Tag Archives: Democratic primaries

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

Waking Up to the Minority Vote, the New, Decisive Force in Post-Obama Politics


The South Carolina Democratic primary voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton as presidential candidate, by a margin of 50 percent over Bernie Sanders. Rather than analyzing the meaning of this vote, the media and the campaign professionals immediately turned to the candidates’ prospects on Super Tuesday, when a large number of states hold their primaries.

However, there are some important messages here which are obscured by a narrow focus on the political process. African Americans in South Carolina turned out in unprecedented numbers to participate in the primary – 6 out of 10 voters were black. And of those, 83 percent voted for Clinton. The Associated Press reported that in exit polls about 7 in 10 voters said they wanted the next president to continue Obama’s policies, indicating ideological agreement with Clinton’s strategy of building on his legacy.

The first thing to note is that the result should be seen as a class vote against the possibility of a Republican president. The relentless media reporting of Trump’s anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim propaganda, together with the pronounced right-wing rhetoric of the Republican debates, are perceived rightly as a threat to black workers. Trump has succeeded in making abundantly explicit the racist basis of the Republican party, empowering extreme white supremacists, and making the Republican brand anathema among minorities. This goes a long way to undermining the Republican strategy of delegitimizing Democratic presidents and may lose them the Senate.

African Americans voted pragmatically for what they saw as the best candidate to defeat a Republican, and specifically, Trump.  Janell Ross commented in the Washington Post: “Black voters in South Carolina cast 6 in every 10 Democratic primary votes, according to CNN’s exit poll data. That ratio is huge — and sets a record-high in South Carolina black voter participation rate. The previous high was 55 percent, set in 2008, when the first black president was on his way to being elected. … these are its outcomes when black voters are convinced of their ability and authority to fundamentally shape American democracy. It is a result that should begin to crush the popular and often repeated myth that black political behavior in 2008 and 2012 was nothing more than a blip, a fleeting kind of emotion-only engagement inspired by a singular and history-making black candidate.”

Second, although a number of prominent black intellectuals like Michelle Alexander and Cornel West are highly critical of the Clintons’ record of legislation in the 1990s that led to mass incarceration of African American men and the dismantling of poverty programs, that message hasn’t reached the black working class. The history that black people remember is the vilification of Bill Clinton by the Republican Congress over the Monica Lewinsky affair, and, as Toni Morrison indicated by calling him the “first black president,” identified with his being hounded by the establishment.

Third, most black workers get their politics from their local churches and mainstream Democratic party leadership. And that was pro-Clinton and anti-Sanders. “A host of well-known, influential and well-connected black elected officials and leaders of civic and religious institutions have made their support for Clinton quite clear. And they have done everything possible to identify themselves as people opposed to a Sanders candidacy. … And, almost as if to say that the shooting death of an unarmed black person is the modern uber-black experience, the Clinton campaign has collected endorsements from several grieving black relatives. The mother of Trayvon Martin has even stumped for Clinton and explained her pro-Clinton voting rather logically in some detail. … Clinton [frames] issues like childcare and the gender wage gap, voting rights and criminal justice and gun policy reforms in ways that make their importance to black voters clear.”

Her political positioning as a champion of African American workers was prefigured in the Nevada primary. Clinton’s victory there was mainly due to the votes of casino workers in Las Vegas, who thanks to the efforts of Nevada senator Harry Reid were given time and opportunity to caucus at their places of work. In These Times contributor Steven Rosenfeld reported from one of the casinos: “Calvin Brooks, a Louisiana native, has been a bellman for 19 years in this hotel. Speaking slowly and deliberately, he explained why Clinton was his choice. ‘This is a union state. This is a union city. The president that we need today is somebody that will stand with us, to keep us together as a whole,’ he said. ‘My mind is made up for Hillary, someone who has been in the White House, not around it’.” Erlinda Falconer, an African-American women and blackjack dealer at the casino for 18 years, told Rosenfeld: “The majority of us realize how serious this election is and the impact it will have on our country and state. This is very, very important. There’s a lot on the line This isn’t a popularity contest. This is trying to get back on track.”

While earlier in the campaign Sanders took on board the criticisms of Black Lives Matter activists, he was too late to the party. Radicalized black youth may have challenged Clinton over her role in the 1990s, but they haven’t influenced the older majority. On Wednesday she was confronted at a fundraiser in Charleston by Ashley Williams, a Black Lives Matter protester, who demanded she apologize for the consequences of her husband’s 1994 crime bill and for having called black youth “super-predators” in a 1996 speech on crime.

Moreover, white progressives have difficulty dealing with race. Sanders’ attempt to reduce racial issues to economics are in line with his social-democratic outlook. But this perspective is inadequate to deal with the complex interrelations of class and race in America. The Washington Post commented: “Clinton doesn’t shy away from race. Sanders talks about race, too, of course. But he seems to do so at a remove, and his attempts to make a convincing link between his economic message and race continue to fall short. … Clinton openly talks about the necessary role that whites must play in healing and bridging the racial divide.” This has resonated with African Americans who resent being told that they are responsible for dealing with white resistance to acknowledging the role of slavery and the defeat of Reconstruction in American society.

Whoever wins the nomination and presidency, the social, cultural and demographic changes in the US are asserting themselves in the elections. The narrative of an “anti-establishment” vote is being superseded by a class consciousness that empowers African American and Latino voters. The realities of class struggle in America today require tackling racism head-on, something that the left has not attempted since the 1930s when the American Communist party sent members into the South to organize black and white workers into unions, risking their lives in the process.

Rather than tying the fortunes of the left to Sanders’ coat-tails, it needs to address the movements that have built up around this election and build an inclusive and pluralist movement that takes the heritage of the Occupy movement into new territory.

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Filed under 2016 Election, African Americans, Bernie Sanders, Democratic primaries, donald trump, Hillary Clinton, Obama, occupy wall street, Republicans, Uncategorized