By Frank Thomas
I’ve always thought it would be nearly impossible for Bernie to ultimately win over the establishment status-quo Democratic forces so typically fearful of genuine progressive change … so caught up in an incremental rear guard progress and presidential nomination campaign that is manipulatively, simplistically characterized as one of ‘idealism’ versus ‘realism.‘ So, the message in short seems to be, vote for the candidate of “lowered expectations.”
Rule by American Dynasty appears to be sinking deeper into our oligarchical democracy led by the anointed-to-be queen, Hillary … empowered by a pervasive political network built up during Bill’s presidency and her time as an NY senator and Secretary of State; helped by the corruption of ‘Big Money,’ a plutocratic biased media, the premature, nefarious endorsements of 500 superdelegates BEFORE the nomination campaign began.
The NY closed primary and voter purge pushed aside a TIDE of independents –125,000 in Brooklyn alone –one of NYC’s 5 boroughs –were taken off the rolls. Those, no doubt, would have voted for Bernie in high percentages. Nearly all upstate NY went to Bernie. Hillary won Wall Street and the greater metropolitan area where the rich, bankers, traders and top 5% live. Inequality becomes acute when the rules and opportunities apply differently to different people. When the system is gamed and manipulated by the few to their own advantage, social commonality is destroyed. Result? A society perilously divided and not at peace with itself.
Bernie’s honesty and originality on policies needed to regain our democracy, to redress working class inequality and to ensure working class progress have changed the public debate. His popularity has soared. And he has set a new political tone supported by millions. Policy-wise, that seems to have brought Hillary away from her ignominious, enriching right of center special-interest loyalties to a foot left of center. She’s coming around to Bernie’s version of almost everything. Whether she sticks to that path without timidly compromising is another question. I like how Bernie comes up with things that never were or are difficult, and asks, why not? Hillary looks at things and says, why?
Recently, she came closer to embracing Bernie’s $15/hour minimum wage, though as usual with caveats. Unfortunately, she wants to set limits on fracking (e.g., methane release and chemical pollution of water). She has been working to export fracking technology. Bernie wants no fracking at all. Could it be those high-priced speeches to the oil and other industries (e.g., pharmaceutical) are affecting her judgment? Hillary continues to hold our health care system captive of the super-pricey private insurance and pharmaceutical companies.
Hillary will defeat Donald handily – as would Bernie if nominated – especially when Bernie’s supporters get behind her. Trump’s resurgent supporters are similarly fed up with our nation’s corrupt, polarized, do-nothing-constructive on what the-people-want politics. The political establishment on both ideological sides has been ‘burned’ by angry voters empowered by Sanders and Trump. This is a whole new political world that requires new approaches on serious problems.
Hopefully, folks on both sides of the political establishment who have either ignored or orchestrated and directed the impoverishment of the middle/poorer classes will feel compelled to work together for the common good for a change.
Paul Krugman and Tom Hayden are among the late-in-the-game ‘enlightened’ ones belittling Sanders for his supposedly ‘unrealistic’ programs and ‘lack of specifics’ on how to achieve them. For them, moderate repair to systemically broken parts of our political-economic systems seems safer. That’s simply not true. That approach has been the root cause of our systemically broken political-economic- social systems (and Hillary’s major failures. See: “Is Hillary Clinton Qualified,” by Robert Parry, April 8, 2016).
Between 1991-2013, GDP increased significantly. But real U.S. incomes across the educational range stagnated. So where did the money go? The money went to CEOs and the top 5%. As someone noted, “We now live in a world of elite winners and vast numbers of precariously employed workers.”
Contrary to what Krugman and Hayden are saying, Bernie is a man of details as well as vision. He has a deep grasp of the issues and a 40 year legislative legacy as the “Amendment King,” always standing up for the working class and poor. He’s a quintessential example of the golden precept that public servants serve the public. Among their duties is to protect ‘the people’ from private forces that seek profit or advantage by exploitation of people and the commons we all rely on.
Similar bashing of Bernie comes from the right-wing surrogates of Hillary who chastise Bernie as a man promising the moon without specifying how to get there. These superfluous ad hominem attacks don’t come close to the scale of vile critique of Hillary’s personal and professional flaws – e.g., her inveterate trait of playing with the truth, of cleverly twisting things with words for opportunistic expediency. People think Bernie is the better candidate for following reasons that establishment Democrats, media, and pundits are labeling as fantasies, idealistic, messianic, impracticable, naive, immature, impressionable and mindless:
- highly consistent and dependable 40-year political track record as a legislator, demonstrating impeccable honesty and transparency
better judgment and greater electability against people like Trump or Cruz
- raising minimum wage to $15/hour (vs. Hillary’s $12/hour), offering free public college/university tuition and sharply cutting student loan interest rate
- incorporating Obamacare step-by-step into Medicare for all
- spending a trillion dollars on infrastructure and pre-college education
- ending subsidies to fossil fuel industry
- reforming trade agreements and reversing the Citizen’s United decision
- reviving manufacturing and supporting unions
- setting higher taxes on the wealthy estates, imposing a tax of a fraction of a percent on financial speculation.
- using above progressive ideas to shift the structure of the economy back to regenerating the disappearing middle class and toward reducing the expanding poor class. Working class Americans have seen their standard of living decimated by 30 years of supply side economics, job killing free trade pacts, exodus of manufacturing, outsourcing of jobs, tax cuts for the rich, tax avoidance paradises for corporations, threats to Social Security and health care, deregulation of finance.
Most of what is said about Bernie’s vagueness or capability to implement his policies is a combination of subjective, biased generalizations and some obvious tall tales … which, when repeated enough, typically become gospel in American politics. Very few of Bernie’s supporters, including Bernie himself, see him as the political “messiah.” From the start, Bernie has consistently been saying he needs the public involvement and massive turnout to apply political pressure to legislation, as does Hillary. Democratic control of Congress or at least the Senate is essential for both Bernie and Hillary.
Bernie is inspiring the public conversation and movement while Hillary is controlling the delegates. The grassroots working class movement fermented by Bernie is his unique initiative, not Hillary’s. This is the “political revolution” Bernie has so passionately forged, attracting huge numbers of enthusiastic voters in age groups below 30 and 30-45. He knows full well it’s a marathon uphill battle against the political establishment’s business-as-usual paradigm that has been step-by-step undermining the security and social-economic quality of life for working people for decades. Win or lose, I don’t think Bernie’s progressive movement will die out as some cynically say.
As is the culture of American politics, nonsense and lies become acceptable when repeated enough especially by people of exceptional minds like Paul Krugman. Bernie is quite aware that institutional interventions in the market – such as bluntly addressing income inequality and equal opportunity – come at a cost. But government interventions and incentives will also come at a net gain long term. They will raise money by inspiring more people to work harder, by creating more and fairer opportunities, and by spurring direct societal investment.
Whatever happens, Bernie has forced the economic profession and everybody else to take the systemic breakdowns seriously. The system is corrupt to the core, and Hillary, unlike Bernie, is part and parcel of the anti-democracy Big Money poisoned politics. Hillary is now getting on a “Bernie-lite” policy bandwagon. Her challenge is to break a plethora of historical evidence of allying with and voting for corporate and special interests on fundamental issues.
Bernie’s revival of democratic socialism runs deeply through the fabric of American life and government … in the tradition of Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, Henry Wallace, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, LBJ, JFK and, yes, Jimmy Carter. For Bernie supporters, his policy program is the much needed “Real New Deal” for our broken nation. It’s a grassroots movement that has potential over the long term to vitally transform severe imbalances in our socio-economic system.
I hope Democratic Californians will drive this message home to the likely ultimate winner, Hillary, by strongly supporting Bernie’s nomination. As noted, Bernie is controlling the public conversation while Hillary is controlling the delegates. He may not be nominated, but many of his ideas supported by almost 50% of the Democrat-Independent voting public should be acted upon by Hillary or she will certainly be a one term president.
Hillary is compromised by her long-time patronizing addiction to rich money interests. Between 2013-2015, Hillary made 12 speeches to Wall Street bankers, private equity firms, and other financial corporations. She recently received $675,000 for three speeches to Goldman Sachs and subsequently refused to release the transcripts. During her Secretary of State term, Bill made $17 million with speeches to similar business groups. Since 2008, both have made ±$139 million in speeches largely to Wall Street interests, e.g., banks, insurance companies, hedge funds, real estate firms, companies and other financial groups. Bernie is not compromised by special interests and their lobbyists. His integrity has always been unassailable.
One HUGE concern is Hillary’s War Goddess temperament. She has never seen a war, regime change intervention, or weapons systems she couldn’t justify. Her imperial world view and bloodthirsty proclivity are well documented in Diana Johnstone’s book, Queen of Chaos, The Misadventures of Hillary Clinton. She documents in detail how Hillary has carefully groomed herself for the role of woman ‘war’ president.
From Asia to Latin America, her record as the ultimate foreign policy neocon “has been scrutinized to oblivion,” namely, for her support of the contras in Nicaragua; support of NATO’s bombing of the former Yugoslavia; support for 2003 ‘Shock and Awe’ invasion of Iraq (which Bernie was against); support for Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan; then, as Secretary of State, support of war turning Libya into a military hell; support of 2009 coup in Honduras; support for regime change in Syria via Salifi Jihadis; recent Hawkish speeches for more intervention in Iraq and Syria.
Hillary may be “packaged” as a progressive but she’s the ultimate neocon – a foreign policy HAWK with an affinity for military adventures and regime change. As President, she will have the power to plunge us into a nuclear Armageddon. Her historical hawkishness comes at a time when America’s epoch of global dominance is nearing an end. She had better adapt more peacefully to the new world situation … meaning a strong military defense but avoidance of foreign military engagements or provocation, unless absolutely essential. This means understanding when and when not to use armed force. In Johnstone’s words, a repeat of Hillary’s Iraq and Libya war blindness and willingness could result in the worst human disaster ever experienced.
Bernie has rightly said we must recognize the ‘realism’ of our disastrous Middle East policies, the long-term chaos implanted on that region and the new threats now reaching out to Europe. Bernie is against unilateral military interventions abroad aimed at regime change. Going to war should be the last resort. The U.S. should take a supporting role, not a leading role in such interventions. This means a tougher approach with Arab allies. Ted Cruz’s vow “to carpet bomb” ISIS jihadis is the archetype reckless overseas military insanity.
As Bernie says, there’s a lesson that must be learned from the massive instability and human tragedies emanating from regime change adventures by aggressive military means in countries like Iraq, Libya and Syria. In his view, this calls for a very critical reassessment of Pentagon budgets, priorities and accountability. Our long ongoing war-mongering culture now costs over $750 billion annually or half of all budgeted discretionary spending and half what the rest of the world spends on defense. This continues to accelerate our national debt while bleeding our Federal Treasury of $trillions in funds critically needed to repair obsolete infrastructure and educational systems.
In sum, I close with some wise words from Diana Johnstone in her book, Queen of Chaos, The Misadventures of Hillary Clinton: “Let us hope that the first woman president will be distinguished by a profound understanding of the world and genuine compassion, rather than relentless ambition.”
Frank Thomas is a graduate of Bowdoin and Dartmouth Colleges. He was a management consultant for Dutch international shipbuilding and offshore oil & gas contracting firms as well as a lecturer/trainer for Dutch firms and government ministries until his retirement. In recent years, he has been a researcher and writer on grave national and world issues, such as the science of global warming.