Thursday, June 22, 2017

Latest Mumia Abu-Jamal Book Asks A Provocative Question: Have Black Lives Ever Mattered?


-by Denise Sullivan

Following the shocking back-to-back police murders of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castille outside St. Paul in July of 2016, author and activist Mumia Abu-Jamal responded with what seemed to be an uncharacteristic loss for words when he ended a short lament titled "Killed By Cops Who Were 'Just Doing Their Jobs'" with this refrain:

And another one gone…and another…and another.

A few days later, in a piece called "What Happens To A Dream Deferred," he invoked the Langston Hughes poem in reference to Sterling, Castile, and a massacre in Dallas in which five police officers and others were injured.

A new stage has been reached in America's longest war with itself.

Capsulizing the history of white slave patrols, their relationship to today's police departments and a justice system that preserves immunity for officers who kill, Abu-Jamal goes on to suggest how and why we've arrived at such a horrific place in American history.

Oppression can drive people mad. It can turn calm brains into minds consumed by anger, rage, and resentment.

One year later, in the wake of recent worldwide terrorist events, mass shootings from coast to coast, and an entirely not unexpected not guilty verdict for Jeronimo Yanez, the cop who killed Castile, it is safe to say the tyranny of our brand of liberty has brought us to yet another new stage in the long war with ourselves. In his broadcasts, Abu-Jamal quotes Alexis de Tocqueville and Mao Tse-tung as he reckons with the civil war now in progress. In another titled, The Second Death of Philando, he concludes, "The jury believed once again, that a black life had no intrinsic value and that it could be treated like trash, burned up and discarded, like an old pair of shoes."

In his latest collection of essays, Have Black Lives Ever Mattered? published this month by City Lights, Abu-Jamal offers no easy answers except for what's undeniable: "Well, they certainly seem important enough to suppress and steal." Over the course of the book, he shines his light on a fraction of the Black lives sacrificed since 1998-- the cases that made it into the public eye-- while underscoring the fact: Living while Black in the US is in itself a traumatic experience.

Between waging his own daily struggle to maintain his health despite being denied care on the inside, and working continually to overturn his own wrongful conviction for allegedly killing a police officer in 1981, Abu-Jamal writes, and writes, and writes: Over the course of nine books including the previous City Lights collection, Writing on the Wall, countless essays and radio broadcasts, all created in prison over 30 years, (much of that time on Death Row), Abu-Jamal has rung the warning bells, raised and lowered the flags for freedom, and sounded its sirens with his words, in his efforts to defer the American emergency in progress. Stating in plain language what may seem obvious is an art, the job of a prophetic voice, and Abu-Jamal owns his. The view from the inside out seems to allow for his type of precision and laser-focus and ability to and say things the likes of which we who are free to travel the world and the Internet cannot. And yet, his status or lack of it as a prison inmate has left his input marginalized and at times dismissed by society at large. Perhaps the sheer volume of work at this point is what daunts otherwise intelligent people to shun him, or maybe it's just that old white supremacy doing its number again...

There remains an inexplicable resistance within the so-called progressive left to regard Abu-Jamal as a poet and a writer of substance, much less a prophet or defining voice of the voiceless. Those who seem to have the time for revered prison writings from Jean Genet, George Jackson, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela, just haven't gotten around to vigorous discussion of Abu-Jamal's vast catalog of material. Though his supporters may rest assured that long after we're all gone, these writings will stand as testimonies to a very strange time in American history and scholars of the future will likely shake their heads in disbelief at why more attention was not paid to his prophetic wisdom and why we did not heed its call. Therein these compositions are answers and valuable tools for the recovery of America's lost soul.

In a 2002 piece titled, "The Other Central Park Rapes," concerning the five young men wrongfully accused and incarcerated for crimes they did not commit in 1989, Abu-Jamal calls out Donald J. Trump, citing the vicious full page ads he took out proclaiming the men should've received the death penalty (the young men were later found innocent after serving from 6-13 years of their 5-15 year sentences). Of that miscarriage of justice, Abu-Jamal asserts that this was no isolated incident: That five Black men should be victimized by the justice and prison systems, scarred for life by its business as usual, is quite simply more evidence of Black lives cast aside. In this same piece he asserts Black, Brown, and Latino lives "don't matter."

A 1998 essay, "We Are Blind To Everything But Color," considers how people are treated in court: "…how they are charged and how they are sentenced are direct reflections of what race and ethnicity they are and how such traits are regarded by white America." He outlines an experimental exercise among law students in which whites imagined turning Black and agreed it was "a disability," worthy of millions in damage awards. "Why damages, unless color does matter?" he asks.

Of the 41 shots that killed Amadou Diallo, in 1999, Abu-Jamal noted the "predictable acquittal of his killers, four white cops," in 2002 and called for the formation of a movement to stop the violence. Some 12 years later, following the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, that movement launched, though Black Lives Matter does not claim inspiration from Abu-Jamal nor does he seek their endorsement, though anyone with eyes and ears can see he was the forerunner in regard to resisting police terror and naming white supremacy as a source of law enforcement's ills.

Read one by one like a daily reader, the essays, like the radio commentaries, are dense enough to reflect on for hours. Read all in one sitting, the evidence for bias presented by Abu-Jamal could potentially penetrate a racist mind and change it for the better, though sensitive liberals may find themselves sick with grief following the undeniable catalog of suffering here, some of it committed by our own hands (let this serve as your trigger warning). His critique of politicians is not reserved for the right: He notes the Clintons role in what he calls the mass incarceration boom as well as Obama's legacy of mass surveillance and systemic repression: "He left the horrors of mass incarceration fundamentally unchanged and in the hands of an ultra-right wing populist, endorsed by a known domestic terrorist group, the Ku Klux Klan."

As we prepare for the long hot summer of American contradiction and its high holiday, the Fourth of July, Mumia asks us to consider what he and abolitionist Frederick Douglass asked: What does such an observance mean to a slave? As long as we remain a nation with the highest prison population in the world, with over two million serving time, we are not only a prison nation, but none of us are free. Time and again, the wrong people are warehoused when the real killers of American freedoms have yet to be tried, convicted, and locked away. "Until then," Abu-Jamal writes,"The Fourth is just another day."

The State of Pennsylvania has remained invested in keeping Abu-Jamal behind bars, despite a pile of evidence in favor of his innocence. In the eyes of a racist and fearful America this makes perfect sense, though in a more perfect union, where the deck isn't stacked and there is such a thing as a justice for all, Abu-Jamal's lifetime of incarceration would be the crime. Until that time, his writings provide companionship in the bleak hours of an American narrative that affirms, again and again although it's a lie, that some lives are expendable.

Denise Sullivan is the author of Keep On Pushing: Black Power Music From Blues to Hip Hop and an occasional contributor to DWT on arts, culture, and gentrification issues.

Labels: , , ,

Whither Thou Goest, Sean Spicer?


-by Noah

President Trump is reportedly considering limiting press briefings. Of course, he is. His desire to work his corruption and his incompetence in as much shadow and secrecy as possible should come as no surprise. Trump has taken note of how fellow Republican, $enate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is working on their Trumpcare bill in secret and he’s decided that turning Republican governance completely into a black hole of secrecy is the way to go.

Spicy, we hardly knew ye...

Remember when Trump said he had the best words? Well, the Trumpanzee’s ”Best Words” guy, Sean Spicer, is all but gone. The White House says Spicy is interviewing potential replacements.

Yeah, I know, Sean Spicer was always obviously, “gone.” Spicy is or was one helluva gone guy. He’s got quiet an imagination. He sees people, live people, people that just aren’t there. We realized that on his first day on the job when he spoke about the inauguration “crowd.” Spicer begat a whole cottage industry of memes.

Spicer is an unintentional master of the surreal and a court jester. But, he is gone, as in no longer in his job. The job he elevated to high Orwellian comedy. The job that he was born to fill! He was press secretary of the most famous lunatic asylum of all time. Looks like we won’t have him to kick around anymore.

Will Spicer ever face the press again? How long before Steve Bannon or Reince Priebus announces that Spicer has been sent to a farm in the country where he can happily play and frolic all day with all the other former press secretaries?

Soon, we will be wondering...

Has anyone seen my old friend Sean? Can you tell me where he’s gone? Did Kellyanne Conway cook him up in a big black pot in the Rose Garden and eat him? Has he been thrown in the dungeon on Elba to party with Napoleon’s ghost?

Has he been disappeared? Will Spicer be found buried in the concrete foundation of a Trump Tower in Swaziland, Fredonia or The Duchy of Grand Fenwick? Has he been quietly made President Trump’s new envoy to an isolated Amazon tribe, or emissary to the spirits of some off the map South Seas volcano? Will he return? Will he ever return? Will his fate remain unknown?

OK. I guess the world needs to accept the abrupt departure of Spicy, but did it have to be this way? Already, the Great White Asylum has announced that there will be no more live Spicy Shows. No More! Oh no! Instead, they said there would be “press conferences” with no audio and no visuals. It’s not just no Spicy. The asylum would control the vertical and the horizontal because reality is so passé in Trumpworld. I guess in the world of the outer limits, it was bound to happen. But, to never witness the surreal dark comedy stylings of Spicy ever again? That’s harsh.

You knew Spicy’s days were numbered, when Trump, knowing that Spicy is a devout Catholic, shafted him during the recent Trump Insult The Allies Tour by not letting him even meet the Pope and shake his hand. It’s a measure of Spicer’s foolishness that he didn’t quit then and there, but I guess he needed a ride home.

I know the Trumpanzee decided that Spicy was no longer up to the gig. It’s doubtful that any clown on Trump’s vast roster of wackos would be. Trump, himself, can’t handle the job. You can’t expect a person as insecure as Trump to surround himself with people that might outshine him.

But couldn’t they have been kinder to Spicy?

Instead of not letting him speak to the press anymore, couldn’t they have still let Spicy still come out to the podium. He could have referred all questions to his imaginary 6-foot rabbit friend Harvey.

Spicy himself, has experience as a bunny so that seems to fit. What harm would it do? We’re already way beyond that point. The bottom line would still be the same.

Who better than the rabbit Harvey to represent today’s Trumpian Nut House. An ephemeral, phantom spokesperson who doesn’t really exist drawing endless alleged “alternative facts” from some Rose Garden wormhole that leads to an alternate universe. SNL’s Melissa McCarthy? A mime? The Duck Dynasty weirdo? A Fox “News” intern? A Russian whore? Chris Christie still wants a job with Trumpy and he’s already proven that he’ll lower himself to any level. Perhaps you have a relative locked away in a padded cell who’d fit right in. Who would Putin choose?

Alas, for now, it won’t be Harvey. It will be the single digit IQ Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Meanwhile, Spicer and his imaginary rabbit friend, the only friend he has left, will interview those potential replacements. Who wants the job? Feel free to apply. If you include a picture of yourself with a screwdriver embedded in your forehead, your application will probably go right to the top of the pile.

Spicy’s future...

I expect that, in the distant future, Spicy may be found in a D.C. alley one night. He will have miraculously escaped exile, adopted a new identity, but failed as a FOX “News” host. His only friend, Harvey, will always be close by, even though no one else sees him; just like all those people no one but he and Trump saw at the 2017 inauguration, or all those 3 million illegal Clinton voters.

Labels: ,

Some people "would rather have 1st Class seats on the Titanic than change the course of the ship"


(Click to see original tweet.)

by Gaius Publius

"Change cannot occur if the displaced ruling class is left intact after a revolution against them. We have proof of this throughout South America. Every revolution by the indigenous people has left unmolested the Spanish ruling class, and every revolution has been overthrown[.]"
—Paul Craig Roberts, quoted here

Read the quote in the graphic above again. Insider Party consultants made millions off of Jon Ossoff's loss. Would those insiders take an Ossoff win if it meant no money for them? These people, Democratic Party elites, are not your friends and they're not the nation's friends. They are their own friends, period.

This is the other problem the nation faces. This is why the nation can't have nice things, like Medicare for All:
Hillary Clinton: Single-payer health care will 'never, ever' happen

Clinton stressed how difficult it is to stand up to the existing health insurance industry ... "I think it's important to point out that there are a lot of reasons we have the health care system we have today," she said. "I know how much money influences the political decision-making..."
an economy free of predatory monopolies:
Amazon is the shining representative of a new golden age of monopoly that also includes Google and Walmart.... In its pursuit of bigness, Amazon has left a trail of destruction—competitors undercut, suppliers squeezed—some of it necessary, and some of it highly worrisome. And in its confrontation with the publisher Hachette, it has entered a phase of heightened aggression unseen even when it tried to crush Zappos by offering a $5 rebate on all its shoes or when it gave employees phony business cards to avoid paying sales taxes in various states.)
and bankers who got to jail when they steal money ("The Untouchables: How the Obama administration protected Wall Street from prosecutions").

This is a large part of why the worst political party in 100 years — the Republican Party, if you're wondering — holds so much power. The other resistance is against Democratic Party policies like these. Democrats will have a very hard time winning until they change.

Which means, I think, that we'll have to make them change. It should be clear by now that the next revolution must be inside the Democratic Party, unless one wishes to scale the mountain of deliberate, structural impediments to forming a viable, 50-state third party.

No Time Left At All

Moreover, we don't have time for a 30-year project of reform. We have two years, maybe four, at most — après ça, le déluge. Here's why:

a. Climate change won't wait 30 years, while we elect sufficient climate-friendly Democrats and build sufficient Democratic political infrastructure to deal with it.​ Mother Nature is on the very verge of shrugging her shoulders at last and sloughing us to the floor of the historical past. Once that moment occurs, once we cross that line, we're doomed to end as a memory, though none will be left to remember us.

b. Nor will all the pissed-off, angry, dying middle class voters wait 30 years, those who live in states where pissed-off dying voters are most concentrated and who chose the worst presidential candidate in modern history, Donald F-ing Trump (yes, that's his middle name), over the "You can't have nice things" Democratic candidate our Establishment elites cleverly offered them.

Those people won't wait at all. They've totally had it. Students drowning in debt have totally had it. The jobless and homeless — and soon-to-be jobless and homeless — they've had it as well. Every independent ("I hate both parties") voter in the country, or most, have had it, and every study says so.

How many "I hate both parties" voters are there — or would-be voters if someone would just give them something to vote for? This many:

What does "they have had it" look like in practice? It looks like anything that looks like rebellion against a hopeless life, including putting a fool like Trump in office. It also includes horrors like these. (Nicole Sandler and I discussed this very topic, the collapsing social contract, recently. Click here for the interview. Start at 42:00 for that part of the discussion. Or start at 31:15 for the whole interview, where we discuss what's going on with Trump-Russia-Comeygate as well.)

"Tick-tick-tick," says the world-historical clock on the wall. By my count, with the Georgia election Democrats have just blown their fifth chance in a row to make a new first impression — all so that its entrenched politicians, consultants, service-providing infrastructure and media surrogates can make a larger pile of money, grease the skids on their own and their children's careers, and swan about DC like the minor-league queens and kings they think they are.

"We may be on the Titanic," I hear them all say, "but the service in First Class is terrific! Check out the lobster in the Oh It's You, Senator lounge."

Protecting Their First Class Seats on the Titanic

The quote in the title of this piece is from Bernie Sanders, said in a recent interview with David Sirota. Here's just a part (emphasis and paragraphing mine):
Sirota: The Democratic Party leadership has lost the White House, Congress, 1,000 state legislative seats and many governorships. Why is the party still run by the same group of people who delivered that electoral record?

Sanders: Because there are people who, as I often say, would rather have first class seats going down with the Titanic, rather than change the course of the ship. There are people who have spent their entire lives in the Democratic Party, there are people who've invested a whole lot of money into the Democratic Party, they think the Democratic Party belongs to them. You know, they own a home, they may own a boat, they may own the Democratic Party.

I mean, that's just the way people are, and I think there is reluctance on some, not all, by the way — I mean, I ran around this country and I met with the Democratic Party leaders in almost every state in the country. Some of them made it very clear they did not want to open the door to working people, they did not want to open to door to young people. They wanted to maintain the status quo.

On the other hand, I will tell you, there are party leaders around the country that said, “You know what, Bernie? There’s a lot of young people out there who want to get involved. We think that’s a great idea, and we want them involved.”
Those who said "You know what, Bernie? There’s a lot of young people out there who want to get involved. We think that’s a great idea" — they don't run the Party when it comes to its top layers of leadership. Not by a very long shot.

For the Message to Change, the Leadership Must Change

So what's a progressive to do? It should be obvious. The Democratic Party has to change its policy offering, from "You can't have what all of you want" to "If the people want a better life, we will give it to them."

Yet this is not so easily done. For the message to change, the leadership must also change.

Which raises the critical question: How do we depose Chuc​k Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, and the rest of their kind and make people like Bernie Sanders and Jeff Merkley the Party leaders instead?

After all, if someone like Bernie Sanders isn't Senate Majority Leader, if a Sanders-like politician (Ted Lieu perhaps) isn't Speaker of the House, what's the point of electing more back-bench progressives, more "supporting cast" players? ​

If there's no way to do that — and soon, given the ticking clock — we're Sisphus pushing the same heavy bolder up the same high hill, year after year, decade after decade, till we die or the game is finally truly over. 2018 is around the bend. 2020 is coming. Après ça, le déluge. Not much time to solve this one.

Completely filling the Second Class cabins on the Titanic with our people (that is, populating Congress with progressives who are nevertheless kept from leadership and control) won't change what goes on in the Captain's cabin and on the bridge.

Put more simply, we need to control the Party, or when the clock truly runs out, all this effort will truly have been pointless. I'm not fatalistic. I assume there's a way. So here's my first shot at an answer.

Elected Progressives Must Openly Rebel Against Their "Leaders"

In order for the revolution inside the Democratic Party to work, our elected progressive congressional representatives senators, must work to depose Pelosi and Schumer (etc.) and take power. More — they must do it visibly, effectively and now, in order to convince the 42% of voters that someone inside the Party is trying to knock these people out of the Captain's chair.

We voters and activists have our own challenges. This is the challenge for the electeds we've already put in place. If our elected progressives don't do this — or won't do this — "tick-tick-tick" says the world-historical clock on the wall. And we can all go down together, steerage and First Class alike.

It's time to step up, elected progressives. It's also time to be seen to step up.  Read the Paul Craig Roberts quote at the top again. If the Party's failed leaders aren't deposed, the revolution will have failed.

It's a moment for real courage, and moments of courage bring moments of great fear. I understand that this kind of open rebellion, open public confrontation, a palace coup in front of the TV cameras, is frightening.

It's also necessary.

My ask: If you agree, write to your favorite elected progressive and say so. No more gravy train for Democratic elites. Meat and potatoes for voters instead. Complete the Sanders revolution by changing House and Senate leadership — now.

I know this puts some very good people on the spot. But maybe that's a feature, yes?


Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

TrumpCare 3.0-- The Senate Version Is Even Worse!


Everyone thought the Senate would get their hands on the really radical, really destructive-- and really hated-- House Republican “healthcare” bill, TrumpCare, crafted by Paul Ryan and Tom Price and bastardized by Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows and rogue Tuesday Group opportunist Tom MacArthur, and turn it into something more palatable and more mainstream. Why did anyone think that-- with people like Mitch McConnell, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz driving the show? Instead, if the Washington Post’s leaked report of what the Senate Republicans have come up with is to be believed, the Senate version is even worse than the House version. Not better, worse!

If this Frankenstein’s monster of a bill passes, say goodbye to Planned Parenthood and say goodbye to Medicaid-- and say goodbye to healthcare for millions and millions of American families who have coverage now.
The bill largely mirrors the House measure that narrowly passed last month but with some significant changes aimed at pleasing moderates. While the House legislation tied federal insurance subsidies to age, the Senate bill would link them to income, as the ACA does. The Senate proposal cuts off Medicaid expansion more gradually than the House bill, but would enact deeper long-term cuts to the health-care program for low-income Americans. It also removes language restricting federally subsidized health plans from covering abortions, which may have run afoul of complex budget rules.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) intends to present the draft to wary GOP senators at a meeting Thursday morning. McConnell has vowed to hold a vote before senators go home for the July 4 recess, but he is still seeking the 50 votes necessary to pass the major legislation under arcane budget rules. A handful of senators, from conservatives to moderates, are by no means persuaded that they can vote for the emerging measure.

Aides stress that the GOP plan is likely to undergo more changes to garner the 50 votes Republicans need to pass it. Moderate senators are concerned about cutting off coverage too quickly for those who gained it under the ACA, also known as Obamacare, while conservatives don’t want to leave big parts of the ACA in place.

As a nod to conservatives, the Senate bill would give states more leeway in opting out of the ACA’s insurance regulations through expanding the use of so-called “1332” waivers already embedded within the law, according to the draft proposal. States could use the waivers to make federal subsidies available even off the marketplaces-- but they couldn’t go so far as to lift ACA protections for patients with preexisting conditions.

…[M]oderates are likely to be turned off by how the bill cuts Medicaid more deeply than the House version. But the biggest cuts wouldn’t take effect for seven years, a time frame that could be more politically palatable for members like Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV).

Under the Senate draft, federal Medicaid spending would remain as is for three years. Then in 2021 it would be transformed from an open-ended entitlement to a system based on per capita enrollment. Starting in 2025, the measure would tie federal spending on the program to an even slower growth index, which in turn could prompt states to reduce the size of their Medicaid programs.

In a move that is likely to please conservatives, the draft also proposes repealing all of the ACA taxes except for its so-called “Cadillac tax” on high-cost health plans in language similar to the House version. Senators had previously toyed with the idea of keeping some of the ACA’s taxes.
Andy Kim, a national security expert who worked in the Obama White House and is now running for the south Jersey congressional seat held by Tom MacArthur, one of the TrumpCare architects, told me this morning that "Senate Republicans are taking the baton from Tom MacArthur and the House by secretly working in back room deals that prevent the American people from knowing the impact on their health care and their lives. The people deserve better." David Gill, an emergency care physician in Illinois, is running for the seat held by Ryan rubber stamp Rodney Davis. He’s on the same page as Kim. "My opponent in the upcoming 2018 election, Rodney Davis, played a pivotal role in the development of TrumpCare, serving as an assistant to the whip in the U.S. House to help garner support for its passage, and also frequently appearing as an apologist for the bill on TV news programs. Accordingly, Mr. Davis bears full responsibility for the overwhelming pain and suffering that will be wrought upon tens of millions of Americans by the passage of TrumpCare. As an advocate of single-payer as a member of Physicians for a National Health Program for the past 25 years, I am essentially the antithesis of Mr. Davis: I recognize the many benefits in guaranteeing all necessary coverage to all Americans, and I look forward to leading the charge towards single payer once I get to Washington. It is said that it is darkest before the dawn, and I have little doubt that passage of this atrocious Republican healthcare bill will serve to ultimately open the door wide to single-payer; Americans will be looking for a solution to their healthcare woes, and the time will finally be ripe for the type of single-payer program that should have been instituted decades ago."

Goal Thermometer And Randy Bryce, the newest Blue America endorsee, is clear how he feels about the Senate “healthcare” bill that leaked as well. “What is it going to take,” he asked, “to get people who are supposed to ‘represent’ us to actually listen to us? How can anyone claim to make decisions on our behalf when they pull garbage like this? America has always been about taking care of each other-- not taking away from each other! I’ve had enough of us working harder but having less to show for it. Not even the people who are supposed to vote on this bill know what is in it. That’s no way to ‘represent.’ Please— call your electeds-- ALL of them-- and demand that they do the right thing. Make it crystal clear that you vote. Then keep your promise and vote. Don’t forget to take your neighbors-- this is for them too. We still have some power-- use it before it’s gone.”


Matt Coffay is up against the godfather-- or co-godfather (with Ryan and Price)-- of TrumpCare, Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows, one of the most dangerous extremists in Congress. Matt, a former Bernie organizer in western North Carolina offers voters in NC-11 a really clear choice for themselves and their families. "My opponent, Mark Meadows, negotiated the worst components of the House version of this bill. He's responsible for the loopholes that will allow insurance companies to price people out of care because of pre-existing conditions. It's largely because of his insistence that 23 million people will lose health coverage. As if that weren't enough, he's reportedly been in talks with the Senate to ‘negotiate’ their version of the bill, and is now calling for a cancellation of August recess so that he and the Freedom Caucus can ram the AHCA back through the House (or through committee) rather than returning to his district to hold a town hall. When I'm in the House, one of my first acts as a member of Congress will be to co-sponsor HR 676, the Medicare for All bill introduced by Rep. Conyers. Every person in this country deserves health care, and I won't stand idly by while the people of Western North Carolina-- and people all across this country-- are forced to suffer so that a handful of billionaires can get a tax break."

Ted Lieu (D-CA), who has been taking a leading role in the House on issues where a backbone is required, eviscerated McConnell’s miserable excuse for healthcare legislation. "Born from the most cynical kind of politics and raised in total secrecy, the Senate Republican version of Obamacare repeal offers very little in terms of health or care for hardworking American families. The Senate version tinkers with the margins of the heartless House GOP version of repeal but make no mistake, this new legislation still would deny health security to millions of Americans, while unconscionably making even deeper long-term cuts to Medicaid-- all in the name of giving those most fortunate Americans a gargantuan tax cut that they don't need and many don't want. The Senate Republican plan is not bold leadership with 'heart,' it's a cowardly and complete abrogation of the solemn responsibility to guarantee health security for each and every American."

Labels: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Meet The Hand-Picked Garbage Pelosi And Hoyer Want To Turn The Democratic Party Over To


A case can be made that Joe Crowley is the most corrupt Democrat in Congress. Here at DWT we’ve been making that case for years. Pelosi and Hoyer were able to pull some strings for him when he was looking like a goner in front of the House Ethics Committee and do a prisoner exchange-- a whole pack of corrupt Republicans in return for Crowley.

Crowley is a Rahm-like bag man for the New Dems whose modus operandi is basically to go to corporate lobbyists and agree to get progressive legislation buried or watered down in return for the pay-offs that have led to inside-the-caucus political power for himself. I would describe him as a mini-Steny Hoyer without the charm. His lifetime ProgressivePunch crucial vote score is a mediocre 85.28 but it's his behind the scenes wheeling  and dealing that makes him such an odious character. In 1999 he was one of the movers and shakers on the Democratic side who backed ending Glass-Steagall for Wall Street. And, although that was one of the primary reasons for the collapse of the financial system and the ensuing catastrophe for the economy, Crowley hasn't blinked. The Finance Industry has rewarded him handsomely for selling out his Queens constituents in Woodside, Jackson Heights, East Elmhurst and College Point and the ones who live in neighborhoods in the East Bronx like Throggs Neck, Morris Park, Co-op City and Pelham Parkway, people who would never think of voting for a Republican-- but who, in effect-- get much of the same greed-and-selfishness agenda. Since he sold out his constituents in the debate over Glass-Steagall, the Finance Industry has funneled a hefty $6,238,679 (more than any other Democrat serving in the House) directly into his political career in the form of legalistic bribes. He's used that money to build up his own political power inside the Democratic Party, exactly what Wall Street wanted him to do with it.

In 2005 he was one of the reactionary paid-off Dems who voted with the Republicans for Bush’s anti-working family bankruptcy bill (written by Crowley’s lobbyist pals). Crowley, a Member of the House Ways and Means Committee, where he regularly undermines the interests of the 99%, is one of the few Democrats who was not subsequently defeated for reelection after crossing the aisle that day to vote with the GOP, with Wall Street and with the 1% against American working families. Instead he managed to worm his way into the House Leadership,m first as the Democrats' Chief Deputy Whip and a Vice-Chairman of the DCCC and now as the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus— and leader in waiting after Pelosi and Hoyer finally disappear.

The bill, whose purpose was to make it more difficult for consumers to file bankruptcy, was originated in the Senate and the lead sponsor was deranged Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley. It was co-sponsored by a gaggle of Republican corporate whores like Jim DeMint, Orrin Hatch, Jeff Sessions and David Vitter (who, during the debate, was talking on his cell phone with a high priced call girl about what color diapers he would be wearing that night) as well as by two of the sleaziest corporate Dems in the upper chamber, Ben Nelson and Tom Carper. The banksters spent millions in lobbying and bribes (campaign "contributions") and it was widely considered their greatest victory against the American people at the time.

Sleazy legislators like Crowley who supported it parroted the banksters' lies that passage would reduce losses to credit card companies, who would then pass on the savings in the form of lower interest rates. The first half was true; credit card company losses decreased. But the rates charged to customers not only didn't decrease, they increased while the insatiably greedy credit card company profits went through the roof, a cut of which was given to the corrupt Members of Congress (like Crowley).

Crowley was also on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and he was one of the 81 Democrats who voted to authorize Bush to attack Iraq. 126 Democrats (and 6 Republicans) voted against the unprovoked aggression, which turned out to be one of the worst and most costly foreign policy blinders in American history-- costly for the taxpayers, but very profitable for the arms industry, which, of course, has rewarded Crowley very nicely. With their biggest bucks reserved for Republicans, arms dealers have bestowed a tidy $213,939 on Crowley for his support of their business interests.

Crowley has never had a serious opponent for reelection and, in fact, he was selected congressman in a very sleazy backroom deal with his predecessor, Tom Manton, who announced his retirement after the filing deadline and then, as head of the Queens Democratic Party, handed Crowley, a former staffer and a crony, the Democratic nomination. Crowley doesn't live in Queens; he lives in Virginia with his family. He badly needs a primary from someone who does live in Queens (or the Bronx) and who is more than just a Democrat in name.

A few days ago the Village Voice ran a feature onCrowley’s rise to power, and about the progressive young Democrat finally challenging him in a primary battle. Ross Barkan:
In the summer of 1998, Tom Manton of Queens shocked the city’s insular political world by announcing his retirement from Congress. Manton, 65, had petitioned to get on the ballot and showed all signs of wanting to run for another term. Aging politicians in his shoes usually said publically, much earlier in the primary process, they weren’t running again and endorsed a favored successor. Even in machine-driven New York, this was how the game was played.

But Manton, the chairman of the Queens County Democratic Party, was a county leader par excellence. He wasn’t about to allow something like democracy to break out in his borough. By waiting so late to make his announcement, Manton ensured only one elected official could compete in the Democratic primary to replace him. Since petitions had already been circulated, a candidate needed to be picked by a committee within the Queens Democratic Party that, of course, Manton exercised absolute control over. The committee met secretly, not allowing other elected officials to submit their names for consideration.

By 11 o’clock on the morning of July 22nd, 36-year-old Joe Crowley, the newly-minted Democratic nominee, was on his way to Congress. Politicians in Queens were aghast.

“Had I known about the meeting, I would have put my name in,” a Queens city councilman named Walter McCaffrey complained to the New York Times. “Having been one of the people who helped elect Tom, and having been his chief of staff, it is a disappointment.”

Manton didn’t care. Crowley, then an assemblyman, was his protégé, and he would eventually hand over the Queens Democratic machine to a man he treated like a son. When Manton died of cancer in 2006, Crowley became county leader. Not content to just rule the roost in Queens, Crowley climbed his party’s ranks in Washington. Today, he is chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, the fourth-highest ranking position in the Democratic leadership. He is whispered about as one potential successor to Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader.

Before Crowley can get on with his ladder-climbing, he needs to do something somewhat unfamiliar: run a campaign. For the first time since at least 2004, he will be forced to compete in a primary in the overwhelmingly Democratic district spanning northern Queens and a chunk of the eastern Bronx. Since Republican victories are all but impossible, the primary is where the action is-- and where Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 27-year-old former organizer for the Bernie Sanders campaign, hopes to pull off her historic upset.

“What Joe Crowley represents is the floodgate between Wall Street and the United States government. He’s the clearing house, he takes millions and millions of dollars in funding from them,” Ocasio-Cortez told the Voice. “We see how he’s come to power locally-- it’s totally undemocratic, machine-run, dynastic. He’s trying to spread this same model on the federal level.”

Ocasio-Cortez, attacking Crowley from the left, is just one of about a dozen candidates running on the slate of Brand New Congress, a political action committee founded by former Sanders staffers to elect more progressive members of Congress. She is the only member of Brand New Congress running from New York. A resident of the Bronx neighborhood of Parkchester, Ocasio-Cortez organized Sanders’ campaign in the South Bronx-- Hillary Clinton, heavily favored in New York City, won the Bronx handily-- and started thinking seriously about running for Congress after Donald Trump’s election. She learned quickly that people usually didn’t even contemplate running against Crowley, let alone start an actual campaign.

“A lot of progressive groups are coming out of the woodwork. They’ve been trying to find a challenger to Crowley for years,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “It’s literally political suicide for anyone with a semblance of a political career.”

While the Sanders wing of the party has derided much of the Democratic establishment as too beholden to the status quo, it’s hard to find a congressman more representative of that establishment than Crowley. The Blackstone Group is his second most prolific donor. Bank of America, Verizon, and Tishman Speyer, the powerful New York real estate developer, round out the top 20. He was an unflinching Hillary Clinton ally. Like many in his party, he supported the Iraq War and the Patriot Act. (His campaign argues that his donor list aligns with many other liberal Democrats, including Pelosi.)

Ocasio-Cortez’s platform-- built around campaign finance reform, renewable energy investment, and massive infrastructure spending amounting to a “new” New Deal-- is short on local specifics, something Crowley’s campaign is happy to point out. Crowley’s own record in D.C., for the most part, is that of a conventional Democrat. He was a loyal supporter of Barack Obama’s agenda, for example.

Lauren French, a spokeswoman for Crowley’s campaign, argued the Queens boss has proven his progressive bona fides. “Joe has been a top supporter of Democrats for years-- raising funds to boost Democrats into congressional seats, local office, and build state parties,” French said. “Joe has been instrumental in turning red seats blue, insuring there are more votes at all levels of government for immigrant and LGBT rights, affordable health care, Wall Street regulation, and creating better, high-paying jobs for all.”

Where Ocasio-Cortez and others can find much greater fault is in Crowley’s backyard, where his county machine keeps a tight grip on power and enriches his bosom buddies at the expense of everyone else. The day-to-day operations of the Queens party have remained in the hands of a trio of Crowley and Manton-aligned lawyers for three decades.

These men-- Gerard Sweeney, Michael Reich and Frank Bolz-- have a law firm that has earned millions in Surrogate’s Court, where the estates of people who die without wills are processed, and from representing banks foreclosing on people’s homes. The judicial system in Queens is effectively under Crowley’s control, since no one becomes a judge or receives a court appointment without staying in the county organization’s good graces. A scandal cloud now looms: Scott Kaufman, Crowley’s campaign treasurer, is facing a state probe for possible violations of court rules regarding lucrative appointments he received.

It was Sweeney, Reich and Bolz’s profiting off the foreclosure crisis that particularly galled Ocasio-Cortez, who lost her father to cancer at a young age. “My mom was running a single parent household,” she said. “She was cleaning homes, driving buses, and in the wake of the financial crisis and losing my father, we were on the brink of losing our home to foreclosure.”

Crowley’s spokeswoman didn’t offer any comment on the role Sweeney, Reich and Bolz have played, or the probe into Kaufman.

“Joe is proud of his tenure as chairman of the Queens Democratic Party,” she said. “He has worked hard to promote and expand diversity on the bench and within the party.”
Goal Thermometer About a month ago, Blue America started helping Alexandria Ocasio to raise campaign funds on a Blue America ActBlue page dedicated to the brave souls who take on the task of primarying entrenched corrupt Democratic incumbents like Crowley. It’s the only way we’re ever going to get rid of this crook and prevent him from poisoning whatever is left of the Democratic Party and making it completely synonymous with the corruption, careerism and greed that is at the center of his entire miserable career.

Labels: , , , ,

American Elites Need To Feel The Fear The British Elites Feel Today


It’s nice-- very nice-- that Macron pulverized Le Pen and her fascist party. In Sunday’s parliamentary elections, Macron’s party won 350 seats, an absolute-- and unassailable-- majority in the 577 member National Assembly. Le Pen’s fascists won just 8 seats. That, though, is different from having reason to celebrate a great progressive victory. Ultimately, the fact that Macron detests and reviles Señor Trumpanzee is just funny and admirable, not governance. Neither Macron, a centrist former banker, nor his prime minister, conservative Édouard Philippe, is remotely progressive. They literally define conservatism: preservation of the status quo. The turnout, its worth noting, was the lowest in living memory. I was in France for the election. People seemed motivated primarily to stamp out fascism, not to embrace Macron and Philippe. As the French used to say-- or at least the French Jews-- “feh!”

Now across the Channel, on the other had, there really is a reason for progressives to celebrate. Though Jeremy Corbyn isn’t Prime Minister yet, he smashed the Conservatives and sent waves of fear through the British elites. Last week, The Nation carried an interview with veteran British journalist Paul Mason, which you can listen to here:

The point that Mason wanted to get across though, is that Corbyn’s moral victory was something of beauty and something that shouldn’t be underestimated-- and something that can be imported into America. “What happened,” he explained, “has no parallel in modern British politics since 1945. Labour didn’t win a majority, but they won a moral victory because the government had called the election to get a bigger majority of its own. It was predicted on the night before that it would get a majority of 100 seats. In the end it got no majority. There is now what we call in Britain a hung Parliament, which would be as if Congress was controlled by nobody. Theresa May, the Conservative prime minister, is clinging on, but what happened was that really massive numbers of young people voted for Labour-- not just under-24-year-olds, but under-35-year-olds. Something like half of all under-35-year-olds voted for a party that was vilified by the media as a kind of terrorist-supporting threat to national security… [Corbyn] started out far behind, polling 25 percent. The first thing he did was claw back to about 35 percent by publishing the most left-wing manifesto of any Social Democratic Party in the world. It called for renationalization of the railroads, the postal service, and some energy firms. It called for what we call ‘Robin Hood taxes,’ taxing not just the incomes of companies and rich people, but also taxing the wealth of rich people. Taxing the unearned wealth, the property speculation, the stock-market speculation. This would bring in billions, which he said we would spend on free college education for everybody who wants it. That is revolutionary-- and it’s not surprising so many students came out to campaign for the Labour Party in the last few nights of the election. On some urban streets, people were opening their windows and saying, What’s going on? Is there some kind of disturbance? Why are 100 young people coming down my street and knocking on my door? It felt like a sort of velvet revolution in parts of Britain.”
Key figures on the right of British politics are now saying that, to stop Jeremy Corbyn, they have to be prepared to ditch everything. They have to be prepared to ditch what is called “hard Brexit,” which is walking away from Europe without a deal. They have to be prepared to ditch austerity. We’ve had seven years of spending cuts and attacks on the welfare state, and they’ve got to be prepared to ditch that. They’re in full panic mode. As a reporter on British politics and economics, I haven’t seen the ruling class of England in a panic like this for a long time. They realize that their defense lines are falling away. The normal defense lines for British capitalism run not just through the Conservative Party, but also through the Labour Party. But once Corbyn took control of Labour and decisively moved its political programs to the left, the only thing standing between the working class and young people on one side, and the minority and the elite on the other, is the Conservative government. And that just effectively fell apart. It’s a minority government, with no power to legislate.

…[I]t’s not enough to have the combination of a strong leader and a well-worked-out program. The left also needs a ground game. We have this movement called Momentum, a movement to get support within the party. That movement was able to have a million conversations with voters in the space of six weeks, talking to people on their doorsteps, just the way the Sanders people did. Then Jeremy Corbyn in the last days of the election campaign stepped out of the role of party leader and started to speak on behalf of the nation. He’d absorbed so much pressure, so much vitriol, and so many attacks—he assured people that it was possible to go beyond the pain barrier. I think the Sanders movement, or whatever comes after it, has to do popular politics. It’s not the same as populism. It’s like gaming. You go into the dungeon and you kill the boss. You need someone who can do that. And Corbyn proved he could do it.
Help Randy Bryce battle the elites of both wretchedly corrupt DC parties and get down into that basement and end the political career of Paul Ryan next year. No DCCC handler is going to talk Randy into "going centrist," the way they did with Ossoff in the final stages of the GA-06 campaign. Randy stands for deeply held values and beliefs, rooted in his life's experiences. After he wins in 2018, by campaigning on those beliefs-- not on a DCCC-dictated GOP-lite platform-- we’ll see if progressives have the strength to smash the conservative Dems and their donors and beat Trump with a Corbyn, not with a Macron.

Labels: , , , , ,

DC Democrats Want To Learn How To Appeal To The Working Class? Randy Bryce Can Teach Them


Monday, Randy Bryce launched his campaign to repeal and replace Paul Ryan in a southeast Wisconsin district the DCCC has always made clear to Democrats was “off the table.” That’s where Randy lives and a bunch of political hacks in DC claiming his district is “off the table,” isn’t going to stop him for a minute. The fish rots from the head and if Trump can’t be held accountable until 2020, Speaker Ryan’s time is now. And Randy is the exact right person to do just that. We covered his announcement on Monday morning. And Randy is no kid who will ever be pushed around by the DCCC or molded into a centrist running away from a fairer tax structure or from Medicare-for-All, the way Jon Ossoff did last week. This statement from Donald “D” Taylor, president of one of America’s biggest and most active unions, Unite Here, was issued this morning on the latest loss by Democrats in special congressional elections. It sounds like he’s getting as fed up with the DCCC as the rest ion us are:
Hope is not a strategy and ‘resisting’ is not a plan. The Democratic Party is out of excuses on its electoral performance. Donald Trump is a menace to America and his handmaidens in the House and Senate GOP like Speaker Ryan and Leader McConnell are enablers for the dismantling of our healthcare, the devastation of our middle class, and undermining our values as a beacon of hope in the world. I don’t care where in the country a race is conducted-- Democrats should be able to win. In Red States or Blue States, Democrats should be able to compete-- and win.

Millions of Americans are desperate to be led by political leaders who stand for something, are willing to take risks, and are willing to tell the truth and engage Americans where they live. That just isn’t happening. Our union has been able to prove that issues combined with organizing can overcome just about any obstacle to win.

Goal ThermometerSounds like D Taylor is starting to realize-- or has come to fully realize-- that the DCCC is not a friend of the working class. Close to the ground in Wisconsin, Mike Elk also reported on the beginning of the Bryce campaign, BREAKING: Ironworker Randy Bryce Announces Bid to Unseat Paul Ryan. Please give it a read through and, if you want to help, consider contributing by tapping the thermometer on the right. Mike Elk:

Despite his 6’2 frame, the half-Mexican, half-Polish Army veteran known as the “@IronStache” on Twitter is the epitome of a gentle giant. Holding a beef brisket sandwich in his hand, he hugs, back slaps, and laughs his way through the crowd at the Juneteenth parade on the lakefront of Racine.

“I’m running for Congress against Paul Ryan,” ironworker Randy Bryce struggles to tell an African American woman over the noise of a gospel choir singing on the stage behind them.

Ryan, the Speaker of the House and a former vice presidential candidate, has more than $8 million in the bank for his re-election bid. By contrast, Bryce is a rank and file ironworker activist who has built some of Southeast Wisconsin’s best-known landmarks, including Milwaukee’s Miller Park and the landmark Northwestern Mutual Building.

However, it’s not an entirely uphill battle. Ryan’s district includes the pro-union bastions of Racine and Kenosha, as well as the suburban Milwaukee Republican stronghold of Waukesha. According to the Cook Political Report, the district is only 5 points more Republican than Democratic. If 2018 turns out to be a wave election year, some think Ryan could be defeated by a candidate like Bryce in such a marginal swing district.

So far, Bryce-- an Ironworkers Local 8 member-- has lined up endorsements from the Milwaukee Building Trades, state Senator Chris Larson, and former House candidate Rob Zerban, who ran against Ryan in 2012 and 2014.

He has also enlisted the help of Bill Hyers, who managed the winning 2013 mayoral campaign of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and has worked on campaigns for the late Senator Paul Wellstone (D-MN) and Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). Former Milwaukee Democratic Party Chair Sachin Ccheda has signed up to help build a grassroots army to defeat Ryan.

Many in the district feel that if anyone could beat Ryan, it would be a rank and file union activist like Bryce.

“People know that the system is rigged and something has to be done, and Donald Trump took advantage of that,” says SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin’s Bruce Coburn, who serves as the union’s Vice President for Politics and Growth. “Randy, though, is someone who really believes in people and has shown it in all the years he has been in the labor movement.”

I first got to know Randy through the #wiunion hashtag during the Occupation of Wisconsin Capitol in 2011, and since then we have become personal friends. Bryce was part of the tens of thousands who occupied the Capitol in order to stop Scott Walker’s anti-union agenda.

Bryce sips Limeaid in the living room of his small two bedroom apartment outside of Racine as he recalls that battle.

“Walker’s strategy was to divide and conquer,”  Bryce says. “His strategy was pointing out people and saying they are being the reason that the others didn’t have it as good as they possibly could. Now that’s being taken to the national level with Donald Trump.”

“Just to get the [White House], he pointed the finger at Muslims, at people from Mexico, at immigrants, and there is a huge divide,” Bryce continues. “Now, people are looking at why we are different and thinking that’s the reason why they don’t have what they could.”

A year ago, Bryce wasn’t preparing for a Congressional campaign. This isn’t his first race; he ran for the State Assembly back in 2012, where he lost in the primary. Two years later, he ran for Wisconsin Senate in a conservative district and lost to Republican Van Wanggaard.

He says that he was moved to run, however, after being approached by a number of people in the wake of Trump’s election. Finally, during this year’s May Day protest-- which saw over 20,000 show up in the streets of Milwaukee-- Bryce says he began to believe that he could build the type of multi-racial coalition that could defeat Ryan.

If elected to Congress, he sees his role there as being more of a shop steward than a politician, and that he aims to run a campaign that amplifies the voices of others. “For an African American woman, there is no possible way that I can put myself into that woman’s frame of mind, the struggles she faces on a daily basis,” Bryce says. “I could do something to pretend, but I can’t experience it myself, so I need to rely on other people.”

Although he was a Sanders surrogate during the primary, he campaigned for Hillary Clinton in the general election and would have been an elector for her had she won. Given the ongoing struggle for control of the party, many in the district say that Bryce is a candidate who could bring Democrats together.

If successful, he would be only the third American since 1862 to defeat a sitting Speaker. It’s a given that the GOP and their corporate allies will spend heavily in the swing district to avoid that embarrassment.

He’s not naive about his long odds. But Bryce says his experience as a rank and file ironworker-- having been suspended hundreds of feet above the ground while working-- has given him the confidence to take on the almost impossible task.

“Being an ironworker, I have seen some things that, unless I have seen them with my own eyes and been part of it, I would say you can’t do that-- that’s impossible,” says Bryce. “You know, you are gonna walk up on a two and half inch piece of metal, you are gonna be up three hundred feet in the air and walk across and carry something to get to a place to wield-- that’s impossible… When ironworkers hear somebody say, ‘We can’t, it means ‘I won’t.’”

“Let’s trade places,” Bryce quips. “Paul Ryan can come work the iron and I’ll go to D.C.”

Labels: , , , , ,

How To Beat A Republican Incumbent-- Katie Hill Is Mobilizing Everyone


You know what scares me? That I might not be representing a Blue America candidate accurately enough, that I miss up on something important. That’s one of the reasons I encourage them to write guest posts. It’s why I’m always asking them for substantive quotes on issues before Congress. Katie Hill calls herself “the progressive alternative to Steve Knight.” The DCCC dug up some slug from Orange County last year who they ran and who lost badly-- despite Hillary’s big win in the district. The same voters who cast their ballots for her, just couldn’t bring themselves to cast one for him; some walked away and others actually voted for Knight. CA-25 needs a progressive alternative.

Goal Thermometer Last week Katie told her own story for Elle readers, in an inspiring feature titled Katie Hill Can Balance a $40 Million Budget, Run a Statewide Organization, and Inspire the Masses. What's Next? Congress. You want to know who she is-- and why Blue America endorsed her? This is exactly the way to find out. And if you like what you read and can help her campaign, please consider contributing by tapping on the Blue America ActBlue thermometer on the right. Mattie Kahn introduced her by reminding Elle readers that women-- 51% of the population-- make up just under 20% of Congress, less than 25% percent of all state legislatures and are only six of the country’s governors. Elle is going to feature a woman candidate every week-- and Katie was the first one they chose. She’s a first time candidate but they were impressed with her credentials and accomplishments: She is the “executive director and deputy CEO of PATH, an organization that works to end homelessness in California, has zero political experience and yet every single skill she could possibly need to run for office. She is not only an expert fundraiser (who grew PATH's annual budget to $40 million), but an accomplished multi-tasker who's deeply in touch with the needs of her community. No wonder. Hill grew up in and around the district she's running to represent and now lives on a farm with her husband and several animals who made their voices heard during this very interview. While she challenges Rep. Steve Knight for his seat, she's planning to stay on at PATH and let her husband do all the laundry. Oh, and did we mention she's 29?” Katie, in her own words:
When I was a kid, both my mom and my dad worked night shifts, so we would spend a lot of time at my grandfather's house. He taught at UCLA and was just really into history. Before bed, when other kids heard fairy tales, he would tell us about the American founding fathers and the beginning of democracy [laughs].

Because of that and because so many people in my family have served in the military, it was always really drilled into me what democracy was supposed to be. It was very, "We live in the greatest country in the world because our government is a true democracy-- of and by and for the people." Having that as an ideal as a child and then watching how it's devolved over the past several years-- it's really affected me. This isn't how it should be, and so one big reason I'm running is because I think we need to change that and get to the point where the political system works for real people and truly represents all of us, not just people who can "afford" to have a voice.

On a more practical level, I feel really prepared. I'm the executive director of a large homeless services organization, PATH. We advocate, we help develop policy, we coordinate funding to deal with homelessness. I don't know if you know, but homelessness in California is up; we're at the highest in the country now, and it's really impacting all of our communities here. So I've been completely focused on that, even during the 2016 election. Prop HHH [that would free up $1.2 billion in bonds to pay for 10,000 housing units for the homeless] was on the ballot in November. I was obviously thinking about the national election, but I was really giving all of my time and energy to this local initiative. It passed with almost 80 percent of the vote, which no one expected. But on the day of that victory, of course, Donald Trump was elected president and Republicans held on to the Senate and the House. We realized not only would we not be able to move forward on so much of what we were fighting for, but we risked moving backward in a huge way.

I started to see immediately that no matter how much we're able to do, if we don't deal with the systemic problem that we're faced with as a country, we won't be able to move forward. And very early on, we learned how fast the budget was going to be affected. Because of those initial cuts, we saw... homelessness in an increased way. And then I learned my district was going to be one of the most imperative districts to take back the house in 2018. It's one of the top-six most vulnerable states in the entire country. In fact, Hillary [Clinton] won the district by seven points, but the Republicans congressman won it by six, and it's the last Republican-held seat in L.A. County. I've spent my entire life here, and it's my home. I know it as well as anyone. Once I figured out all that, I found out that the reason we still have a Republican congressman is because we've never been able to find a strong Democrat who's actually from the district, who's able to fundraise, and has the background that is needed to work on the issues that matter to the community like I do. It was suggested to me by a few people. I put it off for a while, and then finally, as it became clearer and clearer that the work that I've been fighting for was at risk of being all for nothing, I had to look into it and maybe step up to the plate. I did, and it just took off. We passed an additional measure that we'd been advocating for, Measure H, in March, and I announced.

Already, I'm learning how much it takes to run a campaign. I'm lucky I have my husband; he's key, because he does every single thing in the house. I don't remember the last time I did laundry or made food of any kind [laughs]. That's something that I can't say enough, especially as a woman, when women too often have the burden of doing everything around the house. He and my family are my backbone. Plus, since I'm from here, my sister and my dad and my mom all live here in the district, which makes a huge difference.

I live in one of those rare purple districts, and I think it's very much emblematic of the middle class. It's a mainly suburban area within LA County, and it's kind of comprised of three main population centers. Two of them are pretty well off, and one of them is less well off. The people who live there, making less, should be in the middle class and have been striving to be in the middle class, but haven't had those opportunities for a variety of reasons. And even in those areas where people have done better, there's still a lot of struggle. And even though we have a lot of access to education, we're finding that there are people my own age, who have a master's degree in some cases, and can't even get a $45,000-a-year job.

On both sides of my family, my grandparents grew up in total poverty and came to California during the Great Depression. The only way they were able to work their way out of that was by joining the military, which is how they both went on to be able to go to college. One of them ended up becoming an aerospace engineer and worked on the Apollo space shuttle. The other ended up going to Princeton and became that UCLA professor, who kind of helped raise me. The fact that they were able to go to college for free and put that education to work is what we need to be able to offer again. That's how my family got here, and I think that kind of opportunity doesn't exist for enough people now. Let's say you're born into a poor family, and your parents are never going to be able to pay for school, and you can't afford to take $40,000 or $50,000 in loans. What kind of opportunities can we provide for you, if you're willing to work?

And we have a model for how to have those conversations. I think [Bernie] Sanders did a better job at that than the rest of the Democratic Party in talking about this, and that's why we saw so much momentum there. We have to be able to build. I think the truth is most people don't want to hear about policy. They want to hear, "I understand what you're going through, and you can trust me to fight for you and what you care about." But we can do both-- fight for policy and resonate with people at the same time.

The campaign, for me, is about mobilizing everyone. We've done a bunch of events at the local high schools, and we're doing a huge youth and millennial outreach. I know that typically the idea is that young people won't show up to vote, especially for midterms, and you can't count on them. But I think this is a different time and I think young people need someone who doesn't just count them out immediately, that they can relate to and who has a message for them. If we can provide that and we can get people excited, they will show up. I've been so impressed with the kinds of thoughtful questions that I've gotten from young people, from Girl Scouts, from teenagers. That gives me hope, and I think this is our generation's time to step up and start answers those questions.

Labels: , , ,

What Happened With Those Special Elections Down South Yesterday?


The Democrats will never win with this running the show

The Democratic candidates in 2 deep red, Deep South Republican districts lost, albeit very narrowly, to Republicans. One way to look at it is that they lost. Another way is that they did incredibly well in those districts. Karen Handel won the GA-06 seat 134,595 (52.6%) to 124,893 (47.4%) and Ralph Norman won the DSC-05 seat by a narrower spread-- 44,889 (51%) to 42,053 (48%). Both Democrats ran centrist campaigns, although Ossoff started out as a progressive until the DCCC got their hands on him and turned him away from Medicare-for-All and away from a fairer tax system in their unending quest to force Democrats to sound more like moderate Republicans.

A few days earlier, Franklin Foer, writing for The Atlantic, talked about how the conflicted elite centrists in control of the Democratic Party have turned it into a stinking pile of shit. The Democratic Party has gone from the proud vehicle for the legitimate voices of the working class to some kind of values-free Republican-lite amalgam that barely knows what it is. Not even Trump or the Ryan-McConnell overreach can change the a dried up turd into the vibrant and unstoppable winning machine it should be.

The careerists who have wrecked the Democratic Party would rather keep their grasp on power within the shrinking party than see it expand in a progressive direction foreign to their own tastes… and agenda. Foer wrote that “Leaderless and loud, the Resistance has become the motive power of the Democratic Party. Presidential hopefuls already strive to anticipate its wishes. Elected officials have restructured their political calculus to avoid getting on its wrong side. The feistiness and agitation of the moment are propelling the party to a new place. But where? The question unnerves Democrats, because the party has no scaffolding. All the dominant leaders of the last two generations-- the Clintons, Barack Obama-- have receded. Defeat discredited the party’s foundational strategy—or, at the very least, exposed it as a wishful description of a more distant future, rather than a clear plan for victory in the present. Resistance has given the Democrats the illusion of unity, but the reality is deeply conflicted. Two of the party’s largest concerns—race and class—reside in an increasing state of tension, a tension that will grow as the party turns toward the next presidential election.”
By the spring of 2016, one top Clinton adviser explained to me, the campaign’s own polling showed that white voters without a college degree despised Clinton. The extent of their loathing was surprising-- she polled far worse with them than Obama ever had, especially in states like Ohio and Iowa. Trump compounded her challenge. From the moment he announced his candidacy, he aimed his message at the white working class. He pursued that group with steadfastness. The threat that he might capture an unusually large chunk of it persuaded Clinton to pursue professionals with even greater intensity in an attempt to offset Trump’s potential gains.

With hindsight, it’s possible to see the risks of her strategy. Her campaign theorized that dentists, accountants, and middle managers needed to fully understand how Donald Trump surrounded himself with bigots and anti-Semites. “From the start,” she argued in a sharply worded speech in August, “Donald Trump has built his campaign on prejudice and paranoia.” Her campaign ads against Trump emphasized his misogyny. The attacks highlighted Trump’s greatest weakness, but also played to his greatest strength. Trump had spent the entirety of his campaign trying to foment a culture war, and Clinton zealously joined it. He talked endlessly about political correctness—trying to convince his voters that they weren’t just losing the debates over gay marriage or immigration, but that the elite wanted to banish them as bigots if they even dared to question the prevailing liberal view. Clinton boosted that cause when she told donors in September, “To just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the ‘basket of deplorables.’” It was meant to be a sotto voce comment, but that’s never how it works, as Mitt Romney could confirm.

The current politics of the Democratic Party make it less likely than usual that the nominee will be a centrist in the traditional mold. During the Democrats’ long losing streaks in the late 20th century, the party ritualistically engaged in postmortems that propelled it toward the center. That was the natural cycle of politics: Getting repeatedly clubbed by conservatives suggested trekking in a more conservative direction. But as a candidate, Trump placed little priority on traditional conservative positions, and often flouted them. His victory suggests a very different set of lessons, lessons in tune with the mood of the Democratic Party’s base.

Since 2008, energies have been building on the left—fueled by growing inequality, mass incarceration, and the inevitable frustration with a party that held the White House for eight years but couldn’t deliver everything activists wanted. Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter arose. A self-proclaimed democratic socialist captured 43 percent of the primary vote. Then Trump was elected, an event that was received by the party as a catastrophe and that has extended the activist spirit to a far broader audience.

Anger and activism are an opportunity for Democrats to grow their nucleus of supporters motivated to vote in midterm elections. The main question is whether those energies will be channeled in a way that reinforces the long-building demographic divide in American politics or in a way that—at least to some extent—blurs it. Or to put it another way: whether the Democrats accept the continued outflow of the white working class into the arms of the GOP as a fait accompli, or whether they try to stanch it.

There are in fact two different lefts in bloom today, with differing understandings of American politics. One strain practices what its detractors call identity politics-- it exists to combat the bias and discrimination that it believes is built into the system. What it seeks isn’t just the protection of minorities’ and women’s rights, but the validation of minorities and women in the eyes of the national culture, which it believes has marginalized them.

The cultural left was on the rise for much of the Obama era (and arguably, with the notable exception of Bill Clinton’s presidency, for much longer). It squares, for the most part, with the worldview of socially liberal whites, and is given wind by the idea that demography is destiny. It has a theory of the electorate that suits its interests: It wants the party to focus its attentions on Texas and Arizona-- states that have growing percentages of Latinos and large pockets of suburban professionals. (These states are also said to represent an opportunity because the party has failed to maximize nonwhite turnout there.) It celebrates the openness and interdependence embodied in both globalization and multiculturalism.

While this cultural left has sprung into vogue, the economic left has also been reenergized. It has finally recovered from a long abeyance, a wilderness period brought on by the decay of organized labor and the libertarian turn of the post–Cold War years. As the financial crash of 2008 worked its way through the Democratic Party’s intellectual system, the economic left migrated from the fringe protests of Occupy Wall Street to just outside the mainstream. While the cultural left champions a coalition of the ascendant, the economic left imagines a coalition of the despondent. It seeks to roll back the dominance of finance, to bust monopolies, to curb the predations of the market. It wants to ply back the white working-class voters-- clustered in the upper Midwest-- whom Greenberg deemed persuadable.

Neither strain of activism has much disagreement with the broad goals of the other. On paper, they can peaceably coexist within the same platform. But political parties can have only one main theory of the electorate at any given time-- and the prevailing theory tends to prioritize one ideology. The Republican Party’s pursuit of the South shaped its view of race; the Democratic Party’s wooing of professionals led it to embrace globalization.

The tensions between the cultural left and the economic left were evident in the last Democratic primary, and they have persisted. In a November talk after the election, Bernie Sanders railed against identity politics with an abandon that would have been foolish on the campaign trail. “It is not good enough for somebody to say, ‘I’m a woman, vote for me,’” he complained. In a way, this squabbling is a prelude to the next presidential primary, a contest that will be packed with candidates, each attempting to show him- or herself as the truest champion of minorities or women or the working and middle classes. Seeking victory, candidates will accuse their competitors of not authentically believing in the cause they themselves elevate most highly.

…[Elizabeth] Warren is most focused on the concept of fairness. A course she taught early in her career as a law professor, on contracts, got her thinking about the subject. (Fairness, after all, is a contract’s fundamental purpose.) A raw, moralistic conception of fairness—that people shouldn’t get screwed-- would become the basis for her crusading. Although she shares Bernie Sanders’s contempt for Wall Street, she doesn’t share his democratic socialism. “I love markets-- I believe in markets!” she told me. What drives her to rage is when bankers conspire with government regulators to subvert markets and rig the game. Over the years, she has claimed that it was a romantic view of capitalism that drew her to the Republican Party-- and then the party’s infidelity to market principles drove her from it.

Trump managed to exploit populist anger in part because he could go places ideologically that no Democrat would ever travel. As a matter of politics and policy, Democrats will never be the party of economic nationalism. Its voters are, on balance, more globalist than the Republican base. They tend to live in places that have prospered from trade and technology. They typically support immigration. But Warren has begun to outline the possibilities of a new center-left populism—one that gets beyond wealth redistribution alone.

At the core of Warren’s populism is a phobia of concentrated economic power, an anger over how big banks and big businesses exploit Washington to further their own interests at the expense of ordinary people. This fear of gigantism is a storied American tradition, descended from Thomas Jefferson, even if it hasn’t recently gotten much airtime within the Democratic Party. It justifies itself in the language of individualism—rights, liberty, freedom—not communal obligation.

There’s a growing consensus among center-left economists that the dominance of entire industries by a few enormous companies is one of the defining economic problems of the era. The issue has gravitated toward the mainstream of Democratic Party thinking partly due to the work of Barack Obama’s in-house economist, Jason Furman, a protégé of former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers. Furman revolted against the behavior of business leaders who came to call at the White House. Many of them didn’t seem especially committed to capitalism. With their privileged access, they groveled for favors that would further their dominance. “They were like the Chinese,” he told me recently. “They craved certainty. They wanted everything planned.”

Everyone can plainly see the lack of competition in many sectors-- the way that there are five big banks, four big airlines, one dominant social-media company, one maker of EpiPens. What’s more, a small set of institutional investors-- BlackRock, Fidelity, Vanguard-- holds stock in a vast percentage of public companies, so even sectors that look somewhat competitive are less so than they appear. CVS and Walgreens, for instance, have a strikingly similar set of major shareholders. The same is true for Apple and Microsoft.

Furman argues that such business concentration is a leading cause of inequality and wage stagnation. Warren has come to believe in this same idea. As a senator, she can see how the ills of finance-- the industry’s concentration, its abuse of political power-- have been replicated across the American economy. Last June in Washington, she gave an important speech, naming a long new list of enemies-- oligopolistic companies like Comcast and Google and Walmart, which she blamed for sapping the life from the American economy. “When Big Business can shut out competition, entrepreneurs and small businesses are denied their shot at building something new and exciting.” In making a Jeffersonian argument, she has begun to deploy Jeffersonian rhetorical trappings. “As a people, we understood that concentrated power anywhere was a threat to liberty everywhere,” she argued. “Competition in America is essential to liberty in America.”

Warren has not committed to running for president, either publicly or, according to close associates of hers, privately. But if she does run, she will likely seek to channel working-class anger toward behemoth firms, their executives, and the government officials who coddle them. It’s not a terribly complicated case to build, since the headlines are so packed with the rent-seeking exploits of those firms: the continued predations of banks on their own customers; airline overbooking; life-saving allergy injections that cost hundreds of dollars; cable companies exacting ever-higher fees; the exposure of low-level workers to such erratic hours that it becomes impossible to establish a daily routine; a broad indifference to consumers.

The approach exudes a Trumplike hostility to Washington elites, but not necessarily to government. And nearly the entire Democratic agenda can be justified through its prism: Obamacare preserves freedom and loosens corporations’ grip on their employees, by allowing workers to switch jobs without fear of losing health insurance. Criminal-justice reform is an effort to secure liberty and equality from an abusive apparatus of the state.

A turn toward populism will never be enough to win back a state like West Virginia, which is now deep-red. And there are legitimate questions about whether a strident former Harvard professor, no matter her Oklahoma roots, can effectively purvey that message to a sufficiently broad audience. But Warren’s brand of populism could help cool white-working-class hostility toward the Democrats and persuade the likes of Greenberg’s focus-group members to switch allegiance again. Empathy with economic disappointment, and even anger over the status quo, might reduce the sense that Democrats are perpetrators of the status quo. And liberal populism would take the party beyond ineffectual arguments about Trump’s temperament. A populist critique of Trump would point to his fraudulence as an enemy of the system, a fraudulence that perfectly illustrates everything wrong with plutocracy.

…To win again, the Democrats don’t need to adopt an alien agenda or back away from policies aimed at racial justice. But their leaders would be well advised to change their rhetorical priorities and more directly address the country’s bastions of gloom. The party has been crushed-- not just in the recent presidential election, but in countless down-ballot elections-- by its failure to develop a message that can resonate with people beyond the core members of the Obama coalition, and by its unwillingness to blare its hostility to crony capitalism. Polling by the group Priorities USA Action shows that a stunning percentage of the voters who switched their allegiance from Obama to Trump believe that Democratic economic policies favor the rich-- 42 percent, nearly twice the number who consider that to be true of Trump’s agenda.

The makings of a Democratic majority are real. Demographic advantages will continue to accrue to the left. The party needs only to add to its coalition on the margins and in the right patches on the map. Doing that does not require the abandonment of any moral principles; persuasion is a different category of political activity from pandering. (On page 60 in this issue, Peter Beinart describes how Democrats might alter their language and policies regarding immigration to broaden appeal without sacrificing their principles.) A decent liberalism, not to mention a savvy party, shouldn’t struggle to accord dignity and respect to citizens, even if it believes some of them hold abhorrent views.

Victories in the culture wars of the past decade seemed to come so easily to liberals that they created a measure of complacency, as if those wars had been won with little cost. In actuality, the losers seethed. If the Democrats intend to win elections in 2018, 2020, and beyond, they require a hardheaded realism about the country that they have recently lacked-- about the perils of income stagnation, the difficulties of moving the country to a multicultural future, the prevalence of unreason and ire. For a Democratic majority to ultimately emerge, the party needs to come to terms with the fact that it hasn’t yet arrived.

This is how Democratic consultants get rich-- selling meaningless pap to frightened, easily manipulated candidates. This TV buy was never going to sway a single vote.

Eric Levitz, writing for New York Magazine yesterday offered one path: an iron worker with a great mustache coming for Paul Ryan’s seat. “Bruce Springsteen’s discography,” he wrote, “has taken on human form-- and now it’s trying to kick Paul Ryan out of Congress.” David Atkins, at the Washington Monthly, was right out of the gate within minutes of yesterday’s losses with the lesson the DCCC will never learn, at least not while Pelosi and Hoyer control it: the path forward lies in winning back Trump voters, not in courting Romney voters.
In July of 2016, Senator Chuck Schumer made a statement that will go down as one of the greatest political miscalculations in modern history: “For every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia, and you can repeat that in Ohio and Illinois and Wisconsin.”

This strategy undergirded every decision of the doomed Clinton campaign, from ignoring the white working class in her Rust Belt firewall, to chasing suburban Republican women in Missouri and the South. It is a strategy that establishment Democratic operatives continue to pursue to this day.

That same strategy may well have cost Democrats a House seat in last night’s special elections, where Democrat Jon Ossoff underperformed expectations in a loss in Georgia’s 6th district, while the more ideologically aggressive Democrat Archie Parnell dramatically overperformed expectations in a loss in South Carolina’s 5th.

The two districts in play last night that could not have better mirrored the dilemma facing Democrats over whether to pursue Trump-averse Republican suburban voters, or working class whites and Obama-Trump switchers. Georgia’s 6th District is full of the former: a traditionally heavy Republican district, it veered away from Donald Trump because its residents are less attuned to Trump’s economic populism and—it was believed—his appeals to bigotry. These are the very voters Clinton and Schumer salivated over, and the national Democratic Party pushed very hard for the seat, spending upwards of $5 million.

South Carolina’s 5th district is much more rural and hardscrabble, and was much more favorable to Trump. Establishment Democrats mostly ignored the race, spending no money there.

In GA-06, Jon Ossoff ran a deliberately anti-ideological campaign. Centrist think tank Third Way bragged that Ossoff used a “centrist message aimed at attracting disillusioned Republican voters.” South Carolina’s Parnell, despite his Goldman Sachs background, ran a much more hard-charging campaign of Democratic values.

…The lesson of the special elections around the country is clear: Democratic House candidates can dramatically outperform Clinton in deep red rural areas by running ideological, populist campaigns rooted in progressive areas. Poorer working class voters who pulled the lever for Trump can be swayed back to the left in surprisingly large numbers-- perhaps not enough to win in places like Kansas, Montana and South Carolina, but certainly in other more welcoming climes. Nor is there a need to subvert Democratic principles of social justice in order to accomplish this: none of the Democrats who overperformed Clinton’s numbers in these districts curried favor with bigots in order to accomplish it.

But candidates like Clinton and Ossoff who try to run inoffensive and anti-ideological campaigns in an attempt to win over supposedly sensible, wealthier, bourgeois suburban David-Brooks-reading Republican Romney voters will find that they lose by surprisingly wide margins. There is no Democrat so seemingly non-partisan that Romney Republicans will be tempted to cross the aisle in enough numbers to make a difference.

Goal Thermometer The way forward for Democrats lies to the left, and with the working classes. It lies with a firm ideological commitment to progressive values, and in winning back the Obama voters Democrats lost to Trump in 2016 without giving ground on commitments to social justice. It does not lie in the wealthy suburbs that voted for Romney over Obama in 2012, or in ideological self-effacement on core economic concerns.
Do you agree? So do we. Tap that thermometer and contribute what you can to candidates like Randy Bryce, Matt Coffay, Jenny Marshall, David Gill-- men and women who are values-driven and aren't likely to be swayed by DCCC centrism and cowardice, not now, not ever.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,