High Voter Dissatisfaction With Major Party Candidates Could Make Sanders A Strong Third Party Choice

Sanders Stein

With the major political parties likely to nominate two candidates who are both unfit to be president and opposed by more voters than in previous elections, there is increased attention being paid to the third party candidates. I recently wrote about the Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson. While Johnson and Bernie Sanders do agree on many issues, Jill Stein, the presumptive nominee of the Green Party, has views which are much closer to those of Sanders. The Guardian reports on an offer from Stein which could really alter the election–inviting Sanders to replace her as the Green Party nominee:

Bernie Sanders has been invited to continue his underdog bid for the White House by the Green party’s probable presidential candidate, who has offered to step aside to let him run.

Jill Stein, who is expected to be endorsed at the party’s August convention in Houston, told Guardian US that “overwhelming” numbers of Sanders supporters are flocking to the Greens rather than Hillary Clinton.

Stein insisted that her presidential bid has a viable “near term goal” of reaching 15% in national polling, which would enable her to stand alongside presumptive nominees Clinton and Donald Trump in televised election debates.

But in a potentially destabilising move for the Democratic party, and an exciting one for Sanders’ supporters, the Green party candidate said she was willing to stand aside for Sanders.

“I’ve invited Bernie to sit down explore collaboration – everything is on the table,” she said. “If he saw that you can’t have a revolutionary campaign in a counter-revolutionary party, he’d be welcomed to the Green party. He could lead the ticket and build a political movement,” she said.

Common Dreams points out that Stein had made this offer previously:

After the New York primary, which took place April 16, Stein wrote to Sanders: “At a time when the American electorate is rejecting politics as usual in vast numbers, I invite you to join me in pushing the boundaries of that system to a place where revolution can truly take root.”

“In this hour of unprecedented crisis—with human rights, civilization, and life on the planet teetering on the brink—can we explore an historic collaboration to keep building the revolution beyond the reach of corporate party clutches, where the movement can take root and flourish, in the 2016 election and beyond?” she wrote.

PP_16.07.07_JuneVoterAttitudes_lede

A Pew Research Center Poll shows a definite opening for a strong third party choice:

Overall satisfaction with the choice of candidates is at its lowest point in two decades. Currently, fewer than half of registered voters in both parties – 43% of Democrats and 40% of Republicans – say they are satisfied with their choices for president.

Roughly four-in-ten voters (41%) say it is difficult to choose between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton because neither would make a good president – as high as at any point since 2000. And just 11% say the choice is difficult because either would make a good chief executive, the lowest percentage during this period.

With the two major political parties making bad choices of this magnitude, it is possible we could see a realignment in political parties. The divisions of the Bush years have become obscured with the Democrats nominating a candidate who shares many of the faults which Democrats have opposed for the last decade. As I wrote in another recent post comparing Clinton to both George Bush and Richard Nixon,we were outraged by Bush’s neoconservative foreign policy, but Clinton is the neocon hawk running this year. We protested Bush’s assault on civil liberties, but Clinton also has a far right record on civil liberties issues, sounding much like Donald Trump on restricting civil liberties to fight terrorism. We objected to an increase in government secrecy under Bush, but Clinton has a long record of opposing government transparency. Bush’s administration was remarkable for expanding the influence of the religious right.  Clinton worked with The Fellowship to expand the influence of religion on public policy when in the Senate. Plus Clinton has been on the wrong side regarding the corrupting role of money in politics, on the environment and climate change, on the death penalty, on single-payer health care. She is even to the right of Donald Trump on drug policy and the drug war and on the wrong side of trade issues.

The reports from the State Department Inspector General and the FBI on Clinton’s email scandal also make it quite clear that Democrats can no longer get away with attacking the culture of corruption in the Republican Party. With the Republicans nominating Donald Trump, we could finally see the end of them as a serious major national party, with the Democrats under Clinton replacing the Republicans as the conservative party. A Green Party led by Sanders could be the start of the formation of a new liberal/progressive party with greater consistency and integrity than we have seen from the Democratic Party.

While such a choice would be welcomed, I think it is very unlikely Sanders will accept Stein’s offer, with Sanders reportedly planning to endorse Hillary Clinton next week. While legitimate polls (excluding online polls) typically show that from twenty percent to near half of Sanders supporters will not support Clinton, those active in many on-line Sanders groups show an even higher intensity in opposing Clinton. It is unknown how many will hold their nose in the end and vote for Clinton, primarily motivated by stopping Donald Trump. If Trump’s campaign since clinching the Republican nomination is any indication of what we will see this fall, Clinton is likely to have enough of a lead to allow Sanders supporters to vote their conscience without fear of a Trump victory. Plus there is a small contingent of Sanders supporters who are supporting Trump over Clinton.

There is a tendency of some Clinton supporters to see opposition to Clinton’s nomination from the left as being based upon being pro-Bernie. It is much more based upon opposition to Clinton’s views and character. Even an endorsement by Sanders will not change these views. I do not identify myself as primarily a Sanders supporter, a Stein supporter, an Obama supporter, or the supporter of any particular candidate. I choose candidates based upon the issues.

I supported Obama over Clinton in 2008 and Sanders over Clinton this year over many of the same issues (with Obama more moderate than Sanders but still preferable to Clinton). I cannot support Clinton for the same reasons I opposed her for the nomination twice, and for the same reasons I opposed George Bush. As I supported Obama and Sanders in their nomination battles, I will most likely support Stein as the best choice as opposed to Trump or Clinton, assuming Sanders will not be on the general election ballot. Of course it is a long way until November and I will be watching all the candidates closely.

Update: Third Party Candidates Polling Competitively Against Trump (Should Bernie Run Third Party?)

Discussion Of Saddam and Iraq Return To British And American Politics

John-Chilcot-the-Chairman-of-the-Iraq-Inquiry\

The Iraq war was the subject of news today both in the UK, with the release of the Chilcot inquiry, and in the US  with news reports of Donald Trump praising Saddam. David Weigel made a point that the media’s coverage of Trump’s statements appeared timed to help Hillary Clinton after the Clinton campaign used them to distract from James Comey’s statement which accused Clinton of being extremely careless with classified information, and demonstrated that she has lied to the public on several key points regarding the email controversy. Missing from the mainstream media coverage was Clinton’s support for the Iraq war based upon false claims.

A seven-year official inquiry in Great Britain on the Iraq war was finally released and repeats what many critics of the Iraq war were saying from the start, including that the reports of WMD were based upon faulty intelligence and non-military responses were not exhausted. CNN reports:

A  long-awaited official inquiry delivered a devastating indictment of Britain’s decision to invade Iraq Wednesday, finding that the war was based on flawed intelligence and had been launched before diplomatic options were exhausted.

The findings of the 2.6 million-word Iraq Inquiry — seven years in the making — were released following a statement by probe chairman John Chilcot in London.

The former civil servant said that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein posed “no imminent threat” when the U.S-led invasion was launched in March 2003, and that while military action against him “might have been necessary at some point,” the “strategy of containment” could have continued for some time.

Chilcot said former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was warned of the risks of regional instability and the rise of terrorism before the invasion of Iraq, but pressed on regardless.

BBC News sums up two key points:

Chairman Sir John Chilcot said the 2003 invasion was not the “last resort” action presented to MPs and the public.

There was no “imminent threat” from Saddam – and the intelligence case was “not justified”, he said.

The Guardian called the war an “appalling mistake” and began their editorial in looking at the victims:

As always in matters of military aggression, the humane perspective has to start with the victims. Since the US-led, UK-backed invasion of Iraq in 2003, estimates of the lives lost to violence vary from a quarter of a million to 600,000. The number of injured will surely be several times that, and the number of men, women and children displaced from their homes is put at between 3.5 and 5 million, somewhere between one in 10 and one in six of the population.

There is no disputing the vicious brutality of the regime that ran the country before, but there is no serious disputing, either, that the suffering captured in these statistics of war are of another order to anything that would be endured in even tyrannical times of peace. Thirteen years on, as the deadly blast in Baghdad last weekend illustrated afresh, the predicament of the Iraqi people remains misery without end. The topsy-turvy post-9/11 rationalisation for regime change from the chauvinist, parochial and sometimes proudly ignorant George W Bush White House produced predictably topsy-turvy results. Jihadi forces that Saddam Hussein had contained were not discouraged by his ousting, but greatly emboldened. In sum, failures do not come any more abject than Iraq, nor catastrophes any less pure.

George Bush’s communication director responded to BBC News with a rationalization based upon Saddam’s actions: “Despite the intelligence failures and other mistakes he has acknowledged previously, President Bush continues to believe the whole world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power.”

Donald Trump has expressed a different viewpoint on Saddam throughout the campaign. CNN reports:

While acknowledging that Saddam Hussein “was a bad guy,” Trump praised the former Iraqi dictator’s efficient killing of “terrorists” — despite the fact that Iraq was listed as a state sponsor of terrorism during Hussein’s time in power.

Trump, who supported the Iraq War before the invasion and in the early months of the war, said the U.S. “shouldn’t have destabilized” Iraq before pivoting to praising Hussein.

“He was a bad guy — really bad guy. But you know what? He did well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good. They didn’t read them the rights. They didn’t talk. They were terrorists. Over. Today, Iraq is Harvard for terrorism,” Trump said.

While Trump’s praise of Saddam is rather foolish (and debunked by The Guardian), David Weigel has a point that this is something which Trump has been saying on the stump throughout the campaign, with news media reports of Trump praising Saddam coming after the Clinton campaign made a point of it. Weigel wrote, “whaling on Trump gave the campaign a chance to pivot on a day when the director of the FBI held an unusual and damaging news conference saying that the Democratic candidate, whom most voters consider untrustworthy, had behaved recklessly with classified email. The media went along with this by noting the irony, and remarking that Trump stepped on what could have been a good news cycle.” Weigel further wrote:

The point is that Trump has been saying, for quite some time, that the United States should not have gone to war in Iraq, and that it should side with dictators as long as they “kill terrorists.” The Republican primary electorate endorsed that view. Clinton, as a senator and then as secretary of state, took another view, and backed the use of American power to remove both Hussein and Libya’s Moammar Gaddafi. There’s video of Clinton gleefully saying “We came, we saw, he died” upon learning that Gaddafi had been torn apart by his own people. This has never been treated like a gaffe; but Trump’s “Saddam killed terrorists” riff suddenly is.

By consistently covering Trump’s argument over time, and by following up on it, media outlets did their job to inform voters. That was why Tuesday night’s collective Captain Renault moment was so strange, and so demonstrative of why many media consumers are skeptical of what they’re hearing. Instead of a debate on the facts — should Hussein have been removed? Did he “kill terrorists,” in a contradiction of what Americans were told before the war? — there was manufactured outrage, straight from a rival campaign.

The media coverage certainly has helped Clinton, in both stressing the worst aspects of Trump’s views and in totally ignoring how strong a supporter of the war Clinton was. Not only did Clinton support the war based upon the faulty intelligence cited in the report, she went beyond the claims of many supporters of the war in falsely claiming there were ties between Saddam and al Qaeda. Clinton’s support of neoconservative regime change has been a disaster. However Trump also has himself to blame. As on so many matters, even in criticizing Clinton where she deserves criticism, Trump has failed to make a consistent coherent argument against her, with the media further assisting Clinton.

Debunking the Ralph Nader Scare Tactics For Supporting The Lesser Evil

Trump Clinton Illusion Free Choice

Many of us have principles and will not support either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Many Clinton supporters have shown no understanding of the basic democratic principle that we have the right to support or not support whichever candidates we choose. They make bogus claims that not voting for Hillary is a vote for Trump. If true, the opposite would also have to be true–our decision to not vote for Trump by their logic would be a vote for Hillary.

Clinton supporters raise Ralph Nader and the 2000 election, but this is wrong for so many reasons:

This assumes that the Democrats are entitled to our vote, and that if there weren’t third party candidates running, those on the left would automatically vote for the Democrat. Wrong. Many would stay home, or leave the presidential spot empty, if there was no other choice.

Most of us do not live in battleground states, leaving us free to vote our convictions without affecting the outcome. Plus Clinton is pulling away in the battleground states and Nate Silver reassures us that Clinton will win anyways. Considering what an inept campaign Trump has waged since clinching the nomination, he is probably right (although Quinnipiac does show them deadlocked).

Hillary Clinton is not Al Gore. She is far closer to George Bush. We were outraged by Bush’s neoconservative foreign policy, but Clinton is the neocon hawk running this year. We protested Bush’s assault on civil liberties, but Clinton also has a far right record on civil liberties issues, sounding much like Donald Trump on restricting civil liberties to fight terrorism. We objected to an increase in government secrecy under Bush, but Clinton has a long record of opposing government transparency. Bush’s administration was remarkable for expanding the influence of the religious right.  Clinton worked with The Fellowship to expand the influence of religion on public policy when in the Senate. Plus Clinton has been on the wrong side regarding the corrupting role of money in politics, on the environment and climate change, on the death penalty, on single-payer health care. She is even to the right of Donald Trump on drug policy and the drug war and on the wrong side of trade issues.

If you think having George Bush elected in 2000 was a terrible thing (and it was), it makes no sense to argue that Hillary Clinton should be president when she supports so much of what made Bush such a terrible president.

If anything, Nader has been proven right by the Democrats nominating a corrupt warmonger such as Clinton. This clearly shows the dangers of “lesser evilism.”

When does the “lesser evilism” stop? We are warned about what happened when Bush beat Gore and told me must support Clinton because of Trump, but Clinton has supported most of the evil done by Bush. Next election will the Democrats nominate someone like Trump and will we be told we must support him if the Republicans nominate someone even more evil?

Some Clinton supporters have been rather bad winners, attacking those who disagree with them on social media for expressing our opinions. Life is more than a binary choice between the limited options provided by the major parties. It even might be argued that a function of the major parties is to limit debate to the limited issues where their candidates disagree.

In reality, Clinton and Trump are both in the authoritarian right segment of the political spectrum, not differing by as much as supporters of either would admit. Those of us who hold opposing views are going to continue to express our views on the issue, regardless of whether we have a presidential candidate who is likely to win. We will continue to oppose oligarchy, neoconservative military interventionism, restrictions on civil liberties to supposedly fight terrorism, the corrupting role of money in politics, destruction of the environment for profit, and an increased role of religion in public policy–even if the Democratic nominee is on the wrong side of each of these issues.

Warnings For Democrats If Clinton Is Nominee

Sanders Clinton

Bernie Sanders has an op-ed in The New York Times warning that Democrats Need to Wake Up after the Brexit vote in Great Britain:

The notion that Donald Trump could benefit from the same forces that gave the Leave proponents a majority in Britain should sound an alarm for the Democratic Party in the United States. Millions of American voters, like the Leave supporters, are understandably angry and frustrated by the economic forces that are destroying the middle class.

In this pivotal moment, the Democratic Party and a new Democratic president need to make clear that we stand with those who are struggling and who have been left behind. We must create national and global economies that work for all, and not a handful of billionaires.

As an aside, if Sanders is going to lecture the Democrats on policiy, I’d also mention the argument in Truthout that “the Sanders “Revolution” Must Take on the Permanent War State.”

Of course Sanders prefers to deal with the economic issues and, despite the importance of responding the warfare state, economics and trade will probably have more of an impact in this year’s election, possibly hurting the Democrats. As Matthew Yglasias warns, “Clinton is personally and politically tied to Bill Clinton’s administration in the 1990s and to Barack Obama’s administration more recently, both of which sought to advance a free trade agenda.” He points out that one problem Clinton has is that nobody believes her:

Clinton’s problem: Does anyone believe this?

The problem with Clinton’s preferred line of attack is it fails to pass the basic “does anyone actually believe this?” test.

The stated reasons for Clinton’s opposition to the TPP didn’t make any sense and were immediately panned by observers such as Vox editor in chief Ezra Klein as smacking of opportunism. Having come out against it, Clinton will in all likelihood follow through and scuttle the agreement.

There’s no question that her position is based upon opportunism. It is far from certain that she will actually scuttle the agreement if elected.

While things can change between now and November, and neither major party nominee is yet official, Clinton has a considerable advantage over Trump. Trump already is far behind Clinton in organization, fund raising and, most importantly, public support. Plus Clinton starts out with the Democratic edge in the electoral college She will probably win if scandals and legal action don’t stop her. Democrats should be concerned.

With the most recent revelations (here and here), Chris Cillizza writes that, Hillary Clinton’s email story continues to get harder and harder to believe.

The latest batch of emails suggest that Clinton’s filter to decide between the personal and the professional was far from foolproof. That these emails never saw the light of day before Monday — or before a conservative legal advocacy group petitioned for their release — opens up the possibility that there are plenty more like them that Clinton chose to delete but shouldn’t have. And it provides more fodder for the Republican argument that Clinton appointing herself as judge, jury and executioner for her emails was, at best, a very, very bad decision and, at worst, something more nefarious than just bad judgment.

…this email to Abedin — which came at the start of her four-year term in office — suggests a bit more active agency than Clinton has previously let on. “I think we need to get on this asap to be sure we know and design the system we want,” doesn’t strike me as Clinton simply wanting convenience and following the instructions of her IT people on how to make that happen. It reads to me as though Clinton is both far more aware of the email setup and far more engaged in how it should look than she generally lets on publicly…

For a candidate already struggling to convince voters she is honest and trustworthy enough to be president, stories like this one are deeply problematic.

While I generally agree with his assessment, I would also point out in response to the title that Clinton’s story was already quite obviously a bunch of lies from the time of her first response to the scandal.

Even if Clinton can sustain her rather impressive lead over Trump, this does not mean everything is fine for he Democrats.  Taegan Goddard warns that Clinton Is a Drag on Congressional Candidates:

The new NBC News/Wall Street Journal confirms what we observed earlier this month: Despite the tremendous unpopularity of Donald Trump and of congressional Republicans, there doesn’t appear to be a wave forming which would give Democrats a chance to take control of the House.

The generic congressional ballot actually shows voters deadlocked over which party they would prefer to control Congress, 46% to 46%. The RealClearPolitics average shows Democrats ahead by just one point on the generic ballot.

This indicates the problem for Democrats goes beyond gerrymandered congressional districts and poor recruitment efforts. The problem is that Hillary Clinton is nearly as unpopular as Trump. While she may be favored in the presidential race, she’s also weighing down congressional candidates…

I wonder how many voters will split their ticket this year, having qualms about whichever candidate they vote for in the presidential race. Many might want to see the other party control Congress to place checks on the president. Far more might vote against this year’s winner in two years.

Bernie Sanders has continued his campaign based upon the argument that he does better than Clinton in the head to head polls against Trump. As Clinton has an excellent chance of winning despite her narrower margin, Sanders might have a stronger argument that having him head the ticket would be better for all the down ticket candidates. Sanders can expand the Democratic Party, while Clinton could do long term damage to it.

Bernie Sanders Continues To Fight Democratic Establishment

Sanders Washington Post

Bernie Sanders continues to both speak out against the Democratic establishment and has an op-ed in The Washington Post discussing what he, and his supporters, want:

As we head toward the Democratic National Convention, I often hear the question, “What does Bernie want?” Wrong question. The right question is what the 12 million Americans who voted for a political revolution want.

And the answer is: They want real change in this country, they want it now and they are prepared to take on the political cowardice and powerful special interests which have prevented that change from happening…

What do we want? We want an economy that is not based on uncontrollable greed, monopolistic practices and illegal behavior. We want an economy that protects the human needs and dignity of all people — children, the elderly, the sick, working people and the poor. We want an economic and political system that works for all of us, not one in which almost all new wealth and power rests with a handful of billionaire families.

Sanders also wrote about campaign finance reform, including overturning Citizens United and universal voter registration. He wrote about ending mass incarceration, climate change, and ending  “the rapid movement that we are currently experiencing toward oligarchic control of our economic and political life.”

I wish he had added a couple of other issues where he has demonstrated that he is on the right side in the past–ending foolish military intervention and curtailing the surveillance state.

It is notable that presumptive Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has been on the wrong side of both the issues raised by Sanders and the issues I added, which is why a substantial number of Sanders supporters are saying they will not vote for Clinton. On the other hand, Foreign Policy reported today than neocon Robert Kagan will be fund raising for Clinton. With Hillary Clinton being far closer to Republicans ideologically than traditional Democrats, it is important that Sanders continues to fight against the Democratic establishment which orchestrated this move towards the right.

Speaking in New York, Sanders indicated he is continuing to fight. The Hill reports:

A defiant Bernie Sanders is urging his supporters to continue his fight against the Democratic establishment, as the Vermont senator continues his quest to overhaul the party he only recently began associating with.

Ignoring calls to formally suspend his campaign and back Hillary Clinton, Sanders is hoping to encourage a new wave of progressives to join Democrats’ ranks and cement his key proposals into the party’s platform.

Speaking to supporters in New York City on Thursday in an address titled “Where We Go From Here,” Sanders outlined several key concessions he intends to extract from Democrats at the convention next month.

Sanders said he will seek rule changes to open all state primaries to independents and to eliminate superdelegates.

“While we’re at it, we may as well transform the entire Democratic Party,” Sanders said to thunderous applause.

The Vermont senator also encouraged the frenzied crowd to take up his mantle and fight against the Democratic establishment.

“You can beat the establishment,” Sanders declared. “They’re not quite as powerful as some make them out to be. In every state we had to take on the entire Democratic establishment. That is not just your state – that’s true in every state in this country and yet we ended up winning 22 of those states.”

…Sanders will appear on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” later Thursday evening, and on Friday will give another “Where We Go From Here Address” to supporters at a rally in Albany.

Voters Still Don’t Like or Trust Trump & Clinton, But See Sanders Favorably

Trumps and Clintons

Despite running what is probably the most inept campaign ever by a major party candidate, Donald Trump remains within five points of Hillary Clinton in the latest CNN/ORC Poll. The fact remains that most people, for good reason, do not like either candidate. As CNN put it, “When asked whether they would be excited by a Trump or Clinton presidency, fewer than 3-in-10 muster that level of enthusiasm for either.” Bernie Sanders is seen favorably by 59 percent, compared with 41 percent for Clinton and 38 percent for Trump.

While Clinton hopes her attacks on Trump’s economic views will change things, a majority believe Trump could handle the economy better than Clinton. Clinton is seen as stronger on foreign policy, but Trump is seen as stronger on terrorism. Neither is seen as honest, but more see Clinton as dishonest than Trump:

The poll finds Clinton widely viewed as having the better temperament for the presidency (56% say so vs. 32% who feel Trump is temperamentally better-suited for the White House), while Trump has picked up some ground over Clinton when voters are asked who is more honest and trustworthy (45% say Trump, 37% Clinton, a near reversal since March). But still, 17% say they see neither candidate as honest and trustworthy.

Trump has problems related to his racism and xenophobia, while 59 percent see Clinton’s violations of policy and dishonesty surrounding her private email server when Secretary of State as a negative indicator of her character and ability to serve as president:

About two-thirds say the way Trump talks about race and ethnicity is an important indicator of his character and ability to serve as president. On Clinton’s handling of her email as secretary of state, about two-thirds now say she did something wrong by using a personal email address and home-based server to handle her communications, up from about half in March of last year when the story first came to light. Likewise, 6-in-10 now say they see her handling of email as an indicator of her character and ability to serve as president, up from about half in March of last year.

As I noted above, Bernie Sanders is seen in the most favorable light, far surpassing Clinton and Trump. The major third party candidates are receiving some support but remain far behind in the poll, with Gary Johnson, now the Libertarian Party official nominee, at nine percent and presumptive Green Party nominee at seven percent.

If Donald Trump can remain within five points of Clinton despite all his recent blunders and the lack of a real campaign structure, his election remains a real possibility should Clinton be hurt by further bad news or legal action. Democrats who are making so much noise about how we must fall in line behind Clinton due to the horrors of a Trump presidency should be pushing for Sanders to be the nominee if they are really sincere in desiring to ensure that Donald Trump doesn’t become president.

ACLU Protests Planned Restrictions On Demonstrations At Democratic Convention In Philadelphia

Chicago-1968-Riots-CC

The likelihood that the 2016 Democratic National Convention will coronate Hillary Clinton, one of the most hawkish politicians in the nation, has drawn many similarities to 1968, when anti-war protesters demonstrated against the Democratic Convention in Chicago. Protests are being organized at the 2016 convention in Philadelphia by Sanders supporters and those who oppose the policies of Hillary Clinton. Besides her foreign policy views, there are expected to be protests against Clinton’s support for oligarchy and the corrupting role of money in politics. With the Democratic Party establishment being firmly in the grasp of Clinton and her supporters, who have never shown much tolerance for freedom of speech or protest, the response is efforts to suppress dissent. The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania has issued a protest.

Officials with the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania told Mayor Kenney in a letter Wednesday that recent statements by city lawyers “seem to be setting the City up for conflict with protesters during the Democratic National Convention.”

The letter noted that the ACLU has met regularly with city officials involved in planning for the DNC, an event expected to attract tens of thousands of delegates and protesters July 24-28.

“We are concerned that the City Law Department seems to have walked back several statements made earlier about how the City would accommodate protest during the DNC,” the ACLU wrote in the letter. “The new positions … raise serious First Amendment issues.”

Protest leaders are expected to meet with the city in a closed-door meeting Thursday, and topics like marching on public streets and sleeping overnight at impromptu campsites in city parks are up for discussion. Last week, NBC10.com reported that campsites in South Jersey are already filling up with pro-Bernie Sanders.

As many as 30,000 protesters could flood FDR Park, across the street from the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia, during the entire week in July.

Their treatment at the park is among the concerns cited by the ACLU in their letter to Kenney.

The ACLU of Pennsylvania has issued this news release, which also contains a link to the pdf of their letter:

The ACLU of Pennsylvania sent a letter to Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney today asking him to clarify the city’s position on protest activity during the Democratic National Convention. The letter is in response to recent statements by the city’s law department that contradict previous promises not to interfere with protesters.

“We are very troubled that the city seems to be walking back from its previous position of fully accommodating protest during the Democratic National Convention,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “With the eyes of the country – and the world -on Philadelphia during the DNC, there is no better time to show respect for the fundamentally American tradition of peacefully expressing dissent. We hope Mayor Kenney will commit to ensuring that as many protesters as possible will have their voices heard.”

The issues raised in the letter include the city’s new proposal to prohibit all marches on Broad Street and those taking place during rush hour; the city’s plan for handling protesters demonstrating without permits, and fencing around FDR Park, where many protests will be held.

A copy of the letter, which was faxed to the mayor’s office this morning, is available here: www.aclupa.org/kenneydnc

The feeling among many Sanders supporters is that while Donald Trump talks about building walls, Hillary Clinton is building walls–with there being even more serious examples of Hillary Clinton doing what Donald Trump so far has just talked about.

Hopefully this is just the start of a movement to put pressure on Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party if Clinton is elected president. While unexpected events could still change matters, Clinton’s election is looking increasingly likely as Donald Trump has shown no ability so far to pivot from attracting right wing extremists to win the GOP nomination to a general election campaign. Like during the Vietnam War when both parties were at fault, the election of Hillary Clinton would be a tremendous victory for the supporters of neoconservative interventionism and for oligarchy, with both major parties supporting expansion of the warfare and surveillance state.

Both Clinton and Trump Ignore Civil Liberties In Response To Terrorism

bill of rights

While Donald Trump’s disregard for civil liberties in response to terrorism has been rather obvious, one sad fact about the 2016 election is that Hillary Clinton isn’t much better. Mediaite points out a serious flaw in her views in response to a tweet from Clinton from earlier today: “If the FBI is watching you for suspected terrorist links, you shouldn’t be able to just go buy a gun with no questions asked.”

Clinton’s proposal and others like it have met with criticism from civil libertarians and legal scholars, who argue that you cannot constitutionally deny citizens their rights without proving that they are guilty in a trial. “We generally don’t take away rights based on suspicion” is how UCLA law professor and blogger Eugene Volokh puts it.

Clinton evidently disagrees, likely believing that we as a society ought to be wary of anyone being investigated by the feds, even in the absence of a conviction. At the very least, she seems to think we should ask pointed questions of those the federal government believes put the national security of the United States at risk through their actions.

Of course, Clinton’s comments come after the Orlando shooting Sunday morning, carried out by a perpetrator who was investigated by federal authorities but then removed from watch lists. So even if the federal government stops investigating a suspect, we may have to act on the assumption they broke the law anyway.

Mark Joseph Stern also discussed this at Slate:

America has an appalling, unconscionable, and unparalleled gun violence problem. The federal government has proven able in the past to pass gun safety laws—like rigorous licensing requirements and comprehensive backgrounds checks—that have proven to be quite effective at reducing gun violence. Much, much more can and should be done. For example, the federal government should also promptly repeal the outrageously unjust law that protects gun sellers across the country from legal liability when they negligently sell firearms to unqualified purchasers. And Congress should forbid manufacturers from selling weapons of war—guns that have no plausible purpose other than to slaughter vast numbers of humans in as short a time as possible.

 What Congress, or the next president, should not do, however, is forbid individuals on the FBI’s terrorist watch list from purchasing firearms. The problem here is largely one of precedent: The Supreme Court has said private gun ownership is protected by the Second Amendment of the Constitution. It has also ruled that the right to bear arms is a “fundamental right” under the 14th Amendment as a component of the “liberty” protected by the due process clause. As I explained in December:

The Supreme Court’s ahistorical, atextual reading of the Second and 14th Amendments as guarantors of an individual right to bear arms may be deeply flawed. But limiting any right, no matter how specious, based on undisclosed, mistake-ridden lists is even more unsound. The Constitution is anchored by the promise of due process; so long as gun ownership is considered an aspect of liberty, the government must not revoke it unilaterally, with no opportunity for appeal. Civil libertarians should push to abolish the terror watch lists, not expand their reach.

If the government can revoke your right to access firearms simply because it has decided to place you on a secret, notoriously inaccurate list, it could presumably restrict your other rights in a similar manner. You could be forbidden from advocating for causes you believe in, or associating with like-minded activists; your right against intrusive, unreasonable searches could be suspended. And you would have no recourse: The government could simply declare that, as a name on a covert list, you are owed no due process at all.

This is hardly the only civil liberties problem with regards to Hillary Clinton. During the 2008 campaign Hillary Clinton was the only Democrat who refused to sign a pledge to restore Constitutional liberties. All the Republican candidates, with the exception of Ron Paul, also refused to sign. She introduced legislation to make flag burning in protest a felony while in the Senate, and has used language quite similar to Donald Trump in showing a lack of respect for freedom of speech.

There is a special irony with Clinton equating being under FBI investigation with guilt here, considering that Clinton herself is under FBI investigation on other matters. By this logic, Clinton being under investigation should by itself be sufficient grounds to deny her the Democratic nomination. Of course it is much more reasonable to deny someone the nomination to be president than to deny civil liberties to large numbers of people. There has already been plenty revealed about her actions as Secretary of State which should disqualify her from consideration.

Donald Trump Playing Into The Hands of ISIS

maddow_trump

The conventional wisdom has been that Donald Trump would benefit in the presidential race were there were to be a terrorist attack or economic downturn. In the aftermath of the attack in Orlando, that will probably be revised. Trump might still benefit from economic problems, with a majority trusting Trump over Clinton on the economy. It is too soon to have any polling, but it is hard to see Trump benefiting from his post-Orlando comments, including his speech today, which sounds much better in the original German.

Trump was already doing poorly since he clinched the nomination, with his campaign limited to attacks on other Republicans and racist attacks on judges. His statements over the last couple of days might have doomed him to a landslide loss. I fear that when Trump said, “The bottom line is that the only reason the killer was in America in the first place was because we allowed his family to come here” he really does see every Muslim immigrant as being a future terrorist.

Trump has tried to place the blame on both Obama and Clinton for the attack. He is correct in criticizing Clinton’s Libya policy for the spread of terrorism in the region, and her views on Syria were almost as insane as Trump’s foreign policy. However, Trump is being selective in looking at Libya and Syria, while ignoring Iraq, where both the Republicans and Clinton were wrong. While these policies did make matters worse in the middle east, it is premature to connect this to the lone terrorist in Orlando without clearer knowledge of his views and motivation.

More importantly, while again he is right to condemn Clinton’s Libya and Syria positions, he has hardly been consistent, and Trump’s position here is also quite dangerous. As David Ignatius and William Saleton have pointed out, Trump’s attack on Islam plays right into the hands of terrorists–as George Bush did when he attacked Iraq. From Saleton’s article:

Trump also reinforces ISIS’s message that the campaign against it is a war against Islam. His ban on entry to the United States would apply to all Muslims, not just to radicals or supporters of terrorism. Three months ago, Trump declared that “Islam hates us” and refused to distinguish radical Muslims from Muslims in general, arguing that “it’s very hard to separate because you don’t know who is who.” On Friday, just before the Orlando attack, he told an audience of conservative Christians that he would “defend Christian Americans” and clamp down on the influx of “Syrian refugees.”

n short, Trump would undercut everything that’s working against ISIS: Muslim governments that have joined our military campaign, clerics who are articulating moderate Islam, ministries and activists who are working online to discredit jihadism. He would help ISIS obtain the weapons it needs most: overseas recruits who are willing to kill people in their own countries. He would make another Orlando more likely.

Trump thinks his policy of “vigilance” against domestic Muslims would protect us. But that, too, serves the enemy’s agenda. In its Ramadan message, ISIS urged its sympathizers in the West to wage jihad in their own countries, “to make examples of the crusaders, day and night, scaring them and terrorizing them, until every neighbor fears his neighbor.” That’s the purpose of the attacks in Fort Hood, Boston, San Bernardino, and Orlando: to terrorize us, to polarize us, to make every neighbor fear his neighbor.

So far, the terrorists haven’t succeeded. But Trump might.

I continue to fear how a war monger like Hillary Clinton might respond to a terrorist attack as president. There is also the question of how significant it is that Hillary Clinton has taken another step to the right of Barack Obama, at least in her terminology. In other words, Hillary Clinton is the neocon in this race, and is the candidate representing the usual Republican view. Donald Trump is looking like something even scarier.

Bernie Sanders had a more sensible response, which also demonstrated the limitations to Chuck Todd’s world view. While not very likely, I am still holding out hope that both parties come to their senses at their conventions, as opposed to leaving us with what might be the worst election choice ever.

A Lanister Always Pays His Debts–But Not Donald Trump

Game of Thrones 2016 Candidates

When we think of greedy and power hungry families, some of the first to come to mind are the Bushes, the Clintons, and the Lanisters. Donald Trump might not have a family history of seeking political power, but he has now joined these other power-hungry families. At least a Lanister always pays his debts. Donald Trump does not.

USA Today reports:

Donald Trump casts himself as a protector of workers and jobs, but a USA TODAY NETWORK investigation found hundreds of people – carpenters, dishwashers, painters, even his own lawyers – who say he didn’t pay them for their work…

At least 60 lawsuits, along with hundreds of liens, judgments, and other government filings reviewed by the USA TODAY NETWORK, document people who have accused Trump and his businesses of failing to pay them for their work. Among them: a dishwasher in Florida. A glass company in New Jersey. A carpet company. A plumber. Painters. Forty-eight waiters. Dozens of bartenders and other hourly workers at his resorts and clubs, coast to coast. Real estate brokers who sold his properties. And, ironically, several law firms that once represented him in these suits and others.

Trump’s companies have also been cited for 24 violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act since 2005 for failing to pay overtime or minimum wage, according to U.S. Department of Labor data. That includes 21 citations against the defunct Trump Plaza in Atlantic City and three against the also out-of-business Trump Mortgage LLC in New York. Both cases were resolved by the companies agreeing to pay back wages…

The actions in total paint a portrait of Trump’s sprawling organization frequently failing to pay small businesses and individuals, then sometimes tying them up in court and other negotiations for years. In some cases, the Trump teams financially overpower and outlast much smaller opponents, draining their resources. Some just give up the fight, or settle for less; some have ended up in bankruptcy or out of business altogether.

The Wall Street Journal has similar stories.

Plus there is the big con job at Trump University.

Trump Game of Thrones

Hillary Clinton might consider calling him Deadbeat Donald in addition to Dangerous Donald. On the other hand, Ron Fournier has provided justification for Trump’s use of Lyin’ Hillary with some examples in an article entitled Hillary Clinton’s Truth Problem for The Atlantic

There are some Sanders supporters who might be hoping to see Trump win. I hardly see Trump as an acceptable alternative, but when both choices are so awful, I’m not going to dwell on how people plan to vote in November. The important thing is that we stick together to try to keep the country from sliding further into oligarchy, and oppose the extension of the warfare/surveillance state which we will probably see with either presumptive major party candidate. While in some ways Trump is probably worse than Clinton, at least there is the potential benefit if Trump is president that many Democrats will oppose his policies while justifying comparably odorous polices from Clinton. Quick medical fact: People who die in wars started by a Democrat are just as dead as people who die in wars started by a Republican.