Category Archives: primary elections

Sanders to Lead Ideological Fight against Corporate Politics at Democratic Convention


As the July Democratic convention gets closer, the party establishment is mounting pressure on Bernie Sanders to step down and give Hillary Clinton an uncontested path to the presidential nomination. They have been abetted by their allies in the corporate press who until recently have ignored the Vermont senator’s campaign, but now breathlessly repeat uncorroborated allegations of violence by Sanders’ supporters at the Nevada convention.

Media scholar Robert McChesney pointed out: “We had all this reporting about purported threats and violence in Nevada, but it was all based on basically taking at face value the words of one side and dismissing the words of the other side.” After a contested voice vote on convention rules, Sanders delegates had reacted to what they saw as a blatant maneuver to advantage Clinton. The claims of violence were based on a Clinton supporter’s now discredited report that chairs had been thrown at the platform.

What’s really going on is that the establishment elite are using their positions of influence – as they have since the start of the primary election campaign – to rig the process on behalf of their nominee, none more blatantly than DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schulz, who has consistently manipulated the campaign in favor of her preferred candidate, including the appointment of fierce Clinton partisans as leaders of important convention committees. That is why Sanders has said he will not support her primary campaign this year, and if he were president would not re-appoint her.

However, elite control of the two-party system has been destabilized by Donald Trump’s presumptive nomination for the Republicans. Glen Ford of the Black Agenda Report comments: “What Donald Trump has done is to strip the Republican Party down to its white supremacist identity, and in the process he’s discarded much of the corporate and the Wall Street and the global militarist platforms of the old party. … The two-party duopoly, with Trump now leading the Republican Party, would now have only one reliable corporate collaborator, and that would be Hillary Clinton.” Corporate and financial interests would prefer to be assured of Clinton’s easy nomination victory.

Sanders’ resolve to contest the Democratic convention threatens to obstruct such a victory when neither candidate has an absolute majority of primary votes. Robert Borosage of the Campaign for America’s Future advises Clinton to take Sanders on board, if only to avoid a major conflict: “The Clinton team is intent on putting on a tightly scripted convention show that displays unity behind Clinton and focuses the attack on presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump. … Shutting Sanders out, however, would be the height of folly. He’ll come to the convention with more votes, more primary victories and a greater number of delegates  — more than 1,500 — than any insurgent Democratic candidate in decades.”

At the convention, the Washington Post reports, Sanders “plans an aggressive effort to extract platform concessions on key policies that could prompt divisive battles at a moment when front-runner Hillary Clinton will be trying to unify the party. Among other issues, he plans to push for a $15 national minimum wage and argue that the party needs a more balanced position regarding Israel and Palestinians … the issue of U.S. policy toward Israel — which a Sanders adviser said ‘absolutely, legitimately will be a point of conversation’ — has made some of Clinton’s backers nervous. Sanders is seeking a more ‘even-handed’ U.S. approach to Israeli occupation of land Palestinians claim for a future state.” Even a rhetorical acceptance of even-handedness in the Democratic party’s platform, in the context of the over-sized influence of the Israeli Likud party in Washington, has created political tremors.

Washington insider journal The Hill comments: “Sanders’s prime points of focus — the influence of money in the political system and the question of economic inequality — have become the animating issues at the center of the Democratic race. … ‘He has created a movement within the Democratic Party for people who feel they have been left out of the economic system, who feel that elites are in control and offer them no entry point into the system,’ said Hank Sheinkopf, a New York Democratic strategist who has worked for Clinton in the past.”

But this begs a larger question: what will happen to the Sanders movement after the convention? Some of his critics on the left are urging him to run as an independent; others propose he host his own convention outside the party. Campaign participants are engaging in an important discussion about how the movement can achieve an organizational expression without liquidating into the Democratic party.

According to Seattle socialist Kshama Sawant, Sanders should run for the Green party, and if he endorses Clinton he becomes an impediment to progressive politics. She says the election campaign has shown “a tremendous fundamental shift in American consciousness, and that is an anger against corporate politics and a desire to fight against the establishment. … if we are looking for a real strategy to break working people away from Trump, then what we have to do is present a real alternative.” A group of Sanders’ campaign volunteers also argue against intervening in the convention, saying he should quit the race after the June California primary and build an independent organization aimed at defeating Donald Trump, or, as they put it, “single-mindedly devote itself to educating Americans about the threat of right wing (some say fascist) takeover and the task of identifying and mobilizing voters to defend our democracy in November 2016 and beyond.”

However, running outside the Democratic party risks Sanders isolating himself from the anti-Trump movement in the African and Latino American communities, who are likely to mobilize in a big way to vote for the Democratic candidate. As an African American voter in Baltimore said: “Sanders is not the only option. The other option is ‘down with Trump’.” Rocío Sáenz of the Service Employees International Union, which is part of a coalition that has helped thousands of Latinos apply for citizenship in more than 300 “naturalization workshops” around the country, told the Guardian: “There is a sense of urgency as a result of the hateful rhetoric about mass deportations, building walls, calling us criminals – this is personal for us.”

Sanders has already mobilized a sophisticated political network with more than 400,000 volunteers. In These Times reports that “autonomous grassroots organizations began campaigning for Sanders months before his campaign established any official presence on the ground. … Now, those organizations are beginning to build coalitions with labor, socialist parties and progressive groups to set a post-election agenda for the political revolution.”

While some campaigners question whether to continue participating in electoral politics, the focus of much grassroots organizing still includes influencing the platform of the Democratic party. The report continues: “National Nurses United, which endorsed Sanders, is organizing a People’s Summit on June 17 in Chicago, while the People’s Revolution, a group founded by former Occupy organizers, is hosting a People’s Convention in Philadelphia two days before the Democratic National Convention in July. … At the People’s Convention, the group plans to develop and ratify a People’s Platform to present to the Democratic National Convention and set an agenda for the broader movement.”

These intense discussions create the possibility of consolidating a movement inside and outside the Democratic party to combat the corporate takeover of politics and reclaim the party for the people. But it won’t happen without a major ideological battle at the party convention.

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Filed under 2016 Election, Bernie Sanders, Democratic Party, Democratic primaries, Hillary Clinton, Israel, primary elections, Uncategorized

Why It Is a Mistake for Bernie to Run as an Independent


Now that it’s clear that Hillary Clinton will get the Democratic party presidential nomination after she won four out of five states in last Tuesday’s primary elections, Seattle city councilwoman Kshama Sawant of Socialist Alternative and Jill Stein of the Green party have started an online petition, #Movement4Bernie, to persuade Sanders to run as an independent, or as a candidate for the Green party.

But this puts a symbolic ideological gesture above the social movement that has supported him. Sanders’s supporters, especially millennial youth, come from within the liberal-labor coalition that has traditionally voted Democratic. There is no social basis for an alternative party of the left at the present time, and there’s no sign that voters are prepared to break from the Democrats, even if some of Sanders’ supporters have said they will not vote for Clinton.

Citing a recent Harvard Institute of Politics poll, Josh Marshall notes: “Millennials aren’t just liberal. They’re getting more liberal. And rather than being liberal on policy issues but alienated from the Democratic party, they’re actually become significantly more identified with the Democratic party during this primary process. Are they wild about Hillary Clinton? No, they’re not. But in a general election context, liberal political views and the importance of the Democrats winning the 2016 election seems to more than offset that disaffection.”

It’s important that Sanders doesn’t isolate himself from the movement against Trump. The major concern for the majority of Americans – especially Latino and African American communities – is to defeat Trump, which means voting for whoever the Democratic candidate might be. This is one reason why Clinton won the African American vote in the primaries, since she was considered pragmatically as the best chance of keeping Trump out.

The intensity of the protests at the mogul’s rallies as he gets closer to the Republican nomination reveals the anxieties in these communities. On Friday, protesters blocked access to the venue for the California Republican convention in San Francisco and forced Trump to leave his vehicle and cross a highway to get to the hotel. Hundreds of protesters tried to storm the hotel, many of them high school and college students from local schools.

The Guardian’s Julia Carrie Wong spoke to Silvia Yoc, a 19-year-old student at College of San Mateo, who said she was protesting to “show support for the Latino community and our parents who came here to give us a better life”. Yoc, who was born in Guatemala, said Trump has inspired “a lot of fear in our community”.

The previous day, Trump spoke to a mostly white audience at the Orange County Fairgrounds and blamed illegal immigrants for a spike in violent crime. According to the Guardian, “a crowd of largely Latino but also white and African American demonstrators shouted and chanted slogans before the event, then returned as it drew to a close. Hundreds of people formed human barricades on an approach road to a nearby freeway, blocked the Fairgrounds exits, and waved banners that said ‘Build a Wall Around Trump’ and ‘Dump the Trump’. Police appeared to be caught out by the protesters and had to call in reinforcements to separate them from the Trump supporters flooding into a large parking lot after the rally.”

The LA Times reported: ” ‘I’m protesting because I want equal rights for everybody, and I want peaceful protest,’ said 19-year-old Daniel Lujan, one of hundreds in a crowd that appeared to be mostly Latinos in their late teens and 20s. … ‘This is the anger people have against Trump,’ said Jose Cruz, 21, as he pointed to the protesters running in the middle of the street. ‘It’s not because he’s white – it’s because of what he’s said.’ Several echoed the comments, saying they were drawn to the streets to counter Trump’s stated policies on immigration and his inflammatory remarks about Mexicans.”

Sanders declared that he will campaign until the Democratic convention so as to get the widest possible audience for his message, and is pressing to get a tangible commitment to a more left platform. “We are in this campaign to win, but if we do not win, we intend to win every delegate we can, so that when we go to Philadelphia in July we are going to have the votes to put together the strongest progressive agenda that any political party has ever seen,” he told a student audience in Indiana.

The Washington Post comments: “He’s hoping for signs of genuine commitment to priorities like debt free college and a $15 minimum wage, and to reforms to the nomination process that might maximize participation among the sort of young, unaffiliated Sanders voters who were excluded from the New York primary.”

Jim Hightower argues that Sanders has already won control of the political narrative. “Sanders’ vivid populist vision, unabashed idealism and big ideas for restoring America to its own people have jerked the presidential debate out of the hands of status quo corporatists, revitalized the class consciousness and relevance of the Democratic Party, energized millions of young people to get involved, and proven to the Democratic establishment that they don’t have to sell out to big corporate donors to raise the money they need to run for office.” As Sanders said recently, “When people respond by the millions to your message, then that message is now mainstream. That changes political reality.”

The break from the political establishment that Sanders’ campaign represented lies in his validation of a return to a New Deal consensus. Noam Chomsky points out that Sanders’ policies are “quite strongly supported by the general public, and have been for a long time. That’s true on taxes. It’s true on healthcare. So, take, say, healthcare. His proposal for a national healthcare system, meaning the kind of system that just about every other developed country has, at half the per capita cost of the United States and comparable or better outcomes, that’s considered very radical. But it’s been the position of the majority of the American population for a long time. So, you go back, say, … to the Reagan years, about 70 percent of the population thought that national healthcare should be in the Constitution, because it’s such an obvious right.”

Even more significant is the organizing thrust among his supporters to continue the campaign’s momentum. After the party’s primaries are over, activists plan a June summit in Chicago to enhance the campaigns for a $15 minimum wage, for a tax on Wall Street speculation to fund human needs and jobs, improved Medicare for All, the fight for free and debt-free higher education, secure retirement through expanding social security, ending HIV/AIDS, achieving Constitutional pay equity for women, and ending deportations and support for DREAMers, among other issues. Speakers include Dr. Cornel West, Naomi Klein, and Roseann Demoro of the National Nurses Union.

As Juan Cole comments: “Clinton will continue to need the left wing of the Democratic Party as she campaigns through Nov. 4. The trick for the left will be to find ways of tying her down and making sure she can’t swing back to the center-right of the party after the July convention.”

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Filed under 2016 Election, Bernie Sanders, Democratic primaries, donald trump, Fight for 15, Hillary Clinton, latino americans, primary elections, Uncategorized

Chicago and St. Louis Protesters Make Trump’s Nativist Gamble a Losing One in Post-Obama America


chicago-protester

A protester at Trump’s cancelled Chicago rally last Friday

Donald Trump’s inflammatory attacks on immigrants and his incitement of violence against protesters have unleashed social forces that have changed the dynamic of the presidential primary campaign. The cancellation of his Chicago rally on Friday concedes the fact that the groups he is trying to demonize are by no means cowed by his demagogy or by the threats of his supporters, who are prepared to physically intimidate protesters. But by becoming a lightning-rod for white racism, he has created a nativist movement that will only get worse as his campaign continues.  On the Democratic side, the reaction to the Chicago rally has differentiated Clinton and Sanders more clearly than any number of debates on policies.

The energized resistance among nonwhite and immigrant groups who have become active politically to oppose his campaign is an extension of the social coalition that elected Obama. After eight years of a black president, nonwhite citizens feel empowered and enfranchised unlike any other period in American history. These undaunted protesters carry forward the hard-fought victories of the Civil Rights movement, which will have an impact long after Obama’s presidency ends, and will shape the future of American politics for decades to come.

Trump’s rhetoric backfired spectacularly on him when his planned Chicago event was cancelled minutes before it was due to start, once it became clear that protesters made up a large section of the audience.  The New York Times reported: “Hundreds of protesters, who had promised to be a visible presence here and filled several sections of the arena, let out an elated, unstopping cheer. Mr. Trump’s supporters, many of whom had waited hours to see the Republican front-runner, seemed stunned and slowly filed out in anger.” There were a few scuffles with frustrated Trump supporters as they left a car park, but security concerns were said to be over-rated and police denied there was any problem controlling the crowd.

Before the rally was cancelled, a war of words between Trump supporters and protesters had created a highly-charged atmosphere inside the venue, but the altercations remained non-violent even though the event had been provocatively staged at “a giant arena at a richly diverse university in the heart of deeply blue Chicago, guaranteeing he would have protesters and heavy media coverage,” according to the Washington Post. “The audience was the most diverse to ever gather for a Trump rally, a rainbow of skin tones with at least a dozen young women wearing hijabs and a few men in turbans. The crowd was mostly high school and college students from the area, along with a number of local activists and a number of different organization efforts.”

In past events, Trump has publicly attacked protesters, inciting physical violence against them. In Cedar Woods, Iowa, he encouraged his supporters to “knock the crap out of them,” promising to pay for any legal fees, and at one event in North Carolina, a supporter punched a black protester in the face as he was being led out of a rally by police. The man told CNN: “Yes, he deserved it. The next time we see him, we might have to kill him. We don’t know who he is. He might be with a terrorist organization.” The attacker was later charged with assault, disorderly conduct and communicating threats.

Earlier on Friday in St. Louis, Missouri, Trump was visibly frustrated by a group of demonstrators who shut down his rally for a full ten minutes. “The protest, a coordinated effort involving an estimated 40-50 activists, began with the coordinated drop of a large banner from the balcony of the Opera House. One said, ‘Caution, racism lives here’ and the other said ‘Stop the hate.’ The protest also included about 10-15 people on the lower level ripping off their shirts to reveal T-shirts they’d been wearing underneath with anti-Trump slogans.”

Hundreds of people had gathered around the Peabody opera house in downtown St. Louis, many not able to get into the over-capacity venue while others were there to protest. Videos posted to social media showed Trump supporters hurling racial slurs and anti-Islamic remarks at protesters and reporters, but after the event a few dozen people lingered and engaged in a series of loud but civil debates.

The Guardian’s Sarah Kendzior reported: “St Louis is as beset with racial strife as it was during the Ferguson protests, and both outside and inside the Peabody, veterans of those protests had returned to take on Trump. Protesters held signs and chanted slogans as the crowd angrily claimed them as targets. Trump fans screamed racial slurs, including the N-word, at the protesters of many races and backgrounds. Mothers and fathers put their children aside to get in fistfights with activists, and fellow Trump fans cheered them on. Several Trump fans vowed that the next time, they would come armed. Some warned that if Trump was not chosen by Republicans, a militia would rise up to take him to power.”

Hillary Clinton essentially accepted Trump’s own spin on the events by blaming political division rather than Trump’s inflammatory role. In a statement issued early Saturday morning she condemned “divisive rhetoric” in general without mentioning Trump by name. She then bizarrely referred to Dylan Roof’s shooting of nine African American churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina. “The families of those victims came together and melted hearts in the statehouse and the Confederate flag came down,” Clinton said. “That should be the model we strive for to overcome painful divisions in our country.” Princeton professor Eddie S. Glaude Jr. criticized Clinton’s response as “more concerned about the fact that protesters fought back than with the racism and nativism of Trump’s rallies.”

Later Saturday morning she called Trump an “arsonist,” but then equated the anger of Trump’s followers with the protesters, marking her as a true member of the establishment. “I know it’s no secret there are people angry on the left, on the right,” she said. “But I believe with all my heart the only way to fix what’s broken is to stand together against the forces of division and discrimination that are trying to divide America between us and them.”

Sanders, by contrast, told supporters: “We’re not going to let Donald Trump or anyone else divide us.” The Chicago Tribune reported: “More than an hour after the Trump event was nixed, Sanders spoke to supporters in southwest suburban Summit. Sanders … said he would defeat the Republican in the general election ‘because the American people are not going to accept a president who insults Mexicans, who insults Muslims’.”

In a statement released the following day, Sanders wrote: “Obviously, while I appreciate that we had supporters at Trump’s rally in Chicago, our campaign did not organize the protests. What caused the protests at Trump’s rally is a candidate that has promoted hatred and division against Latinos, Muslims, women, and people with disabilities, and his birther attacks against the legitimacy of President Obama. What caused the violence at Trump’s rally is a campaign whose words and actions have encouraged it on the part of his supporters.”

Sanders’ clarity is in line with the inclusive and egalitarian nature of his campaign. At a rally at George Mason University in Virginia, after a student named Remaz Abdelgader started questioning him about Islamophobia, Sanders invited her on the stage, gave her a hug, then allowed her to speak from the podium. Linda Sarsour, director of a Muslim online organizing platform, and co-founder of the New York Muslim Democratic Club, told Democracy Now that Sanders has “allowed Muslims to be surrogates and speak at a large rally with about 10,000 people. He’s been meeting with people from multiple segments of the Muslim community. He is making—he’s finally saying, ‘You’re part of this—our community. You’re part of our nation. I want to hear what you have to say.’ That’s all we’re asking for.”

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Filed under Bernie Sanders, chicago rally, donald trump, Ferguson protests, Hillary Clinton, muslims in america, primary elections, Uncategorized