Down To One Liberal And One Defender Of Civil Liberties In The Presidential Race

Colbert Hungry for Power Games

The number of presidential candidates should drop quickly now that voting has begun. It is not surprising that many of the candidates are waiting to see if they do better than the polls have predicted, which is reasonable considering how poorly polls often are at predicting primary results. Some of the more mainstream candidates are putting their hopes on New Hampshire. For other candidates, a loss in Iowa was enough to tell them that they had no chance.

On the Democratic side, Martin O’Malley announced that he is suspending his campaign while the Iowa caucus was in progress. It has been clear for months that O’Malley had no real chance with the conservative/establishment voters going for Clinton and the liberal/pro-insurgent voters going for Sanders. There was no middle lane for O’Malley, who certainly would be a far better choice than Clinton. He campaigned hard in Iowa, and there was no point in continuing once this failed to result in support at the caucuses. This leaves Bernie Sanders as the only liberal or progressive left in the race from either party.

For the Republicans, the Iowa caucus is the best shot for a candidate from the religious right to win, as Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum have done in the past. Republicans this year are bucking their usual trend of backing the next in line, with Ted Cruz winning this year. Huckabee at least deserves credit for realizing there is no hope and not dragging it on any longer. I wonder how much longer Rick Santorum and Ben Carson will stay in the race.

Rand Paul dropped out today, realizing it made more sense to work at holding on to his Senate seat, especially when he is increasingly being excluded from the Republican debates. While I disagree with Paul on many things, I did like having Paul criticizing the other candidates for their conservative positions on military interventionism, civil liberties, and the drug war. For that matter, while he has done so at times, I also wish Bernie Sanders would do the same regarding Clinton’s views.

With Paul out, this leaves Sanders as the only candidate opposing unnecessary foreign intervention, the only candidate opposing the surveillance state and other restrictions on civil liberties, and the only candidate who opposes the drug war. By concentrating on economic issues, where he also differs substantially from all the remaining candidates, other issues are receiving too little attention this year.

Stephen Colbert did not do his usual segment on Hungry For Power Games last night, concentrating on the caucus instead. Now he has three candidates to mock tonight.

Update: Rick Santorum is also dropping out.

The Vast Ideological Gap Between Hillary Clinton and Supporters of Bernie Sanders

Political Compass 2016 Candidates

Politico looks at Hillary Clinton’s 43 percent problem:

Mitt Romney had a 47 percent problem. Hillary Clinton’s problem is 43 percent.

That’s the share of Democratic caucus goers in Iowa who identify themselves as “socialists,” according to a recent Des Moines Register poll. It’s a percentage that has turned a once-easy line of attack – painting Bernie Sanders as too far left to be electable — into a trickier endeavor for Clinton in the last days before the Iowa caucuses.

This gives one explanation of why the polls in Iowa are now so close, but it over-simplifies the situation. It is not really about socialists versus capitalists. Sanders’ views are far closer to those of European Social Democrats. He is not a socialist, and I certainly am not.  The ideological divide, and the reasons I support Sanders over Clinton, are more complex.

Using the flawed left/right ideological spectrum also creates more serious misunderstandings and feeds the Clinton camp’s false claims that she is more electable than Sanders. The left/right spectrum misses the fact that independents and voters in battle ground states are often hostile towards Clinton and that Sanders has a much better chance with such voters. Part of this is because of voters looking at character as opposed to ideology. Another factor is that Sanders is closer to the ideological center where voters who would consider voting Democratic fall.

Political Compass is one of many sites which measure political views along two or more axes. While no system is perfect, they do a good job of capturing the approximate relative positions of the primary candidates. This shows, as I have often argued during this primary battle, that Hillary Clinton is far closer to the Republican candidates than she is to Bernie Sanders (or to my position). Their graphing of the primary candidates is above and the following is from their description of the candidates:

Style more than substance separates Trump from Hillary Clinton. After all, Trump was a generous donor to Clinton’s senate campaigns, and also to the Clinton Foundation. Hillary is nevertheless disingenuously promoting herself as the centrist between an extreme right-winger (Trump) and an ‘extreme left-winger’ (Sanders). Abortion and gay marriage place her on a more liberal position on the social scale than all of the Republicans but, when it comes to economics, Clinton’s unswerving attachment to neoliberalism and big money is a mutual love affair.

Quite why Sanders is describing himself to the American electorate — of all electorates — as a ‘socialist’ or ‘democratic socialist’ isn’t clear. His economics are Keynesian or Galbraithian, in common with mainstream parties of the left in the rest of the west — the Labour or Social Democrat parties. Surely ‘Social Democrat’ would be a more accurate and appealing label for the Sanders campaign to adopt.

I don’t totally agree with the placement of the candidates. I think they rank Clinton a little more liberal on social issues than she falls, ignoring her past position on gay marriage until politically expedient to change, and her association with members of the religious right in The Fellowship while in the Senate. I would also put a greater distance between them on foreign policy than described in the full post linked above.

Despite these disagreements, the overall pattern is right. Clinton is a bit more moderate than the Republican candidates, but ideologically in the same authoritarian right area. Sanders falls closer to the libertarian than the authoritarian end where the other candidates fall, but not all that much left of center economically.

Personally I fall much further in the left-libertarian section, falling much more towards the libertarian end than Sanders (although I also question if he shouldn’t fall somewhat further along the libertarian axis than shown here). It is no surprise that left-libertarians have been heavily in support of Sanders this year.

This is the divide the Democrats now face. It isn’t that many Democratic voters are socialists, but we do differ considerably from Hillary Clinton in ideology, and do not see much of a difference between her and the Republicans.  Obviously this will not apply to all Sanders supporters, and some could even manage to vote for Hillary Clinton in a general election without having to hold their noses, but it does apply to many of us.

Many young voters share socially libertarian and secular views which put them closer to the left-libertarian portion of the political spectrum. Many of us older voters got more active in politics in response to the abuses of the Bush years. As I wrote earlier in the week, we are not going to be excited by a Democrat who advocates the same neoconservative foreign policy, has supported the same types of restrictions on civil liberties and expanded power for the Executive Branch, and who as actively worked to increase the role of religion on public policy. She has also been a hawk on the drug war. While better than the Republicans in agreeing with the scientific consensus on climate change, she is so indebted to the petroleum industry that her environmental policies have not been much better.

Hillary Clinton is just a slightly more moderate version of George Bush. Yes, the Republicans have moved even further towards the authoritarian right corner of the spectrum, but that still does not leave Clinton as a desirable choice.

Dana Milbank Is Wrong–Nominating Sanders Is The Rational Choice For Democrats

Bernie Sanders Large Crowd

Dana Milbank repeated the establishment line in a column fallaciously entitled, Democrats would be insane to nominate Bernie Sanders.

I adore Bernie Sanders.

I agree with his message of fairness and I share his outrage over inequality and corporate abuses. I think his righteous populism has captured the moment perfectly. I respect the uplifting campaign he has run. I admire his authenticity.

And I am convinced Democrats would be insane to nominate him.

Hillary Clinton, by contrast, is a dreary candidate. She has, again, failed to connect with voters. Her policy positions are cautious and uninspiring. Her reflexive secrecy causes a whiff of scandal to follow her everywhere. She seems calculating and phony.

And yet if Democrats hope to hold the presidency in November, they’ll need to hold their noses and nominate Clinton.

Milbank dismissed the evidence that Sander would do better against the Republicans than Clinton:

Sanders and his supporters boast of polls showing him, on average, matching up slightly better against Trump than Clinton does. But those matchups are misleading: Opponents have been attacking and defining Clinton for a quarter- century, but nobody has really gone to work yet on demonizing Sanders.

Milbank ignores how Clinton and her surrogates have already been launching right-wing sounding attacks against Sanders. Despite this, Sanders does better than Clinton against Republicans in national polls. More significantly in terms of winning the general election, Clinton does poorly with independents and in the battle ground states.

Right wing attacks on Sanders won’t be any different from right wing attacks on Obama, who they already claim is a Marxist Socialist, and a foreign-born Muslim, who will be sending the black helicopters out any minute now to take away their guns and put them in FEMA concentration camps.

Milbank also ignores the importance of turn out. Republican attacks on Sanders will primarily appeal to Republican voters–not people who would ever vote for Sanders. However both Sanders own campaigning and Republican attacks will motivate Democratic leaning voters to turn out. It is Sanders, not Clinton, who has been exciting voters for the past several months, and inspiring many new voters to get involved.

There are traditionally two ways to win an election–motivate your base to turn out in high numbers or win over independents. Sanders can do better than Clinton at both. Plus he can get votes from people who have not voted for the major political parties in the past.

Plus as a general rule of thumb, it is best not to nominate the candidate whose practices are the subject of an active FBI investigation. A Clinton candidacy, assuming she is not indicted, will be dominated by talk of scandal, most likely suppressing the Democratic vote and energizing the Republicans.

Milbanks admits that voters must be willing to hold their nose to vote for Clinton, but what makes him so sure that they will do so as opposed to staying home? Running on the argument that “my candidate is bad, but yours is even worse” is not how to win an election. Voters want to vote for something, not just vote for the lesser of two evils.

With all their faults, at least Republicans are willing to stand for something, even if the wrong things. Republicans don’t worry if their candidates are too extreme, and they reject those who they consider to be Republicans In Name Only.

Many Sanders supporters back him primarily because of the economic issues which have dominated the campaign. Many of us became active in the blogosphere in response to the abuses of the Bush administration. We are not going to be excited by a Democrat who advocates the same neoconservative foreign policy, has supported the same types of restrictions on civil liberties and expanded power for the Executive Branch, and who as actively worked to increase the role of religion on public policy. She has been a hawk on the drug war. While better than the Republicans in agreeing with the scientific consensus on climate change, she is so indebted to the petroleum industry that her environmental policies have not been much better.

This is hardly a record to get people who vote based upon principle, as opposed to party affiliation, to get out to vote for Hillary Clinton. No wonder Milbank realizes we would have to hold our noses.

Democrats, and some of their supporters in the media, think Democrats need to hide from principles and run candidates who are Republican-lite. They never get the lesson, no matter how often that results in the Democrats losing.

Fortunately not everyone agrees. The Nation gave one of their rare endorsements to Sanders and The Washington Post also ran a recent op-ed by arguing that Bernie Sanders is the realist we should elect.

Many of the pundits agree — this is a choice between head and heart. If Democrats think with their heads, they will go with Hillary; with their hearts, with Bernie.

But this conventional wisdom clashes with the reality that this country has suffered serial devastations from choices supported by the establishment’s “responsible” candidates. On fundamental issue after issue, it is the candidate “of the heart” who is in fact grounded in common sense. It wasn’t Sanders’s emotional appeal, but his clearsightedness that led the Nation magazine, which I edit, to make only its third presidential endorsement in a primary in its 150-year history.

For example, foreign policy is considered Clinton’s strength. When terrorism hits the headlines, she gains in the polls. Yet the worst calamity in U.S. foreign policy since Vietnam surely was George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. Clinton voted for that war; Sanders got it right and voted against. Clinton has since admitted her vote was a “mistake” but seems to have learned little from that grievous misjudgment. As secretary of state, she championed regime change in Libya that left behind another failed state rapidly becoming a backup base for the Islamic State. She pushed for toppling Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian civil war and lobbied for arming the Syrian opposition, a program that ended up supplying more weapons to the Islamic State than to anyone else. Now she touts a “no fly zone” in Syria, an idea that has been dismissed by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as requiring some 70,000 troops to enforce, and by President Obama as well. People thinking with their heads rather than their hearts might well prefer Sanders’s skepticism about regime change to Clinton’s hawkishness.

The worst economic calamity since the Great Depression came when the excesses of Wall Street created the housing bubble and financial crisis that blew up the economy. Clinton touts her husband economic record, but he championed the deregulation that helped unleash the Wall Street wilding. The banks, bailed out by taxpayers, are bigger and more concentrated than they were before the crash. Someone using their head — not their heart — would want to make certain that the next president is independent of Wall Street and committed to breaking up the big banks and shutting down the casino. But Clinton opposes key elements of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) rational reform agenda for the banks, and her money ties to Wall Street lead any rational observer to conclude she’s an uncertain trumpet for reform.

Americans continue to suffer from a broken heath-care system that costs nearly twice per capita as those in the rest of the industrialized world — with worse results. Obama’s health reforms have helped millions get health care — particularly through the expansion of Medicaid and by forcing coverage of pre-existing conditions. But millions continue to go without care, millions more are underinsured and unable to afford decent coverage, and even more are gouged by drug companies and insurance companies that game the system’s complexities. Eventually the United States will join every other industrial nation with some form of simplified universal care. Sanders champions moving to “Medicare for all.” Clinton has mischaracterized his proposal, erroneously claiming it would “basically end all kinds of health care we know, Medicare, Medicaid, the Chip Program. It would take all that and hand it over to the states.” She says she would build on Obamacare but has yet to detail significant reforms that would take us closer to a rational health-care system. Sanders supported Obamacare but understands we can’t get to a rational health-care plan without leaders willing to take on the entrenched interests that stand in the way. It isn’t romantic to think that it is long past time for the United States to join every other industrial country and guarantee affordable health care for all…

In the face of the Sanders surge, Clinton supporters have resorted to the “electability argument”: that Sanders can’t be elected because he’s too far left. Put aside the irony of Clinton dismissing the electoral viability of someone she might lose to. Clinton has inevitable baggage of her own that raises doubts about her electoral prospects. And Clinton’s decision to present herself as the candidate of continuity in a time of change is problematic.

Clinton’s closing ad before Iowa makes her central argument clear: Trust her. She’s experienced and committed. She’ll keep Republicans from taking away the progress we’ve made. Sanders’s ad makes his argument clear: Trust yourself. Come together, take back the country and make this nation better. The first appeals to the head; the latter to the heart. But even the most hard-headed pragmatist might think the latter has as good a chance at getting elected and a better chance of forcing change than the former.

Update: Washington Post Editorial Board Spreading Fictions About Bernie Sanders

Benefits Seen Two Years After Legalization Of Marijuana In Colorado

colorado.first.to.legalize.250

AlterNet noted the two year anniversary of legalized marijuana in Colorado, describing the economic benefits along with the decrease in incarceration:

1) Thousands Not Arrested for Marijuana in Colorado

This initial and foundational aspect of marijuana legalization is often overlooked – marijuana arrests in Colorado have plummeted. We’ve seen possession, cultivation and distribution charges for marijuana cumulatively drop over 80%. Thousands of people in the state are no longer facing the immediate or collateral impact of a marijuana arrest. These thousands we speak of are disproportionately young black and brown men who now face one less obstacle of the many they endure in this country. We’ve also seen all drug-related charges drop by 23% on a judicial district level since the passage of amendment 64.

2) Revenue Allocation for Important Services

Colorado is projected to have brought in over 125 million dollars in taxes for 2015.  These monies are put into a fund to improve local public schools or are collected by the state to be divvied up via the Governor’s allocation plan.  The Governor’s plan provides a snapshot as to what a public health approach to marijuana looks like—funds are distributed to public education, behavioral health, law enforcement and youth prevention…

The article also noted the benefits reported after the first year by the Drug Policy Alliance:

The city of Denver saw a decrease in violent crime rates in the first 11 months of 2014, following a similar trend in 2013. Statewide traffic fatalities continue to decline, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation.

Conservative groups opposed to marijuana legalization previously issued their own negative report, with the results being seen by others as politically motivated.

Debate Shows Why Republicans Cannot Be Trusted On Foreign Policy

Republican Debate Los Vegas

The Republican debate (transcript here) showed once again that most of the GOP candidates have not learned a thing from the mistakes made by George W. Bush. The debate did play towards Rand Paul’s areas of sanity in opposing military interventionism and infringements on civil liberties, and did not include the many other areas where Paul is no better than the others in his parties. Jeb Bush, whose candidacy was derailed partially due to attacks from Donald Trump of being low energy, did manage some good counter-attacks on Trump. Chris Christie, back from the kiddie table debate, showed moments of strength, for better or worse.

As Esquire pointed out, Rand Paul didn’t win the debate (primarily because most Republican voters would not go along with his views) but did raise the important questions.

BLITZER: Senator Paul, was getting rid of Saddam Hussein a pretty good deal?

PAUL: These are the fundamental questions of our time, these foreign policy questions, whether or not regime change is a good idea or a bad idea. I don’t think because I think the regime change was a bad idea it means that Hussein was necessarily a good idea.

There is often variations of evil on both sides of the war. What we have to decide is whether or not regime change is a good idea. It’s what the neoconservatives have wanted. It’s what the vast majority of those on the stage want.

They still want regime change. They want it in Syria. They wanted it in Iraq. They want it in Libya. It has not worked.

Out of regime change you get chaos. From the chaos you have seen repeatedly the rise of radical Islam. So we get this profession of, oh, my goodness, they want to do something about terrorism and yet they’re the problem because they allow terrorism to arise out of that chaos.

Ted Cruz said he wanted to “carpet bomb ISIS into oblivion,” and to have”sand can glow in the dark.”When asked about killing civilians, Cruz replied, “You would carpet bomb where ISIS is, not a city, but the location of the troops.” But ISIS is in cities. does he think they are just sitting targets out in the desert, away from civilians, waiting to be bombed?

Ben Carson bragged about being tough enough to kill children:

HEWITT: So you are OK with the deaths of thousands of innocent children and civilian? It’s like…

CARSON: You got it. You got it.

Donald Trump both spoke of closing portions of the Internet and killing the families of terrorists. Rand Paul responded:

I’d like to also go back to, though, another question, which is, is Donald Trump a serious candidate? The reason I ask this is, if you’re going to close the Internet, realize, America, what that entails. That entails getting rid of the First amendment, OK? It’s no small feat.

If you are going to kill the families of terrorists, realize that there’s something called the Geneva Convention we’re going to have to pull out of. It would defy every norm that is America. So when you ask yourself, whoever you are, that think you’re going to support Donald Trump, think, do you believe in the Constitution? Are you going to change the Constitution?

Carly Fiorina pointed out that, “Hillary Clinton has gotten every foreign policy challenge wrong.” That is generally true, as she has the same neoconservative views as most of the Republicans, who are no better.

Chris Christie did sound strong when he mocked Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz when they argued.

CHRISTIE: Listen, I want to talk to the audience at home for a second. If your eyes are glazing over like mine, this is what it’s like to be on the floor of the United States Senate. I mean, endless debates about how many angels on the head of a pin from people who’ve never had to make a consequential decision in an executive position.

But being tough does not necessarily mean being wise, and Christie showed a quite foolish attitude towards Russia. Again Rand Paul displayed a sense of reality lacking in both other Republican candidates, as well as Hillary Clinton, in their support of the no fly zone:

BLITZER: Governor Christie, if the U.S. imposed a no-fly zone over Syria and a Russian plane encroached, invaded that no-fly zone, would you be prepared to shoot down that Russian plane and risk war with Russia?

CHRISTIE: Not only would I be prepared to do it, I would do it. A no-fly zone means a no-fly zone, Wolf. That’s what it means.

See, maybe — maybe because I’m from New Jersey, I just have this kind of plain language hangup. But I would make very clear — I would not talk to Vladimir Putin. In fact, I would talk to Vladimir Putin a lot. But I’d say to him, “Listen, Mr. President, there’s a no-fly zone in Syria; you fly in, it applies to you.” And yes, we would shoot down the planes of Russian pilots if in fact they were stupid enough to think that this president was the same feckless weakling that the president we have in the Oval Office is right now.

BLITZER: Senator Paul — Senator Paul, I want you to respond to what we just heard from Governor Christie. If there was a no-fly zone, you say that potentially could lead to World War III. Why?

PAUL: Well, I think if you’re in favor of World War III, you have your candidate. You know, here’s the thing. My goodness, what we want in a leader is someone with judgment, not someone who is so reckless as to stand on the stage and say, “Yes, I’m jumping up and down; I’m going to shoot down Russian planes.” Russia already flies in that airspace. It may not be something we’re in love with the fact that they’re there, but they were invited by Iraq and by Syria to fly in that airspace.

And so if we announce we’re going to have a no-fly zone, and others have said this. Hillary Clinton is also for it. It is a recipe for disaster. It’s a recipe for World War III. We need to confront Russia from a position of strength, but we don’t need to confront Russia from a point of recklessness that would lead to war.

This is something — this type of judgment, you know, it’s having that kind of judgment; who you would appoint and how you’re going to conduct affairs, that is incredibly important.

I mean, I think when we think about the judgment of someone who might want World War III, we might think about someone who might shut down a bridge because they don’t like their friends; they don’t want to — you know, they want to (inaudible) a Democrat.

So I think we need to be very careful.

Jeb Bush didn’t have much of consequence to say on policy, but he did do a good job of responding to Donald Trump’s antics. He told Trump, “Donald, you’re not going to be able to insult your way to the presidency. That’s not going to happen.” He summed up Trump here:

So Donald, you know, is great at — at the one-liners, but he’s a chaos candidate. And he’d be a chaos president. He would not be the commander in chief we need to keep our country safe.

He also questioned Trump’s source of information, referring back to a previous statement from Donald Trump that he obtained information on foreign policy from television shows:

HEWITT: Governor Bush, a commander-in-chief question. You’ve said that Mr. Trump is not qualified to be president because he’s not qualified to deal with Vladimir Putin. Why are you better qualified to deal with Vladimir Putin than Mr. Trump?

BUSH: Because I — first of all, I know what I don’t know. I know what I don’t know. I would seek out, as I have, the best advice that exists. I won’t get my information from the shows. I don’t know if that’s Saturday morning or Sunday morning. I don’t know which one.

None of the candidates was remotely qualified to be president. (While Rand Paul was generally right in this debate, his economic views and opposition to reproductive rights, which did not come up in this debate would disqualify him.) Unfortunately the Democratic front runner holds essentially the same views, even if Clinton uses different rhetoric in appealing to Democratic as opposed to Republican primary voters. Bernie Sanders represents our best hope to both have a president who has not made the errors which destabilized the region, and who can inspire voters to turn out to defeat the Republicans in a general election.

Bernie Sanders Is Working To Build A New Winning Coalition

Bernie Sanders Workers

Chris Cillizza believes that Bernie Sanders’ one-dimensional campaign is hurting him badly.

Sanders is — sorry Sanders people! — surprisingly one-dimensional as a candidate. When he is talking about the differences between the haves and the have nots, about the need for more economic fairness, why we need to reform the campaign finance system or work to address global warming, he is terrific. When he is talking about anything else, he is, um, not.

Sanders built a movement in the early days of the race on the passion he exudes from every pore when talking about economic inequality. The contrast between Sanders’s “people powered” campaign and the top heavy, corporate feel of Hillary Clinton’s effort was striking.  And, Sanders is, without question, closer to the true heart of the Democratic party than Clinton on the vast majority of domestic issues.

The problem for Sanders is that external events changed the conversation in the race and he has been unwilling or unable to change with it. Talking about economic inequality in the midst of a national debate about gun control and national security won’t lose Sanders the ardent supporters he already has. But, it will badly hamstring his ability to grow beyond the supporters he already has in what is, essentially, a one-on-one race with Clinton at the moment. (Sorry Martin O’Malley!)

I can see where Cillizza could see the campaign as being too one-dimensional. At times I do wish that Sanders would devote more time other issues I’m more concerned about, but Cillizza also misses the point of Sanders’ strategy, along with exaggerating the degree to which the campaign is one-dimensional. While it is true that Sanders concentrates on economic fairness, he has spoken on other major issues during the campaign, even if not as often.

Bernie Sanders is running on his own version of “it’s the economy stupid.” Whether this is a brilliant strategy which will get him nominated and elected president, or whether it is hurting his campaign, won’t be apparent until we see how the voting goes. There is evidence suggesting that just maybe the strategy will work.

David Weigel showed where it might work in areas where the Obama coalition was weak, such as in West Virginia:

Sanders, who has won elections only in a white, rural state, thinks his brand of bold democratic socialism can sell. He has never campaigned here, yet at Friday’s rally in Morgantown, miner after miner said they basically agreed with the former mayor of Burlington more than they agreed with Clinton. Several were aware that Sanders had walked picket lines, something that resonated as they packed a hotel ballroom to demand that Washington fully fund UMWA pensions.

After looking at criticisms of this approach, Weigel continued:

But Sanders believes that such naysayers are missing the weight of his cardinal argument — for greater economic fairness — and voters’ willingness to look past the other issues where they disagree.

He has won elections in Vermont, a white, rural, gun-owning state, as a socialist. The social-issue “distractions” bemoaned by red-state Democrats have seemed to bounce right off his armor. (He has taken mixed positions on gun control, supporting a ban on assault rifles, for instance, but opposing the Brady Bill.) In the end, is the white guy who voted for him in Vermont any different than the white guy in West Virginia or Kentucky or Ohio who was told to blame liberals for his problems?

“What I’ve found in Vermont and around the country is that we go to people and say, ‘Look, we do have differences,’ ” Sanders said. “ ‘I believe in gay marriage. I’m not going to change your view if you don’t. I believe climate change is absolutely real, and some of you do not. But how many of you think we should give hundreds of billions in tax breaks to the richest 1 percent?’ ”

Booman sees a plausible way that Sanders could capitalize on the rage which Donald Trump is using to propel his campaign, which he compared to the George Wallace campaign of 1972.  He sees Sanders expanding the Democratic coalition in 2016 like George McGovern did when he brought together the hard hats, the “peace freaks,” urban blacks, and others to win the Democratic nomination. Plus he points out how demographics have changed since 1972 to allow such a coalition to also win the general election:

…it’s a socialist running for the nomination of the other party who is working on the theory that a lot of Wallace rage is soft and not particularly partisan or ideological. It is only loosely attached to Trump who is, anyway, basically a clown act [with this written before the latest outrageous statement from Trump].

The problem for McGovern was that the coalition of freaks and hardhats was big enough to win him the nomination but too small and fragile to even compete in the general. Sanders’ theory of the case is that the overmatched McGovern coalition is really about the same thing (sans most of the hardhats) as the twice victorious Obama coalition. Demographic changes have flipped the odds. If Sanders can bring back in some of the disaffected hardhats, he could create a progressive revolution in this country based less on identity politics than on class consciousness.

Sanders is concentrating on building a coalition around economic issues because he believes that this is what has a chance of both beating Hillary Clinton and winning a general election. While I might like to hear more from Sanders on foreign policy, civil liberties, and social issues, these might be a distraction to this goal. Besides the other choices with a reasonable chance to win are DLC Democrat (i.e. Republican-lite) candidate Hillary Clinton, and the even more conservative Republican candidates. This leaves Sanders as the only real option for those who oppose neoconservative militarism, the surveillance state, the drug war, government corruption, and conservative outlooks on civil liberties and social issues.

We know Sanders is on our side from his past record regardless of how much he concentrates on these issues during the campaign. Unlike Clinton, we know that the positions he has held throughout his career mean something. Sanders is already doing well with many of the well-educated, affluent Democrats who voted for Obama and are outside the obvious target audience for his economic pitch. Now the question is whether he can expand the Obama coalition based upon economic issues and win.

Salon Article Advocates Writing In Bernie Sanders If Clinton Wins Democratic Nomination

No Clinton

An article at Salon (More like Reagan than FDR: I’m a millennial and I’ll never vote for Hillary Clinton) is receiving some attention for providing reasons why the author would not vote for Hillary Clinton. Walker Bragman began by suggesting that the usual course would be to utilize primaries to try to select the candidate most aligned with the change he wants, and then vote for the lesser of two evils in the general election if it came to this. He argues that this strategy doesn’t apply this year due to the manner in which the DNC is resisting the possibility of selecting a change candidate in rigging the rules for Clinton.

Bragman then went through the arguments as to why he does not want to vote for Clinton. He started with Hillary’s personality repels me (and many others). The section would be better labeled with her character as opposed to personality, as it deals with her dishonesty and double talk.

The next section is more accurately labeled with On foreign policy, Clinton is a neoconservative. This section primarily deals with her approach to handling ISIS, and I would add more regarding her neoconservative views on Iraq and Libya.

The next section is On domestic policy, Clinton is basically a moderate Republican. Many examples are listed to back this up, concentrating on economic policy. I would have included her conservative views on civil liberties and social/cultural issues. Of course an article would have to be quite long to include all the reasons why liberals should not vote for Clinton–and I have pointed out other posts elsewhere along these lines in the past.

The final section is Choosing Hillary threatens the future of the Democratic Party. The section notes the conservative background of New Democrats such as Bill Clinton. I would also take this a step further. Hillary Clinton supports many ideas which Democrats would never accept from a Republican, but many Democrats defend when it comes from Clinton. Similarly, Democrats would be very skeptical of a Republican who received such large contributions from Wall Street, or who benefited financially from parties they were making decisions about. Yet many Democrats ignore unethical conduct from Clinton they would never accept from a Republican. Maybe this wouldn’t hurt the future of the Democratic Party, but it would leave us with a Democratic Party which stands for even less than the party now stands for. That threaten the future of the nation.

The article gives many excellent reasons to vote for Sanders over Clinton in the primaries, along with reasons to be upset if the system gives the nomination to Clinton without a fair fight. However, should Clinton win the nomination, it does not address the fact that the Republican candidate will be even more conservative than Clinton on some issues. While Clinton is more like Reagan than FDR, and is in many ways a combination of George W. Bush and Richard Nixon, the Republican Party has moved much further to the right in recent years.

This leaves the question as to whether it will matter if Clinton or a Republican wins–which is more difficult to say without knowing which Republican will be the GOP nominee. It is definitely possible that there will be no meaningful difference with regards to foreign policy and civil liberties issues if Clinton or a Republican wins. There is the danger that the next president will be hostile to government transparency, and nobody has reached the level of the Clinton corruption in using the office of the presidency to enhance their personal worth. We will probably see a continuation of the surveillance state and of the drug war regardless of whether Clinton or a Republican wins.

The biggest danger in a Clinton presidency would be that many Democrats will support conservative policies, leaving a weak liberal opposition to her policies, while there would be greater unity in opposing what might even be the exact same policies coming from Republicans.

The biggest upside to Clinton winning over the Republicans might be that after campaigning as a progressive for the nomination, she will continue to govern as one. At very least Clinton would support a handful of liberal positions such as reproductive rights if elected. While this would be favorable, it is hardly enough to be happy with the prospect of her election considering her many conservative views. Unfortunately we have already seen her swing to the right on some issues and she has shown throughout her career that she cannot be trusted to stand up for liberal ideas. Much of the differences we now see between Clinton and the GOP candidates are far less differences on the issues and more a matter of which party’s voters they are currently trying to attract.

The biggest differences could be the veto pen and the Supreme Court. There is now the possibility of a bill reaching Obama’s desk to repeal Obamacare from the Republican Congress–and we can be certain it will not be replaced with a single payer system. If this happens, Obama will veto it. Clinton would also veto it, along with other conceivable damaging legislation the Republicans might get through Congress. Clinton would also choose Supreme Court justices from a far different pool than any Republican president would, and it is possible they would be more conventional Democrats as opposed to ones as conservative as she is.

I don’t mean this to argue either way as to whether Sanders supporters should vote for Clinton or write in Sanders should Clinton win the Democratic nomination. It is far too early to argue over this, especially considering that we don’t know who will win either party’s nomination at this point. It is also way too early, and far too annoying, for Clinton supporters to constantly interrupt discussion among Sanders or O’Malley supporters on Facebook, and elsewhere in social media, to ask if they will vote for Clinton in the general election. It certainly shows a degree of insecurity about their candidate that they are so fearful that many Democrats will not turn out to vote for their candidate in the general election.

Not living in a battle ground state also makes it far easier for me to consider what would amount to a protest vote should Clinton win the nomination, while I might vote differently if I anticipated a situation like Florida in 2000. Rather than writing in Sanders, as many now say they will do, I would first take a closer look at the Green Party, feeling that this might help build a more long term opposition force from the left than writing in Sanders would. This is about policy positions, not personalities. And as for the comparison to Gore in 2000, there is a major difference. It was unfortunate that Bush and not Gore won due to their different views on foreign policy, leading to the Iraq war. In this case, Clinton shares the neoconservative views which we would have been better off keeping out of office in 2000.

An updated version of this post which elaborates more on some of the issues raised has been posted at The Moderate Voice

Edward Snowden Continues To Bring Out Differences Between Civil Libertarians And Advocates Of The Surveillance State

Edward Snowden We The People

The recent vote by the European Parliament calling on member states to protect whistle blower Edward Snowden from extradition and  prosecution, while largely symbolic, demonstrates how the United States government is conservative by international standards. This was seen again in the past week when, with absolutely no evidence to back them, some in the intelligence community used the recent terrorist attack in Paris to make Snowden the scapegoat. Glenn Greenwald has debunked these arguments:

The CIA’s former acting director, Michael Morell, blamed the Paris attack on Internet companies “building encryption without keys,” which, he said, was caused by the debate over surveillance prompted by Snowden’s disclosures. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) blamed Silicon Valley’s privacy safeguards, claiming: “I have asked for help. And I haven’t gotten any help.”

Former CIA chief James Woolsey said Snowden “has blood on his hands” because, he asserted, the Paris attackers learned from his disclosures how to hide their communications behind encryption. Woolsey thus decreed on CNN that the NSA whistleblower should be “hanged by the neck until he’s dead, rather than merely electrocuted.”

The CIA’s blame-shifting game, aside from being self-serving, was deceitful in the extreme. To begin with, there still is no evidence that the perpetrators in Paris used the Internet to plot their attacks, let alone used encryption technology.

CIA officials simply made that up. It is at least equally likely that the attackers formulated their plans in face-to-face meetings. The central premise of the CIA’s campaign — encryption enabled the attackers to evade our detection — is baseless.

Even if they had used encryption, what would that prove? Are we ready to endorse the precept that no human communication can ever take place without the U.S. government being able to monitor it? To prevent the CIA and FBI from “going dark” on terrorism plots that are planned in person, should we put Orwellian surveillance monitors in every room of every home that can be activated whenever someone is suspected of plotting?

The claim that the Paris attackers learned to use encryption from Snowden is even more misleading. For many years before anyone heard of Snowden, the U.S. government repeatedly warned that terrorists were using highly advanced means of evading American surveillance…

Greenwald elaborated more on this, and concluded with a general warning about how the government uses terrorism as an excuse to infringe upon civil liberties:

What the Snowden disclosures actually revealed to the world was that the U.S. government is monitoring the Internet communications and activities of everyone else: hundreds of millions of innocent people under the largest program of suspicionless mass surveillance ever created, a program that multiple federal judges have ruled is illegal and unconstitutional.

That is why intelligence officials are so eager to demonize Snowden: rage that he exposed their secret, unconstitutional schemes.

But their ultimate goal is not to smear Snowden. That’s just a side benefit. The real objective is to depict Silicon Valley as terrorist-helpers for the crime of offering privacy protections to Internet users, in order to force those companies to give the U.S. government “backdoor” access into everyone’s communications. American intelligence agencies have been demanding “backdoor” access to encryption since the mid-1990s. They view exploitation of the outrage and fear resulting from the Paris attacks as their best opportunity yet to achieve this access.

The key lesson of the post-9/11 abuses — from Guantanamo to torture to the invasion of Iraq — is that we must not allow military and intelligence officials to exploit the fear of terrorism to manipulate public opinion. Rather than blindly believe their assertions, we must test those claims for accuracy. In the wake of the Paris attacks, that lesson is more urgent than ever.

The controversy over Edward Snowden’s actions has become apart of this year’s election debates. Hillary Clinton’s comments on Snowden in the first Democratic Debate were just one of many falsehoods from Clinton which went unchallenged during the debate. Nick Gillepsie and Amanda Winkler called Clinton’s comments on Snowden her biggest lie of the debate:

What was Hillary Clinton’s biggest lie during the first Democratic debate?

That NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden could have gone through official channels.

“He broke the laws,” said Clinton. “He could have been a whistleblower, he could have gotten all the protections of being a whistleblower.”

More important is the experience of NSA and intelligence whistleblowers who came before Snowden.

“Tom Drake, Bill Binney, Kirk Wiebe, and Ed Loomis did go through the proper channels,” says Radack. “And all of them fell under criminal investigations for having done so.”

Hillary Clinton has a right her own opinion about the value and damage done by Snowden’s revelations, but she’s simply not credible when she argues he could have worked through official channels.

Martin O’Malley also took a hard line on Snowden during the debate. In contrast, Bernie Sanders has called for clemency or a plea agreement for Snowden. He took the most moderate approach towards Snowden during the first debate:

SANDERS: I think Snowden played a very important role in educating the American people to the degree in which our civil liberties and our constitutional rights are being undermined.

COOPER: Is he a hero?

SANDERS: He did — he did break the law, and I think there should be a penalty to that. But I think what he did in educating us should be taken into consideration before he is (inaudible)

Sanders also defended privacy rights against NSA surveillance during the debate:

Well, I would shut down — make — I’d shut down what exists right now is that virtually every telephone call in this country ends up in a file at the NSA. That is unacceptable to me. But it’s not just government surveillance. I think the government is involved in our e-mails; is involved in our websites. Corporate America is doing it as well. If we are a free country, we have the right to be free. Yes, we have to defend ourselves against terrorism, but there are ways to do that without impinging on our constitutional rights and our privacy rights.

Snowden has received support world wide from civil libertarians and activists against tyranny. The most recent example came from Chinese activist Ai Weiwei:

Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei has expressed alarm about the growth of state surveillance and praised US whistleblower ­Edward Snowden for speaking out about the “technology monster”.

Ai is due in Australia next month for a show at the ­National Gallery of Victoria, where he will share top billing with the late American pop artist Andy Warhol.

Speaking in Berlin, where he runs a studio in tandem with ­another in Beijing, Ai told The Weekend Australian that Snowden was “one of the great heroes” for sharing information about government control.

Ai carries two iPhones, and a picture of Snowden — the National­­ Security Agency contractor who revealed domestic spying in the US — is printed on the back of both.

“This guy should have a Nobel Peace Prize if anybody ­deserves that,” he said. “But, of course, he could not stop it. He just told the people that’s what’s happening.

“Of course, what happened then is a nightmare, this young guy just had to sacrifice everything for saying that.”

Donald Trump’s Dangerous Pandering To The Far Right

Trump Muslim Database

Donald Trump has devolved from businessman and reality show host who often supported Democrats over Republicans to an extreme right winger. He went from criticizing Mitt Romney for being too hard line on immigration in 2012, to taking this issue to new lows this year. Most likely this is because it is what he has calculated what is the best path to win the Republican nomination in a crowded field, but a politician who says what he says is unacceptable. While words such as fascist are thrown around far too often in political discourse, now we even have some conservatives calling Trump a fascist.

Trump has tried to capitalize on Republican racism and xenophobia from the start of his campaign, and he has now turned to capitalizing on anti-Muslim hysteria. There includes his talk  of surveillance of mosques to  Muslim registries, although in subsequent statements it is not clear if this is to be only of refugees, which is less extensive but still disturbing. Considerations of civil liberties do not appear to ever cross his mind.

With the combination of his egomania and outlandish claims, at times Trump gives the feeling of a television or movie supervillian. He is clearly evil, such as in supporting torture for the sake of torture. He even mocks the disabled (which he later denied). He said he approves of water boarding even if it doesn’t work.  He claimed to have the world’s best memory. He says he has an ability to predict terrorism by feeling it. He says he saw people jump from the World Trade Center from his home in midtown Manhattan, which would require super vision.  This occurred at roughly the same time as he was watching Muslims celebrating in New Jersey. Does he also have super speed? Or is he just a politician going after “applause lies” as The New York Times editorial board put it.

Byron York sees this as Trump’s version of compromise. Ask for three times what you want, and then win when  you settle for less than you first asked for.  It also helps Trump that the most extreme positions are exactly what the Republican base wants.  National polls this far before a primary often have little predictive value, but at very least it is clear that many in the Republican base are excited by what he says and not revolted as decent people should be. Maybe his support is exaggerated by the current polls as Nate Silver suggests. We will have a much better idea as to whether his front runner status is real if he does win in Iowa and New Hampshire.

My bet is that his plan is to first win the nomination by saying whatever he has to, and then take a new approach in the general election, assuming that the majority of voters won’t even notice. It is a scary thought, but he just might pull this off, especially if he runs against Hillary Clinton, who has her own issues with changing her views based upon the latest focus group.

Post was updated with additional links on November 27, 2017

 

Clinton’s Weaknesses With Independents & Young Voters Make Bernie A Better Bet In General Election

Sanders Clinton There Is A Difference

Recent posts have noted criticism of Clinton from the left for her attacks on Bernie Sanders and single payer health plans, along with repeating neoconservative talking points and citing 9/11 to justify both her hawkish foreign policy views and the level of her contributions from Wall Street. At times she  is campaigning as if she already won the nomination. It could be risky for Clinton if she continues to alienate the progressive vote in this era in which elections are often won by motivating the base to turn out. This strategy is made even riskier considering Clinton’s weaknesses with independents and in the battleground states.

Albert Hunt, former executive editor of Bloomberg News, looked at Clinton’s weaknesses in the general election:

To be sure, a number of women, especially middle-aged ones, are energized by the prospect of electing the first female U.S. president. That’s a strong asset.

But Clinton has a striking problem with young voters. A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showed a solid plurality of young voters has a negative view of Clinton. She did even worse in Bloomberg Politics national poll.

Here’s a result to unnerve her Brooklyn campaign headquarters. Both Barack Obama and Bill Clinton get a 60 percent favorable rating with 18-to-29-year-olds. She gets 35 percent approval and 57 percent unfavorable.

In the last presidential election, 19 percent of the voters were in that age cohort, which Obama won, 60 percent to 37 percent, providing his overall margin. There was a substantial decline in the number of young voters in the off-year elections, probably costing Democrats a couple Senate seats; a similar drop-off in 2016 might be decisive in a close election.

Clinton also has big problems with independent voters. In the nomination contest, she’s running well ahead of her chief challenger, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. But she loses to him among Democratic-leaning independents. Over all, independents are negative about her by a margin of better than 3-to-2.

In 2012, almost three in 10 voters were independents and Obama came close to splitting that vote with Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate.

There is little doubt that Clinton easily would defeat any Republican among blacks and Hispanics. It’s far from certain, however, that these voters would be motivated to turn out in as large numbers as they did for Obama: In 2012, 13 percent of the electorate was black, and went more than 90 percent for Obama; 10 percent was Hispanics, who gave 71 percent of their vote to the president.

While Clinton might benefit politically from fear following the recent terrorist attack in Paris, this generally helps more with those who vote Republican, although a recent poll does show her beating Donald Trump on handling terrorism. (I would hope Clinton could beat a candidate such as Trump, who is relying on fear mongering with talk of resuming waterboarding and  debunked claims of Muslims in New Jersey cheering when the World Trade Center crumbled). I do not think that Clinton can count on beating the Republicans by creating more alarm over terrorism, along with promoting a plan which is not likely work.

It will be even harder for Clinton to win among voters who desire a reform agenda. Her defenses based upon a noun, a verb, a gender reference, and 9/11 will not alter the facts around her Wall Street connections, and view that she is too indebted to Wall Street to push reform. Any claims of supporting campaign finance reform are undermined by the manner in which she not only relies on Super PACS but violates the rules prohibiting campaigns from coordinating with them. She violated the transparency rules established when Obama took office, along with prior rules, in responses to the abuses under George Bush. While she might be preferable to whoever the Republican nominate, Clinton will be too much like the Republicans in supporting a hawkish and bellicose foreign policy,continuation of the drug war, continuation of the surveillance state, and showing a lack of respect for civil liberties and separation of church and state.

The Clinton strategy comes down to hoping to win because the Republicans are worse. It is one thing to get people to tell pollsters they prefer your candidate to the opposition. It is an entirely different matter to get people to turn out in big enough numbers to win by running as the lesser of two evils. We saw in 2014 that voters are less likely to turn out when Democrats are running as Republican-lite.

In the recent past we have seen Sanders embrace the principles of FDR while Clinton has been embracing the foreign policy views of George W. Bush and citing bogus attacks from the Wall Street Journal. This is not how to get Democratic-leaning voters to turn out to vote. A candidate such as Sanders, who excites crowds and is motivating more people to register to vote Democratic, is a far safer bet in the general election.

There is strong evidence that Sanders is electable in a general election. While it might turn out that the Republicans nominate a candidate anyone could beat, there are big question marks when looking at a Clinton candidacy. Plus the same views and history which make Clinton a weak candidate also make her a far less desirable president than Sanders, even if it turns out that either could win.