement, was just going  roll over and say go Hillary, bring on establishment Democratic thinking that has us slowly moving rightward?  No, of course he is not still running for President and if you listen carefully to what he said yesterday, and it was hard because the pundits cut away to explain it to us and they got it wrong, then you would know that he is bringing his movement to the convention, not to contest the presidency, but to contest policy.  That is what politics is supposed to be about.

If you listened to Bernie’s speech you know this election is not about who has the most practical policies which is what the pundit class has degenerated this Democratic election down to, but what is the real vision for going forward.  Many Democrats still think it is one of degree, that Bernie offers pie in the sky, while Hillary, the seasoned politician, offers pragmatic solutions.  If that is what you thought this was about, you missed the whole primary season.  The closest thing I can compare Bernie’s campaign to was an intervention.  Bernie came in and pointed out that while well meaning, what we were doing has been counter productive. See the Baseline Scenario for the best documented look at where the country has gone.

In his speech last night he gave us this, that should be a wakeup call:

This campaign has never been about any single candidate. It is always about transforming America.

It is about ending a campaign finance system which is corrupt and allows billionaires to buy elections.

It is about ending the grotesque level of wealth and income inequality that we are experiencing where almost all new wealth and income goes to the people on top, where the 20 wealthiest people own more wealth than the bottom 150 million.

It is about creating an economy that works for all of us, not just the 1 percent.

It is about ending the disgrace of native Americans who live on the Pine Ridge, South Dakota, reservation having a life expectancy lower than many third-world countries.

It is about ending the incredible despair that exists in many parts of this country where – as a result of unemployment and low wages, suicide, drugs and alcohol – millions of Americans are now dying, in an ahistorical way, at a younger age than their parents.

It is about ending the disgrace of having the highest level of childhood poverty of almost any major country on earth and having public school systems in inner cities that are totally failing our children – where kids now stand a greater chance of ending up in jail than ending up with a college degree.

It is about ending the disgrace that millions of undocumented people in this country continue to live in fear and are exploited every day on their jobs because they have no legal rights.

It is about ending the incredible despair that exists in many parts of this country where – as a result of unemployment and low wages, suicide, drugs and alcohol – millions of Americans are now dying, in an ahistorical way, at a younger age than their parents.

It is about ending the disgrace of having the highest level of childhood poverty of almost any major country on earth and having public school systems in inner cities that are totally failing our children – where kids now stand a greater chance of ending up in jail than ending up with a college degree.

It is about ending the disgrace that millions of undocumented people in this country continue to live in fear and are exploited every day on their jobs because they have no legal rights.

It is about ending the disgrace of tens of thousands of Americans dying every year from preventable deaths because they either lack health insurance, have high deductibles or cannot afford the outrageously high cost of the prescription drugs they need.

It is about ending the disgrace of hundreds of thousands of bright young people unable to go to college because their families are poor or working class, while millions more struggle with suffocating levels of student debt.

It is about ending the pain of a young single mother in Nevada, in tears, telling me that she doesn’t know how she and her daughter can make it on $10.45 an hour. And the reality that today millions of our fellow Americans are working at starvation wages.

It is about ending the disgrace of a mother in Flint, Michigan, telling me what has happened to the intellectual development of her child as a result of lead in the water in that city, of many thousands of homes in California and other communities unable to drink the polluted water that comes out of their faucets.

In America. In the year 2016. In a nation whose infrastructure is crumbling before our eyes.

It is about ending the disgrace that too many veterans still sleep out on the streets, that homelessness is increasing and that tens of millions of Americans, because of a lack of affordable housing, are paying 40, 50 percent or more of their limited incomes to put a roof over their heads.

It is about ending the disgrace that, in a given year, corporations making billions in profit avoid paying a nickel in taxes because they stash their money in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens.

That’s quite a litany that we like to ignore, but there it is.  How did this happen?  As David Byrne of the Talking Heads used to sing in Once in a Lifetime*, “How did I get here?”  The Democratic strategy seems to be to elect a President as a firewall to Republican regression as James Kwak pointed out in his Baseline Scenario.  And here is Bernie pointing out how that has worked for us:

Most importantly, the Democratic Party needs leadership which is prepared to open its doors and welcome into its ranks working people and young people. That is the energy that we need to transform the Democratic Party, take on the special interests and transform our country.

Here is a cold, hard fact that must be addressed. Since 2009, some 900 legislative seats have been lost to Republicans in state after state throughout this country. In fact, the Republican Party now controls 31 state legislatures and controls both the governors’ mansions and statehouses in 23 states. That is unacceptable.

Now one may argue that Hillary will fight for these things too, but the message being sent strongly by young People in America is that the Democratic Party has not represented them in an effectual way.  That is the message of Election 2016 in both parties.  Government is not working and the fear is electing Hillary to be practical and get what can be got is doing the same thing we have been doing and expecting a different result.  Who again said that was the very definition of lunacy?  Note, as Bernie documented in his speech, that in virtually every state he won the majority of voters 45 years of age and under**.  The Democrats are being given a very strong message about their direction and I am not sure they heard it.  Well Senator Murphy heard it when he took to the Senate floor to expose the Republicans, but can the rest take a hint?

No pundits, Bernie is done with the Presidency, but his campaign for changing America and establishment politics has just begun and that is what he is taking to the convention.  Establishment Democrats better learn to embrace him or be pushed aside, because that is what will save the Democratic Party.  And make no mistake, while the Republicans elected a fascist moron to be their candidate, they are also responding to politics that were not working for their base, albeit a very misinformed and misled base.  America is at a real fork in the road.  The Donald will get slaughtered in the General Election, but if Democrats don’t take charge and really fight for change, draw lines, and be seen as fighting for working people, election 2020 is going to be even more chaotic with more extreme candidates.

I will leave you with Bernie’s closing words:

Let me conclude by once again thanking everyone who has helped in this campaign in one way or another. We have begun the long and arduous process of transforming America, a fight that will continue tomorrow, next week, next year and into the future.

My hope is that when future historians look back and describe how our country moved forward into reversing the drift toward oligarchy, and created a government which represents all the people and not just the few, they will note that, to a significant degree, that effort began with the political revolution of 2016.

My hope too Bernie.

*And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself, well how did I get here?

Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
Into the blue again after the money’s gone
Once in a lifetime, water flowing underground
Same as it ever was…
Same as it ever was…
Same as it ever was…
And they say music from my time is old fashioned or irrelevant…
**”And something else extraordinarily important happened in this campaign that makes me very optimistic about the future of our country – something that, frankly, I had not anticipated. In virtually every state that we contested we won the overwhelming majority of the votes of people 45 years of age or younger, sometimes, may I say, by huge numbers. These are the people who are determined to shape the future of this country. These are the people who ARE the future of this country.”