Posted tagged ‘Bernie Sanders’

09.04.17 I’m 98% anti antifa

September 4, 2017

I almost giggled the first few times I heard that right-wingers were using terms like “extremist left” and “alt-left.” Of course, it wasn’t just the people every progressive could identify as right wingers doing this. Rather it was the New York Times and The Washington Post showing how not in thrall to the left they were. In pursuit of mainstream credibility, they were shy about refusing a platform to the GOPs anti-science freaks and pushed a general narrative of (false) equivalence: if the right was increasingly extreme, then surely the left was equally so.

All the while, anyone who paid attention knew that the lest vestiges of a violent left disappeared from the US in early ’70s.

I have my own extremist conspiracy theories and violent fantasies. I believed in the aughts (and still suspect) that if the corporate elite suspected elections might actually reform the system, elections would be canceled and tanks would roll in the streets. Obama’s election certainly didn’t disprove this: after all, Obama proved himself to be the ultimate Wall Streeter at the same time that he was among the worst civil liberties presidents in history (particularly in his full backing for the NSA).

I do think that armed revolution is probably the only way our political and economic systems could be pried completely from the grips of the selfish wealthy and their amen corner in hard-right churches across the country. Further, I think the “low information” nature of the United States is at least partly due to purposeful conspiracy on the right: the use of consumer baubles, cultural icons, and religion to create a dumbed down education system with TV as the opiate (now add opioids to that mix).

Yeah, 2% of me wants that armed revolution and would like to see all the corporate elite begging for food, while (by-then-former) GOP officials swing from trees.

But here’s a fundamental reason why I don’t embrace violence and revolution: what comes next?

This is the same reason why I have turned against the philosophically justified “responsibility to protect,” the international doctrine under which great powers like the United States have a duty to intervene to stop moral atrocities around the world. A quick survey of US international interventions – even those with some portion of noble intent – reveals that almost every single one has left things worse than they were before we got there. It is horrific to stand back while Assad and Putin slaughter millions. But if the US were to send in the Marines, would the bloodletting cease or would who is doing the slaughtering simply change for a time, with no reduction in carnage? And if we took the place over, how long would before our main purpose there became enriching General Dynamics and Apple?

So, you say you want a revolution (the classic Beatles song is going through my head)? It would be nice to see the bad guys dead or deposed. But do you really think the poor, women, and people of color would end up better off? At a very basic level, what if all the violence shut down those nasty coporations, which – until now – have been getting food from farms to tables all over the country and kept the water running? (Look at Venezuela! Yes, some poor are better off then under the oligarchs, but now there’s starvation on every corner and the health care system has collapsed.)

Or to get even more basic: When systems of order collapse, the power of the powerful becomes absolute.  I’m not a woman, but if I were, I might rather be out and about where there are imperfect institutions of order – even ones that abuse equal rights every day – than if the local strongman got to determine by himself whether I became his sex slave or made it home.

I hate unfettered capitalism. I hate institutionalized racism. I hate the Trump Regime. But, to replace them, there has to be a plan to replace them. There needs to be very careful thinking about the proverbial “day after” and it damn well better be better than the day before. Will there be a way to measure who has benefitted from violent overthrow and how the overall balance works out (in order to calculate whether the greatest possible good has been achieved for the greatest number of people)?

It may not be satisfying, but change within our deeply flawed system is the only means to try to help those who need it most to get at least something. Destroying the entire system at once means blood in the streets. Are you positive whose blood it will be?

As I have written, I believe the only chance to stop our current slide into fascism and dysfunctionality will be by electing folks who believe in democracy and will replace those who don’t. And it won’t – in our two-party system – be the Greens who get elected. It will be Democrats. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they are our only path to progress, however unsatisfying the pace may be.

In this complex world, we don’t get to choose exactly what we want. The unjust system might be overthrown and replaced by something even less just. I might elect Democrats and they might disgust me. But if the result they produce is less bad than that produced by the GOP, it is good.

And now it appears the violent left has sprung back to life. The Antifa’s black-hooded, club-wielding, anti-free-speech goons aren’t going to launch or “win” a revolution. What they are already doing is grabbing headlines from the Nazis, the KKK, and the racist GOP. Since Charlottesville, the word “antifa” is suddenly everywhere (are there now more mentions of it than there are of Confederate statues?). So far, the newspapers of record that are reporting breathlessly on the phenomenon are reminding us in some of this coverage that the crimes of the right are far worse. Who thinks that Fox and the Wall Street Journal are being so careful? And how long until the Times and the Post re-embrace false equivalence in all its glory, by sowing fear of the left to match fear of the right?

The Antifa is discrediting Bernie progressives and moderate liberals at the same time. Two-thousand-eighteen is around the corner. The forces of reaction are already making the TV ads that will capture the hearts of low-information voters everywhere.  You can bet those ads will be full of Berkeley fires and DC property damage. If the left draws a single drop of blood these coming months, it will be smeared across the living rooms of the nation. You will see the face of some moderate Democratic senator morph into that of a communist hoodlum and that Democrat could lose because if it, keeping Congress in GOP hands.

Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi proved the value and moral rightness of nonviolence. In the current US political environment, though, violence on the left is not only morally condemnable, it is just plain STUPID.

Progressives and the “liberals” they dislike so much need to stand up together NOW to denounce the Antifa. Like me, you may at times silently cheer the injuries inflicted on those who so richly deserve it. But what we must do publicly is to develop Democratic candidates and bench strength (including some Dems we don’t much love) and win some goddam elections. It may be mildly nauseating to join hands with Nancy Pelosi to condemn the (left) mob, but it’s what we have to do.

I am scared, though, that the Antifa cannot be crushed and holds too much righteous anger to collapse on its own. If that is true, woe unto us, for now we face enemies on both sides.

©2017 Keith Berner

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08.05.17 Twenty-twenty

August 5, 2017

The New York Times reports today that the GOP presidential campaign for 2020 is heating up. This is another delightful indication of Trump’s spreading toxicity among even the racists, theocrats, and corporate elites. Here’s hoping 2018 and 2020 bring all-out warfare in the GOP between the Trump and traditional wings of the party, leaving no one unbloodied.

Maryland state Delegate David Moon (D20) asked on Facebook the other day what people (i.e., progressives) think of Al Franken for president. There are a number of intriguing names being bandied about on the Democratic side, including: Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Deval Patrick, Elizabeth Warren, and more. (Apologies to anyone I’ve left out — this was off the top of my head.)

I feel no pressure to pick anyone for a long time. Here are my principles for that race: I am willing to support any Democrat who

  • is not a bigot or misogynist
  • is not a theocrat
  • supports First Amendment rights (that counts you out, John Delaney)
  • is pro-choice
  • CAN WIN!

Of course, I would prefer a candidate who isn’t in bed with Wall Street or in favor of bombing other countries. But we all need to make “CAN WIN” a litmus-test issue above most others, which also means we need to avoid all-out warfare between Clintonites and Berners. It will be a gazillion times better to have a Democratic president with whom we don’t agree on everything than to have any Republican in the White House.

©2018 Keith Berner

07.02.17 Purity or victory: What’s a progressive to wish for?

July 2, 2017

So much hand wringing in the Democratic Party, ever since Trump unexpectedly beat Hillary Clinton! The intensity of the anguish only increased after Democrat Jon Ossoff failed to beat Karen Handel in Newt Gingrich’s former Georgia district in June. This put the Dems’ record at 0 for 4 in special elections this year. The sky must be falling more rapidly than ever.

After last November, many argued that Democrats failed to capture the White House because they hadn’t run on a clear economically populist message. This view continues to hold sway despite subsequent polling showing that Clinton lost not on economics*, but on her own failures and how culturally alienated (not economically alienated) Trump voters were. (You can read “culturally alienated” here as racist; though other cultural memes such as guns and religion certainly played a part.)

Some commentators have jumped on this latter bandwagon, lecturing Dems that it’s time to give up on “identity politics” (the right wing’s term for giving a shit about minorities and women) and abortion rights. That is, if only Dems would sell their souls, they’d start winning: Without the Neanderthals on your side, you’re toast!

Leftier Democrats (including most Bernie Sanders supporters) buy the economic argument lock, stock, and barrel. The solution, in their view, is to go whole hog for single payer, more regulation, and higher taxes on the rich. Your blogger fits well within this policy camp, but, as we shall see, not wholly with the proposition that this approach is a panacea for electoral woes.

The first thing required of Democrats at this point is some perspective:

  • The Democrats didn’t lose the presidential election. Our candidate won the popular vote by over three million votes. She lost the electoral college by only 70,000 votes in three states. And, of course, she was a terrible candidate and a certain foreign power put a thumb on the scale against her.
  • Compared to previous results in the districts the Dems have lost this year, their totals have improved dramatically. All four special elections thus far have taken place in deep-red places. We should be encouraged by the results, rather than discouraged.

So, my proposition is that Democrats do not need to renounce social and racial justice, or even economic centrism, to win at the presidential level. I don’t believe, in fact, that die-hard racists – those who would rather give up their own health care before seeing any of “those people” get any – can be won over in any case.

Nonetheless, Democrats were wiped off the map across most of the country at the local and state level during the Obama years. As admirable as the former president is in many ways, he was a terrible politician – he paid no attention to the fate of the party and the party, for its part, utterly lacked integrity and competence. This has been and remains an unmitigated disaster for at least three reasons:

  • State office holders (legislatures and governors) create electoral districts. In our horribly flawed democracy, when the GOP controls those levers, it assures that Democrats can’t win at any level.
  • Local and state offices are the bench from which candidates for Congress (and the presidency) emerge. If you have few Democrats holding these offices, you’ll have fewer ready to run for Congress.
  • Losing begets losing: Local voters who only see Democrats as losers or as incompetent or as out of touch with their issues become accustomed to rejecting them.

A progressive neighbor of mine (almost all my neighbors are progressive) asked me to comment about abortion rights, in this context. This question gets to a struggle in most political parties: which is more important, purity or victory? The GOP has certainly struggled with this question and has answered it by booting all the moderates out of their party. This has not hurt them – yet – because our system is tilted in their favor (the built-in advantage for less-populated areas), because they already control most of the levels of power, and because of Democrat incompetence.

So, should Democrats accept anti-choice politicians (or gun nuts) as the price of winning?

Recently, Democrats who were never particularly comfortable with Bernie Sanders to start with, along with many progressive women (for obvious reasons), excoriated Sanders for assisting the mayoral campaign of an anti-choicer in Oklahoma City. This particular struggle has also played out in venues like January’s Women’s March, where anti-choice women’s groups were made personae non gratae.

Abortion rights, gay rights, immigration rights, and the importance of black lives are litmus test issues for me. But I’m here in Montgomery County, Maryland, where I will never be faced with a dilemma in choosing a Democrat over a Republican.

How about in Oklahoma City? Or the suburbs of Atlanta?

There is a moral dilemma. If we insist that our party be pure, we may be hurting a Democratic candidate who could win and do a lot of good for people who need it. Think that if a somewhat distasteful Democrat wins over an evil Republican: they may help lift more black folks out of poverty and devote more resources to the needs of single moms and their infants and the schools those kids will go to. Is it moral to, in effect, facilitate the victory of a Republican, who will help only the wealthy and, most likely, be even worse on social issues than the flawed Democrat?

I also think purity is bad strategy. Progressives cannot win the school board seats, the city halls, and the state legislatures everywhere with an identical message or set of priorities. And, we have to understand that the only thing that matters in January of a new Congress is the numbers of Ds (and Is aligned with them) vs. Rs. It’s the votes for Speaker of the House and Senate Majority Leader that determine everything that follows. There must be more Ds than Rs, even if I don’t love every single D.

We also have to be practical in our thinking: how much difference is the mayor of Oklahoma City going to make on reproductive freedom? He (it is a man) doesn’t have any authority on that issue and lives in a state where even a solid pro-choicer would have zero influence.

Another example worth considering is Joe Manchin, the Democratic – but rather right-wing – senator from West Virginia. He only votes with other Democrats about 60% of the time. He is wrong on guns and coal and numerous other issues. But, the key question is: if we “primary” him and beat him with a reliable progressive, can that progressive win in November?! Remember, Manchin is standing with Dems right now in opposing Trumpcare. And he will vote for a Democrat to lead the Senate in 2019.

(I’m not declaring absolute opposition to a race against Manchin. I am saying that this is not the no-brainer purist lefties may proclaim.)

Democrats in blue states and counties have a responsibility to move the party left. There should be no room in Montgomery County for Democrats who favor powerful, wealthy development interests. There should be no room in Maryland for Democratic state legislators (or governors) who support the bail bond or gambling industries or downplay racial injustice.

But, if we are to stop the GOP agenda and the party’s racist and xenophobic acolytes across the country, we have to beat them at the ballot box! Maybe if Dems were politically dominant right now, I would be fine with kicking out every Wall Streeter and abortion opponent. But protest marches and candlelight vigils are not going to take our country back. The only thing that can do that is winning elections. Towards that end, we need to temper the virulence of our internecine battles and tolerate some politicians we’d rather not. The Democratic Party must be a big tent.

So, to answer the neighbor who asked me to address this question: I can live with a mayor in Oklahoma City whom I disagree with completely on abortion. And I can live with a Joe Manchin in one of the most racist, Trump-friendly states in America. I feel this at the same time I feel it is past time to kick the right wing Dems out of Montgomery County and Maryland.

As a college football coach famously put it in 1950: “Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.” That needs to be progressives’ and Democrats’ mantra for at least the next few years.

*It was apparent that within days of the election that Trump voters, on average, were more wealthy than the rest of the country.

(c)2017 Keith Berner

02.04.17 I’m a Democrat

February 4, 2017

I have worked on more Democratic political campaigns than I can count (starting with George McGovern in 1972 – that’s a picture of me at age 12 in Time Magazine, 9/25/72*). I even served as a precinct captain for four years here in Takoma Park, MD. I quit that post in 2006 out of disgust with Maryland’s machine politics and the pro-corporate Dems on the national scene. Notwithstanding my anger at the party, I continued to vote almost exclusively for Democratic candidates, because what choice did I have? (The exceptions are when I have written in “Mickey Mouse” in races where the GOP had no chance.)

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Since 2006, I have called myself “anti-Republican,” rather than “Democrat.”

It’s 2017, that luxury is gone. All the fantasizing by Greens about a third-party’s route to salvation are out of touch with the reality of our rigid two-party system. Lefty calls for a political revolution to overthrow Wall Street Democrats may be noble, but may also be distracting us from our one and only task at hand: winning!

For those new to this blog, let me specify: I’m from the Bernie end of the spectrum. If I could, I’d kick the private sector out of all public services (starting with health care!), ban all guns, remove religion from the public square, confiscate excess wealth, and oppose US hypocrisy in foreign policy.

But, to insist on purity is to condemn the left (all of it) to minority status, on school boards, city councils, and statehouses across the country. I will henceforth call myself a Democrat and do whatever I can to help beat the GOP everywhere.  This will mean sometimes prioritizing a big tent over trying to topple elected officials who don’t always vote the way I want.

Yes, we should have internal debates in the party. Yes, we should support primary challenges to “bad” Democrats, but only when such challenges are not going to bite us in the ass that November.

It is the job of all people even moderately left of center in this country — just as it is the job of the most embittered Bernie (and Hillary) supporters – to elevate victory as a principle over purity.

The one thing Democrats can no longer tolerate: an incompetent party that rests on laurels, comforts itself in its own moral rectitude, and cedes the entire political system to the far right (which is now the only right in this country).

The Democratic Party, love it or not, is the only vehicle to take our country back. Get on board or get out of the way!

*That issue featured All in the Family and Sanford & Sons on the cover, under the headline “Toppling Old Taboos.” The bumper sticker I was holding at the rally in the old Cleveland Arena read “Nixon Bugs Me, Too!”

©2017 Keith Berner

01.16.17 Bernie and Hillary supporters go for the jugular

January 16, 2017

I endorsed and contributed to Bernie Sanders’s campaign (twice). When it was apparent (after the New York primary) that he had no path to victory in the primaries, I endorsed and contributed to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. I have Facebook friends on both sides who apparently believe that trashing the other candidate and their supporters is more important than stopping the GOP/Trump agenda.

From a Bernie supporter on Christmas day:

All right, Planned Parenthood, you gave us Hillary Clinton, and that gave us Donald Trump. And now you want our help? Why shouldn’t we put our efforts into starting a truly progressive health care organization?

He and his respective bitter losers have been screaming for weeks about how Bernie would have been a “certain” winner against Trump. There are some smart, highly logical people in this group, who are so blinded by their ideology that they can’t see the error in conflating hindsight with prediction. (And who thinks it would be a good idea for some disgruntled boys to found a service in place of PP? Is it ok to throw women under the bus while they try to grow their little fantasy into an international movement?)

Oh yeah, this same person denounced Bernie himself, when Bernie got behind Clinton at the convention.

Today, a gang of Hillary freaks used a Slate article in praise of John Lewis (who recently called Trump’s presidency illegitimate) to launch more than 80 comments attacking not Donald Trump, but (you guessed it): Bernie Sanders. (The person who posted – a friend of my friend — did so with the comment “Don’t get me started on that asshole Sanders.”) In the face of James Comey, Russian hacking, Clinton campaign mistakes, Clinton’s horrific mishandling of the email scandal, they blame (you guessed it again) Bernie Sanders for delivering Trump to the White House.

My friend commented on that post by declaring that Bernie Sanders didn’t mention Hillary’s name often enough as he campaigned hard for her in the fall. Geez, if only Bernie had said, “Hillary, Hillary, Hillary,” she’d be president, right? I wrote back to him, denouncing this destructive movement and calling for unity.

In both cases, these individual “friends” of mine took the 5-10% of the national agenda I disagreed with them on to denounce me in harsh, personal and political terms. The Bernie supporter called me a “right-winger” who was “trying to destroy [his] world” when I switched my loyalty to Hillary last spring. The Hillary supporter has accused me of “being enamored of [my] own intellect.” Both leveled these insults publicly.

It’s awful political news for all of us that these people won’t stop fighting with each other and that both consider me (and Planned Parenthood and John Lewis) the enemy. Fighting the last battle assures a loss in the next war!

It’s horrific personal news, when these fanatics are so rigid that they throw a friend overboard over a partial disagreement.

A pox on both their houses. Democrats will have to build a big tent and win without them. As for me, my life will be happier with friends who don’t insult me when I disagree with them.

©2017 Keith Berner

10.22.16 Voting for Hillary Clinton in “Safe” Maryland

October 22, 2016

I’m proud that Maryland is in the top three bluest states in the country (Hawaii is first and Vermont and Maryland are neck and neck). This means that any individual progressive (or wing-nut) can cast a protest vote in Maryland and not put our 10 electoral votes in play. In fact, when I switched my presidential endorsement from Bernie Sanders to Hillary Clinton in May, I wanted her to beat Donald Trump nationally, but still planned to write in Sanders as a protest vote in November.

So, what changed for me?

This election stopped being about one candidate or one party vs. another. Trump’s campaign has ended up making it a referendum on bigotry, misogyny, xenophobia, and – finally – democracy itself.

In this new light, it is essential to decimate the forces of darkness – not only Trump himself, but the legions of “deplorables”* behind him and the GOP elite that sowed these bitter seeds for decades and will not denounce evil when it is in their midst.

We must each stand up – in public and in the voting booth – to declare our opposition to hate and our love for democracy.** It is not enough to achieve an electoral-vote landslide on November 8. No, we must drive up the popular total everywhere – in swing states, as well in deep-blue and deep-red ones. The moral outcome of this election must be overwhelming. To vote for Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, or a write-in candidate, as our democracy is under assault, is an abdication of responsibility, a retreat from the real world of nuance and hard choices.

Which side are you on? You may not abstain (or meekly protest, which is a form of abstention) in the face of evil.

*Hillary Clinton was an idiot to have publicly called Trump supporters “deplorable” in September, even though she was mostly correct in using the term. Yes, there are many angry, suffering people who have been neglected by the elites of both parties. Yes, at the very least, Democrats must address their needs (the GOP never will). Yes, poor education and pernicious TV have fostered ignorance that cannot solely be blamed on the individual. Just the same, citizens who welcome and propagate lies and embrace hate are deplorable. It is correct to denounce them and the party that mobilized them.

**Our democracy is flawed. But a flawed democracy does not equal zero democracy – the difference is profound. The need-to-be-improved good should never be set against the impossible perfect. Fight to improve our democracy, but do not allow it be stolen from us.

©2016 Keith Berner

07.27.16 Fox News right now (#foxalternaterelality)

July 27, 2016

Trump’s encouragement of Russian espionage and interference in the US presidential race is the top (or 2nd) story on: NYT, Washington Post, CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, NPR right now. It does not exist AT ALL on Fox News. (The top story there is about Bernie supporters defecting to Jill Stein [the Green Party candidate].) #foxalternaternatereality

While a number of GOP security hawks have abandoned Trump, the rest of the party will now suddenly forget its decades-long hostility to Russia and Putin. Apparently, nothing will interfere with their lust for power. (Trumps explicit racism certainly didn’t break their stride.) #GOPhypocrisy